Photo by Jacob Robertson
I first learned about growing food as a young child in my grandfather’s gardens in northern Maine. Grampa would gather any available grandchildren, slather us with Woodsman Fly Dope, and take us all “up on the farm” on a grand adventure, which usually included weeding, hoeing and swatting blackflies. Under his watchful eyes, we learned what was a “plant” and what was a weed, and what to do if we saw a bear. We worked hard (except when we were throwing rocks into the woods or weeds at each other), then we’d all go to the lake for a swim.
My own children also grew up in the garden, grazing up and down the rows of vegetables and berries. We had two important farm rules: If you pick it, you have to eat it; and never climb the apple trees. Many digs to China were attempted and many toys buried for future generations to discover. One year we thought we had a vegetable thief until we discovered Gabe, our Black Lab/Newfoundland dog, feasting in the cucumber patch.
During a ten-year move away from Maine, I learned to grow beautiful plants we didn’t intend to eat. Planting annual and perennial flowers seemed frivolous at first, but I began to enjoy them. At the same time, I missed the culture of growing food and preserving it for the winter.
Four years ago we moved back to northern Maine and a lovely old farmhouse on three peaceful acres. The work of reclaiming the land has been slow until recently, as other employment has claimed our first energies. The time has finally come for me to make the land my work, and I am home at last.
Marcia Stohlberg is a Connecticut Master Gardener who lives in Caribou, Maine. She is married to Tim, whose generous heart makes this return to work at home possible. They are blessed with four children, three sweet grandsons and Henry, a standard poodle, who oversees the farm.