“Three.” Yes, three. The sad, sad truth. The disappointing answer. Only three! After all the sweat and work.

The question? “How many tomatoes have you gotten out of your garden this year?”

What’s your answer? Go ahead. Make me drool. Make me jealous. Tell me about your ‘maters. Tell me what varieties you are growing. Tell me how the juice, warm from the sun, drips down your chin. How you never even made it in the house with the first one from the garden. I want to hear every detail of your tomato growing this summer. Tell me your favorite way to eat them and how you’ll be canning sauce soon from the abundance. Let me live vicariously through your tomato success. Let me feel what it is like….give me the whole scoop.


And then I want to hear about your zuchinni. Are you just bursting at the seams with zuchinni? Not sure what to do with them next? Are you giving them away by the bagfulls at your office? Or in the grocery store parking lot? What else are you growing this summer? Corn? Watermelons?

I have to rate my summer garden harvest this year as this. Let’s see. On a scale from one to ten. A low three.

On the good side, the basil is abundant. The deer and bunnies and turtles haven’t discovered the wonders of pesto, so they have left my basil and garlic crop alone.

And I had a couple of dill plants that were “going to town.” No more. May they RIP…

Who are those guys? I need to look them up in the gardening book. So attractive, but so destructive!

But for real, I’m having a lot of fun with my garden, in spite of it all. Even though the yields are laughable. I’m truly feeling thankful this year to have a place to garden (didn’t have that last year or the year before). I have some dirt of my own, in the sun. Yes, so the wildlife is enjoying more fruit of my labor than I have. That’s okay. I worry about the plight of urban wildlife anyway.

And honestly, on top of it all is that summer is a tricky time for me to garden anyway. Maybe I’m a better gardener in spring and fall. I love greens. And root crops. As you may know by now, I don’t love being out in the heat and humidity. I’m a southerner who doesn’t like to sweat. Also, we try to get up to our Mountain “Farm” (we should probably call it our Mountain “Retreat” instead of “Farm”) as much as possible during the hot summertime, so it’s hard to stay on top of a garden at our home.

So I’m trying not to get too disappointed with my garden this year. I’m just glad that we aren’t relying on my gardening skills to put food on the table. Or to pay the bills.

Anyway, we spent this past weekend up at our “Mountain Farm.” You know, the one that will soon have a new red or green roof (still haven’t decided!).

Our ‘Mountain Farm” always has a surprise of two for us when we go there.

Here were our surprises this trip:

One of our meadows

This field was not covered in clover the last time we were. Clover surely must grow fast. The field was covered in butterflies and had the sweetest, most enticing smell. Later in the season, a neighbor farmer will harvest the clover for his livestock.

Before we found our Mountain Farm, I had always admired this plant in gardening magazines. It’s called a Rose of Sharon or  Althea. It is an old-timey plant that reminds me of my Grandma. (I always thought she had them in her yard by her farmhouse, but she actually didin’t. Still like the plant though!)

Our Mountain Farm has many of these around. Some were planted by the previous stewards, some have grown on their own.

Rose of Sharons are a beacon for hummingbirds, various butterflies, and bees. Here’s a bee inside the flower of a pink one in our side yard….

A few gigantic sunflowers reminding me to keep on the sunny side…

Cool beans. Check these out—-


Or maybe I should say “cool grapes.” I’m always looking for a play on words.

We discovered these growing in an old Hemlock tree a couple of years ago. I learned to make grape jelly with these. I think it’s only one vine, but it produces plenty of grapes. Getting to them is the hardest part. The vines climbs up the tall and stately hemlock.

Here’s where they are in the growth process this year. I’m not sure when they will be ready to pick? I just hope we can make a trip there and harvest them.

Ever since my daughter experienced the process of discovering the grapes, picking the grapes, bringing them home, doing everything we had to do to make them jelly ready (squish and peel), and making jelly out of them, she has a real appreciation for home-made grape jelly. She won’t touch the stuff you buy in jars in the store.

