Jerry’s Patio Garden – Alas! Cucumbers!

 

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This Week’s Picture:  Cucumbers are sprouting.

2016 Garden Status:

I have 7 to 8 cucumbers sprouting now!  Looks like cucumbers are going to be the only vegetables that I may end up with this year.  Let’s see how they will do over the next week or so.

1966 Garden Status and Childhood Story

I think back to 1966.  That was 50 years ago.  I was 10 years old.  It was the year that I planted my first garden.  As I think back on that garden, the only vegetables that made it were my cucumbers.  My tomatos, my squash, my green beans never made.  My garden yield was very low.  I learned a lot about conditioning the soil prior to planting the garden.  My cumcumber sprouts showed up in late May and grew at a steady rate.  There were only a few days left before the summer break and I was looking forward to a summer of fun.

My First Snake Kill

June came.  The fist Saturday after school finally let out found me heading up the one mile hill to fetch water from the spring.  It was 10:00 A.M. and it was hot already.  As I think about it now, I am sure that it was 85 degrees.  I treaded up the hill with my wagon, looking ahead at the top of the ridge while pulling my wagon.  I happended to look down and there it was.  A medium size black snake.  I’m sure that it was not a racer, otherwise it would have taken off faster than I could blink an eye.  It was frozen.  I was frozen.  I still remembered looking right at its beady little eyes.  Those beady looking things looked as if they were staring right into mine.  I slowly took a step back.  The snake did not move.  I quickly looked on the ground to my left for a rock and fortunately for me there was a rather large one next to my left foot.  Immediately, I picked it up, quickly raised it above my head and threw it hard at the snake and smashed its head in.  The rest of the snake’s body and tail curled up and swung all over the place.  I was surprised at my accuracy.  I played a lot of stick ball and enjoyed trying to throw people out but I do not believe that I was ever that accurate.

I grabbed the handle of my wagon and made a wide berth around the dangling tail of the snake with the crushed head.  The rock rolled over a foot or so from the velocity wherewith it was thrown.  I was shaking.  My nerves were rattled and my adrenaline was in high gear.  I made it to the top of the hill, filled my jugs with water in record time.  Afterward I walked slowly back down the hill.  It was like I was crashing from some sort of sugar high.  I felt drained.  I walked by the dead snake, now still as the sticks and rocks that lay near it.  I stopped and stared for a few minutes and then moved on.  I made it home.  Put the water jugs in their place, poured myself a tall glass, sat down next to the wood crate and turned the glass up until it was finished.  I did not mention the snake to my aunt.  I just stared at the wall for a moment until I heard voices outside calling my name.

“Jerry, are you home?” , asked one of the kids as he knocked.  “We are ready to play softball.  Can you come?”  My aunt looked at me and nodded her assent.  I jumped up, grabbed my makeshift bat from the back porch and joined the crowd.  On the way to the field where we played, I told my story about the snake.  There were oooh’s and ahhh’s from some, there were a few “…you’re just making that up…”  comments from others.  Either way it did not matter.  I was still shuddering from the experience.

 

Stay tuned next week for stories from Jerry’s childhood in the rural south in Jerry’s Patio Garden

This Week on Jerry’s Patio Garden

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This Week’s Picture: The flowers are blooming. It won’t be long before i see cucumbers at the end of those stems. At least that is what I expect. It won’t be the first time that I saw flowers and no fruit.
In the Days of my 1996 Garden

It had been nearly two weeks since the flowers, which were blooming all over the place, had fallen off and still there were no tomatoes, no melons, not much of anything. Just a few squash and a few cucumbers here and there. Probably had to do with the fact that the soil was not treated beforehand. My request to start a garden came far too late to do any pre-treatment of the soil.

A Trip Into “the Woods”

After eyeing my disappointing crop one day, I decided to just take a walk into the forest area, which we referred to simply as “the woods”. I was so disappointed, I did not check to see if I would be there along or not. I was not on guard for any of the wild life (lizards, snakes, large moths, etc.) that terrified me. I was generally terrifed by any critter that crawled, slithered or flew. This afternoon I did not care. I just walked deeper and deeper into the woods. I walked alongside a creek that ran through the woods. I was calmed my the rush of the water that flowed over the green, moss covered rocks. It was a moment of peace for me as I stepped slowly across a path that was made by others. As I walked I forgot all about my disappointment. Bushes, reeds and ferns lined the river. Pine trees, oak trees, and vines hanging from oak were everywhere. I was lost in the moment but not lost in the woods. I know the path would take me back home. I finally remembered my garden. Next year, I said to myself. I saw a rotted stump of tree, about a foot tall whose roots clung to the ground. I kicked it over, then watched the termites scurry all over the place. I continued to kick away until I saw the reddish colored wood in the middle. I picked up a limb that layed on the ground nearby and begin to knock away the rotted sections of the stump until the piece of reddish-orange wood stood out from the core. Kindling, I thought. Kindling was a great starter fuel for fires that were lit in wood burning stoves. You could buy them from the stores that sold wood, sometimes the lumber trucks would drop off a bundle along with scrap wood from the lumber yard or sometimes you could find it in old rotted out stumps of trees. I kicked the kindling until I heard a crack. It was broken free. I reached in with my hand and yanked it up. I brushed off the dust and termites. I smiled as I turned back to the path and headed towards home.

