By Chad Ingram
Like some other Haliburton County residents, I planted my vegetable garden this past weekend.
Admittedly it was in violation of my own rule of thumb, which is to not put vegetables in the ground until after “the new moon in June,” to avoid any issues with frost. However, the new moon comes late this year, on June 10, and with the very summery temperatures we’ve been experiencing, it felt safe to go ahead with planting.
The new moon in June advice came from my grandfather, who was a farmer. His name was William but he was Bill to his friends and family. Except his grandchildren. As a small child, my eldest cousin had been unable to pronounce the word “Grandpa,” and what came out instead was “Bumpa.” That was eventually shortened to just Bump.
Born in the 1920s, Bump was a true product of his era, growing up through the Great Depression, dropping out of elementary school in order to work. He worked on farms virtually his entire life. I remember him almost always in brown work clothes, boots and red suspenders, with a 50s-era brush cut and glasses to match. He smelled almost perpetually of dirt, or grease from his machinery.
My grandparents’ farm was just a few doors up the street from my parents’ house. It was a traditional small family farm – about 100 acres of fields growing corn and soy beans, a barn housing cows and pigs, a chicken coop, and some machine sheds.
Then there were the gardens. Bump kept a massive vegetable garden that to a kid seemed about as big a football field. Different varieties of beans and peas, lettuce, beets, carrots, cucumbers, potatoes, onions. On and on. Row after row. A second garden, slightly less massive but still huge, was for growing pumpkins and gourds.
Bump was almost always found outside, and in the summer if he wasn’t in the fields, he was working in the garden. As a boy, I’d enter the corn field through a gate at the back of my parents’ property, emerging at the garden to find Bump planting, weeding or watering. If he got hungry, he’d pick a snack. On occasion, Bump would pull an onion out of the ground, wipe the dirt away on his shirt, and eat it like an apple. As the summer went on, I’d help him pick vegetables, many of which my grandmother would turn into preserves.
Bump is long gone, my grandmother now too. So is their farm, the barn and outbuildings, and the gardens.
My garden is nothing like my grandfather’s. It’s a small, 100-square-foot raised box filled with triple mix in the corner of our backyard. But in a ritual that has become almost spiritual, every spring as I plant the garden I’m transported back to my childhood, to a farm that now only exists in my mind’s eye.