- Pull Weeds
- Skim Algae off Lake
- Creosote Fence Posts
- Cut Grass
- Grass Whip Fence
During the summers of our youth this is an example of a list my sisters and I woke to find posted on the refrigerator with a plain, black magnet. Humorless.
I’ve abbreviated the list. Usually ten chores were enumerated. We were expected to complete this list before we were allowed to “play.” It was summer vacation. All you moms out there who feel guilty about working during your children’s summer vacation, consider putting them to work instead.
Number one on the list was always Pull Weeds. My father had the IQ of a rocket scientist, but he was not a man to trifle with articles. In lieu of Weed the Garden, he preferred the more commanding, Pull Weeds. But first, I believe a bit of explanation is required to satisfy any curiosity about the other tasks.
Skimming algae from the lake (more of a pond, but to our wee bodies it loomed large) was downright brutal. Kneeling on a flat Styrofoam boat, like a long wide surfboard, we dragged the heavy, slimy algae onboard, and deposited it onto the shore. The only saving grace was sliding into the water when the heat reached its zenith. If the blue gills and bass were to breathe (we caught and ate them) we had to remove the impediment to their survival. Later we would use chemicals to kill the algae. I can’t decide which was worse.
Creosote fence posts should have resulted in all six of us being hauled off to social services for foster placement. Our taskmaster father failed to warn us that creosote burns the skin. Left alone at our chore we devolved into the usual, you’re not doing your share conflagration, and we began to paint each other with the creosote. Within minutes we were writhing in pain, our skin a grid of red rash.
Grass whip fence involved jolts of electricity traveling through our tiny bodies, and was another foster placement consideration that requires a post all its own. Moving on.
Planting our quarter acre garden was a blast. We loved dragging a hoe through moistened soil to create a straight furrow. As straight as an 8 yr old could manage. With tiny seeds in our clenched little fists we walked the rows dropping one at a time spaced exactly as our father instructed.
The garden thrived, and weeding became the bane of our summer existence.
It went something like this:
“You’re not doing your share.”
“Look at my pile of weeds, and look at yours.”
“Ouch, you stepped on my hand.”
“Don’t push me.”
“Get up. We still have 20 rows.”
“Stop slapping me with that stupid weed.”
What was worse, we had to eat the vegetables that we rescued from strangulation.
I survived all that, and now have my own vegetable garden. I love even the weeding. I grow all the vegetables I never wanted to eat as a kid: spinach, cabbage, broccoli, and kale, to name but a few.
Kitchen gardens are growing in popularity with the rise of the locavore movement, and with a little help from the FLOTUS, and her White House garden, which she chronicles in American Grown. No matter your politics teaching kids healthy eating habits by bribing them with whatever means necessary to go outdoors and plant their own food is a worthy endeavor.
CSA’s, Community Supported Agriculture, is a wonderful alternative for those of us without the space or inclination to plant a garden. Even city dwellers have choices of CSA’s. For instance here’s the list available for Chicago and Houston. Each week a basket of fruits and vegetables are delivered to your door or picked up at a central location. Supporting these farms is beneficial for everyone.
Feel the ache in your arms from an afternoon of hoeing, planting and watering, and the burn in your quadriceps from balancing above a furrow. No pain, no gain, right? Our reward is the flavor of that sun-ripened tomato, and the aroma of Genovese basil.
In his book, In Defense of Food, Michael Pollan offers us a sage suggestion: “Eat food, not too much, mostly plants.” Words to live by. Send your kids outdoors to Pull Weeds!