St Croix River Road Ramblings

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Sunday, June 10, 2012

You've Got to Hoe Your Row!

Sand Garden 2-weeks ago.  Headed to hoe there tomorrow
morning.   There is a 6-foot deer fence around it.
Having been off at Mayoland for almost 2 weeks after the big rains, the gardens had gotten out of control with weeds.  Spent several hours with the Cub Cadet and little cultivator trying to clean up the half acre of pumpkins and squash by the lake and with a few more hours of hoeing will have it pretty good.  About 1/3 of the plants didn't come, so will replant some short season squash.  This garden is on the "heavy soil" and the rain turned it very hard.  This garden is not fenced, so the deer stroll tbrough.  They leave the pumpkin and squash plants alone until late in the year when they start in eating the ripe pumpkins.

The other garden is on our sand land along the River Road.  I had tilled it just before we left, after the rains as the sand never gets muddy and you can always work it.  Looks pretty good.  It is a fenced in patch in the middle of a large sand corn field.  We grow watermelons, muskmelons, and miscellaneous stuff there, things that must be fenced in to keep the deer out.  All but one of the peppers were eaten off by some bug, and about 1/4 of the melons actually came up.  Will replant those too.

When my three brothers and I were kids on the farm, every morning about 5:30 Mom called upstairs to wake us up, "Time to get up and hoe your row."   Mom believed in getting out in the huge garden before the heat of the day, so we grumblingly dressed, got our hoes and headed to the garden, child labor, cheaper than illegals.  

The morning hoe was two hours of work.  Mom always raised something to sell.  Sometimes it was strawberries or raspberries; many years cucumbers for the factory.   She planted enough potatoes for 10 sacks in the fall to go into the basement.  She had string beans, sweet corn, peas, beets, carrots, and other to can.  She had fresh lettuce, spinach, early peas for the table.  The garden was an acre or so, and we had no tiller to help out.

Dad made a marker that spaced the rows so he could drive through with the Super C Farmall and corn cultivator until the garden sprawled across the rows, so that helped.  We had to hoe around the plants, up close.

We four boys thought of the morning garden work just like prisoners in the south felt about the chain gang labor crews.  Couldn't wait to serve our time and be free.  No time off for good behavior for us.
Marv, the oldest, led the chants and songs.  Our favorite was a Tennessee Ernie Ford number sung during cucumber picking season:
Morrning vsitor to the huge oak on the lake.  The eagle rests for an hour
watches the lake, then swoops down to catch a morning fish.
Meanwhile, the Rambler has been hoeing his garden for the
same hour.  Seems one of us has his priorities mixed up.  

"You load 16 tons,
and what d'ya get?
Another day older
and deeper in debt.
St. Peter don't ya call me,
cause I can't go,
I owe my soul to the company store.

  So late spring and early summer was mostly hoeing followed by picking and helping with the canning. We much prefered driving the tractor cultivating and even liked hauling hay better, though it was a lot of hot work too.  Hoeing required a mixture of strength and delicacy to rip the hard ground and to spare the tiny plants.   If we got ahead on our garden, then we helped Grandpa and Grandma with their even larger garden.

Money we earned from picking cukes went into our "school clothes" fund.  It certainly was exciting knowing that after all the work, the money went for underwear, socks and double-kneed jeans.  And we didn't even get to pick them out--Mom just sent an order off to Sears or Montgomery Wards.

Don't know what happened to change, but the three of us that are left of the four boys still have gardens. Mom, who is 90, has her garden, and we still hoe there too.   We are headed there for brunch this morning, where we will have fresh lettuce, maybe a few early peas, fresh strawberries, and radishes from the garden, picked just an hour earlier.  Hope when we are 90, we are still able to hoe our row every morning.