About a hundred years ago, when I first started gardening out here in the country in my red dirt, I subscribed to Kitchen Gardener magazine (formerly known as Kitchen Garden). Like a vegetable garden bible, I carried this magazine everywhere, and I read its bimonthly issue cover to cover. I was so entranced by one particular article that I ran with it to HH and begged him to make a garden like it for me. The design was a diamond in the middle with four triangular beds surrounding it. As those of you who regularly read RDR know, that design was later expanded.
After a few years, Taunton Press decided Kitchen Gardener would be no more, and I wept bitter tears. I kept all my back issues and consulted them regularly like scrolls. Then, one day, we had a roof leak, and guess what . . . my issues were ruined. I had to throw away three years of them.
Are you wondering why I would so want a vegetable gardening magazine when I’m a writer myself? Well, Kitchen Gardener was special. It was written for those who loved to grow vegetables, and it was extremely forward thinking. For example, there were articles on attractive deer fencing, potagers, and keeping your cold frame warm with an electric grid beneath it. They wrote about cloches, and the best use of different cultivars of garlic (hard neck and soft neck), along with vegetable garden design.
Vegetable garden design. Think about that for a moment . . . when was the last time, you read a serious article about the most attractive fencing (“Protecting the Harvest Beautifully by Stefanie Vancura); or, about the placement of fruit trees against walls (“Demystifying Espalier,” by Ron Clancy)? These people were serious about gardens which were both beautiful and fruitful, and it’s nice to have such companions again at my fingertips.
As I began working on the design for the new potager and where it is to be placed, I found I missed my magazine more and more. A couple of weeks ago, I was on ebay. No one who knows me would be surprised. I scour ebay for old, garden things. I once got an old issue of a flower gardening magazine which featured daylilies from the 1940s. Great history there.
A woman had listed one issue of Kitchen Gardener for a pittance. I decided to write and ask if she had any more issues. I discovered she is an estate liquidation specialist, and she did. Nine issues starting in 1999 and going on through much of 2000. We made a deal, and today, they appeared on my doorstep.
I’ve spent a very pleasant, half hour going over those months. Alas, the issue with my garden plan isn’t among them. However, Taunton is having a fifty percent off sale, so I went and bought those issues I don’t have. These may not contain the prize issue, but perhaps they will. In any event, I will have most of my Kitchen Gardener library back again.
You may be shaking your head and thinking how sad it is that one person’s estate is being sold off piece by piece, but I don’t mind if my children decide one day to sell many of my things, especially if they go to someone who will enjoy them as much as I. I see it as the ultimate in recycling. Being thrifty and reusing things would make my Grandma Nita proud I’m sure, and I know she’d like the reel mower I’m giving away. She used such a mower. I remember.
Last week, Frances wrote a post asking what will happen with our blogs when we’re gone, and although I didn’t yet comment, I’ve thought about it all week. Earlier MSS wrote a post about this same subject. What will happen? Will anyone care to read our work once we’re no longer able to update it this side of heaven? I don’t know the answer, but I’ve given my passwords to the Diva, and I hope, when my time comes, she’ll write a last post for me. Then, if my friends want to comment, that would be lovely. In the meantime, I hope my words help other gardeners who are trying to grow beautiful things in stubborn soil, and are a comfort to them.
I’m also comforted by the thought of some future gardener picking up the mantle where I left off and running with it after I’m gone.
Kind of like how I’m using the magazines now, and how my grandmother inspired me. Not to tie things up with a cliche, but it truly is the circle of life.
Jim in Owasso says
It’s nice to see I’m not the only person that has a stash of Kitchen Gardener!
I have about 95% of them. Early each spring just before planting time, I drag my stack of them out and start going through them one by one in the evenings. Every year my garden tastes change just a bit and an article that did not interest me in years past, will suddenly leap to the forefront and become this year’s rage for me. It’s the only magazine collection that survives my yearly spring cleanings. It is the only magazine that I never had a second thought about renewing the subscription with and the only one I really hated to see fall by the wayside.
Thanks for bringing it up!
