The Olashuks: Family fun around the pond
Name: Bobby and Jill Olashuk, assistant general manager of a Sylvania restaurant and retired vocational rehabilitation manager, living on nine acres north of Defiance.
Garden specs: Bobby: I work the 45-by-50-foot vegetable bed. My father and grandfather had very nice rose gardens, and both Jill and I tend our rose bed that has eight bushes. Jill handles the flower beds, ranging from a 4-by-4-foot square, to the entire perimeter of the house, plus three gardens by the 1/2-acre pond.
When did you start gardening? Bobby: It’s just kind of what we did. I grew up in West Virginia and when I was two, my mother went back to work and dropped me off at my grandparents everyday. My grandfather gave me a small section of the garden and he quietly made sure it flourished. My dad cared for his parents’ and in-laws’ gardens when they could no longer do it. Now I talk to my dad, he’s 82, about gardening. My mom and grandmothers gardened and put food up. What we put up pales in comparison to what they did.
Jill: After we built the house, I’d do more with each passing year. About eight years ago when I retired because I couldn’t read anymore, I got into gardening seriously. (I and two of my sisters have Usher Syndrome, a progressive eye disease that results in vision loss. I’m at a very advanced stage. I also have hearing loss.) I used to do the vegetables but Bobby has taken that over.
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What do you grow? Tomatoes (trying a new one, West Virginia 63), peppers, corn, beans, zucchini, cucumbers, pumpkins. I start 450-500 seedlings in our loft and bedroom beginning March 1, rotating heating pads underneath them. We have about 300-feet of road frontage along which we’ve put in 43 lilac bushes over the last five years. Defiance has a lilac festival in May and they give you a free lilac start. And they’re usually about 10 for $10 from the Henry County Soil and Water Conservation District. We lost a lot of our ash trees, and because of last year’s drought lost Norway and Colorado spruces, so we’re kind of desperate to replace what we’re losing. We’re experimenting with different varieties to see what grows in our heavy clay soil. Hickory, bald cypress, and currant saplings are doing well so far. We’re trying black walnuts, but of 10 hazelnuts, only two are leafing out.
Favorite plant: Bobby: San Marzano tomatoes. Most of the tomatoes we put up are for spaghetti sauce. I’ve found the San Marzano, a roma, to be the meatiest and it cooks down to a thick sauce quicker than other tomatoes. The phenomenal taste reminds me of what my grandmother made. Last year we put up to 60 quarts of sauce; by August, we’ll only have 10-15 left. We make a zucchini lasagna that uses a lot of sauce and for daughter Rebecca’s high school graduation party in two weeks we’ll make rigatoni. She’s the one who got us started in turkeys.
Give us a tip: Bobby: I couldn’t figure out how to get corn in early July. Now I start my corn inside, about 100 plants in peat or coconut pots, and in mid-May I put them in the ground. We haven’t bought fertilizer since Rebecca raised turkeys for a project for Future Farmers of America. We buy day-old turkey poults, broad-breasted whites, in the spring and again in late July for Thanksgiving. We lose two to five birds a year to predators, mainly hawks and eagles. And for our clay soil, in fall, I put a 12-inch blanket on the garden: layers of turkey straw, leaves, and grass clippings. By spring, it’s reduced to two-inches and I turn it under. We haven’t bought fertilizer since we’ve had turkeys.
Jill: I grew up in Fulton County where the soil is rich and loose. I couldn’t believe how hard the clay was here. We go through so many hoes, we need a diamond-shaped one with a sharp tip. Shortly after we moved here, Bobby had to climb out of his waders because he was suctioned into the mud so hard. We have a lot of funny stories. Adding huge amounts of compost makes it workable. Also, we’ve edged the beds with different materials such as West Virginia rocks, flagstone, and stones and rocks near the beach. That way, I can spray the edges of with Roundup to reduce weeds.
Hours spent gardening per week: 12-15, watering weeding, and turning the dirt over.
Annual expense: $120 for seeds, tools, gloves. Another $800 on both batches of turkeys.
Challenges: Bobby: As we expand our garden, there is more weeding to do. Jill: I don’t wear gloves, a problem when it comes to thistles. I use one hand to feel for the thistle and try to follow the stem to the ground where there’s usually fewer thorns so I can grab the base and pull it out.
What are you most proud of: Bobby: Our 14-year-old daughter, Kristen, has really helped the last few years. She mows 3½-acres, bags the grass for compost, weeds, waters, and harvests. She has a produce stand at the end of the driveway for which we’ll be growing more pumpkins and green beans this year. I learned to garden from my father and grandfather; to preserve the food fresh from my mother and grandmothers. I’m excited to pass this on to my daughters. Jill: With flower gardening, a lot of knowing what’s where is based on memory.
What we get out of gardening: Bobby: It’s excellent stress relief and teaches you patience, two things I need. Jill: I love the outdoors. I see so more much when I’m out in the open in natural daylight; dusk is the best time for me to see. We’ve planted lots of new trees this spring and I’m learning their locations; every now and again I end up tripping over a pile of mulch around a new little tree. We just laugh.