As I sit here writing this morning, the back half of my house is bathed in morning sunlight that seems brighter than it was just two weeks ago. The sun is lower in the sky, the gardens are seeing a few minutes less of it each day.
This is the time of year I expected to be drowning in tomatoes, canning up quart after quart of delicious sauce for the long winter. After all, a girl who plants 48 tomato plants is not just looking to make salad. Well, there won't be any tomato sauce this year. Unless I want to bottle up a large helping of Late Blight.
Oh, it is a sad sight. It actually revealed itself a couple of weeks ago, the day my parents arrived for an almost two week visit. I was out in the garden doing my usual morning harvesting/weeding/lullaby singing, when I spotted a sorry little section on one plant. I knew exactly what I was seeing. I also knew I should deal with this in a swift and aggressive way (or so my research tells me).
My parents were greeted and they settled in. I called Adam at work to share the sad blight news. Then the day got busy... Emily was scheduled to be taken out with her friends for the evening... a meal needed to be prepared for my parents and soon to arrive sister... (Which by the way was vegan chili with cornbread, except I mistakenly used polenta instead of cornmeal! Ha! When will I ever label all my glass jars?)
First thing the following morning, I'll take care of the tomatoes then.
Well, that was the day of my grandmother's wake. Pies needed to be made, as did more food for a house full of family. The day flew by. The next morning was the funeral, then the luncheon. We arrived home late afternoon and I finally headed straight out to the garden, plastic bag in hand, ready to take care of that one plant I had spotted... or maybe its neighbor too, at this point.
Instead of removing one or two plants, I walked into this:
From a spot or two on one plant to this in just 48 hours. Goodness what a heart-sinking, awful feeling. Immediately my thoughts turned to the farmers we know - the folks that are actually doing this for a living. The men and women whose livelihood depends in part on beautiful heirloom tomatoes. I'm just a girl trying to make some tomato sauce, I'll survive. Heck, I can even take a drive up to the farm to see about getting a bushel or two for sauce making.
But farmers? Wow.
A friend of Adams farms a few hundred acres in the town next to ours, he isn't even growing tomatoes this year due to such terrible blight over the past few years.
So, the work began of salvaging any fruit we could, and saying 'so long' to the dozens of plants we once knew as tiny seeds. We roasted and froze many jars. (We also made more pesto and blanched/froze a few quarts of beans, while we were in the kitchen.)
There will be summer tomatoes for the winter after all, just a bit less than we had originally hoped for.
My understanding is that next year we'll need to find a new spot on the property for our tomatoes to help avoid a recurrence, and so we will.
I'm thinking behind the stone wall, where we've kept a casual garden overflow this season. We'll definitely need to fence it in though to keep the critters at bay.
As it is now, that garden is an open invitation to raccoons (I'm guessing) who love perfectly ripe melon. What a disappointing sight!
Needless to say, we've been feeling a bit like these funny folks lately. (Language warning on that link.) But we will persevere.
I do hope the animals leave this melon for us... I'm watching it closely, only a week or so to go before it's ready. After losing most of our tomato crop, I sure would love to taste some of our own homegrown melon this year.
There's always next year to have better success with some things, and hopefully continued success with others. We'll try better fencing on the back garden, a little crop rotation, and perhaps more spacing between plants.
One thing we'll be sure to do the same is keep a sense of humor for our backyard homesteading dreams, and a sense of reverence for the farmers who risk everything to create a livelihood by way of feeding their communities.
Also, we'll remember to always plant a fall garden. Because those emerging late summer seeds are just what is needed when certain things go 'wrong' with the summer garden.
Well, that is the state of our garden at the moment. I best get going now, Emily just came in from a walk out back with Scout and told me the grapes look ready. I need to go take a peek... jelly and juice making may be calling soon!