January 6, 2011

Baby Boomer and the Pumpkin Patch

Dawn, January 1, 2011 found me listening to a TED conference presenter. The link to Tom Chatfield’s “7 Ways Games Reward the Brain” came to me from an architect friend. She had been trying to describe why she had chosen to design a retirement duplex for three friends, no fee for her services. She explained, “Watch this presentation, replace virtual game playing with home design project and you will understand what excites me about working on a spec house project, even at my age (late 70’s)!”

After watching Chatfield’s presentation at http://www.ted.com, I began to think his 7 rewards could be applied to almost anything that stimulates the brain including my pumpkin patch! Well, why not? Here we go…

  • Experience bars measuring progress: as many of you know, I have grown pumpkins for going on 6 years now. 2010 growing season had its challenges but bringing all those years to bear on the patch this past year made a huge difference.
  • Multiple long and short-term aims: we gardeners are the eternal optimists, declaring if I try this then I can probably expect to have that happen. Short term, my aim was to find the right seeds for the right outcome. Switching to a new cultivar, Sugar Pie (Cucurbita pepo) from my dear Cinderella variety, bridged the short season growing challenge. Long term aim, save the healthiest Sugar Pie seeds for 2011.
  • Reward for effort: ah, nothing like the ripe abundance to twang a gardener’s heart strings: 26 pumpkins plus blossoms to stuff and fry. For once, my plan for the pumpkin patch to be treated like the sixth family pet worked beautifully! We moved the patch close by and the 8’ X 4’ raised bed received just the right amount of attention.
  • Feedback: every time I looked out the back window or sat on the deck, my gaze fell on the ripening pumpkins. Even the tiny green babies with their jagged stripes mesmerized me. Nothing is more satisfying than spending hours watching vegetables grow, right?
  • An element of uncertainty: it goes without saying; gardening can be an uncertain business. What endeavor carries more risk than planting a garden in Madison County? May winds, June freezes, July hail, August cold nights, September snow, October heat and then its back to winter garden bones.
  • Windows of enhanced learning:  lessons learned: grow a food garden close-at- hand, called a ‘kitchen garden’ I believe. Attend, never leave, water, observe, and weed the patch.
  • Other people: surprise to me was that others loved playing around with squash blossoms in the kitchen as much as I do, a collaborative effort, actually. Early on Saturday mornings I picked the blooms, the blossom customer showed up, shared her recipes, and went away to prepare for her party. Who would guess that a community of appreciation could be built around a pumpkin patch?

The idea that I am an authentic Baby Boomer turning with 80 million others the age of Medicare and Social Security this very month, makes me wonder, “Where has the time gone?” 

Connecting with others through growing a garden, those with the same gray, salt-and-pepper colored hair, bending to weed, erect two greenhouses for Madison Farm to Fork, or endure health issues holds a richness for the appreciation of the moment. 

Planning my 2011 garden embraces uncertainty, the power of engagement, friendship, and opportunity, even at my age! 

To each of you, Happy New Year!

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