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They stood transfixed in the blustery gray of late January to bear witness to history. It was an epic moment to say the least, the crowd gathered and swelled to three times the size of those that had come before. They would witness the end of one thing, but more importantly, the beginning of another. It was inevitable that this day would come. I stood with my right hand over my heart and the other planted firmly on the handle of a garden spade had been handed down through at least one generation of family and offered a silent prayer. Then I began to dig.
A few points of clarification: "Handed down" may not be the proper term here, since I had actually borrowed the spade from my mother about 30 years ago and had never given it back. And the "crowd gathered (was) three times the size" because I counted my dogs as equal participants along with myself. Even though the pair had shown absolutely no interest in my gardening activities before, they now seemed convinced that if I was standing in the garden in the middle of winter with a shovel something dead had to be involved. Nothing could have been further from the truth.
What carried us to the garden that day was actually a celebration of life. Life lived to its reddest, ripest moment. Life alive and "beeting" in the cold, sad ground of an Ohio winter. We were there to harvest the last of my red beets.
I doubt that if given the opportunity to name their favorite food in the whole wide world many folks would be apt to say beets. Still, for me, there is no question. I've loved them from the beginning and, Lord willing, will love them to the end.
Interestingly, despite my grand affection for the wondrous root, I had never attempted to cultivate them before last summer. In the pursuit I had selected the choicest spot in the garden, carefully prepared a planting bed, and watered the plants religiously throughout the growing season. A grand showing of foliage above the ground suggested expansive growth below. Sadly, and much to my dismay, by the time September rolled around my beets were little more than dirty-red marbles below the surface. I was openly mocked by my wife -- this from a woman who couldn't grow mold on a damp loaf of bread.
Rather than give up, I vowed to keep my beets alive "as long as the season would allow" and even when the temperatures dropped to something resembling winter I tucked them in below a warm blue tarp and a bed of leaves. All the while I sampled-out a handful at a time just to prove to Kristin that her besmirchment had been premature. With the harvest of the final cluster of now billiard ball-sized beets on Jan. 21, I solemnly vowed to go at it again next year doing whatever it takes to make my beet crop great again!