Only Two Things that Money Can’t Buy
And you pick red tomatoes and pop cherries into your mouth. You gather baby zucchini from the garden while crunching on crispy green beans. You bring in fresh broccoli and snap peas and lettuce. You pinch thyme and sage and basil. You grill just to the point of carmelization and the sweetness of the garden lunch makes all the work heretofore quite worth it.
The reward of my labors? Today I picked ripe tomatoes. Can you comprehend the profundity of that? Dare you?
Good, and I mean really good, times.
NOTE TO MY LONGSUFFERIG READERS: Last year at just about the exact same time? Read here!
I spent the entire week in Puerto Rico poo-pooing their very sad looking tomatoes. They were barely-pinkish, transparent, rubbery-looking things that resembled something that some one may have tried to grow at some point or the other, but which had been aborted too soon and now were in a state of perpetual laboratory-like strangeness.
this may have been one of the better ones at the resort, truly…
So, seriously: we eat at these great restaurants. Everything is beautiful, but every time – terrible, terrible tomatoes. What on earth?
So, a long day on Palomino Island was my final day. I dragged the beach lounger knee-deep into the ocean and let the waves splash over me all day while a hot breeze cooled my skin. I got burned. A deep burn, but it was OK because I had been careful not to burn before, so the base tan protected me (I hope Ali, who has agreed to help me un-do previous sun damage on my skin, is not reading this – because we just talked about it the night before I went!).
Tredessa looked at me and said, “Mom, you are burned. You are as red as a tomato.”
And then, the reason I am so proud of her, the reason I admire her intelligence so, she made the distinction, “But not like a Puerto Rican tomato. Like one of your tomatoes.” And I beamed. Tomato red.
From my garden. A small tomato and some basil. If it is slightly blurry, forgive the photographer (me). I think it is because I may have been shaking a little bit in anticipation of sprinkling some salt on these slices and eating them. Because, omygoodness, they are sweet and tangy, and the juice, which tries unsuccessfully to escape my tongue and run down my face, is madly divine, the fountain of life, more potent than wine.
I would like to dedicate this blog to Bryan. Read here and here and here – for old times’ sake, Bry. And oh, what the heck? Here is my roasted tomato recipe for Cody, but Bryan, you can enjoy it again, too – right before you re-read this blog about YOU, where I seriously question whether God wants us to be friends if you hate tomatoes! ;)
“Full many a glorious morning have I seen
Flatter the mountain-tops with sovereign eye,
Kissing with golden face the meadows green,
Gilding pale streams with heavenly alchemy…”
From William Shakespeare’s Sonnet 33
It is a Monday, a glorious, beautiful Monday morning. Heaven Fest is 5 days away. Robbin and Jake’s wedding on Saturday was a delightful and joyful event, going off without a hitch. There will surely be facebook pics posted soon, somewhere?…
My friend Pearl’s dad died Friday. He had been ill for some time, but it is still never easy. I only met him once or twice, but I know him through the big, loving family he raised, through his daughter, who is a woman to be praised. He is whole now, and with the Lord, he has gained life.
Last week’s late afternoon or nighttime thunder showers have saturated our yard to a new level of green, it being August in the arid-Rocky-Mountain-region, and all. Dave mowed and trimmed yesterday and I have spent the morning enjoying the bird-song, the gentle breeze and my time with the Lover of my soul, pulling a weed or two, harvesting a few tomatoes (leftover quesadilla with thick, juicy slices of red goodness for breakfast) and an armful of beets (to be roasted for dinner…I will try to enjoy them). The upside-down tomato, now in its’ place for about 5 1/2 weeks is boasting 5 little spheres of future deliciousness.
Dwight Schrute on The Office: “First rule in roadside beet sales, put the most attractive beets on top. The ones that make you pull the car over and go “Wow, I need this beet right now.” Those are the money beets.”
