My Dad – the Original Organic Gardener

by Kim on September 27, 2009

In my senior year, my Dad earned $3200. It helped me get Federal Grants for college for sure, but it made life pretty hard that year in my family of 5 kids. My Dad was a laborer in the local Union. I remember my Dad getting up and calling the Union to see if there was work for him that week. It was a requirement of unemployment and Union benefits that he contact 2 new employers each week.The phone call to the Union counted as one call.

The family’s only phone was in the living room. We were all embarrassed for my Dad having to make those calls – especially when the answer was “no work” –  so we ducked out of the main room of our house each Monday morning. He was willing to do anything to support his family, but the unemployment rate was quite high.

My Dad had much time on his hands and also a problem of trying to figure out how to feed his family. His solution was part therapy from being unemployed, and part survival skills from having gone through the Depression. As a result, we had the area’s largest organic garden in 1974.

The Apple Orchard

The Apple Orchard

I grew up on 7 acres in Ohio. We had 13 apple tress, 2 cherry trees, a strawberry patch mixed with rhubarb, a grape harbor, blackberries in the field, and a 1/2 acre garden. We lived off the land.

Taking care of the soil was the secret ingredient. He composted our food scraps and lawn rakings. Fertilizer was easily accessed from area farms. My Dad tilled the soil, mixing all the components together to make the soil ready to bear fruit. As inadequate as he felt when calling to inquire about work, he knew what he was doing when preparing the soil.

The garden started with seeds in early March – getting their start in egg cartons. When the seedlings were a few inches tall, they would be transplanted into their home in the rows of  rich soil. My Dad tended those plants, perhaps compensating for his inability to tend to our family’s financial requirements.

No chemicals were used in his garden. Bugs were kept away from the tomatoes by planting marigolds next to them. How creative he was. We had the first personal watermelons. We had greeen beans that were purple until they were cooked and turned green. Others in the county would come to inquire about growing asparagus like he did. Apple branches were grafted to improve the yield. He grew horseradish and ground it. He even tried to make dandelion wine – not for the faint of heart.

So we survived the recession of 1974. My Dad traded bushels of apples for eggs from the local farmer. We bought milk from the dairy farmer down the road after selling gallons of apple cider. We canned, made pickles and relish,  froze vegetables and made it through the year with unemployment and the fruits – literally – of my Dad’s labor.

I can still remember coming home from my first fall away at college. My Dad waited until I pulled into the driveway and then trotted to the garden to pick the largest tomato to give to me for a treat. I realized then that he was giving me more than a tomato. He was caring for me the best way he knew how.

Picture This! is dedicated to preserving the family story and photos.

* VHS or reels to DVD
* Scan your photos or slides
* Preserve your Memories.

Copyright 2009, All Rights Reserved

Previous post:

Next post: