It began in late winter. The hopes, the dreams, the plans.
The Happy Little Gardener scoured seed catalogs and stores for just the right ones. Choices were made and 6 weeks before the predicted last frost date, the delicate little seeds were hopefully nestled into nutrient rich seeding medium in a draft free place with plenty of light indoors. Day after day the gardener misted the soil, and scanned the surface, hoping for signs of life.
Finally the seedlings emerged, and she continued her vigil. Nurturing, pampering, loving those little sprouts. Her heart waivered at thinning time, but she knew it had to be done. Only the strongest were permitted to continue growing. Slowly the sprouts grew into strong seedlings with vibrant green leaves.
Meanwhile our Happy Little Gardener found the perfect location in the garden. The raised bed was built and filled with rich luscious organic soil. The seedlings were gradually hardened off to the outdoor air; brought inside to the warmth of the house at night. Finally the timing was right, she carefully transplanted her precious darlings to their new home.
And still the vigil continued. She checked every fogging morning for any signs of snail trails. The seedlings were sheltered from the wind. Cages were placed around each one in hopes of supporting their fruit rich vines.
And the plants grew. And grew. And grew. They out grew the cages and additional twine had to be used to continue to support their growth.
Then the little yellow flowers began to emerge and entice the bees with their delicate scent.
The flowers were replaced by the tiniest signs of emerging fruit. Day after day, week after week, the Happy Little Gardener, watered and trimmed any browning leaves, and monitored the development of the tiny green orbs.
Finally as the heat of summer came, the orbs began to change colors. Her hopes of a bountiful harvest increased as the fruits’ hue changed from pale green to an ever deepening crimson red.
One midsummer afternoon, as our Happy Little Gardener began to gather the delicious red fruits to make Tomato Preserves and Pickled Cherry Tomatoes. To her horror, she noticed branches without leaves or flowers.
NOOOOOOOOOOOOO! Someone or some thing was eating her babies!
She frantically scoured the leaves. And then she saw IT. The scourge of tomato gardeners everywhere: Manduca quinquemaculata.
It just sat there, staring back at her, wiggling its corpulent green body and waiving its vicious looking tail menacingly at her. ”Get away from my babies, you hideous fiend!” she thought. Oh yes, she had battled its kind before.
Without a moment to lose, she flew to the garage for her bright pink gardening gloves and Arthritis Foundation approved gardening pruners. Murmuring a quick apology to the tomatoes that had to be sacrificed for the greater good she snipped the entire branch and threw it to the ground. Immediately she began stomping on the loathsome creature, shrieking “DIE DIE DIE!” as the green liquid oozed from the beasts foul little body.
Once satisfied she had thoroughly slain the repulsive being, she shyly glanced at the house next door, silently praying the new neighbors had not seen her sadistic display and were not at that very moment calling the police to come take the homicidal maniac away in a straight jacket.
But her mission was not yet complete. With pruners at the ready she methodically searched every inch of every plant, only stopping to repeat her murderous dance when she spied another ravenous monster. After discovering and disposing of six of the gigantic creatures in the same violent manner, our not so Happy Little Gardener could finally rest.
Her babies were safe... for now.
Here are links to the two recipes mentioned above:
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