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January 2005
Gardening in
"Little Siberia"

Advice and tips on
Companion Planting

© 2005 Janelle N. Seavey

Companion Planting – a gardening system using the natural affinities of plants to promote or inhibit growth in their neighbors. Knowing which plants like each other and which ones don't can increase the health and vitality of your garden, improve the taste and nutritional value of your vegetables, confuse pests so you can eliminate toxic chemicals, attract beneficial insects and add to the enjoyment of gardening.'

Janelle gardens on about four acres on the Messalonskee Stream, an outlet from Messalonskee Lake, one of the Belgrade Lakes Region Lakes, one of which is Great Pond, made famous in the movie "On Golden Pond". 

She is an "enthusiastic and a tad obsessed" gardener who has been companion planting for over 20 years.

Gardening in "Little Siberia" index

also see Books - Companions

Sadness in Siberia

By Janelle N. Seavey

I have just lost my mother. For as yet unknown reasons, she lapsed into a coma following a relatively safe and routine day surgery procedure. For four days and nights, my father, my three sisters and I stayed at her side. Her sons-in-law and grandchildren left job commitments and the carefree schedule of summer school vacation to do what families do in such times; hold hands, pray, hug, cry, and try to hang onto hope, even as it steadily fades away. After four days of tests and questions, many of them unanswerable, we honored my mother’s Living Will and ended her life support. She left us as some of her favorite music played softly beside her hospital bed. Peacefully, quietly and with great dignity, her earthly life ended in the very way she lived it.

Her birth date said she was 75 years old. Her spirit, her love of learning new things and her whirlwind schedules said otherwise. She took up tap dancing lessons at 68, joining a dozen women of the same age, performing as "The Showstoppers". They danced at nursing homes, fundraisers and at a yearly recital, complete with many costume changes awash in glitter and spangles. At 72, she decided she needed to polish up her piano skills so she started lessons with a local teacher. Before long, she was playing at the Sunday afternoon services her church provided for area nursing homes. My son, just starting his senior year of college as a Music Ed/Classical piano major, looked forward to Grammie’s pop-in visits, her music tote bag in hand, seeking his help and pointers on mastering a new piece.

My mother was a "health nut" long before it was a national obsession. I think she was the person behind the Food Pyramid, though she never admitted it. To this day, any less than three vegetables of electrifying color and nutrient content on a dinner plate, in my eyes, is an abomination! Her cooking and baking skills were renowned, at least to all of us girls, our children, our father, dozens of friends, extended family, neighbors…well, ok, everyone. Thursday was always her grocery shopping day and on Fridays, she disappeared into a cloud of flour as she baked goodies and desserts for the coming week. Inevitably, this typically included at least two pies for the Saturday night baked bean supper at her church. And, on any given Saturday night she was also the chairperson for the supper, the clean up crew, and quite often, she would ascend the stairs (at supper’s end) to the sanctuary to decorate the pulpit area with flowers or plants for Sunday’s service because she was on that committee, as well.

For 28 years, she was employed as an Educational Technician and Literacy Tutor and Librarian at the local elementary school, just a 5-minute walk from home. She was most in her element in the school’s small, but largely due to her efforts, well-stocked library. In a small town such as this, the one I grew up in, the school is the center of nearly all activities. Such a school is the knitting needles and yarn that make a town "close-knit". From that library, my mother often offered parents ideas on making reading a more important activity for their children. Later that week, she could very likely be sitting with the same parents in a noisy gymnasium, cheering their son or daughter on in their fledgling attempts at team basketball. Just this past week, this very school, the one my sisters and I attended from Kindergarten to Grade 8, bestowed a great honor in my mother’s memory. This library, her legacy, where so much of her time and skills were shared, was dedicated in her name. Among other things, the plaque, bearing her photo as she wore her wide-brimmed straw hat on a family vacation to Myrtle Beach, South Carolina stated "Because of you, many children today are writing and reading with greater joy." It was at this ceremony, where the mixture of our tears suddenly turned to laughter and back again to crying, that we felt a tentative small step forward in the often arduously slow process of grieving.

