In the springtime, when the grass began to green and the dandelions were spotting the yard with their yellow blossoms, Grandma would get garden fever. It was time to plant the garden. She would badger Grandpa into hauling a load of manure from the barnyard and spreading it on the garden. Then he would hitch up Nance and Kate and turn the manure under with a walking plow. As soon as he harrowed the ground nice and smooth, the backbreaking work began.
Grandma was the general supervisor in this operation. She also could make the straightest rows with her hoe, so she laid out the furrows for planting. First came the potatoes. She would have half a washtub full of cut potatoes ready for planting. These were dropped in the row six or eight inches apart and covered with dirt. Then came the peas, radishes, onions and lettuce. These were the cool weather crops that could stand a freeze without much damage.
About a week later, we would plant the warm weather crops such as string beans, sweet corn, beets, carrots and cabbage. About two weeks later, we would make a second planting of most of these vegetables, hoping for a wet year so we would have more of everything to can for the winter months. We would also set out the tomato and pepper plants.
In one corner of the garden was an asparagus bed and a rhubarb bed. These came up every spring from the roots and only required a yearly thinning and an application of fertilizer. There was also a bed of winter onions that could be harvested all year if necessary.
In a sizable portion of the garden were fruit trees. There were several cherry trees of two different varieties, also two large apple trees, a crabapple tree and a pear tree. They didn't all produce fruit every year, but we always harvested some kind of fruit. Some years the cherries were the most prolific. Because I was pretty good at climbing trees, I was usually assigned the job of picking the cherries. After three or four days, I never wanted to see another cherry. When I would go to bed at night, I would close my eyes and still see cherries clinging to the limbs, just begging to be picked. I usually got a tummyache the first day of picking, from eating too many cherries.
There was a patch of blackberries and raspberries in one corner of the garden. I hated to fight all the thorns for the berries, but they did taste good in a pie or a cobbler. Grandma would combine them to make delicious jams and jellies.
The garden was quite a distance from the house and it didn't take the crows long to see what was going on. About five minutes after everyone left the garden, they would swoop down and begin to scratch up the freshly planted seeds. When Grandma spotted those thieves, she would come after them with her broom and scare them out of her precious garden. Grandpa was pressed into service to build a scarecrow.
As soon as Grandpa planted a post with a cross-arm, Grandma would design her ingenious character. First she would bring out a pair of Grandpa's old overalls and a blue workshirt. She would stuff them with some old rags and some hay or straw. With an old hat on his head and an old pair of boots the scarecrow resembled Grandpa in some respects. She would stick an old broom in his hand and tie a long filmy scarf to the broom so it would fly in the wind. I guess she wanted to remind those crows that she wielded a mean broom. To top it all off, she would tie a string of small tin cans to one of the arms so that they would rattle in the wind. The scarecrow was more humorous than scary to me, but it worked for awhile. About once a week, Grandma would change the clothing on the scarecrow and then the crows would move on to greener pastures.
After a good rain shower and a few warm days, the planted seeds seemed to literally jump out of the ground, as did the weeds. From here on, it was a never ending battle with the weeds. I soon developed hardened calluses on both hands trying to stay ahead of the weeds with a hoe. However, soon the fruits of our labor were enjoyed.
First came the radishes, green onions and lettuce. A little later, we would have peas and new potatoes. They all tasted so good after a long winter without fresh vegetables. Grandma would spend a lot of time canning the surplus garden produce. By fall the fruit cellar was line with rows of canned fruit and vegetables --- the products of her own garden. In those depression years we never had much money to spend, but we always ate well.
Grandma's garden made an important contribution to the welfare of farm life in those days. It was the main, and often the only, source of fruit and vegetables for the table. Often, as I sat and enjoyed a delicious home cooked meal that ended with a piece of Grandma's cherry pie, I would close my eyes and see all those red ripe cherries that I had picked under protest. Then I would recover from my dream and beg Grandma for another piece of pie. I guess that is called enjoying the fruits of your labor.