Sunday, May 25, 2014

Bronte's Chicken and a Tomato Story

I'm reading The Professor by Charlotte Bronte right now.  When the main character, William Crimsworth, meets his sister-in-law for the first time, this is the description he gives to his friend in a letter: 
"She spoke with a kind of lisp, not disagreeable, but childish.  I soon saw also that there was more than girlish - a somewhat infantine expression in her by no means small features; this lisp and expression were, I have no doubt, a charm in Edward's eyes, and would be so to those of most men, but they were not to mine.  I sought her eye, desirous to read there the intelligence which I could not discern in her face or hear in her conversation; it was merry, rather small; by turns I saw vivaciy, vanity, coquetry, look out through its irid, but I watched in vain for a glimpse of soul."  

Remind you of anyone?  

The charming but childish and vain person that comes to my mind, when I read that description, is Mrs. Hall.  After I read this passage to Helen, while she and Mrs. Hall helped me plant tomato plants a few days ago, we both sought Mrs. Hall's eyes, searching for that glimpse of soul.    

Mrs. Hall was offended by the attention to her "irids" and stalked off to investigate the compost pile, leaving me to plant my tomato plants alone.  

Even without Mrs. Hall assistance, I managed to get nine tomato plants in the ground and in cages.  In this raised bed, I used black plastic tree mats, which are perforated to allow water through, but not weeds.  Tomatoes are supposed to love warm soil, so I hope using the black plastic will warm their roots nicely.  

The tomato cages are some of my most prized possessions.  Most of them belonged to my father-in-law, and I think of him every time I use them.  I think of him whenever I plant tomatoes anyway, because my very first garden plants were some tomatoes he gave me.  He started them himself, from seeds, and they were growing in some soil in an old flower pot.  I was supposed to divide them while they were still small, and plant them in the garden I wanted to start at our newly acquired house and lawn.  

Of course, I never got around to starting a garden that year, and the tomatoes grew so big in the flower pot that their roots were hopelessly entangled, and in an act of desperation I shoveled a flowerpot sized hole in the grass and stuck the whole thing in.  A half dozen plants in a single hole!  Back then we didn't even have a privacy fence, much less the tangle of vegetation I have now, so a single clump of tomatoes sticking up from a blank slate lawn looked sort of strange.  

I bought one of those dinky conical shaped tomato cages and installed it in the mass of tomato vines.  I didn't realize until someone pointed it out that I put it upside down, not that it would have done much good with that many plants anyway.  Over the summer the green mass grew weeds and tall grass because there wasn't a border and Brandon couldn't mow very close since the vines were stretched on the ground.  I thought it was a disaster, when I thought about it at all, which wasn't often.

Then, one day, I happened to glance inside the tomato tangle, and saw something red.  I got down low, and really started to look and realized there were tomatoes in there!  More than one, and they tasted great, just like a tomato!  After that, every day I would harvest a few tomatoes.  Now look at me, my plants are all in different holes, there's a border so Brandon knows where to mow, weeds are suppressed with plastic, and each plant has it's own cage.  In the end though, all that stuff if for my own benefit, because the the tomatoes were happy without it, and they tasted just as good before I started making all this fuss.         

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