I grew up in southwestern Manitoba, in a small town just like La Broquerie. My mom was a cook for a local diner and later in a nursing home. She always seemed to be surrounded by food. My dad worked for the rural municipality as their grader operator, a job he loved and was brilliant at: best gravel roads in the region. My dad spent his winters curling and watching hockey while my mom was in the kitchen making perogies, cabbage rolls and cinnamon buns to be sold at the local craft sales. But, in the spring, our family met in the garden. My dad tilled, weeded and planted the garden and my mom harvested cooked and preserved all its’ bounty. My sister and I contributed by tasting all the wonderful fresh garden produce from early July until late fall. Growing food was part of who we were as a family and has also been part of how we remember our parents and carry them with us.
I recently read an article about a particular squash grown in the community garden at the Canadian Mennonite University in Winnipeg. These seeds for this squash were a gift from the Miami nation of Indiana to the students at CMU. The purity and integrity of these seeds has been protected from cross pollination and modification for 5000 years. The squash is named Gete Okosomin and it is a rugged delicious orange squash that grows to 30 pounds (A picture of it can been seen on the SETI website). When I read this article I was in awe of the generations of people who would protect seeds, stewarding their survival. This article made me wonder about the ‘seeds’ that I am preserving for the future; how will I guide their integrity and whom will I offer them to?
It took me a long time to “discover” the seeds that my parents left behind for me. It took me a long time to understand the knowledge needed; to understand the importance of growing your food or even to enjoy the confidence that comes from eating the food you’ve grown just 20 feet from your supper table. I didn’t understand the importance of digging in the dirt or of nurturing seeds and seedlings until I had my own children. This year will be my third year planting a garden on my home property. and I can now see why my dad gravitated to the garden each night after supper. It’s calming nature must have been medicine to his heart as it now is for me. And I know I am lucky to have the opportunity to see my daughters and grand daughter in the garden. One daughter planted a garden box in the back yard of her rental in downtown Winnipeg and my other daughter has a hobby farm full of chickens, cows and bees that would have made my parents proud. And my 2 year old grand daughter helped me plant my garlic last fall.
Each time I look at them, inspecting their progress, I see her little hands pushing the bulbs into the soil and I hear her sweet voice “Memere et Marie Ange ensemble – Gramma and Marie Ange, together” I hear her say. I realize that my family’s love for gardening is not just three generations long. Instead , it stretches as far back and as far forward as the 5000 year old squash.