Grandma knows best
Most of my childhood was spent with my nose in the “Little House on the Prairie” books, dreaming of how great life would be if I could be a pioneer. There’s rarely a time I step out to pick beans for dinner that I don’t imagine that I’m Laura and that Ma has just sent me out to our big garden on the prairie. Don’t get me wrong, I love electricity and taking showers and actual mattresses on beds, so I probably would have made a terrible pioneer. But was there anything more fantastic than when Ma turned green pumpkins into an apple pie so they wouldn’t go to waste when the frost came early or when the family came together for the maple sugaring party? Not to me, friends. Not to me. (And you should absolutely Google “green pumpkin pie recipes.”)
For a girl who romanticized pioneer living as much as I did, I was lucky to have my Grandma Jo. She was 5 feet tall, 100 pounds, and had a laugh you could hear across the yard. She sewed, spent hours cooking enormous meals for her enormous family, and had a garden half the size of a football field. To me, she was basically a pioneer woman.
Every year, Grandma Jo hand-tilled, hand-planted and hand-weeded that garden, spending hours each week covered in dirt and dust, lugging in baskets of produce to cook and can and store for later. Now that I’m 40-something and have four teenagers and a husband, I’m positive the garden was Grandma Jo’s quiet place where she knew her four sons and husband wouldn’t willingly come to bother her. (Don’t worry about how I know this so deeply in my soul.)
But while I dreamed of gardening in bonnets and long, swishy skirts like Ma Ingalls did (which, by the way, sounds horrible now that I’m not 10), my grandma gardened in her swimsuit. A red bikini. Now, I have no specific statistics about what grandmothers generally wear to garden, but I’m guessing most don’t do it in a two-piece.
I’ll be honest, bikini gardening is not a tradition I’ve chosen to carry on in my own urban backyard garden, mostly because my children would be horrified. Instead, my version of gardening is puttering around barefoot on the stone paths between my raised beds in an old tank top and shorts, my big blue gardening bowl on my hip and a cocktail in my hand. Sometimes my kids join me to swipe a few cherry tomatoes or sugar snap peas if they’re ripe, and sometimes it’s just me and the dogs.
Grandma Jo walked me through how to plant my very first garden, and from her I learned that the beauty of gardening is that you can do it any old way you want, because it’s really just about you getting your hands and feet dirty, being outside and marveling that you grew something delicious or beautiful from a teeny tiny seed.
When Jamie’s not puttering in her backyard garden, you can usually find her reading, writing books for kids or perfecting the art of snacky charcuterie dinner for her husband, four teens, two dogs, two cats and a partridge in a pear tree.