Tomato and Kid Volunteers

“Ah, summer. What power you have to make us suffer and like it.” ~ Russel Baker

Playing in the Dirt

You already know of my stealing, hoarding ways and how I treat the soil better than I do my kids or stuff. This summer is no different than any other. The garden is still rockin’ without me!

It’s easy to take a break from the garden in the summer; it’s just too damn hot in the morning and evening, and even hotter in the mid-day (we are in the upper-90’s now). The humidity is always stifling and mosquitoes relentlessly work overtime free of charge.

But the summer fruits don’t seem to mind the heat. The ones in my garden grow best in a semi-neglected manner. With little supplemental watering only from ‘caught’ rainwater (from back in March, no less), the annuals crank out their good fortunes entirely on their own in a no-till, layered, compost-y fashion.

It’s all about the soil, and my soil has definitely got it goin’ on.

Finding organic matter is top priority for me at all times of the year but more so in the scorching heat with no rain. Neighbors seem intent upon paying someone to catch and bag their lawns’ leaf litter and shrub clippings so I can use it in my yard.

Collecting theirs is way better than the way I do it:  a push-mower and good old-fashioned butt-burn. It’s not that I mind the long walk, but I get really lazy in the heat of the summer.

Look what my nice neighbors did for me!

All of the annuals I planted this summer thrive in temps above 90 degrees, but layering organic matter regularly is key to their success without watering. Tomato, basil, jalapeno, cucumber, and eggplant were first out the gate early April, with all but the eggplant winding down about now. The bell pepper is bigger and stronger now and flowering a second time — they do like it hot. Much like the peaches of late spring, pears get pulled early and spend the rest of their time ripening up on the counter instead. Racoon can pretty much clear a tree of fruits within a single night. I’d rather the ‘coons go eat my neighbor’s cat food.

I. Will. NEVER tire of fresh tomatoes from the garden. Whether it’s in pico de gallo, sliced on a sandwich, topping a salad, or simmered in soup, home-grown tomatoes are what I crave the most during all the other months of the year. Good thing I will be picking their fruits for at least another month — thanks to ‘volunteers.’ Volunteers are plants that I didn’t plan for; they just came up on their own.

Fruiting ‘Volunteers’

This season, four additional tomato plants crashed the lasagna party — two of them smack dab in the middle of the keyhole garden. Downside: they take over. Upside? Every time I empty the dishpan or kitchen waste into the center keyhole basket (once or twice daily), I get to pop about 10-20 bright red tomatoes from two plants straight into my face, few additional steps required.

Do you remember this little guy that squatted the compost center basket early April, or shortly afterward, this guy who was determined to grow straight out the side of the keyhole brick wall? I can certainly see now why the keyhole folks don’t recommend planting tomatoes in a circular bed. The keyhole is no place for giant tomato jumbles. Check that box.

Late in the season, the keyhole was direct-sowed with summer squash and turnips, with the squirrels digging up every single lettuce and beet seed clump (I put 3-5 in each hole) and cleverly planting them all in nearby hanging baskets. Whaaat the…? Those guys always keep me guessing. Never mind. I’ll lay down chicken wire netting when I sow seeds again next week to keep them from rearranging the furniture again.

Those carrots never did come up. Twice. So, fail there.

There were, of course, the usual visitors to the garden (aside from my kids), including a new garden hero — Great-crested Flycatcher — who spent a lot of his time (along with the Northern Cardinal and Mockingbird) to keep insect invasions under wraps.

Mama deer ate all the figs from four feet down, and her twin fawns enjoyed the flowering tips of the cucumber, but they didn’t like the prickly big leaves protecting those inside the trellis. We enjoyed plenty of cucumber from within the leaves.

Aside from the occasional leaf-footed bug or tomato hornworm or squash fly visitor, we had zero insect ‘issues’ this year. Perhaps they got the memo on how much I love them. I am living in their world, after all, and am ever thankful when they leave some (not ‘my’) fruits for me.

That’s probably the best part of a garden experience: sharing.

With plenty of fruits left over to give away and no digging to speak of for the season (aside from flipping a compost pile to build another bed), we enjoyed the sunshine nuggets and wowed at the unexpected treasures we found from within the garden instead.

Monarch Caterpillar

Monarch caterpillar

Ox Beetle

Adult Ox Beetle

Teen ‘Volunteer’

Our oldest scored his first job for two weeks this summer as camp counselor. to a group of 5-to-10-year-olds. Technically, he’s volunteering (not getting paid), but he is getting to learn first hand what it’s like to have a regular job, putting 7-9 hours a day in Monday through Friday, and follow instructions from adult peers. It’s a peek into summer jobs of the future, paid or not.

He is loving his job, enjoying even that feeling of exhaustion at the end of a good work day. He sleeps great. He gets himself up each morning, makes his lunch kit, eat his breakfast, combs his bedhead — generally gets himself ready entirely on his own. All I do is drop him off and pick him up.

But being the teen taxi cab, I am not loving the 70-miles put on the van daily (two trips there and back) in H-town’s famously notorious traffic jams. There have been accidents along our route every day requiring us to have not repeated the same route twice. Sitting in traffic SUCKS.

But it’s official: we have entered The Super-Busy Teen Years. Only a couple more years, he’ll be driving himself. Then I can worry about a whole host of other things besides the traffic conditions.

Kids at the Temple Train Station

Enjoy your summer!

12 thoughts on “Tomato and Kid Volunteers

  1. Oh my oh my such a fruit and vegetable salad of a post! “summer fruits don’t seem to mind the heat” – i think I will never whine about the heat again after hearing this. I have had a tumultuous past with tomatoes (kidney stone + bad advice) but hearing them pop up in posts such as these makes my cheeks all cherry-red!

    And I am so tickled peachy that your kids are volunteering. It’s fantastic and I am not surprised at all 🙂 Much love to everyone!

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    1. Hi Christy. Tomatoes? And kidney stones? That’s news for me. Does that also mean peppers and eggplant — close relatives of the tomato? I’d be curious to know what is in the tomato that causes stones.

      Glad you enjoyed the post. Nice to see you here as always!

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Sigh yeah until a few years ago, many in my part of India believed that tomatoes were trouble for anyone with kidney stones (which I did). Lately it’s been proven otherwise. But i have stayed away from them. I m one of those proactive lab rats about kidney stones, I wouldn’t touch an electrode, whether it’d shock me or not 🙂

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      2. But…tomatoes!! I only live without them during the off season because a tomato picked in Mexico green, shipped a few hundred miles with ethylene gas (to brighten it up), and put in my grocery bag to eat later tastes HORRIBLE. Nothing like a yard mater. 😀

        Liked by 1 person

  2. Your garden looks really happy! Must be the soil 🙂 And I drool at all that green matter. I proudly admit that I do the same thing. In fact I can picture exactly what your car smelled like for a few minutes. Worth every sniff.

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    1. Ha ha! You are my kinda guy. Yes, I recall at least of couple of those bags maybe had some dog pee on them. Good think I already have a good yard-stink on when I go trolling for bags I guess.

      As for the van, it has seen MUCH worse in the course of its life in smells with four babies on board. She just turned over 100K miles, God love her. LOL

      Liked by 1 person

  3. Shannon, you never cease to amaze me!. The kids are growing like weeds! And work? I remember when they were not even a twinkle in the eye. Time sure flies. The garden looks great. Miss you all, keep enjoying the summer! Hugs — O

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    1. Hey O. I remember when K was the same age at Gin and now, look at HER. Crazy. You should be amazed that I haven’t been committed yet. I’m really looking forward to school starting up in August. Can’t believe I’m saying that. Miss you guys too!

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