First the weatherman on the local television station used it—on the air. The teenage bagger at the supermarket said it, too. Then I heard it from one of my friends.
The S-word. Snow.
It was in the forecast for the higher hills and possibly for us in the foothills as well.
Snow. In mid-September, for Pete’s sake. I hadn’t even put away my sandals yet. I wasn’t ready for this. Whatever happened to global warming?
Still, faced with the strong likelihood of frost, regardless of the calendar, there was only one thing to do—cover the tomatoes.
Our tomato patch is a raised circular bed with a wire fence around it to keep out tomato-munching deer. To cover them seemed like a simple project: toss a big tarp over the whole thing and tie it down with rope.
We had just such a tarp, too. Unfortunately, it was spread out on the floor of my daughter and son-in-law’s garage, beneath stacks of boxes containing half their worldly possessions that hadn’t yet been moved into their new house. We could have bought another tarp, but that would have been silly, because we were expecting to get ours back any day. Or at least in a couple of weeks. Or next month. Or surely, at least, by next spring.
In the meantime, we had shivering tomato plants to protect. We did have two other tarps. They would just have to do. One of them would cover about half the tomato patch; the other was big enough for about another fourth of it. We scrounged in the garage and found two old blankets. Hey, good enough—we had it covered. Or at least we expected to have it covered soon.
We started pulling the biggest tarp over the top of the enclosure. The wind caught it and pulled it right back off, threatening to sail it halfway to Nebraska. We needed something to hold it temporarily while we got the ropes positioned and tied. I scrounged in the garage some more. Clothespins. Perfect.
Using them as temporary anchors, we got the first tarp positioned and tied in place. I burrowed under its edges on one side, then the other, to fasten the blankets to the fence with more clothespins. It would have been easier to put the blankets on first. Never mind—at least they were in place.
We positioned and tied the second tarp. It flapped furiously where its edge, facing the wind, overlapped the first tarp. It would have been better to do the overlap in the other direction. Never mind—at least everything was covered. Except for the little gap on that side, and the opening on this side, and the place over here where the tarps didn’t quite meet. Never mind—it was close enough. And at least we knew the knots would hold. Once a Boy Scout, after all, always a Boy Scout.
It’s amazing what a couple of college-educated adults can do with two tarps, two blankets, a couple dozen clothespins, yards of yellow string, and fifty feet of nylon rope—even, in this case, without using a single piece of duct tape.
Now, in the middle of the front yard squats a bulky blue/brown/yellow structure. It resembles a tent put up by a one-armed six-year-old completely lacking in construction skills. Every gust of wind seems likely to send the whole mess sailing into the air like an obese Mary Poppins, minus the umbrella.
Sure, it looks funny. Still, the objective here is not architecture but agriculture. The shelter, makeshift and lopsided as it might be, should still provide enough protection so the tomatoes live to ripen another day. If nothing else, they might turn red out of sheer embarrassment.