From Eternity to Here – Rediscovering the Ageless Purpose of God by Frank Viola. I started before family reunion and am just entering part two (about halfway through). It is so good. I have so little time, but I am enjoying it thoroughly everytime I open it. Fresh revelation. Resonating reminders. Goooooooood stuff. Join me?
Tim Hughes sings it this way:
“O what a glorious day
What a glorious way
That You have saved me!”
Turn it up, sing along. Dance a little.
It IS a glorious morning!…Jeanie
NOTE TO SELF: Praise Him all day long!
Yes, that’s right. It is June 25 and I am just now getting my fake-tomato-topsy-turvey-thing-a-ma-jig done. I would recommend you do it earlier than this.
I bought a new 5-gallon paint bucket, some potting soil, and a Mountain Pride Tomato. I don’t even know if it is determinate or indeterminate. Guess I should read the little marker.
We drilled a hole in the bottom of the bucket (about 2″). We drilled a series of holes in the lid (I will water and feed through these holes).
I removed almost all of the branches so the tomato plant could be “planted deeply” (is it still “deep” if it is upside down?). Dave held the bucket and the suspended tomato root ball while I filled in with soil and vermiculite. I sprinkled some granular fertilizer on top, which will work its’ way down through as I water.
If I’d started with a smaller plant or not worried about going “deep,” I could have used less soil. It is pretty heavy, so a strong hanger is in order.
Popped the lid on (it will even recieve rain!), and hung it about 6 1/2 feet up on the southeast corner of the house where it will get lots of hot sun. It is almost directly above the tomatillo in the straw bale. I surrounded it with some leftover bamboo shade I had hanging around for aesthetics.
I am truly afraid to face my neighbors. ;]
I would not expect to be eating fruit from this plant until mid-September at this late date. But that is OK. All the tomatoes in the straw bales are producing already and may need a break by then!
Cost: bucket, $3.50; bracket for hanging, $6.99; tomato, $3.50 (could have gotten that cheaper at a local center); 3 gallons of potting soil (practically free from a Lowe’s clearance), $1.00…so since you can buy an “authentic” topsy-turvey for about $10, no $$ savings, BUT mine will withstand micro-bursts and looks better. And that makes me happy enough.
I’ll try to give you updates. We’ll see…
I don’t like doing the same thing twice. I like to grow things in unexpected places. I like French intensive gardeing, square foot gardening and am really in to this straw bale gardening right now. I’d even like to try hydroponic gardening sometime, despite the fact that I have grave doubts about the quality and flavor of things grown in water (I believe in soil).
I have to admit, I rolled my eyes a lot when I first started seeing these upside-down gardens on TV. I checked out their website and good grief: people are really doing this thing!
Therefore, I am going to have make my very own topsy-turvy-upside-down tomato grower. Why? Because that is the experiment part. I don’t want to buy “their” cheap-looking plastic aparatus. I want to make my own ghetto version…from a big, plastic paint can. Yes, I do.
I’ll post pictures. I think it is going to be pretty cool! It’ll be like tomatoes raining down on me from heaven above!
pictured: people’s purchased topsy-turvey planters
Farmer Wrex, the King of the Show-Goats, brought me 7 bales of straw. Yaaaaaaaaay!
I can’t grow my tomatoes in their usual place because, well, the word is out to all pests that I have great tomatoes there. This year I have to confuse them. The problem is I don’t have space to create another garden anywhere – what with trees and bushes and green grass for the dog to poop in (that does seem to be its’ main function, sadly) and grandkids swingsets and slides and the pool. But I can tuck in a bale of straw here or there and grow something.
I will basically treat them like I am square-foot-gardening, just doing it in a smaller area. So, I’ll do 2 tomato plants per bale, 2 zucchini or squash plants per bale. I may do 3 or 4 pepper plants in each. I don’t know. I had originally just wanted to do tomatoes, but then I found out you can grow anything and everything. I am so confused! In a good way, though.
