Friday, April 2, 2010

Kid in a sandbox

Yesterday was both Maundy Thursday and April Fools Day, and the day was bookended with celebrations of these two very different events.

The weather was ideal with a high of 80 degrees (that's 27 degrees for those of you in most of the world). A light breeze blew, there was low humidity and not a cloud in the sky. Ahhh.

Early in the morning, and still in my pre-caffeinated phase, Teri and I began to map out our day. Teri had no classes to teach yesterday, so we had planned to spend a chunk of the morning acquiring plants and gardening supplies and then spend part of the afternoon installing our new green friends.

But Teri informed me that she had just heard a revised local forecast calling for "a radical weather change, with a freak late Arctic blast coming in from the north later today." It was disappointing, but our gardening session was off, she said.

Still groggy and in my wake up fog, I fell for her tale until she burst into laughter and "April fooled" me. Usually I'm on the delivering end of pranks in our house, so Teri was delighted with herself for "getting" me with her tall tale.

I have my moments, though, like the time the garage door "went crazy," trapping Teri inside. The door kept opening halfway and then closing again. It took her forever to realize that I was just around the corner in tears of laughter and that the spare opener was the cause of the demon-possessed door. Her priceless puzzled expressions and exasperated squeals were worth the brief beating I received when she caught me. Good times.

After a couple of cups of coffee, my morning fog lifted, and we were off on a glorious spring morning.

All of Suburbingham had spring fever yesterday. Everywhere we went, the roads were gridlocked. It seems everyone else also took the day off and was out and about in the spring sunshine. Traffic was frustratingly slow for a weekday morning.

That sheer number of cars on the road wasn't the only reason the roads were blocked.

Maybe it was spring fever or the increased traffic or perhaps the rising pollen count was having some kind of chemical effect on the brains of Suburbinghamites, but something was definitely impairing the motoring skills of the local populace yesterday.

There were wrecks everywhere, and we encountered every one of them in our travels on Thursday. Radio traffic reports sounded like the play-by-play of the demolition derby. Whatever was causing all of this vehicular carnage, it wasn't the road or weather conditions--they were perfect.

Teri planted herbs in her corner of our garden plot, while I put the vegetable plants in the ground. That's me looking like a happy kid in a sandbox, putting something green side up. I planted a number of different kinds of veggies including yellow squash, cucumbers, zucchini, eggplant (oriental and globe) and peppers (cayenne and poblano). But tomatoes are the stars of my garden.

I love the taste of a home grown garden tomato almost as much as life itself. Store bought tomatoes don't begin to compare in taste or texture to the ones that come from my own back yard. Tomatoes bought at the grocery are literally a pale imitation of the ones I grow--they're not the same thing at all.

My tomatoes are juicy and come in vivid colors. They are alive with rich and complex flavors. They have a yin and yang of acidity and sweetness that dances joyfully across the tongue. The ones at the store, even the expensive vine-ripened organic kind, are lifeless and bland, with a dry, mealy texture.

I raise some of the modern standards like Beefsteak, Better Boy and Early Girl, but most of my tomatoes are heirloom varieties like Arkansas Traveler, Yellow Pear, and Cherokee Purple. My favorite tomato variety name is Mister Stripey--I always plant one of those just because the name sounds so trippy. They're tasty too.

Because I raise so many different varieties, at the peak of tomato season, I'll harvest baskets full of tomatoes ranging from the size of grapefruits to cherries and in colors from bright red to vivid yellow to rich pink to deep purple. And they will all be delicious. Until you've had a bacon, lettuce, tomato and avocado sandwich on toasted white bread, you haven't lived. Mine come slathered in mayo and made with thick juicy slices of ripe homegrown tomato sprinkled with a bit of salt and pepper. I can't think of anything better. We call that delicacy a "blat" at our house, and if everything works out, in a couple of months I'll have my next one.

After planting, I watered in the new crop. Check out the picture. I wasn't kidding about how beautiful the day was. It's a late spring, so the oaks in the Bayberry Woods haven't leafed out yet, but everything is greening up fast now.

After watering the plants, we spiffied up and headed to a surprisingly well attended Maundy Thursday communion service. It was the perfect end to a day in paradise.

Happy Easter everyone!

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