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Eden must have been like this

By Walter Geiger There are a lot of things I would, in a perfect world, like to have. Some exist. Some are waiting for a clever inventor to come along. I would like to see someone come up with a granola bar or yogurt that tastes like a sausage biscuit slathered in mustard. I can see that being a big hit where Sharia law is strictly enforced. Two other ideas for the inventors: long extension cords and fishing line that are tangle-proof. I heard a comedian once say that, should he find himself in an airplane that lost power at high altitude, he did not want a parachute. ‘Just get me some fishing line, an extension cord and a couple of coat hangers and I’ll get hung up on something before I hit the ground,’ was his punchline. One thing that does exist that I would like to have is the dirt from Noel Riggins’ Redbone garden. I have fooled around with a vegetable garden for the last few years and Noel has sort of taken me under his wing. Noel supplies me (and many others) with plants. While the rest of us are hiding out from the cold of winter, Noel labors in his greenhouse. When the time comes, he has vegetable seedlings of every variety ready to plant. I planted a lot of them last year and they all did well but they paled in comparison to those Noel planted in his own garden. That’s because Noel, a retired airline pilot who later retired from chicken farming, attends to every detail with his soil being a very critical detail. The dirt there, when wet, is as black as coal. Noel keeps all the leaves and grass clippings from his yard work and tills them into the soil and has been doing so for years. He began working his current garden spot in 2000 but comes from a family of Kentucky farmers. He has propagated a family line of beans similar to pole beans that are incredible. He has an old hay rake disc atop a 20-25 foot pole. Twine runs from each spoke to the ground. The beans run up the twine from the rich soil in no time. Standing beneath it, the tale of Jack and the Beanstalk immediately comes to mind. These beans are prolific and beautiful and taste even better than they look. Noel’s greenhouse and garden are a lot of work and he throws himself into it. By midsummer, the garden is teeming with beans, sweet corn, squash, zucchini, watermelons, cantaloupe, peppers of all sorts, broccoli, cauliflower, asparagus, various fruit trees and Lord only knows what I missed. At the end of each row is a huge sunflower. They help draw bees for pollination and their tough stalks help keep hoses from damaging plants as they are moved around. Springing from Noel’s rich soil, some of the sunflower heads grow as big around as a car tire. There is also a huge crop of tomatoes. Noel specializes in tomatoes and has all the usual types and a lot of unusual ones as well. The plants average 8-10 feet in height and they are lush. Slices from the large varieties make tomato sandwiches that are to die for. The first time I saw this little slice of paradise at the height of growing season, I thought this surely must be what the Garden of Eden looked like. Noel is a great gardener and a great friend. He is generous with his plants and the bounty from them. He and his wife, Fran, put up that bounty, canning, preserving and freezing all sorts of stuff, including their own tomato sauces and pastes. Noel is also a patient teacher willing to pass along a lifetime’s worth of gardening knowledge to a novice. His garden is about as close to heaven on earth as you can get. I am privileged to be welcome there. Walter Geiger is editor and publisher of The Herald Gazette.

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