Ozark Bounty; OR The Last Trip

Garden BedsA few months ago I would have laughed at you if you’d told me I would inherit not only the recently much lusted after asparagus bed but a strawberry bed also. When we’re living right (and that’s according to each of our own definitions) marvelous things happen. Especially in the Ozarks.

My Aunt Zoma who had been cultivating a relationship with me for the past couple years after having seen each other less than the number of fingers on one hand over the last 45 years, recently died. She’d gone into the nursing home about three years ago with the word from her Dr. that she might be with this world another week, give or take. She got sick of being sick, started eating and walking as far as she could down the hall. Before you knew it she was making it to the dining hall, alone, and pressing the staff about getting dinner on the table quicker. Before long she was seeing a fellow resident and they struck up a “friendship”. They got a little smoochy and she was seen giggling in the halls on occasion.

She was perking up on a daily basis and giving the staff a run for their money. Her friend wasn’t quite as perky but she pestered him to eat better and participate more. By this time Aunt Zoma was getting so well she was wheeling folks around in their wheel chairs and initiating activities, offering to help in the kitchen, acting as a resident advocate. The staff and myself (who worked there part time as “education coordinator”) were realizing she was sometimes doing almost as much as some of the aids and that Zoma needed to go.

The nursing home people helped her find a nice HUD apartment and helped her move in and she immediately started on getting her boyfriend “sprung” and into his own place.    She outgrew that apartment when the allowed three pots of plants on the patio weren’t enough and found a really cute little house on the corner of 177 and ___ . Bigger garden being the main prerequisite, close enough to the pharmacy and hospital to walk there in an emergency (which she did on more than one occasion).   Her friend had his motorized scooter and they sometimes had dinner together.

That woman could grow anything, bigger and better than anyone I know. She was more alive than she had been in a long time. Then she got down again. She began telling me what was mine when she was gone, the three small cherry trees in the 40 gallon pots out back, cuttings of this plant and that. I didn’t put a lot of stock in any of it because Aunt Zoma had bounced back from much worse situations, many times in her life it seemed, and because she tended toward fabrication of the tallest variety. I hate to use the L word here but she told some mighty tall tales and could do it straight to your face without a flinch.

Anyway, long story short, she went back into the nursing home and from there to her maker.

I made many trips to her house, tidying up, giving away, confiscating for myself. One bright Sunday afternoon shortly after she died I made one last trip to pick up a few “earth boxes” from the garden to place in mine and spent some time wandering around her little garden.  On an earlier trip I had taken two strawberry pots with what looked like viable plant material in them. A little water and I realized I was the proud owner of a few strawberry plants so imagine my surprise when I stumbled upon a whole bed of them. I stood there dumbly, looking down around my feet at the visibly widening field of plants in my view. My goodness I could transplant some of these and still leave lots! So I did. Sixty of them to be exact. And that was after I had harvested the rhubarb and dug up with my bare hands the biggest rhubarb plant I had ever seen. Then a sampling of a few bulbs from here and there. I was remembering the conversations she had had with me about taking from her garden to put in mine. It’s what gardeners do. Spread the wealth, and the manure.

Now you have to realize I have my entire garden planned already. I’m kinda fastidious about that sort of thing. Charts and diagrams and rotation. So I called my rabbit manure supplier to see if I could pick up a few bags with late notice on a Sunday afternoon. Yes, I could, did I just want 10 and yes he could scrape up 30 or 40 empty feed bags for me.

The next day I was building a new strawberry bed. I never would have thought. Strawberries never crossed my mind. Could I build from scratch in an afternoon a suitable bed? I would have to. And I did. It’s far from perfect but they’re growing and they bed will acclimate.  I’ll tell you about it another time. Right now we need to move on to the asparagus part of this story.

I only learned to enjoy asparagus in the last few years. But only just barely. Then a friend gave me some “right out of the garden fresh stalks” and I ate them that day. NO comparison to store bought! I’ve been wondering ever since if an asparagus bed might be in the works. Online research told me a bed should be well prepared the year before; at least the fall before. And I’ve been thinking about that real hard this spring and have the spot picked out.

I got a phone call this afternoon from a friend. He was helping another acquaintance with some yard work and she mentioned being unable to garden this year and was actually going to tear out her asparagus bed…. Viola! Said friend is dumping asparagus starts at my house next weekend!

The garden plan will need some minor alterations… I’ll be claiming an old bed for the little green stalks and rethinking my bean plans.

Tomorrow I set out my 23 tomato plants. I really only wanted about 8 or 10 this year but there were so many lovely varieties to choose from. Celebrity because it is such a workhorse here in the Ozarks… tolerates drought like conditions and the heat and humidity, and produces reliable tennis ball size tomatoes all season. Delicious. Cherokee Purples and Black Krims both heirloom and because they are mucho tasty and the local grocery store had them. Arkansas Traveler because it’s an heirloom and well, it’s famous!

That last trip to Aunt Zomas house after she was gone was a tribute to Zoma the Gardener. Most all those plants had been painstakingly transplanted from her old place on Rodney Road when she got out of the nursing home the first time. Divided and started from cuttings. Moving on to the Moonmooring garden now.

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