Last year we arrived in Illinois a few days early to meet with a potential partner company (more on that in a future blog post). We held our meeting and then proceeded about an hour north through the IL countryside to Boone County, IL, or more specifically, Capron IL. While the downtown area was nothing like I remember, the old tank that sat in front of the bank was still there, still green, and still cool.However, the town of Capron was only a marker on the way to the final destination – the family farm my grandparents owned while I was growing up. As we passed the corn fields that stretch from horizon to horizon, I felt the farm drawing close as familiar signs appeared…small bridges, neighboring barns, and finally the farmhouse appeared where I spent so many summers growing up.While some things had changed, most of the surroundings were still familiar like an old friend. The vegetable garden was still there, though moved from its original placement nearest the chicken coop. The majestic Bur Oaks still stood as welcoming sentries on the walk down to the creek where I spent many days fishing with my grandfather. The walk to the creek had changed…where there were once simple hillocks of native grasses, there was now an entire native meadow planted by nature and nurtured by time.
While the new view is certainly beautiful, it’s my memories of riding in the back of the tractor, listening to my grandfather laugh as we went over the bumps on the way to the creek that will stay in my memory bank. I remember bringing tiny bass, sunfish, or brim we caught back up to the farmhouse, filling the kiddie pool with water, and turning them loose to swim in circles until the farm cats finally noticed there was sushi on the menu and all they had to do was fish for their dinner.
The outhouse was removed thanks to the joys of modern plumbing…but it made a great garden folly back in the day. I remember it being covered with honeysuckle vines each summer. I suppose the spot on the property that gave me the most satisfaction to see unchanged was the size of the vegetable garden. The Organic Mechanic was baptized into gardening in her veggie garden. My earliest memories of my Grandmother were from moments in the garden, when she would teach me about eggplants or asparagus or garden insects or how to fertilize. Once I was tall enough (which, if you know me was when I was 5), it made me so proud to be able to reach into the 50 gallon drum of cow poop soaking in water (from the neighbors dairy cows), pull a bucket back out (I was strong like bull!), and go down the rows of veggies, giving each one a drink in turn.
The rest of my farm memories are from hours in the kitchen, snapping beans or peeling potatoes while she canned, froze, preserved, or made delicious baked items from the garden bounty. All in all, it was a successful trip back to Capron IL to relive summer memories on the farm. We came, we saw, we took pictures, we experienced place and time to make new memories.
The best part of my farm memories came not from the farm landscape, but from the family who experienced it with me. Moments like those make you acutely aware of the present and heighten your sense of family, togetherness, sharing, fulfillment, and love. I loved being in that garden with my grandmother. I loved being in the tractor’s trailer getting pulled to the fishing creek by my grandfather. Those real memories will persist past the point when I am making similar memories with my grandchildren.
Do we underestimate the impact we have on young children when gardening with them? I hope not, because they are the next generation of gardeners…they just don’t know it yet.