Tag Archives: garden

“Our family keeps growing, and with
each passing year, there is a garden.”

The 100-Year Garden

By Amy Gesenhues

My grandmother turned 101 years old on April 3. She has survived being born in 1917. World War II. Joe McCarthy. The Korean War. Vietnam. The Cuban Missile Crisis and the assassination of President Kennedy. She is a devout Catholic who survived a divorce in a deeply rooted Catholic community. She survived being a single, working mother of six kids during the 1970s. She also survived the death of her first son, and probably a million tiny heartbreaks I know nothing about.

Through all of these tragedies and losses and survivals, there has been a garden.

When my grandmother was young, her family’s main crop was strawberries. She talks about what it was like to grow the heart-shaped fruit in her 1997 autobiography, From My Window: “We planted them in the Spring and hoed and plowed them all that summer. Then the next Spring we picked them. They were a hard crop to grow and depend on, but they were what we planted, picked and sold to make most of the money we needed for the rest of the year.”

They also planted potatoes and cabbage and corn and tomatoes and beans. Pumpkins, cantaloupes, watermelons, and cucumbers.

“Our family keeps growing, and with each passing year, there is a garden.”

“Our family keeps growing, and with
each passing year, there is a garden.”

Grandma said the cucumbers were a good crop for them. “The growing season was so short and they could stand the dry summers of the Ohio Valley,” she wrote. “It only took them six weeks to grow, and we would pick them every other day for over a month.”

She said picking the cucumbers was a back-breaking job, and she is the toughest woman I know.

The garden I first remember is the one my grandmother and grandfather started at their house in the two, maybe three acres of land between their home and the creek at the bottom of Jenny Lane in Floyds Knobs. I don’t know what year the first garden was put there, but it continued to be planted well past their divorce and after the death of their son. He was only 26 when he drowned at Buffalo Trace Lake. His name was Norman. He was my dad.

Last year, on the 40th anniversary of his death, a cousin shared the following memory of him on my Facebook page: “I don’t have any really clear memories of your dad. There is one, though, when the family was planting the big garden in your Grandma’s yard. Everyone was kneeled down, carefully planting seeds at just the right distance apart. Except your dad. He had a handful of seeds – peas, I think – and he was hunched over, walking briskly, letting them roll out of his hand like hewas eating peanuts. Someone was grousing athim about not doing it right and then following his row, re-placing the seeds carefully, movingeach one an inch or so.”

My cousin said he remembers being off to the side, playing in the dirt when my dad came by with a grin and asked him, “My way is better, don’t you think?” I am grateful to have this memory. My dad sowing seeds in the garden. Doing things his way.

Grandma’s garden has since relocated to the other side of the property from where it once was. Instead of being in front of her house – which is now my uncle’s home – it is across the street, in front of the house where another one of my cousins lives. She has two toddlers.

Our family keeps growing, and with each passing year, there is a garden. In 2001, one of my cousins started a garden log to archive every crop our family plants, harvests and cans. It is a small spiral notebook with a green cover that up until last year, was kept on top of our grandmother’s refrigerator.

An entry dated July 1, 2004, reads: Canned 56 quarts of green beans. Vicki and Lucy picked one row for this canning.

The time it took to pick the beans is in parentheses, (2½ hours). The entry includes a bulleted list of everyone who helped stem and can the green beans: Grandma, Janice F., Doug, Jan, Joe. Beside Doug’s name, in parentheses, is a note that he only received partial credit because he arrived “very” late. Jan was noted as a late arrival too. Joe’s name included the following citation: Cut very little with lots of complaining. All of these details listed in parentheses beside their names.

An entry from August 13, 2013, says the corn didn’t come in that year. Instead, two bushels were bought from Ralph Fenwick. Parentheses ($35). After grandma deemed it fresh enough, Emily, Junnie, Vicki, JJ and Jan shucked and cleaned it, while Molly, Eileen and P3 (short for Paul the third) played in the basement. JJ wanted it noted that she pulled out a worm from an already boiled year of corn, and that she was there from the beginning. Parentheses (9:30am).

This small notebook is so much more than the food my family has harvested for the last almost 20 years. It’s a record of what we talk about when we’re sitting around our grandmother’s table, chucking corn, canning beans, eating. It’s a handwritten confessional, showing all the ways we care for and nurture each other. I think of these small moments, the quiet details within the parentheses, as clues to the ways we’ve repaired each of our family’s tiny heartbreaks – from my dad’s death to all sufferings that were left unsaid.

