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DOUG FORD: Food for thought

Now that the winter deluge is behind us, and the warmer weather has set in, a lot of us country folk are making plans for our annual gardens.

I’ve always noticed other people’s lawns and gardens as I’ve driven through the county, and that’s by habit, as my family always had a large garden.

Family gardens were a staple in my neighborhood along 501 south, and a peek in any back yard revealed row upon row of corn, potatoes, butterbeans, squash, turnip salad and snaps, along with the occasional rows of cantaloupes and watermelons.

Strawberries were a must as well, and I realize now I was privileged to have two types of apple trees in my backyard in addition to plum, cherry and damson trees.

Oh yes, I had grapes and was fortunate to have a country girl for a mom, who could cook, can or preserve anything under the sun.

First, came a plan, what to grow, and after that was decided, the time came to visit our dear friend, the late Kenneth Cassada.

A long-time fixture at Southern States in South Boston, Cassada possessed the mind of a veritable steel trap and probably knew the size of each yard in the county.

Need fertilizer?  Kenneth could tell each individual how many bags were needed to provide adequate coverage.

Need seeds?  Kenneth pointed you in the right direction for early corn or late corn and those seeds with the reddish color that got all over your hands.

That was the easy part. The hardest part was yet to come when you had to break the ground, create the furrows, fertilize and plant the seeds.

You had to wake up early in the stifling summer days to weed the garden and pull grass from between the rows.

Picking vegetables was a task relegated to early mornings or late afternoons, and later on my thumbs were red and raw from trying to open the delicate butter bean hulls to get at the beans inside.

(I tried to shirk my shelling duties one time by simply tossing the smaller, most tender hulls without bothering to open them, but that didn’t work).

It was quite rewarding to see the fruits of your labors, the shelled beans in the pressure cooker ready to be steamed, and the Mason jars full of preserved vegetables and jellies.

Alas, a lot of gardens have gotten smaller, but my stomach has gotten bigger. 

It won’t get any smaller dreaming of gardens past, either.