Tastes of the end of summer

My family and coworkers are now loath to see me coming.

It’s that time of year when I’m carrying a plastic bag or a box filled with tomatoes and cucumbers fresh from the backyard garden.

Travelling north to Ohio this past weekend, I was glad to deposit about 20 pounds of cucumbers with my sister. Her neighbors will in turn reap their share of Kentucky’s bounty.

My neighbor and I meet on the sidewalk in a scene straight from Tombstone’s O.K. Corral, only I am armed with cucumbers and he with banana peppers.

Though Robert Frost penned that “good fences make good neighbors,” I’d suggest that the poet should have tried home-grown produce.

Yes, it is that time of summer when we realize that no amount of trellis or staking could support the crop which is now at the peak of its harvest.

We trade, give away, and consume fresh produce in great volume during this season.

And though it seems that there isn’t ever going to be an end to it all, I know that the season is relatively short and that I must savor every moment. And every delicious bite.

Already my wife and I have enjoyed pesto on everything. My kindergartner prefers pesto pizza to pepperoni. And I’m OK with that.

Cucumbers have been pickled, dehydrated, sliced, and grated. Dinner has on more than one occasion consisted of a cool cucumber gazpacho, perfect on a hot summer evening.

But the one taste of summer that truly is perfection is the simplest to prepare: the tomato sandwich.

It has been described on CNN’s eatocracy blog as “the best sandwich in the universe — at least for the month of August.”

It’s true. Sliced bread with a heavy hand of Duke’s mayonnaise, sliced tomatoes and a light dusting of salt and pepper. Perfection.

And you must agree, because my last two trips to the grocery have found an empty spot where the Duke’s mayonnaise should be.

And now that August is coming to a close, that last taste of summer will slip away into autumn.

But for now, savor a few more tomato sandwiches.

And try to use up or give away what’s left on the vine.

This column originally appeared in the Jessamine Journal
It should not be republished without permission.

An Update from the Garden

How does your garden grow?

The last time I wrote of my garden I was scouring through seed packets deciding and deciding on plantings. Now the raised beds are constructed after a long winter of caring for seedlings under indoor grow lights.
Through the use of the po’ man’s greenhouse (PVC piping and plastic sheeting), I was able to get a head start on lettuces, radishes, beets, collards, and carrots – some of which is ready for the tasting this Mother’s Day weekend.

Indoor Grow Light Setup at the Beginning

The seedlings under grow lights in the basement are ready to come forth, though a light frost anticipated for early next week may keep them nestled away a few more days.

This weekend should (fingers crossed) allow time for some final planting. So far, I’ve got plants in four of the five raised beds and many more of the outdoor seeds should be sewn over the weekend.
Hopefully, I won’t be so derelict in future garden updates. But more importantly, I shan’t ignore the garden. The sugar snap pea trellis was not in place until this morning – climb, oh sweet pea! Climb! 
Until next time.

Immersed in Seed Catalogues

My love of history has become matched by a passion for gardening. My genealogical roots are found with farmers as recently as my father’s childhood, but I grew up with little more than a well-tended herb garden. 

With a bit of land, I set my first ‘real’ garden in 2011. Though 2012 was an off year with a young babe in the house, I’ve readied myself for 2013. I hope to share my progress with you here, on The Kaintuckeean. Topically, it may be a bit off from our usual exploration of history and architecture. But so much of Kentucky is about the land, the people, and the food. With any luck, people interested in gardening will learn a little about Kentucky and vice versa. 

But for now, in the cold of winter, I’ll just contemplate what the garden will be. With seed catalogues, excel spreadsheets, and a calendar, I’m creating a schedule and layout for Garden: 2013.  
The following is subject to change, but the following illustration shows the layout I’m considering for this year’s garden. From prior years, I’ve expanded it from 64 sq. ft. to 112 sq. ft. – an increase, but I believe a manageable one. 
Regrettably, funding (both time and financial) for this increased endeavor has to come from somewhere. Over the past couple years, our family has participated in a CSA share which I picked up at the local farmers market. This involved an annual outlay of a few hundred dollars and a weekly outlay in time of about 90 minutes. Rolling these resources into the new, improved garden will bring me closer to my food in a relatively cost-neutral manner.
Well, I’m looking forward to sharing some green pictures on here. If you’d like to see less, or more, let me know!

Garden Visitor – Nicholasville, Ky.

Backyard Guest
Garden Visitor, Nicholasville, Ky.

Raised beds built. Soil in place. No plants yet planted. Yet, somehow this little guy knew he should come into my yard and lie in wait. My cat, watching from the screened in porch, was less than impressed with our invader. My two year old loved! the rabbit (and chasing it). And I’m sure I’ll become a regular Farmer McGregor once planting has begun.