A captivating afternoon of scarecrows, Dr. Pepper, and an Alapaha vegetable garden
Adorable four-year-old Ryleigh Harrell, daughter of Russ and Jessica [Joyce] Harrell and granddaughter of Alan and Cathy [Stone] Harrell, took this writer on a captivating tour of her burgeoning summer vegetable garden at her grandparents’ home in Alapaha, Georgia.
Sequestered behind a sturdy wooden shed undergoing painting renovations to become the little girl’s permanent playhouse perfect for daily tea and dance parties, late March was the first time that Ryleigh — with her Nino’s assistance — planted vegetables.
Perched on stakes, two miniature, well-crafted scarecrows welcome visitors and hopefully ward off pesky birds, squirrels, armadillos, and other varmints. For the time being their names are Ryleigh and Karleigh — the latter is Cathy’s second grandchild, the four and a half-month-old daughter of Lance and Savannah [Roberts] Harrell. During our conversation, Ryleigh mentions a name out of the blue that she believes more fitting of a friendly scarecrow — Rosie.
Four shovel-enhanced rows judiciously picked clean of weeds and rotten flower petals contain once towering Irish potatoes — askew after the previous weekend’s mighty winds — along with caged tomatoes, radishes, bell peppers, strawberries, and carrots. Uprooting a flaming red radish almost ready for harvesting, Ryleigh admits that she isn’t a fan of their acquired pungent taste. Carrots are her favorite by a wide margin.
A giant brick red wash tub and adjacent flower pot holds a miscellaneous, overflowing assortment of plants that couldn’t fit elsewhere. The perceptive farmer in the making is confident that next year’s garden will be even bigger.
While browsing Jernigan’s Farm Service and Supply one afternoon, Nino asked what type of pepper plant should they choose especially for Ryleigh’s mother. Without hesitation, Ryleigh blurted out, “Dr. Pepper!” Nino gamely conceded by placing an upturned Dr. Pepper can on a stick mere inches from the actual bushes. Ryleigh laughs infectiously every time this story is told.
Walk around the future playhouse and a lilting aroma of petunias, red salvia, Black-eyed Susans, and zinnias await unsuspecting visitors. Bright pinks and dark purples are Ryleigh’s most cherished colors. A viable task on Ryleigh’s bucket list for next year — planting roses.
A down-to-earth hair stylist with Becky’s Beauty Salon for 23 years and married to her semi truck-drivin’ husband since 1984, Cathy loves Ryleigh and Karleigh to pieces and is “blessed to have such beautiful and sweet granddaughters” [Author’s Note: Ryleigh was born on October 16, 2010, while first cousin Karleigh drew her first breath on December 10, 2014].
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