I am sure my neighbors have the phone in their hands, ready to report me to the HOA for having straw in the backyard. But oh, they’ll change their tune when I share my bounty late summer! Oh, yes, they will.
pictured: google image
If you try to plant too many things, you will be defeated. But if you start with one or maybe three things that you simply must grow for they cannot be purchased to perfection like you could grow them, then you will not only survive, you will thrive. And since you are only really counting on those one-to-three things, since they are getting all your love, you’ll end up realizing, Well, I could probably tuck a basil plant here since I am here frequently, and maybe a few radishes under the shade of the zucchini leaves. And soon you’ll be companion planting and actually doing more than you thought.
But if you go to the store and buy 37 packages of seeds, you are doomed. Doomed.
I started out gardening with ZERO experience in 1997. I am a city girl with a farmer’s heart – except that they have to pretty much work the farm 24/7 365 days a year and I am not quite that committed. I decided on tomatoes.
My Aunt Rosie always served us home grown tomatoes fresh from her garden and regardless of whatever else was served, they were like having the best Texas steak you have ever seen on your plate.
So when I decided to do it, I actually went to the library and checked out about 17 veggie garden books and one wholly devoted to tomatoes and read and read and read. The author of the tomato book basically said, “If you’re going to grow tomatoes, you should grow the best ones on the block. Do not go into it half-heartedly. Do everything possible to have the sweetest, biggest, most amazing tomatoes anyone has ever seen.” So, as a tribute to all the books I’d read about them, I actually planted about 17 tomatoes plants and they were the BEST tomatoes I had ever seen in my life! Now-the neighbors and everyone I knew dreaded seeing me coming, but I kept everyone I knew fully tomato’ed!
Zucchini and yellow squash are great to grow for grilling. But they take a lot of room. I grow them mainly because I can feel haughty when I am in the store and they are selling for $1.00 each and I have just picked 7 or 8 of them for dinner. ALWAYS pick them young, slice in thick on the diagonal, toss them in extra-virgin olive oil, season and grill. You get great grill marks and they are delectable!
Peas are the gardener’s candy. Sugar snap peas are wonderful because you can eat the whole pod or not, as you wish. Great stir-fry. Very sweet. The grandbabies and I snack while we work!
Radishes. Don’t try these in the heat of summer. They get too hot. But they grow quickly and are very fresh and crisp early. Plant them outside now if you want.
Beans are easy. Every kindergartener starts out this way.
Peppers are great. They are pretty plants, too, so they make a great potted plant and there are just so many varieties you can’t get in the store.
I also like lettuces, and sometimes okra and the eggplant is so pretty (but I always forget how to fix them). So many directions a person could go. And don’t forget to tuck in some marigolds and nasturtiums while you’re at it. They’re edible, add some beautiful color and keep the icky bugs away to boot!
But there I go again – telling you too many things at once.
So, if I could only plant one thing, it would be tomatoes. Those transparent-barely-pink things on your fast food burgers are NOT tomatoes. Late summer, you can find some great tomatoes at the farmer’s market, but there is nothing, I mean nothing, like growing your own.
They are worth the effort, the babying, the prep, the watching, the watering and weeding! And if you can grow the tomato, which is THE most wondrous thing, you can now grow anything! Good times!
I Corinthians 15.35b The Message: We do have a parallel experience in gardening. You plant a “dead” seed; soon there is a flourishing plant. There is no visual likeness between seed and plant. You could never guess what a tomato would look like by looking at a tomato seed. What we plant in the soil and what grows out of it don’t look anything alike. The dead body that we bury in the ground and the resurrection body that comes from it will be dramatically different.
About three years ago I was in a meltdown during planting season. It was the middle of June and I hadn’t done anything. There sat my 3 4-foot-by-4-foot boxes: empty. I knew I had no strength to accomplish anything, to plant, but I needed something. I planted a purchased tomato plant in one. One had 3 green bean “volunteers” coming up, so I just put a trellis in it (seeds from the previous year had gone into the soil and were growing with no effort on my part) and I found a zucchini seed or two in my produce drawer in a little baggie and popped those in to the final garden square.
