City Girl Gone Gardening: Pride and Reality



By Jackie Hollenkamp Bentley

There are plenty of reasons people will tell you to grow your own garden: it’s healthier, cheaper, better for the environment, etc. But there’s one reason I discovered Monday night that may not be so, well, less admirable: pure, unadulturated pride. It’s the pride that comes with putting together a main component of a meal made exclusively from something that I grew in my own backyard.

Monday was my husband’s birthday and his favorite birthday meal for the past, um, X amount of years, is spaghetti and meatballs.

This is tomato sauce made from tomatoes I picked this weekend from my precious, little raised beds. To get to this point, I cleaned the tomatoes, sliced off the tops, cut them in half and threw them in the pot with a little bit of water. I brought them to a boil to soften them. The next step was to throw them in this chinois (or fancy collander as I call it).

I pushed and stirred the tomatoes through, keeping the skins out of the sauce and leaving the pulp and goodness in the pot. Once that was done, I literally skipped out the back door with a pair of scissors (pointed down of course) and cut a bunch of oregano, basil, thyme and sage from my containers. If the neighbors were watching, they would’ve seen me smiling ear-to-ear as I harvested the herbs, then wonder if they need to put their house up for sale.


I threw in the herbs after I thoroughly rinsed them and ran them through my Ninja blender. But I noticed the sauce was a little thin for a spaghetti dish. That’s when I remembered a mason jar of Pinterest ingenuity in the pantry.


These are actually dehydrated skins from tomatoes my nephew and I had canned last year. When we removed the skins, I kept them and spread them out on my dehydrator. I ran them through the aforementioned Ninja and then vacuum sealed them. I had discovered on Pinterest that you can use these skins to thicken up sauces or make a tomato paste. I threw in the whole jar and let the sauce simmer for a few hours.

Next, I added in some homemade meatballs, pasta and rolls and served up a dinner made mainly from my garden. So, yeah, I was a little proud of myself. My husband said it was really good, so that didn’t help shrink my ego much, either.

Then there’s the great feeling knowing you can actually grow food to feed your family in the following months.


This was a great haul from my garden about a week ago. We go through pickles in this family like nothing else so I usually keep a few out for salads and whatnot, but most of my cucumbers are preserved in pickle form, be it kosher dill or bread and butter.


I decided to use this bunch for kosher dill, thanks to some help from Mrs. Wages.

I was able to whip up a bunch of half-pints of kosher pickles. That should last us for a bit, but I won’t be satisfied until I at least double that amount.CGGG6And I still have to make bread and butter pickles. Alas, there’s a twist in the story.

Pride does go before a fall…


Well, maybe not a fall, but a good stumble. These cucumber vines are just not thriving. I added compost last week and I still see some green leaves, but the outlook of picking anymore cucumbers from my own backyard is grim. Part of me wants to pull them up and see if I can get another batch growing and producing before a frost.

The other part just doesn’t want to give up on them, yet. I do have to make a decision soon, however.
So. The lesson for today: home gardening can definitely boost your self-esteem … and then bring you back down to reality when you see your work dying. Well, we’ll just see what next week brings.