Now, I have to be honest and won’t admit this to just anybody. But, I’m not so sure I could taste any difference at all between “ours” and Smuckers. And it was so much WORK! But she can. And we did learn how to can, so it’s all good!


Now this pumpkin floored me. No, we didn’t plant pumpkins this year. But here you go. One growing anyway. Just one.

It really is the simple things in life that bring the most joy. I have learned that the hard way.

I have tried in the past to find joy in the complicated things. Nope, not there.

It’s in this.

A surprise pumpkin in my yard at our Mountain Farm.


The wild blackberries are coming along. I truly invite the wildlife in the area to enjoy these with my blessings. Come one, come all.

I am not a fan.

Too many bitter seeds.


Oh, I had to include this picture of my Strudel. She had been digging all morning in the yard. As far as I know, she never dug up the thing she was after. I had my camera and called her name and she looked up—-

Isn’t she beautiful? Her eyes tell you exactly how smart she is.

And sweet.

Love this dog.

And then the biggest surprise of all of the weekend’s trip to our Farm.

Our neighbor took us to see the pasture he keeps his cattle in during the summer.

WOW. Check this out. Those are some lucky cows! A 360 view of this. Can you imagine?


I caught daughter sitting on a rock up in the lucky cow’s summer pasture.

She looked so deep in thought.

After I took her picture I went over to her and after telling her to watch out for snakes, I asked her if she thought the cows enjoyed their summer digs. If they wake up every morning and look out at their view and think “holy cow!”

After she groaned about the “holy cow” thing, she said,

“Mom, they’re cows. The only thing they notice is that the grass is green.”

(So practical. She didn’t get that from “head-in-the-clouds” me.)

But for real. The grass is indeed green. Very very green. I guess all the cows really need is green grass. And I guess too that all I really need is this moment.

So of my failure of this year’s summer garden? That I personally have only harvested three tomatoes from all that labor?


Until next time, Friends, savor the flavor of life!

Lots of love, The City Farmgirl, Rebekah

  1. R. D. says:


    Those are Tobacco horn worms. Voracious eaters,no spray or chemical will eliminate them. They must picked off.
    Moths,butterflys lay eggs on the plants. Wasps will lay eggs on the worms and the larve will kill the worm.The only predator for those worms.

    I had a great crop of Tomatoes this year ( BETTER BOY )

    Family,and neighbors have enjoyed the tomatoes.
    you will be getting more soon

    FARM BOY R. D.

  2. R. D. says:


    Those are Tobacco horn worms. Voracious eaters,no spray or chemical will eliminate them. They must picked off.
    Moths,butterflys lay eggs on the plants. Wasps will lay eggs on the worms and the larve will kill the worm.The only predator for those worms.

    I had a great crop of Tomatoes this year ( BETTER BOY )

    Family,and neighbors have enjoyed the tomatoes.
    you will be getting more soon

    FARM BOY R. D.

  3. Rhonda says:

    Check out my blog for my tomato story! No worry perhaps you’ll get more mater’s soon! Love your "Mountain Farm". I hear those hills calling me soon.

  4. Becky says:

    Oh golly, i sure miss my garden and home-grownFRESH toms.

    We are traveling this summer, no time for a garden . . . but look out, next year i’ll grow a bushel of ’em!

    ~ Becky

  5. Shery Jespersen says:

    Well, your city garden may have disappointed you, but your country sanctuary looks to be a slice of Heaven! What a beautiful, storybook-like place. Love the photos.

    My tomatoes are coming, but still green. Out here on the northern plains, we’re much later garden harvesters than a lot of other farmgirls. However, we had beets for a supper sidedish last night…and a lovely salad of homegrown Romaine with carrots, cukes and Nasturium & viola flowers scattered on top.

