Memories Of Tomatoes
My uncles were farmers as were their parents -- my grandparents. I now own the family farm, much depleted from the days when cows roamed the land and the old tractor chuffed up and down. The smell sometimes putrid, other times just dreamy as the grass was mown for the continuous cycle of feed. My grandad grew just about anything and everything but his forte was tomatoes! He had 4 large greenhouses full of wonderful smelling toms and a little greenhouse for summer flowering plants. I remember as a child eagerly awaiting the first tomato to ripen and then after that I was sick of the sight of them -- I swear I began to look like the old tomato itself.
I grew up dreading the call from my uncle. His cry beckoning me to the greenhouse to help with the pricking out of thousands of tiny seedlings. I did it for respect not for money but, Boy, did I hate it! I got so fed up once that I mixed up all the plants and ended up with cabbages in the flower bed and geraniums in the veg patch, nicest looking cauliflower I'd ever seen but my uncle's face matched the tomatoes in the greenhouse when the second leaves came.
My uncle John was a virtual recluse, my uncle Joseph too when my grandparents died. They never ventured very far from the farm and my mum did all their chores. They never went into a shop to buy anything. John never got out of his van and traveled to and from the nearest town at 20 miles per hour, infuriating fellow drivers. They used to sell their plants to the public -- Farm gate sales we call it but they never dealt with a single person in all the time they grew them sending me to deal with the punters. My knowledge of plants were, let's just say minimal and goodness knows what they went home with in the end. If I couldn't remember the name of a plant-- I made one up and then regretting my actions the following year when the same person came back for a "thingy wotsit" I'd sold them last spring, some confusion that did cause! And even more so if the plant turned out to be edible which happened quite often I can tell you!
I once went to a farmer's supplies with my uncle John. He gave me a list and I went in to order. When the order finally came, I shared the back of the van with 6 Warren chickens, a bag of chicken pooh, and 10 grow bags of compost. There I was siting on the floor at the back of the van staring out of the small window at the stream of traffic behind. I urged my uncle to go faster as I was the one taking the abuse in the back, but he trundled along saying "They can overtake if they like". But we lived in the countryside with roads made for horses and one car. We traveled 10 miles there and the same back and we congested every road locally. It was talked about all day, people wondering if there had been some kind of accident but only I knew the truth!
I miss my uncles dearly, both John and Joseph. I can hear their voices whenever I attempt to plant anything. However annoying it was then turned out to be good advice now!
The land is overgrown, the buildings run down- the legacy of old age and madness. Both my uncles suffered dementia in later years and the farm declined along with them. We have the monumental task of putting things back to the way it was. It all seems so far away and so long ago that the farm shone in it's glory. My grandfather would turn in his grave to see the place in it's decrepit state -- it may never have been ideal but it was quaint and tidy. My dream is still a million miles away and health permitting I might just see a working farm again.
My small contribution in all this is my small greenhouse, a hobby really. One day I might grow tomatoes I might even know the names of plants and I might even drive a tractor over the fields again -- who knows?