Tomatoes! (and more book news)

Three weeks ago, in a fit of spring-is-around-the-corner optimism, I planted a double-flat of tomato, basil, and eggplant seeds and set them atop a heat mat in our sunny “greenhouse,” the south-facing sliding glass door in our bedroom. Five days later, the first slender cotyledons (the plant’s first embryonic leaves, which are very different from its later leaves) of the tomatoes were springing up out of the potting soil, along with the fat round cotyledons of the basil. The eggplants were slower–they always are, but within a few days they too were sprouting.

I always get excited watching the miracle of seeds becoming sprouts. I know intellectually that those hardened seeds that I press into the soil contain dormant embryoes and all the food these baby being need to begin a new phase of their life. But the fact that the tiny seeds actually sprout into plants, given water, nutritious soil, and sun never ceases to amaze me.

Every night when we pull down the blind that covers the sliding glass door, insulating us from the sub-freezing temperatures outside (last night’s low was a wintery 12 degrees F), I kneel on the floor and talk to our seedlings. I figure they like love just as much as we do. And, the scientist in me reminds me before I get too personal, the carbon dioxide I exhale when I breathe in their direction is just what they need to inhale for their sugar production. I read the labels I tape on underneath each row of the pots to identify what’s planted there. And I tally germination–one of the eggplant varieties (charming, an oriental type) is very slow to wake up, and one of the tomato varieties (super bush, a container type) is a real speedster.

Labeledrows Here are my post-it note labels taped to the flats. From left to right, the first row is oriental eggplants (two pots of little prince, a container variety, and one pot each of Asian bride, charming, and farmer’s long). The second row is one of my favorite heritage tomatoes, Chianti rose. They’re pink, sweet, and low-acid delicious. Then a row of paste tomatoes, Pompeii roma, for cooking and sauce. The fourth row contains several heritage varieties: black Krim, a Russian black beefsteak type; persimmon, a gorgeous orange, huge and sweet fresh-eating tomato; and costuluto, a ribbed and intensely flavored Italian heritage type. Row five is yellow pears, early and perfect for snacking, and then in row six, those fat-stemmed ones are super bush, a new container variety that looks very sturdy and sprouted first of all. The last two rows on the right are Italian pesto basil. All are from Renee’s Garden Seeds, to my mind, far and away the best grower of seeds for the kitchen garden. Renee’s varieties are all selected for taste, beauty, and reliability. I’m never disappointed!

Now, three weeks from that cold and windy day when I planted the seeds in this flat and put them in the sun of our bedroom sliding-glass door, the tomato seedlings are big enough that they need transplanting to a flat with more commodious pots, the basils need thinning, and the eggplants are still small (they are real sleepyheads and just need patience and time, but once they get going, they produce an abundance of sweet and nutty eggplants).

The calendar may say it’s spring, but here at 7,000 feet elevation in the Southern Rockies, it’s really still winter. I won’t be putting my eager tomato seedlings out into the windy and cold garden for another several weeks, and then only snugged in the insulating cocoons of wall-o-waters. (More on those in another post.) But our bedroom smells like tomato leaves and basil too, and my seedlings are growing apace. That makes it feel like spring!

BOOK NEWS: My blog book tour for Walking Nature Home, is well underway. This week included stops at Deb Robson’s Independent Stitch blog, with Deb’s beautiful review of the book, including a wonderful array of snippets from the story; Sharman Apt Russell’s Love of Place, with Sharman’s generous introduction to my post about about homesickness, an impotant theme in the memoir; and Donna Druchunas’ Sheep to Shawl blog, with a series of interview questions that really made me think! (Donna’s off on a blog tour herself soon, for her latest book on knitting and culture, Ethnic Knitting Two.) Next up is Sherrie York’s Brush and Baren (4/4), where I turn the tables and interview Sherrie, who produced the beautiful watercolor illustrations of the star-features that open each chapter of Walking Nature Home. Thanks to all who have hosted me so far–it’s been an enlightening and inspiring journey!–and to those yet to come. (See the schedule below, or check on my web site.)

University of Texas Press reports that they’ve shipped between a third and half of the initial print run already, in the first month after release. Yahoo! If this book speaks to you, please tell your friends and family–and strangers too!–and keep spreading the word. My aim is to touch many hearts and reach many lives.

For more on this book of my heart and what went into the story, here’s a sneak peak at a brand-new interview, this one by award-winning writer of mysteries and memoir author Susan Albert, just posted on Story Circle Book Review, the most comprehensive and informative book review site for books by and for women.