Each day, each week seems to bring more and more people forward for whom my mother’s caring, support and genuine affection was, if not their salvation, a deeply appreciated gift of humanity from her. This was all simply my mother’s understanding of what she was called to do in this life. A deep and trusted faith enabled her to push through trials and challenges great and small, her own and those of others. For all her giving, she sought no attention or reward. She truly lived the proverb "The left hand should not know what the right hand is doing." She turned praise and attention away from herself at every opportunity, quite often leaving people feeling as though they were the ones more deserving of it, just as she intended.

This remarkable woman honed organization and planning to a high science. Life-long collections of photographs and slides were always meticulously labeled, dated and put in frames or albums. Each of our four baby books were filled with all the highlights of our first years, no matter how mundane the "First Tooth" entry may have gotten to be by the time daughter number four got hers. We’ve often joked that our parent’s fail-proof test for our seemingly serious boyfriend’s marital intentions was a weekend held captive; forced to view marathon family slide shows. At appropriate intervals along life’s way, each of my sisters and I have received our individual collections of slides and pictures as well as our aforementioned baby books from my mother. Now that I have a son who in the next few years will be starting his own life of true independence, I realize that my mother was in a sense, letting us go. The photos, the slides, the baby books were the landmarks of our beginnings that we could look back upon as we traveled away from them on our own journeys.

In that same vein, my mother made sure that, in spite of her vigorous health and optimistic expectation of many years to come, her final wishes would be clear, direct and leave no agonizing decisions to those of us she so loved. She had legal papers drawn up, all of which made sure that we could walk through her eventual passing with the grace that she knew making it easier for us would bring. In finding that grace, we were blessed with one of the most loving gifts she could have possibly left us with.

And, for my mother and me, there was gardening. Perhaps, I should also say, and from my mother I inherited gardening. One of my gifts to her on Mother’s Day a few years ago, was a homemade gift certificate treating her to a day of garden tours in Bar Harbor, on Mt. Desert Island on the coast of northeastern Maine. Many well-known people making its "summer cottages" their homes during the warmer months populate Bar Harbor. Many of these homes have been kept in the families of original owners and several are maintained in trust as historical properties. Nearly every estate has gardens of all kinds, beautifully planned out and lovingly tended. On a sunny, blue-sky-salt-air-drenched day, my mother and I, maps in hand, pulled on our straw hats in an attempt to look "like summer folk", and traipsed through several gardens that were breathtaking in every aspect. The friend who was leading our tour happened to be a friend of the gardener at the Mary Astor estate and we were more or less covertly spirited into the back yard of the huge home. The vegetable and herb garden we gazed upon, our mouths literally open in amazement was absolutely picture perfect. Raised beds of every geometrical shape were over-flowing with flawless edibles of every color, variety, size and shape. Though never would such perfection be obtainable for either of us, we mused on the ride home how sometimes just seeing it obtained by others was enough.

One of the last things I did with my mother was connected with gardening as well. I met her and two of my sisters at the Riverside Farm Market Café’ for lunch. This is the farm where I began last spring as the co-farmer of the farm’s 20 acres of small market and restaurant crops. They have a wonderful lunch menu and delicious home-baked goodies. After we had enjoyed a light lunch, we all walked along the farm road to the top of the hill. Sloping down to the stream’s edge were all the fields I had planted with beans, tomatoes, peppers, corn, pumpkins, squash and gladiolas. With absolutely no modesty, I must tell you, I was as proud as a mother hen overlooking her brood of chicks. All my mother had to say was "This is nice, Janelle" for me to know that she completely understood the satisfaction, the joy to be found, in forcing food from the dirt.

It is now 6 months, nearly to the day, since my mother died. Last August, when it had been 5 weeks, I noted this fact to my husband. Instantly, sobs seemed to rise from my heart to my throat as I realized that, at nearly 50 years of age, I had never gone this long without seeing her or talking with her. These six months seem like six years, six decades, forever. Yet, I am amazed at the times during these months that I’ve laughed, gone about life’s little routines and felt joy. It turns out that life does, in fact, go on. In going on, it declares that the life of my mother is being honored and that this was a life both well lived and well loved. There is healing to be had from this grief, and little by little, I am finding my way to it.