Local Man Passes Family Passion For Gardening Onto His Children

Standing in the ever-expanding Dauphin Family garden, where another generation of father teaches children is, from left, Pete Dauphin Jr., 2-year-old Stevie, 4-year-old Nora and Corinne Dauphin. Photos by Bev Kehe-Rowland

A prouder dad and a more enthusiastic gardener than Pete Dauphin Jr would be hard to find. His love of gardening was learned as he worked beside his father, Peter Sr. and now the son is doing his best to pass on their passion to the next generation. His daughters, 4-year-old Nora and 2-year-old Stevie, see gardening as a fun outdoor playtime experience. They are learning gardening skills and healthy eating habits while spending quality time with their daddy.

“It’s definitely more work to do with the kids, but after finding not everybody knows how to garden, I want it to come naturally to them,” Pete Jr. said.

It was evident the Easter Bunny concurred when he brought the little girls wheelbarrows filled with gardening items in place of Easter baskets. Their father always knew he would have his own garden one day but admits the first two years were a disaster “because I didn’t follow my dad’s rules.” He didn’t buy a rototiller, but instead tilled the 10′ x 15′ space by hand, often wearing a headlamp by which to see after the children had gone to bed, because he had run out of time during his busy day.

“The third year I did it like my dad, got the plastic and measured rows. I started with bell peppers, tomatoes, zucchini and hot peppers,” he says. “I’m still terrible at growing peppers. I steal them from my dad.”

His added preparation made the garden a success with every plant not only coming up but flourishing. Furthermore, the rows make it easy for the children to know where they should be and the mounds point out where they should not step.

This photo taken in 2016 features three generations of Dauphin Family gardeners in Peter Sr’s Middleport garden. Pictured, from left, Nora, Pete Dauphin Jr. and Peter Dauphin Sr. Submitted photo

The couple was able to make their entire Thanksgiving dinner, except for the turkey, from food raised in their garden. Mrs. Dauphin is vegetarian, “so we think out of the box.”

“Grass clippings, leaves and food waste is the only thing that goes on the garden,” Pete Jr. said. “The girls carry the scraps after dinner every night to the bucket in the garage.” He puts about 75-5 gallon pails of compost on the garden each year. The compost is turned monthly.

“Anyone starting a garden needs to keep it simple. I tell people I do what old people do,” he said.

Although his father is an organic gardener, he does not practice the son’s habit of using heirloom seeds. Because of the younger man’s organic gardening practices, he can encourage his girls to eat whatever they like while working outside, “even if they spit out a tomato.” In fact, since the girls were eating so many peas in the past, he expanded them from a single eight-foot row to three-30′ rows. Not only did he add to the pea patch because he does not like to run out of vegetables his children enjoy, but expanded the entire garden to 30′ x 100′ with a total of 21 rows.

“I was terrible at growing garlic and I would borrow it from my dad, but this year I planted three kinds and it’s awesome,” he says with a grin. “I give it the attention it deserves.”

Wearing bibbed overalls and rubber boots, the Dauphin Sisters use their pink and blue watering cans with much enthusiasm in the garden they help maintain and from which they are allowed to eat freely.

He and his wife, Corinne, plan to mince the garlic and store it in olive oil in the refrigerator. Next year he plans to plant enough garlic to be able to braid and hang in the basement, as he has done with onions. In the past he planted 100 onions but has increased that number to 350 this year, which were started from seeds planted in strawberry containers and kept under grow lights. He transplanted them to his garden after the grass-like blades germinated.

The newly expanded garden allows for a larger variety of plants. More root vegetables have been added, such as radishes, three varieties of carrots, rutabagas and beets. Last year’s single row of red potatoes did not provide the family enough to get them through the year, therefore russets and Yukon Golds have been added, as well as 5 heirloom sweet potato plants, which will be started from slips next year. Spinach was added this year for the smoothies the family frequently drinks. Asparagus, Brussels sprouts, acorn and butternut squash, cilantro, edamame, wax beans, dragon tongue beans and corn fill up the rest of the plot of land. One Hundred Twenty dollars was spent on this year’s project but he estimates his cost will be $20 next year.

It is hard to say what inspired his father to plant his first garden, but his son suspects it came from a need to feed eight children as well as coming up with an affordable, fun, learning activity they could do together. Just as his mother does all of the harvesting and canning in her husband’s garden, Corinne enjoys picking the end result. A favorite family quote is “Don’t be lazy in the time of the harvest.”

Pickle-making was an annual affair as he was growing up. He made 50 quarts of his family’s spicy dill pickles the first year. An afterthought of opening a jar of home-canned pickles when the couple hosted a Bills party, has given the young dad the responsibility of providing pickles to friends and family forevermore.

“We pulled out a jar of pickles not knowing if they would like them. We ended up using eight jars,” he says. “The pickles are how the garden started to explode.”

Pete Dauphin Jr. learned to garden at his father’s side. Here he proudly displays dishes made from some of his garden’s bounty. Pictured, from left, Dilly Beans, Pierogies and Stuffed Pepper Casserole.

They were used up by December after his wife’s day care children discovered they loved them, too. The second year of pickle-making produced 140 jars, but unfortunately, he overfilled the last 40 jars, which did not seal properly and ended up in the compost pile. All pickle ingredients are home-grown, with the exception of salt and vinegar.

