Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Garden Karma: Flaming Tomato Bombs and Parsley Seeds

In celebration of summer tomatoes and naughty children going back to school to torture their teachers (me!), I've decided to repost one of my favorites from February.

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When I was a kid my neighbors had a huge vegetable patch that ran the length their backyard. Aside from tomatoes, I'm not sure what they grew. My brother and I would peek through the fence slats as the woman watered and weeded. Her tomato plants climbed six foot support frames, heavy fruit hanging from their branches like giant rubies. But we didn't like our neighbors and, therefore, didn't like their tomatoes.


Caterpillar queue

Constantly deployed or on lengthy remote assignments, our father was rarely           home, leaving our exhausted mom, who worked part time while going to school full time, to care for us alone. We should have understood or at least have been on our best behavior, but we weren't. Bored, creative, and unsupervised to the point of becoming slightly feral, we took to fending for ourselves. In an attempt to reign in our free time, we were given chores and my brother was asked to babysit me. He was 10 and I was five or six. Despite being ensconced in the relative safety of a military base, asking my brother to supervise me was like giving an arsonist keys to a match factory. We began to create our own fun by inventing games like Knife Fight, Food Fight (green bean aren't as worthy a projectile as wads of peanut butter), and Road Flare. Road Flare resulted in a couch fire while Knife Fight gave my brother a permanent scar. But our favorite game was Flaming Tomato Bombs.

When we tired of chasing each other with sharp objects or swinging from shower curtain rods, we blew things up. Our favorite target was our neighbors tomato patch. Layers of Kleenex would be wrapped around a cotton ball, tied with string, and soaked in my mom's cheap perfume. We'd run into the backyard, set them on fire, and launch them over the fence. The massive explosions we dreamed about never happened, but the nauseating odor of scorched tomatoes and perfume would fill the air. The woman would burst from her house while we ran for ours. Once inside, we laughed til we nearly peed our pants, and made plans to do it again. 


Swallowtail butterfly caterpillar eating curly parsley

A few phone calls later, our dad came home, our mom changed her schedule, and the party was over. Our dad was assigned to a new base and much to our neighbors relief, we quickly moved. I wonder sometimes how much good I have to create in my garden to erase the torture we inflicted on our neighbors. If I met them now, I'd apologize.

I'm sowing curly parsley seeds this weekend to help nourish the swallowtail butterfly caterpillars that are born in my garden. They always germinate but I wonder sometimes if they didn't if a Flaming Tomato Bomb would be to blame.


Swalllowtail butterfly on the 'Laura' phlox

34 comments:

  1. From where I read and see, I'd say your debt is paid, your old perceived wrongs righted, and your karma is good. Peace and juicy tomatoes on you.

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  2. I remember this story from earlier, oh the lives of feral kids on military posts. Likewise!! I have been growing flat leaf parsley, maybe the caterpillars don't like it?

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    1. I have caterpillars in my flat leaf parsley, too, but it's not the swallowtails first choice. They love curly parsley, rue, fennel, and anything in the carrot family.

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  3. OMG! What a bad girl...but OMG! What fun...lol xxx

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    1. Since I was so young, I blame it all on my brother. I maintain my innocence. ;o)

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  4. You were quite the little urchin weren't you? I love your story. If you see any flaming cotton balls flying towards your tomatoes, you'll know karma has finally caught up with you. :) Lovely photos!

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    1. I was a wild little thing, that's for sure. I still have fond memories of the couch fire.

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  5. Tammy, I had NO idea that you were a a naughty little girl.....thank goodness you're all grown up now.

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    1. Needless to say, my own children were HIGHLY supervised! I was terrified they'd be just like me!

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    2. Let's hope too that your students don't ever read your blog.....

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  6. Hey, it's okay to be naughty as a kid.....otherwise how else would you learn?:) We were six and terrorized our neighbors and they missed us when we moved. Now that school has begun for both of us, kharma has been satified as they now terrorize us:) Or as I like to call it, the circle of life:)

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    1. I had a 4th grader once try to glue me to my seat with Elmer's Glue. He was so shocked when it didn't work.

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  7. Back to school, eh? Oh well, kids will be kids. Easy for me to say with no kids to watch, I know. ;-) Great story--I remember this post!

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    1. Last year I had 165 students. This year I'll only have 120 or so and I'm hoping for an easier year. My students never fail to crack me up. I once had a student bring a baby bunny to class in her purse and no one figured it out until lunch.

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  8. Aw :) Thanks so much! You do remember that my Mom ruined the whole thing and took our throwing stars and replaced them with nerf throwing stars? She was a total fun-killer in those days...

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    1. I do remember! What is it with moms not letting their kids play with pointy objects? :o)

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  9. This brings back memories of my own naughty childhood days spent getting into trouble with my eldest niece (6 years my junior.) We were fascinated with fire, too and our paper-towel fires in the kitchen sink were so much fun! Smelly, too. For years their was a stain on the ceiling of my mom's house left from a food fight with spaghetti. It's great fun to watch our students try to think that they can be naughtier than we were. Hmmm... Naughty kids becoming teachers might be an interesting research topic!

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    1. Sounds like fun!! A lot of teachers were very naughty kids!! My students can never figure out how I always know what they're up to. Except for the girl with the bunny in her purse. She had me fooled.

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  10. Tammy, wonderful story! And soon the school begins. I love the butterfly on the last photo.

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    1. Thanks! Photographing caterpillars is easy because they don't move very fast!

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  12. You've been really naughty! How could you??? That's why it's been your faith to become a teacher! But why am I a teacher, because I was a good girl? Really. ;O)

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  13. Very funny... I used to be much naughtier so don't worry ;-) Fantastic caterpillar photos!

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    1. Much naughtier?? I wish I had known you when I was younger! Oh, the fun we would have had! :o)

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  14. I love that queue of caterpillars waiting in line for their turns! I'm glad you have repented and put your misdemeanoring ways behind you. What great memories you have with your brother, though!

    Best wishes for the new school year. . . make it a good one.

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    1. I would definitely say I am mostly reformed. :o)

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  15. OMG...too funny...I think we all did things like that at some point in our childhood! Every time I get annoyed by someone else's children...I remember some of the things I did as a kid...ahhhh, perspective :-)

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    1. When my own kids found out what a hellion I was, they were seriously mad they hadn't been allowed to be as naughty as I was, which of course, I found really funny. :o)

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  16. I am sure the woman forgives you and your brother. What a memory. The cats are beautiful. I haven't seen any here.

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  17. Oh my! You were naughty! She probably still thinks of you every time she plants tomatoes :)
    I keep a tighter reign on my kids too...if they only knew.

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  18. Yes, and I remember this post and thinking...I've found my garden soul twin!!!
    Have a terrific school year and be sure and come up for air every now and then (Olympic swimmer's analogy)

    Regarding my first day of school: I think we will miss opening the school year with Hurricane Isaac staring us down the road, but 4 of the 25 models do put him in our lap. I feel so much the pain of those teachers in New Orleans who will probably have to deal with the wind and the fury....again.
    Ugh!
    Sorry to be so long-winded. I know this is probably the last comment before I take the plunge tomorrow morning.
    But some day I shall return to visit and talk gardening.
    David/:0)

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