Thursday, May 22, 2008

Tom and Tomatoes

One year ago today, Tom, my writing pal and ready reader, sent me this. Why it didn't make the Frog Log cut, I do not know. One year later, it is still timely...and timeless. Thanks, Tom!

Frog Log 22 May 2007

Valencia

I leave Frog Holler Farm after a few hours of marking plants in preparation for sale at the Ann Arbor Farmer's Market. Each tomato plant has its own wooden stick, hand written with its name, an heirloom, a cherry, or a big firm tasty variety: Roma, Striped German, rose, Brandywine, Muscovic, celebrity, volcove, Valencia. "So many," I think, "Amish to zebra." I remain amazed mentally viewing countless trays, each one hand planted from tiny seedlings, each plant watered, and coaxed to growth without chemicals, each seedling warmed chilly nights in the greenhouse by the fire of oak dead-fall, hauled from the woods in a burdened trailer behind a burdened tractor, burned fragrantly and faithfully in an ancient slab-wood stove.

I drive to see Dom, my son's Godfather. Yesterday Dom told me the old man across the street needed yellow tomatoes, low acid, he said. Dom takes care of the old man, sprays his orchard and tills his small garden.

Earlier today I ask Ken at Frog Holler if we have such a thing: low acid yellow tomatoes, for the old man I tell him. Ken pauses, mentally juggling a multitude of tasks: soil prep, irrigation, plant prep, market prep. He's already dirty at 9:00 a.m., hat ajar and sweat stained. I watch his frantic pace halt; time stops as he tends my query, his face fully attuned only to me, as if my request is the axis upon which the world turns. "Valencia," he says. "Of course," I think, I've written it a hundred times on a hundred wooden sticks: "val, val, val". Ken says to take some Stripped German, too. I tell him again they are for the neighbor across the way, the old man, but he's already moved to the next task. Later I hand three perfect plants to Dom. They will be tended and climb wooden sticks and spread reaching green fingers, finely making lush yellow and orange fruit, lower in acid.

At our best, we all till the same soil and work in the same garden. I can’t help thinking there's something right about it.



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