Stay Tuned Next Week for Jerry’s Patio Garden.

Jerry’s Patio Garden – Flowers Bloom  First, Then Comes th Fruit


This Week’s Picture: The flowers are blooming. It won’t be long before i see cucumbers at the end of those stems. At least that is what I expect. It won’t be the first time that I saw flowers and no fruit.
In the Days of my 1996 Garden

It had been nearly two weeks since the flowers, which were blooming all over the place, had fallen off and still there were no tomatoes, no melons, not much of anything. Just a few squash and a few cucumbers here and there. Probably had to do with the fact that the soil was not treated beforehand. My request to start a garden came far too late to do any pre-treatment of the soil.

A Trip Into “the Woods”

After eyeing my disappointing crop one day, I decided to just take a walk into the forest area, which we referred to simply as “the woods”. I was so disappointed, I did not check to see if I would be there along or not. I was not on guard for any of the wild life (lizards, snakes, large moths, etc.) that terrified me. I was generally terrifed by any critter that crawled, slithered or flew. This afternoon I did not care. I just walked deeper and deeper into the woods. I walked alongside a creek that ran through the woods. I was calmed my the rush of the water that flowed over the green, moss covered rocks. It was a moment of peace for me as I stepped slowly across a path that was made by others. As I walked I forgot all about my disappointment. Bushes, reeds and ferns lined the river. Pine trees, oak trees, and vines hanging from oak were everywhere. I was lost in the moment but not lost in the woods. I know the path would take me back home. I finally remembered my garden. Next year, I said to myself. I saw a rotted stump of tree, about a foot tall whose roots clung to the ground. I kicked it over, then watched the termites scurry all over the place. I continued to kick away until I saw the reddish colored wood in the middle. I picked up a limb that layed on the ground nearby and begin to knock away the rotted sections of the stump until the piece of reddish-orange wood stood out from the core. Kindling, I thought. Kindling was a great starter fuel for fires that were lit in wood burning stoves. You could buy them from the stores that sold wood, sometimes the lumber trucks would drop off a bundle along with scrap wood from the lumber yard or sometimes you could find it in old rotted out stumps of trees. I kicked the kindling until I heard a crack. It was broken free. I reached in with my hand and yanked it up. I brushed off the dust and termites. I smiled as I turned back to the path and headed towards home.

Stay Tuned Next Week for Jerry’s Patio Garden.

Jerry’s Patio Garden – Flowers Bloom First, Then Comes the Fruit

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This Week’s Picture:  The flowers are blooming.  It won’t be long before i see cucumbers at the end of those stems.  At least that is what I expect.  It won’t be the first time that I saw flowers and no fruit.

In the Days of my 1996 Garden

It had been nearly two weeks since the flowers, which were blooming all over the place, had fallen off and still there were no tomatoes, no melons, not much of anything.  Just a few squash and a few cucumbers here and there.  Probably had to do with the fact that the soil was not treated beforehand.  My request to start a garden came far too late to do any pre-treatment of the soil.

A Trip Into “the Woods”

After eyeing my disappointing crop one day, I decided to just take a walk into the forest area, which we referred to simply as “the woods”.  I was so disappointed, I did not check to see if I would be there along or not.  I was not on guard for any of the wild life (lizards, snakes, large moths, etc.) that terrified me.  I was generally terrifed by any critter that crawled, slithered or flew.  This afternoon I did not care.  I just walked deeper and deeper into the woods.  I walked alongside a creek that ran through the woods.  I was calmed my the rush of the water that flowed over the green, moss covered rocks.  It was a moment of peace for me as I stepped slowly across a path that was made by others.  As I walked I forgot all about my disappointment.  Bushes, reeds and ferns lined the river.  Pine trees, oak trees, and vines hanging from oak were everywhere.  I was lost in the moment but not lost in the woods.  I know the path would take me back home.  I finally remembered my garden.  Next year, I said to myself.  I saw a rotted stump of tree, about a foot tall whose roots clung to the ground.  I kicked it over, then watched the termites scurry all over the place.  I continued to kick away until I saw the reddish colored wood in the middle.  I picked up a limb that layed on the ground nearby and begin to knock away the rotted sections of the stump until the piece of reddish-orange wood stood out from the core.  Kindling, I thought.  Kindling was a great starter fuel for fires that were lit in wood burning stoves.  You could buy them from the stores that sold wood, sometimes the lumber trucks would drop off a bundle along with scrap wood from the lumber yard or sometimes you could find it in old rotted out stumps of trees.  I kicked the kindling until I heard a crack.  It was broken free.  I reached in with my hand and yanked it up.  I brushed off the dust and termites.  I smiled as I turned back to the path and headed towards home.

