Small things matter. Like details. Or baby tomatoes.
You never truly know what will happen when you take a chance. You might change the world with a blog that will come to be known as “Yoda For Our Modern Age”. Or at the very least, you might be able to grow your own salad. At least a half-salad; a side to go with your veggie burger instead of fries so you can justify a milkshake.
We’ve tried before to grow our own produce, with varying degrees of success. Sometimes we’ve drowned tomatoes; other times they’ve baked in a drought beneath a failed attempt at a sun-shade. You’re supposed to pinch off how many blossoms? When? Water it once a week or every fifteen minutes? Time-travel to re-plant with better fertilizer? Every so often, we’ll be teased with a few bowlfuls of cherry tomatoes of different sizes over the course of a couple summer months.
Sometimes the seedlings start well, but then they tend to fall over when we belatedly transplant them. But you always learn. Or at least you can tell yourself you’re learning. The willingness to keep planting vegetables every year is possibly similar to the “amnesia” that some parents experience that let them have more than one child: “Those sleepless nights weren’t really THAT bad in the grand scheme of things.”
And there’s always a pleasure in that first ‘baby tomato’ of this attempt, because you know … YOU KNOW … that this time, you’re on your way to true independence from Big Vegetable.
Repeated efforts to grow tomatoes are like baseball: “Just wait ’till next year.” Every fan knows their team will finally get that ‘next year’. For me, ‘next year’ came in 2010; I still remember the jubilation of a Halloween night as we neared the title, watching a crucial game at a friend’s house in Noe Valley in San Francisco. The seeds the Giants (whose team colors, obviously, are orange and black) planted in drafting Tim Lincecum, Matt Cain, and Buster Posey finally blossomed.
The optimism of sports, like the optimism of the backyard gardener, is never wrong, even if they are both rife with the weeds (cliches and bermuda grass, respectively). However, with sports, it’s sometimes misguided, sinking into superstition, like thinking that your favorite team is bound to win because you wore your lucky socks that morning.
When it comes to a garden, no superstition is needed: when you first plant a starter tomato vine, you dig deep into rich, warm soil, sometimes with a clean steel trowel, sometimes with your hands. The earth is heavy, like when you bury your feet in the sand at the beach, and it makes you notice the moment. You get your hands dirty as you set the starter into the hole and fill in the gaps around it, add fertilizer, smooth it over. Dirt gets under your nails, a tangible, lingering heat.
It’s better than the lottery, and you have a better chance of seeing a return for your efforts.
So with a garden, even when you lose, you win. Your tomatoes may or may not grow, but they will distract you from that ugly looking Orange Tree sulking over in the corner of the yard.