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Posts Tagged ‘gardening wisdom’

Today is Tuesday, so time to honor the Muse. Today, she takes the form of mentors, those people who come into your life and teach you things, and I would like to talk about my father-in-law who passed away last Wednesday. He leaves behind a very large family that adored him and a lifetime of friends who loved and respected him. He came into my life when I was still a very young woman, about 20 yrs old. He gave me a job when I desperately needed one and that’s how I eventually became a Northcutt myself.

There are many things I am grateful to him for, but the one I will highlight here is that he shared with me his knowledge of gardening, took me under his green thumb and taught me how to grow things. He had been a sharecropper in Oklahoma before moving to California all those years ago when so many people fled the dust bowl. He also had a small farm here in Ramona, Ca. By the time I met him he was mostly settled back into the suburbs just a few miles from where Tom and I live now, but his backyard was always lush and blooming with as much as would fit. The crowded state of my own backyard testifies to his influence: a little bit of lawn in the center with all the edges packed with fruits, vegetables and flowers.

He taught me how to grow peppers and potatoes and how to train vines, told me when to cut back my roses and to plant garlic under them to help keep bugs off, and how to cage my tomatoes. Thanks to him, I know about burying rusty nails in the dirt under a Hydrangea to change its color and many other nuggets of gardening wisdom and folklore that all seemed like magic in the beginning. He taught me to garden by the cycles of the moon and to read the Farmers Almanac, told me why things were not doing well and how to fix it. He told me to loosen up the dirt around the base of plants so they could breathe, answered all my questions and told me silly stories. Most impressively, he knew all of this without ever consulting the internet or a book.

Over the years he must have given me a hundred planting pots , every size and shape and material. He picked them up, along with the half dead plants that were in them, in alleys and abandoned lots, or from the recently vacated houses and apartments he was working on. We always had fun trying to bring those poor plants back to life and more often than not we had success. If I admired a plant, he would immediately whip out his pocket knife and give me a cutting, along with another pot and some dirt, and told me how to grow it. My hands were always dirty when I left his house, but they were never empty. Every time I visited we took a walk together around the yard to tour his garden, where he was always happy and always in denim overalls. We had to stop at every plant and discuss its progress, every bloom was appreciated and snails were collected and thrown over the fence – I won’t say in which direction 🙂 There was a turtle that lived in the yard and we fed it broccoli together. If there was something new growing, he told me all about it. Billy Wayne Northcutt taught me more about gardening than anybody else. It was something we had in common, besides Tom. He passed along to me one of his life’s passions and for that I will always love him and am deeply grateful that he took the time and effort to teach me something so important. Thank you, Billy, from the bottom of my heart.

If you have a mentor in your life, it is an honor, say thank you. If you are a mentor to someone else, it is an honor, say thank you.

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