Our kids got the gardening gene from both sides of the family. Leonard’s mom told me that even as a girl, growing up on a farm in Kansas, she always chose the outside chores over the inside ones. Leonard says when he was a child, she grew corn and beets and peas and carrots and lettuce and all kinds of other things in her garden. By the time I knew her, she was still growing most of those–and poppy seeds–and turning them into delicious meals.
Leonard and I were planting a garden in Southern Illinois the day our first son, David, was born. Ten years later, he was growing this pumpkin. We called it the two hundred pound pumpkin, but I don’t remember if it really weighed that much. I do remember pieces of it filled up the freezer for way longer than we wanted to eat pumpkin dishes. By the way, if you’ve ever eaten or carved one of these, as I wrote in my book What Columbus Found (It Was Orange, It was Round), “say thank you to America, the land where pumpkins grew.”
We grew and carved and ate pumpkins for many years–in Southern Illinois, in Southern Colorado (where it was way too dry for a garden), and in North Dakota, where the mosquitoes were wild and crazy by the time harvest rolled around.
Our children and now grandchildren found all kinds of things to love in gardens. Raw peas. Pumpkins. Strawberries. Blueberries. Buckets and buckets of kiwis from the tree in my dad’s back yard. The love of plants often starts in the beautiful dirt.
(Tim Havlik, one of my nephews, shows off Dad’s kiwi tree.)