Tuesday, June 23, 2009

On the Birth of St. John the Baptist

I just finished watering the garden a bit, and was thinking it's coming along quite nicely. I didn't get it planted as early as I would have liked, but still. I love sneaking out there in the morning to check on things, or in the evening to water if necessary, and as I keep an eye out for a pepper growing, or pumpkin blossom blooming, perhaps the start of the first tomato. I have fond memories of my mother-in-law who first taught me about gardening. Just after John and I married, she invited me to come out to the farm and plant the garden with her. I had no idea what an undertaking it would be. Well after her children had moved away, she was still planting (and canning) like she still had 12 young mouths to feed. The humble garden that first year included dozens of tomato plants, rows and rows of green beans, peas, potatoes, onions, lettuce and cabbage, strawberries, sweet corn and even sweet potatoes. She taught me the very basics from how to hoe and rake, how to cut last years potatoes for planting (with their eyes looking up), what varieties of things she had the best luck with over the years, and on and on. I'll never forget the hours we spent weeding, and the stories she'd share, advice she'd give. Spending even just a little time in the garden helps me to feel a connection with her again.
What does all this have to do with the Birth of St. John? Well, she based the timing of many of the necessary steps of "good gardening" on the church calendar that hung in her kitchen. I can't recall how soon she had her onion sets in the ground, but they were due to be "stomped down" on St John the Baptist's birthday. I've talked to some gardening friends now, who've never stomped down their onions, but her rationale was that by this time, the greens had grown tall enough, and needed stomped down (or bent over flat) to allow the nutrients to stay underground and grow the onion bulb itself, larger. Sounded believable to me. Like I said though, I've never gotten mine planted as early as she, and just haven't come up with a suitable feast to stomp down my onions. I'll have to take a closer look at the church calendar, as mine seem ready this year and let you know.
St John the Baptist, St Isadore (the patron for farmers) and St. Alice (my mother-in-law, teacher, and friend) pray for us.


Martha said...

Thanks for helping me remember Mom's gardening today, Jamie. I sure wish I had taken in even more of her lessons when she was here with us. I pray to St. Alice often, too. I'm sure there are a lot of days that she just shakes her head at my simple prayers. I miss her and love her and it's so nice to read your pleasant memories of her. Thanks for being such a dear part of her family! We love you.

jamie said...

thanks Martha, I think of her often, and wish like you, that she were still around for support, advice, etc.

John read this post and laughed out loud...he said she chose me to help that year 'cause I was "from town" and had no idea the work I was getting into! Ha!