You always had something from the garden on the table when we came out to the farm for the weekend, and you always had some work for us in the gardens. It was you who paid me a measly $3 dollars/hour to pull weeds and harvest seeds in your native species plots (I was six, that was a fortune, and quite frankly, I’m sure I didn’t deserve a penny more, given the pace I worked at).
It now comes naturally to name and adore a wildflower or a species of grass discovered along a gravel road or in the prairie plantings at the museum and the university. Now I find myself enraptured in work when it involves growing things, and madly plotting a business that just might help to change the world, one garden at a time.
Of course, I can’t ignore the influence of my mom – but it was you who raised her to take so much joy in plants and nature. It was you who raised her to pass that on to me. After a few years of city life she moved us out to a little town, because she believed that every child should grow up on a farm. She dragged me out to the garden to pull weeds for free all summer long. She set me up with a view of the horizon, a scrub brush, a mountain of carrots, a few cardboard boxes, and a couple bales of peat on a late summer day and then drove off, confident that I could pack all the carrots for the winter.
She wandered the prairie with me, pointing out wildflowers and sedges.
She fed us pigweed, stinging nettles, and lamb’s quarters.
“It’s yummy, kids. Try some.”
“Hide it in a sandwich, like this.”
She took me out to watch the creek flood in the spring, and we hopped from crossing to crossing, driving through the water where it was spilling over the road. At one crossing we watched a couple quads drive through – well, one made it, and the other stalled when his air-intake filled with water, halfway across. At the last crossing we came to the water looked a little high, but we decided to give it a go. In we went in her little truck. The water kept rising, but stopping to put the truck in reverse wasn’t really an option. We would surely be swept off the slick concrete if we stopped. We watched in horror as the water started to roll up over the hood. For a few seconds, the truck seemed to slip downstream a little, and we wondered if we were about to go swimming. Just in time, the tires gripped, the hood emerged from the creek again, and we drove out laughing and hoping we hadn’t hurt the truck. We did. It never ran quite right after that trip.
It still is my mother who receives my texts and phone calls when I can’t remember the name of a plant.
It was a grounding in growing plants that prepared me for a video, and then a workshop, and then a community garden job where my faith in humanity was restored; where I learned that you can change the world in a garden. Because of you, I’m going to grow a garden. Because of you, I’m going to do everything in my power to make edible landscapes a part of our cities, a staple in our backyards, and a part of a movement to change the world.
I found blue-eyed grass in my backyard (Sisyrinchium montanum) two years ago. I never would have recognized it without the raising you both gave me. Such a tiny, discrete flower could not have brought me such peace. At that moment, I knew I was exactly where I needed to be: in a weedy back-yard desperately in need of some love.
Your garden-loving granddaughter,