Garden taking on its own life – Empty Nest, but Curt Swarm


I told Ginnie that our life here on the Empty Nest Farm was all part of our art—the garden, and the animals, even the aronia bushes. She agreed. Our life is like a poem, flowing smoothly, everything in harmony, rhyming, a syncopated life. “Who could have imagined,” she said, “at our age, finding a life like this.” I’ll be 70 this month and Ginnie will be 67 in August, both of us on the same day, the 28th, making it easy for me to remember.
Chicken manure grows Hercules garden! The garden has exploded into a cornucopia of green, and red, and yellow vegetables, bursting with juice and flavor and color. I attribute the bounty to the chicken manure I tilled in, the timely rains we had in June, and of course, the Iowa heat and humidity.
The green beans are simply to die for. Lightly boiled with a little bacon and garden onion, they are the sweetest, most tender snappers I have ever eaten. When Ginnie was gone for a week visiting her sisters and father in Missouri, I actually lived off the green beans and couldn’t have been happier or more satisfied.
And the tomatoes. My goodness! The vines are taller than Ginnie, and bursting out of their cages, leaning over like fallen women to spill their bounty to whoever is brave enough to penetrate the jungle of green and red. We thought we had planted them far enough apart—one plant every three feet or so. But nope. They have taken over, building an unpenetrable wall of python-like vines, reluctant to give up their once-thought-to-be-poisonous fruit. We have sweet baby-girl cherries, celebrity, super fantastic, early girls and better boys. My favorites are the early girls—not too big, bright red, and bursting with flavor. Eat them like an apple right out of the garden—sun warm, the juice dripping down your chin onto your chest.
I’ve never raised better sweetcorn. We have both peaches-and-cream, and something called “incredible.” With Ginnie at work during the day, I’ve even taken over freezing the corn. It’s pretty easy. Just boil lightly, slice off the cob, eat till you’re sick, and put into freezer bags—guaranteed to bring sunshine and a lip-smacking smile to the coldest winter days.
In addition to sweetcorn, we also have three varieties of Indian (or decorative) Corn growing to compliment the “punkins.” We have the “punkins” running in the rows of Indian Corn, and the “punkins” have completely taken over. I don’t know for sure how we’re going to harvest the Indian Corn with the “punkins” dominating the landscape, but we’ll figure something out.
Wouldn’t you know it, just when the garden is hitting hard, we have a vacation planned in Colorado. There’s only one thing to do—let the kids and friends know to “help themselves.” We didn’t have too much trouble convincing them.
On our last morning before leaving for Colorado, Ginnie and I walked through the garden to bid it farewell. It’s like an old friend. The zucchinis look as if they’re trying to repopulate the earth with bowling-pin size fruit; the watermelon are competing with the “mushmelon” for best of show; and the peppers are clamoring to join the tomatoes in a salsa fest. There’s a presence in the garden that makes it feel like it has a living, breathing life of its own. When I look at the garden, I see God.

Have a good story? Call or text Curt Swarm in Mt. Pleasant at 319-217-0526, email him at or find him on Facebook. Curt’s stories are also read at 106.3 FM in Farmington.


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