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Generations Gardening Together

Every year, my father-in-law plants a garden for the family with a variety of vegetables including potatoes, squash, butter beans, sweet corn, and tomatoes.

The last few years, our oldest son has taken a little bit of interest in it. But this year, he is all about the garden. He has been talking about one for months. We even started some flowers in the greenhouse, which we added to the outside row of the garden.  

One afternoon while checking on our sunflowers, his poppa came out to the garden to plant a few transplants. Watching our 7-year-old plant peppers with his poppa brought back memories of working in the garden with my grandma.

I didn’t get to see my dad’s mom often, so the few memories I have of her are precious. One of the most vivid is helping her pick snap beans and then sitting outside and shelling them. I had no idea what I was doing. I can remember her snapping those beans open like cracking open a bottle of Sundrop, which came in glass bottles back then. Meanwhile, I struggled to open the pods. Every so often, I found three butter beans inside a pod, which made the struggle to snap it open worthwhile. My fingernail was green for days.

Typing this now, I realize it’s one of my earliest food memories when I really understood that food didn’t just happen; it takes work. All these years later, I remember looking at the buckets of empty pods and the bowl of beans and thinking, “We just spent all this time and that’s all we have to show for it?”

After I moved to the farm, it became a yearly custom for me to help shell and put up butter beans. More than 25 years after shelling butter beans alongside my grandmother, I found myself doing it again. This time, I was beside my husband’s grandmother shelling butter beans from their garden on the back porch. She taught me how to blanche and freeze not only butter beans but also corn. 

Seeing my son make memories with his grandfather in the garden brought back happy childhood memories for me. I’m thankful he is getting to learn from his poppa, passing the knowledge of how to grow food from one generation to the next. It will be a little extra special this year to shell butter beans he helped grow.

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