After checking out the garden, I remember we’d always proceed to stroll through her plum orchard. She loved her Green Gage Plums. I don’t know why but one year I noticed that there was something on the tree bark, and to me in my world, it looked exactly like chickenshit. I asked Grandmaw Mary why her plum trees had chickenshit all over them, and she laughed at me and looked at bark and told me it was black knot. She said to remind her to get some lime sulfur to put on them, she said that is the only thing that can get rid of black knot. Shortly after this time, Grandmaw started getting sick and nobody thought to apply the lime sulfur, so the trees languished a few more years but eventually died. I have wished many times over the years that I had put the lime sulfur on her Green Gage plum trees, but I was just a kid at the time.
Grandmaw Mary was a firm believer in planting by the signs. She always said to plant corn in the sign of the Crab. And you had to plant potatoes in either the sign of the Thighs or the sign of the Feet, but always in the dark of the moon. In addition, Grandmaw always liked to plant potatoes on Good Friday. I remember some of the old signs and what to plant in them, but not as many as I would like to have remembered. Grandmaw always had a good garden.
Maw & Big Six at Maw's garden.
I also remember every year at school we’d buy Grandmaw flowers. She loved purple petunia’s. At school, the high school vo-ag ran a greenhouse. All of the elementary students would get the opportunity to go every day and buy single flowers for 25 cents each or $2.00 a dozen (our school was kindergarten through 12th grade). It was always a big deal for us to save our snack money and go buy Grandmaw Mary some petunia’s. She’s keep them on her back porch and they’d get really big. Everytime you’d visit Grandmaw Mary, she’d take you out and show you the flowers that you bought her. She had several grandkids but she always remembered which kid had bought which flowers.
And of course, Grandmaw Mary loved her lilacs. I wrote an entire story about Grandmaw’s love for lilacs. Read it by clicking here.
Grandmaw Mary's Lilac Bush.
Grandmaw knew what plants or home remedies to use for common ailments. She taught me that milkweed would heal most skin conditions, including warts. She taught me that chewing a willow twig would cure a headache. She taught me that chewing birch cured an upset stomach. She taught me that tobacco spit would take the pain out of a bee sting. She taught me how to remove the heat from a burn, or to stop bleeding just by saying a certain Bible verse over it. She called it “takin’ the far out” or “stoppin’ up blood”. Nowadays people would call that faith healing. I don’t know if you all believe in that, but I sure do. I have complete faith in anything that Grandmaw Mary taught me.
Grandmaw Mary in her kitchen.
So you can see why this time of year reminds me of Grandmaw, planting the soil and all that she has taught me. I’ve always found it humorous that even though Grandmaw Mary taught me all of these things, that one time she asked me what I wanted to be when I grew up. Well, without even having to think about it, I told her “I want to be a farmer.” Grandmaw Mary just looked at me and shook her head, and said, “Honey, you might as well find something else that you want to be. Only a rich man can be a farmer these days. My daddy was a farmer and he was a poor man all of his life. A poor boy like you ain’t got a chance at farming these days.” (read about Grandmaw’s Mary’s parents by clicking here). All of these years later, I see the wisdom in Grandmaw’s advice even though I’ve always wanted to be, and continue to want to be, a farmer when I grow up!!
Obligatory scenery shot. Pendleton County barn in Spring.
But for now, I get by on getting’ by, living on just the “concept” of being a farmer. I suppose you could say I am a farmer without a farm. But there is one thing that I have come to realize, though Grandmaw Mary has been gone for the past twenty years, she continues to walk this land with me everytime I step outside.