As another brutal East Texas summer passes into Fall, and as that glorious Fall gives way to our “winter,” I keep myself busy cleaning up the garden and composting the left-overs. I pull up the trellises and stakes, wind up the soaker hoses and water emitters, and I, more often than not, tell myself…”I’m not doing this next year.”
I have every intention of doing (or not) just that. I have battled sun, heat, drought, floods, bugs and every other obstacle the growing seasons can throw at me, and I’m tired, and now it’s “cold” and…I tell myself I really don’t want to do a garden next year.
Fall gives way to “winter.” Winters in East Texas are rather confusing. One day the temperature may be in the 60s and the next day in single digits. It may be dry, it may be wet, but the worst of all is ice. Because of our topography, we don’t get a lot of snow–maybe once or twice a year…sometimes none at all. But, worse than snow, worse than rain is ice. It usually starts out with a cold front that dips the temps below freezing. Then it begins to rain. The roads are still warm, so it doesn’t stick–for a while–then it begins to freeze and the whole world begins to turn into a rink of black ice. One quarter of an inch of ice in the East Texas hills can shut the world down. This past year it lasted for several days.
I tell people we don’t really have that much winter here, but once it sets in, it doesn’t want to leave. About the time you think it should start to warm up, it heads the other way again. Until, FINALLY!!! the temperature begins to creep up. That is usually when I have to go back outside and start digging around in the soil. I have a severe case of cabin fever, and I smell that fresh earth smell, and I think about planting cabbages, broccoli, kale…anything that can handle that surprise attack around Easter and another round of snow.
Part of why I get so excited is I truly do love to garden. I love to put things into the soil and baby them and watch them grow, then take hold, then shoot up and do whatever it is they do. It’s fun. It’s rewarding and relaxing. But that really isn’t all of why I do what I do.
There’s some folks I call my adopted family that I’ve known since 2001. Their daughter had gone to Africa to be a missionary, and I’d moved to East Texas to do the same thing…except for health reasons, I couldn’t be on one of the ships. I had planned a trip to Africa–got 2 weeks away from my leaving and I got a call that I couldn’t go because I couldn’t take some of the immunizations required to go to Africa.
In the meantime, I had become friends with the Watson’s through Julie, their daughter, and when they found out I couldn’t go, they invited me to stay with them for a couple of weeks. It seemed a little awkward staying with people I didn’t know, but I figured “what the heck!” I went, and we adopted each other. I’ve spent almost every Thanksgiving, Christmas, 4th of July, and every other holiday and birthday with them ever since.
Every time I’m with them is a celebration. They love chips and salsa, and in particular, they love mine. So, every year (and I’m not going to plant another garden) I think of them. So it begins. I start with a Salsa garden, then come up with a theme–one year was Guatemala, one year was Native American Three Sisters, and so on.
I do what I do because I love other people. I really don’t eat that much from the gardens I grow…how many tomatoes can 1 person eat?!? When harvest time comes, I begin canning salsa, green chile enchilada sauce, sauerkraut, jams and jellies…all so I can assemble Christmas gift baskets for my adopted family, neighbors and friends. This year, I came up with what I think is my best gift idea yet! My adopted Mom is 84 this year. She had Polio when she was a child and one hand is curled. She manages to do most things, but it gets more difficult each year.
They eat soup at lunch every day of the year. So this year, the garden I wasn’t going to plant has become my soup garden. My goal is do can 52 quarts of a soup base for them–one for each week. The soup base has tomatoes and onions from my garden, celery and carrots. I slow-cook them and add seasonings then puree and can them. All she has to do is open a jar, add some beef or chicken stock, whatever frozen veggies and meats they want…and soup…their favorite lunchtime meal.
So, that’s why I do what I do…I want to show the people I love how much they mean to me. If that isn’t healing for the Body, Mind and Spirit, I don’t know what is. Namaste, with love, b.