Saturday, September 16, 2006

When the Gardener is no more...

On August 30, 2006, my favorite Gardener passed away. At 81 he worked the red South Carolina soil, producing more vegetables, grapes, apples, figs, and peaches than anyone I have ever seen! His garden covered about one acre and he worked it by hand...a dawn until dusk kind of guy. He battled the fire-ants who challenged his every move!

Every visit to SC was a visit to my idea of culinary heaven! My mother-in-law is a fabulous (southern) cook and the corn, field peas, beans, greens of all kinds, okra, tomatos, sweet potatoes, Irish potatoes, cabbage, grapes, apples, figs, peaches, onions, cucumbers, melons, peppers (should I go on) were always served in plentiful portions!

Bud (my FIL) produced so much from his garden that he had a regular stream of customers, ready to buy the surplus bounty he had picked. It was a standing joke that my MIL was the "receptionist, and chief order taker!" She grumbled about this. My husband grumbled about not being able to pull into their driveway, for all the customers' cars.

In the days, and now weeks since Bud passed away, his garden, so full of bounty, has stood as a testiment to his labors of love. My MIL looks out the window with a tear escaping from her eye, as she watches the "customers", now "harvesters", pick their own vegetables and fruit. They pay her for their gatherings...the same prices Bud charged. She knows Bud would want all this food to be used, not left to rot on the vine, and yet...

For me, I know the days of the "care packages", bushels of fresh produce, which Bud always insisted we carry back to Virginia with us, are gone forever. My mother-in-law will no longer make her fabulous dishes from the fruits of his labors.

Next year, the garden will sit idle. It will soon turn to weeds and be mowed like the lawn.

As the Gardener is no more, neither, then, is the Garden.

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