Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Week ending 8/16/09. Making Lemonade out of Tomatoes, Bonne Courage Neighbors, Congratulations Molly/Farfalla..............

Making lemonade out of lemons is an expression, a sort of catch-all phrase folks use when they're trying to make the best of a sub-optimal situation. In our case, it was trying to salvage as many tomatoes as possible and eventually get them to ripen before they succumb to the blight rot! We spent last Monday working in the 90 degree 'dog day' heat to cull the blighted tomato plants and harvest as many viable green tomatoes as we could find. We then began digging the potatoes we hadn't planned to dig until the cooler days of fall. However, the tomato blight is highly contagious to potatoes, both sisters in the nightshade family. We couldn't bear the thought of losing our Yukon Golds, Michigan Reds, Russian Blues and Fingerlings, so we figured we'd better start digging them early. After taking frequent but very necessary breaks for water and brow-wiping, we got the job done and filled the large garden cart with a couple hundred pounds of beautiful and thankfully healthy spuds of all shapes, colors and sizes. There are more yet to dig, all Russian Blues, but their leaves haven't died back yet and the potatoes are still so small that we decided to give them some more time to mature in the ground. In any event, we've harvested enough potatoes to see us through the coming winter and we are feeling that we have indeed made lemonade this week out of some very sour lemons.

The highlight of our week came on Sunday when we hosted a picnic for our neighbors Anne, Mike and Marie who are relocating to Duluth Minnesota for Anne's work. They have been in training here in the snowy mountains of Western Pennsylvania during the past 7 years, for their next step in northern living on the frigid shores of Lake Superior! Yikes! I wonder if tomatoes even grow that far north? But, just in case they don't like it in Minnesota, they are keeping their house across the road from our farm, so they can come back 'home' to Somerset County.......and we are very glad of that, because it means that they will return for visits and we will see them again.

My best laugh of the day came from Art, (Somerset's Woody Allen!) who I call, "Mr. All Or Nothing At All", meaning he never does anything half-way.

While I was preparing food for the picnic, he asked if he could help me do anything. I had forgotten to chop and slice the onions before applying my makeup. Not wanting mascara to run down my face, I asked him to chop the onions for me. As I busied myself with other chores, I heard the weirdest sounds! Turning to look, I saw that he had donned his old snorkel and facemask and was calmly, and without shedding a single tear, slicing and chopping onions. The sounds I heard were him breathing through the snorkel!

Eventually, about 20 friends and neighbors arrived to bid the Grassi's a fond farewell on a hot and very muggy evening. At first nobody would go outside except to grab a beer from the ice chest and come back indoors into the air conditioned comfort! But gradually a breeze began to stir, the front porch became a cool and pleasant oasis, and we were able to dine alfresco in the garden. Amazingly there were few flies or bugs, rarely the case for mid-August, and we lingered outdoors over dessert and watched the children play and the fireflies dance.

"She's a pinball wizard, there's got to be a twist. A pinball wizard - she's got such a supple wrist. How do you think she does it? (I don't know) What makes her so good?"......Lyrics by The Who (with gender liberties taken by Max)............... Molly Atkinson, daughter of LT and sister of Paige, is hilariously funny and literally lives life on the edge of the stage! She works in LA in the movie business, as a Production Coordinator or Asst. Coordinator, or Art Coordinator or Asst., or Costumer, or Seamstress, or Stylist, or some combination thereof. She's a go-getter extraordinaire, sometimes at the Emmys, Oscars, Grammys and BET Awards, sometimes on a never knows where she will turn up, especially Molly. Now add to her list of accomplishments, the highest ranking non-professional woman pinball player in the world, since competing in the World Pinball Championships held this past weekend at Pittsburgh PA! WOW! Congratulations Moll!

It's been an action-packed week, and these are just some of the highlights. Art was also on call, arraigning over a dozen 'alleged' criminals, so we didn't get much sleep during the course of the above events but, as I always tell him, "Heck honey, we can sleep when we're dead, right?" I'm not sure if there is a moral or a lesson this week. Sometimes school is just "out" and we can take a vacation from learning lessons. Sometimes there is a lull and a period of quiet before the storm, too! So, maybe this week's lesson can be found in the words of David A. Schmaltz, "Life is a rollercoaster. Try to eat a light lunch."


  1. Max! Thanks for sharing tales from your beautiful farm. It's sweet to see tales of your "extended family" too :) even if Molly gets glory and I get dead tomato plants... haha! Nice shot of Molly, too! Yep, our plants are in a big nightshade grave but I did just harvest a big beautiful heirloom from our greenhouse tomatoes that I am now going to eat for breakfast. Congrats on getting out some healthy potatoes -- you probably already know this, but you'd do well to sort them again in two weeks or so, so you can look for bacterial soft rot (the result of blight that makes the spuds soften and stink, instead of store). Our potatoes have it bad (we waited too long to dig) but we're sorting them repeatedly and, well, making lemonade, I suppose! Things are good here and I send my best to you and Art and the critters and the plants...


  2. Hey Paige! Thanks for the welcome potato advice. We'll keep an 'eye' out! Things will turn around for you one of these days as they are apt to do in the farming business. Today it's Molly's turn for glory, tomorrow it'll be yours for surviving another year on the land.......the ultimate measure of success on the farm.

    Love, Max