When I was growing up in Alexis, North Carolina, my family always had a large garden. Dad would have preferred farming over textile work, but having only a couple of acres and finding the economy unkind to farmers in our part of the world, he tried to do both.
Every growing season found him — and his three sons — working in the garden each afternoon and on weekends. When the mill shut down each Fourth of July and many of our friends’ families headed for Myrtle Beach, we did extra duty. Vacation was for people who had time for leisure, not us. When we asked about going to the beach, Dad had a standard answer: “Why, you couldn’t stir the people with a stick.” And that ended it.
So, for the Lineberger boys, gardening was that hot, dirty work we had to do instead of playing or vacationing. Understandably, we hated it.
Family lore records that I once told Dad that when I was grown I would never plant anything. He insisted that I needed to know how to grow food for my family, but I said I would buy what I needed. I was not going to be a farmer.
Of course, as soon as I moved away from home, I started missing the fresh vegetables, and frankly, the pleasure of planting and growing at least some of my own food. So over the years, I’ve usually planted a small garden in the corner of my yard. Usually it’s been just a few tomato plants, although sometimes I’ve been a little more ambitious.
Dad died about 15 years ago, and his old garden patch lay fallow for most of the intervening years. Mom’s neighbor David has planted red clover and a few sunflowers on part of the garden, but that’s been about it.
This spring I decided to take on my old stomping ground and try to grow a few things. I’m tackling just a small plot in the middle of the old garden — about 20 x 40 feet. I’ve planted corn, several kinds of beans, tomatoes, onions, okra, squash, cucumbers, and a small patch of radishes.
As a too-late apology to my Dad for all my complaining, I’ve nicknamed my undertaking Belly Acre Farm.