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New Year means time to dream
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The year 2012 was not my most eventful year ever but it definitely made the top ten list.  I have to say, the events were mostly all life-affirming.  They represented finally reaching the light at the end of a tunnel.  I finished phase one of a college experience, married a wonderful man, travelled outside the United States for the first time ever, found a new and better job and moved to my new home.  Of all that I left behind, the things I miss most are some very good neighbors and friends, and a really wonderful garden.  
Going into the new year, it’s time to start planning for 2013. I call it the New Year’s to do list, because it sounds less intimidating than “resolutions.”  Two things on the list include planting a vegetable garden in my new yard, and coming up with something great to make to share with my family next year.
This is the second year that my mom and my brothers and sisters-in-law have impressed and inspired me with their craftiness, creativity, and organizational skills.   Oldest brother and wife had an amazing garden this year, and canned sauce and other goodies.  Not only that, we received some awesome mixes from them this year that I can’t wait to make, except that they look so pretty in the jar, I’m afraid to take the lids off unless its really a special occasion.  
Youngest brother has been craft-brewing beer for several years now, and came through with the best of his best for me, and again, I feel like the only time to open one of the fancy ceramic-topped brown bottles is if I have something really special to celebrate.  His wife made salsa out of my mother’s excess peppers and tomatoes, and I love to look at the melange of colors just waiting for me to be daring enough to twist the top and empty the insides into a bowl.  I need to get better chips first though.
Isn’t it amazing how something handmade elevates the value of the product above the everyday usual fare you wouldn’t think twice about digging into?  To me, these jars and bottles of food and drink represent spending time with my family, something I simply can’t get enough of throughout the year.  
About the same time Christmas has passed for another year, the gardening catalogues start to appear.  I’m staying put this year, so the garden is my number one priority home improvement project. Already, the beds are prepared and resting.  Except for the places where faithful Boy-boy has chosen to dig.  More than just my husband has warned me that he’s likely to ruin my garden, but I have a plan, and I’m sure he’s not going to.  But, that’s a topic for another column.
The last time mom came out to visit, she brought home grown Asian pears and Russian tomatoes.  For years, she thought the pears were awful, mealy and bland.  That was, until a friend taught her the way to tell when an Asian pear is at it’s peak.  At that point, it is the most delightful tasting fruit ever.  The ones she brought were perfect, and prompted me to purchase three for my yard, which I intend to espalier into a fence.  
The tomatoes were such a dark red, they were almost black.  We enjoyed them so much, when I heard mom had saved seed for the next year, I asked if I could have some, and sure enough, mom produced an envelope along with one of my gifts.    I’ve got just the spot along a south facing fence to tuck the future seedlings in, just as soon as I’m sure they can make it.  
Memories of gardens past, and dreams of gardens future, fueled by the numerous catalogues that begin filling the mailbox, beckoning me to sit down and pour over the pictures and descriptions and decide what will fit (I always over estimate) are the things that sustain me during these days that hover near zero.

Veronica Coons is a reporter for the Great Bend Tribune. She can be reached at