Welcome to Miss Amy’s Garden & Gift’s blog! This is a place where we will share information about vegetables, herbs, flowers, and all things related to them. But first, how did I become Miss Amy?
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Growing up, I was lucky enough to have two sets of grandparents that had gardens and did things to be a bit more self-sufficient. They were able to save money in the process, too. One set of grandparents lived here in the Illinois Quad Cities and I became their regular helper. They had a home in town with a small garden patch and a summer cabin on a slough of the Mississippi River. They had built both buildings themselves and spent as much time as possible at the camp in good weather. There were three small, utilitarian cabins on that ten acre plot with nearly an acre tilled for gardens for the three families.
After one of the couples fully retired, they decided to go north to visit family for the summers and allowed my family to take over their place. It was pretty basic and lacked insulation, but it worked for us to spend weekends and a few weeknights during the peak of summer. It was always cooler there near the water than at our home, so we made the best of it.
Some of my earliest memories are at the cabins with my grandparents. As I grew old enough to be a real helper, they gladly taught me many valuable skills. Weeds? They got identified and pulled or hoed out. Seeds? My grandpa was older by this time, so I helped set stakes and lines for straight rows. Then, he would hoe the row and show me how far apart to plant the seeds. In my youth, I planted lots of beans. Green beans, yellow wax beans, pole beans, a short row of shelling beans, and I helped with corn and melons, too. I think of Grandpa every time I seed beans in my gardens and wonder how many beans I’ve planted in my life.
Grandpa fished on the river, and after cleaning them, would put the unused parts into the garden (especially with the melons). I can still remember Grandpa calling our house and asking to talk to me. He was a man of few words and rarely called people, so I wondered if I hadn’t properly tied the boat to the dock or something. Nope. I was raising rabbits at the time, and he wondered what happened to the “stuff” that I cleaned out from under their hutches because he’d like to have it. He wanted it for his compost pile that would fertilize his garden. We had to figure out how to get it from our house to his (Mom said it was NOT going in her car) and for a couple of years, he eagerly took those buckets of bunny droppings. When there were extra newspapers from my paper route, he used those as a weed suppressant or a spot to start another compost pile. He was using organic techniques before anyone really knew what that meant.
Grandma grew beautiful flowers and showed me how to care for them. We pulled weeds, cut flowers for her table or her friends, and saved seeds. She and I also picked berries together behind their cabin; turning them into jams, jellies or desserts. When the mulberry tree near the garden was loaded with ripe berries, I’d carefully get a ladder out of the tool shed and pick pails of berries that would be made into delicious pies or put in the chest freezer for later. She also canned lots of beans, tomatoes, carrots, chutney, and other garden crops. I was pretty little, so at the cabin and at her home, there was a stool for me to be able to reach the counter or stove and help. Scrubbing carrots and potatoes was a job for me when I was too young to peel and chop, and it was always my job to get the scraps to Grandpa for his compost pile.
My first memory of helping her make jelly included using paraffin wax instead of water bath canning, and I was fascinated! Grandma was a wonderful baker, and baking with her was always fun . She’d explain what she was doing and why. If pie crust was being made, she’d give me the excess and help me roll it out, brush it with butter and sprinkle it with cinnamon & sugar. We rolled it up nice and tightly and sliced them into pinwheels. Sometimes, I was more excited to have warm pinwheels than the actual pie. Maybe it was just because we got to eat the pinwheels right away and the pie had to wait until after dinner.
7 thoughts on “Becoming Miss Amy (part 1)”
Great stories about your grandparents and how you got your start. The story about the pie crust treats reminded me of my grandmother; she called them “bird nests.”
Kristin, sometimes we would flatten them into more of a cookie shaped pastry, but the edges got too brown. Mostly, it was more fun to eat them by unrolling the layers. Isn’t it funny how we remember some of the smallest things?!
Have some similar memories you are good at storytelling!
Hi Gloria! Thanks for your reply. So many memories coming to me as I write these, too.
if i told someone i live near the “slough”, they’d take a couple steps back,lol. Funny how we all here would know what that was. Great blog on who you are and where it came from.
Jeff, we always called it a slough. Guess it could be an inlet or backwaters but that’s not what we called it. That shallow water gave us great carp fishing in the springtime and our cabin neighbor loved to smoke them. He’d get his little boat set up with an old wash tub and a couple of dip nets, and ask me to go out and see if I could get a dozen or so. He and his wife would always have a delicious dessert and soda waiting for me when I came back to the dock.
As Jeff points out, some folks may be unclear about what a “slough” is (it rhymes with Sue). Here, near the Mighty (Muddy) Mississippi River, it is an inlet that brings lots of mud and riverbed silt with the river water. For us, we had a pretty long, narrow opening at the river’s edge and it widened as it flowed toward my grandparents’ cabin and then it made a sharp turn and continued in front of the other two cabins. Depending on weather and what the Corp of Engineers was doing with the lock systems, we could have as much as three feet of water in the main section or as little as a foot. Every few years, the outlet to the river had to be dredged to keep our little boats from getting stuck and to allow good water flow in and out.