The Tomato Saga

Today I shall tell you a tale of tomatoes. An epic saga of the last month as it unfolded.

This year I had some solid gardening plans that included growing a large number of tomatoes. I wanted to learn to grow something well and I chose tomatoes.

Greg asked me “But why? We almost never eat tomatoes!” My other partner, Dan, said “Blech, I won’t even eat them. They are gross.” And it’s true. When you think of how many fresh lumpy chunks of tomatoes we eat in a year, the number is quite small. Perhaps 5-6 tomatoes a YEAR grace my table.

Then I asked a simple question; “When was the last time we ate something with tomatoes?” Of course they struggled to recall, so I suggested the previous Monday evening. It finally hit them. We had pizza. Tomatoes are in pizza. And BBQ sauce, and ketchup and salsa and pasta and curry… Tomatoes are EVERYWHERE in our diet! And I wanted to stick those squishy, awful vegetables into a blender and put them in jars and eat them throughout the year, served up with sausages and grains and potatoes and garam masala.

So they understood, I wanted a LOT of tomatoes. And I wound up with around 30 seedlings. Seedlings that grew well under some lamps in my living room. The weather got warm. It was well above freezing. We were getting lots of alternating rain in the 50’s and blazing sun in the mid 60’s. It was perfect growing weather for most plants. I took my strong started seeds and started hardening them off by setting them outside the windows for the sunny hours of the day.

Finally our last average frost date hit, and I set them outside in the garden bed to stay there overnight. the weather was still perfect and had gotten just a bit warmer on average. We were hitting the occasional day in the upper 60’s. We started having cookouts. I woke up to discover nothing but stems the next day. Greg had not properly checked the chicken pen door, and my tomatoes had been demolished and the peas and beans I’d planted a week before were dug up. I had pots upon pots filled with 30 stems of former tomato plants.

I rushed the plants back indoors, under my lamps and where they could be well nourished and amazingly most of them survived! They grew new leaves and were flourishing. We had even purchased a few small back up Roma tomato plants from the hardware store, and they were gaining real ground on these completely uneaten plants.

Two weeks after our last average frost date. The majority of the plants move outside and go into the ground. A few stay indoors to continue to recover. It’s been a bit cooler, but not significantly so. The weather looks cooler, but safe still for the week with lots of rain, and is predicted to get hotter the next week. So into the ground they went!

The cold seemed to cling a bit, but it was raining steadily. And then I woke up to an absolutely frigid morning.

I rubbed my eyes. I peered out my window and wondered when my neighbors re-did their roof in such light colored roofing tiles. It had been a while since I slept in that room (as I have two bedrooms). Then I wondered when the neighbors painted their AC unit white on top. And if they had power-washed their driveway so it was so white…

Snow. Two and a half weeks after our last average frost date.

I jumped up and collected Dan, and we went outside with jugs of steaming water. At this point I realized it wasn’t snow at all, it was 1-2 inches of small hail. It was warm enough to slowly melt the hail, but not nearly fast enough. We poured the water around and on the plants to melt the hail and heat the ground and thaw the plant’s frozen leaves. The mulch was dark and would absorb some sun. As we finished watering down the plants, the ground around them was steaming between the hail and the hot water that was soaked in the ground. It took something like an hour to melt the hail and create a warmer microclimate for the tomatoes with hot water… All the while my back yard was flooded something awful and our shoes and sock became soaked with ice-melt from the hail.

It worked… Mostly. Nearly every plant has survived the debacle and is starting to really come back! It’s impressive. And I have the few plants that were struggling to recover that have no gained massive growth on their outdoor counterparts to plant in the spots where the other plants have failed.

And so the tomato saga continues. They are finally starting to set green, undamaged leaves on their crowns. The weather has been feeling like it’s blazingly hot, but I know it’s just warm, being in the low 80’s on some days. It’s really the perfect weather for the tomatoes to grow and they are doing so energetically despite their setbacks.

The peas and beans we planted after the chicken debacle are now sprouting and growing fast. A sole, lonely cucumber is attempting to sprout and grow. My two corn plants continue to truck along as well. The spicy peppers are outdoors as well; they, too, suffered from the frost.  The bell peppers are still indoors under lamps. The leftover tomatoes are starting to move outdoors. One zucchini died, the other one lives, and the watermelon plants appear to be starting to recover as well. The kale is growing very strong and we’re looking forward to salads and leafy greens! We filled the space that would have been zucchini with onion sets. The strawberries are well established now, but just aren’t doing much. Their bed is new, and still very rough and struggling to become healthy soil.

My camera continues to be out of commission. I shall try to get some photos tomorrow for my next update. Perhaps I shall simply have photo days on the blog.

