As I write this, I wonder; was Godzilla a girl?
Anyway, I'm starting to harvest a few tomatoes now. Below the cryptic Kos devil handprint you go, to read about my adventures in Tomatoland. You do understand they are the fruit of the devil, no?
First, you get the picture; otherwise you'll all just ignore everything I write and race down to get the picture. I know you people only too well.
This baby weighed in at 20 ounces and was perfectly ripe, even getting a little bruised on the bottom under her own weight, as she sat on my table this afternoon, before I cut a slice and tasted her (I felt like I was engaging in major surgery). I don't know for sure whether the Cherokee people had anything to do with working with this tomato person, but their name being attached to her is indeed an honor, as she is a lovely and strong tomato plant who is making me some beautiful fruit.
Grown in weather over 100 every day (and as high as 110) over the course of June and very late May, under shadecloth, this tomato turned out as sweet as you might hope, though without quite the deep winy taste of a Purple Calabash; another deeply lobed tomato variety with much of the same sort of coloration upon ripening.
However, we shall not judge by this specimen, magnificent though she may be. One tomato doth not a summer make.
I have one patch, the largest; with close to a dozen tomato plants, and some are under the shadecloth, some aren't. The shadecloth setup was something I arranged for an earlier vegetable setup. I put it back up this year without reworking it, because (a) I'm lazy, or (b) I like to change things around and see what happens, or (c) both.
I have tried to water the ones not under the shadecloth more, but I think it would be better to have everybody under the shadecloth, with this kind of weather.
At least in that spot. It is shaded from the east until late morning, and shaded from the west by evening, but even with lots of mulch and watering, the heat just gets too much for the ones not under the shadecloth. They start to wither. They whimper. They wilt sporadically in patches. There could be disease action here but I don't see any patterns stronger than "under the shadecloth, in this weather, you do better."
The San Marzanos are under and not under the shadecloth, I planted a lot of them. And also still in pots (I kept extras in case I wanted to do any replacements). Some of the San Marzanos in the ground are doing worse than the ones in pots. The ones in pots are trying to set fruit, not too successfully. This is all data, but not enough. Enough to be suggestive, though. Enough to be interesting.
The San Marzanos in the ground, even under the shadecloth, are giving me ripe fruit at this time, but they are still a little hammered, far as plum tomatoes go. But overall they're looking fairly strong. But their fruit fall some as they ripen.
I also have a different patch, with four Box Car Willies, with also a Cherokee Purple and a Russian Purple, in a corner that gets morning sun and then shade after midday. They look good, except for the Russian Purple. I have tried them before; they get all etiolated looking and sick. I don't think they like it here. I won't try them again. But they might do really well in a different climate.
The Box Car Willies aren't producing, probably too hot for them to set fruit (but why them and not the others? I planted everybody at the same time). But their foliage is great in this spot, and I hope for them to be producing later this summer.
Tomatoes are pollinated by both wind and insects, and I get both here. My squash has produced quite a bit, and they won't do jack without pollinators. I still have honey bees, even after the city came around and took out the honey bee hive in the abandoned house across the street, a few years back. Those bees lived there for years before that, and likely swarmed and set up elsewhere. Yay bees! They used to show up in my yard in early spring every year for awhile, and I'd wonder; where on earth are all of you people coming from, visiting my birdbath in such droves?
I'm glad I could be here for them, I'm glad I had enough sense not to turn them in to the Animal Police. And I'm sorry they got killed, because that house is still empty, and those were very friendly bees; we had a good acquaintance, what with them pollinating my garden and my giving them places with water to drink. But I'm glad they had some time to work things out, and find other places to be, because I still get bees in my garden, though not as many anymore.
But I've heard from an environmentalist writer correspondent, who has lots of other environmentalists correspondents, that people are seeing fewer insects than usual. That is scary. I am having that experience here, but I figure it's the drought. I'm happy to be running this little oasis here, but it's bad. I have my Tithonia (Mexican sunflowers) all up and blooming; normally they would attract lots of butterflies and hummingbirds; I think I've seen one of each this year, and I hang around here a lot, and watch.
At the same time, I have a volunteer catnip plant (I'm sure I never planted catnip) that's hung in for several years and suddenly burst into bloom this one, and attracted many small pollinators, including some very small butterflies.
The ants are doing all right, both the harvesters who feed my yard horned lizard (I saw him again this year, I wish I had more, I had babies once, that was incredible), and all the others ants, including the tinies who run around my house and climb on me, for me to gently take them up between two fingers and cast them away. They're small, they will land well, as will the little spiders who land on me, when I blow them away.
Still, no rain, no rain. This ain't sustainable. I think this is my last garden here, at least of this sort. Might be time to bail soon, but how to get far away enough from this upcoming climate disaster?
I'm talking about the drought. I read FishOutOfWater, I read quite a few people, and conservative gambler that I am, I'm betting on the best odds; i.e.; it's likely a good idea to get the hell out of Dodge, soon as possible. There are all sorts of delusional fools running around this part of the world laughing at sober and nonpartisan scientists. These people are scared, I understand that. But they also are framing themselves as enemies of ours (and you know who you are).
It's lovely down here. I love the desert, always have.
But it was easier to love it when things weren't going into critical mass, to use a nuclear metaphor that I consider appropriate.
The desert will always be. The desert is moving. I would like to follow the desert, at this point, I think.
Meanwhile, I'm good with my last tomato crop down here, with the work I've put into it, the observations I'm making. It's something. It's not much, but it's something. It's something I can take somewhere.
Best to you all,