Nature Is Cruel

I love homegrown tomatoes.I can’t grow tomatoes. I can clone a carrot, but I cannot raise my own tomatoes to save my life. Consider this post. I was close, but when it comes to vegetables, close doesn’t cut it. Those babies fell off the vine the week before Christmas. I was sad.

This year I knew I couldn’t handle heartbreak yet again. I vowed never to plant another tomato as long as I live. And then this happened. Tomato plants everywhere. I yanked most of them up out of righteous indignation, but I let two live. Because their leaves smell good.

They toyed with me, those evil little plants. One of them even set blooms at the beginning of September, but I knew they were just trying to yank my chain, to get me to believe again so that they could squash my hopes like a rotten tomato on a superhighway. All of the blooms withered and died within a couple of weeks. I knew they would. I didn’t care. I’d go out every couple of days and thumb my nose at them. And smell their leaves. They yellowed. I ignored them, some days completely forgetting that they were there.

So here’s what I found yesterday.

My camera won’t even focus on it, tells me that it’s nothing special. Probably just some round green fungus. That will kill us in our sleep or something.

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And it’s supposed to frost tonight. I’ll be in my trailer.

 

Learning Lessons

Over my last year of blogging, I have learned a great deal about keeping commitments, staying focused, polishing conclusions.  I’ve learned some other things that have nothing to do with blogging. For example, I now know that the most effective way to kill dandelions on the lawn is to will them to live.

Tortoises love dandelion greens, so each week I collect them to take to my favorite shelled friends at the zoo. I cared for those weeds like they were my own children, except I let them stay up later. Where once dandelions with large, lush leaves abounded, I now have sickly little plants with scrawny, pale leaves. It’s so very sad. But my heartbreak may be the joy of other gardeners, so if those prolific plants are the bane of your existence, don’t waste money on costly and potentially dangerous chemicals. Just talk to the weeds and tell them that you have a purpose for their lives. I can almost guarantee that they will shrivel where they are and refuse to develop to their full potential. Here’s what else I’ve learned. Weeds are basically teenagers.

Now it’s time for you to learn something about me! Here’s an older post that shares about my career aspirations.

If you missed yesterday’s post, be sure to visit for your chance to win some incredible animal art! Find the details here.

One Minute Mysteries

I’m being invaded. I have no idea where the little blighters are coming from, but they are popping up in the weirdest places. Tomatoes. Everywhere. Think I’m kidding?

In the rosemary. Four of them.

Ficus/alligator plant

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The big ficus

In the butterfly bush, bold as brass.

And since I loaded the pictures into the computer, four more have popped up in the dracaena. Did I plant tomatoes this year? I did not. I have poor luck with this particular fruit, as some of you may recall, and I didn’t see the point in having my heart broken yet again. But here they are. Keep in mind, these plants call home a deck that is about 25 feet off the ground, and all but one has been in the same pot for over a year. Squish and the Padawan wouldn’t touch a tomato with a 10-foot pole, and the Princess of Darkness is just as bumfuzzled as I am.

Is there such a thing as a tomato fairy? And do they visit when you’ve been good, or when you’ve been bad?

Tune in next week when we ask “If spell-check thinks we can’t be bumfuzzled, are we bedazzlement or Fuzzbusters?”

Seriously? Bedazzlement? I am sad. I cannot live in a world where this is a suggested word.

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Don’t forget to visit this post to suggest names for the baby tortoises! If your name is chosen, you could win!

Adding Insult To Injury

Middle son came home a couple of months ago with a cabbage plant. Bonnie Plants donated them to second and third grade students all over the country. The object was to grow it as large as he could, get his picture taken with it, and submit it to Bonnie with the hopes of winning a scholarship. The Padawan is more interested in growing sea monkeys than plants, but the money caught his attention.

We opted to grow our cabbage organically. More because I can’t justify the cost of a bottle of Sevin dust for a single cabbage than because I’m worried about the kids growing a third arm from pesticides. Because it’s not like they’d eat it anyway. Maybe I should have sprung for the Sevin.

Here’s what our organic cabbage farm now looks like:

If Tim Burton had an organic cabbage farm, it would probably look like this.

And what’s this? Ah, yes. Destroying the entire plant was not quite enough. Whatever devoured the cabbage left their turds on the one leaf they didn’t actually eat.

