Family’s hardy winter garden survives into the new year

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“If you have a garden and a library, you have everything you need,” observed Marcus Tullius Cicero.

Cicero’s observation is debatable, of course, but it does have merits in our family. We have a vegetable garden of one kind or another almost all year, and a library available all the time. Our current garden was planted in the fall and has become our winter garden, which still survives into the new year.

There is something special about a winter garden. We can go out into the backyard, even in cold weather, and harvest vegetables to decorate our table and enhance our diet on any day of the week. We enjoy something from the winter garden almost every day, whether it be fresh or frozen at an earlier time.

When our grandchildren were visiting for the New Year’s weekend, we sent some of them to the backyard to harvest greens for a fresh salad to serve with ribs. They came back with a bowl of kale, Chinese cabbage and, ah, collards for our salad. We told them we would save the collard leaves for next week and sent them back to see what else would be good in a salad.

The second time they came back with romaine, red-leaf lettuce, Swiss chard, a little spinach and green-leaf lettuce to go along with the kale and Chinese cabbage that they had already harvested. They got it right the second time and were proud of themselves.

After the vegetables were washed, drained and cut up, they were so lovely, fresh and appetizing, flashing shades of green and deep red, just showing themselves off in a big, blue and white salad bowl along with cucumber, tomato, green pepper, dried cranberries and an apple wedge here and there. And the salad was delightful, probably because the greens and reds were harvested at their peak and prepared that same day by our grandchildren.

Conversation around the dinner table was lively. How could it be otherwise with four teenagers and two adults, their young ideas bouncing around the table with our old ones as we enjoyed ribs, salad and other side dishes?

The children enjoyed harvesting vegetables late on the afternoon of New Year’s Eve, and we all felt the special blessings of food and family fellowship around the table at the end of another year.

During the meal, someone asked if our garden would last all winter, even if the temperature dropped. We all hoped that it would, yet we knew that colder weather was in the forecast for the coming week and that some of the winter garden might not survive.

At the time these words are being written on Jan. 2, we still have two varieties of collards, which probably will survive. We will see later in the week after the temperature goes much lower than normal for our area whether the Chinese cabbage, broccoli, cauliflower, romaine, Swiss chard, green-leaf lettuce and spinach will survive. The red-leaf lettuce did not make it past New Year’s Day.

Our winter garden continues to bring us joy for our spirits and fare for our table, just as the spring and summer gardens will surely do in their time.

Cicero knew about the power that a garden can have on the human spirit. A garden at any time of the year connects us to the natural world, gives us a means to provide for some of our needs, connects those who plant and harvest it and gets us outside, whether the temperature be hot or cold.

We love our winter garden and hope it survives a little longer into 2018.

All we have to do now is to turn to our library and think about how it sustains us in another way.

Sanda Baucom Hight is retired from Wilson County Schools after serving as an English teacher and is currently a substitute teacher in Wilson County. Her column focuses on the charms of home, school and country life.