Prairie Wife of the Week September 5, 2014

Posted September 5, 2014 by Prairie Wife -

In Wyoming we are more conscious of the weather than most…perhaps  it’s the vast openness of the Wyoming sky that naturally draws our gaze upwards into the clouds, or tilts our head backwards to feel the sun. One thing is for sure, to grow a garden here in Wyoming is a feat! To have a flourishing garden that not only provides for a single family, but a community as well…that is truly something to be admired! This weeks Prairie Wife is a woman of strength and determination who isn’t afraid to get her hands dirty in the tough Wyoming soil. Through hard work and knowledge earned throughout the years, Sharon Davies has created a garden that provides income to her family and supplies her small community with vegetables all summer long and into the fall. Her appreciation of nature can be seen not only through her garden but, in her art work as well. A self taught artist who uses her art to preserve her rural life in Wyoming, Sharon brings smiles to everyone’s faces when they glimpse her realistic wilderness rock art. Her perseverance in coaxing plants to grow in Wyoming’s harsh climate and her love of creation make her the perfect Prairie Wife of the Week.

Sharon Hands

Prairie Wife (PW): First tell me a little bit about your family.

Sharon Davies (SD): My family started out in Nebraska and over the years, for a variety of reasons, they moved further West until they eventually ended up in Glendo, Wyoming. When I was in 5th grade we moved to Capser, Wyoming and lived in what was the outskirts of town. We spent our time playing outside and doing all the typical Wyoming things like building forts and getting dirty. My family was very agriculturally knowledgeable, they had to be to keep their families fed. I have three sons and two grandsons. My current husband and I live in Glenrock, Wyoming with my middle son who loves with us for health reasons.

PW: For the many years you have been cultivating a vast garden, can you share with me how you started this?

squashSD: When I was married to my first husband, and began to have children, I went outside one day with a shovel and started to make a garden. As I said, my family has always had a garden. To me it seemed perfectly normal! I love working with my hands, and alongside nature. Whether it’s painting or growing I like to be immersed in creation. Over the years my garden has just seemed to get bigger and bigger and I have really enjoyed learning new things. Nothing is more rewarding than watching a tiny seed grow into a plant, and then be able to harvest it and eat it.

PW: What are the easiest and hardest things for you to grow in the sometime harsh Wyoming climate?

SD: I would have to say green beans are the easiest. They are hardy, do well in the Wyoming climate, and are bountiful. Not to mention everyone loves them, and you can cook with them in so many ways. I think onions are probably the next easiest. Tomatoes can be hard. They are so sensitive, if anything gets “sick” in the garden it’s them…and my Heirloom tomatoes seem to be the most sensitive of the bunch.

Also, with our short growing season and cool nights it can take them a long time to ripen. Right now I have a mystery going on with my garden; I think it’s a fungus. The leaves on my Tomatoes are shriveling up and turning yellow, it’s not the roots and doesn’t seem to be the soil because one plant can be perfectly healthy next to another one having trouble. I have other friends that are having trouble too so if anyone knows what it is…help!

PW: Can you give our readers any tips on how they can help their gardens to flourish?

SD: I think first of all people need to be willing to work at it. It takes times and a lot of effort to grow a garden, and you need to be aware of the commitment. Aside from that, I think you can’t underestimate the power of reading a good gardening book. Learning about crop rotation and what plants shouldn’t be planted in the same spot, plants that can and should be planted together, and natural ways to keep pests off your plants is vital to a healthy garden. Also, think about talking to local gardeners. Those old gals (and guys) know their stuff! Be aware that in Wyoming it’s often best to start your plants from seed inside and then transplant them when they weather is more hospitable. We have a short growing season and cool nights. Be careful about transplant shock. More often than not if your plants aren’t flourishing it’s transplant shock.

PW: What led you to begin selling your produce to others?

scaleSD: In the past we had a cow and chickens and when people would stop to buy my milk and eggs they would see my produce. Soon, they were asking if they could buy that as well. I mostly used my art to help add to our family income but when I had to have hand surgery and my arthritis got worse, we decided to expand the garden and sell more produce.

PW: What are some of the pros and cons of this for you and your family?

SD: The major con would be the time commitment. We are tied to the garden and can’t go away during growing season, even for a weekend. Keeping things watered and keeping plants healthy and critters away from the food is a full time job.

PW: I have to interrupt and add that our first interview was postponed due to a pesky skunk situation…

SD: The pros to having a large garden is being able to help add to my family’s income, and I like to know that my food is helping the overall health of my community. I also enjoy sharing my “wisdom” with others and I hope that I can help encourage other families to become more self sufficient.

PW: As the growing season in Wyoming comes to an end what will you do to prepare your garden for winter?

SD: When our growing season finally comes to a close I get rid of the old plants, and lately I have been burning them. I also turn the soil and then just take a rest! I don’t add manure until the Spring, though some gardeners do it now. Winter is my time to do research and plan out my garden for the next year. I love to peruse through my catalogs and gardening magazines.

PW: I first learned of you from Ginny Butcher (past Prairie Wife and local artist) can you tell me a little bit about your art?

horse paintingSD: I am a self taught artist. I paint rocks and landscapes. It all started when I was searching for the perfect Christmas gifts for family members and when I couldn’t find anything I liked I just made my own. Painting rocks was purely a twist of fate. We were out shooting rabbits and I shot what I thought was a rabbit but, it turned out to be a rock. I took it home and painted it to look like a rabbit and gave it as a gift to my husband.

painted rock rabbitA hunter came by, saw the rock and offered to buy it. From that point on I started to pick up rocks from all over and pained them to look like very realistic wildlife. For many years my rock paintings and landscapes helped me to support my family, which was wonderful because it is something I truly love. Sadly though, my arthritis has taken over, and I can’t paint as much as I would like too. Right now it’s all about finding a balance for me between how much I want to paint and how much I can physically do without pain.

PW: Any last Prairie Wife words of wisdom?

SD: God gives us all talents, and we need to use those talents to help ourselves and others. Never underestimate the importance of hard work and being self sufficient!

If you have any questions about Sharon’s artwork please feel free to comment below or e-mail her at sharondavies52@gmail.com

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