COLUMN: Speedier tomatoes failed to meet the French guests’ schedule

FISHTRAP HOLLOW – I’m trying hay bale tomatoes this year, simply because it sounded easy and is one shortcut I’ve never taken.
Don’t assign me to bring tomatoes for the Independence Day picnic just yet.
If there is something I’ve learned in my 56 years, it is that most shortcuts don’t work, especially in gardening. If something sounds too good to be true, there probably will be weeds.
But my friend Terry delivered a hay bale, and I lifted it up off the ground to avoid ants – as radio garden guru Felder Rushing suggested – and split the hay into nifty sections with my hands.
I poured in a little packaged dirt that associates itself with miracles and dropped in a couple of plants. I’d read you didn’t need a lot of dirt, just enough to prime the pump.
Now I’m standing close by the bales with a loaf of white bread, mayo and salt and pepper.
Not really.
For the other thing I’ve learned in my 56 years is that food you grow yourself is never fast; it’s not even dependable.
Despite the current craze for all things organic, homegrown and seasonal, unless you have unlimited resources, lots of free time and Job’s patience, you still will make weekly visits to the Piggly Wiggly.
Which reminds me of my second-favorite moment during the recent visit of two Paris friends. I’m saving my favorite moment for another column.
I had e-mailed directions to the women, who were in New Orleans but bound and determined to visit Iuka.
I carefully instructed them up the Natchez Trace and Highway 25, but insisted they phone me when they got to town.
“I’ll come fetch you,” I said. “It’s too hard to explain exactly where I live.”
All day long I stayed close to the telephone, fearing the French women might get lost, discouraged and head back to Paris without seeing this hollow. It would have broken my heart.
Finally, late in the day, my friend Marie-Lou’s voice trilled through the phone lines. “We are at the Pig-a-lee Wig-a-leee,” she said sweetly in her lilting accent.
“Well, of course you are,” I thought. I sped into town before the teenagers gathered in the Pig parking lot for their nightly convention and caused some kind of international incident.
It would have worked out nicely if my hay bales had been sprouting big, ripe tomatoes while the international guests were staying at my place. But it was much too soon to expect red and ripened results.
Most of the food I prepared came from, well, the Pig-a-lee Wig-a-leee. It was lackluster.
The best way to impress a Frenchman with food is to fly to Paris and pay for his dinner.
Since the women said their au revoirs and drove from this hollow waving and smiling, I’ve decided the next momentous event around here will be when the first tomato drops heavy with goodness onto its safety net bale. Life will have interest and meaning and sumptuous rewards.
If that doesn’t happen soon, I’m headed back to the Pig.

Rheta Grimsley Johnson is a syndicated columnist. She lives in the Iuka vicinity. Contact her at Iuka, MS 38852.

Rheta Grimsley Johnson

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