Welcome to austinagrodolce … My family and I garden with more intention and enthusiasm than allocated budget or overall design plan. It shows. Wildlife populations don't seem to notice our lack of cohesive design, they just like the native plants here. It seems by growing local we've thrown out a welcome mat. Occasionally, we're surprised at who (and what) shows up.

Sunday, September 30, 2007

And in the end

the love you take
is equal to the love you make...

Yesterday afternoon I saw "Across the Universe", the film by Julie Taymor, a musical built around Beatle's songs.

It is a lush treat, a trip down memory lane albeit peopled with fresh faces and new voices. Taymor struck a good balance of being true to the songs while remaining respectful to those of us who lived our lives with that music as the soundtrack. As she painted scene after scene for us like Peter Max graphics sprung to life, those songs become the engine to move along an independent story line about life in the 60s/70s with Jude, Lucy, Max and their friends.

It was the cinematic version of when you have a favorite book you are reading and you start to want to slow it all down as you realize you are reaching the end. You just don't want it to be over.

But, everything has it's beginning and it's end.

Like tomatoes.

The online version of the "Texas Gardener", [a magazine for Texas gardeners by Texas gardeners] completely supports my assertion that one of the steepest gardening challenges in our area is that of growing tomatoes. We have temperature issues, a short growing season, and an abundance of pests ready to share if not totally usurp the harvest you might otherwise enjoy.

The growing season here only reaches from the final frost (which averages around mid March) through whenever the daytime temps hover in the 90s with nighttime lows in the 70s. Those warm temperatures can come as early as mid May but are a near certainty by Memorial Day.

That does not give a tomato plant a lot of time to set and ripen much of a crop. Texas gardeners have come up with all sorts of coping mechanisms and devised ways to get around our short season with early starts indoors, in greenhouses, and we've developed all sorts of warming covers and enhancements.

This year however, we had a cooler than usual summer, with lots of additional rain, so the tomato growing season was preternaturally extended.

It is the end of September and I just cut off my two plants right above the soil despite unripe fruit stubbornly clinging. This puts an official end to "our" 2007 tomato season. We are already fully two months past when anybody reasonably gets tomatoes in Central Texas and pest problems had finally overtaken my organic attempts at control.

Besides bugs, I had a bit of a squirrel problem with my tomatoes this year. One squirrel in particular developed quite a tomato habit. This animal waited right until the fruit was ready to harvest - and then did so, eating about half and leaving the rest sitting on top of our fence as a tribute to how little control I had over their activites.

I ended up having to pick the fruit earlier and earlier, trusting windowsill ripening safely indoors out of squirrel reach, to finish what could not happen naturally without potential squirrel intervention.

Now I have a bumper crop of green tomatoes and rather than wait for them to ripen, I have plans for a bounteous feast centered around them for dinner this evening.

Because if you can't bring your tomatoes along safely to realize their destiny as ruby orbs of ripened goodness? You slice them green and fry them.

I'll throw in a couple of other dishes for interest, a ham steak maybe, some fried eggs, biscuits probably, but the real star of the show if all goes according to plan, will be the sliced, fried, beautifully piquant green tomatoes.

I know at least one squirrel out there won't understand what happened to the plants. This small animal will be missing the near constant supply of delicious meals. But as I've willingly shared excess tomatoes all season long with human friends and neighbors?

After I've prepared and my husband and I have devoured our fill of fried green tomatoes, I figure I'll leave one last small fruit out on the fence for my Sciuridae the Tomato Eater.

In my version of the world, when a thieving squirrel develops a palate that so appreciates home grown tomatoes, that animal deserves one last chance as a season ends, to enjoy a final gift from the garden.

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