Wednesday, September 2, 2009


Hopeful Heirloom Plum Tomatoes
I did something today that really made me angry. I BOUGHT a box of local plum tomatoes. Now I know, local is good. I am a locavore (as much as I can be). But here's the rub: last summer, more than one year ago, I began collecting heirloom tomato seeds...from heirloom tomatoes. Local heirloom tomatoes. I squeezed the little guys out, I dried them, I cherished them all winter, and in early spring, I set up a table with lights, popped them into planter trays, labelled them according to the photo-coordinated system I had devised, and started them growing. I watched them every day. I had hundreds of them! I joined a community garden. I shared my babies with all of my co-gardeners. We grew strong, tall plants that set fruit, then watched them............rot. Late blight. Never heard of it before, but it hit this year, the year I began to take interest in the variety of tomato I put into the small bit of soil allotted to me. My tomatoes dropped, greasy and brown. My vines withered. I gave up; I had to. Late blight hit Pennsylvania and neighboring states, due to the excess moisture this year. Apparently, it affects the belladonna family, as potatoes are also damaged. My pretty heirloom babies at Flint Hill were devastated, and my garden looks like a wasteland. But........
MY HOME GARDEN WAS NOT AFFECTED! I live in a small city, and do container gardening. Try as I might, my containers are not as well hydrated as the ground. I only live 10 miles from my community garden; it's the same climate. My dry tomatoes survived. Less prolific, because they're in pots and drier than they should be, but alive. So, I pull tomatoes from my city garden to eat, and BUY tomatoes from high-elevation non-watering somehow-dry farmers for my freezer and my sauces. Dang. I did everything right.
You know, it just makes me hope for next year. Nature is capricious. We can only control so much. My greens thrived this year; maybe nature, in her divine wisdom, gave us greens for a reason this year. I'll plant again next year. Tomatoes and greens, similar to this year (though I'll skip the onions (fail) and try a stacked-tire planter of potatoes instead. I'll growmore kohlrabi. That was good. And more cabbage and swiss chard. And it will all be different; I mentioned the effect the moisture had on the goats, with the digestive issues they battled. It was a tough year, all related to water. Feast or famine.
Blight sucks, but life is interesting...and good. What will next spring bring? Babies, for sure, both animal and vegetable. I'll "midwife" my tomatoes, and hopefully a pretty mixed-breed kid through Faith, who survived the coccidia. We'll move on...

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