More recently the children in the daycare, along with his own, discovered their love of the gardener’s Dilly Beans and made short work of the fifteen jars canned last summer causing him to increase the goal for this year’s tangy beans to 30 quarts.

Another love shared with his father is the love of music. The older man played in the United States Air Force band for 13 years. His son is an elementary band teacher at Randolph Central School, where he works on the school musicals.

“I met my wife doing school musicals. She was a dancer,” Pete Jr. said,

On occasion he plays trumpet at two Randolph area churches and fills in for his father’s Buffalo-based jazz combo. He DJs weddings, school events and local parties, enjoys camping with his family and likes to hunt. He lists running as one of his favorite activities, having run 5Ks, half marathons and a marathon. He attends St. Patrick’s RC Church with his wife and children.

Thurman, named after Thurman Thomas the former NFL player, is the family’s pet beagle.

The recipes that have been submitted use fresh ingredients from the garden. Dauphin grew up eating Zucchini Boats. He and his siblings liked them so much they often asked their parents to make them. He uses his Baci’s (grandmother) pierogi recipe, but she didn’t teach him how to make them. “I just figured it out.”

The Dauphins are expecting a new baby which is due today.

“I’m excited about the baby food. We’ve always made it but not from our own vegetables. We just want to be healthy and for our kids to be healthy,” says the expectant father. “There’s not a day that goes by that I’m not thankful.”

Happy Father’s Day to both Peter Dauphin Jr. and Sr. and to all fathers and father figures.

Zucchini Boats

3-4 zucchini

2 cans diced tomatoes

1 c seasoned bread crumbs

salt and pepper to taste

mozzarella cheese

Par boil zucchini. Halve lengthwise and scoop out seeds. Combine tomatoes, bread crumbs, salt and pepper. Fill cavities in zucchini halves with tomato mixture. Top with mozzarella cheese. Bake at 400 degrees for 20-30 minutes.

Dilly Beans

yellow beans

garlic cloves

fresh dill weed

hot pepper (optional)

2 c vinegar

6 c water

1/2 c pickling salt

Cook beans until tender/crisp, about 10-15 minutes. Boil vinegar, water and salt for at least 5 minutes. Prepare canning jars. Pack with beans, 1-2 cloves of garlic and a sprig of fresh dill weed. (To heat up the recipe, slice the ends of a Hungarian pepper & stuff those into the jar.) Pour vinegar solution over beans and seal with hot lids.

Family Pierogi

4 c flour

3 eggs

1 tsp butter, room temperature

2 tsp salt

1 /4 c water

Add flour to bowl and make a well. Drop eggs in well. Cut in eggs with a knife. Add butter, salt and water. Knead into soft dough. Divide dough and roll out onto a floured board. Cut out circles with cookie cutter or bottom of a glass. Place a tablespoon of filling on one side of circle. Fold the dough in half. Press firmly along edges and pinch to seal. Drop sealed pierogis in a pot of boiling salt water. Boil until pierogis float to the surface. Lift out with slotted spoon and place on top of sauerkraut in 9×13 pan. Bake at 350 degrees for 10 minutes to heat thoroughly. Serve hot.

Pierogi Potato & Cheese Filling:

2 c warm mashed potatoes

1/4 lb cheese

1 onion, chopped

1 T butter

Mix warm potatoes with cheese. Fry onion in butter. Stir into potatoes mixture. Let cool. Assemble pierogis according Family Pierogi directions.

Stuffed Pepper Casserole

1 lb ground beef (or 1 bag soy crumbles)

1/2 c yellow onion, diced

3 cloves garlic, chopped

2 c green peppers, chopped

1/2 tsp salt

1/4 tsp pepper

1 can diced tomatoes

2 c vegetable broth

1 can tomato sauce

1 T soy sauce

1 tsp Italian seasoning

1 c uncooked basmati white rice

In 4-qt saucepan, cook meat, onion & garlic over med-high heat for 5-7 minutes. Add peppers, salt and pepper and cook an additional 5-7 minutes. Reduce heat to medium, add diced tomatoes, vegetable broth, tomato sauce, soy sauce and Italian seasoning. Stir well and bring to boil. Add rice and return mixture to a boil and then reduce heat to low. Cover and simmer 25 minutes. Optional: Remove from heat & top with shredded cheddar cheese.

Vegetable Stock

Keep a gallon-sized ziploc bag in freezer to fill with vegetable scraps (i.e. onion ends, carrot peels, celery, etc.) and vegetables that are becoming overripe or which you have an overabundance (i.e. peppers, mushrooms, herbs). Do not use vegetables that are starting to rot or mold or any bitter vegetables. Add 5 c of scraps or one very full gallon bag to a large pot with 9 c water. Bring to a simmer over medium heat. Add 1 tsp salt, pepper and 2 bay leaves. Simmer uncovered for 1 hour. Turn off heat and let cool. Strain vegetable scraps and remove.

Vegetable Soup

1 can tomatoes, pureed/diced or whole

2 qts vegetable stock

2 c water

1 large onion, diced

Salt, to taste

Pepper, to taste

5 carrots, diced

4 large potatoes, diced

5 celery, diced

1 qt canned peas

1 bag frozen corn

1 bag frozen beans

In a large pot, add tomatoes, vegetable stock, water, onions, salt and pepper to a boil. Add carrots and potatoes. Cook carrots and potatoes fully, then add diced celery. Cook celery fully, then add peas, corn, beans. Reduce heat to low and cook for 2 hours or until soup coagulates.