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Olympic Gardening

By: Jamie Seitz
One winter Jamie's grandma Jo turned their vegetable garden into an ice rink creating a core memory she'll never forget.

Ice Skates In theWeeds by Danielle Lowery

Making the most of the garden in winter

January is often the coldest month of the year where I live in the Midwest. The raised garden beds in my backyard that overflow with lush plants, flowers and vegetables during the warm summer months are bare, brown and often covered with a few inches of snow. It’s hard not to feel a little blue with springtime still months away.

I keep those blues at bay by grabbing a third cup of coffee (don’t judge me), looking out my window and daydreaming about spring flowers and garden plans. I also get a smile remembering how my Grandma Jo transformed her vegetable garden one winter in the 1980s.

Core memory

My Grandma Jo lived in the country with a giant sloped hill that was a perfect sledding destination for my cousins and friends. One winter she did something extra exciting: She flooded her garden with the hose and turned it into an ice-skating rink.

As a mega fan of the Olympics from a young age, I became Mary Lou Retton if there was a gymnastics mat anywhere in the vicinity. With my very own ice rink, I could be Kristi Yamaguchi! I was in heaven.

Sure, the ice was bumpy and uneven, sending me skidding across the frozen garden in my snowpants, bruising my knees, tailbone, and ego when my toe pick caught a rough patch. And sure, the temperature was probably below 0, leaving my toes numb in hand-me-down skates and my fingertips tingling with frostbite in wet mittens. But it hardly mattered. The jumps, spins and triple axels I taught myself would surely qualify me for the next Olympics.


The dream vs. reality

Now, you and I both know I wasn’t getting more than an inch off the ice with those sweet jumps, and my triple axel looked suspiciously like skating backwards. But in my 12-year-old mind, this was a short program worthy of an audience.

The skating rink probably only lasted a few weeks, melting into a muddy puddle as soon as the weather warmed up. But that memory has lasted 30 years in my mind as one of the most marvelous uses of Grandma Jo’s garden. True, the details are getting fuzzier. Was I in sixth or seventh grade? Was there really a bonfire to warm our hands when we got cold or was that a different time? Did I skate for hours like I remember or was it just minutes before I was ready for hot cocoa and the warmth of Grandma’s house? Was that triple axel as spectacular as I can picture it?

Regardless of specifics, the memory of skating fills me with nostalgia as I look out at my own frozen garden. Maybe this year I’ll ask my husband to build a homemade skating rink in our backyard. I bet I can still skate backwards. 

After the gardening season, you can find Jamie tapping away on her laptop, working on a new book or Googling “simple greenhouse plans” so she and Scott can really can grow peppers all year long.

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Published: Jan. 9, 2023

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