We are definitely in the home stretch of fall here in Alberta. We’ve already had some frost warnings and are due for some snow this week, if the weather network is to be believed. To that end I have finally harvested all my tomatoes, peppers and zucchini, ready or not.
In the case of tomatoes and peppers, the answer is definitely not. I still find it shockingly hard to believe that tomatoes that I started in MARCH are still not ripe on the vine. The only logical explanation I can find is that they went into serious hibernation for all of July, growing tall but no more, that and the fact that they’re heirlooms. Cause it can’t be normal to take six months, can it?
Anyway, I lost two tomato plants to blossom end rot, both of them Valencia’s which is quite sad since they are absolutely fantastically delicious. They are like balls of sweet, complex golden sunshine and the few tomatoes that were salvageable were simply the tastiest of them all. Now I know that they have the least resistance, since no other tomato variety suffered. So at the end of the day I am left with a few dozen ripening, but far from ready, tomatoes of various shades and sizes. As they ripen I eat them straight out of hand since this seems like a decadent thing to do each day, and is far healthier than any other snack I can think of. Typically a small handful and one or two large ones are waiting for me in the evening, and tonight I need nothing more than a BLT to make my day.
I also have about two dozen peppers, which is actually not a bad amount, given that I only planted three little plants that shivered in the yard, until the sheltering bulk of zucchini covered them from the wind. And the last two squashes – one large and perfect for stuffing, and one small and tender, great for a quick stir-fry.
Now all that’s left to do is garden clean-up. And eating. And dreaming of next years’ garden. Cause after a summer like this one, it’s gotta be all uphill.
Our neighbors’ cat got lost a few days ago. She must have got out in the morning as they left for work, and they spent two days doing what owners frantically do when their pets go missing, namely print flyers, talk to their neighbors and the neighborhood kids and spend hours walking around with cat food. She was an older cat who’s never been outside, and they were understandably upset and worried.
As professional cat owners we contributed a donation of a cat trap, moral support, cat food on our front porch and several walks around the neighborhood late at night, when the traffic dies down, and the night is still. So last Saturday night found us walking around the neighborhood around eleven thirty at night trying to spot one shy cat. One shy cat was nowhere to be seen, but we did spot a very young cat sitting curled up on the steps of a townhouse.
We stopped to say hello, and the friendly kitten approached, gurgling something in cat and arching his back. He was very skinny, and allowed himself to be picked up without resistance, purring all the while. Offering to return him home, I knocked on the townhouse steps where the lights were still on, and asked the family who answered whether the kitten is theirs.
“Oh no, no” came the answer.
“Well have you seen him around?” I asked, “perhaps he’s your neighbors’ cat or anyone’s from around here?”
“No, no, he’s been around for a couple of days, but he doesn’t have a home” came the reply. “Perhaps you can take him?”
“Thanks, I sure can” I said. The kitten was not wearing a collar, had no tattoo, and was skin and bones.
The kitten was still sitting contentedly on my shoulder during this conversation, so we traced our steps home, got in the truck and drove to the wonderful 24 hr vet at the local plaza. The receptionist checked him for a microchip – none, tattoos – none, and said he can spend the night there, and be sent to the SPCA in the morning. She also mentioned that it looks like he has worms, his ears are dirty, his tail may have been damaged and he may be a barn cat, which would make him the friendliest barn cat I’ve ever seen. Feeling like our good deed is done for the night we drove home.
A week later the vet phoned.
“The kitten you brought in is still here, any chance you want to take him?”
“Sure!” was my reflexive reply. No, we don’t need another cat, but over time we have fostered and adopted cats through a wonderful local shelter – The MEOW Foundation, and I was hoping they could place him for adoption on their website if we foster him at our house. Like many no-kill shelters they are perpetually running at above capacity, and they hardly ever have room at their facility. Fortunately they agreed, and the kitten arrived at our house that same night. He’s been cleaned and de-wormed and was looking wonderful. The vet staff named him Stretch which fits him wonderfully as he has a very long and lean torso.
Soon he’ll be neutered and micro-chipped and be ready to go to his permanent home. His incredibly sweet and affectionate nature will likely get him placed very quickly, but in the meantime he’s enjoying his place in the sun.
Oh and the neighbors’ cat? Was found under a deck of the house directly behind them. Luckily the cat didn’t make it far, and was spotted by a caring soul. Which is a great happy ending.
Since I’m a first time gardener, and know next to nothing about tomato varieties, other than the fact that store bought ones taste like crap, one of the things I was very excited about is discovering what heirloom varieties of tomatoes taste like. If memory serves, I went to the Salt Spring Seeds website and browsed for a very long time, seduced by magical sounding descriptions. Then I sat down, composed myself, and ordered about five varieties of tomatoes.
Sometime late March I started the seeds, watched the miracle unfold as they grew and got tall and strong, and waited like a mother hen to take them outside. Then Mother Nature showed her capricious side by throwing down the worst summer I’ve ever seen in Calgary. And two of my tomato varieties got blossom end rot from a non-stop cold rain in June. And now, only now, the smallest of my tomatoes, two cherry varieties are seeing it fit to ripen. Did you know it’s September 21 today? And I started them in March? I don’t care who you are, that’s a mighty long time to wait for tomatoes. And the bulk of them are green… but that’s a post for another day.
Anyhow, I picked a couple of the ripe and ready cherries to see which one would be the winner for next year’s garden. (I guess I definitely have the gardening fever, although right now I’m so tired of baby-sitting plants non-stop for six months that I’m actually welcoming the long break.) The two contestants as pulled from Salt Spring’s website were:
Pearly Pink Cherry
Squat-shape. Very shiny skins. Semi-determinate plants. Massive producer. Meaty texture with a unique zesty flavor. Ideal for salad use. Rated 10. 75 days. (Ha ha ha ha ha! Whew.)
Tiny lemon-yellow and lemon-shaped, zesty tomato on 1-2 ft vines. Produces hundreds on a plant. Great for containers. Early. (A-ha ha ha ha ha!! Let me just wipe the tear from my eye…)
Since they’re both small tomatoes, I didn’t bother cutting them up, I just ate them. And ate them. And ate some more. These decisions are not to be made lightly you know. The pearly pink cherries were… plain. They tasted like really fresh, decent, local, store bought tomatoes. They were a bit on the bland side, they lacked personality or pizzazz. But Ildi’s on the other hand were awesome – they had that fantastic tomatoey flavor that makes growing tomatoes worthwhile. Juicy and sweet they were just great, and a clear winner of the two.
Neither plant yielded as much as promised, (and nowhere near as early), but it’s really not their fault. It was an incredibly awful summer for growing stuff, and I can only expect better results next year. I likely got three dozen Pearly Pink Cherries per plant, and while I did get clusters of Ildi’s, they contained more like 10-15 tomatoes per cluster, not 50 as some sites reported. And both plants are ready to keep going they really are, but unfortunately the weather is not on their side. We’re currently getting frost warnings now, and it’s a matter of days not weeks before the season is done for good.
LOOK AT ALL THE FLOWERS!
Edited Sept 24/09 – You know what? I take back what I said about Pearly Pink Cherries. I must have had a couple that weren’t that ripe, but now that I’ve eaten a few handfuls, I can confidently say they are very good. Perhaps they lack a hint of the complexity that makes Ildi special, but I would NOT kick them out of bed for eating crackers. So I will happily plant them again – they’ve been my lunch staple the last few days and I’m converted.