For my mother, the principle of work was right up there with the First Principles of the Gospel. She believed that good hard physical labor was a cure for any kind of mental or emotional distress along with many other ills. We all remember her comments of, “Put a little elbow grease into it,” as she encouraged us to work a little harder. She also derived great pleasure from the action of physical labor and somehow managed to teach all of her children to enjoy “working” as well.
Recently, I spent a day hoeing and weeding out a garden with my sister. She was quite surprised to find that I could quickly hoe through several rows while she did one. “How did you learn to do that so fast?” she asked. I thought about it a moment and with a smile responded, “Just living in St. Johns!”
A flood of memories came to my mind of being at Great-Grandma Elda Brown’s house- how she managed to have us all out in her garden, teaching the correct way to hoe and finding her bonnet for those who forgot to bring their hat. And, she made it fun! There was always a sense of community with all of the Brown family gardens. When it was time for irrigation, everyone moved from garden to garden to get them all “cleaned out.” That irrigation schedule was the best motivator ever. Grandpa Jack Brown further refined upon the tricks of the trade and just how to “hill up” around the little corn plants and “building up” the integrity of the rows. There were races to see who could get to the end of the row first and bragging rights for the most rows cleaned out. I noticed other gardens in town and smiled as I watched families working together. Oddly enough, this observation gave and still gives me a sense that all is right with the world.
As our children grew, we had a desire to teach them not only how to work, but to find pleasure in it as well. The garden was a great laboratory full of natural consequences. For example, weeds become much more labor intensive to remove if they get too big. There is much to learn about the stewardship involved in the harvest. Most of all, I think of the memories, the many talks I had with my children as we worked side by side in the garden. I think of the sunsets enjoyed and the pleasing sound of the irrigation ditch water gurgling and running down the rows.
I know I owe much of my love of gardening to St. Johns, a little oasis that is blooming with values, especially during the gardening season. And, I think my mother is probably right about the principle of work being right “up there” in the principles arena and that a little “elbow grease” can cure most ills.