JULY 2011

October 8, 2011

June and July were abnormally cool and overcast in Vancouver this year.  It wasn’t especially wet–maybe not even as wet as usual for this city known for its rain–but it was grey, day after day after day.  For those first few months, the tomatoes’ progress was slow. 

The plants were in the ground for almost a month before clear differences between the two varieties started to emerge.  The two plants of the ‘early’ variety were taller than the other two plants, which, at first, I assumed was just because the taller plants were off to an early, or fast, start, and the others would eventually catch up.  But there was more to it than that.  When, curious about this disparity between the two varieties, I got around to reading in detail the information on the labels of the shorter plants, I learned they were of a ‘rambler’ variety.  With respect to tomatoes, as I could see from the plants,  this meant low-lying and spread out instead of growing straight up, like the tomato plants that are most common in local gardens.  This rambling growth pattern may have been an adaptation to this variety originally growing in a relatively dry climate, as were the smaller leaves on the ramblers.  (It was probably only after I read Barry Estabrook’s recently-published book, Tomatoland: How Modern Industrial Agriculture Destroyed our Most Alluring Fruit,  that is mainly a condemnation of commercial tomato-growing in Florida but that also contains various tidbits about tomatoes in general, that I made the inference about my ramblers and a dry climate.  According to my reading diary, I finished reading this book on August 5.)

Despite the differences in the varieties, little yellow flowers started to appear on both varieties at roughly the same time.  By around the end of July, some of the first little tomatoes were starting to appear, on both kinds of plants, from under their yellow sheathes.  The first time I discerned tomatoes–albeit very, very, small tomatoes–on the plants, I counted a total of three.  A few days later, whether it was because I was searching more intently or whether it was because, in that short time, several more had matured to the point of being visible, or both, it was eight, and, only a few days after that, it was thirteen.  I started to lose count around the twenty mark.  However, despite their relatively vast number, with the very poor tomato-growing weather we had through June and now well into July, I was beginning to fear that none of my little tomatoes would ever completely mature, and that I’d end up, by the end of the growing season, with only lots of little green tomatoes–a greater quantity than those that Mum, and to a very limited extent, I, had reaped last year from that one tomato plant, but just as small and unripe. 

According to the brief notation in my reading diary–the only other kind of diary I’ve ever kept, in which, for want of anywhere else to record them, I sometimes record non-literary, noteworthy, events–it was on July 29th that I received a letter from Reader’s Digest informing me that I had won an iPad in one of their contests.  Although this information doesn’t really belong in my reading diary (I don’t read Reader’s Digest unless, perhaps, I’m stuck in a dentist’s waiting-room for a long wait, and there is a copy at hand), it does belong in this diary concerning my experiences growing tomatoes.  The iPad actually made this diary possible.  (To be fair to those who provided me with my iPad, Reader’s Digest would seem to be a very good read for people who otherwise don’t read a great deal.  It’s also very suitable for waiting-room material.   And, its word-games are probably fun for anyone who likes words.)

The letter I received from Reader’s Digest informed me that I had won their national, on-line, vocabulary contest.  I’d be seriously deceiving myself if I believed that winning the contest indicated I possessed the best vocabulary in the country, or even that I was anywhere close.  People with good vocabularies usually have money, and those with money are unlikely to enter a vocabulary contest as a way of acquiring an iPad, when they can easily buy one.  Anyone with both a good vocabulary and money who may have considered entering just to prove they possessed a good vocabulary was unlikely to even know about his contest–unless, perhaps, during the contest period, they had an appointment with their dentist.

I, personally, learned about the contest not through reading the magazine but, rather, from a contest website I sometimes visit, that I can’t imagine many–if any–other people with graduate degrees visiting.  Or maybe that’s not the case at all.  A lot of us these days, including those with degrees, struggle financially, at least from time to time, and it could be that many college-educated people today are much more familiar with those contest websites,  that can be a useful resource for supplementing one’s income, than we’d usually care to admit.  Also, thinking of iPad contests in particular, iPads are relatively pricey and relatively new, and have capabilities that other electronic devices don’t have, so there are probably many people today who want one and are still without.

Maybe I did have some serious competition in that contest after all.  But, whether or not I had serious competition, it was great to win an iPad (fantastic, actually, after I found out what an iPad was capable of)–and better that it be in a vocabulary contest, in which I could take a certain amount of pride, than in a random draw.  

The letter further explained that, assuming I correctly answered their skill-testing question (“What is the picture on the ‘tails’ side of a Canadian dime?”), and otherwise filled in the attached form and returned it to them promptly, I would receive the iPad in about three weeks.  

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