One lonely tomato… yep, that’s what it was… one lonely tomato. And after all the hard work of the summer. I have to admit that it was frustrating on one hand – yet intensely gratifying on the other hand. At least I could see that there are more on the way… and the one I harvested was absolutely terrific. Janet and I loved it! In fact, it brought back memories of more than 50 years ago when I planted my first garden.
You see, it was my maternal grandfather who taught me about the seasons and often quoted Scripture from Ecclesiastes – you know the verse… “there is a time for everything.” He went on to tell me about the seasons and their purposes. A time to plant in the spring, a time to grow during the summer, the harvest of the fall and the dormancy of winter – a time to let the land rest so that it would be ready for another year in the spring.
It was with Grandpa that I first learned about planting tomatoes. He would drive a long stake in the ground and then rip up old rags during the summer to tie the plants to the stakes. He thought using string or rope would hurt the plant so we always used old shirts or cotton sheets that he would cut into strips. By the way, we used the same material to put tails on our kites back in the day!
One year, I planted one tomato plant and it grew like crazy. But, no fruit. Not even one. Grandpa went on to teach me about having multiple plants to pollinate each other and how to pinch some of the growth to promote more fruit. In and of itself, that is rather biblical – God’s idea of pruning us to produce more fruit.
I grew to love the land, like he did, and I looked forward to planting a garden each year. All sorts of cucumbers, pumpkins, squash, peppers, radishes, onions, beans, peas and, of course, sweet corn. I even grew Indian corn that I could harvest in the fall in time for Halloween along with the gourds that I grew.
When I got older, after Grandpa had passed away, Janet and I had a rather large garden – almost 2400 sq. ft. in the back yard at one of our houses in the northwest suburbs of Chicago. Kristin was very young and she would help me each week-end. How she loved picking beans and strawberries and I even remember the first year that we added peas! She would delicately pick the harvest and carry things, one at a time, back to the pot that we loaded with our bounty. We had graduated to adding fruit to our garden so we had raspberries, strawberries, currants, blackberries, rhubarb and currents in addition to the traditional vegetables we grew each year.
I actually learned how to preserve certain things with my paternal grandmother. I made tomato soup, bread and butter pickles, pickled watermelon rind and, every once in a while, some plum butter. I would put up many quarts of produce and each year we had enough stuff canned to get us through the winter.
As the years wore on, and the kids got older, I became more immersed in business once we moved to Indiana and the idea of a garden went by the wayside. It’s been almost 40 years since I have planted a garden and every once in a while I get the itch to try it again.
This spring, Janet brought up the idea and we decided that we would try some tomatoes. Of course, I knew we needed more than just one plant, so we started with three. Then, when they weren’t doing so well, we added another three plants in a different part of the yard. It’s been very dry and although I have watered, the harvest isn’t as great as I was anticipating. There were blossoms and small fruit started to show, but it’s been a struggle to actually get a decent sized tomato. Finally, it happened!
All in all, it is more difficult than I remember from my younger days. It’s tougher to get down on my knees and weed around the plants. And then there is moving the sprinkler all the time. And I gave away all my canning supplies years ago. But I admit a secret desire to go out and get new stuff so I can get back to preserving things for the winter.
My mother-in-law, Nancy, loved the tomato soups I made. Each fall, she would ask me to make a batch and I watched with delight as she enjoyed my work in the kitchen. I miss my time with her and the way my soup tasted – I would like to try it again. Unfortunately, I will have to go out and buy the tomatoes to make that soup! But one thing is for sure. The seasons are reliable. Planting this year wasn’t much different than what I did forty or fifty years ago. And the cycle of the seasons just keeps on going – just like Grandpa taught me.
The verse for tonight is from the book of Genesis. It speaks to God’s promise to Noah after the Flood when Noah and his family built an alter to God. We are told the promise of God by Moses, the author of Genesis, in Genesis 8:22, “As long as the earth endures, seedtime and harvest, cold and heat, summer and winter, day and night will never cease.”
My encouragement tonight is that Moses affirms that God is reliable and we can depend on Him – even in the changing of the seasons… and my prayer is that we will all rest easy knowing that the architect of all creation has planned every detail of the seasons, our provision and that it will be the same as long as the earth endures. Have a great day in the Lord, grace and peace…