The Nosy Neighbor


Home Grown Poppies
Home Grown Poppies, live painting, Joyful Brush, 16X16, oil, information

One of the coolest things about living in our new home is the number of folks who grow vegetable gardens here in Colorado Springs. The gardening clubs and crazy about flower societies abound, and sustainability seems to be a badge of pride. I love that, because I grew up on an organic farm that produced acres of produce every year. When my parents moved to East Texas, they had two big goals: To have a home surrounded by trees (“so we can’t see the neighbors!”), and to plant an organic garden. Speaking of neighbors, I’ve been unabashedly spying on my neighbors’ gardens here in mountain country, watching closely as they place wired pens around raised beds of lettuce, tomato and pepper plants. They carefully water in the mornings and evenings, and tuck in fertilizer, mulch and other special goodies around their buds and blossoms.

In the midst of my nosiness, the most beautiful thing is happening: All of this spying has brought back memories of my Mother, some moments long dusty and forgotten. How she loved filling buckets with squash and cucumbers, and knew exactly what each plant needed. She was born a city girl in St. Louis, Missouri, but it turned out she had a very green thumb. It wasn’t until I was much older that I realized my father drove the tractor, my Mother worked the magic that made 20 acres of produce grow, with two abundant harvests each year. Because so much of the garden work occurred in the late afternoons, when Mom and Dad returned home each day from their full-time jobs, these memories are frosted with the golden light of the setting sun. I remember how my Mother would gently turn a watermelon that was twisting its stem or tuck in extra soil around the base of a tomato plant against the wind. She spoke softly to the plants, just as she did to us, with care and love and with her utmost attention.

I wish I had written down everything she taught us in those gardens, how she pickled and canned, making her own fresh jarred tomatoes that made every sauce amazing. Most of all, I wish we had had these pesky gadgets, cell phones with video cameras, way back then, because I could have captured it all on film, the time, place, and space with the person I loved most in the world.

You would think growing up on an organic farm would make me at least somewhat familiar with what’s needed to be an average gardener, but I’ve learned you lose things you don’t practice. Even though I’m getting really good at being the nosy neighbor, I’m not so smart about growing vegetables. Fortunately, my head gardener is very strong, and tolerates my pointing and supervising with utmost patience, and loves researching gardening sites (and cooking for me, too boot!). As for me, I mostly just paint the daisies.


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Darling Dahlias Garden, 20X20, a Joyful Brush lesson

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Nancy Medina

Nancy is a master signature artist and instructor with over 1800 online students from around the world. She has worked with Disney, served on the art faculty of the Dallas Arboretum, and teaches workshops in France, Italy and across the US. More about Nancy

Reader Interactions


  1. How precious are these memories of our childhood and nurturing parents! I find them very comforting especially in these times, don’t you? I really enjoy reading your posts, you have a special gift to tell your story- be it in ink or paint

  2. Not only are you a tremendous painter but you paint with your words, too. I am always excited to read a new blog you give to us. They are gifts for the soul! Thank you so much!

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