All the Cray that isn’t Fish

It’s said that in Cleveland that if you don’t like the weather, wait five minutes. It’s also asked “What do you call a day in Cleveland where it’s 70 degrees and sunny after days of rain?” The answer is, of course, “Monday”! After weeks of nice weather, it suddenly began to pour over the weekend. And on friday it decided to hail. And saturday, too.

A photo of some of the hail we had over the weekend, taken from a local news site.

This after weeks of dry as a bone tropical weather. Of course it was still toasty as the hail came screaming down and melting immediately upon gaining contact with the wet ground… My sister and I left to visit my mother and get lunch on the way and pulled into a fast-food joint as it started hailing hardcore. The banging of the hail on the car roof was so loud I had to shout to be heard in the front seat. Naturally that first thing I asked as we pulled in? “So do we try to shout over the hail through the drive-through speaker… Or run inside as fast as we can!?” At the top of my lungs. I got a dirty look for that one. Ah, hail humor.

We decided to wait it out. It calmed down just long enough for us to get our food. It stopped by the time we reached our destination. Somewhere at home my strawberries had become a sadder sight, with holes in the leaves. The next day it did it all over again. And now we’re getting frost warnings every night!

Oh Cleveland weather, you sly dog, you! You’re so crazy!

Credit to Abby Howard @ JSpowerhour.com

Naturally all this cray wasn’t the limit to the cray cray. On friday morning I woke up and immediately cleaned cages so I could sell some rabbits. The one Purina was in had gotten pretty bad with all the not-so-baby bunnies in there for so long. The babies went home to a couple getting back into breeding rabbits after some 20 odd years. The other two ladies were due to go home as well, except one of them has something like a bacterial infection of the tear gland (wat? since when is that a thing?) and needs treatment. We’ve been doing a saline flush and chamomile, but it’s not working well. Unfortunately that means antibiotics. The good news is that it’s an inexpensive relatively safe treatment. All the while Greg was handling a job interview and application process for a very decent office job that could cover all our bills. Crazy morning.
Then I went to visit my mom at the hospital during the hail storm. She got some holes in her belly put back together the day before. It was also the day after her birthday! What a birthday, huh? She was eating had candies and drinking apple juice; impressive considering they did a minor intestinal surgery. She was doing great, already up and walking around with a gusto. She wants to be done and OUT of there! And soon she will be and will be back to normal again… At least for now, and that will be good.

I came home and had to clean up hail damage. I ended up having no time to post my foraging friday. I’ll do a double next week to make up for it!

Then on saturday we woke up and all the oldest baby bunnies broke out again. luckily they’re in the garage so as usual they only give us some frustration, it’s not serious. I really need to find a way to put mesh tops on those cages… And one one of them they chewed through the netting wall around their water bottle! I fixed it with some wire mesh; they can’t chew through that! Then we went out grocery shopping.
Leaving Greg at work immediately after my sister helped me unload the groceries into the house. And by “help” I mean she dropped a 24 pack of cookies on the floor! She picked them up, but left them open on a nearby table. I immediately had hours of stuff to do, and so putting the cookies away didn’t take top priority. Whoops.
While I was out taking care of my sister’s dogs, Nukka the Crazy Husky got into the box of cookies. Completely ignoring the less-irritating oatmeal raisin cookies she snacked down on TEN very BIG cookies some four inches across… Each one filled with something toxic such as chocolate or macadamia nuts. (Please note; raisins and grapes are also toxic to dogs. This was a bad situation all around.) Naturally I didn’t notice until much later that evening when Greg went for a cookie and we wondered where they had all gone. Normally in that situation you’d fill your dog’s tummy with hydrogen peroxide until they puked it all out (this is legit, I swear), but in this case it had been five hours already and I figured they were probably digested. The next day she had all the symptoms of a blocked intestine, or potentially pancreatitis. She puked all over her crate and it smelled like diarrhea, which was something she also had. She was starting to drool and couldn’t keep anything down. Oddly enough she showed none of the symptoms specific to toxicity like shaking legs or lack of appetite.

So Sunday night I spent in the lobby of an emergency vet with my cray cray cookie-thief of a dog. And I stayed there until well into this morning. Greg wasn’t with me because he now has a new job and started today. After a large bill was handed to me they had determined she had a swollen intestine from all the crap she ate and was otherwise fine. No blockage, normal pancreas, no toxicity. This is not the first time this has happened. She got IV fluids, was given no food for 10 hours and then was put on a bland diet with anti-nasuea pills. She’s recovering quickly so far.

And now? We’re being the crazy dog owners that cook food special for their dogs. Boiled chicken and white rice for 2-3 days.
And poor Greg? This whole time he has been trying to get this job that will pay all our bills, and got it. Upon the getting of which he realized his two week notice at Starbucks wasn’t up. Now he has 12 straight days of work ahead of him after all this craziness, one of which is a 12 hour day.

And as of today? I have sold 11 of the 12 in the new litters of rabbits.

Oh life… Y U no be sane?