The Last Windrow: The Year a Thriving Vegetable Garden Bit the Dust – Pine and Lakes Echo Journal

It was a dark day in my mother’s gardening career. Marion took care of it.

My wife and I are harvesting produce from our garden. So far, the land has produced a bountiful crop of peas, broccoli, squash, radishes, potatoes, cabbage and tomatoes.

The freezer is bulging at the seams and the sweet corn is filling in the cracks.

You could say it was a trash breaker this year. A far cry from the meager catch we had last year.

My mother had a bumper crop like ours many years ago on the farm. She had tended her plants diligently in an effort to feed her rapidly growing family.

Having experienced the Great Depression where food was hard to come by, Mom treasured every jar she canned and stored in the root cellar.

But, there was a cloud on the horizon that year so long ago.

In the mid-1950s, weed spraying had just begun in agricultural fields. Until then, most farmers weeded their fields with rototillers or hand-pulled the weeds that grew between the rows.

These tactics changed as farms grew larger and human labor was not enough to take care of weed growth.


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As a result of this new form of weed control, neighbors began spraying their fields to eradicate brambles, sunflowers, velvet grass and other tough weeds.

Our farm had not yet succumbed to the spray tactic, but our neighbors were adopting this method at an increasing rate each year.

Our neighbor, Marion, was generally ahead of her time when it came to farming methods, and I saw a new sprayer set up in her yard as I walked by on a sunny afternoon.

Mom was working diligently in her garden one windy morning. She removed the cabbage and tomato worms and sprinkled the potatoes.

Everything was fine and I’m sure she was counting the jars of tomato juice and sauerkraut that would soon be in storage. Ripening tomatoes hung heavily on the vine.

As I was doing late afternoon chores, I smelled a faint odor of weed killer. I had never smelled this smell before and had never given much thought to the salty/sweet aroma that drifted from the east.

I actually liked the smell.

We were milking our cows that evening when Mom burst into the milk barn with an alarm visible on her face.


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” Let’s go ! It’s all gone! she moaned.

“What is gone?” asked my father.

“My garden!” she replied.

“Every tomato plant, every potato plant and the cabbage are gone! My flowers are also upset! she lamented. “That fucking Marion must have sprayed his corn and he drifted into the garden!”

It was a dark day for my mother. Marion lost something in my mother’s eyes that day.

“Do you want me to go talk to Marion?” my dad suggested.

“No, I don’t want to start anything,” mum replied.

John Wetrosky

John Wetrosky (2022)

That’s how people got along back then. I think my father mentioned the event one day when he met Marion at the gas station next door. I don’t remember the spray reaching our farm after that, so I think dad’s talk must have had some effect.

It must have been an exceptional year that year of my mother’s vegetable garden. This does not happen. Marion took care of it.

See you next time. OK?