Grab that hoe handle before fishing starts

You say you’ve been eating your own home-grown onions already while waiting for your rhubarb to grow into pies, and the rest of your backyard garden is showing promise also?
No? Well, at least fishing season starts soon!
With April having been so dry here this year, the green-thumbers were hard at it the earliest ever this spring as they keep telling me—and putting me to shame for ignoring my own garden right beside the road where everyone can notice my laziness.
My own parents would have lots to say about my slow start this spring, all right. Why, they kept half-an-acre in vegetables wherever they lived and for 40 years on my farm, I felt compelled to follow their example.
And got good at it, too, if I say so myself.
After the ground was tilled, Emily and the children would drop seeds in my rows before my hoeing and weeding started later.
There was a time in the very hard times of the ’30s that my father, who smoked his pipe enough to make you wish he wouldn’t although his smoke never bothered him, even grew his own tobacco in the backyard!
The drying or “curing” of the large tobacco leaves took place in the rafters of his back porch while everyone wondered what he kept up there. But store tobacco wasn’t cheap even then, or he didn’t think so.
He bought the “Old Glory” brand from well-remembered Ray S. Holmes for two bits a plug, then cut it with the jackknife he always carried so it went into his pipe. And if he rode in your truck cab, the strong smoke would make you wish he’d quit, but you didn’t try to correct your father in those days.
Not that tobacco was his main crop because we never went without enough potatoes in the cellar for all winter, and that’s also where my mother kept her crocks of dill pickles and quarts of preserves.
These included her own canned strawberries and raspberries as well as blueberries by the hundreds of sealers.
My late wife, Emily, also was good at all these home arts and my basement still is stuffed with empty sealers—something for you to remember at canning time.
But say, I haven’t yet mentioned our salads featuring our own lettuce, cucumbers, and onions. We kept our largest onions for winter. Then in the fall, we lugged in our large squash, and pumpkins and melons that had grown larger all summer in a corner next to the long rows of raspberries.
My mother had to be baking something almost every day it seemed, and the vine crops kept us in pies.
From all this, it might be suggested that we had a large family instead of me alone, but there seemed to be always someone else sharing my parents’ hospitality. My folks delighted in sending their company away satisfied (maybe patting their stomaches, too!) after a big meal.
My dad probably had cooked up some Italian noodles (nocci) or spaghetti. He never said the word “pasta,” but boy could he torment you with the gorgeous aroma of his big pots.
And how I wished I had been around home enough to learn his recipes, although Emily did.
I guess I seem to be bragging about the hoe—well, we Vandettis always ate and I know my own kids sometimes yearn to walk past my dad’s pots simmering in his kitchen. They would lift a lid to make sure he had noodles coming on, but also show their disappointment when it turned out the main course was only to be roast beef!
I don’t know why my better memories so often revolve around my parents’ kitchen and gardens, where you were welcome to help yourself to your fullest. And there never seemed to be less than enough food—even in the leanest of times with little employment.
We never had to talk about whether there was money in the house or not, as long as our kitchen and backyard were full of food. Oh yes, sometimes we raised rabbits, too!
Incidentally, since I started this on fresh green onions from your garden, the idea came from either Alex Markowski, who lives north of the arena, or Henry Kaemingh of Devlin, whose gardens were both planted very early.
April was the month for that, having stayed so dry, but now we need this delayed rain to make those vegetables start jumping out of the ground.
• • •
Here’s a few lines from a poem being appreciated around our Sister Kennedy Centre, but don’t ask me why? The Alzheimer set will understand:
“There I stood beside the mail box with my face so very red–instead of mailing you this letter, I opened it instead!
• • •
The summer weather has been coming on so strongly lately that I’m waiting to announce the name of our first outdoor swimmer anywhere in our district lakes.
It would be refreshing even to name anyone diving into an outdoor swimming pool with May just beginning.
• • •
When I told Toolie Kawulia about the SARS epidemic in Toronto, it was no news to him because he has two sons and a daughter living there.
Our own hospital and Rainycrest have taken the precaution of issuing breathing masks to staffers at entrances, although the doctors’ clinic here was not on guard similarly yet.
• • •
Our old district road-builder, Irvine Mose, the master graderman, left us last Wednesday with memories of the good roads he gave us around this district.
Irvine was the youngest of five well-liked Emo brothers who also had a sister in Fort Frances. He once became public works superintendent in town here, too, before his retirement. Son Eldon operates district school buses under the name of Asselins.
For Irvine’s funeral in Emo’s arena, four generations of grandchildren filled more than 50 seats.
• • •
You know, I hate to admit possibly the main reason I keep on with this column is the goodwill it brings regularly through people like Corrie Wiersema of Rainy River. Corrie came along with outstretched hand to tell me to “keep up the good work.”
It seems my readership lives all over our district and I can accept compliments, but also complaints from anyone so inclined!
• • •
Next time you encounter Don Clink, the retired country teacher, you might decide to greet him in Greek! Don conducts a class in that classic language regularly at Sturgeon Creek School.
So far there are only five students but interest is growing. It’s Hellenistic Greek, if you prefer.

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