Altar Call
Opelika-Auburn News
Sunday, July 9, 2000
Walter Albritton

Who cares what it costs to grow vegetables in your back yard?

Once again I answered the call. I could not resist it. The temptation was too strong. So I planted another garden in my back yard.

Some of my friends think I am crazy. I asked one friend, "How are your tomatoes doing?" He laughed and said, "They're fine; they stay cool and comfortable in the grocery store until I go after them, three at a time, once a week."

His laughter is laced with ridicule and he knows that I know it. But he also knows that I am hooked. Every spring the dirt calls me with its enticing challenge: "Come on, Walter; you can do it. You can have that 'victory garden' you have always wanted, with dozens of luscious tomatoes glistening in the sunshine."

So, because hope springs eternal, I disguise myself as a farmer one more time. In my small garden this summer you can find peppers, squash, cucumbers, watermelons, cantaloupes, eggplants, and tomatoes.

My wife loves peppers so I have three varieties growing. They are looking good. Soon I will present a handful to my wife and she will smile and say, "Sweetheart, these are wonderful; nobody can grow peppers like you can!" The hotter they are, the more she likes them. That's why sometimes, when we are among friends, I call her "Hot Lips." Her appreciation always inspires me to go back out into the heat and say to my beautiful pepper plants, "Way to go, guys; you are making me look good. Now do it again!"

Every summer I eagerly await my first tomato. Even if I harvest four dozen tomatoes, the first one is the nicest. Picking it off the vine restores my confidence that I can still raise delicious tomatoes. I show that first one off as though I had unearthed a diamond in the back yard.

Years ago I stopped counting the cost of growing my own vegetables. That can be discouraging. One year I spent $95 raising about $20 worth of tomatoes, squash, and peppers. That's when I stopped keeping up with the expenses. Who cares what it costs; what matters is the satisfaction you can get from growing a few things in your own back yard.

So, despite the drought, I am at it again, tending a few precious vegetables in my own yard and waiting for a good harvest. God must love dirt; he made a lot of it. And he equipped some of us with fingers that love to work in the dirt to make things grow.

My dad had that irresistible urge to have a garden, and he was good at it. He never tired of taking me outside to see his beautiful tomatoes growing. He had a garden until he was past 85, and he could grow anything.

These days when I am working in my garden I pause now and then to look up. You might suppose I am looking for some sign of rain. But it's not a rain cloud I am looking for, as badly as we need some rain. I fancy that I may see my dad leaning over the banister rails of heaven to give me a word of encouragement, "Way to go, son; that's a nice garden. Keep up the good work."

Who cares what it costs? There are some things that cannot be measured by dollars and cents.