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by Albin Johnson

The rains in California are a blessing and always welcomed. This year they arrived just in time to distract our obsession with pictures of death and destruction. It was almost as if "someone up there" said ENOUGH! "It's time to bring some sanity and renewal to our seemingly hateful world. We can't deny nature!

I love the flower gardens in "Minonktalk". I see my neighbors comparing their choices for new plantings. I have received pictures from friends surrounded by their latest blooms. In my yard there are new flowers on the lemon tree while the grape arbor has gone crazy with huge leaves. The geraniums love the sea air and the dwarf peach tree will soon need thinning.

My neighbors don't plant vegetable gardens, our lots are too small, plus we have access to seasonal vegetables from Mexico and So America, all year long. But, flowers and trees love our coastal climate; of course, as long as we have water!

Now that I am 70 plus, I miss the fresh vegetables that were grown in Minonk. My mom grew rhubarb, asparagus, and strawberries in our yard across from the "Dinky" station. I must admit that I didn't eat any of these. Sweet corn was more like field corn, sort of crunchy. But, I did like canned corn. My uncle would shave the kernels from the cob as I imagined his dentures didn't hold. He and my aunt Evie lived in Minnesota. Vegetable gardens were the pride of he and all his neighbors.

My dad enjoyed spending our summers on Lake Pepin with them. Family dinners there meant tons of garden grown vegetables. It seemed as if each neighbor had a specialty he or she was famous for. Often Auntie Ev would tell Uncle Elmer to run over to a Swedish neighbor for sweet corn, or stop at another Swede's house for a couple of her tomatoes. These requests were preceded by telling him to check their own garden for peas or green beans.

During the Great Depression in Minonk, it was quite acceptable to trade farm products for services. My dad had a little receipt book which contained entries for eggs, meat and garden vegetables for dental work. In 1941, the war brought a new interest in Victory Gardens. During this time I still didn't eat most vegetables!

In the 50's, when I moved to California, citrus was king. Huge groves flourished and most homes had a lemon tree and an occasional avocado. Now the few fields left undeveloped grow strawberries. My wife prefers to buy hers at a favorite field stand. Yes, I have acquired a taste for them.

Finally, April rains bring renewal. Winter is gone, the fighting mostly over, now it is time to plant those gardens and celebrate Nature's very generous gifts.