Sowing some friendships

Published 4:46 pm Tuesday, May 26, 2009

I am glad that I know people who take the time and make the effort to do things. Not only that, I am very thankful that they are willing to share their time and efforts with me.

For instance, there are those people who take the time and make the effort to plant gardens. Plots of ground don’t suddenly appear ready for planting. The grass must be cleared and the soil tilled. Seeds that produce those wonderful vegetables that we all love to eat don’t just fall from heaven and bury themselves in neat rows.

I was visiting with a church family some time back in the spring and, as I was standing outside, talking with a member, I noticed a little plot of ground that had been made into a garden. I saw some definite time and effort.

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There might have been many different varieties of vegetables, but my covetous eye was drawn to the many rows of potatoes. I think we used to call them Irish potatoes, but I now refer to them as “new” potatoes.

When I was growing up in the country, everyone had a garden and they weren’t so small. Gardens were usually planted near the house so the vegetables could be conveniently gathered. A typical garden would have many kinds of peas, butterbeans, squash, okra and a few rows of Irish potatoes. The garden that you remember might have had other vegetables, but I would think that one common veggie would have been the Irish potato.

They were probably the first thing planted. Valentine’s Day or Feb. 14 was the goal set for the planting of taters. Another holiday was significant in the life of those little potatoes. That would have been Mother’s Day, the day when we expected to dig a mess.

There were two things we looked forward to on Mother’s Day, aside from the obvious celebration of momma. We wanted to have fresh potatoes, and we looked for the first bloom from the tobacco plants.

When I saw the rows of potatoes at my friend’s house, recently, I walked over and took a look. The plants seemed to be very healthy and he had done a great job of keeping the grass and weeds out of his garden. I don’t know if he used a hoe, but it was a clean garden.

I can’t say that was always the case with our garden. We had some fairly grassy and weedy land and there was fierce competition between what we wanted to grow and what we didn’t. A good garden takes some time and effort and that includes hoeing. Most of my hoeing was spent in the tobacco or peanut patch, but I probably hoed a little in the garden.

Coincidentally, a few weeks ago, I saw a hoe underneath a shed. It was pitiful. I don’t mean that the hoe was old and decrepit. Just the opposite. It had a handle that felt like it had not had many hands on it and the blade had probably never felt the steel of a mill file. That hoe would have been the last one I would have chosen.

But back to my friend’s garden. I liked the looks of those potato plants on top of the ground, but knew that the real treasure would be underneath the plants. I have learned this about gardens and other kinds of crops. The bush or plant doesn’t mean diddly if there isn’t any fruit. In other words, don’t count the peanuts in the trailer by the vine on top of the ground. And don’t count the potatoes underneath the bush until you have actually dug them.

They were still a few weeks away from producing actual potatoes, but I put the sight of those healthy plants in my compartmentalized brain. I used the “I sure do want a mess of those” compartment. Preachers do that sometimes.

Well, those weeks whiled away and I happened to return to the home. It could have been coincidence or some subliminal magnet that drew me to the house at the very time the taters were ready to dig. Please don’t think that I intentionally went to the house just for a mess of delicious, new, potatoes. I was doing the Lord’s work by visiting!

At some point in the visit, the subject of the potatoes came up. Naturally, of course. I’m sure I didn’t mention it. I was offered a mess and I humbly said, “Oh, maybe one or two of the little ones might be good.”

We walked out to the patch and dug up many of those potatoes. They looked great, but I had forgotten a few things about them. My friend said that the best time to get the skin off was immediately because after they sat overnight, something happened and they would have to be peeled or scraped. He happened to have a water hose handy and a little firm spray of water took the thin layer of outer skin right off.

I took them home, all excited about boiling them and fixing that mixture of milk and butter that I remembered. I didn’t know exactly what I was doing, but the Lord is gracious and my momma told me what to do. With both of them helping, I was able to fix a dish that brought back the memory of home sweet home. It’s dishes like fresh potatoes in creamy milk and butter that makes the world go ‘round.

It all started with someone who took the time and made the effort to plant some little, red potatoes. Then, he didn’t mind sharing them with someone else. That’s what friends are for.