Onions. Lots of baby onion plants. I haven’t much experience planting them from seed and last year found the allium starts a bit tricky. I’m learning though, and the little seedlings are coming along well. Onion plants go back a long way in my memory, back to my first farm experiences just outside of Chicago in Crystal Lake, Illinois.
My mother was born onto a farm in Washington State. Her parents were “truck farmers” growing vegetables for market. They were forced to leave their farm and the house their community helped them build during the second world war when they were put into prison camps because they were from Japan. Many years later my uncle was able to purchase a hobby farm in Illinois and my ojiisan (grandfather) was able to grow vegetables and tend to a few chickens again at the end of his life.
I loved the farm. Uncle Shuji would push me in the wheelbarrow through the fields and there was food growing all around. This city girl couldn’t believe that food happened like that. One day I was walking by myself through the fields and I saw an onion in the ground. It was an onion! It looked so onion-y it had to be ready to pick, so I pulled it up and ran back to the house to show everyone. Well, apparently it wasn’t ready at all and there was some scolding. I haven’t forgotten the excitement of seeing that onion to this day (or the scolding!).
I didn’t see the trajectory between my ojiisan’s life and mine clearly until recently. I did not see myself as a descendent of farmers when we decided to start this farm, strangely enough. I think it took my mother saying how much Ojiisan would appreciate what I am doing for me to recognize that farming is indeed in my blood. What an unexpected path life has taken. It warms my heart to be able to provide my mother with farm fresh vegetables and flowers all summer so that she can taste the freshness of the field again as she did when she was a child. I am exploring Japanese varieties of greens, squash, eggplant and other crops hoping that something will be familiar to Mom and take her taste buds back to childhood and the farm that she was so unfairly torn away from. Thank you Ojiisan for the love of the farm that you have passed down to me. I hope to do you proud.