The problem is that we wish we had green thumbs. We both love nature and love beautiful gardens. We’ve always wished we had the gift. And, on a number of occasions, we’ve talked about “planting a vegetable garden next summer”. It’s never worked out…….
Until this summer, that is. Many of you know that the lovely Becca has been living with us for two years now. Becca moved in with us to help with child care. I hope that it’s been equally beneficial, but I definitely speak for Jamie and myself when I say that our lives would not have been the same without Becca. She has truly become a part of our family and I don’t know how we would have kept two ministries alive and kicking over the past couple of years without her help. She’s been amazing. So, sometimes we indulge her “latest craze”.
Becca’s latest crazes have included everything from an espresso maker (Neither Jamie or I really drink coffee), to trying out to be on a game show (at a gay bar….I skipped that one). Becca is young, free, and slightly off balance and we’ve strived to make sure that our house was her house with all of the freedoms associated with it. So this spring, when she started talking “vegetable garden”, we figured it might be a mutually beneficial agreement. Becca could grow the vegetables, we would pay for the supplies, and we’d feel just slightly more a part of the organic chic community. And that’s always cool.
It’s hard to know when to plant a garden in England. In the States, at least where we’re from, you plant it when the weather starts getting warm. But that’s very hard to determine here. After all, “warm” is relative. But we finally got our start in June (mind you, my mother is already picking her tomatoes in June). We went down to the garden centre, picked out a few pots (£15), invested in several bags of “dirt” (£20), and picked out the finest sprouts we could find which included a couple of tomato plants(£7), several varieties of herbs (£5), a small green house starter kit (£10), and several different kinds of seeds (£4), including some form of chilli pepper. From the start things were working out beautifully. Becca was doing all the work, we were watching plants grow (especially the seedlings in the mini green house), people coming over for barbecues were commenting on our vegetable growing “prowess”, and we were taking all of the credit (kind of like raising Olyvia, actually). It was perfect.
Then came our summer holiday. Up to this point, we were pouring all manner of vegetable health care in the direction of our little garden. Everything from special “dirt”, to plant food (£10), to daily watering and pampering. I think Becca may have even been singing to the plants (do plants like death metal?) And they were growing with gumption. But after two weeks in France, we came home to a very different story. Though the weeds, flowers, trees, grass and every other manner of “plant” was growing like gang busters, the plants that we actually cared about hadn’t fared so well. In fact, several of them appeared to be making a steady pace towards “the light”. It was clear that several of them would not make it. Apparently these were house plants and could not be left outdoors to fend for themselves. But a few had managed to hold on and Becca began a valiant effort to nurse them back to health all with the hope that, in just a few short weeks, we’d be walking into our back garden for dinner. It was a glorious thought. I was prepared to get myself some kind of a “green” or “I’m organic” t-shirt and to look down my nose at all those still frequenting the local grocery story for their produce. Peasants.
Here’s where the false hopes lied (excuse the pun). Though we weren’t actually getting any tomatoes or peppers, the plants were indeed flowering. And, according to the garden centre guy, those flowers would one day turn into glorious, home grown, organic “we’re better than you” vegetables!
Finally, they started to turn. First one, then two, and pretty soon we had three or four little buds that would one day be peppers and tomatoes. I was already feeling superior to everybody else. Things were turning out just as I’d hoped. Everyday we would walk out to the back garden and attempt to wish our vegetables into ripeness. We were nearly there!
Then came the storm. The first thing that happened is that our tomato plants were blown from their perch. We examined them closely, however, and nothing seemed to be the matter. Hearty little suckers (and considering the amount of money we’d spent on “dirt” and plant food, they’d better be!) But, in a move that will, apparently, forever be referred to as “proof that Tim is an idiot”, I decided to try and offer our tomato plants some physical support in the way of some tent stakes. I gently pushed the stakes into the ground and tied the tomato plants to those stakes using our special green twisty (£5) bought from the garden centre. An hour later the wind blew and our tomato plants began snapping at exactly the point that those stakes ended. What we later realized was that, instead of those plants having complete flexibility to bend and sway with the wind, the first six inches of those plants were kept perfectly stable by the stakes, but the rest of the plant was left to continue bending and swaying in said wind. The combination of the two caused said plants to snap off at the point where they were no longer flexible. Who knew?
Becca was away on this particular weekend, however, so I did my best to make it look like the wind’s fault. I also did my best to “bandage” the tomato plants in an attempt to somehow keep them alive. After all, by this time we actually had some green tomatoes tempting (read “mocking) us and I was bound and determined to eat those things!
Finally the day came. One single tomato finally ripened. It is picture above from several different angles. I cut the tomato into fours and we each had a sliver of the most expensive tomato any of us had ever eaten. Whole Foods, eat your heart out! You think you sell expensive tomatoes? Try £67 a tomato! That’s $142 if you’re keeping up with the market.
Since that day we’ve managed one other ripe tomato, but it fell from the plant, split open, and was immediately attacked by pigeons before we’d even had our espresso for the morning. Today five green tomatoes mock us from their perch atop our tomato plants, and we’ve picked one tiny pepper (literally smaller than your smallest finger nail) which was so hot that Jamie and Becca spent the next two days trying to figure out ways to get me to try it. We’re still waiting on the rest of them to ripen.
Next year we’re considering chickens which will be dropped off at a local dog spa and raised for the low, low cost of £20 a day. In three short months they should be ready to eat. Can’t wait!