Island Senior: “Grandma’s Garden” Remembering Belle Mullis

Island Senior is a regular column on the San Juan Update written by Peggy Sue McRae…

Grandma’s Garden – Peggy Sue McRae fiber art

Recently my sister Betty unearthed a piece of applique needlework that I made in the 80s called “Grandma’s Garden”. It was my fanciful depiction of our grandmother Belle Mullis working in her garden.

As kids growing up in the Seattle of the 50s and 60s we were accustomed to, if not appreciative of, finding canned peas, canned string beans, or flavorless wooden like store bought carrots on our dinner plates… yuck.

I still remember discovering “real” carrots for the first time. Here on the island for the summer, my grandma taught me how to thin carrots. That was when I discovered the sweet flavorful taste of a carrot pulled right out of the earth. A little hairy and I’m sure they had a healthy amount of dirt still clinging to them, but to me, it was the discovery of a whole new vegetable, and miracle of miracles, I liked it!

Much more than carrots came out of her garden. There were greens, Swiss chard, potatoes, berries and rhubarb.  I wonder now how much sugar went into my grandmother’s rhubarb sauce but it sure was good spooned over vanilla ice cream. She made berry cobblers and rhubarb crisps. Her homemade bread was delicious even though my Dad joked about how thin she could slice it.

Belle Mullis in Her Garden – Peggy Sue McRae photo

She was thrifty and resourceful making braided rugs out of old stockings or strips of scrap wool. She made us a beautiful (if wickedly sharp) Christmas star out of a #10 tin can flattened out and cut into strips that were then artfully twisted.  She made my sisters and I each button bracelets by attaching buttons onto crocheted elastic thread. Boy do I wish I still had one of those!  I must have been about 10 years old when I took this snapshot of my Grandma Belle in her garden.

Posted on September 30, 2019 at 8:13 am by

Categories: History, Island Senior, People


  1. Thanks Peggy Sue

    Comment by Cindy Mullis on September 30, 2019 at 9:07 am
  2. So sweet! I remember her eggs- she’d give them to my Dad. Later she was at the Convalescent Center when I worked there. 🙂

    Comment by Margaret Bell on September 30, 2019 at 9:25 am
  3. Wonderful memories. Reminds me a bit of what I grow in my little garden and how it gets processed. THanks.

    Comment by Sandy Strehlou on September 30, 2019 at 9:44 am

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