Monday, August 13, 2007

You Say Weed, I Say Native Plant

I proudly exhibited my tomato plants to DOB the other day. He then looked over at the weeds towering over the patio. "The tomatoes look good," he said, "But it's like investing in tech stocks in the nineties. Everything goes up."

Being new to this garden, and not wanting to waste anything that might already be happily growing, I went easy on weed-pulling this spring. Some of those unidentified leaves might prove to be flowers. Some of them did. The others just got larger and weedier.

Next thing I knew, they were too big to be pulled by hand. I needed clippers. I forgot I owned clippers. Turns out there was a set ($2 pink yard sale tag still on the handle) in the basement. This morning I finally ventured forth to use them.

Too late, again. Clippers were not what was called for; I needed a hatchet. Little George Washington could be happily and productively occupied under our patio for quite some time. Unfortunately I haven't come across a hatchet at a yard sale. So I hacked, snapped, and mangled until I at least lowered a portion to within a foot of the ground. I caught an enormous yellow grasshopper and the ducklings watched him, fascinated. D1 tried to get him to jump on cue, but he did not catch on.

The tomatoes are doing very well. They have passed our ability to keep up with eating them; they have passed even the ability of the squirrels to keep up. I don't think I have quite enough plants to ever do a canner load at once, though, so perhaps I shall have to look into freezing them. Or drying them. (Can anything sun-dry in this humidity? I have an electric food dryer, but everyone always talks about sun-dried tomatoes--do they work any other way?)

I'm excited by the success of this year's garden. It is very small still. In a few more years, I shall have more helpers and be more ambitious. I was chatting with an elderly lady who grew up in the neighborhood of DOB's office, reminiscing about the huge garden she and her parents grew in their back yard. So did my grandparents, though it was long before I was born. People used to grow food (and even raise animals) in the city and suburbs as a matter of course. Now we all drive twenty minutes to the organic produce section of the nearest megagrocery.

The search for a simpler or more authentic lifestyle seems to send most people to the country. It brought us to the city. We were tired of driving fifty minutes one way for work, twenty minutes another way to church, and knowing no one nearby because they were all driving different ways, too. Here, we can spend our time living instead of driving, and we can still grow tomatoes and watch bugs. And if everyone who cares about homegrown tomatoes leaves for the countryside, what will become of the city?

In this line, there's a wordless picture book I came across at the library, called Home, by Jeannie Baker. It depicts what time and love and work can do for a place, even in the city.

1 comment:

Eric and Wendy said...

Congratulations on the tomatoes! I think sun drying is great if you live in a dry Mediterranean clime. With my humidity, they molded. Oven drying worked well, but a real fruit dryer would have been great. I found they made nice Christmas presents, especially packed in olive oil with garlic and basil. Better Google a recipe though, I think you had to fish out the garlic at a certain point to avoid spoilage.