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Making Lemonade Out Of Lemons

Hello folks. This is Bob Whitten, coming to you from beautiful, sunny Thomson, Illinois. Today I will tell you all how we make lemonade out of lemons around here.

For thirteen years now I have been mowing this old lawn of ours. For thirteen years I mowed around every tree and every flower. I really don’t mind mowing around these things, but there is one spot in our yard that has been giving me grief for years. We have a low spot in the back yard, and no matter how dry it is, this spot continues to be a marsh.

We have several springs in our back yard, and we have been quite successful in directing most of the excess water to the pond. But this one spot, it just won’t dry up. Sometimes the marsh gives me the impression of being dry enough to mow over it, only to suck the mower in so far I have to hook the truck up to the poor, muddy mower just to get out.

So, after twelve years of tearing up our yard fighting this marsh, my wife wanted to try a different method. In our constant journey to get off the grid, we decided to build a “raised bed” garden over one end of the marsh. My wife wanted a strawberry garden, and we knew strawberry plants like water, so I went into action.

We put in a 10-foot by 4-foot box, using 2×10 treated lumber. Next, we put compost in the garden. Then we tilled it all up, and the garden really dried up nicely. The strawberry plants took to the new garden immediately. This worked so well, my wife decided we should make another bed above that.

So I went to work. I went back to the store and got three more boards, and I took all the tools out that I had just put away. I wrestled the wheelbarrow back out, and I hopped into the marsh with a shovel. I started the tiller again, and I made another garden. When I was done, I put all the tools away and cleaned up.

My wife came home after work, looked over my labor, patted me on the back and said “This looks really nice, dear. Can you put in another one, please?” I mumbled a little, but then she smiled at me with that special smile, and I went back to work.

I could go on here, but I think you all might be getting the idea of how the rest of my week went. One at a time, I built eight “raised bed” gardens. One at a time, my wife smiled that special smile. One at a time I pulled all the tools out, and one at a time I put all the tools back.

I will admit, the beds look great, and I will never get the mower stuck again. We even built little plastic domes over the beds, to warm the soil in early spring. We grew beans, peppers, onions, carrots, radishes, tomatoes, cucumbers, broccoli, lettuce, and we even mistakenly planted eight okra plants. I thought they were cucumber plants, and I love pickles. Not so much with the okra. My cousin Larry, who is from the South, put it best when he said, “Even a true hillbilly can’t eat okra every day.”

Cousin Larry did show me a way to slice and bread the okra, then freeze it. When my wife has her fancy parties, I fry it up and serve it on a platter as “hors d’oeuvres.” And when they inquire as to what they are eating, I tell them I made lemonade out of lemons.

As we strive to grow our own food in our own garden, I look back and think we took a negative and turned it into a positive with our gardens. Some of the plants didn’t like their feet being that wet, but we had a great year over all, and we will adjust for next year.

Sometimes, all it takes is a little common sense and hard work to make things better, whether you are in the swamp or a garden.

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