Monday, June 18, 2012

Not My Mother's Garden

Finally, I totally get it! While gazing at my unplanted aquaponic grow bed, I pictured myself curling up on the surface of the sun-warmed gravel and having a nap. As I was gauging the bed for size and deciding if I  should  take my shoes off before climbing in, my brain gave me a flashback photo of myself curled up for a nap in my mom’s flower box before there was dirt in it.

And that’s when I totally got it– and this was only five minutes ago!  I suddenly understand my mom. I understand why she had to plant an apple tree in a flower box on a float on the rainy, rainy, rainy BC coast. I understand her joy at seeing apples on it and why there had to be a photo of herself cradling that apple! There were only three or so, but no matter!

And here I am, repeating it all, and yet not repeating it at all.

My mom grew up surrounded by the orchards in the Okanogan Valley and worked in them every summer until she married my dad. She could out-pick anyone in an apple tree and she could twist a Mac in half with her hands. She showed me. Then Dad took her to a life that couldn’t be more opposite. A floating logging camp on the BC coast – a great area for growing very large trees and salal bushes but not much else!

She tried though – gardening on the mud flats, the geese eating everything, gardening in little bits of fertile looking dirt (dad was always on the lookout) in the midst of logging slash. She packed me across the logging slash on her hip. I found a salamander there and played with it while she dug in the dirt.

Then dad built a new house on a nice new float, complete with flower boxes all across the front and down the right side, with two larger boxes for the apple trees. The front boxes for flowers, the side for vegetables. Though I can only remember rhubarb in the vegetable boxes.

Maybe the flowers were more successful because they were under the eaves. The flower boxes were filled with daffodils, peonies, roses, lilies, foxgloves, calendula, pinks, dahlias, gladioli, alyssum, sweet peas and nasturtiums. Of course I didn’t know any of the names back then. I only know now from looking at old photos. My least favorite in my mom’s flower bed, and therefore most memorable, was the little white stinky flower we kids loved to hate, which I recently learned is called Tanecetum. My childhood friends would love to know that Tanecetum got “weed of the week” in a gardening magazine and the name refers to Thanatos, which is death, or land of the dead. It did smell like something dead!

For 25 years she gardened in this limited fashion, but the moment she hit land, she dug up a square acre of dirt (it seemed like to me anyway) and wanted me to help her pick rocks and pull weeds. I hated living on land, it was too much work. And now here I am living on land and gardening with a method my Mother never heard of.  

Mom used to bury fish to feed her garden. I am using live fish to feed mine. She grew in dirt, which involves digging and tilling.  I’m growing in gravel and will do my best not to disturb the growbed’s ecosystem. She watered her garden; I don’t have to. She weeded her garden and picked rocks; I don’t have to. But though mine is not my mother’s garden, it IS in a box!

 I’m going to try growing an apple tree in an aquaponic growbed to prove that I totally get it!

Is it the sun or an imperfection on your apple that's making you squint, mom?
An aquaponically educational post is on its way.


  1. Gayle, I so enjoy reading your posts! I was touched by the one about your Mom and the comparisons and just felt sad that she wasn't here to enjoy her lovely, talented daughter and family. How wonderful the new earth will be where you can enjoy God's plants together. We'll all come by and be amazed at what you've done! Looking forward to seeing your very complicated set-up! Jenny

    1. Thank you Jenny! My mom was my age when she died. I've been thinking about her a lot this year.