It's been hot and dry here in the Deep South of Mississippi. This morning, though, the humidity was still down. Might as well give the old gurl a hand, having given myself the day off from child care. Nothing is ever easy with Mama. I got to her house to find her in the den, watching the weather channel. She likes the background music she says. I think she's hoping that if she watches the scattered thunderstorms come in from the Coast that she can hope one right over her garden. I don't know...but that's where she was, watching the weather. She'd get the hoses and meet me in the garden.
Ohhh my, what a sight that garden was! Mama's two dozen heritage tomatoes had outgrown their stakes. Couldn't tie them up any higher than the top, right? OOoooo...and it's very grassy and weedy at the other end. The bitterweed, were it in a flower bed, verdant and blooming, is a beautiful sight to see. But the bitterweed wasn't in a bed. It was around the few old collard plants. By the tomatoes. Mama said she'd get it hoed up when it rains. I couldn't stand it, a tendency to a bit of OCD not allowing for the weeds to remain this morning. Where to start? I located the hoe, probably as old as I am. The blade of it has become thin from years of being sharpened. It's my favorite garden implement Mama owns. I hope she leaves it to me in her will.
It made a scritch scratch scratch sound as the dry soil was scraped more than hoed. A workable path is cleared to adequately allow the manipulation of the tomato plants. But yikes. Mama wanted the grass and weeds thrown over the fence to the chickens. Did I forget to mention the chickens?
They love Mama. She talks to them every time she goes through the shop door to the garden. "Caaaack cack cack caaaaack," they always answer back. They recognized the sound of the hoe clearing away the unwanted forbs and knew it was theirs; Mama and her chickens treat each other well. With much cack cack caaaaacking the fowl called for their gleanings. Mama had the fence height raised between the garden and the chicken yard to keep the chickens out. Or maybe to keep them in? I'm never sure.
Trying not to get dirt and dust blown back on me the garden debris is catapulted over the fence by the hoe. The chickens, at least, were content as they busily scratched and pecked and made that funny buuwaaaaaaaauk wauk wauk wauk sound.
The tomatoes needed to be restaked. I have NO clue who put piddly little three foot stakes at each
plant but additional height was required. An excursion around the shop yielded the metal fence posts in adequate sufficiency for the task. The ground was very dry and hard, mandating the use of my SECOND favorite garden implement: the axle from an old buggy. Mama told me it was a great grandfather's buggy the axle came from and that it's always been in her family. The thing is solid cast iron, weighing probably forty pounds. The pointed ends of it make a perfect tool to punch holes into the hardened soil to a depth deep enough the tomatoes won't blow over when a good breeze (think hurricane) comes along.
Mama began cutting the tomato strings as I get all the tomatoes REstaked. When I was little there were always rags to be cut into long strips for tying the tomatoes to the stakes. In this day and age of plastic, however, the ruined pair of pantyhose is Mama's choice for stripping. And there's plenty of those available, Mama having anticipated needing them for the garden from her very first pair of nylons. The taller tomato stakes were set, the task of tying the plants to them yet to be done. Finally. It had taken an entire morning of work to get to one of two tasks I went to her house to accomplish.
I love tomatoes. I like to eat them raw off the plant, in salads, sandwiches and cooked any dozen of ways, most especially tomato gravy.
I like the smell of working in the tomato plants. The soft hairy stems and leaves yield their odor and color to anything that brushes up against them.
My hands, arms, and shirt are all shaded with the green smell of tomato. I don't think there's anything more Southern in the heat of summer, well past the blooming of magnolias, than a beautiful tall tomato plant, it's freshly tied stems showing the turning triads and quartets of fruit underneath, the delicate yellow flowers promising the good of the earth to come.
The soaker hose was stretched the length of the row of tomatoes. A lone horned tomato worm was dealt with quickly and firmly underfoot. The entire garden received a spraying of sevin. All the tools but the axle are put away, it being firmly stood upright, waiting for the rain and the softening of the earth to happen so I can go back out and stake the cayenne peppers. My octogenarian mother is pleased with the morning's work.
I get to be favorite child for a few hours. But that's another story for another day...