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Published September 10, 2012, 01:15 PM


It’s time to bring in the garden harvest here on the Northern Plains. Our ranch, even with its incredibly poor soil, has always hosted a garden of one kind or another.

By: Ryan Taylor, Agweek

n They grow, we pick

TOWNER, N.D. — It’s time to bring in the garden harvest here on the Northern Plains. Our ranch, even with its incredibly poor soil, has always hosted a garden of one kind or another.

Mom always made sure we had a garden in the backyard and Dad could be found hoeing weeds and getting water to the right parts of it. Somehow among the potential partners in my generation who don’t give a hoot about raising a little of their own food, I married a woman who plotted out a garden spot by our house and got me hauling some finely aged cow manure to till into the yellow sand to make production possible.

So I’ve known the joys, and discomforts, of raising our own vegetables my entire life. “As you sow, so shall ye reap,” followed us home from church as a way to live our life and out to the garden as a way to raise our peas and carrots.

As a kid, on my hands and knees, picking weeds, I learned there were no magic beans that grew to the sky without effort, just plain old beans that demanded planting, weeding, watering, picking and cleaning to get them to your table top, steam rising with a pat of butter and a sprinkle of salt to reward a summer’s efforts.

Friends and family

This year, our garden was okay, but not great. Probably a function of our being gone from the place a little too much to give it the care it should have had.

But after visiting my cousin and her husband who live about 80 miles from the ranch, we won’t go without fresh, homegrown produce. They sent us home with boxes full of tomatoes, green peppers, red peppers, raspberries and cucumbers.

We’re kind of like some of the smokers I’ve known. When I’d ask them what brand of cigarettes they preferred to smoke, they’d say “O.P.,” short for “other people’s.” I knew a few snoose chewers that way, too. They never owned a can of snuff, but always seemed to have a chew as long as their friends were buying.

Similarly, if you asked my wife and me about our favorite kind of produce, we’d have to say “O.P.” or “O.G” for other people’s or other gardeners’. Everyone gets to eat O.P. zucchini. That’s been given away since it was invented, but O.P. heirloom tomatoes and plump red peppers are pretty special.

My cousin’s husband is retired from his career and now dedicates a lot of time to his garden and greenhouse, raising his own plants from seed. He says he just likes to watch things grow and see them thrive from seed packet to harvest.

He gets so attached to his little seedlings that it pains him to ditch any of them and he finds himself planting them all. He claims that’s how he ended up with 150 tomato plants this year. He thought about doing the farmer’s market thing, but decided he’s more of a grower than a seller. Now he’s a giver and our family is pretty thankful that we’re a part of his circle of sharing.

He likes to grow it, we like to eat it and nothing is going to waste. If you have relatives who garden and friends who hunt and fish, you can stay pretty well fed.

I guess our specialty in this system of sharing must be cull cow hamburger. We may have to load up a cooler or two of the lean grind and return the favor of the homegrown O.P. veggies.