Wednesday, July 8, 2009

The Carrots Died!

Before we left for our road trip to Indiana about three weeks ago, the carrots seemed to be thriving. It was so fun to watch the sprouts develop the unmistakable look of carrot tops. I was tempted to dig one up; would it be a baby carrot?

On the phone each night while I was gone, Bill assured me that nothing had changed with the garden. He reported that he was faithfully watering it (he's always the one who waters, actually), but he didn't mention that he had allowed a few weeds to take up residence.

We Have Tomatoes!
Imagine my surprise when I stepped out into the backyard after our nine-hour drive and found that there were THREE little green tomatoes on the Topsy Turvy plant... and one tiny Roma tomato on the vine in the garden.

"Nothing new," he says! I had to wait a couple of hours to ask him about the tomatoes; he was in California on a business trip. When I finally talked to him, he said he had kept quiet because he didn't want to get my hopes up. He figured they wouldn't amount to anything.

My second discovery was not so wonderful. My green, robust carrot tops were now stubbly brown wisps of hay. "What happened??" I wailed to Bill over the phone. He said they had gradually shriveled up once the temperature exceeded 100. "Maybe they'll come back," he suggested feebly.

Half of the green bean plants had suffered the same fate as the carrots, but the other plants were leafy and green and had little white nubs that, to my untrained eye, resembled buds.

Since about the only real work I do with the garden is obsessive weeding, I couldn't exactly blame Bill for the demise of my two favorite vegetables. Still, I'm glad it happened on his watch.

Poor Lola
Of course, I did something worse on my own watch. I almost killed the dog. I promised Bill that I'd remember to give her food and water each morning and evening, but maybe I was too distracted by the dead carrots. I remembered to feed her the first evening, but the next morning I forgot to give her fresh water. I was just about to climb into bed at 11:00 that evening when I remembered that I needed to feed Lola before bed. I ran downstairs to find her staring forlornly through the back door.

"Oh no!" I said. "I forgot to feed you this morning."

Lola didn't say anything, just kept looking from me to her bone-dry water bowl and back again. After I'd filled the bowl, she eagerly bumped against me as I set it down, and the water sloshed on the ground. She lapped up the water greedily, and I apologized over and over as I listened to her endless gulping. Finally, she stopped to take a breath... and then she threw up water all over the slate tiles. I didn't even step back. She turned back to the bowl and took several more gulps.

When she'd had her fill, I knelt beside her and petted her--something I very rarely do because she's an outside dog, and she sheds, and she's very stinky. But at this point it didn't matter. "I really do love you!" I told her tenderly and remorsefully. Mentally, I reassured myself that this was not some subconscious attempt to solve my dog problems.

I shudder to think what might have happened if I hadn't given Lola water that evening. With this unbearable heat, I don't think it would take long to die of thirst. For the last two days that she was in my care, I fed her right on time each morning and evening, and I even gave her some extra Milk Bones. Each time I served her meals, I dutifully petted her and then raced inside to wash my hands.

Lola's Revenge
Since then, the carrots have NOT come back, though we discovered one living plant in the shade of the marigolds. Apparently we should not have planted the poor carrots in direct sun, or maybe we should have planted them earlier in the season. But I'm holding out hope that we may get to eat ONE home-grown carrot by the end of the summer.

The green beans still have lots of white nubs on them, but I haven't noticed any full-fledged flowers, nor any little bean pods. The seed packet said 75 days, which would be around the first of August. I'm crossing my fingers.

The tomatoes have been slowly plumping up, though they're still small. But now there are only three of them. When I did my daily rounds this past Saturday, I abruptly turned on my heel when I passed the Topsy Turvy plant. Something was not right.... "HEY!" I shouted. "Where's the other tomato?"

"Huh?" Bill said.

"There were three. But now there are two. Where's the other one?"

"What's Lola eating over there?" Bill asked.

She wouldn't... Oh yes, she did. She had a green, pulpy mush between her paws, and she was eating greedily. I didn't think dogs even liked tomatoes, but then she's always had it in for my tomato plants. "How did she get it down?" I wondered.

We looked at the pristine plant and decided there was no way this was the work of Lola. The shorn stem had been precisely cut, almost as if with scissors. And this was the highest tomato on the plant. If Lola had leapt up and snagged it, surely there would have been some damage to the rest of the plant.

Ethan noticed that Allyson's little plastic table was suspiciously close to the tomatoes. He was convinced that she had picked the tomato and fed it to Lola, who will eat anything you give her, even rocks. But Bill didn't think Allyson could have reached it, and she denied all knowledge.

Bill thinks it was a bird, but I don't know. Wouldn't a bird EAT the tomato if it took the trouble to steal it?

I guess we'll never know. But I sure hope I get to eat my three tomatoes. Maybe I can make them into a tiny bowl of sauce for dipping garlic bread.

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