Thursday, August 30, 2012

Rodale, My Father, and Me

I was blessed to grow up in Small Town America. We lived on almost an acre of land, smack dab in the middle of town. Rumblimg trains passed by, day and night, only two houses away.

The hardware store/lumber yard was right across the street (One of the employees had a contagious, super-loud laugh that would make us pause in our tracks and snicker), and the little grocery, department, and drug store were across the railroad tracks and Main St., and little children felt secure in patronizing them unaccompanied by an adult.

My grandparents lived right next door to us. Grandpa always had a bounteous vegetable garden and beautiful sweet peas, thanks in part to the two inches of cow manure that he tilled under each spring. A garden was absolutely essential while raising their children during the Great Depression, and was a always a source of pride in later years.

When fate brought my family to settle next to my grandparents, Daddy took up fruit-tree planting to rival that of Johnny Appleseed. There were two apricots, two plums (one green gage and one Italian prune), eight apple tree, one gooseberry bush, one pie cherry tree, one peach tree, and several Nanking cherry and raspberry bushes. Concord grapes grew next to the front porch, and were wonderful made into tangy juice and jelly.

My mother was appreciate of Daddy's efforts in fruit production, but when it came to vegetable gardening, that was quite a different story! Rodale's "Organic Gardening and farming" was a great influence on my father, who took the organic philosophy and methods to heart (Daddy even had a couple of his own articles accepted by Rodale in 1974, which made him a proud man.).

Whereas my grandpa used chemical sprays and had everything in nice, straight rows, Dad's crops were interplanted to make better use of space and to discourage pests. Dad planted strange things like poke and "gobo," and Mom was ever so embarrassed when the newspaper took a picture of the garden with a full-grown burdock in it! Weeds were tolerated, and even eaten, and of course my mother, raised on those perfectly groomed, straight rows of veggies, thought he was nuts. She was NOT a fan of Mr. Rodale and his off-the-wall ideas!

After my parents divorced and Daddy left forever, his interplanted garden became a memory, as Grandpa helped re-establish "normalcy", but the seeds that Rodale planted have grown fertile in me, who loves to garden organically, weeds and all. I even have a collection of vintage "Organic Gardening and Farming" books and magazines, and am still looking for the issues from 1974 that have my father's articles in them.

Although my father's body no longer inhabits this earth, his spirit will never die. As I watch my children exploring the world of growing things, and we forage wild edibles together, I'm sure that Daddy is smiling down on us all.

Thanks J. I. and Robert Rodale, for your legacy of love!


  1. What a lovely tribute to your father, Marqueta. Bless your father for being a pioneer. We started planting raised bed gardens in the late 70s and people thought it was a nutty idea, now that's all you see. Don't know if the love of gardening is genetic or environment, but it is one of the best legacies you can leave to your children and grandchildren!

  2. Wow, that was lovely. Did you know I was born in 1974? As I said, I am sorry your parents had to split up; but obviously God used, what I know would have been, that heart-rending experience to make you into the tender, kind, and, well, again, lovely lady that you are. Blessings!

  3. I'm a little like your dad and my husband is more like your mom when it comes to gardening. We've never agreed and have frequently argued over gardening methods. Finally, after yielding to his way for many years, I will get to garden "my way". He will be gone for the better part of the spring and summer, so hopefully, he will see how much better double-digging, raised beds, etc will be.