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Just dropping by ... Planting in the new plowed ground

Yevet Tenney for Progressive Dairyman Published on 04 May 2018

This morning, I walked in the new plowed earth thinking of the changing seasons. My feet sank deep into the rich brown soil. I remember the many gardens I had planted and watched the plants grow to harvest. I love to garden, and I owe that love to my mother.

She started gardening when she was a child. Her grandmother taught her to love gardening. My grandmother learned to garden from her father and, in turn, he learned from his father.

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Generation upon generation, the hoe handle has been passed from father to son and mother to daughter. The traditions of straight rows and generous harvest have been the hallmark of our family. The straight rows are physical reminders of the deep desire our family has to walk in obedience to the laws and commandments of God.

The generous harvest has always been shared with neighbors, friends and those in need. This excerpt from my mother’s, Charlotte Crandell’s, life history shows how those traditions were fostered:

When I was a little girl, I loved to go with Grandma. In fact, I was her shadow most of the time. I loved to help feed the chickens, pigs and baby calves. Whatever she had to do, I liked being there to help. At least, I thought I was helping. Grandma never once said, “You can’t go” or “You stay behind.” I would go to the garden with her and help drop the seeds, do weeding or help water; whatever she was doing fascinated me, and she always made me a part of it.

I used to like to follow along behind Grandma and tried to step in her tracks. It was hard to reach her steps when I was young but, as I grew, it became a lot easier for me. Finally, I got to where I could step in every track. I would walk along behind her, stepping in her footprints. I could tell Grandma’s footprints. She had a little turn to her shoe no one else had so, when she would go without me, which wasn’t many times. I would look in the sandy trail for her tracks and soon find her.

One day, long after Grandma had passed away, I was married and had kids of my own – even a few grandchildren – I went back to the old ranch to help my aging parents raise a garden for the family. This morning, I had been working in the garden, getting it ready to plant.

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Mother called me to come and eat lunch, so I went and ate. I rested a moment to let my lunch settle, then went back to the garden. As I walked down the trail, there in the sand were Grandma’s footprints. It gave me a start. The same turn to the shoe and all. I thought, “How can this be?” Then I realized: They were my footprints. I walk just like Grandma.

The hill we had to climb from the field to the house was quite steep so, when I was little, I would put my hands on Grandma’s hips and push her up the hill. Back then, I never thought in years to come my own granddaughter would be pushing me up the hill. One day while I was working in the garden, Annette, my granddaughter, was with me.

When we went up to lunch, she said, “I’ll help you, Granny.” As she put her little hands on my hips and pushed me up the hill, it brought back so many memories of me and my grandma.

Hoeing weeds

I remember hoeing weeds with Grandma. We would all go down to the cornfield with our hoes. She gave each kid a row and the area between the row, and she would take two rows in the middle of the kids. We would all hoe as fast as we could because Grandma would always say, “Hoe the rows nice and clean, and when we get to the other side (which was a half-mile), we will go and sit under Uncle Ray’s gum tree and chew gum.”

This, to us kids, was a treat of a lifetime. We hoed our rows good or we went back and got the weeds we left. I often wonder now, working with my grandkids, how she could get so much work out of them without paying them. I guess the gum tree was the pay. We didn’t know anything about money in those days. When we got to the gum tree, everyone got their gum and started chewing and playing in the sand in the shade of the tree.

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Grandma only had a top set of false teeth. She couldn’t wear her bottom teeth, so she would have one of us kids chew her gum up for her, then she would chew along with us kids. This lot nearly always fell to me, but I didn’t mind. Anything for Grandma.

We would all play in the sand while Grandma took a nap for 20 or 30 minutes. Then back to the corn rows again. She lined us out as at first, and we’d hoe back through. By this time, it was lunchtime, so we all went to eat. We would have quite a strip of corn done by the time we went up to house for lunch. Most of the time, there was eight of us kids and Grandma’s four rows would make 24 rows a round trip in the morning.

After lunch, Grandma always took a two-hour nap. Us kids would all split for the hills and play in our play houses or whenever we found to play. We were never still. When Grandma was ready, she would call. Back to working we went. It seemed to me it was like play because Grandma made it that way. Sometimes she would get to laughing so hard she’d fall down in the corn row. She always told us stories while we hoed the corn. She took time for us.

I remember how straight Grandma’s rows were. She could make them with her hoe, no lines, strings or anything. Once in a while Grandpa would want to help, so he would get his string and stakes and measure every inch. He would work for hours getting his rows straight – then when he left, she would take her hoe and take out the crooks and bends. She never let him know she did it. She was a woman of precision and accuracy. That is just how she lived her life.

Grandma always had beautiful flowers in one corner of her garden with every flower you could think of. The ones I love most were the Shirley poppies. They were so dainty, and to this day I must have poppies in my yard. Grandma was known for her good gardens and her beautiful flowers. No one ever came to see us in the summer but if someone did she would load them down with fresh vegetables and flowers.

In the winter, it was homemade cottage cheese, long-horned cheese, pickles, butter, eggs, ham, bacon or vegetables she had stored in the pit. She kept carrots, parsnips, potatoes and cabbage all winter. People used to say Grandma would be rich if she didn’t give so much away. Well, I always said she was rich with friends and family. They all loved her.

As I walked in the garden this morning, I thought, “I will plant this row in cabbage, this row in onions and the next in tomatoes. We will plant way more than we need because when the harvest comes, we will have some to give to our neighbors and friends. Then I will plant my flowers in the last row along the fence. It is such a joy to have blossoms among the vegetables.”

Unwittingly, I was walking in Mother’s footsteps. She didn’t have to cajole or plead with me to follow her. I did it because she loved me and because she had so willingly followed her grandmother’s tracks in the new plowed ground.

So much of what we teach our children is about who we are becoming, not what we think we are teaching with our words. I am eternally grateful for a mother who didn’t spend her time lecturing but working with me, teaching me moment by moment in the ever-changing garden of her life.  end mark

PHOTO: We would all go down to the cornfield with our hoes. She gave each kid a row and the area between the row, and she would take two rows in the middle of the kids. Photo courtesy of Getty Images.

Yevet Crandell Tenney is a Christian columnist who loves American values and traditions. She writes about faith, family and freedom.

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