15 September 2015

Tomato Tuesday 2015/19

Sunday morning I woke up to find that the basin of the bird bath had been flipped over.

I assume it happened while I was off at a concert Saturday night, as I am a light and fretful sleeper and my bedroom is right over the backyard and I would have heard it go over during the night. My guess was that one of the visiting cats had jumped up from the wrong side and that flipped the basin over. I had only seen them jump on it from the back; coming from the front, given the uneven ground it's on, might have been enough to bring it down.

So Sunday morning while doing the usual yard work – the leaves are starting to fall more heavily now – I set the basin back on its pedestal and filled it with water. No cats were in sight, though, until the afternoon, when Beautiful Cat, his hair a bit grown out and his eyes of a burning orange intensity, showed up. I was inside and stood at a window to watch him. I like observing him anyway, but I was curious to see if he would attempt the bird bath – if he had been the one to knock it over, perhaps that would be like touching a hot burner and he would stay away. He soon saw me and to my surprise instead of heading toward the bird bath he walked right over and sat directly opposite me, staring. I was eating popcorn out of a bowl so I wondered if he wondered whether he was going to get fed. I grabbed my camera and he was still there staring so I took a picture. You really need to enlarge these to feel how fiery his glare is.

I opened the door and as I expected he scooted off, heading to the side of the house but stopping to give me a final stare before hopping the wall. His eyes were practically glowing.

Earlier that week I was outside and started cutting back the tomatoes. This is the time of year when I gradually start cutting off obviously dead vines or ones that are past their fruit-bearing. Sometimes all the tomatoes are ready and once they're gone it's too late in the season for the plant to do anything else. I picked all the beautiful tomatoes below and the vine had nothing else but one small half-rotten fruit on it so up came the plant. I'm actually not sure what tomato it is since the marker in the little pot  at the nursery was labeled Mr Stripey and I've grown Mr Stripey before and – note the lack of stripes, or streaks of any sort – that is not Mr Stripey.

We had a week of oppressive heat. It's not unusual to have a heat wave at this time of year, but it is unusual for us to have a heat wave that lasts more than maybe three days. The weekend was supposed to bring in cooler temperatures, and technically that is true, but if you drop fifteen degrees from the low to mid-nineties you're still in the upper seventies or even the low eighties, and it was also muggy. I continued sleeping with all the windows open and the sheets thrown off.

The heat did a number on the tomatoes, too. It was just too much for some of them, and they went from under-ripe to rotting overnight. Michael Pollan is still holding on, though it was one of the plants I cut back.

There are still eleven fruits on it. 

Six of them are on one cluster at the top of the plant, and four of those are pretty tiny, so we'll see if they have enough time left in the sun to ripen.

The heat pretty much finished off Cherokee Purple, at least as a fruit-bearing vine. There were four or five tomatoes that were hit with some kind of black growth. The lone survivor is below.

And here is Cherokee Purple:

. . . into the compost pile, to be covered over and mixed in with the swept-up leaves of autumn and winter, until they all rot into the soil for next year's tomatoes. We'll see what the drought situation is like next year. There is pretty confident talk that we'll have an El Niño winter, which should mean lots of rain. I'm a little concerned that people will hear this and think the drought is over, even though we've had plenty of rain predicted the last couple of years and it never amount to more than a splutter under heavy grey skies. Lord knows most people aren't taking the drought seriously as it is. As usual, there are a conscientious and somewhat self-righteous few doing our little part while surrounded by people blithely wasting vanishing resources, most of which get used up anyway by industries we have no control over. It's possible that even if we do get plentiful rain, it will mostly hit southern California, leading to floods and mudslides and not enough accumulating in reservoirs. There's also a concern that rising temperatures will mean we get a lot of rain, but it evaporates more quickly, and the Sierra Nevada snow-packs on which we rely for long-term water will continue shrinking. And after four years of drought, will even a season of floods make up the water deficit? But the most important thing to remember is: the rain hasn't actually fallen yet.

And with that – Michael Pollan nearing its end, and Cherokee Purple off to the compost heap – I will bring this series to a close. Over the next few weeks, I'll be eating up the rest of the tomatoes, or maybe tossing them in the freezer for future use in soups or sauces (after they're frozen you can't really eat them on their own). Then it's months of sweeping up leaves and waiting for rain and hoping to get through next summer with more tomatoes.


Michael Strickland said...

So what did the beautiful cat do after staring you down? Did he/she ever get in the bird bath for some water?

Patrick J. Vaz said...

I told you what BC did: as soon as I opened the door (not holding the bowl of popcorn, which may or may not be relevant) he scooted off to the side of the house, gave me one last pause-and-glare, and then ran off. If he did get some water, it was later on when I was safely out of the way. I'm assuming and hoping he came back and drank his fill under the moonlight, or more likely the glare from my idiot neighbor's overly bright lights.