By Dottie Dewberry
For the WPT
“A vegetable garden in the beginning looks so promising and then after all little by little it grows nothing but vegetables, nothing, nothing but vegetables.” Gertrude Stein
One day recently as I was going into the Maben Library, someone hollered: “Hey, Shorty.” Surely, they weren’t talking to me. So I turned around to see who was hollering; it was Paul Gordon. Now, what on earth could Paul be wanting? So I asked, “What’s up?’ He reminded me of an article that I had written about a giant fig tree and he wanted to tell about his vegetable garden. What he told was really quite amazing to me as I only grow flowers. As soon as I could off I went up MS Hwy 15 to visit with the Gordons and to see his and Robbie’s garden.
Out back, near their beautiful swimming pool and gazebo, was a veritable jungle of plants: Florida speckled running butterbeans on trellises, running peas growing on wagon wheels on top of 7-foot poles, Blue Lake String beans, all kinds of tomatoes in tubs:
Roma, Husky, Tumbling Tom — a tomato for hanging baskets, beds of peppers: Sweet Banana, red and green Bell, Italian Gourmet, Jalapeno, Cayenne, okra, Red-Sails lettuce, rutabagas and purple top turnips, collards, beets, blue berries, blackberries, Brussels sprouts, broccoli and I am sure something that was hiding from me.
As Robbie and I rambled around she told me how they got started with the raised beds. After Paul had some serious health problems, he could no longer crank their Troy Built Horse tiller, which uses a tug rope to crank. Unless one of their sons came by they were stuck. So, one day they decided to build the beds using three-quarter by 6-inch decking boards. Some beds are 4 feet wide by 10, 12 or 24 feet long. All of them are filled with moat-rotted cottonseed hulls and sphagnum peat moss. Each bed has soaker hoses intertwined in the plants. Good soil, lots of water and sunshine produces lets of vegetables.
When I asked Paul where he got his “stuff” (the moat) he told me a man from Slate Springs brought it to him. He said that it cost about $70 per 5-yard dump truck load; the guy will deliver it to your house.
The Gordons told me they had 12 raised beds, which are filled to the brim with all kinds of vegetables, which Robbie either freezes or cans. Some are made into jams, jellies, salsas, relishes, pickles and some is canned for making soup.
Robbie showed me the beautiful new jelly cabinet that Paul had built; it too was running over with all kinds of jelly, jams, relishes: blueberry, blackberry, corn relish, hot-pepper jelly, hot salsa, strawberry, pear, and fig preserves, apple-walnut preserves, pickled beets, and zucchini relish-which is a recipe she got from Katie Lou Johnson, who was one of the Maben High School cooks, and Robbie was the school secretary. This was back in the early ’70s when I also worked at Maben High School as a teacher.
Of course, my hosts for the afternoon tour wanted to pile on goodies to take home with me, but I told them I don’t cook any more. That did not mean I did not eat, I just don’t cook. I told them if they invited me to eat I would be happy to oblige.
The next thing that got my eye was the chicken tractor, which will be an entirely different article. It was a sight to behold. It was a moveable chicken house and pen complete with chickens. Amazing! The Gordons are known far and wide for their construction ability; Paul and the kids build all kinds of things, inside and outside the home. So watch for the article called “Chicken
Better than the garden was the opportunity to visit with friends. Thanks for the afternoon.