Remembering the origin of garden’s past by Jim Fabiano


Glancing out the back window where my water saturated mud filled garden had once flourished, I remembered how the past decades of gardening began. Like today it was early spring and my neighbor and I decided to cordon off a 400 square foot area between our properties. It was not a pretty site. The ground was brown and slightly frozen because the mid-April sun did not have the strength to completely thaw out the soil. We didn’t care. We were going to produce a garden that would become the envy of the neighborhood. I am proud to report this is true today.

My neighbor, Greg had some connection and was able to pick up some railroad ties. He had them stacked next to our future garden waiting for the right weekend when they would be placed around the circumference of the garden. As we were about to pick up the first tie he advised me to use my legs and not my back. He lifted his side to his waste and waited for me to do the same. I lifted mine approximately two inches. I could have used every muscle I ever had in every part of my body and I still would not have been able to lift that thing more. Did I tell you that my neighbor was young? I sincerely hate him for that and still do. His brother came over that afternoon and they blocked out our garden as I drank my third beer.

I told my neighbor I would pick up the tiller from the local rent-all store. I chose the biggest and the best in hopes that the bigger it was the easier it would be to use. That theory now has little merit. It took me approximately 1 hour to get it off my truck. Once I got it into the garden area I was ready to till to my heart’s content. The machine started with ease but as soon as I put it into gear I found myself face down being dragged across the garden holding on to the tiller as if my life depended on it. At that particular time I it did. The railroad tie at the end of the garden stopped the tiller. I got myself up and made my second mistake of the day. I put the tiller in reverse. I was then propelled to the other side of the garden where I was pinned against another railroad tie with the tiller on my lap. Did I tell you that the ground was still a bit frozen? My young neighbor then screamed from inside his house. I thought he was concerned but then I understood what he was asking. He wanted to know how I wanted my coffee. I told him that I wanted it while I was still alive.

After the cow manure was delivered and literally stunk out the neighborhood, it was time to plant. I couldn’t understand why my wife wouldn’t come near me after I packed the tomatoes, basil, eggplant, and all the squashes with the fresh manure that was delivered a few days earlier. The garden looked so pathetic after it was first planted but grew to the consistency of a rain forest by mid July. Every day I watered and weeded it until most of my neighbors could set their clocks by when I pulled out the hose from my house.

By the end of August my garden was fully-grown. The only thing bigger than the tomatoes and eggplants were the tomato bugs and other alien creatures that inhabited the squashes. I swear they looked more like robots than bugs. Once, when I checked out the tomatoes I came face to face with the biggest and ugliest green caterpillar I had ever seen. We were face to face and, to this day, I think I scared him more than he scared me for it dropped from sight never to be seen again. Harvest time came in early autumn and I am proud to say I filled up my sink many times over with beautifully fresh produce. My wife then worked her magic by preparing the pestos and sauces that were destined to be placed in our freezer until that cold winter day that was destined to appear.

Glancing out the back window where my water saturated mud filled garden had once flourished, I remembered how the past decades of gardening began.

Jim Fabiano Email Jim: Writers Journal column

Author of two books “Laugh it Off” (2003) and “Humor from York Town” (2005)

Author: Jim Fabiano

Jim Fabiano is a retired teacher and writer living in York, Maine and received the Maine Publisher’s Association Best weekly column award for 2004

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