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Tuesday, May 17, 2011

"Backyard 'Farming'"


As I get older I find that I am taking an increased pleasure in growing things.  When I bought my house, the yard was barren of trees or shrubs or flowers.  I later learned that the previous owners had a penchant for saving water, thus none was wasted in the yard.  In the summer, at noon, the Arizona heat is blazing hot and, when I first gazed out into the back yard I could almost see the heat emanating from the naked landscape.

I began modestly to plant a shrub here, a tree there.  First to be planted was one of those one-foot Christmas trees that one can buy in a pot to decorate the house for Christmas.  I planted my little pine and tended it carefully and whispered to it all the big dreams I had for it;  it listened well.  It now stands in majesty more than 20 feet from the ground, throwing shade on my morning patio, its branches dancing with delight in the morning and evening breezes.  I then planted a Pomello tree and its glossy leaves now grace my line of sight and, in the spring, sweeps glorious scents of citrus blossom into my open bedroom window.  I have a dwarf lemon that produces fruit far beyond all expectations and stocks the fruit baskets of friends and neighbors and food banks all.  In my earlier blog (God and Trees and Me) I wrote of my Chinese Elm and compared it's growth progress with that of my mystery tree which stands beside it.  The Chinese Elm must have sensed my disappointment for even it has begun to thrive this spring.  I now have nine healthy and thriving trees in my backyard.  They are providing welcome canopies of shade and, when the winds come, they sing my praises for their care, a tonal symphony that pleases me greatly.

I have also begun to plant garden vegetables in the brick patio boxes that border the rear of my patio.  I have both beefsteak and cherry tomatoes thriving there, along with cucumber and basil and jalapeno peppers to add spice to life!  Each morning I inspect my "crops" and delight at each new tomato flowering or tiny jalapeno emerging from its bud. 

I am beginning to appreciate life in all its forms as I get older.  Perhaps, the secret and ghostly urgings of my farmer ancestors are having a greater influence on me these days.  I am among the first generation of my family who did not rely on the farm for survival.  I come from a long line of farmers; my Friend ancestors were one of the first families to settle in Missouri territory in 1807.  Our family name is prominent in the history of the Ozarks having settled several prosperous farms along the White River there.  My ancestry research shows many Friends who still live in the area over two hundred years later.

Somehow, my paternal grandfather, who was born in the Ozarks, managed to migrate to Oklahoma.  My mother spoke often of the efforts the entire extended family had to make just to survive the Great Depression.  She always said that, without my grandmother's canning skills, and my grandfather's skills in hunting and smoking meats, they would have starved.  They never owned the land they farmed but "share-cropped", giving half of each year's crop to the land owner. 

When my immediate family migrated to California in the early fifties I learned to harvest the cotton and fruits and vegetables but never felt the "pull" of the land that farmers have.  I'm only now beginning to appreciate nature's dance; the pleasure of plucking a fresh ripe tomato and savoring the warm juicy goodness that sun and soil create.  As I harvest the lemons or grapefruit and oranges I take great pride of their flourishing from my care. 

Life is good.

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