24kHeirloomTomatoesdartmouth,Ma, AL, US
beauty and variety; their healthiness, but for me it is the
emotional satisfaction I receive by growing things well and
putting them into the universe. People, (most, not all) just love
tomatoes. They smile when you mention that you grow them.
They smile when they eat them, and they smile when they tell you
stories of their parents and grandparents and how they grew them
and loved to eat them and their favorite ways of preparing them.
When you give someone a great tomato or several, a warm smile
and bright eyes are seldom far behind.
And I am not far behind. I will never forget the look on my dad's
face, that beautiful smile, when he sat at the kitchen table,
bare-chested, as he ate his first serving of the tomato and onion
salad he just made from the tomatoes he just picked. Smiles like
that were few and far between. From deep within. The kind that
makes a person look young. The kind that brightens the eyes and
removes creases and fills a room warmly. And I remember how
joyful he was in preparing the garden beds and carefully planting the tomato plants. There were not that
many, as I recall, but quite enough for our family of five back in the fifties and sixties. My dad planted
tomatoes and dahlias. And so do I. The memories of working along side him and of his smile warm my
And so do my present activities. I love talking to people about their gardens, and what they love in their
tomatoes, what kinds make them happy. I try to make sure I have the plants they like and that they
choose plants that are likely to please them. And delivering beautiful tomatoes is great fun, too. At first,
we just had a few varieties, which I bought at Lawrence's, a fantastic greenhouse grower in New Bedford.
The standards, Big Boy, Better Boy, Early Girl, etc. But then my neighbor, Jason Falk, pointed me to a
different world, the world of heirlooms; Brandywine and Mortgage Lifter, as I recall. He helped me
build two raised beds for them. And I was off. That was in the mid eighties in North Dartmouth. We
would grow six or eight plants, more than enough for us, but somehow the beds always seemed so
crowded. And trees kept growing taller and shadier.
After a serious surgery in 2003, things started to change. A different energy and perspective. I found our
new house in South Dartmouth when I came here to learn Yoga to rebuild myself. The instructor and
her husband, Carol and Doug Sickul designed and built the open Asian style home. I loved it from the
moment I stepped in. The sides overlooking the river and fields are glass. Whenever I step into the
house, I am invigorated. My spirit soars and everything else disappears. A runway to heaven. A place to
inhale the energy and light of this world and cure my soul. And eight acres of cattle pasture to create
gardens, grow and share. Eighteen months later we moved in, as the last snow of March started to fall.
Early on, Jan and I decided on a basic theme for our garden: balance and harmony. Flowers and
vegetables together, treating vegetable as flowers, all things of beauty. Jan's brainstorm was to connect
the dry stream bed flowing from our front entrance by having it flow as the main path through the
garden, down the gentle hill, curving through the various sections to the end where it ponds between
two giant boulders and a cedar tree that are the natural structural elements we found on arrival. In the
center we designed and had built an Asia style pergola, reflecting our home's design, for resting, eating
and gazing, cooled by the prevailing gentle southwest breeze.
There are eleven gardens now, including Jan's shade garden, Samantha's cutting garden, and a new garden
for our first grandchild, Eden Grace. We have some fruit and specimen trees, including a beautiful
Wisteria tree, the most romantic living element in our garden. Two years ago with the kind assistance of
Jim McBratney and Chuck Gespardi of Sylvan Nursery, we built a wonderful greenhouse which allows us
to grow many tomato and other plants to share in the community. Last year we grew 55 varieties, mostly
heirlooms, which were the strongest, healthiest and best looking tomato plants we have ever had the
pleasure to grow and share. We prepare a catalogue, paper and online, so that people can choose what
they like, but mostly it is my pleasure to guide them through their selection process. It is the most fun I
have! That and delivering the tomatoes themselves.
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