On Life, Learning & Vegetable Gardening
by Lois Hole
by Lois Hole
Perhaps because my mother died when I was in my twenties, I have looked for, and often found, mentors in many different fields over the years. My favorites are the gardening women. They seem to be particularly strong, no-nonsense sorts of people such as A. Carman Clark, Thalassa Cruso, and now Lois Hole. The sad thing is that they are all dead now, but their words live, and await generations of women, both young and old, wanting to learn how to grow vegetables and flowers, and along the way learn how to live a good life.
This is a particularly special book. It is partly a how-to manual, covering most vegetables in two page spreads and it is also a reminiscence of a life well-lived as a vegetable farmer. She and her husband Ted tried a few different ways to use their Alberta, Canada farmland - grain, chickens, cattle but “nothing seemed to work out.” They settled on growing vegetables because of a lucky placement of their home vegetable garden.
My garden happened to be right next to a well-travelled road, and that seemingly insignificant detail changed our lives forever.
One day two fellows stopped by and wondered if she would sell them some cucumbers, and then came back a week later for more. Lois and Ted thought that if they were this interested then perhaps others would be as well, so they placed an ad in the paper which said
“Hole’s Farm - Vegetables for Sale,” and our phone number. Well, our phone just rang off the hook.
There are occasional philosophical musings such as this one on Healthy Soil.
The soil in which we plant determines what will take root. How we thrive and what we produce depend so much on where we choose to plant ourselves. … People thrive in all kinds of situations - different soils are right for different people. Some grow in a sandier, drier mix - some need extra nutrients and enrichment - some struggle through the clay to reveal their true strengths.
Lois tells us stories of farm life, her children, neighbors, and workers on the farm. She pays homage to a special person who gave her knowledge and inspiration, an illiterate woman who was an expert on the native plants and how to use them. She lived in a hut made of logs and mud, with no running water, and there raised eight children, and took in other kids who had no parents. The author expresses her regret that she didn’t take the opportunity to write down Mrs. Durocher’s wisdom.
Lois Hole was the Lieutenant Governor of Alberta from 2000 until she died in 2005. You may read about her appointment here. In 2011, a rooftop garden, the Ted and Lois Hole Healing Garden was opened at the Royal Alexandra Hospital. Also, part of this hospital is the Lois Hole Hospital for Women.
The title comes from a time in her childhood when she pronounced to her mother, “No matter what, I’ll never marry a farmer.” Well, she did, and it was the best decision of her life.
I read this book for the 7th Annual Canadian Book Challenge, and I’m so very happy to have made the acquaintance of Lois Hole. This is a wonderful book, full of wisdom and common sense about gardening and about living one's life.