June 19, 2024

Year of the tomatoes

By Curt Swarm

My beans didn’t come up this year, nor did the peas, cucumbers or sunflowers. And I planted them twice, first with a reputable brand of package seed, then bulk seed. It was dry, yes, but I watered everything good. Still nothing.

A person in the know who raises a fantastic garden every year, and had beans galore, said other people were having trouble, and that there was bad seed this year. The reason she had success was that she used seed (blue lake beans) left over from last year. Hmm.

In frustration after the second planting, I cultivated it all back up and put in a boat load of “punkins.” By golly they came up. So now I have tomatoes, “punkins,” and Indian corn. It should be a colorful fall and Halloween.

But my tomatoes, my oh my. I’m an ex-drunk and do everything to excess. I put in a dozen tomato plants, even though we don’t can or preserve. When the derecho hit, and filled our yard with drifts of corn stalks and shucks, I mulched the tomatoes with the stalks and shucks. Might as well put the mess to good use. I was mainly interested in keeping weeds down between the tomato plants. But, glory be, did the tomato plants take off! Of course I hand-watered them good during the dry, hot spell, and the stalks and shucks held the moisture. Then the mulch turned into rich compost.

We had some of the earliest tomatoes around (except for my gardener friend above. She always beats me). There were so many tomatoes I had to put a notice on Facebook, “Free tomatoes. Come and get’m. Already picked.” We had plenty of takers.

Of course, I love tomatoes, but we can only eat so many. I was eating tomatoes — sliced with salt — five and six times a day. There were great BLTs and just plain tomato sandwiches. With every meal, including breakfast, like in England, we were having sliced tomatoes. Other people have an abundance of tomatoes, too. So, I officially call this The Year of the Tomatoes. Which may be apropos, as there are two full moons in August—on the 1st and 31st. The early one is the Grain Moon, and the second, the Fruit Moon. With tomatoes being a fruit, I wholeheartedly agree.

To my delight, I can actually see the moon, which is a Blue Super Moon, growing fuller during the course of a night. Before bed, I see Mr. Moon in the clear, night sky, grinning happily. When I get up in my usual 1 to 2 a.m. range, and let Buddy out, I notice Mr. Moon’s cheeks are fuller. That’s progress in waxing in just a few short hours. Interesting.

Then there’s a strange oddity on the Empty Nest Farm: for the first time in the eight years since we’ve lived here, we have crows. Yep, big black birds. They seem huge, compared to the grackles and starlings. There are four, maybe six, crows that like our yard and trees a lot. (As I write this I can see a crow under our oak tree.) They even fly up on the roof of our house, which is metal, so Ginnie hears them in the morning clunking around. She thought there was an animal in our attic, and sent me up to see what was going on. Nothing. It’s crows on our roof. I can be mildly superstitious, so I’m wondering if visitation by crows is symbolic of anything. Hmm. I’m hoping some of my soothsayer readers can advise me on this. Is it good luck or bad luck?

One more thing, all those seeds that didn’t come up, even after two plantings? They’re coming up volunteer now. You might know. They’re trying to survive in the choking “punkin” vines. It’s like they’re saying, “See, if you’d just given us a little more time. But nooo.”

Contact Curt Swarm at curtswarm@yahoo.com