That was thoughtful.

He Who Scratches Last

I was a Campfire Girl. I know what poison ivy looks like. I do. I learned the whole “leaves of three, don’t wipe with me,” or however that little ditty went. And I can easily pick it out of a lineup. But as I have never been allergic to the stuff, poison ivy lore has always been a purely academic pursuit. When I met my husband, he was grateful for my knowledge because he is so severely allergic to poison ivy that he has been close to hospitalization a time or two. Smug in my immunity, I have always attributed his unfortunate susceptibility to a defect in his character. But not anymore.

It's a sad and bitter song I sing.

Yeah. That’s my leg. Apparently it’s possible to spend forty years blessedly immune to the itchy stuff and suddenly develop an allergy. May I go ahead and say that life’s not fair?

I went to my mom’s last week to dig up some rose of Sharon (Rosasharn, for all you Steinbeck fans). It grows as a weed in her yard  I got a little greedy for some of the larger plants, and I ended up digging around in an overgrown drainage ditch. I saw the poison ivy. Of course, I did. I avoided it, mostly. And I made an effort to wash off any of the oils I might have come into contact with.

I was actually amused four days later when the first little bumps popped up on my knee. It was less funny when more appeared down my entire leg. And I quit laughing completely when they started to itch. And itch. And oh, sweet mother, itch some more. And now I wonder why I am being punished. Whatever I did to deserve it must have been really bad.

It doesn’t make sense. It has been a week, and the rash is still spreading. From an evolutionary standpoint, how does an extremely delayed reaction help the plant survive? It’s not like a possum or raccoon or other adorable woodland creature would remember where it was a week ago. They can’t seem to remember where the roads are. Which leads me to conclude that this particular adaptation isn’t about defense. It’s about revenge. Revenge for some imagined slight. Like the girl who sits behind the quarterback all year in chemistry and later burns his house down because he never said hello to her. Poison ivy is nature’s hate crime.

The good news is, I will recover. I think I have handled this sudden outbreak really well, considering. I have ordered sandpaper bed sheets for my bed, and I am training the cats to hit the good spots. But I really wish I hadn’t cut my fingernails.

The devil's houseplant. Stay away. Far, far away. You could be next.

More Things I Should Probably Care About But Don’t

The weeds in the flower bed are now taller than the actual flowers. I admire their zest for life.
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I forgot to eat my bowl of cereal. This Moon Pie should work just fine.
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I have spent four days wearing sweatpants and an old t-shirt. We all have a fashion statement. Mine is “I don’t want to button my pants.”
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Middle son’s pants now show two inches of ankle. I’ve been to third grade. All  the kids dress like orphans.
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Squish is attempting to consume half a loaf of homemade bread. Heel first.  Go, Squish.
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There’s nothing in the house for dinner. I’ll be leaving for work at 4:30pm and not coming home until tomorrow night, so technically, not my problem.
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I can’t remember which of the cups on the counter I used to thaw the dead mice.  Again, maybe not my problem. I wasn’t the one who drank out of them.
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Squish doesn’t have a single clean pair of socks.  Recycling is good for the environment and should therefore apply to clothing, as well.
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For some weird reason, WordPress doesn’t want to allow spaces between paragraphs. Actually, I do care about this one. Adding a period to hold a space makes the formatting look weird. But I guess it’s better than missing a period.

We had pretty tulips. We waited for 8 weeks for them to bloom. The night they bloomed, some drunk kids drove by after midnight and stole them all. Flowers will break your heart. Weeds are better.

Nearly Wordless Wednesday: Why My Mom Doesn’t Let Me Garden

I am useless in a garden. I am easily distracted and way more interested in the fauna than the flora. I dig a scoop of soil and watch disinterred earthworms squirming uncomfortably in the sudden sunlight like slimy vampires, and I gently tuck them back in. I study the beetles emerging from underground and puzzle at how they can be so shiny when they’ve been buried in the dirt.  And then I find this guy, seeing and hoping not to be seen, and am filled with wonder at the miracle that is the natural world. Plant a flower? Thank you, but I don’t think I have the time. I’m looking right now.

.What do you see?

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Can you see me now?

The Race Is On

My lovely harvest

And there it is, folks. The sum total of my tomato harvest for this year, and those little beauties are on my vine as we speak. Took this pic five minutes ago.

