CITY FARM

My family lived on South Avalon Avenue in Chicago, Illinois. They call the neighborhood Burnside.  Mom and Dad raised us in a small house, with a porch across the front. The property was small, only twenty-five feet wide, and one-hundred twenty feet long. It was a typical city lot. Our house was a small, wood framed, two-story with seven steps that led from the porch to the city sidewalk.  Between the porch and the sidewalk, was a narrow bed of flowers, and a patch of grass.  The parkway between the sidewalk and the street had grass. Sometimes there was a tree there too.

All of the houses were very close to each other. The narrow space between houses called a gang-way was only wide enough for one person to walk through.  On the end of the gangway, at the back of the house, Dad installed a gate to close off the back yard.  At the back of the house we had another porch which Dad walled in to make a three-season room.  Behind the house, was Mom’s farm. It extended between a very small lawn surrounded by flower beds, and vegetables that extended to the garage and chicken coop.

At the end of the lot stood Dad’s one car garage. He built it directly on the ground without a foundation. It had a dirt floor.  Ma’s chicken coop hung off one side. Together the garage and the coop stretched across the lot.  The chickens roamed in a small space in front of the coop.

In this precious plot of ground, Mom and Dad squeezed a front lawn with a flower bed, a three-bedroom house, a back lawn and flower bed, a good-sized vegetable garden, a chicken ranch, and a garage.

Mom grew most of what she needed to feed the family right in her backyard.   The garden produced tomatoes, onions, kohlrabi, cabbage, corn, beans, peas, lettuce, radishes, cucumbers and more.  What we couldn’t eat immediately, she preserved, by canning.  The chickens provided fresh eggs, and meat for Sunday dinners.

Mom grew flowers from seed she got from friends or by taking cuttings. In Spring she had tulips, and by Fall the same bed was a sea of chrysanthemums.  Mom had roses, snap dragons, petunias, dahlias, bleeding hearts, marigolds, zinnias, carnations, and pansies to add a mix of color.  She planted any flower that she could get, and propagated them to keep it going.

My love for flowers, came from watching Mom’s delight at seeing things grow. She loved bright colorful flowers, and grew as many as she could. Mom kept a garden on her father’s the farm too, but there it was mostly vegetables, fruit, and berries, as opposed to flowers.

Her knowledge of plants came from watching other gardeners, and by experimenting  with seeds. She never turned down an offer of new seeds or cuttings from friends. Her trial and error approach, taught her the best methods.

Mother kept her gardens going until she was into her eighties. When her heart began to slow, so did she. She began to lose her sight, and memory. Her gardens became smaller and smaller. The loss of energy killed her desire for the garden, and the city farm was no more.

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