Cataloguing life on and off the trail

April 28, 2018

You say tomato, I say yum, yum!

As I was growing up, gardening was a prevalent and important part of life. Both my parents had survived The Great Depression on the family farm, although one was in Tennessee and one was in Arkansas and, excluding a few annual bedding plants in a too hot, south-facing flower bed, gardening meant food. Summers were filled with making jelly, silking corn, shelling peas, and canning tomatoes. Lots of work!

Papa's favorite thing to grow (and eat) was the tomato. For months, he planned. Which ones? How many? What method? If he wasn't saving seed, he was planting, bonneting, suckering, staking, tying up––all those things you do to tomatoes to ensure a delicious and bountiful harvest of those glorious red orbs. I was the "fetcher, hander, and holder" the disinterested party, the one who would have much rather been listening to the Beatles, Michael Jackson, or James Taylor on a record player than helping do anything in the tomato patch. If one can grow to resent a tomato, I did. 

Let me pause here to say that I did and DO love to eat them, too.

By mid-July every year, we had enough tomatoes for Cox's Army. My mother blanched and juiced and canned, if it could be done to a tomato, she did it. Still, we had enough to share "a sack of tomatoes" with anyone who might need or want them. Family would come from out of state and leave with tomatoes.

When I grew up, married, and started housekeeping, I wanted to garden––in flowers! I had no interest in vegetable gardening. Give me hydrangeas and daffodils and lilies! I forsook the prized tomatoes of my youth and chose to turn the dirt for blooms.

Fast forward 30+ years to last spring. I began to toy with the idea of a small vegetable garden. Our Amish neighbors create the most beautiful garden every year. Perhaps we should try it. But days turned into weeks, weeks into months, and, alas, that window closed.

Ah, but spring rolled around again this year and, once again, I got the fever to dig in the dirt. Earlier than usual I got some flowers in the ground, felt accomplished. 

Then, just last week a video popped up in my Facebook feed. The patriarch of Yum Yum Gardens, a family farm not too far from me, had created a video of the ABCs for growing tomatoes organically. I was hooked. I showed it to my husband and he was hooked. We made our plan and couldn't wait for the weekend. 

Friday evening, after dinner, we began to gather supplies. According to "the man", we would need:

  • Tomato Tone
  • Earthworm Castings
  • Fish Emulsion
  • Powdered Milk
  • Epsom Salts 
and, of course, tomato plants. 

First stop was our local Tractor Supply where we found the first three ingredients on the list, but no tomato plants. As we were checking out, the man running the cash register told us his long tale of woe regarding his many unsuccessful attempts at tomato gardening and the fact that he had finally given up. As we were walking out the door, I turned and said, "You didn't touch any of this stuff we just bought, did you?" I smiled and, after a beat, he said, "I don't think so. I sure hope I didn't jinx it for you." 

After Tractor Supply, we hit the local WalMart with fingers crossed they'd have the plants. Surprisingly, we had choices. 
All were Bonnie Plants and I even recognized 
Let's do this.

some names from my childhood. We are 
starting small, friends. We chose three 
varieties and two plants each. 

This morning we prepared the ground 
and followed the Garnett protocol for planting Early Girl, Bonnie Original, and Better Boy. I was a little concerned that we  might be starting too small, but the reported yield on these plants is very high.

Wish us luck. If only to honor Papa's memory, I hope we wind up with enough tomatoes for Cox's Army.


Crop is in.

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