There is a method of language acquisition that is referred to as barefoot language learning. The idea is simple. Rather than a course of academic study, it relies heavily on an active learner who is able to get help from readily available local resources. (Donald N. Larson, Guidelines for Barefoot Language Learning) The learner doesn’t need to be an expert linguist, nor does his tutor. It is more of a ‘walking with’ approach that lends itself to a natural environment…
A couple months ago, I did some barefoot gardening. I am not a gardener. But I like food; fresh food. And of all the vegetables in the world, few compare with fresh sweet corn. You simply cannot buy the same quality you can grow. So I loaded up the Accord and headed to Elwood.
Elwood is the place where my parents have roots, literally and figuratively. There are bois d’arc trees older than my dad, I’m sure. My dad is a gardener, extraordinaire.
The soil in dad’s garden had a good start as rich, sandy, loam located very near the Red River in far North Texas. Over the years, it has been lovingly tended and further enriched. I am convinced my dad can grow just about anything. He has been gardening as long as I can remember. Before retiring (back) to the country, he coaxed food out of the black dirt in our suburban back yard in Garland, Texas.
That spring day as I stepped into the garden plot and my dad began to instruct me, I sank deeply into that familiar soft soil. I quickly removed my shoes and like many times before was transported in my mind back to the days of my childhood. There is something about the dirt in this place that always takes me back. The smell, the feel, the warmth.
As my dad instructed me, I sprinkled the fertilizer, tilled the soil, planted the seed, covered it over and watered them in. He stood, watched, and taught me; I listened, looked, and worked.
We planted corn, beans, and a few squash seeds. He didn’t think the beans would come up. The seeds were old, he explained. He said the same about the squash.
And some short weeks later, as my dad now lay in a hospital bed, I picked, then canned 21 pints of green beans.
Life happens a lot faster than we plan, sometimes.
I have learned a lot of good lessons from my dad over the years. How to love, how to live with integrity, how to persevere. I learned some good lessons during our barefoot garden session that day, too. Plan well, keep the soil worked, don’t forget to fertilize, and don’t give up on old beans. We didn’t then, and we’re not now.
Go farmer, you can do it. I love you.
Happy Father’s Day.