Stay Tuned Next Week for Jerry’s Patio Garden.

 

Jerry’s Patio Garden – My Vines are Spreading!

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This week’s picture: my vines are a spreading!

2016 update

My one pot of cucumbers are coming along! I expect those flowers to bloom soon!

Back to my childhood garden in 1966

It was late May and school would soon be over! Those flowers on the vegetable plants, that show up first, were blooming all over the bloomin place! I was happy though. According to my uncle, this meant progress. It also meant that it was time to break up some more cow chips, crush them up and spread the fine crumbles into the soil. Cow chips, you say? Cow manure, most times, resemble large round flat shaped chips, hence the term cow chips. They made great fertilizer and that is all I am going to say on that subject!

Moving right along! It was also time to pull up more weeds from my garden! I learned that gardening is more than just planting veggie seeds. There was constant maintenance as well. Between hauling water, chopping wood, homework and gardening, my childhood agenda was quite full.

Nevertheless, there was time for recreation in the rural south too. We played stickball, we played dodgeball and we played hide and seek. Again, I was a fourth grader and I enjoyed playing much more then I enjoyed work, just like any other fourth grader. I got into a little hot water during one episode of hide and seek. It all had to do with Carla Simpson. Carla was in 3rd grade. She was cute, shorter than me, very quiet yet quick of wit -especially when it came to giving me well deserved grief for some of my childish mischievous ways.  Most of all however and in my mine at the time, the mostest beautiful girl in the world.

We were in a hot and heavy game of hide and seek. The forest area, commonly referred to as “the woods” were always off limits to us elementary school kids. Saturday afternoons in the woods were reserved for the Junior and Senior high schoolers of the rural south. Anyhow we had plenty places to hide in, and I chose a spot behind an old 58 Chevy that was no longer running and sitting on top of four concrete blocks. I was tired on that day and really did not feel like searching hard for a hiding place. Nonetheless, I was having great fun. It was like I was hiding in plain sight. All the first graders, all the second graders third, fourth, fifth and sixth graders were out there and they all passed right by me without noticing me. All except Carla Simpson. She found me. Immediately, we began to throw verbal jabs at each other. “It figures” she snapped, “that you would find the easiest place to find you.”

“It figures you would be the only one to find me”, I responded.  We both were looking at each other and smiling as we taunted each other with barbs.  The more we taunted, the closer we became until finally, out of nowhere, we leaned toward each other and kissed.  It was just a light peck of the lips but electrifying for a moment.  Until.  “Ooooh, Ooooh Jerry kissed Carla!”  I heard from the chorus of voices right behind us!  “We are going to tell!  We are going to tell!” A few of my cousins and a few of the neighborohood kids who were running around during the high intensity high and seek game suddenly came upon us as we were pecking each other on the lips.  Now in retrospect, we kissed each other but the neighborhood kids interpreted the whole thing as me kissing Carla.  “Jerry kissed Carla!  We are going to tell!  We are going to tell! was the resounding chorus over and over again.  Carla was long gone by the second stanza of that chorus and I finally walked away towards “the woods”.

I figured that I was in hot water.  They would surely tell my mother, who just happened to have just arrived from the big city of Greenville.  (at least it was big in my eyes at the time, i would learn later in life that it was quite small).  My family had moved back to the big city after having spent a few years in the rural area outside of Columbia.  I was left with my aunt just to finish out the school year.  My mother had come down from Greenville for a few days to take care of some business.   There was no telling how she would respond if the neighborhood kids told her what I had just done.

I was in the woods looking for what my parents called a hickory.  A hickory was a small switch that some parents in the south used to enforce discipline, correction and mild punishment for misdeeds of children.  The less proper term was called a whipping.   The switch was a very thin, long twig from a bush with the leaves pulled off of it.  A whipping from a loving parent was mostly a mild stinging that hurt your feelings more than it did your flesh.

