Yes, We’re Going To Grow…

My Southfork!

My Southfork!

It’s a funny thing about gardens and how some measure of its worth by what you grow.  I thought then that my garden was better than others because it was so diverse, but there were some that didn’t share that opinion.  Back in the day, when I lived in Southeast Oakland County, Wixom to be specific, I had a nicely sized garden.  Overall, you’d have to say it was about 2000 sq. ft., but I farmed only about 1800 sq. ft. of it.  With that amount of space I was always able to grow what ever I fancied at the moment.  Diversity was nice but as I found it didn’t always make my garden experience better, which is what it always should have been about.

I always grew two to three types of corn, even though I was forced to rotate it as it was so hard on the soil, which was clay by the way.  One year I grew popcorn, and that was a big mistake, as you had to have a special tool to remove the hard kernels.  I was told that rubbing two cobs against one another would separate the kernels.  I rubbed my knuckles raw trying to get the kernels.  I, just as well, might have tossed a whole cob in a pot with a little oil.  I suspect that would have been easier if not dumber.  Arrrrgh!

I grew peanuts.  It took three attempts to get a good crop. I finally had to fence them in, because rabbits loved the peanut tendrils that dug back into the ground.  What I didn’t know was that after harvesting your peanuts they need to be dried and kind of cured for a little while.  Raw peanuts taste nothing like the peanuts I get in a bag at the store.  I can still say that they were fun to grow but like the popcorn, it was definitely too much work for me to ultimately enjoy the effort.

I even grew celery one year.  I didn’t know that you had to blanch the stalks by covering them up with sand and/or straw.  I can’t tell you how hot and peppery unblanched celery is.  My tongue felt like 1000 needles were pricking it and it was on fire!  Anybody that knows me knows that I am not the type of guy that will run from a hot chili pepper, but that celery took me places that I don’t ever want to go to again.

Out of all the things I grew, whenever somebody came out, I was always asked time and time again, did I grow any watermelon. This is where the “garden worth” proposition always began. Finally, after years of saying no, the answer was, yes I did.  As a kid I loved watermelon, it was a treat that was reserved mostly for holidays.  I would sit there and suck the juice out of a cold slice of melon until you could hear the juices slosh around in my belly when I walked.  I didn’t eat it that much as an adult but being the consummate gardener I had to grow some.  So when I finally managed to get an early start I had a full season for the melons.  I also grew honey dew and cantaloupe that year.  They were beautiful fruit and I wish I could tell you how good they were.  You see, I had one bite of the first cantaloupe picked and I threw up.  Turns out, for some reason, at some point in time, I became allergic to melons of all types.  Didn’t know it until I had a mouthful.  I won’t go in to details, but I will say that it’s not a pleasant reaction.

Early July Broccoli

Early July Broccoli

Cantaloupe and Honey Dew Melon Patch

Cantaloupe and Honey Dew Melon Patch

Project Sweet Tomato Cucumbers


An early spring morning 1985 or 1986

An early spring morning 1985 or 1986

Same morning...a different section of the garden.

Same morning…a different section of the garden.

Last one...look at that clay soil!

Last one…look at that clay soil!

A typical morning harvest - August

A typical morning harvest – August

My onion field.  I had over 300 sets/3 varieties in the ground.

My onion field. I had over 300 sets/3 varieties in the ground.

A young pumpkin!

A young pumpkin!

Love that old barn!

Love that old barn!

All of this is important because it is the back drop for our first class project in 2014.  We are going to have the students’ plant watermelon seeds indoors so that we can have young plants to transplant in the garden when the weather turns.  Once again, watermelons were the most requested fruit in 2013, so we hope to make them happy by growing a few.  I think that people think that they are easy to grow, but they do present challenges for most gardeners.  It would be nice to have a successful yield, but since they will take up a lot space, they may draw a lot of unwanted attention.

I hope we can also start some peas.  An early start for peas virtually guarantees a successful crop.  There are only a few things better than fresh peas from the garden.  Peas are also good for the garden soil.  After the spring harvest, they can be dug under to provide additional nitrogen and other nutrients to the soil.

Carrots would benefit from an early start too.  I had a great yield from the carrots I planted in 2013.  It was my first significant carrot harvest since I started gardening in Detroit, approximately 10 years ago.  Last year, at the school, we did plant a few carrot seeds and for the length of time they had in the ground, they were just okay.  This year with more time they should do a lot better.

Speaking of carrots, I am going to close with just one more garden story from back in the day.  You see, we had this small bed where we were growing short term vegetables and herbs.  I had harvested a couple of rows of carrots and had intended on turning the ground over to be re-used for something else.  Well, I didn’t get around to turning it over for about 3 weeks.  So one Saturday afternoon I went out with spade in hand and started to work the soil.  Two spade full in everything is okay.  It was on the third spade full of dirt I started having a problem.  You see, what I turned over was a small nest of baby snakes.  It was scary!  I had to take a deep breath before I could dig again.  Thinking that I was digging too deep, I dug in a little shallower.  What I got was another spade full of dirt and another load of baby snakes.  I am trembling now because each spade full of dirt is getting closer to where I am standing.  So I dug in one more time and…WHAT’S THIS…LOOKOUT NOW…HOLD ON…WAIT…LORD HAVE MERCY…A MOTHER…MOTHERLODE!  There were thousands and thousands of snakes squirming around at my feet!  I couldn’t run…I was frozen to that spot.  It was breathtaking.  Literally, I stopped breathing.  Once I got my breath back, I let out the loudest scream you can possible imagine and emptied my lungs again.  My neighbor heard me and he lived 100 yards away!  I stood there with shovel in hand and just started to flail away at the ground.  I could have chopped my feet off and I would not have cared.  When I got through there were dead snakes everywhere…everywhere but underneath where I was standing.  As I stumbled away, I dropped the spade, my arms were weary.  I vowed to never plant anything in that plot again and I never did.  The snakes could have it!

Pictures circa 1985-86

4 Responses so far »

  1. 1

    Jen Littsey said,

    Love the perspective. See you in the dirt soon.

  2. 3

    Judy Pelton said,

    I am terrified of snakes so this story really gave me the creeps!

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