Sunday, April 8, 2007

Grandmothers and Gardens

I have so many fond memories of working in gardens with both of my grandmothers, but I also have different memories for each grandmother. When I think of gardening with Granny Devine, I think of snowball bushes, elephant ears and sage. When I think of gardening with Granny Sallee, I think of peonies, poppies and corn. Each woman had a major input in my life and I can contribute most of my gardening knowledge to them.

Most of my gardening memories with Granny Sallee centered around activities on the farm in Bohon. The farm was 20-plus acres, but the house and Granny’s flower beds were on the one acre that was closest to Bohon road. I love this old farm house and have had many dreams of living there throughout my life. The house sits back off the road and at a slight angle, so when you come down the curving hill past the Bohon Christian Church, the house is sitting in the bend of the road. I spent many happy days roaming this farm and my most favorite memories are of helping Granny with her flowers.

Peonies were always Granny Sallee’s favorite and she had many clumps that ran along a ridge line on the upper side of the house. I know these clumps of flowers were old because I can remember Granny telling me she had planted each and every “start”. She loved these flowers so much, that when she and Granddaddy finally had to move to town, she brought some peonies with her and planted them near the clothesline in the back yard. Peonies were one of the first flowers that I planted 14 years ago when we moved to our home. I started out with three peonies; one red, one pink, and one white. Over the past few years, I have divided my original clumps and transplanted them in several areas of my gardens. The majority of my peonies are now along the length of our driveway where they are thriving in the full sun.

Granny Sallee also loved her poppies. She had these close to the house and also near her rows of peonies. These large orange flowers were always so welcomed in the spring, being some of the first to bloom after the tulips and daffodils. These beautiful orange flowers had deep black stamens and when the seed pods formed they added interest in the gardens. Granny would leave the seed heads throughout the summer, and then in the fall, we would shake the seed pods to distribute the tiny seeds in the beds. These little seeds would guarantee an abundant supply of poppies for next spring.

Corn was a crop that not only reminded me of my Granny, but my Granddaddy as well. Granddaddy had an old wooden corn planter and I can remember helping to push the planter into the tilled soil, spread the handles open and drop a seed into the shoot. When the planter was removed from the soil, the seed would be planted at the right depth for growing wonderful sweet corn. I would also give each corn planting a dipper of water from the five gallon buckets we had hauled from the house. I still grow corn in my backyard garden, but it is mainly for the memories and to have the stalks for fall decorations. In my garden, there is too much competition with the raccoons for the fresh corn. Now, I get most of my fresh corn from the Farmer’s Market on Thursday afternoons, and I let the raccoons have the few ears that I grow in the garden.

Snowball bushes were one of Granny Devine’s favorite plants. At her small home in town, she had a large bush next to her clothesline in the back yard. Every year, Granny would clone babies from her snowball bush by pulling down branches from the main plant, burying part of the stem in the ground and covering with a rock. It would take a year for the stem to take root, but once it did, Granny would cut it from the main plant and dig up a baby snowball bush. Although I don’t have one of Granny’s snowball babies, I have started several different families from one original bush that I planted about eight years ago.

Sage is one of my favorite herbs to grow and again, I learned to grow sage from Granny Devine. Granny would always have sage growing in her flower beds, and during the summer and fall you could always find paper towels laden with sage leaves drying all throughout the house. Granny always used her fresh dried sage in her Thanksgiving and Christmas stuffing. I dry some sage throughout the year, but I also let several clumps of sage go flower because the flowers are very pretty and they attract beneficial bugs to my gardens. Also, sage gives off a refreshing scent when you brush against it while walking in the garden.

Elephant ears are the one plant my Granny Devine loved that I have always had trouble growing. Granny grew her ears in plastic buckets; during the winter she stored them under her house and during the summer she would pull them out into the gardens. She was also able to produce babies from her elephant ears. I have grown elephant ears in the past, but I don’t like to baby these tender plants. The few times I have grown elephant ears, I have planted them straight into the garden soil. I did have one elephant ear that wintered over and grew larger the next summer, but most of the time, the bulbs die because I don’t dig them in the fall for storage.

