Cherry tomatoes. Photo: Ian Sane

Clara Caufield: Gardening is cheaper than therapy and you get tomatoes

One of the best times of the year is here: the cherry tomatoes are coming on, little bits of ruby red jewels, sun-ripened and sweet, like candy from heaven.

I grew them myself and will demolish them myself, the harvest being slight from only six pots, but worth every little savory sensation. The six plants were the only survivors of about a hundred I started back in March -it’s harder than you’d think to start tomatoes from seeds. I guess a greenhouse, rather than a small apartment would be in order.

Even though some don’t believe it, the Northern Cheyenne were once traditionally gardeners. That was during the time they were slowly transitioning from the Great Lakes Area (yep, they were then fishermen too), staying for some time near the Mandan-Hidatsa Tribes, who were and still are great gardeners. Then, the Cheyenne would plant the “three sisters”, corn, squash and beans, hardy plants that could withstand human absence or care while the people went on short hunting trips onto the Plains.

Of course, once the Cheyenne became full-fledged hunting nomads, constantly moving in pursuit of the buffalo, it became impossible for impractical to continue gardening, favoring the collection and preservation of wild plants and berries instead. Perhaps because we are enamored of the Plains Culture, many Cheyenne no longer garden and indeed, some young people, not knowing any better, think it is beneath those of the warrior status

I beg to differ. Once the Cheyenne were placed on the Reservation, they had to stay in one place, many of their allotments, out in the country with a nearby water source and available land. In the early reservation era, indeed until well up into the 70’s, there were many prolific Cheyenne gardeners. One of them who is still going with a huge annual crop is Linwood Tallbull, a warrior is there ever was one. He even cans and shares the bounty.

As a child, my grandmothers ever had large gardens and flowers growing everywhere. One of my first jobs was weeding and hoeing in the garden, once even stepping on a nest of baby rattlesnakes which were quickly sent on to garden heaven by a heavy hoe. At that time, I was not a big fan of gardening until later in the summertime when I and a host of unruly cousins would raid the gardens for ripe watermelons, cantaloupes, fresh sweet peas and ‘maters.


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