We’ve been married for 30 years. For 29 of those years, my husband Russ has grown a garden. His first garden was a pretty big project, considering he was teaching, taking graduate classes, and coaching three sports. He grew tomatoes, cucumbers, zucchini, and green beans. We were living in Frankfort, Kentucky, at the time. We rented a small house with a big yard, so the garden grew larger during the years we lived there.
We purchased our first home in 1986. Russ was thrilled with the size of the yard. It was perfect for a garden. And as an added bonus, the house had a root cellar in the basement. I could literally see visions of canning dancing ’round in his head. I, on the other hand, hoped that I would be working on canning days.
Soon after we bought the house, we found out we were expecting. With the baby due in late July, you would think that Russ would reconsider his plans for a big garden. After all, with a new born to occupy our time, there wouldn’t be much available for gardening or canning. But no, that summer he made the garden even bigger which meant mega canning. After our son was born, my mother came to help. When she left, I think she was glad to escape the chaos going on in our kitchen. Russ canned everything that year– tomato juice, tomatoes, pickles, and green beans. He filled that root cellar up fast.
The night before our son was born, we had a whole crowd of friends show up to check up on us. I fed everyone dinner from our garden: green beans, tomatoes, fried squash, okra, and cucumbers in vinegar. We even had green onions that year.
We moved to Murray in 1989. We bought a house, and wouldn’t you know it, it had a big back yard with plenty of room for a garden. No longer satisfied to just grow the vegetables, Russ began starting his own tomato plants. Each spring, our dining room table would be covered with baby plants with a grow light hung on the light fixture.
Over the years the gardens have not been as large and the canning not as extensive, but Russ still manages to preserve a little of his tomato bounty. We have canned them, frozen them, juiced them, made salsa, soups, and sauces with them. I will admit I’m ready to quit dealing with them. Russ on the other hand, is always willing to do something when the big crop comes in. This past weekend, he made a batch of Bloody Mary mix (complete with vodka). His Bloody Mary mix always makes it to UK football games and to the SEC Basketball Tournament. If his Uncle Charles has a bumper year of corn, Russ will make a trek to Trigg County and pick up a truck full. That processing job is another story!