Fresh food is such a wonderful thing....no I don't mean fresh out of a cooler at the local grocery store or fresh from the produce section. I mean fresh out of the garden or out of the hen house or even out of the river. Living on a farm or ranch has advantages we often don't talk about because they are just part of the fabric of living a rural life. As long as I can remember there has been a garden in my life. Even when I was first out of college and working for an Angus breeder in Saskatchewan there was a garden.
When I was little my mother was the gardener and Dad was the potato farmer. What does this mean? Dad just had a way with potatoes and my Mother knew that. My Mother had two gardens, a small one near the house that provided us with lettuce, carrots, radishes, beans, early corn and herbs, peas climbed the fence and one corner was filled with Rhubarb. The second garden was huge and across the coulee, this garden produced the winter supply of root crops such as turnips, parsnips, bigger carrots, beets and Mother's Raspberry canes were there. My Father's potato patch was in a corner of a farm field where the soil was deep, rich ,black loam. There was no irrigation to either garden so the plants had to do with what moisture they got but we always seemed to have lots of produce come fall harvest.
As we grew up my brother and I ended up learning about growing things with our own little garden patches. We loved it and it seemed to be a contest to see who could grow the biggest beet or carrot. It is hard to admit but my brother could grow the biggest beets ever....even Mom said so. We smiled over that years later, they might have been the biggest she said but they were also the woodiest and most tasteless beets ever cooked!
Come meal time on the farm the table would be covered with things we grew, salad, vegetables and the meat dish were all grown on farm. My mother made butter and we drank milk fresh from Samantha our Jersey. The extra rooster's from the flock of chickens became roasting chickens and soup. If we needed potatoes we would get to go with Dad to dig up a hill and bring home a pail of dusty tubers, fresh from the earth. It was exciting to watch for the potatoes as Dad turned the earth with his garden fork, then to count to see how many there were.
Dessert was seasonal, wild Saskatoon's from the coulee banks, strawberries from the strawberry patch covered with heavy jersey cream, gooseberry pie, raspberry cobbler. In the fall our Crabapple trees would be ready to harvest and Mom would can for days so in winter we could have delicious spiced Crabapples or any number of tasty treats she made with the tart little apples. Syrup for pancakes, jams and jellies for toast.
Fall saw the root crops stored away in the root cellar, the pantry shelves would be loaded with canning of all kinds and the deep freeze would be full of beef from our own herd. Fishing trips in the fall were an adventure with my parents and without realizing it we were catching a supply of fish for winter. Of course summer fishing was a treat as well, we always loved the river and would swim and play, often picking Saskatoons along the river banks and then heading home with fresh fish to prepare for supper.
Now as an adult I find the garden has even more to offer beside fresh produce. Our generation is much more aware of what we eat and what goes on the food we eat. Now my garden provides chemical free organically grown vegetables that taste so much better and have not traveled by truck anywhere. The physical activity of gardening is both good for the joints and good for the spirit. I find myself enjoying canning and jelly making with the crabapple trees that have graced my yard for all these years. Yes fresh food is a wonderful thing....now go out there and grow some!