Bless me Father, for I have sinned

Bless me Father, for I have sinned and you might want to make yourself comfortable because this one covers several commandments.

I killed the garlic.


You might recall, my dad’s high school friend Nick sent me a box of garlic to honor my Pap. It came from a line of garlic traced through generations of coal miners and across the mighty sea.

The gift both delighted and intimidated me and, given my horticultural history, I researched how to grow garlic thoroughly.

Still, I killed the whole batch (except the ones I ate).

Then, I cursed the black thumb that led me to this humiliation. For those of you keeping score, that’s commandments six, five and three.

Mea culpa. Mea culpa. Mea maxima culpa.

Fortunately for me, my dad’s friend Nick is both an exceedingly nice man and a prolific gardener. He sent me another box of garlic, this one with explicit directions.

He hand labeled the box “Good Coal Miner Dirt” and “Grown in Real Colver Dirt”.

As I’ve written about before, my dad grew up in Colver, Pennsylvania, a small mining community located about 80 miles east of Pittsburgh. He lived on 20 Row, a street in the middle of the Allegheny Mountains that we found magical growing up. Both of our great-grandmas and several of our great aunts and uncles lived on 20 Row, which meant we could pop into any one of several houses on 20 Row and score a big hunk of blackberry pie, or a handful of apricot cookies.

They called my dad “Uncas”, after the Last of the Mohicans, when he was in high school and he used to love to roam the woods around his house. He raised odd pets, like a rooster and a fox, and told of cool adventures in what was, to us, an exotic place. A single sled ride could last all morning, and giant boulders and creeks served as backdrops for all kinds of fun.

Last year, my dad’s high school honored him in a very special way, and we were all able to return to his hometown for a brief visit. Sadly, my dad is no longer with us, nor are many of the characters that made 20 Row such a cool place to visit.

That’s why the gift of garlic — a living link to my dad, his dad and that cool little town — touched me so profoundly.

Yesterday, almost immediately after I opened the second box Nick had sent, I set out to plant the garlic. I went to the hardware store and bought potting soil, and dug a plot just under my kitchen window where I could watch the plants come up in the spring.

Then, carefully, I separated the cloves and planted them three to four inches deep, five to six inches apart.

I’m keeping my fingers crossed we’ll see a little taste of Colver pop up in the spring.

Ron Kostelnik and Jim Melnyk
How cute is this picture of my dad (holding the puppy) and his Uncle Jimmy Melnyk on 20 Row? My great-grandma grew an amazing garden down the street and, I’m told, the grape vines and apple trees are still bearing fruit.
Nick sent another box of garlic, which I immediately planted according to his instructions. The cloves were, “Grown in real Colver dirt” “Good coal miner dirt”.
Muddy fingers crossed!
Thanks to a recent family wedding, I was able to reconnect with some of my  Kostelnik cousins, which is always fun.
This is Nick with the picture of my dad he restored for the celebration at Central Cambria High School in January of 2016. (He’s both a Steelers and a Packer fan, which might be a problem when Green Bay plays in Pittsburgh on November 26).





5 thoughts on “Bless me Father, for I have sinned

  1. Wonderful remembrances. I can imagine Ron’s birthplace feeling so proud. As for the garlic, after your first crop check google for Spain’s recipe for Sopa de Ajo.

  2. Laura, I grow garlic every year here in Grand Rapids. A window box in Appleton is going to be too cold during the winter…these poor little babies need to be in the ground. If you’d like, I can FaceTime with you to show you how to properly plant them.

    Mangia bene!

    Ann (Dungar) Gass

    1. Thank you! I would love some tips. I did plant them in the ground outside my kitchen window…then I thought I was hedging my bets by also planting some in large planters by my side door but it sounds like the plantar idea might have been a bust, am I right?

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