Sunday, July 13, 2008

Survivor: The Tomato Tale Continues

When we last saw the half-flat of tomato plants, they were settling into their new homes scattered throughout the yard – except for a few that had migrated to my mother-in-law’s yard.

Within 48-hours of their starting to put down roots they were visited by the neighborhood welcome wagon – doe-a-deer and her twin fawns and numerous rabbits large and small.

The plants in the fenced garden and the patio plants remained untouched, but the four next to the pots were each left with a stalk sticking up and one pair of leaves. The three on the far side of the house had their tops cleanly clipped off.

Some welcome!

It appears that all the plants have survived their premature pruning.

Meanwhile I have noticed that friends’ plants are setting fruit already. In a state whose gardeners pride themselves on having the first red, ripe, edible, garden-grown Jersey tomato preferably by July 4th…well, this is not a good thing.

Trying to remain an incurable optimist, I will continue to read the all-tomato cookbook and will remain uncharacteristically silent when other gardeners brag about their tomatoes.

"...But deer sometimes do get a penchant for eating tomato plants, especially the new growth, and can cause extensive damage..." - Lawrence Davis-Hollander, "The Tomato Festival Cookbook", P. 48.

Saturday, July 5, 2008

The Half-Flat of Tomatoes

Last week I stopped at Shop Rite and there in the middle of the Horticulture section [that’s the plants on the sidewalk in front of the store] was a bunch of tomato plants with a sign: “1/2 flat $5.99 with Price Plus card”.

Well, this year - with the price of food and the nationwide tomato-salmonella scare - buying the half-flat seemed reasonable. Just a few extra plants to supplement the vegetable garden.

Now, for the uninitiated, a half-flat is 24 plants - which didn’t seem like a lot…at the time.

Early the next morning seven of them went directly into the vegetable patch. That was simple and it was only about 9 a.m. As the flat contained assorted varieties, there were three patio tomatoes that went into three large containers near the patio and swing. Ten down, fourteen to go. Easy. Four more go into the ground next to the containers.

Darn, there are still ten left and the temperature is going up.

The basically unused far side of the house is always sunny; so three more tomato plants join the pachysandra groundcover and the Rose of Sharon plants along the chimney. I will have to carry buckets of water over there for the rest of the hot summer, but that’s no problem, right? Right? [Okay, this is where you are supposed to say “Right!” Geez, do I have to tell you everything?]

There are now seven left. Oh, wait! Six! Happily one of the little cells is missing a live plant! [It’s not often that I am happy to see that I didn’t get what I paid for.]

My significant other is now thoroughly sick-and-tired of tomato plants and steals away with four of them as a gift for my mother-in-law. Somehow two of them are unaccounted for, but I’m not looking too hard.

Google "too many tomatoes" and you get about 14,300 hits. This can't be good.

Planning ahead, I went to the Hillsborough Library and took out a book containing only tomato recipes.

Friday, July 4, 2008

A Patriot is...?

For far too long this presidential political year the question of what makes an American – and a candidate - a “true” patriot has been bandied about from the national press to local forums.

As I listened to the arguments that patriotism was based on the displaying of American flag lapel pins and flags hanging off houses, I knew that something was wrong with this line of reasoning.

I began to vaguely remember a Sunday-school story about a poor widow sneaking into the temple to make an offering of a few pennies that she could ill-afford to donate and then quietly leaving. At the same time a rich man marched into the temple, probably accompanied by his retinue and the clanging of cymbals, to make a large donation and to make sure that everyone within earshot knew he was making the donation.

The whole moral of the story had to do with who was more blessed – the poor woman who quietly gave what she could or the rich man who gave lots of money and expected lots of recognition in return. [You’re all grownups. We shouldn't need to go further with this particular story. If we do, you can stop reading now. You are excused. Go away.]

Now, transposing this parable to patriotism let’s see where we go. There is the citizen who keeps track of what goes on in their town, their county, and their country and they vote - intelligently. They quietly volunteer where they are needed and can contribute. They obey the laws and regulations and they speak up when they believe the rules need some tweaking. When they serve on committees, they serve not as political appointees getting rewarded for their support of a certain party, but as citizens not expecting pay or recognition.

Then there is the other patriot, the one who lets you know that he is a patriot with the clanging of cymbals and the displaying of flags. He proclaims himself a patriot – over and over and over – and declares he is the only person who knows the true path of patriotism. And when he does something he considers patriotic he is sure that everyone knows about it.

Which one is the patriot?

Patriot: The person who can holler the loudest without knowing what he is hollering about. - Mark Twain (1835-1910)