Cashton Record - An Independent Wisconsin Newspaper... Serving The Cashton Area For Over 120 Years!

Life as I see it…


The Marathon

I finished my chores about the same time as the barn crew finished the milking. Sitting down to a wholesome breakfast, I started to plan what to do on this glorious spring morning. Soon I noticed the conversation going on around me. There was talk of plowing the hog pasture. That was followed by the words garden, potatoes and planting. My plan started to dissolve and leak out of my head. If there was planting to be done, I had to be involved whether I wanted it or not. Sure enough! My fate was sealed.

Millie left to wash the milking equipment and the boys took off to the machine shed to grease and oil the tractors and whatever else was needed for preparing the soil for planting. I was left to do a mountain of breakfast dishes. Mom emerged from the basement where she had been cutting up last year’s potatoes, which were soft, wrinkled and sprouting. These would eventually become a new crop of potatoes. Each piece of potato had to have an “eye” which would sprout and grow.

Finished with that round of chores, Millie and I started to gather shovels, hoes, a rake, sticks for marking the rows and twine to make the rows nice and straight. We gathered our tools and made our way to the new potato patch. The guys had plowed a plot of land that had been a pig pasture. The soil was dark and fertile and was ready to accept anything we planted. The disc had broken up the clods of dirt and the drag leveled the soil. We had an assembly line going. The twine was rolled out to measure the rows. Someone dug a hole, a potato part was dropped in and then each hole was filled with soil. Before long the potatoes were all planted.

A time of rest never happens on a farm. This was the beginning of a summer marathon. Soon the garden behind the house was prepared for planting. In went onions, radishes, and peas. As the air and soil got warmer beans, cucumbers, tomatoes, and cabbages were planted. Mom had worn out the Gurney catalog through the late winter months deciding what she would plant.

We became slaves to the garden. The weeds grew at an amazing rate. Quack grass with its long roots defied any effort to pull out and destroy. The vegetables grew as well and soon we were harvesting and eating the fruits of our labor. Occasionally, we checked on the potatoes and those sprouts had produced wonderful plants.

Soon it was time to harvest strawberries and make jam. It wasn’t long before the beans started producing and canning was in full swing. The farm was producing as well and we went from the garden to the hay field and from the hay field to the barn for milking. We got up before the sun, worked the day through and collapsed into our hot beds at night. We were like rodents on a huge wheel going around and around.

Throughout all that activity, the potato patch was neglected. It was away from the house and easily ignored. One fateful day, Millie and I were sent out to weed the potatoes. The potato patch had turned into a forest. The former hog pasture produced very fertile soil. The velvet weeds swayed gently in the breeze like palm trees. We grasped each weed with both hands. We had no gloves. Hoes would be useless. The sun beat down on us without mercy. We emerged from the patch at noon for a quick lunch. Our backs were sore, our hands blistered and our faces red from the sun’s rays.

Gardening was hard work and it took a big chunk of the summer to plant, harvest and preserve. But, it was essential to our well-being. It was our grocery store and we paid with sweat, time and energy. But, the rewards were great. A vegetable going from the garden to the table, was robust with flavor and abound with nutrients. It didn’t travel hundreds of miles losing vitamins throughout the trip. The tomatoes were eaten right off the vine with the juice running down our chins. That food was grown in God’s good earth devoid of insecticides and herbicides. It was eaten with good old butter and a little salt. The veggies did not need special sauces and exotic herbs to bring out the flavor. Mother canned vegetables and fruits, which lasted us throughout the cold winter months.

If you still have a garden, good for you. If not, maybe I will see you at one of the very convenient produce stands. And have a great summer.


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