The Washington Times - August 13, 2009, 01:18AM

Sitting down with my fresh tomato and bacon sandwich tonight, I am appreciating the fact that I even have fresh tomatoes to put on the sandwich-grown and nurtured on our land with our own hands. It won’t be long before we are once again accepting palish pink tomato-like substitiutes in place of these deep red flavor- rich delicacies once again.

 We love walking through the garden each day to see what new growth awaits us. The sights and smells of a summer garden take me back to summers on the Des Moines River and the gardens of my grandfather who sold his harvests at a roadside stand in his later years. He was known for his beefsteak tomatoes, often weighing in at a pound apiece, easily, and fondly remembered by a granddaughter who cannot smell a tomato vine without thinking of him.

Throughout the summer we have enjoyed the fruits and vegetables of our labors with varying degrees of abundance, as each year is a little different from the last. Along with the tomatoes of several varieties we have also enjoyed: new potatoes, green beans-the plant the gives and keeps on giving- green peppers, bell peppers, banana peppers, red onions, yellow onions, muskmelon and when the time comes we will have more than enough giant pumpkins to carve and share with family and friends.

But, next to the tomato, my second most appreciated garden veggie hands down has to be an ear of fresh sweet corn.

All summer we wait for the pearly Peaches and Cream variety to grow to maturity. We plant enough to be able to enjoy some a couple of times a week, but we also plant enough to stow some away for the long, cold winter months. Once you have cracked open a bag of freezer corn in January, you’ll never be able to touch a can of processed corn again.

Sealing up that golden goodness is almost like sealing up the summer sunshine in a Ziploc! The taste is as fresh as the day you bagged it. And, when it’s 95 degrees outside and the last thing you want to do is heat the house up, it is the memory of that taste that keeps you cutting, blanching, and bagging those golden kernels.

Except for this summer—there will be no buttery sunshine for us come January.

The other evening as my husband and I were out checking on our crops, and walking  closer and closer to the corn patch, we realized that something was wrong — very wrong.

Ears of half shucked and half-gnawed, immature Peaches and Cream were strewn all over the garden. Stalks were carelessly knocked down as some hungry brutes ravaged our garden and left it – our “field of dreams” shattered in one fell swoop.

There’s only one beast ferocious enough in southern Iowa to do this sort of devastation — a critter that had been living in our back pasture for years without showing its face often or causing a skirmish. Yes, there was only one brute brave enough to empty my husband’s sweet corn patch – the masked American ringtail raccoon.

Having once raised and befriended a couple of orphaned coon in my lifetime, it was a little difficult for me to be as angry about it as my husband was. A little ringtail I named Molly once lived in a shed next to the house. At night she waited for me to come out of the house and with a “chicker-chicker-chicker” she would wobble her way across the yard to me, scamper up my leg and camp out on my shoulder until I put her away for the night.

Now, around here you’re not really supposed to make friends with your food, nor do you make friends with those who jeopardize your food – no matter how cute and furry they may be.  So, the husband immediately declared war on the masked marauders. I suggested a fence, and he suggested a gun. I suggested leaving them alone. He laughed and said, “Not this time, no way. It’s on.

Does it matter to him that we destroyed their home, a tree in the backyard, when putting in the new pond last fall? No, it doesn’t. 

Is it merely coincidence that they left our sweet corn alone all these years UNTIL we destroyed their “home sweet tree”?
I don’t think so.
To be continued…………


author's grandfather and his beefsteak tomatoes