By Dan Merritt
Turkeys work for Bob Vrbsky at his rural Colome garden, west of town. The bird kind, that is.
“Wild turkeys come and they’ll go right through there and clean them bugs right out.
“They pull the potato bugs off. So we don’t have to spray.”
And that’s just fine with the now retired, former 40-year law officer at Winner, Colome, and Gregory.
He largely employs organic gardening methods at big gardens west of town and in Colome at his home place.
Control of weeds is by hand and tiller.
“Pesticides and chemicals. Herbicides and all that,” Vrbsky said. They’re not his choice to help in the growth of all sorts of fruits and vegetables.
All sorts which are eaten, canned, or frozen including tomatoes, peppers, cabbage, peas, onions, sweet potatoes, lettuce, carrots, broccoli, cauliflower, mulberries, cucumbers, rhubarb, asparagus, watermelons, muskmelons, pumpkins and many more of nature’s goodies.
He and wife Dianne even make wine from the grapes, elderberries, chokecherries, strawberries, and gooseberries they grow.
“I’d just as soon have our own (fruits and vegetables) because it’s known how they are grown,” Vrbsky commented.
The taste is so much more lively direct from the gardens, he noted. So much more snap to it.
And the savings is tremendous, taking his wife “out” to eat, he added.
“I take her out for supper every night. We walk down to the garden and say ‘What do you want tonight?’ ”
“Everybody thought that was kind of expensive (going out nightly), till they found out we were going to the garden, eating veggies,” Vrbsky laughed.
The two can harvest a meal, for example, of lettuce, broccoli, potatoes, sweetcorn, carrots.
Of course, that’s later in the summer when these things have matured.
“Right now, winter onions are just going out. We’ve been eating them,” Vrbsky noted.
“They’re getting just about to the end; now something else will come in.
“They stay over-winter and then they bunch-up.They’re called bunching onions.
“They grow every year from bulbs. Early in the spring, they’ll be up and growing.”
It’s early summer now by the calendar, but the weather this garden season hasn’t seemed to notice.
“We had frost the other night,” Vrbsky reported. “It got some of our tomato plants we started.
“We’ll have to see how much damage there is.
“But we have volunteer ones coming up. So we’ve got, always, plenty of tomatoes. We don’t worry about that.”
Gardens are known for pumping-out lots of tomatoes once they start ripening. At times, the overflow is difficult to deal with, even giving them away.
That’s where canning comes in at the Vrbsky resident as directed by expert Dianne.
“Making taco sauce, pizza sauce, spaghetti sauce, tomato juice,” she said.
A lot of it goes to their now-grown three sons and one daughter and their families. The Vrbskys also have 11 grandkids and two great-grandkids.
And there’s more than just canned tomato products that go to their offspring, the Vrbskys reported.
“Anything. Whatever they want. Sauerkraut from cabbage. Pickles. Asparagus,” the two said.
They were both raised on farms in the Winner-Colome area. A big garden just went with farming and they continued on with the tradition in town with their own large patch (actually, two: one east of their home and the other just south).
They added another acre or so of garden west of town about 10 years ago.
When the Vrbskys were “growing” kids at their place in town, the garden was a natural, mandatory work project for the youngsters.
“They called it ‘Hell’s Half-Acre,’ ” Dianne disclosed. Particularly when they were owly with each other and were sent there as punishment.
“They had to pull weeds when they fought — just pickin’ at each other,” she reminisced.
“When they got a little naughty, they had a chore to go pull a row of weeds,” Bob recalled.
But, for the most part, working the family garden was just part of life at the Vrbsky home, they indicated. Still is. Last year, they harvested 900-pounds of potatoes.
Bountiful harvests after 40 years of gardening as a married couple (not to mention being raised with gardens as kids) — one can probably expect that.
And it can be expected next year. And the next. And the next . . .
As long as he has the ability to get to the soil, Bob Vrbsky vowed. “As long as I can still crawl down the row.”
The couple’s daughter is Guyla of Kimball. Their three sons are: Gary and Ray in the US Army (Philadelphia, PA and Clarksville, TN) and Dave in Taylor, Texas.