They filled my three boxes. They actually looked beautiful and tended to. They grew though I was barely functioning and every single day they gave me the hope I needed that normalcy would return and I would grow past the place I was in. Every day a new leaf or flowering would appear, I knew I was another day past the sorrow – that life would happen again.
Those were all I could handle. Yet, we had zucchini and beans and tomatoes that summer as if I had worked for them. It was like God tended my garden when I couldn’t. It was God and it was good…
So go easy on yourself and garden!…Jeanie
NOTE TO SELF: I am not behind, either.
pictured: scouting out last year’s tomatoes one evening…I spy!
I just went out and walked among the gardens, which are slowly but surely finishing up their work year. There are gazillions of tomatoes left and just yesterday, bright yellow zucchini flowers were still trumpeting their intent to produce. But today, all bets seem off and I think the zucchini has resigned itself to closing up shop.
But they are the winners! The zucchini wins for the garden of 2008. I have never had zucchini last into mid-October (I am calling it mid-October even if we are still in the first third – they deserve that). Usually they are wondrous for a month or so and then get some sort of zucchini-acne-powdery-weird disease and die off, which is why an attentive gardener will do successive plantings and why I am usually kicking myself for not doing so. But these sweet 5 plants, roundabout the yard, tucked in here and there as if I weren’t expecting much, have consistently outdone themselves, and oh how I have loved turning my nose up at their grocery store cousins! For I have harvested the best.
So, tonight: what shall I do? Shall I throw floating row covers over the green beans and cucumbers and tomatoes and zuchs – knowing full well that in a few days we could be back into the higher temperatures again (the beautiful, little-known secret of the Rocky Mountain Region)? Or “should I,” as Doris Day sings in Pillow Talk concerning Rock Hudson, “surrender?”
The garden – is it over or is it not?…TBD…Jeanie
NOTE TO SELF: Enjoy the gorgeous dazzling-orange-red Maple leaves strewn about the yard, even though they are from the neighbor’s tree!
pictured: the garden shutting down; see the blackbirds eating the decrepit sunflower’s seeds?
October is pumpkins and spice, rustling leaves, brilliant carrots and abundant gourds and squash. It is wool socks, leather shoes and a new pair of dark blue Levi’s. October is tricks and treats, turtlenecks, Sunday suppers and chimnea fires. It’s roasted seeds and amber and gold with browns and greens. It’s spicy, cool mornings and indigo-dark skies. It’s cinnamon rolls and fresh spicy pies. It’s blazing color and fried green tomatoes, and caramel and taffy and apples, too. But mostly, October is orange.
DECORATE WITH ORANGE.
ORANGE (“the color of craving”) AS DESIGN PASSION.
Roasted Pumpkin Seeds (modified from a recipe by Alison Aves) In a 10″ x 15″ baking pan, mix 2 cups unwashed* pumpkin seeds, 1 1/2 tablespoons melted butter, 1 1/4 teaspoons salt (use a seasoning salt, if desired) and 1 teaspoon (or more to taste…for me? always more) Worcestershire. Spread seeds out in pan. Bake in a 250-degree oven, stirring occasionally, until browned and crisp (about 2 hours). Serve warm or cool. Thoroughly cooled seeds can be stored in an airtight container for up to a week.
1 Kings 8.65 The Message: …”This is how Solomon kept the great autumn feast…Two solid weeks of celebration!…”
So-I am a summer-lover, but fall feels really romantic and lovely to me, too…Jeanie
NOTE TO SELF: October is also when I have been called for Jury Duty, too. Poo. Jury duty is NOT orange.
*Don’t worry – the orange slime from the pumkin that is still on the seeds will form a deliciously salty, crunchy coating on the seeds.
pictured: a deliciously orange google image-collage