Evening falls, while the wind blows and the rain falls; I can smell it in the air. I open the door and head outside with my bucket, several large bowls, and a portable cooler. I hope I can beat the rain. It’s a short walk from where I’m going, about 77 steps.
In the fading twilight, towering monsters greet me; they stand well over 10 feet tall with monstrous heads and wavy bodies. Alongside these monsters, spider vines crawl across the ground waiting to grab an unsuspecting foot or leg and bring down my intrusive self.
While this may sound like the start of a fall horror story, sadly it isn’t. In fact, it’s actually a story of sharing, generosity and happiness to pass on to others.
The place I’m headed to, full of monsters and vines, is actually my huge garden which has recently reached its summer peak. These 10 foot tall monsters are beautiful giant sunflowers that I planted; their large heads teeming with brown seeds and sunny yellow flowers greet me and the people who drive by every day. I received many compliments from friends and strangers.
Those creeping vines, tomatoes, and tomatillos that I chose not to plant this year are trying to catch me, but so far I’ve come out unscathed. A few rows of corn, peppers, beets, chard, zucchini and pumpkins as well as marigolds and calendula complete my abundant garden. This year has been a great year and I’m incredibly lucky for what my garden has produced for me.
So lucky in fact, that I became THAT person. You know who I’m talking about. The person who leaves a zucchini in every car in the school parking lot that isn’t locked. I distribute tomatoes the same way. I even went to school today with a giant portable cooler full of tomatoes. Now don’t get me wrong, I plan to can some of the tomatoes, create a thick red sauce and thin tomato juice, and store some in my basement for the long winter months when a bowl of hearty chili or a pot of tomato soup is called for. However, there are more tomatoes than I could ever use growing in my garden right now. I have found that sharing the fruits of my labor makes me happy.
Now the fact that I share is shocking. Even though my mom did her best to raise me properly and taught me the value of sharing, I’m pretty confident that every report card in elementary schools says these two things; “Doesn’t play well with others” and “Need to work on sharing”. It’s not my mother’s fault, she tried. However, as a kid, I didn’t really see the value in it. In my childish brain, it didn’t seem right to share what was mine with someone else; my mind screamed, “get yours!” It wasn’t until college and finding the true joy of sharing my baked creations that I truly understood what a magical thing sharing could be.
Although my cooking time is somewhat limited between teaching, coaching, being an administrator, publishing and a host of other things I am involved in, I have found that sharing the fruits and vegetables from my garden is just as fulfilling. Handing out tomatoes and zucchini to fellow teachers and friends, and seeing their faces light up with delight as they ponder the uses of this local gem, brings me joy I never imagined possible.
It makes the hours of weed picking, fertilizing, hoeing, raking and constant monitoring worth every minute. It takes me back to my youth working in my garden with my grandfather and connects me even further to the stories I heard about my great-grandparents and even their parents. It’s more than plants, soil, sun, rain, seeds, insects and weeds. It’s about love, folktales, traditions, joy and happiness.
Clemson is a member of the Trumbull County Farm Bureau and received his Ph.D. from Pennsylvania State University. She and her family farm in Makkah.