My grandmother had six children. Those six children had 16 children, and I am one of them.

I have two kids of my own now, and we all still eat food from her garden. When my son was three, still in a car seat riding home from Sunday dinner at Grandma’s house, he said her cream corn – made with the ears of corn cleaned and chucked from the garden – was magic. I can think of no better word to define it.



By Farrah Alexander


In addition to sleep, my husband asked, “What about a garden? The kids and I could build you a garden.” I was elated. I so badly wanted a garden, I had even purchased some weed-block and gardening items that sat unopened in our garage.

screen-shot-2018-06-05-at-5-40-59-pmMustering up the energy (see previous pleading for sleep) to do the manual labor part of building a garden hasn’t been in the cards for me this season yet. All the hauling dirt, tilling and building has been too much. But tending to a garden with my two favorite little people was something I really wanted to do this summer. So, my husband offering to do all the hard things involved in building a garden, and letting me stick to the fun stuff was a perfect gift.

I first became interested in gardening with children years before I had my own. I wrote an article about community and school gardens for a local publication. I was so amazed by how the garden changed the children’s perspective on personal responsibility, health and food.

These kids loved getting dirty and taking care of their gardens. They would pick offending weeds and check on the growth of their plants. The pride they took in the work they put into their gardens was obvious. They were incredibly knowledgeable about the entire seed to plate process, speaking with the experience of master gardeners.

After they nurtured their plants for months and it was time to harvest, they couldn’t wait to try their veggies. Most parents go through the daily dinner struggle of trying to convince their kids to try the veggies on their plates while the kids recoil and resist like you just asked them to eat dirt. But a kid who tended to a plant for months and watched the plants sprout colorful, edible veggies? It’s hard to convince them to even wait to wash their veggies before devouring.screen-shot-2018-06-05-at-5-41-04-pm

Now we can get any fruits and veggies just about any time of year at our local grocery stores. We don’t have to wait until early summer for strawberries; we can buy strawberries in January! Most of the produce we see in stores aren’t locally farmed, and a lot of it actually traveled a long distance before it arrived here. Some of our most popular household staples, like bananas, weren’t even grown in this country. Instead, bananas and many other items are grown in the Caribbean, Mexico and elsewhere and shipped here.

It’s easy for kids to become disconnected with where food comes from given the complicated nature of how it gets here. Adults don’t typically know exactly where their produce comes from, either. But with a garden, kids can eat food they grew in their own backyard. The disconnect is eliminated.

In fact, there are absolutely remarkable benefits for children who garden. There have been a number of studies showing that children who participate in some type of gardening program either at home or at school

• showed a significant increase in self- understanding and an ability to work with others

• have positive bonding experiences with their parents and other adults

• are more likely to ear fresh fruits and vegetables

• scored higher on science achievement tests

• showed an understanding of ecology, interconnections in nature, and responsibility to care for the environment

• develop an interest in gardening that is likely to be lifelong

screen-shot-2018-06-05-at-5-41-10-pmPlus, it’s great for parents to get outside and work on something with their children. It’s fun to be able to involve your kids in cooking dinner and gathering fresh ingredients you grew together. Last year, I just had herbs in small pots outside my door. I loved going outside with my son to clip some and then add those to the dinner we cooked. I found he was much more excited about dinner and more prone to try new things if he was involved in the process.

If you’re interesting in gardening with your kids, it can be incredibly easy and simple. You don’t have to tear up your yard and make a huge garden. Our area is great for growing tomatoes, which can be grown in containers with the cage included. Super easy! No planting even required, just watering. Herbs are always very easy and can be grown in small containers.

To make it even easier, you could even go outside your home and get involved in the gardening process. Many area schools have gardens and probably love when parents volunteer to help tend to them. There are small community gardens in both New Albany and Jeffersonville.

Huber’s is a huge, beautiful farm in Starlight. On their website, they have a picking schedule. Depending on the date, you and your children can pick strawberries, zucchini, green beans, apples, peppers and eventually pumpkins. You can ride out to the fields on a tractor, fill a box with freshly-picked produce and then check out at the market when you’re done. My son loves picking strawberries and then making strawberry bread when we get home.

You can even just check out one of the wonderful farmer’s markets in the area and get a chance to speak with the farmers who harvested the food you’re about to eat. Then you get to have delicious, local produce without any of the dirty work.

Whatever works for you and your family, try some locally grown food this summer.