When I was growing up my grandparents owned a half an acre in the city where my grandfather spent nearly every waking hour cultivating his urban farm. This was long before the slow food movement or farm-to-table dinners that have become so popular in the Pacific Northwest and throughout the country. I remember spending many summer afternoons running through rows and rows of corn and stopping to pick cherry tomatoes straight from the vine. Strawberry season came in June which meant hand-churned strawberry ice cream and the sweetest, juiciest berries that would stain my lips pink.
My grandfather always smelled like the earth. He encouraged me (along with my siblings and cousins) to dig in the dirt and get my hands muddy. Family gatherings at my grandparents’ house involved everyone pitching in to yield the latest crop. From cucumbers the size of my head to deep red raspberries everything that he touched grew in abundance. As a kid, I was convinced that my grandfather had a special gift—a true green thumb.
What I’ve come to learn as an adult is that he did have a gift, but not in the magical sense that I created in my mind. His gift was hard work and dedication, with a hefty sprinkling of love mixed in. The hours he spent tilling the soil, yanking weeds, and pruning created his green thumb. He told me once that no two seasons were ever alike. Every year and changing weather pattern brought new challenges. He had to learn to adapt, with many fails along the way.
When my son was born, I wanted to impart the same passion for gardening that my grandfather had instilled in me. However, we didn’t own an acre or even much of a yard. Not to mention the fact that I had no idea where to begin when it came to planting a garden, and had killed my fair share of house plants. My husband came up with the idea of building a large raised bed. While he built the foundation my son and I headed out in search of seeds. The first year we planted tomatoes, carrots, zucchini and herbs. We would watch progress every day as the seeds started to sprout. I remember the delight on my son’s face the first time he pulled a carrot from the ground, and the way his eyes lit up when he tasted his homegrown tomato.
Since our first garden we’ve moved a few times, but in every house we’ve found a tiny plot of land to carve out an urban garden. My son has learned over the years that gardens take tender care and a watchful eye. I think it’s a fabulous lesson for life. I know my grandfather would be proud that I’m passing on his legacy and green thumb.
Cut down among the flowers . . .
Britta Johnston might be a late bloomer, but after leaving her deadbeat husband and dead-end job, she’s finally pursuing her artistic passion at her aunt Elin’s floral boutique, Blooma, in Portland, Oregon. It’s on the banks of the Willamette, in a quaint district of cobblestone paths and cherry trees. The wine bar featuring Pacific Northwest vintages is a tasty bonus, offering another kind of bouquet to enjoy. But things aren’t as peaceful as they look.
For one thing, someone’s been leaving dead roses around—and a sleazy real estate developer who wants the waterfront property has put a big-money offer on the table. Then, after a contentious meeting of local business owners, he’s found on the floor of the shop, with Elin’s garden shears planted in his chest. And before the police decide to pin the crime on her beloved aunt, Britta will have to find out who arranged this murder . . .