All summer long, the plants grew, but they didn’t bother setting blooms until about a month ago. You know, right after those big rains we had. Apparently tomatoes need water, or something like that. I don’t know. That kind of stuff is beyond my comprehension. So, anyway, tomatoes finally on the vine. Yay, and all that. Here’s the problem.

Check the number in the lower right corner

Not the time, though I, too, am stunned that I am blogging at this hour on a Saturday. No, it’s the number in the lower right. It’s a little chilly. Not only for me, but especially for ripening fruit. It’s all over with the first frost. I have no idea how long it takes a tomato to ripen on the vine, but our first frost can only be a matter of days away.  I need those maters. Not to eat, of course. I need to harvest their seeds. So I can plant tomatoes again next year. If I remember to water them, we might even get to eat some. Odds are against me.

I have been told that if I cover the little babies with a blanket at night, they’ll be protected from the frost. But let’s be realistic. If I can’t remember to water them, what are the chances I’ll remember to tuck them in at night? Not good, I’d say.

And the race is on. Will my two lonely tomatoes ripen before the frost kills them dead? Place your bets here, ladies and gentlemen. Fruit or frost? Who will be the victor?

Adventures in Gardening, Part 2. I Shouldn’t Be Allowed.

I have said before that I am not a gardener. Not the out-of-doors, tilling the earth kind. I can grow all kinds of pretty green things in my refrigerator, but I haven’t much skill with tending under the open sky. When I was a kid, my mom would ask me to weed her flower bed. Despite the fact that the kidney-shaped bed was a small one, it would take me most of the afternoon. Not because I was doing a good job, but because I kept coming back into the house to get a drink, go to the bathroom, catch “You Can’t Do That on Television,” you know, basic needs. And when I did get around to it, I yanked off the green parts that I could actually see, and left the rest.

Fast forward 20 (okay, maybe 30) years, and that little bed is long gone. Before you get too excited, I’ll just let you know that she replaced it with a bed that spans the entire length of the backyard. This monster is roughly 40 feet long and 8 feet deep. Nifty. And it’s hard to keep up with on your own when your knee needs replacing, so when she asked me if I could help, I said I’d be happy to. And I meant it.

I am not afraid of hard work, but I was a little worried. The spirit is willing, but the skill is minimal. My idea of weeding a garden is tying orange yarn on the stuff I planted on purpose and taking a weed-eater to the rest. Mom gave me a basic tutorial on “this-is-weed-this-is-plant” before her appointment. I got it. Or I thought I did. And she made it clear that we weren’t just taking off the tops. We were digging for gold. That garden claw was to be used to dislodge every Bermuda grass root we could find. Dig it up, pull it out, throw it away.

I admit, I was a little distracted as she was giving me the run-down. I don’t know why. It’s not like a toddler can do that much damage with a two-by-four, right? Or a spade. Or a mattock. Silly me. I should have been paying more attention to the important stuff. The moment I was alone with a two-year-old and a garden, all of her profound teaching left me. I knew I was up a creek.

I did what I knew for sure. I know Bermuda grass. I dug those roots like nobody’s business. But there were other plants I was unsure about, Was that a delicate day lily or a brazen clump of grass? They look rather alike. When in doubt, leave it. My mother returned home to find that I had carefully weeded around the weeds themselves. I did learn something, though. If its roots go all the way to the center of the earth, it is a weed. If it comes up, roots and all, with barely a tug, someone paid a lot of money for it.

When my confidence was built (aka, I had a supervisor), I was able to claw with joyful abandon, making rapid progress. I was thinking I might actually finish this patch in one day. Until. I sunk the claw into a particularly think clump of weeds. As I bent down to remove the bits I had broken up, I discovered a toad. Don’t worry. He was whole. But he was scared, and it got me thinking.  He was probably not alone in that mass of overgrowth. Seeing as how it would break my heart to uncover parts of toads, I was going to have to take the heavily grown parts by hand. Oh, joy.

I didn’t finish that day. Or the next. And we’re still not finished, but we’ll be back at it as soon as the weather clears up. And I think I’m getting kind of good at it. It’s relaxing to break up roots and follow them by hand back to their evil source. I’m sure I made a few mistakes in my zealous efforts, but as long as hydrangeas don’t actually need a taproot, it will all be fine.

Tallest okra plant in the world. The woman knows how to garden.