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Transplanting a Gardener

Time to talk about it. We recently pulled up roots and moved away from my first real garden. 

Well technically, my very first garden was a sandy plot near the sugar maple at the Shell Lake farm. I vaguely remember trying to grow petunias, moss roses and whatever else struck my fancy in that too-shady, but much-loved, spot for my 4-H Flower project. But my first real grown up garden, which I puttered in all on my own schedule, rather than as a shadow following my Mom or Dad, was a new experience. I chose it and bought it myself. An acre of drool-worthy, former-dairy-pasture Wisconsin black loam. Jackpot. I chose the place not so much for the house as for the yard and the potential I imagined there. I proceeded to dig and plant and mulch and weed and mow and create a garden all for myself. Then I changed my mind and transplanted and re-created it myself. Several times. My garden was an imperfect work in progress. Crazy, dirty bliss. Full of experiments - successes and failures - but it was mine. I miss my garden place. 

I don’t know how not to turn this into a sentimental mush fest for a moment. A life change like a move makes one reflective I suppose. I can’t help but note how much I grew while growing things in the ground in my first garden. I turned more into my Mother and Grandmothers there. I made countless jars of raspberry jam from the berry patch that grew along the back garden fence on the property, with only one noteworthy jam-tastrophe before I got the hang of it. I became a canner of salsa and tomato juice, a maker of rhubarb crisp, a baker of zucchini bread and zucchini chocolate cake, and then zucchini hotdish, zucchini pizza, you get the idea. Then the Captain came along, we got married, and I grew things he especially likes: spicy radishes, sweet blueberries, hops for the beer he was going to home brew. Then babies came along, and I happily turned over some garden space to sandboxes and swing sets. I started growing more cherry tomatoes for tiny hands to pick. I divided my favorite Lady’s Mantle and transplanted it hither and yon anywhere I thought it would grow for the soft leaves that are so fun for little hands to touch. I gained a new appreciation for the genus Platycodon, whose balloon blossoms in the front yard were so fun for my little helpers to stop by to pop on walks out to the mailbox. I had barely even noticed them there before. 

‘I’ grew into a ‘We’ in that garden. 

How did I just leave all that behind? I am still sick to my stomach when I think about it. But times were a changin’ in our household and I had to adapt. So I decided to bring it with me. Just the plant highlights, of course; I’m not totally crazy. I'm not. But I am a crazy-obsessed list maker, and so began The Transplant List on a piece of scratch paper hanging on the fridge: Grandpa’s rose (grown from cuttings my Mom and I pirated from his garden in Indiana after he passed away), Fern-Leaf peony (from my sister, a division from the gardens on the old farmstead she and my brother-in-law call home), Mauna Loa daylily (my husband loves orange), my beloved Lady’s Mantle, some Balloon Flower for the girls, and of course a few pots of those raspberry canes, and a start of rhubarb. A few other favorites made the cut as well to round out the design jumbling in my head for a hot, sunny garden spot at the new place, but I had to draw the line somewhere. Sigh.  

Transplanted refugees in their new plot

Besides bringing a bit of my old garden with me, the other thing keeping me sane in this transplant of home and garden and family is having something to look forward to. If I get nostalgic and feel myself turning into a bit of an emotional puddle, I just look out the window from my desk in the sunroom/porch of this now 4th generation family farmhouse. Yes, it’s in Minnesota, which is hard for this Wisconsin girl, and the soil here is a bit on the sandy/gravelly side since I have been spoiled for so long. But, nobody’s perfect. I can see potential here.

And I see toddlers riding chickens.


  1. I loved this! Your refugees beside the white building look very sincere; as does the chicken rider. What a great place for kids to grow up.


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