Monday, August 3, 2009

Tomatoes, To-MA-toes, Potatoes, Po-TA-toes

Yesterday Ben and I went up to visit our friends, Paul and Katie, in Ellensburg, Washington, a 45 minute drive from our home in Selah.
The intended purpose of the trip was to collect a camper they had given us so that when we could follow them into bear country and not get eaten in our tent.
I wasn't particularly gracious about the gift, and for that I apologize, Paul and Katie. But something told me this was a debacle in the making. But Ben was determined. As it turned out, the camper didn't fit the truck and we revised our goal for the afternoon.
They hitched up their trailer to their truck and we took off up a canyon not far from their home, seeking relief from the 96 degree heat. It was 95 when we arrived at a favorite spot of theirs, but a breeze, shade and pine trees, offered an illusion of coolness. We drank beer, barbequed hamburgers, drank wine and then gin and tonics (I abstained from the G&T's) and talked gardening among other things.
Paul is a gardener from way back, helping his mom tend a "survival" garden at their Mossy Rock, Washington, homestead as he was growing up. It was hard work. Gardening always is, but when you seriously depend on it for your daily fare, it takes on a whole different meaning.
But out of that he developed a love of gardening. Katie grew up in Ellensburg and has gardened much of her life as well.
They grow potatoes above ground. They lay the potato eye on the ground and then cover it with mulch: chicken manure, straw, whatever. The potato plants are beautiful and produce an abundant crop. Mine look like someone went through the row with a torch. Brown leaves, skinny stalks. Not sure what crop we'll get, but next year I'll use their method.
We also got to talking about the "little people," who Paul and Katie believe inhabit the forests and seashores--and our gardens, which is one reason they say I have a successful garden. I don't doubt their sightings, but I've never seen little people. However, I've been honoring the natural way of things by refusing to spray, allowing for attrition to the vegetable-hungry bugs and creating habitat for the non-vegetarian bug who eats the vegetarian bugs. What a world.
Paul also recommended pruning the tomato plants. Little did I know, since I've not ever grown a tomato in any of the different gardens I've had. Cut the suckers off, even though it's painful, Paul said. I pruned the equivalent of a large tomato bearing plant today, and you can hardly tell I did anything. I also picked at least 20 ripe tomatoes, and the plants are loaded. We also put it a third stake, creating a triangle with string around the plants.
Today, I harvested two cantaloupe. I asked Paul and Katie yesterday how you tell when they are ripe. "By their smell," they said. Mine fell off the vine today while I was weeding. I thought that was a pretty good indication they were ripe.

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