I was raised on a farm that has been in my family for almost 120 years. My great-grandfather had 130 acres which he split between his two sons, so my grandfather had 65 acres. My father (an only child) grew up there during the Great Depression. He always says they had enough to eat, but they barely had anything else.
During the 50's, city water came down the street and my grandfather was assessed $20,000 that he didn't have. In the years that followed, 20 acres were sold to pay for this. My parents built their house on the farm and my five siblings and I all grew up there. We raised food in the summer and sold firewood in the winter that paid for our Catholic educations.
Dad always had two other jobs to keep things going and my mom always worked hard being a housewife and a farmwife. We kids grew up working on the farm.
Now four of us have built our homes on the family land...the family compound, we kiddingly call it. Dad picked which lot we each would have and mine was given to me with the stipulation that he could garden our front yard (literally, our front yard!) as long as he wanted. Mark and I didn't mind, so 18 years ago we built our Victorian style house with a wraparound porch, on one corner of the farm with a strip of grass in front and a cornfield in front of that. It's always made it easy to tell people how to find our house.....the gray and red Victorian with the garden in front. Not too many of those around! That cornfield was also a great barrier between the yard and the street when our kids were little and playing outside all the time.
Every year, during the summer Dad tells us that next year, the garden will be smaller. Last year, he did shrink down the garden in front of our house so that we now have a yard that goes all the way to the street in front of half of our house. It was sad, in a way, because I knew that it was a sign that Dad is getting older.
Last year we had a dry, hot summer and the garden suffered terribly. We didn't get much and Dad was frustrated. All of our work for nothing. He said that he wouldn't plant a garden this year...he wasn't going to put himself through it.
He's 87 now, and will turn 88 in August, and I was sad thinking about no garden this year, and my brothers and I decided that we would at least do some of it on our own so that we would have some fresh veggies for all of us.
But the days this past week have been, for the most part, beautiful and Dad is out in the garden. He's been plowing the fields and planting seeds at home for transplanting. Today he and my brother are going to plant a field of potatoes.
It's in his blood, a part of himself that he can't let go of. His cardiologist always tells us that he's a "tough old bird" and though he has slowed down considerably these last few years, the springtime, the land, the warmth, the budding of the trees calls to him to do what he has always done.
So for another year, the garden in my front yard is about to be planted and I can have the comfort of knowing that at least for another year, "some things never change".