Marty and Marthy Macomber labored diligently to scrape together enough money to send their boy, Milton, to college, and it warn't easy.
The old farm was nigh milked dry, so to speak, and each dollar was harder to find than the last one. But off the boy went and proud they were. Come the holiday break, Milton came home on the Bangor bus. They were plumb excited to hear about his first semester up to the university at Or'no.
They sat, the three of them, at Sunday chicken dinner. Milton ran on and on, a lot of high-sounding talk without too much marrow or meat, the way professors do sometimes when they don't know what they're talking about.
Pretty soon Marty looked up at Marthy, who was holding her mouth open with a dollop of white meat halfway up, and Marty says, says he, "By gracious, Mother, we just blew 30 acres o' pertetters!"
Speaking of my garden, the acreage doubled this year, and we have it in two pails instead of one. Three flights up on our sheltered look-off, our crops are doing well, and we look forward to a bountiful harvest.
Farms at facilities for the aged run small, and are symbolic rather than productive. The tomato plant is a Jet and the potato vine is a Green Mountain. Last year we got seven delicious tomatoes, but had only the one bucket.
At Christmastime, Art and Ruth Mraz from Aroostook brought us a bag of Green Mountain potatoes, which we ate as intended and kept some parings for seed stock.
The Green Mountain is the finest variety grown, but today is hard to find. Farmers grow varieties that yield better. Ruth and Art found some and shared, and we stuck some eyes in a pail. That gives us two buckets, a considerable acreage for a retired agrarian whose only farm implement is a long shoehorn that saves stooping when I change slippers.
Back during the Great War, 1917, a playground park in Medford, Mass., a Boston suburb, was plowed and marked off in six-foot squares. Patriotic citizens grew "Victory Gardens."
Our uncle had a square, and referred to it as his "ranch," since he had homesteaded in North Dakota as a young man and grew great quantities of wheat. Now, to win the war, he had one each of tomato, turnip, cabbage, cucumber, beet, radish, onion, and lima bean.
He was dismayed to find his tomato, after a healthy start, had turned a bit yellow and seemed dispirited. He realized the soil of a playground was lean and his tomato plant needed some help. So he went to Breck's seed and garden store in Boston and told the clerk he desired some nitrate of soda, which, as any gardener is aware, is mother's milk to a reluctant tomato plant.
Our uncle was unaware, however, that nitrate of soda was also used in munitions and at the moment was No. 1 on the restricted list.
The clerk swallowed and said, "I can get you some, but it will involve a lot of red tape and it's extremely expensive. This morning's quotation was $28,000 a ton."
Now our uncle swallowed, and he said, "If that's the case, don't bother; I only wanted half a ton."
So noticing it was time to side-dress my potato patch, I called Rob Armstrong on the phone and asked him to bring me two tablespoons of 5-5-10 fertilizer when he came this way. Just now he has arrived, and we have enriched the soil and hoed my potato.
Rob is a good gardener with a full-size patch, and I knew he'd have a bag of fertilizer open and no need for me to go all the way to Breck's in Boston.
In this shift we have made from our modified Sabine farm to independent living in a facility, the one thing I miss most is my garden. Now and then I catch myself wondering if the new owner has picked the plums before they dropped, and if he knows how to prune a grapevine.
Does he realize six apple trees in the last row of the front orchard are relic apples, probably otherwise extinct? I grafted them so they wouldn't be lost: Maiden's Blush, Hightop Sweet, Blue Pearmain, Roxbury Russet, and Red Astrachan. Have the young black walnut trees borne yet?
And does he even start a garden? Would he know sweet corn should be knee-high by the Fourth of July? You can old-age a boy out of the country, but he's still a pea picker.
When my Dad was getting on in years, we asked him if he could be comfortable in a place such as we have chosen.
He said, "What would I do without my peach trees?"
Dad, at last I can tell you what you do: You have a tomato plant in a pail, and the next year you try a Green Mountain in a bucket.