I was now in the woods, searching for the largest hickory I could find.  I found a small branch.  I did not bother to strip the leaves off.  I left the woods and walked straight to the house into the kitchen where my mother was stripping some collards from their stems.  I threw the rather large hickory on the table, looked at her and said, “Beat me now”.  My mother, stunned, looked at me and asked, “What?”  “Beat me now”, i said again.  “Ok, boy you need to tell me what this is all about”, she said as she glared at me.  “Beat me now”, I persisted.  “Child”, she responded, “you getting on my nerve! What is this about?”

“I kissed Carla”, I said.  For a brief moment there was a glint of a smile on my mother’s face.  She picked up the miniature tree limb, broke it in two and threw it into the wood pile and then said to me, now really smiling, “Boy get out of here before I kill you.”   ….and off i ran, hearing her chuckle in the background.

Stay tuned this weekend for the next chapter of “Jerry’s Patio Garden”.

 

 

 

 

Jerry’s Patio Garden – The Soil Report

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Today’s Picture – Status for my 2016 Patio Garden:

It has been close to a month since planted my seeds.  After my cucumbers sprouted, I split the sprouts into 3 separate pots.  The plants in pot #1 (the pot on the left) are still sprouts.  They have not grown at all.  The plants in pot #3 (the pot on the right) sprung up immediately, but their growth seemed to have stalled.  The plants in pot #2 (the pot in the middle) are thriving.

I believe i know what the problems are with the plants in pot #1 and the plants in pot #3.  The problem with pot #1 is probably due to issues with the transplant of the sprouts.  I botched the transplant.  I lifted the sprout out of the original pot with my small hand shovel.  I, clumsily, dropped the shovel and the soil and the sprouts scattered everywhere.  I tried, clumsily again, to gather the sprouts and the soil together by scooping everything into my hands and moving them into the larger pot.  I do not think that my salvaging efforts really salvaged anything.

I believe that the problem with pot #2 is all about the soil that i chose.  The soil in pot #2 was the same soil that i used for a squash plant that i planted  in 2014.  I thought the soil would be okay to re-use.  As i look at the result i realize that my choice of re-using the soil was not such a good idea after all.

Back to the Days of My 1966 Garden:

My Soil Report Rated Poorly

It was a Monday in early May 1966.  The weekend was over.  It was time for school again. Fourth grade was such a drag.  Especially on this day.  First, my teacher posed the question to the class:  “Who do you think is the best student in the class?”  This would be my first life lesson in humility.  I had the best grades, i was class representative of the 4H club.  I never caused any trouble in class.  Surely, it would be me, i thought.  So did many other class members.  “Jerry”, was the overall response.  Even those who did not like me at all chimed in as well.  “No.  It is not Jerry”, Mrs. Warren responded immediately, to both my heartbreak and to my surprise.  “It’s Henry Cromartie”, she said, continuing.  I understood, even at my young age.  My school had just finished a major construction project.  Construction on brand new buildings had just finished.  All students would be in the new building in the next school year.  The move procedures had already begun in the current year.  Henry helped Mrs. Warren pack boxes everyday and he carried the boxes to the storage room where they would await final transfer to the new classroom building.

If the early morning disappointment to my young boy ego and pride was not enough, the after-lunch disappointment was the icing on the cake for bruising my self-esteem.  The 4H lady was back and she had our soil reports.  We assembled in the cafeteria.  I sat in the front.  I was the class representative and I was very proud.  I could not wait for the report.  it would make my day end very well –or so that is what i thought.  She called out the top 10 students, whose soil report rated the highest from tenth place to first place.  I did not hear my name from place number ten to place number five and i became excited.  I felt that i had made it into the top five.  I winced when Henry’s report made fourth place.  Finally, third, second place names were called.  At this point I began to be concerned.  Finally Michael Stewart’s name was called out for first place.  My heart sunk down, down, down.

The assembly was dismissed and everyone went up front to receive their own soil report results.  My soil rated as one of the worst samples that were submitted.  Later, after a not such a good day at school and long after arriving home, I showed the report to my uncle when I returned home.  He asked me, “Where did you get your sample from?”  I said “in the back yard, on the other side of the wood pile” –opposite side of where the garden was plant.  “You should have selected your soil from the garden area”, my uncle said.  “…that soil is treated with lime and manure”, he continued.  “You should have taken your sample from there”, he finished as he walked away.

Dejected, i sat.  That was 1966.  Seems like in 2016, i still haven’t learned much about the folly of taking shortcuts.

See you at next week’s blog.

Jerry’s blog about growing up in the rural south is based on many actual events and many ways of life.  Many of the people appearing in Jerry’s blog are somewhat fictionalized and names are fully fictionalized