Summer was for gardening in bygone days

Published 1:07 pm Wednesday, August 16, 2023

By Bonnie Brown

When I was a kid, summers seemed as long as all the other seasons put together. I’m not sure why I felt that way. I suppose it was because summers were less structured, at least it seemed that way.

Summer began when school let out. And the last days of school were fun. There were water gun fights on the school bus. Most of my friends rode the bus. A few lived close enough to school they were able to walk to and from school. But the bus ride was my favorite part of the day.

Email newsletter signup

I usually sat with my friend Suzy Reiser, and we shared the details of our day. We grumbled about all the homework we had, how unfair the teachers graded, and all the stupid things our fellow classmates did that day.

Summer was also a busy time for our family. My dad believed that he should be planning or planting our garden at the first signs of spring. We raised potatoes, corn, beans, tomatoes, cucumbers, and lots of other vegetables. We were fortunate to live near a neighbor, Mr. Jarrells, who grew strawberries. And he had a big field of beautiful, sweet, delicious berries.

People would show up to buy strawberries to make jam, jelly, and other delights. He allowed people to pick “on the thirds,” meaning you could pick 3 pints of strawberries, and one would be yours. So, my mother would take me and my brothers to Mr. Jarrells’ strawberry patch and we would pick enough strawberries so that my mom could make jelly and freeze some for later use.

I remember the strawberries were not as large as the ones you might see today. They were sweet and delicious. And they were packaged in pint cardboard-type containers which could be re-used. I wonder why strawberries are not as sweet as they used to be. Is it just my fond remembrance of them?

My mom would take my brother blackberry picking. I was excused from this experience, I think because I was a girl. I know she and my brother talked about seeing snakes and always wore boots. That right there was reason enough for me not to complain about being excluded from this outing.

There was always work to be done in the garden – hoeing, picking the beans, tomatoes, etc. Then of course, there was the job of processing these veggies for storage.

We didn’t have a dishwasher. I was the dishwasher. I had small hands and could wash the canning jars my mother needed. I knew these jars had already been washed as they were emptied and wondered why they needed another good washing. But my mom was adamant – scrub, scrub, scrub, then rinse in boiling hot water.

Growing a garden was a good experience. I learned how to plant and grow food. Everybody in our community had a garden of various sizes. Now it’s a novelty to have a farm to table or as some refer to it as farm to fork . It’s the idea of food being grown, prepared, and consumed without passing through a grocery store or other distributor.

I’m pleased that our sons Dennis and Jeff and their wives know how to grow a garden and could do so if circumstances called for it. I’m not sure our grandchildren would know how to plant and grow food. Let’s hope the food chain remains plentiful and safe.

Write to Bonnie Brown at