Last night our dinner guests from down valley brought us an enormous bag of greens from their garden. There was, as always, a small pang of jealousy about the proper gardening that can be accomplished anywhere but Mazama. I take that back. There are a handful of green thumbs out here residing west of the Weeman Bridge that have been able to coax a garden out of the rocks.
The Bondis had an incredible and very practical garden at what used to be the North Cascades Base Camp. Kim Bondi was always happy to give anyone a tour and some samples. The garden was bursting with all sorts of greens, tomatoes, beans, squash, berries and they even had grapes.
Grapes are also successfully grown by Jerry Laverty and Ann Diamond, along with other fruit. There is a magnificent garden that is on the Spencers’ property up Lost River Road. It used to be cared for with obvious love and devotion by the former owners and then their caretaker, Gerald, once they got too old to maintain the huge plot. Maria Johnson has had pretty good success with her gardening even further up Lost River Road.
According to the beautiful coffee table book, “Bound for the Methow” by Kit McLean and Karen West, those wild and wily early Mazamans were growing all kinds of things. Apparently Guy Sharp, the “Hermit of Goat Wall,” raised more cabbage than anyone in the entire valley. The book goes on to record that Mr. Sharp slept in his cabbage patch to keep the deer away, making him possibly the very first Cabbage Patch Kid. Sorry. That was a rotten joke.
McLean and West’s book also has a picture of the famous Leon Ballard holding a bowl of Lost River grown strawberries. Unbelievably, these are giant berries. Not the puny, mouse-nibbled things that I had once grown in my Lost River garden.
There are likely more Mazamans out there that are able to eke something edible out of their land, but I am not one of them. Despite the many years of my kids picking rocks, sifting, and turning compost, the rocks, the pests and the short growing season always got the best of us. Fencing didn’t help, as we would find chipmunks sitting atop the 8-foot posts of our barrier nibbling on a just-ripe cherry tomato and laughing at us. Or during one of our more ambitious years, the watermelon vine grew from inside the fence to outside of the fence, just so the deer cold eat the one watermelon that might have ripened before the temperatures dropped.
We tried starting seeds in the window early in April and then transplanting, but grew tired of the horrible failure rate. Subsequently, we moved on to buying starts and transplanting, only to have found ourselves spending $100 on what amounted to a handful of cherry tomatoes, five peapods with peas, and two cucumbers. Finally, we gave up. The snow smashed our garden enclosure and now all that grows in it are cottonwood trees. Guy Sharp and Leon Ballard are probably rolling over in their graves.