The cycles of life and the passage of time are illustrated so well in the keeping of a garden. Grandpa keeps one faithfully every year although most of the food is given away.
Children are fascinated that the food they eat grows under the ground. Harvesting potatoes is very much like a treasure hunt. It feels quite spiritual if you take the time to think about it and talk with children about it.
Pioneer children knew that gardens were about life and death. Our children and grandchildren have not had to think in that way.
When Maya’s mother said that it was time to help Grandpa harvest potatoes, she hurried into her room to change her clothes. Off went the school dress and out she ran in a skirt. Maya will choose a dress every time. What is a mother to do?
Maya had a yell for every potato that came out of the ground. Big potatoes got an oversized yell of “wow or whoa”, teeny potatoes received an “oooh or ahhh, how cute !” with a dozen exclamations in between. The potatoes went from the ground to the yellow wagon and will go into burlap bags in Grandpa’s garage to sleep during the winter until they are selected and eaten. I imagine that potatoes don’t mind that since that is the measure of their creation.
If you think that harvesting potatoes is easy then you would be mistaken. There is an art to be appreciated to the whole thing. You have to be strong enough to turn over the dirt with a pitchfork and intuitive enough to turn it over without spearing the potatoes under the ground. Afton is becoming a splendid potato harvester although she will come tomorrow with better shoes.
Time has taken so many things from us and consigned them to the past. Tending gardens is one of those things. Just like so many other things we do by hand, there is little cost-benefit to a garden anymore but there is an enormous return to our hearts and minds. If it wasn’t so, why else would children be so anxious and joyous about helping in a garden?
This season alone, they have eaten peaches, apples, cherries and pears from the trees. They have eaten peas and carrots from the garden as well as tomatoes along with onions and now potatoes. Their mothers have cut generous bouquets of flowers for their tables. These things can’t help but brighten their little smiles.
“All is safely gathered in, ere the winter storms begin.”
(From a Thanksgiving Hymn)