Family Gardening The "Smart" Way

Make your family gardening tasks easier by using your brain. Or would that be, by using mom's brain?

We love our family gardening time around here. It’s time for us to spend enjoying nature together, not to mention the crunch of a fresh radish or the velvety softness of an African violet. Until I read today’s story, I never really thought of family gardening time as punishment.

Granted, punishment may not be the right word. Nor is this exactly new. Parents telling noisy kids to go outside and play is a story as old as the hills. But the mom in today’s story takes it to a new (and genius!) level. In Outsmarting Mother, Deborah Young takes us to a moment in her childhood when she and her noisy siblings had to go outside. In this case, however, they weren’t sent outside to play; they were sent outside to weed the garden.

Say what you will about weeding, but I don’t think I would consider it punishment. Deborah, along with her sister and two brothers, felt differently. They were banished to the garden just because they got in an argument in the house. It hardly seemed fair.

There was no cutting corners, either. Sure, Deborah and her siblings could speed through the work, but they would just have to go back outside if mom decided they didn’t do a good job. That’s when Deborah had an idea to outsmart her mother. And it worked! Sort of.

Family Gardening Is Always Good For a Laugh or Two

This story comes from our archive that spans over 30 years and includes more than 130 magazine issues of GreenPrints. I love pieces like these that remind us that we often harvest much more than just fruits and vegetables in the garden. I hope you enjoy this story as well.

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Outsmarting Mother

We got her good!

By Deborah Young

“Mom! He pulled my hair!” I shouted, leaning over the oak banister. I held my head in exaggerated pain.

“She knocked my toys over first!” Don complained.

“Will you two be quiet? I’m reading!” screamed Diane.

“You’re the one making all the noise!” said Dale.

Suddenly, we heard Mother’s voice from below: “There’s a row of beans that needs tending.”

My siblings and I instantly went silent. Down the stairs we trudged, single file, as slowly as possible. Garden work had become Mother’s go-to solution to sibling wars that summer. The first time she inflicted it on us we attempted sabotage, hoping to show that kids did not belong in the garden.

She showed us—right away—that that trick wouldn’t work. And ever since, we’d spent a good part of that summer stuck…weeding.

The four of us marched slowly through the kitchen and passed Mother, resisting the urge to stick our tongues out. Why did she make us all work? It was Don’s fault!

We walked past the beets, corn, carrots, turnips, tomatoes, onions, etc., until we reached the mile-long row of beans. (Well, it looked like a mile!) Then we knelt down to work. Or, rather, to continue our argument.

“It’s all your fault!”

“Move over! I’m working here.”

“I wouldn’t work near you. You’ve got cooties!”

“You want cooties? Catch this bug!”

As usual, we spent more time fussing than weeding. The sun beat down and sweat ran from the tops of our heads.

After a while, we grew tired of fussing with each other—and turned our discontent to Mother.

“Why does Mom have this garden if she won’t care for it?”

“Yeah. She never does the weeding.”

Suddenly, I had an inspiration. “I know what! If we work together, we can get this job done quick. Then we can have the rest of the day to play!”

The faces of the others brightened. “Yeah!” said Dale.

I took charge. “Dale, you do that side and I’ll do this side. Don, Diane, you two start at the other end of the row. If we work together, we’ll be done long before lunch time. And do a good job so she can’t send us back out!”

We set to work with vigor and laughter—and did, indeed, finish well before lunch.

We went inside to brag to Mother.

“Oh?” she said. “I better go see if you did a good job.”

“Oh, you’re not fooling us with that one,” I replied. “We got ‘em good.”

Mom chuckled. “Well, I have to admit. You outsmarted me this time.”

We all grinned. “We sure did,” I said.

By Deborah Young, published originally in 2016, in GreenPrints Issue #106. Illustrated by Hannah England

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What childhood stories from the garden do you have? I’d love to read them in the comments below!


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