For as long as I can remember, there have been gardens and gardeners in my life.
Growing up, the Olney Street Garden, my Dad’s, with it’s perimeter of cobblestone blocks held a variety of vegetables. There were tomatoes, beets, green beans, and broccoli. The onions were planted on the outside edge in the hopes that they would keep the critters away. Now my Dad always planted lots of tomatoes, however, he did not eat them. What he did do was share. When the counters were full with no room for any more tomatoes, and my mom had had her fill, my Dad would share this harvest. He’d share with family and neighbors. Anyone who stopped by to say hello was sure to leave with a tomato or two. The Olney Street Garden was always there, and still is.
In the early 2000’s, I met the Fairview Avenue Garden. The Fairview Avenue Garden – my father-in-laws, was – in a word – big. I remember going down to see my father-in-law who was, at the time taking care of his mother in addition to a mother of garden. We had been invited down to harvest tomatoes. I thought we’d come back with a basket enough to make a batch of sauce and a few BLT’s. Well that was not the case. Just like my father, he insisted on sharing the bounty. We came home with box and two dry wall buckets of tomatoes. For the next few week, we were knee deep in everything tomato – sauce, puree, BLT’s, tomato sandwiches, simple tomato and dressing, brushetta, more sauce, and more puree. We were so happy sharing in the wealth of the Fairview Avenue Garden.
In 2013, I met the Thurman Avenue Garden. Under the hot North Carolina sun, this garden had a longer growing season – sometimes multiple growing seasons. By the time we came down to visit in July, the tomatoes had passed their prime. But the eggplant were ready for harvest. I remember heading home from our first trip down with box full of eggplant ready whatever me and my kitchen had in store. Once again, we were the beneficiaries of a garden harvest.
Now, the Saddleview Road garden is in our backyard. It’s smaller than the Olney Street Garden and a fraction of the size of the Fairview Avenue and the Thurman Road Gardens, but it’s our garden of peppers tomatoes and eggplant. Each year, we’ve been lucky to have our own modest harvest with just enough to share with neighbors and friends.
We lost my father-in-law on Saturday night. There’s one less gardener and one less garden in our life. But the spirit of growing and sharing lives on in our garden and in us.
Through their work they have shown us that the fruits of your labor can yield a good harvest and if you are lucky, you’ll have enough to share.