By Haley McCoy
Five generations of hands will be offering some TLC to our new family garden. Situated on a portion of land currently inhabited by three of those generations, this garden will feed a single line of ladies ranging from ages two to 83.
The fifth generation is represented by my great-grandmother (great-great-grandmother to my two daughters!). She grew up with gardens—eating fresh vegetables every day, canning goods for the winter, eventually developing a succulent recipe for perfect pickled beets. She raised her children on this food and even passed down the knowledge of canning green beans to her daughter, my grandmother, who in turn raised a garden until the time I was a small child. I remember playing with over-ripened cucumbers at the far end of the property—throwing them up into the air and catching them again, as together my grandmother and I sang: “We all live in a yellow submarine…” I had no idea at the time that the song belonged to what would become my favorite band.
By the time my sister was born, my grandmother had stopped raising a vegetable garden and had turned, instead, to flowers. In fact, she never passed the tradition of raising vegetables or canning on to my mother. So, those few early years are all I have ever known of what it is like to wait on the growing process and cultivate a variety of vegetables to put on my plate. Although my mother grew tomatoes and cucumbers in a small bed, I think none of us really considered it gardening. The second generation (myself and my husband, my sister and her husband, and our younger brother) and first generation (my two daughters) are ripe for a new tradition. We are eager to learn the techniques of delicately tending to developing plants and filling our bellies with wholesome food.
My husband looks forward to revisiting his childhood tradition of having a family garden, and my sister’s husband is ready to offer his wisdom from life working on his family’s farm. It excites me to think about my 2-year-old actually pulling her beloved carrots from the ground with brown dirt under her little fingernails (and hopefully expanding her palate from the thrill of it all). We all look forward to getting our hands dirty and gathering around the same table to share meals we grew together. I am mostly interested in the pickled beets. Not only will my great-grandmother be able to rock my girls to sleep, through this garden she will give them the gift of her special wisdom to nourish their own bodies and those of generations to come.
By Haley McCoy