Houston, We Have Cucumber and Tomato Plants Growing on the Porch

Can’t wait to see this month’s electricity bill, but ah, forget the cost of keeping these little babies warm and bathed in the artificial sun of grow lights – if all goes well, we’ll be eating our first homegrown cucumber of the season sometime in April and maybe, just maybe, our first homegrown tomato of the season on Memorial Day.

This race to the first vegetable started innocently enough, I thought, but I didn’t realize just how strong the competitive streaks ran in my mother-in-law and her son.  Willine and my father-in-law, Al, were not just gardeners; they were subsistence farmers in southern Maine, and they raised all of their own vegetables for their family of nine, and they raised their own beef, had cows for milk and sometimes would have chickens for eggs.  Strawberries, corn, and cucumbers were cash crops which they sold to the local grocery store, to a pickling company in Oxford, Maine, and from their front yard. The money was used to buy school shoes, clothes and other necessities in the fall.  37 acres and some hard labor can produce a lot of food.

And Willine did not like it one bit that our growing season was two weeks ahead of hers, which she realized the first summer we were married and we were comparing notes on how our gardens were coming along.  Within a couple of years, she was after Al to build a greenhouse off her kitchen, and the race was on.  Year after year, Terry would make sure his parents knew when we had pulled the first radish, eaten the first spinach, or lettuce, or whatever he had managed to pull out of the ground early that year (the asparagus was a favorite “first” because, well, it was a favorite to eat), and he would always be satisfied with a mournful cry from his mother when she knew she had lost the race again.  I must state here, however, that a race was never officially declared, but there was no denying it, either.

Now that Al and Willine have both departed the fun of friendly gardening competition has passed with it, but we do both like defying the winter by having a taste of spring before the snow season is officially over.

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2 Comments

  1. Descartes said,

    February 19, 2010 at 3:07 am

    I’ve always been more of a Pepper man myself. I like growing all kinds of hot chilis, jalpenoes, serranos, habenaroes, and any other odds and ends that I find seedlings for.

    I used to big into the whole gardening thing, but mainly just have a salsa garden these days. And mainly the wife does most of the work.

    I do make the salsa though.

    • Andrea Twombly said,

      February 19, 2010 at 3:13 am

      We grow bell peppers and jalapenos. I like to make salsa, but I’ll bet I don’t eat it as hot as you do. Bravo to your wife. Truth be told, once the garden is turned in the spring by my husband, I too do most of the tending of it.


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