I will likely be spending this Father’s Day wrist-deep in dirt, because my daughter is now a farmer of sorts. Her preschool class started growing lima beans in little Dixie cups, and when they sprouted, she was allowed to take her three plants home. We transplanted them into one of the Earth Boxes we have on the back deck, right next to the lettuce, onions, potatoes, carrots, broccoli, herbs and cherry tomatoes. She helped plant them all, wearing my farmer’s hat like a restaurant tray on her head.
She says the same thing every evening after school: “Daddy, let’s watch my beans grow!” And so out we go to stand over her imperceptibly growing lima beans as the setting sun lights the western tree line on fire. After, we inspect everything else for signs of progress. There is always some; this looks to be a potent growing season again. She is tremendously excited by the whole process. Me? I’m the only person on the Eastern seaboard who actually likes lima beans as far as I know, so it’s win-win all around.
She hasn’t had a chance to work the big garden out in the yard yet, but the day is coming. Out there are the big beefsteak tomato plants, the pepper plants, the cucumbers, zucchini and squash plants, along with more beans and some snap peas for good measure. It’s a budget of work getting all that squared away, digging all the holes and doing the planting, staking and tying up the tomatoes so they don’t droop, watering everything without drowning it all, watching for slugs and other marauders, and all under a hot summer sun. It’s not breaking rocks in a gravel mine, but my back tells me about it whenever I finish a task. That, too, is a good feeling.
Getting my daughter involved with our annual gardening may prove, in time, to be among the more fateful and important decisions we’ve made regarding her upbringing. The lessons she is learning are so elemental, yet so vital. When we started, she thought her beans would fly out of the box in a few minutes. Having to wait and watch, she is learning the value of patience. She is learning you don’t eat if you don’t lend yourself to the labors. She is learning that it is not only acceptable, but mandatory, to get good and dirty every now and again. When she smells the soil on her hands, she smiles a secret smile. I don’t ask her about it; that smile and the feelings behind it are her treasure alone.