Tomatoes on the vine

Exciting Time of Year

It’s that exciting time of year when nearly all of us are farmers or
want to be. Go ahead; admit it—there’s something about the warmer
temperatures, longer days and everything starting to bloom that makes
you want to dig into the soil and start growing a tomato, a new flower
or even a whole field of corn.

Since many of our ancestors were farmers, we all have at least a
little farmer in us. So did you spend all winter planning your 2016
garden or is it still in the initial idea stages? Are you going to do
exactly what you did last year or are you making some changes? And is
the garden just yours or are you introducing the joy of growing
lettuce or yellow beans to a son, daughter or grandson?

One of my favorite memories as a child was squishing the warm, soft
garden dirt between my toes as I helped my Dad plant the garden. He
was a dairy farmer and so the soil had to be well tilled. Then the
rows were marked off and measured exactly with a homemade wooden
device.  Dad did the peas, onions and radishes but we kids always had
to help with the green bean planting. Tomatoes, peppers, beets, and
several kinds of squash were always in our garden too. The weeding
part I don’t remember quite so fondly but all of us had a certain
number of rows to do every day.

Mom was in charge of the picking, cooking, canning and freezing of our
garden’s bounty. Again we kids had to help. I can still remember the
day I found out that not all families cut their green beans the long
way. Why they snapped them! It would have been so much easier and
faster but my Mom insisted (her Mom probably did too) that beans had
to be cut French –style. Our job was to make sure both ends were
snapped off.

My husband was in the Army for 10 years and throughout the United
States and even in West Germany where he was stationed, we were able
to have a garden. We learned a great deal about how other people
garden and made many friends too. In Kentucky we got to plant
potatoes, peas and onions in February. We learned about okra, pole
beans and patty pan squash. We had small plots since nearly everyone
wanted to garden and so we grew cucumbers on our kids fenced-in swing
area-it worked great. There were long debates on how much preparation
the soil needed and many other garden questions. I remember a family
from dry West Texas being so amazed at how different the Kentucky
growing season was from theirs at home.

When we started dairy farming for ourselves there was so little time
that our gardens became hit and miss. I still tried to plant green
beans, tomatoes and one year we planted a huge number of pumpkins and
all of them survived, I don’t know how, but nothing good. Oh I had
plans—all winter I would be determined we were going to have a garden
just like my Dad’s and nearly every year chores and other
responsibilities got in the way.

Now that there are just the two of us, we really don’t need a huge
garden. I still try to grow tomatoes and peppers for salsa, as well as
summer, zucchini, and butternut squash.  Good luck on letting your
inner farmer out and your garden this year.

Kathy Smith is a farm wife from Wayne Township. She writes for the
Ashtabula County Farm Bureau.