I remember how fantastic Grandma’s garden was, and I’ve heard stories about the garden at the old house. Even when we moved in there 6 years ago there were still a few old perennials that were growing – old reminders from the days of Richard and Sophia. There also is still one lonely asparagus plant at the very edge of the old garden that often makes an appearance -this one solo plant has been there for as long as I can remember.
Spring finally came and we had the big garden to plant that Percy’s Dad always grew so well. I shouldn’t say “we”. Percy has always looked after the vegetable garden just like his Dad did, only he never had time to try any unusual plants in it until lately. I remember his Dad growing asparagus and raspberries, and he even tried celery once. He was a wonderful Gardner and taught me such a lot. Percy and I have always had pleasure in our flower garden, but it was never so extensive as the one his Dad grew. Gardening began in April when he built the hotbed. Only a big load of fresh manure would be used, as other manure doesn’t heat enough. The frame, a bottomless wooden box about six feet by four feet was placed on the pile of manure that was piled beside the garden in a sunny, sheltered spot. The box was filled with good garden soil. Old storm windows were used for a lid and this covered with old horse blankets, binder canvas, or any discarded robe until the weather got warm enough to put a roll of white cotton over it. In this we started all our cabbage and cauliflower, snapdragons, stocks, petunias, marigolds, and anything else that needed to be planted early – before April 15th.
After the garden was planted, and the crops too, then we got ready for haying. But first came the branding in June. There was a lot of riding and sorting cattle before the big day. The neighbours all helped each other brand. We would take tea and lunch out to the men in the morning, then hurry in to prepare a big, hot meal for about 25 or 30 and sometimes 40 sat down to that meal. But they would have the job done by noon. One man was kept busy stoking the fire and handing hot irons to the men. One branding man would look after four flappers or men who wrestled the calves down. And two or three men did the cutting, which included ear marking, castrating, and cutting off horns. Another man vaccinated for blackleg. It always has been a gory business, but the men seem to enjoy working together like that. And there were always some faithful lady friends who came to help me with the meal too. Our little group of about eight ranches around here who work together must brand many thousand head of calves every hear and very efficiently.
The haying is a big job all summer long. I’ve always regretted I didn’t have time to get out with the camera some morning and take a picture of the men and horses as they left for the hay field. The valley east of our house is a lovely long valley which was an ideal natural hay field. Our two neighbour’s outfits and our outfit would all be going over the hill to the field about the same time each morning. There were 32 head of horses in these outfits, all tied together, some to the horse’s tail in front. The men change horses at noon, that is why they had to have so many in the morning. Most of the horses were four year old broncos that had just been broken to harness in June. The stores of the hair-raising experiences with those wild horses in the hayfield would fill a book. A hearty breakfast of porridge, meat and eggs, huge plates of toast and homemade jam was ready at seven am. By then the men had their horses in the corral, and we would have the lunch box almost ready for the field. Their lunch consisted of six or eight big loves of homemade bread with a variety of fillings, two pies, and cake. This was enough for their morning lunch and a noon meal and afternoon lunch. They drank cold tea. We have nine men in the field, three mowers, three rakes, two men on the stack, and one in the sweep. Percy stacked hay all through the summer – a heavy, hot job.