My Aunt Polly is a Southern Belle. Her friendly and hospitable manners mixed with her southern twang makes everyone feel welcome and right at home whenever she’s around. What I love most about my Aunt Polly is that she is a true country gal. She lives in a single family home surrounded by tall trees, crisp fresh air, and unlimited grassland for her garden in the countryside of VA.
Since one of my future hobbies is to have my own personal garden, I just had to ask some questions–and I had a million and one. Just like her aunt, Annie Ruth, had taught her how to garden as a young girl, Aunt Polly openly hosted an in-depth field trip to share her gardening techniques, life cycles of the plants and recipes for her preserves while leaving a little room for a taste test of her homemade Bread and Butter Pickles. 🙂
Q & A
Me: What is in your garden? Why do you have a fence around it?
Aunt Polly: Potatoes, cucumbers, watermelons, green tomatoes, turnips, and beets. I don’t want any dogs or other animals coming over peeing on my crops or eating them. So I put a fence around them.
Me: I don’t see the potatoes. Where are the potatoes?
Aunt Polly: They are underground. You have to dig them up.
Aunt Polly: These are the cucumbers right here. If you come in, be careful not to step on the vines. Edward (her husband) planted the seeds to close together and there are vines everywhere. And if you step on a vine, you would kill the plant. I’m going to pick some of the cucumbers that are ready and pass them to you. Make sure you take them to Beverly Jean (her sister).
Me: No, I’ll stay outside of the fence. Aunt Polly, how do they (cucumber) grow?
Aunt Polly: It grows from that flower. Do you see that yellow flower? The cucumber would sprout from the flower.
Aunt Polly: They’ll start to grow in a day or two. I’ll usually pull them when they get about this size. I don’t want to them to big or long.
Me: So do you water your garden everyday?
Aunt Polly: No, I’ll let Mother Nature water them (laughs). And if it doesn’t rain for a long period of time, then I’ll turn on the water sprinklers.
Me: Wait, so when is the best time to plant these vegetables outdoors?
Aunt Polly: Now. I like to plant my stuff outside around this time–it’s sunny and it rains.
Me: So what about when it’s cold outside? Then, what? You can’t grow fruits and vegetables?
Aunt Polly: Yes! You will just need to keep them warm. Do you see that white tent? That’s my green house. I have warmers in there. That’s where my crops grow in during the winter.
Aunt Polly: Come around here. Let me show you my red reddish, beets, and tomatoes.
Me: Why are the tomatoes green? Will they turn red?
Aunt Polly: (laughs) No. These are green tomatoes, like “fried green tomatoes.”
Me: OH! (straight and confused face ) …..Why did you place this little fence around the tomatoes?
Aunt Polly: You don’t want your tomatoes on the ground. It will kill, rotting, and damage the plant. A cage protects them and prevents them for leaning over too much.
Me: These are some big leaves. What is it?
Aunt Polly: That’s my watermelon. I’m still waiting on them to sprout.
Me: So are they (fruits and vegetables) all organic?
Aunt Polly: Yes, they’re organic! I don’t spray any pesticide spray on them (fruits and vegetables).
Aunt Polly: Let me show my other plants. I have a Pear Tree, Cherry Tree, Damson Tree, and an Apple Tree.
Me: Oh My Gosh. All of those trees were naturally here when you moved in or did you plant them?
Aunt Polly: (laughs) Yes, I planted all of them with a little stoop my elderly friend I use to care for gave me, except for the Pear Tree. That’s always been here. Last year, the pears were the juiciest they’ve ever been in a while.
Aunt Polly: This a Damson Tree. Look up. They are high in the tree. I’ll pick these and make jam out them.
Aunt Polly: This is my Cherry Tree. But there isn’t any cherries now because the birds ate them all. You have to come out early and pick your cherries as soon as they sprout. Otherwise, the birds will get to them.
Aunt Polly: This is the Apple tree. Do you see that little tree. That’s how small the stoop starts off before it grows into an adult tree.
Me: Wait, so you would plant that stoop out here?
Aunt Polly: No, in a pot. I’ll put the small stoop in a pot with some soil and care for it–water it and give it some light, until it’s ready to be planted outdoors.
Me: Ugh, why are the leaves so dirty looking?
Aunt Polly: The Junie (June) bugs are eating the leaves. Once the Junie bugs eat the leaves it kills the plant and the apples won’t grow.
Aunt Polly: The apples don’t last too long on this tree because I can’t keep the deers away. One day I came home from church and I had an entire family of deers in my front yard eating all of my apples.
Me: What dishes do you make with your plants?
Aunt Polly: I make some Pickling Cucumbers, Bread and Butter Pickles, and Pear Preserve.
Me: How do you make them? And what do you eat them with?
Aunt Polly: I’ll put them both on my hamburgers. But, I’m going to make some relish with the Pickling cucumbers for my potato salad and tuna fish salad.
Me: How do you make the Bread and Butter Pickles? That sounds good.
Aunt Polly: Wash and cut the cucumbers. Boil the bread and butter spice inside of water. Make sure your ash jars are hot. I usually wash and heat them in the dishwater so they can get hot. Then, seal the cucumbers into the jar for 24 hours.
Me: How do you make the Pear Preserve?
Aunt Polly: Everyone loves the Pear Preserve. They’re a good spread for your biscuits. Cut and dice 7 pounds of pears and place into a pot. Pour 5 pounds of sugar over the pears. Let it sit out for 24 hours. In 24 hours, it will develop a syrup texture. Then, boil it until firm. Seal in a hot clean ash jar.
Me: Thanks, Aunt Polly! Ma, why you’re not a southern belle like your sister. You should have taught me this a long time ago.
Ma: Hell nah! I’m not going into a hot ass field planting shit…making me feel like a slave. I’ll buy it from the store.
Everyone: (laughs) You’re crazy girl!
Upon leaving Aunt Polly’s house, I imagined myself in a cute floppy hat and gardening gloves planting and picking my vegetables for my tea party on a warm and sunny day. I would have my vegetables in one area and my fruits in another area just like Aunt Polly’s. I would mix in some flowers to add some personality into my garden and a petite table set so I can sit, read, reflect, and sip on a chill glass of Pinot Grigio.
Now, that’s my kind of southern comfort.