When I grew up, my parents always had a big vegetable garden. I remember one in every single house that we lived in: Wetaskawin, Fort St. John, Edmonton and Nanaimo. Every house we lived in had a flat, rectangular back yard with a few small trees, usually planted by my parents; Fort St. John was the only exception, with huge poplar trees along one side and a forest behind, where I first learned to smoke when I was seven.
In all of our houses, the vegetable gardens took up at least half the back yard. There were always raspberries at one side, strawberries and rhubarb at the front, rows of carrots, rows of beefsteak tomatoes which my dad always insisted on, green beans, peas and lots of potatoes. For some reason my parents always planted crab apple trees as well. As kids we were encouraged to help weed and water, and we were allowed to pick the berries, carrots and peas whenever we were hungry. Each summer we were each encouraged to grow one row of our own, and I always planted carrots, my favorite vegetable (they’re orange and start with a “C” -whats not to like?).
Last summer my brother Mannix, his wife Rhonda, myself and a selection of our kids went to see our old house in Edmonton and we walked around the block so we could look in the yard. Like they always say, our house and yard were both much smaller than we could remember, and there were more trees. In winter, my dad used to flood that vegetable garden with water and we used to skate and play hockey on the surface. The garden was still there but it now had a steel fence instead of the wooden picket fence that our dad had built.
May dad passed away on July 6, 2001. Today I am belatedly celebrating Bill McNabb Day by eating cherries and planting a row of carrots. Thanks dad, for teaching me how to garden.