I can remember the first gardens that we had on the farm close to Geneva Minn but do not remember working in that one. We did have berry bushes in that garden and then we had some fruit trees on that farm. My dad had planted 6 black walnut trees but they had not produced when we left that farm in 1936.
We moved to 2 miles south of Hope Minnesota when I was 8 years old and I remember working in the garden at that time. I used to pick the peas and bring them to the house and shell them for dinner. Peas grew very well in Minnesota. I also remember hoeing in the garden and also picking the radishes and lettuce and bringing it to the house. My Mother used to whip cream and then we put that on fresh lettuce. That was really good. The ground on the farm near Hope was sandy soil and my Dad planted watermelons in the corn field one year and we had a bumper crop. My friend Margaret and I went down one day and broke a ripe watermelon and then had to hide the evidence.
One of my jobs was to wash the fruit jars when we were getting ready to can fruit and vegetables. We didn’t have a strawberry patch but you could go and pick strawberries on the shares and then bring them home to can. This was before we had a locker and Mother canned strawberries and made jam also. Larry my Mother and I picked strawberries one time on the shares and Mother really worked hard. I probably ate more than I picked. We had two or three black walnut trees on this farm and my job in the fall was to pick up the walnuts and then take the pealing off. The pealing would stain your hand a dark color and that was a messy job. You would then let the walnut dry for a while and then you would have to crack them. One of my jobs was to crack the walnuts and pick out the nut meat. I had a piece of railroad iron and a good hammer. I was about 9 or 10 when that job was assigned to me.
Almost every farm we lived on had a rhubarb patch and that was the first thing to come up in the spring. We picked it and usually boiled it with a little sugar and Mother made rhubarb pies. They were really good. It is almost impossible to grow rhubarb in Okla and I tried it for a couple of years but the plants died. We always had an aspargrass patch and that was another thing that we ate early in the spring.
We had been without anything green to eat all winter so in the spring we would go out and pick a wash tub full of dandelions and cook them. They were good to eat and some of the Bohemian families would make dandelion wine. I tasted it once and it was good. We were always anxious to eat the fresh radishes and we would take my Mother’s home made bread, put a little butter on it and slice radishes and eat a radish sandwich. Really good.
My sister Daisy liked Hubbard squash and one year my father planted Hubbard squash in with the corn. He went out that fall and picked the squash and he had a wagon load. We ate a lot of squash that winter. One year I planted some Hubbard squash and I had 4 large squash. I cut them up and cooked them in the pressure canner and then I mashed them and froze in packages and put in the deep freeze. The Hubbard squash makes the best pumpkin pies and taste far better than pumpkins. I made several pies that winter. They are huge squash and you just need one or two vines but it takes a large space to raise them.
We moved to another rent farm 5 miles south of Owatonna in 1940 and I was 13 years old at that time. We had a huge garden on that farm. By this time I was doing a lot of hand weeding and hoeing and picking the peas and beans and bringing them to the house and helping my Mother cook. We usually made creamed peas and we also made creamed green beans. We had our own cream and butter and that was just the way we cooked. By this time I was helping my Mother can tomatoes, pears, peaches, green beans, corn and everything else. When I was 15 years old my Mother went down to my sister Dorothy’s to help her with my new niece Mary for about a week. Well the tomatoes were ready to be canned and I went out and picked them and canned a batch of tomatoes. My Mother was so surprised that I was able to do that on my own. I was also cooking all the meals and doing the housework and milking cows. There was never ending work on the farm.
After leaving the farm and coming to Oklahoma to work for the railroad I did not do any gardening until Hugh was about a year old. We had a vegetable garden at 437 Fairview and I would arrange to have some one plow the garden in the spring and I did all the gardening. I usually raised radishes and cabbage and onions and green beans and melons and sweet corn. I had good results with my gardening and I did add peat moss and sand to the soil. I also had good luck with cucumbers and tomatoes. One terribly hot summer in the mid 50’s I planted beefsteak tomatoes between my neighbors rose hedge and the work shop. I kept them watered and had a good crop that year. The rose hedge protected the tomatoes from the hot sun and that was in the year when the temperature hit 105 to 110 most of the summer.
