BY MAHLON MILLER
Editor’s Note: Mahlon Miller, age 31, is a farmer and school teacher in Lagrange County, Indiana. He and his wife, Marietta, have four daughters. The next few weeks will feature a test sponsor, the Lagrange County Indiana Visitors Bureau, so be sure to click the photo tile and check out everything the Shipshewana area has to offer!
Such a beautiful week! Day after day of sunny skies and pleasant breezes. In the mornings when I bike to my summer job, the moon has set and all the millions of stars are twinkling down at me. It is my moment of sanity before the craziness of the day job hits. All summer long the weather has been just perfect. The gardens and fruit trees have produced a bumper crop unlike any we have had for a number of years. Sweet corn is producing two or three ears per plant. Our 30 foot row of green beans has produced 5 gallon buckets full of good eating. The carrots could be mistaken for candy. And the cucumbers just keep on coming.
Caption: Juicy heirloom tomatoes, these were grown by Plain Kansas columnist Rosanna Bauman, she’ll be writing about Farmers Markets next week.
But best of all, in my opinion, are the tomatoes. I love tomato sandwiches. In my lunch box, for an afternoon snack, for supper, or basically any time except breakfast. We have been planting only heirloom for four years now and they keep getting better and better. This year we have had the best crop yet. The slices are so big they stick out over the bread on all sides. And they taste exactly like tomatoes, not like water or cardboard or fertilizers or anything else but just the good honest flavor of sunshine, raindrops, organic soil and happy plants.
The heirlooms come in a wide variety of colors. It is always a bright spot in my day to open my lunch box at break time and see what colors of tomatoes Marietta has put in for my sandwich. Sometimes they are the normal red, sometimes pink, sometimes purple, sometimes orange, sometimes yellow, sometimes white, sometimes green with yellow stripes, but always the flavor is always divine.
I decided the improved flavor of the heirlooms must be due to the fact that they are producing fruit because that is what they love doing, whereas the hybrids are producing fruit because some scientists took away their other options.
The good growing weather brought a “super weed” problem into our garden. A weed by definition is a misplaced plant. Thus a corn stalk in a cornfield is a plant while the same cornstalk in a hay field is a weed. Our “super weed” started out as a plant but it grew to become a weed. The reason we couldn’t eradicate it is that it had too much sentimental value. Our super weed was actually a pumpkin plant, a really huge pumpkin plant. Last spring at school the smaller students each got a sytrofoam cup full of potting soil and two pumpkin seeds. Rhoda, our oldest daughter, brought her cup home with a 6-inch sprout which looked harmless enough and we transplanted it into an 8 foot square area at the end of our tomato rows. Three weeks later it was climbing the tomato stakes and the garden fence and sneaking towards the strawberry patch. Carefully we untangled all the vines and tried to put it back into its area.
But two weeks later we had to give up. Our pumpkin plant was over the fence, all entangled in the asparagus, spreading across the back yard, making it into the strawberry patch, and covering up a couple tomato plants with its big leaves. Blossoms were everywhere and little pumpkins were rapidly becoming big pumpkins which became huge pumpkins.
We did uncover the tomato plants, but the rest of the vines were left free to wander. And wander they did: over 20 feet across the backyard, through the broccoli and cauliflower and into the lettuce and halfway down the strawberry patch. I don’t know what the variety was originally called. But we think it should be called Roman pumpkin (but more like “Roamin’!)
As this summer progressed the plant’s blossoms died and dropped off and some of the small pumpkins didn’t make it either. The plant is finally dying now and the five pumpkins that are left are turning a bright orange. The biggest one measures just over 5 feet in circumference. Our family is starting some plans for late November and the plans involve the giant pumpkin, giant chicken, some sweet potatoes, dressing gravy, apple cider, and so forth…