  6. Kellie says:

    So far we have had a bunch of cherry tomatoes. but not many heirlooms tomatoes or peppers have turn red yet. Maybe its been to wet this year?
    But it always goes from nothing to sudden madness with a counter full of red produce by late August here in Ohio!

  7. Courtney says:

    Only 2 and one disappeared the night before it was going to picked! We have a container garden and the neighborhood cats decided it was their playground and litter box…killed a lot of promising plants before we came up with a solution.

  8. Joeby says:

    I think those are swallowtail catapilliars. If they are on the dill. I had a bunch of those little rascals this year (in Texas) on my fennel – they love dill and fennel. We had beautiful swallowtail butterfiies all over the yard. It was fun to watch the whole process from tiny catapillar to big fat catapillar, then morph to a beautiful butterfly – all in my tiny garden. I had tons of tomatoes – Celebrity. They have been finished over a month now, and we are looking forward to a fall garden. Love the blog!

  9. Pam says:

    We have lived on our "Farm" for 3 summers and each one has been so different. This year our tomatoes, beans, corn, strawberries, sweet potatoes and peppers have been bumper crops. Last year not so much. Our zucchini gave us about 5 this year. Last year, way more. We live in central Oklahoma and this year has been wonderful. The heat (yesterday 103.8, last time I checked) has only just started. The way August normally is. So our prairie grass has been green all summer! The weeds laugh in our face at our attempts to control them. Normally everything is fried by now. We had just the right amounts of rain at just the right time this year. Normally, we either get no rain or we just flood everything away. So, I have felt your pain. My husband comes in each evening with hands full of vegetables, a maniacal look in his eyes that says "I have conquered the dirt, now what are you going to do with these?!" I grew up in town and I confess that I wanted to hide from him at first but, I think I’m getting the hang of this now. As my pantry grows, I’m actually enjoying him coming in with more vegetables. I think a little chicken poop helps too. Hang in there. There is always the Farmers Market for this year.

  10. Laurie says:

    Hi Rebekah,
    A small correction to previous comment; the worms are tomato, not tobacco, hornworms. And, yes, the only way to get rid of them is to hand-pick. If you’re hand-picking, check to see if the hornworms have been attacked by parasitic wasps first- if they have, the wasp larvae will have pupated,forming structures that look like small white grains of rice on the back of the hornworm. Leave these be so the wasps can spread. My Rodale organic gardening book doesn’t say anything about those larvae killing the hornworm, but I guess the wasps are beneficial to the garden somewhere.
    Also, plant dill near your tomatoes. It attracts hornworms, and they’re easier to spot on dill than they are on tomato plants. I guess we know what got your dill plants, Rebekah!

  11. Debbie says:

    Wow – did I ever need your story! I had herniated disk surgery on my neck last week. Lost 3 weeks before due to pain, then drugs to help the pain. So my veggie garden is really sad at this point. Hubby can only do so much and I love working in the garden. In N. Texas we are now having 100 plus weather – so no garden. Will try again in the fall. But I need to stop and enjoy what is around me now. Thanks!!!!!!

  12. kay says:

    Lots of green ‘maters but none ready to eat. Lots of zucchini, I made zucchini relish that is soooo good.

    Enjoyed your pics.

  13. carol branum says:

    Hi Rebecca,We have some" Morgage Lifters" we bought from an Amish woman,and Brandywines.My favorite part of the garden is rideing in the back of daddy,s pickup,with the wind blowing my hair.Its our little ritual.He has a large water barrel that he fills,and he lets down the tailgate when we get to the garden,and lets it pour down the rows to his plants.I help him tie them up with peices of old fabric cut into strips,and we talk as we pick.I eat one as I fill my bucket of pepppers,and mators,and throw it in the back,and ride again in the back.He will stop the truck and point"Look over there!Did ya see that?and it will be a wild turkey,or some plant he wants me to see.And we will journey the mile back to the house.I will be putting on a pot to boil,and he will play the panio."Honey come in here,he says,and he will be playing "Crazy"by Patsy Cline",I sing for him,and its time for him to go lie down,its been so hot,and he tires easily now,Then,I can more tomatoes.Had to share that,I am so blessed,Thanks for letting me share,it is so special,Carol Branum,Lamar Mo.

