I started our tomatoes this year from seed in February. We don't have our greenhouse built yet, so at the time, I used Simon's dear old '97 Subaru Outback with all the seats down flat and a big tarp spread out to protect the car's interior. It was the best way I could think of to keep my flats of seeds warm and sunny. We had a good laugh about turning the car into a greenhouse...but it did the trick. (The car has since been donated to NPR so we better build that greenhouse!). You know what it is like to watch a seed germinate and get its first real leaves and then grow into a little mini plant...its pure magic watching the seed gather up the strength from the sun, soil, and water to burst out of its protective casing and emerge out of the soil.
This year I grew many things from seed: herbs, nasturtiums, kale and chard, peppers, zinnias, eggplant, sunflowers, corn, string beans, pumpkins, squash, watermelon. At times it seemed like the little seedlings would never take off and spring up into the next stage of growth - they were stuck at 1-2 inches and wouldn't go any farther. It might have had to do with the imperfect environment the Outback provided- too hot, too cold, not easy to moderate in there. I kept up my faith in those babes and used the lightest sprinkle of the hose to keep them evenly moist, rolled down the windows, rolled up the windows, rotated the plants so each had some time in the sun.
In April after our last frost, I transferred them to our newly built kitchen garden raised beds. They looked so vulnerable and sparse in their big new home. We put an electric perimeter fence around them to protect the tender plants from deer, and we spent evenings watering until we installed the drip irrigation which evenly and efficiently kept them moist.
The kale was the first to really take off and we began including it in every meal, even on our bagels in the morning. The dark green crispy crunch felt so alive in our mouths and I wondered what the vitamin and mineral content was compared to the pre-chopped kale I had bought for years at Trader Joe's out of busy working mom necessity. Next came the zucchini, and if you have every grown zucchini, you know that we had ... a good amount. Zucchini fritters, cream of zucchini soup, pickled zucchini, stewed zucchini, steamed zucchini..yep.. zucchini plants are not shy about putting out for you.
The tomatoes on the other hand, just kept getting bigger, and bushier and taller but they did not put out any fruit. We had a nice little supply of Black Zebra Cherry tomatoes, enough for a salad now and then, but the rest of the plants, vibrant and healthy looking as they were, flowered, and grew, but didn't do anything more than make a bunch of hard, green tomatoes.
Until October. Here we are October 12th, and we have tomatoes COMING OUT OF OUR EARS! We can't keep up with the picking let alone eating of them. I am dehydrating them, making them into sauce, and giving sacks of them to any willing Airbnb guests that will take some off our hands. The parking attendant at the garage I use in downtown San Francisco got a basket. Our chickens eat the too-mushy ones every day. Our freezer will soon be full of tomato sauce. I was thinking I was going to have to turn all those green tomatoes into pickles if the frost came before they ripened, but I don't worry about that anymore.
Simon and I came to owning our own farm a bit late in life. We are like these tomatoes in a way - late bloomers (to farming that is). Both of us have had many life experiences that have led us to this, but we spent years in our own personal Subaru Outback, waiting to germinate into farmers. I was a food-server for decades; modeled for Lanvin, Givenchy and Pierre Cardin in Paris; owned my own catering business in San Francisco and had a 1,000 sq ft commercial kitchen and sales of 100k a year; apprenticed on a biodynamic farm in Sonoma County; raised my daughter as a single mom; returned to school in my 30's and graduated summa cum laude. All along the way, I kept gathering dreams and goals to be achieved someday. Some of my dreams were simple: drink fresh mint tea from my garden. Some were more complex: live on a farm in community and have goats, bees, and grow my own food.
I had always been drawn to living in nature and growing things and started planting and growing at the first opportunity when I was 19 -planting a garden at my first little house on Maui and grew thriving basil and spinach among other things. The moment I really burst out of my cotyledon was Paris, 1990. I knew, after my years on Maui living a very very simple life based on time in nature, that that was what made me happy. Fashion and city life were not what brought me joy and my time in Paris had only brought stress, anxiety and depression. I remember that afternoon, lying in my bed in my tiny apartment with the noise of traffic from the busy boulevard below, that I decided that I wanted to farm. I knew that this was where true fulfillment for me lay. It took me 27 years to get transplanted from my germination tray into the soil here - a long time in the greenhouse and a long time till I was ripe and ready to become a farmer.
I'm hoping that like these tomatoes of ours, our long time spent in gathering up the passion, patience, determination, skill, and smarts to become farmers will pay off and we will fill baskets and baskets with our production.
Thank you for reading.