Monday, May 7, 2012

Northwest Flavors: Raspberry Love, Mother Love

My oldest sister pestered me for years to start an edible garden, dropping not-so-subtle hints with gifts of gardening books, gardening gloves and tools, and seed packets.  While I never found much time to stay home and tend my neglected yard (think hiking, kayaking, skiing, bicycling, traveling....), this year I finally installed a raised bed garden. Why now?

Because of a very special raspberry plant.

About 6 years ago, my stepmother (and only surviving parent) Bonnie gave me a start from the row of raspberry bushes growing happily in her front yard in east Multnomah County, Oregon. Her raspberry patch came from a start that she had transplanted from the house where I grew up a few miles away.

So I toted that slender young start in a plastic bag on the train back home to Seattle and dumped it in a big pot, for lack of a decent spot in my little yard.  I thought it wasn't going to survive since it was so droopy, but Bonnie told me to keep watering, and within a couple days it perked up.



Raspberries, after all, flourish in our temperate climate west of the Cascade Mountains here in the Pacific Northwest.  I grew up picking raspberries for local farmers to earn money for summer camp. Fresh-picked berries were a summer highlight  in our home, a special treat served over homemade ice cream, heaped atop bowls of cold cereal with milk, or eaten naked and unadorned in their sweet sun-kissed splendor.
 



Bonnie loved her berries as much as any of us, and from her years growing up on a farm in Troutdale, she was blessed with a green thumb and instinctive wisdom about how to keep plants happy and thriving. And, as it turned out, she knew how to keep me happy and thriving, bringing stability and a mother's touch to our family sorely in need of such. 

You see, I unexpectedly lost my mother just a month after I turned five. My father was left a widower with five children between 5 and 16 and an all-consuming newspaper business to run.  While he loved us kids to bits, he was overextended, and for the next 6 years I was tended to by my older siblings, kindly teachers, other neighborhood moms, a few of my father's employees, hired housekeepers, camp counselors, and I'm sure others I don't recall. It was not ideal, but it was my childhood.

After a few years of mourning and then dating several women, my father hit the jackpot when he married Bonnie when I was 11.  Life became much nicer in ways I hadn't known I was missing, and I was blessed through the rest of my youth with a father and a mother in a loving home. And lots of fresh berries each summer.


With Bonnie's mind slipping away more rapidly in the last year after a long life well-lived, I suddenly felt a sense of urgency to do right by that raspberry plant. I recently looked at it, struggling to spread beyond the confines of that old pot, and knew I had to give it a better home where it could thrive.  

Just like Bonnie would. 

Despite my carelessness, that plant has grown and given me sweet fruit for several years now. (All the photos in this post are of and from that plant.) So about a month ago I hired a friend to help me install a raised bed in my front yard. I called a garden expert for advice about how to carefully transplant raspberries. 



I'm pleased to tell you that the raspberry plant is very happy in its new, bigger digs. Just look at that sweet little shoot coming up (pictured below).  Since I took that shot a couple weeks ago, more shoots are coming up and spreading their feet.



I'll tell Bonnie about it, and she'll be thrilled, although she won't remember after a few minutes. But she'll be equally thrilled when I tell her again. 


My hope is to share starts from this plant with the next generation of my family so its fruit continues to provide a sweet burst of summer for years to come. And, hopefully, an enduring connection to their grandma and auntie.

Happy Mother's Day to all you mothers, future mothers, mothers come and gone, and anyone who loves their mother, living or alive in your hearts.

And as always, I'd love to hear what you have to say on the topic of moms, gardens, raspberries, love, and life or anything else that this blog prompts you to think about. Just leave a comment below, and you'll make my week. :) Thanks!

21 comments:

Jenifer said...

Awww... this made my cry! It makes me think of my late grandmother, with whom I still connect through her love of plants and gardening. I remember her showing me wild rose hips that she harvested for jelly near the beach in Connecticut, and how she helped us pick strawberries and currants that grew in her big garden by the Four Mile River. Right up until she died, she tended flower boxes outside her window and loved to see the growing plants. My cousin still lives in her old home on the river, and this inspires me to get some starts in her memory the next time I'm back there! Thanks, Jill.

jill said...

Thanks for your descriptive comment Jenifer! I'm glad I've inspired you. To prior generations especially, their plants were valuable members of their family and shared through the generations. Sounds like a wonderful grandma you had. Hope your mother's day is lovely.

Anne said...

Thank you for the beautiful post, it brought tears to my eyes. Now I will feel less guilt about bugging you to garden, you as a whenever-possible locovore were the perfect candidate!

Lindsey said...

What a beautiful post :) Definitely made my morning. Berries are a huge part of my life as well, my wonderful aunt took me berry picking every summer for raspberries and blueberries, and tradition that is still ongoing. Easily one of my favorite memories, the raspberry love continues :)

Anonymous said...

Totally enjoyed!

jill said...

Anne and Lindsey, glad you enjoyed, thanks for your words. I love my new little garden! And picking berries with a special niece every summer. :)

Amy said...

Beautiful!
Eyes filled with tears, sweet beautiful connective tears!
Thank you Jill!
Grandma loves us soooo much and is proud of each child, grandchild, and family member.
Raspberries are the best!

Anonymous said...

What a great piece! I will share that with my friends, too. What a wonderful tribute to that brave woman who took on additional family when we were probably at our most difficult!


Victoria

rockfarmer said...

What a beautiful post! Berries are big in my family history, as well. I've always thought raspberries are a great symbol of family love in all their resilient, scrappy, sometimes annoying and thorny, always delicious and nourishing glory.

Bob said...

The story is sweet and beautiful, just like those berries must be. Thank you.

ron said...

Jill, very touching, thanks for sharing. Ron

Anonymous said...

my grandmother who lived on a strawberry farm high in the mountains in eastern Washington was a jewel. Loved me beyond what I probably deserved and, being a French convent educated lady and being on a farm, together we grew, harvested, preserved and ate beautiful food. Can’t say that I want to repeat the long days hoeing and picking strawberries but food is love.

Jill said...

Thanks for your comments Amy, Bob, Ron, Victoria. And Rockfarmer, I love how you characterize those scrappy raspberries!

Anonymous said...

I think fondly of grandma when my yellow flowers bloom so proficiently in the spring from the one or two plants I got 50+ years ago. Great story FS

Anonymous said...

What a wonderful tribute to Bonnie! And, of course, to those yummy raspberries you helped me to enjoy all those years ago in college. Yep, it was you who really educated me about how amazing fresh-picked raspberries can be. Thanks for such inspired and heartwarming writing!

Lesley said...

Beautiful story Jill. Ever since East McGraw, I have thought of you as the ultimate raspberry gal. :)

Lisa Osse said...

Touching post, Jill. I hope the raspberries and raised box mark the beginning of a long gardening career. It does seems like a natural fit for you.

martha said...

Jill,
This brought tears to my eyes.

Judy Gamble said...

Lovely, Jill. Just lovely.

Judy

fortboise said...

Greetings from the east side, Jill, after I found your blog from a comment you left on "NeverSeconds" this week. (You had a typo in your address--pacificneseasons--but easy enough to guess right.) Loved your big, juicy raspberry pictures, and was reminded of the drupelets in my wife's and my romance, and our wedding vows, spoken 31 years ago this summer.

jill said...

hey Fort Boise! Thanks for the comments, glad you enjoyed the blog. Assume east side means east of the Cascades? Also thanks for the tip on the typo...ha! And for hunting me down anyway. Cheers.