  14. Robin Lockwood says:

    With all due respect, those are NOT tomato hornworms. They are monarch butterfly catapillars. And yes, they are quite destructive however, you can look at it as providing nutrition towards the continuation of a butterfly population that is diminishing. To verify, google search "pictures of tomato hornworm", then "pictures of monarch butterfly catapillars".

    This year, I’m having a much better tomato crop. Tomatoes require enormous amounts of nitrogen in order to create tomatoes. It’s not too late to correct this. When your blossoms set, put 1 cup of coffee grounds around the base of the plant and water it in deeply. It’s a very hot dry summer in Tennessee and tomatoes also require deep watering because the heat stress will cause them to shut down production. I wrapped a soaker hose around the base of my plants and have been watering them for two hours every evening around 6 pm. This way the water doesn’t evaporate as quickly, the water has time to really soak deep into the soil, and the plants can recover overnight. It’s making a noticable difference in the health of my plants. Good Luck!

  15. 4 tomatoes. And they were tiny at that. This year has been truly terrible for my garden and I’m not sure why. Will keep trying though!

    Lovely photos of your meadows and surprise produce!

  16. What a lovely post. Have you tried burying banana peels beside your tomatoes? That might help the yield. Love the jelly making story. Your daughter is really having a lovely childhood. Hooray for you both.

  17. mellee says:

    ewww…had those awful tobacco worms year before last. they are the yuckiest things to pull off your plants. thank goodness they never (cross your fingers) returned. i am sorry to hear that you haven’t had tomato luck this year. we have had a bumper crop of delicious heirloom tomatos, squash, cucumbers….until my oh so curteous neighbor used chemicals on his flower borders. then with the rain his chemicals flowed into my garden patch. my melons rotted on the vine and my majestic 16 ft. sunflowers turned black and fell over. but until the flood of weed killer, i would say our garden was a seven, no maybe an eight. i a rationing my remaining tomatos as i live for a tomato samwich. we’ve had a lot of friend squash and potatos along with cucumbers bathed in apple cidar vinegar. i even made a delicious pasta salad with all the veggies, bacon, and salad dressing. so even though the garden had an early demise, it was enjoyed throughly.

    i love all of the hidden wonders you have found; the grapes, the pumpkin, your neighbors endless sky pastures. even with only three tomatos, you most certainly have had a bountiful harvest after all.

  18. Marcie says:

    I have to agree with Robin… the catapillars look like soon to be Monarch butterflies. Now, that might explain what happened to my dillweed. Something ate the stalks off at the ground, although Monarch catapillars usually just eat the leaves of milkweed…… mind boggler here.
    Anyway, my garden was a bountiful harvest with cukes, zucchini & yellow squash, beans, peas, & peppers and the tomatoes & okra are still producing like mad + all the neat herbs. Wish I could send you some of everything, Rebekah. I have mades salsas & sauces and given away scads of veggies & the freezer is almost full.
    I am looking forward to next year and we will do things a lot different because some plants used others to climb on and we will be ready for this next growing season. A secret I learned from another source was "compost tea". I made a huge batch last winter & added it to the garden with our compost during tilling…. it worked GREAT!