Hi Jim, I love that magazine. I learn and relearn things every time I pick up one of the months. Glad you enjoyed it.~~Dee
Pam's English Garden says
Dee, What a lovely, lovely post! I was very moved by it. Thank you for sharing your charming story. Pamela
Thank you for your lovely post! We at Taunton are never sure that there are still fans of the magazine but it’s wonderful to discover that indeed, you are out there! You’ll be happy to know that we are publishing this month a collection of the best recipes from Kitchen Gardener magazine that will be available later this month and is available by preorder everywhere. Early in 2011 we will publish the campanion book – all the wonderful how-to information. Keep the faith! Here’s a link to the book for more info: http://store.taunton.com/onlinestore/item/cooking-from-the-garden-071291.html
Allison, thanks for the link to the recipe book. It looks good. There are a bunch of us who love that magazine. Hope something new will come out someday. 🙂 ~~Dee
M A says
HAHAHAHA! You caved in! I cannot believe it. But then again, I bought them all last year from Taunton. Good for you.
Dee, when I saw the title of your post I thought maybe Kitchen Gardener had been resurrected! I got super excited! Even though that’s not the case, I’m glad you’ve found most of your back issues. I keep all my Martha Stewart magazines and Gourmet (sniff). My husband thinks I’m crazy, but I do look at them all the time! So nice to know I’m not the only person who has a personal library of old magazines!
Lovely post Dee. I miss having magazines like that. Magazines that I kept because they had so much going on. You should consider printing at least a year’s worth of your blog as a gift to your children (I can’t remember the name of the company that’ll do that but it looks very nice once printed). Once that last post is written, a more permanent copy would be cherished. And who knows, maybe your children will use all that information for their own gardening benefit and keep the recycling going?!
Jean, I have thought about putting together a “best of” book someday. We’ll see.~~Dee
Nola at the Alamo says
There is a sadness to seeing a person’s life sold off bit by bit. But if you look at it from another angle, how wonderful that you’ll treasure something her family didn’t care for. Personally, if when I die, my things go to someone who’ll cherish them, I couldn’t be happier.
Susan Tomlinson says
Dee–I felt very moved by this post. It was very thought-provoking on a lot of levels.
I remember Kitchen Gardener magazine. I miss it, as I miss so many others.
Thank you Susan. The world changes bit by bit.~~Dee
Lisa at Greenbow says
I have not heard of this magazine. It must be a good one. I will keep my eyes peeled for any issues I run into while out junking.
Lisa, you would love it.~~Dee
Dear Dee, first off, thanks for the mention and link love, very much appreciated. Your beloved magazines on ebay, I would never have thought to look there, will give you much pleasure. Carol’s generous offer brought tears to my eyes, what a sweet thing. I can’t wait to see the reveal of your new potager, and am in the process of trying to figure out an attractive fence to keep the rabbits away from the baby sugar snap peas. 🙂
Well, Frances, the potager will need to wait until the stupid freezing rain stops. I’m so ready for spring my friend. You’re welcome about the link. You post made me reflect.~~Dee
sharon Lovejoy says
Oh my goodness, what memories awoke when I read this post. I loved that danged magazine so much and was totally inspired by every page-even the ads. I think most of my copies are in our cottage in Maine and if I have that one (I remember it well, it seemed so fresh and designish), I’ll save it for you.
Remember Bailey White’s column on the last page?? Wonderful.
I was invited to visit Jennifer (an ex-editor at Taunton) and I asked WHY???? did they cancel that great magazine. The design was pure, the …oh heck, I better quit running on and on.
Sharon Lovejoy Writes from Sunflower House and a Little Green Island
Hey, I finished my blog entry for L and sent off photos. FUN!
kate/high altitude gardening says
I’ve not heard of the magazine but, of course, now I desperately want to buy some back issues and read them. What a lucky find for you. (And a great read for me! :)) Thoroughly enjoyed this post.
Carol, May Dreams Gardens says
My issues of Kitchen Gardener are as prized as any book in my library. I will try to look through mine some rainy afternoon to see if I have the one with your original kitchen garden design. If I do, I’ll bring it to Buffalo with me, and happily give it to you to keep.
Janell West says
I’m thrilled for you — and charmed by your story.
I’ve never heard of this magazine, but I’m glad you have most of your old friends back in your life again.