January 18, 2012
I first met Sharon when I computer taught classes at Cummins Engine where she was employed. That was many years ago. Now I know her through Audubon where she shares her passion for gardening with us. When she heard about Women Create, she wondered if we would be interested in some of her garden and canning pictures – since our project timeline would not allow for me to take those pictures! I accepted instantly. Then I asked her to write a few words about expressing her creativity through gardening. Here is her delightful response. Thanks, Sharon! ~ Jennifer
When I was a young girl my parents had a vegetable garden. One of my chores was to weed. I did not have any enthusiasm for this task, finding it painfully unenjoyable. I do not remember eating the produce, but I sure remember the hot, sunny days when I was kneeling along the rows pulling what I thought was a weed, but wasn’t sure. Who knows, I may have pulled ‘good’ plants too!!
As I grew to an adult I began to appreciate the gardening process. I started gardening for my own young family when my husband and I were renting an apartment in Jamestown. My first garden was located in the former Jones and Gifford City Garden location. This was a great experience. I learned a lot from the other more experienced gardeners. My young boys enjoyed going to the garden, especially getting water from the water faucet. Now I am a Master Gardener through the Chautauqua County Cornell Cooperative Extension. This is a volunteer organization that promotes gardening activities and education in the community. I truly enjoy the opportunities this program has given me to give back to my community in a way that brings joy to others.
Although the gardening season in Chautauqua County is short, my gardening experience encompasses the entire year as I enjoy the preserved fruits of the harvest all winter long. Preserving the harvest is as much fun as planting the first seedlings. I get to experiment with new recipes. I try different techniques such as drying, freezing and of course canning to maintain the quality and beauty of my harvest. What a pleasure to go to my basement select a jar of Tomatoes with Basil and Garlic knowing I grew all of the ingredients without the addition of chemicals and additives. In addition to preserving the fruits of the harvest, I preserve seeds from my favorite plants for the next growing season.
Gardening is no longer a chore but a pleasure. I get to witness the miracle of germination, growth, harvest and preservation. The pride I feel when I see the output from the tiny seeds I have sown is exciting. Maybe this is a maternal instinct of pride, who knows.
As a Master Gardener I provide advice to many gardeners in the community, but the most important gardeners to me are my young grandsons, Fisher and Kylen. They are ten years old. Kylen seems to enjoy his vegetables while Fisher is an entirely different story. Not being a ‘veggie’ person, I thought maybe if I gave him some responsibility for my vegetable garden I could create some enthusiasm for eating the vegetables we grew. We planted rows of tomatoes, peppers, beans, squash, edamame, strawberries, corn, pumpkins, sunflowers and gourds.
At first it was a challenge to get him interested and away from the Wii games he loves to play. But with a lot of encouragement, he became interested. We planted our seedling plants and seeds, then covered each row with newspaper covered with grass clippings. Soon we began to see our plants getting bigger and new plants emerging. Fisher watched closely the new plants, until he spied a garden toad. He loves toads and other garden critters. We made a hypertufa ‘toad house’ placing it in the middle of the garden. Fisher visited the ‘toad house’ each time he worked in the garden. He was able to see the pathways created by his friend, the toad, which enabled the toad to get to various parts of the garden under the mulch. He was also fascinated by the family of bluebirds that nested in the bird house in the center of our garden. He would visit the house regularly checking on the babies.
As the weeks went by, I would find Fisher in my garden. He was ‘taking care’ of the strawberries, or so he said, but I found his face was always stained with strawberry juice. When the peas began to ripen, he could be found in the pea patch, shelling pea pods, but he was eating them as fast as he could. So I marked this as a success, my grandson will eat strawberries and PEAS. Aha, a vegetable! As time went by, we harvested some ‘flying saucer’ squash and some ‘red kernel’ sweet corn. We prepared the squash on the grill along with the corn. Fisher enjoyed both of these veggies as well. He had a lot of fun picking tomatoes and peppers, but he did not eat them. Maybe next year. He did not enjoy the time we spent digging potatoes until he found one that looked like a duck. He was excited about the ‘duck’ potato, and wanted to take some of the harvest home to his mother.
Anytime we had guests, he quickly took the lead on the ‘family garden tour.’ He would tell the guest all about the plants, how they grew, what the plant needed for water and sun, the produce the plant would provide, even how to cook and eat the produce. He would show everyone the toad house and the bird house. He learned so much this year. I know we created a summer garden but more importantly we created lasting memories that far outweigh the initial purpose of getting Fisher to eat and enjoy vegetables.