I also tried my hand at a little fruit growing. I planted Alberta peach seeds and then transplanted the small trees in the back yard close to the house. One of the peach trees had peaches as large as grapefruit. You can grow peaches from seed and they usually turn out all right. That was about in 1969 as I had gone back to work on the Rock Island railroad as a billing clerk and would come home from work and make peach cobblers.
The next garden I had was at 442 Fairview and this was a nice sized garden right out the back door. I had tomatoes and okra and radishes lettuce and green beans, cucumbers and melons and a nice strawberry patch. I planted 25 strawberry plants and about 3 lived the first year, the next year I had a patch about 3 feet square and the next year I had a patch about 16 feet square. Did they ever produce. I did get tired picking strawberries, but they were good eating. I had a nice large garden every year for the ten years that we lived at 442 Fairview and I bought a pressure canner and canned a lot of vegetables when I lived there. Made a lot of tomato juice and canned tomatoes. My neighbor Mrs Day taught me some short cuts in using the pressure canner.
One time when Gail was about 15 we went to Arkansas city and picked Belle of Georgia peaches. They were in an orchard west of the Arkansas river close to the river. We picked 2 and ½ bushels in about half an hour. I never saw so many peaches in my life. The peaches were very good fresh and I canned some of them. They looked terrible in the jars and I waited a long time before I opened a jar of them. They were very good canned but didn’t look to hot. About a week before that we had gone out one Sunday and picked sand plums and brought them home. I asked Gail to pick over the sand plums and throw out the bad ones. When we were ready to go to Arkansas City Gail said ”Well if those peaches are the size of sand plums I am not going.”
We moved to 538 Virginia in 1980 and we had 7/10th of a acre of land. We had to clear it of trees and various things. Think we hauled off 24 loads of trees and stuff. We planted about 20 fruit trees in the back yard and we had 2 or 3 good blue plum trees already. Dale bought a little John Deere tractor with a mower, tiller and front end loader. He prepared the garden in the back yard and we planted a lot of things. The first year in 1980 was a terribly hot summer and the garden did not do well. In the years following he installed an irrigation system and we had a really good garden. We had potatoes and beets and okra coming out our ears. I remember canning 18 pints of corn in one setting one time. When Danny and Carol came from Peru they would eat a whole pint of corn at one meal. I canned tomatoes and tomato juice and had so many green peppers that I didn’t know what to do with them.
After Dale retired he went out to Orchard Lane and asked someone if he could garden an empty lot. The man told him yes as long as he wasn’t going to sell the stuff. Dale planted corn, okra, cucumbers, melons and watermelons. He planted the black diamond watermelons and he has about 600 watermelons. It came time to pick them and he and his friend Joe put them on a small trailer that we had and dropped off 3 watermelons at all the neighbors and friends houses that we could think of. We also took a lot of produce down to the Mission so they could feed it to hungry people.
After Dale’s health declined he decided to take a master garden course and he built 6 raised bed gardens in our back yard. I still continue to plant things in the raised beds and have successfully had strawberries and aspargrass in them. I can raise enough tomatoes and green peppers and cucumbers to keep me in veggies all summer. Last year I bought potting soil and planted cucumbers in it. I cut the top out of the package and slit some openings in the bottom of the sack. I then planted the cucumbers and put a tomato cage over the soil. I had lots of cucumbers and even canned some pickles.
We had lots of good fruit trees on this lot but last year I lost my golden delicious apple tree. We had a low temperature of minus 25 degrees and it got my blue plum tree and my apple tree. Two years ago this small apple tree produced 6 bushels of apples. I have a Alberta peach and an asian pear that are loaded with fruit this year. I planted another blue plum and another apple and pear tree so should have more fruit in a couple of years. When we first had fruit trees we had a bird dog that ran loose in the back yard. I didn’t realize what a good job she did keeping the birds out of the fruit until I no longer had her.
The garden looks good so far this year and the flowers are really nice. Last year was terribly dry and so everything king of went to pot. I couldn’t even grow okra last year and had about 6 tomatoes. This is a little bit about my gardening over the years.