  19. Cindy says:

    Since it’s your dill that’s being eaten, I would say they are black swallowtail butterflies. They also like fennel. I hope you didn’t pick and kill them. Personally I’d rather have a yard of butterflies than dill to pick! 🙂

  20. Melissa Medford-Hare says:

    Hello, The caterpillar is but one of the stages of the swallowtail butterfly. Fennel and Dill is one of their host plants. They will soon crawl away and make a chrysalis and more chances than not you will be able to see a few come out and emerge into a beautiful swallowtail. Just plant more than enough to share with them or harvest sooner. I plant fennel just for them. I do pick off the seeds or in the spring the seedlings will take over a garden. I grew heirloom tomatoes this year, all colors of the rainbow, just lovely

  21. all8garden says:

    You have Black Swallowtail caterpillars. They specifically eat the parsley family, which includes dill, carrot, fennel, and queen anne’s lace. I plant extra parsley just so that there’s enough for me and them. Google up some pics, they’re beautiful.

    I was late planting most of everything this year so we’re just starting into the lusciousness of summer tomatoes. The taste test winners so far have been Black Cherry and Cherokee Purple. The Pea tomatoes are bent on world domination but some animal or other scurries off with almost all of the fruit. The Jumbo Jim Orange are beginning to color as are the Rutgers.

    If it makes you feel any better I planted summer squash seeds mid-July and they’re just beginning to bloom and my first squash is developing. Exciting stuff. Can’t wait to grate them fine and freeze it in two cup increments (with a tsp. of lemon juice) to make muffins all winter long. Nothing says welcome home, I’m so glad you’re here, like spiced, fresh zucchini muffins warm from the oven.

    From our gardens, we’ve eaten plenty of broccoli and I’m pretty sure the yard-long beans will just keep producing more than we can eat. The green beans are just starting to develop. I’ll probably freeze them since the yard-long beans are so insistent. The jalapenos are doing well also.

    This year was particularly bad for the allium family here. The garlic didn’t size up well, neither did the Candy onions and the shallots were starting to rot. We’ll have to buy new starts instead of saving our own for next year. Good news is that when the tomatoes start rolling in, there are plenty of onions and jalapenos waiting to become salsa. DH can’t wait.

    The best way to tell when concord type grapes are ripe? Taste them. The seeds should be brown instead of green too. Good Luck!

  22. one of your viewers is right on the caterpillars. They are Black Swallowtails. Lovely butterfly! Larvae feed on members of the carrot family….dill,fennel, Queen Anne’s Lace, carrot, parsley etc. They will strip your parsley, but it’s for a good cause! You might plant some fennel and the butterflies will perhaps choose that over parsley.They have several generations a year, the last one in the fall will overwinter as a chrysalis and emerge in the spring.

  23. Marcie says:

    I did not see the culprits eating on the dillweed but now something is cutting my very large tomato stalks off at the ground with big green tomatoes attached and my husband thinks its the ugly green beetles that we find in the ground. We looked them up and they appear to be a June bug of some kind (nothing like the June bugs we used to see in TX). These lay eggs in the ground and grubs hatch then dig out when they become a beetle and the cycle starts all over again. They swarm like crazy in the summer after a rain.

  24. JoEllen says:

    Hi Rebekah,

    My tomatoes are not doing well either. Just little shrimpy ones are appearing and I can’t fathom that they will ever look like the beautiful tasty ones on the package. I don’t want to give up my very small garden, but it is getting very depressing. Maybe bugs, though I don’t see any on the tomatoes, but they sure like the cauliflower & lettuce. They ate it all before I got to. Maybe next year I’ll join a cooperative plot.

  25. denise says:

    Rebekah, the summer has been an odd one for our garden. Tomatoes, looked fantastic comin’ on then the blight hit, too much rain, we had toadstools growing at the base of the plants. A true jungle. We’ve only managed maybe 6 tomatoes, the chickens are reaping the benefits of our loss. The zuks, cuks and squash are going gang busters. The too much rain just destroyed the greenbeans. Just when the blossoms came on a rain storm of epic zest would knock them off before a bean could sprout. Now the heat has taken a toll on our animals. June started the first round of heat loss, a new litter of rabbits. July took my old goat "Bullet". Now this latest blast just yesterday has taken 6 of my older rabbits. We’re icing them down 3 times a day just to get them through. 3 more are looking rough. To say the least we are really looking forward to some relief from this heat. But as country life goes we have our blessings. We have been just gifted to the max with butterflies. What a joy they have been to watch. School is starting next week and I have a list of things to do while our last child is out of the house for a few hours. But for now I’m signing off, it’s supper and then home ec club with my only daughter (3 boys also). Enjoy whatever your bounty may be.

