My Craft

Retirement Tomatoes

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His tomato plant stood in the middle of a mound of sand as a brittle stick with two wilted branches. He tried more water, which puddled around the stick. Water seemed to only lubricate the small grains before they cut into the base of the $2 plant. If a man could grow a field of potatoes on Mars, he should be able to grow a tomato. Or could he?

Across from his garden, the neighbor grew tall corn, squash, and tomatoes. The garden bloomed with buzzing bees, ladybugs, and pesky worms. In comparison, his garden looked worse than a desert with cactus flowers and burnt grass. He grew dirt.

The neighbor amended manure from rabbits, goats, and a horse mixed with straw. A goat would just eat the garden and he had no room for a horse. He decided he could raise rabbits.

The price of one rabbit totaled $12 at the feed store. He bought two. The rabbit hutch cost $54 and the clerk warned him she couldn’t tell a male from a female. If he had two females, then great. Otherwise, he should expect kits in 30 days. More rabbits meant more manure, so he agreed. Rabbit feed totaled $16 a bag and fed four rabbits a month. He was now a rabbit farmer.

In the garden section, the book detailing raised beds cost another $24. He thumbed through the pages. It showed lush gardens raised above sandy soil. Each bed of plank wood rose up two feet from the ground filled with potting soil. The wood cost $36 a piece and the potting soil cost another $3.50 a bag. He bought six bags and four tomato plants.

He built the beds next to his scrawny tomato plant. He cut the wood with notches on the ends and filled the new box with the rich planting soil. He now had a 6 foot square garden raised up off the sand by another two feet. To the side, he set up the hutch and placed the rabbits inside. They sniffed each other, sucked down some water, and went about eating.

He planted the tomatoes down to their leaves and poured on enough water to tamp them down. With the planters, soil, tomatoes, and the rabbits, he invested more than $200 on the project. He was pleased with the result feeling the joy of hard labor, sweat, and exhaustion.

He went into the house, grabbed a beer, and settled down in his chair as she walked into the kitchen.

“Planted tomatoes today,” he said. “Cost around $225 for the whole garden.”

“I picked up some tomatoes at the store,” she said. “Less than $2.50 for a bunch of six.”

“We now own some rabbits for the compost.”

“The neighbor is always giving shit away.”

He rubbed his sore shoulder. Retirement required more effort than his old desk job. He thought about the wilted tomato plant and concluded a raised bed may not guarantee better tomatoes, but the effort will improve the odds. He smiled, took a swig, and turned up the game.

© 2016 – 2017, Michael Shawn Sommermeyer. All rights reserved.

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