My mom always had a big, beautiful garden when I was growing up, which was a point of conversation for many of our neighbors around the community of Holton, WI (a suburb of Dorchester), and steady source of wonderful food for her four hungry sons. Honestly, as strange as it may now seem, I can’t say I attributed it much significance as a youngster, or every really thought that much about it most times. I’d grow the occasional row of sunflowers, or, more prevalently, dig around for awesome worms, but for the most part I just took it for granted that everyone’s mom had a garden, and that year-round homemade salsa and tomato soup was a given.
Rhubarb was always special. She always had two classic rhubarb desserts that she’d make, and there was never anything quite like walking into our house on an early summer evening and smelling the sweet, tangy fragrance of that rhubarb crisp. Once it made its way, steaming and glorious, from the oven, it would sit on the countertop or in the cabinet for a day, or a couple hours, with a huge fork in the pan. From there, whoever happened to walk by would invariably grab a couple forkfuls, and often some ice cream to boot. Then, equally invariably, would come dad’s good-natured protestations when it was gone or nearly gone. “Hey, I didn’t even get any of this, yet!” Inevitably, mom would bake another pan, and the cycle would continue. Given the robust nature of her rhubarb patch, we could get a quite a few cycles out of a season. Rhubarb has always been special to me.
Blessed as I am to have such a wonderful mother, she showed up on my doorstep Saturday morning, wielding a club on her recently-operated hand, and a box of freshly-dug bundles of rhubarb in the car. Knowing mom, I’m relatively certain that she dug them herself, and I’m very, very grateful that she did. So, there it was. Rising Sand Rhubarb!
Though I’d participated in some land-planning discussions, I felt a bit of uncertainty and anxiety about actually making the decision on where to plant. I sent out a couple of unrequited emails for insight; then from the greenhouse on Sunday morning, Oren, as he so often does, made a keen suggestion. “Should we just go plant it?” So we cruised out to Rising Sand, walked around a bit and assessed the space, given our planning discussions and various considerations, and chose a plot. We got out our recently-purchased tractor and tiller, took a couple of passes, and prepped our very own soil for these wonderful little rhubarb plants. As Fanni and I finished up planting, mulching and watering, she reflected on the sense of kinship and love she was beginning to develop for the land, as we are finally able to start making it our own. I felt it too. It’s one thing to have an unfamiliar plot of new land that you call your own; it’s another to work together with the land to begin to shape it into what you would have it be.
Though I wouldn’t use the word love to classify my feelings towards the Rising Sand land at this early juncture, it definitely means something to have begun to establish a rhubarb patch which descends from that of my mother. The thought that these plants may live and thrive for decades and decades on the south side of the driveway, welcoming all that come into the world of Rising Sand Organics, brings infinite warmth to my heart. This rhubarb brought me sustenance and joy from before I can remember, and served as an understated staple of my physical and mental well-being. To think of all people who may walk through and admire the rhubarb — most ignorant to the fact that it comes from generations of love, and a woman with the strength, love and wherewithal to one-handedly dig rhubarb for her youngest son — is infinitely special. I’m grateful to my mother for all of the rhubarb, the rhubarb desserts, and the example from all of these years of gardening, mothering, and being a wonderful person. May she and the rhubarb live long, fulfilling lives, and bless the hearts of many as they do.