Fridays Weekend Column
About a Minnesota Man Exploring Life in the South
Playing In The Dirt
It's March, and this Minnesota boy is out playing in the dirt, getting ready to plant his vegetable garden. March is the month with the most snowfall up North. It is the month that plays with you, because one day it will be in the 40's, and you start to see the snow piles dwindle, and the next day you get dumped on with a foot of heavy wet snow.
For me, March and April were always the longest months of the year. You have already had at least four months of winter, and if it turned cold early that fall you could have had close to six months of not seeing the ground. Even May could be iffy, but by then the seeds you ordered were in, and you knew it was only a matter of weeks before the ground would be warm enough for planting.
So, digging in the dirt in March is a real treat for me. I could have been doing this last month or the month before, but North Florida has had a very cold winter... for North Florida. We haven't had any snow, but there were snow warningsthat is supposed to count. We have, however, had a lot of frost, and some mornings it was down right cold. Again, down right cold for North Florida.
This will be my first garden in our new home. When I left Minnesota, I sold or gave away all my gardening tools, and now I am starting that collection all over again. Gardens can be expensive. But over the years I have learned which tools I really need and have kept my purchases to them.
The garden isn't big, about 25 x 30 feet, but there is plenty of room to expand it every year. Right now it is all tilled up and raked pretty smooth. Soon I'll be making rows with spacing in-between wide enough to get my little tiller through.
First thing I'm planting is brussel sprouts. I know it is late for planting them, but they are such a cool looking plant. Then it will be the old standbystomatoes, squash, some lettuce, peppers, carrots, radishes, and maybe a watermelon plant or two. The University of Minnesota developed the Minnesota midget so gardeners up there could grow a watermelon. I tried them a few times, and they grew to almost bowling ball size, but the edible inside was only about the size of a softball. On top of that, they weren't all that sweet either.
I should have a row of onions and some beets, but I will probably go heavy on tomatoes, because there are so many varieties to try, and I love tomatoes.
I don't know what four legged pests they have down here. I know there are raccoons along with deer. People tell me that armadillos can be a problem, but the only armadillos I have seen down here are road-kill, and everyone was on its back with its feet up in the air. I will guess that they are nocturnal, and that is why I never see them.
Also in the plans is a white picket fence around the garden with flowers along the outside. Hey, I want to make this a garden magazine garden, and I get such pleasure working in the garden, any extra effort is worth it.
I know up North it was all about getting enough sunshine every day. Down here I think the sun might become a problem, along with the heat. But, like everywhere, local gardeners are always willing to give you advice. The trick is to pick the right advice. What works for one person and their soil might not work for you.
Last Saturday night in Madison, Florida, like all Saturday nights in America, it was date night. I took Wanda to a banquet at the grade school cafeteria. Remember we are living just outside a small rural Southern community in a dry county. You look for banquets where you can find them.
Any way, we had a great time and the following is a letter I wrote to the local paper describing our night's festivities.
March 8, 2010
Mr. Jacob Bembry, Editor
Saturday night, my wife (Wanda) and I went to the banquet put on by the Madison chapter of the National Wild Turkey Federation (NWTF). I can describe it in one wordImpressive.
The Wild Turkey Federation mission is stated as, "Dedicated to the conservation of the wild turkey and the preservation of the hunting tradition." I'll tell you another tradition they are pushing, and that is the American tradition of the family. I didn't get a count of all the young boys and girls that were there with their parents and grandparents, but they were a beautiful sight to see. Happy, good looking kids involved in the evening's program, and obviously learning about important wildlife and conservation issues.
Those kids were all members of the JakesJuniors Acquiring Knowledge, Ethics and Sportsmanship. Wally Davis, the NWTF Madison County Chapter president explained that the JAKES program is dedicated to informing, educating, and involving North America's youth in wildlife conservation, and the wise stewardship of our natural resources."
That night, Wanda and I saw so many young people who are learning not only how to be good stewards of our environment, but also who, I have a strong feeling, will someday be real assets to our community. They were a pleasure to be around, and however the Federation is doing it, their program is producing a fine group of young people.
Yes, living in a small Southern community, like living in a small Northern community does have its pluses. After a while you know whose kids belong to whom. You get to watch those kids grow up to be adults, and if you are lucky, you get to know some of those, as they call them down here "young'uns" while they are still young, and some become friends as adults.
Because you have watched them for so long, you feel a bit of the pride their parents have when they do well and maybe some of the hurt if they screw up. All in all, small town America, North or South, is a great place to live out your life. Wanda and I are blessed to be able to do it in Madison, Florida.
BACK to the Essays.