  26. KimberlyD says:

    I planted my tomatoes late so they are still green, I do have a lot of them on the vine still. The grapes I am not sure when they would be ripe in Georgia, do you get frost up in your Mountain farm? For in Michigan you wait for the first frost and than they are ripe. My parents grew grapes and we made grape jelly all the time. And I am with your daughter to this day I do not like store grape jelly, even smuckers (sorry Even though I had not made homemade grape jelly in years!
    We had wild blackberries but my landlord got rid of them this year. Thats ok we didn’t do anything with them either, just takes to many to do something with them and the birds are good at getting most of them

  27. Teresa says:

    My ‘maters haven’t been doing too well in the Garden State,but for some odd reason,the bell peppers are doing great.Can’t tell you why.I have had just enough tomatoes for salad for my hubby and my self,andan occasional pot of chili.We are begging for rain here,but that doesn’t explain why the peppers are thriving.

  28. Carla says:

    I can’t tell you how many tomatoes we got from our garden. We planted 1 cherry/grape tomato plant in a pot that sits on our deck. It grew, alot, and is taller than I so at least 5 and half feet tall. We used two tomato cages to help keep it upright. We have eaten tomatoes that tast so sweet from this 1 plant for weeks now. There are at least 30 in a bowl on my counter. The plant is still blooming, beginning to look a little haggard too. We have been so happy with our $1.00 investment. We used to plant tomatoes in our small garden, but the worms ate like hogs, so a pot on the deck of cherry/grape sized ones work best for us. I buy the larger ones at the farmers market, getting ready to can tomatoes next week.

  29. Vickie says:

    Those are definitely catepillars that will be butterflies! Don’t kill them, feed them. If you don’t have one, plant a few butterfly bushes. You won’t believe the butterflies that will visit. I enjoy your blog! Keep writing!

  30. Paula says:

    We have Black from Tula, Cherokee purple, sweet 100’s and several others that are loaded with tomatos. We’ve had 5 tomatoes from the Black from Tula…sweet and meaty!
    Oh and being from Oregon…blackberries are EVERYWHERE! I don’t like the seeds either so my Victorio Strainer is the answer, run them through and what wonderful jam, and goodies you can make seed free! Don’t let the seeds deter you from yummy goodness

  31. Tina says:

    I am a city farm girl too! And this year I thought my tomatoes would be a bust. I planted seedlins in the garden and the temperatures in my Wyoming area just took forever to warm, so they died. My husband bought me some more mature plants, a plum tomato and a beefsteak, at wal-mart, and while I didn’t have high hopes, I planted them in large pots on the deck instead of my little garden. They are growing like weeds! 🙂 I have 8 plums and don’t see anymore blooms, so I think it must be an indeterminant plant. I don’t fully understand what that means, but I think it means it won’t keep producing. The Beef Steaks are still growing and I have about 9 tomatoes and several blooms. I know it’s late, but this is southeast Wyoming and we are happy to have even green maters in August.

  32. Taylor says:

    Our tomato crop is in full force now. Salsa, spaghetti sauce, tomato pie. You name it, I’m doing it right now. I’m about to get to that point where I leave them on neighbor’s doorsteps. Do you want some?

  33. Karen says:

    5. Yup, had a bad ant problem this year, apparently made a nest among the roots. I’m lucky I got 5. Your statement about how the first tomatoes didn’t even make it in to the house reminded me about the "first fruits" mentioned in the Bible. That first tomato, ripe, red, looking so juicy, the one you’ve been waiting for all winter…give it away? Hmmm. Not as easy as it sounds.

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