Orchard House by Tara Austen Weaver

orchardThe author and her mother see an overgrown yard and rundown house with gardening potential – and her mother buys the property, after an afternoon filching blackberries from the bushes there.

Making this unruly land an orderly place of vegetable plots and fruit trees turns into a daily ordeal.  Weaver’s mother, with her unbending work ethic, is up to it, at least at the beginning, but she is aging, and after a serious back injury, the author has to practically chase her mom away from gardening chores, and much of it falls on her.  After all, Weaver has her own vision of the place to maintain, one of an inviting home and yard for nieces to play in, and a gathering point for family and friends.

Weaver uses the setting as backdrop to her ruminations about her relationships with her mother and brother.  Their mom had to be the single parent raising them, and as such she has distanced herself from certain emotions.  Working the gardens allows the author to reconnect with her mother to some degree.

The author also learns the value of community, whether it’s from close friends or plant experts, and finds insight from others as she struggles with the garden, her mother, and herself.

Orchard House reminds me of another book I read several years back – This Organic Life by Joan Dye Gussow, in which she describes her trials in creating a garden next to the Hudson River.  I would recommend both.

(William Hicks, Information Services)

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