Guest Blog: Gardening with Frank!

Frank's Garage

by Melissa Pahl

I, for one, am very excited about today. First – some background. Last weekend I volunteered to help do a controlled burn at Frank’s Hill. First of all , I’ve never been allowed, much less encouraged to burn anything. I thought we were just going to be burning some brush. But when I showed up there were a handful of hearty souls and I was instructed to grab a rake and a shovel.

You actually get to rake fire – as a team. It’s very satisfying. And all I could think about was, man, Jason is going to be so bummed he missed this! Boys, in general, are more excited about burning stuff than girls are. But, Jason would have enjoyed the whole event ten times as much as I did – and I was definitely the most enthusiastic volunteer.

But, I digress – during a break at Frank’s hill, I asked our neighbor Frank (the guy the hill is named for) if he wanted to share a garden this year. Frank is a retired farmer who lost his wife a few years ago and is an absolute pillar of the community and altogether great character.

I met Frank on my first day at this house when I was out walking Keeper. I knew he had been a farmer immediately – he has that smart-about-all-things-nature-related quality about him. Plus he has a dog named Annie that goes everywhere with him – literally, he leaves his truck running in the winter & you’ll see them in town. She sits in the front seat – naturally.

Frank agreed to share a garden with me, but told me that it would have to wait until early May. He’s going to a wedding in Spain in mid-April. Because that’s how Frank rolls – holding solstice events at the effigy mounds, weddings in Spain, and, now, gardening with me – the new neighbor from Chicago.

The next day Frank called to say that he thinks we could squeeze in a Spring garden, if I wanted. I think Frank is as excited about this garden as I am.

The Garden - or what will soon be the garden!

Today I went to town (with my dog in my truck, no less) and choose my Spring garden plants. Now, I have almost no idea what I’m doing. Which was pretty apparent because one of the super helpful hardware store guys asked if I needed help. I picked up two kinds of peas (on suggestion of my friend, Cathy), carrots, peppers (did you know there are purple peppers?) and radishes. I assured the helpful guy that I would probably be back. Not that I had to clarify that for him, I’m sure.

Jason and I walked down to Frank’s this afternoon and stopped at one of our neighbor’s to say hello. After telling Maxine about sharing a garden with Frank, she wanted to join us if we had space for tomatoes. “We could can tomatoes and salsa in the Fall.”

I’ve never canned before but I love trying new stuff – especially when I’m being shown by someone who knows what she is doing, has all the stuff, and only does events if they are wrapped into a big party. Maxine and her husband, Scott, own a restaurant, have infectious personalities and love a good party. It’s possible we will can tomatoes and shoot fireworks off – all in the same day.

Jason and I wandered down the lane (because that’s what we do here in the country) and found Frank getting tools together. Jason wished us luck and headed to work while I started pulling weeds.

Two hours later, Frank and I were done for the day. We pulled weeds, raked, broke up roots, mixed lime and fertilizer into the soil and talked about what to plant first. We decided we wanted a good rain to soak everything in before we planted any seeds.

Frank was commenting on the amazing transformation of the two raised beds and then he said, “we will be good shepherds of the earth.” I agreed. And then I thought about how lucky I was to be right there, enjoying that exact moment.

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