As my children grow older, they have varying interest in gardening. Christine does not have any interest in flowers or gardening, but Amber and Marie are beginning to enjoy working with different plants. Amber has planted numerous flowers at her new home and she is taking an interest in learning about new plants. Marie’s best friend also has a new home, so Marie has been helping her start a new flower bed, as well as planting a few flowers at her own home. I have enjoyed being a resource person to answer all the gardening questions and I look forward to teaching the next generation of our family about gardening.

© Bobbi Rightmyer, April 2007

Chip Off the Old Block

Recently, Christine and I have been watching Kids by the Dozen, a television program on families with multiple children. It is amazing to see how these special families operate. All of the families profiled have twelve or more children and most of them are home schooled. I can’t wrap my mind around twelve children, much less home schooling these twelve kids.

The Duggar family of Arkansas has been our favorite family to date. They have 16 children, all ranging in age from 18 to less than a year old. There are only two sets of twins, so this mother has actually been pregnant 14 times, and the couple says they are not finished yet! How do you raise 16 children? I must admit, this family is much more organized than mine. A homework assignment was the biggest family project, to build their dream house—which took them over three and a half years.

Christine and I have watched several shows featuring the Duggar family and we are just in awe of how this family works. I know Christine misses not having any younger brothers or sisters, but after having three children, I was ready to quit. Three children were definitely all we could afford to raise. I wanted my kids to have all the opportunities available to them and I wanted them to experience life and make decisions on how they wanted to live their lives.

When my girls were younger, they were involved in many types of extra curricular activities and sports. I wanted the girls to be involved and find what they liked to do. Swimming lessons, tennis lessons, horseback riding and soccer; these were just a few of the activities that my girls tried out, but decided not to pursue. Girl Scouts, 4-H, and mission groups at church; these were a must for all three girls and I think these groups helped my girls grow into the women they are today.

Even though none of my girls are interested in crafting, knitting or sewing, I do know they benefit from the projects I make. I just envisioned my girls growing up and crafting with me, but that never happened. They have their own hobbies and interests. At least Marie is interested in one area of creative arts; she likes to work with stained glass and mosaic tiles. I try to encourage her, but sometimes life gets in the way of being creative. Amber and Marie both love to go hunting and spending time on their dad’s farm. Christine’s world revolves around music.

Of course, as a mother, I have tried to push my likes onto my children. When Christine was three years old, I wanted her to take dance lessons. I had always wanted to give Amber and Marie dance lessons, but I could never afford it. So when Christine came along, I thought she would be my little ballerina. For two years I practically drug her to dance class; tap shoes, ballet shoes, tutus and all. She was so cute when she was all dressed up. I loved preparing for and attending her dance recitals, but after two years, I realized, Christine hated every minute of it. It was my dream for her to be a dancer, not hers, and once I realized this, I stopped making her go to dance class. For the next three years, Christine was happier on the soccer field.

Now that Christine is a freshman in high school, her interests have turned to journalism and a growing obsession with living in Finland. Yes, Finland, as in cold, snow. Land of the midnight sun. For several months now, she has been researching the foreign exchange student program for the United States and Finland. She would like to go to school in Finland during her junior year of high school. I realize this would be a wonderful experience for her, but just the thought of one of my children being half way around the world is really upsetting. I may not get to see Amber and Marie as much as I would like, but at least they are in the same county and I can get to them in just a few minutes. How would I get to Christine in a hurry if she was in Finland? At least we have a year and a half for more discussions and research before having to make a decision.

Christine is in the Newspaper I class at school and she has been the only freshman in a class full of juniors and seniors. She has been researching and writing numerous articles all year, as well as taking photographs for the paper and the year book. Her main goal this year has been to learn and master the editing program for putting the newspaper together and to learn some basic journalism skills. She has already applied for Newspaper II class
next year. Maybe Christine is going to be our “chip off the old block”, after all, Keith’s career revolves around the television media, and this is my 10th year as a contributing writer for Mercer’s Magazine.

© Bobbi Rightmyer, April 2007