Gardening In My DNA
We welcome our first guest blog post by our long-time customer and friend, Barbara Alsip.
Although we lived in San Antonio, we had gardens at home and also farm property in Derby, Dilley and Boerne, Texas. My father was a horticulturist, Texas A&M, Class of 1919. Daddy loved the culture of living plants–fruits, vegetables, nuts, and trees. He told me once that he could never have majored in math or chemistry or history. Those were abstracts to him. It was the living plants he loved. In truth, watching plants grow was both his profession and his hobby, and he got such an enormous kick out of it. Even if something didn’t turn out right, he’d laugh and shrug it off.
We ate fresh, wholesome food that was minimally processed. Meals were cooked from scratch and we occasionally canned vegetables. Even during World War II, we had plenty, as Daddy and Mother had produce from our own backyard garden (which predated the Victory Gardens) and the farm in Dilley. We made our own butter from dairy cattle on the farm, and we had a hog or two butchered every year. We had plenty of beef, as that is where our ration book coupons went. When Daddy was in his territory in the Valley, he would cross the Rio Grande to Nuevo Laredo and bring back sugar, which was a scarce commodity during World War II, from Mexico.
Our Dilley, Texas, farm was a real marvel and a tribute to the way Daddy felt about food. The farm was some 342 acres, on Highway 81 south of San Antonio. The land was red, sandy soil that would grow anything, provided the crops got sufficient water. I always wished that the farm had been irrigated. It would have been a real showplace. But let me tell you about the plants that Daddy and “Uncle Bill,” his foreman, grew. There were citrus trees: grapefruit, orange, Satsuma, and lime. There were several pecan trees and even an olive and a date tree. They grew peaches and plums. But of all the fruit crops, it was the acres and acres of red and yellow watermelons that I remember most. We would go out into the fields, cut open a watermelon and eat only the heart. The rest we would leave for the coyotes, which mightily enjoyed them. Daddy and Uncle Bill grew peanuts and made stacks of peanut hay, which my sister Marie and I liked to climb. We’d sit on top of the haystack and eat raw peanuts. For years, that’s the way I preferred them. They grew spinach, onions, tomatoes, green peppers, cabbage, okra, and black-eyed peas. No wonder I like so many vegetables!
Excerpted from Barbara W. Alsip, Family Cookbook, “The Way We Ate,” 2010
Barbara Wittman Alsip was born and raised in San Antonio, Texas, of German, Austrian and Prussian grandparents. Her father was a horticulturist, (Texas A&M, Class of 1919), and her mother was active in garden clubs and flower growing. She has two grown sons and two grandsons.
She received her BA and MA in French and Spanish from Texas Christian University and her PhD in French from Emory University. She taught at the university level for a number of years.
At her first home in western Pennsylvania, she had 165 trees, evergreens, flowering trees, perennials, herbs and annuals. She is looking forward to landscaping, with Bedner’s direction and help, at her new home.