Monday, August 09, 2010

Tomatoes, Gophers, & Me

A tale of spiritual suffering, turmoil, desperation, and interspecies struggles.

Along the side of our house, in a very sunny spot, is our tomato patch. I planted early this year, and our plants have been thriving ever since. They are huge and robust and full of tomatoes. I monitor their health and well-being several times a day - every time I go to my car, each morning when I go out to fetch the newspaper, whenever I pull out of the driveway and whenever I pull in, and any old time I'm in the mood to look at my tomato babies. Which, as it turns out, is pretty often.

Sadly, I am not the only one monitoring this situation. Our whole yard is a major gopher zone, and I refuse to trap and kill them. My reasons for being vegan are based almost entirely on the principles of non-violence/non-harming, and I don't feel I have the right to kill a little critter just because he wants to eat all my california poppies and tomatoes. Those gopher families were in our yard long before we were. I have a lot of conviction around these ideas, and those stinky little gophers should thank god for that, because they have seriously tempted my beliefs this year!

What might have been... 4 large branches from my Early Girl plant, covered in green tomatoes

Pretty much every single plant in our garden is planted in a gopher basket or a planter box lined with gopher wire. The tomatoes are certainly no exception, in fact, they are all in over-protective extra-large gopher baskets. So, the gophers have been thwarted from pulling the whole plant down into the ground, the way they would like to. But, like the little furry jerks they are, they have found a way to seek their revenge. In their mysterious twilight hours, they come and dig up around the gopher basket, climb up the edges of the basket, and chew through the base of as many branches as they can reach. They don't pull the branches down into their gopher tunnels, they don't eat the tomatoes... they just kill the branches and all the tomatoey goodness those branches could have brought me. Out of spite!

So, every once in a while, when I am out on my Tomato Progress Monitoring ventures, I'll notice "oh, these leaves look wilted"... only to suddenly feel the sad realization! Following those wilted leaves down the branch, sure enough, there's a branch chewed through at the bottom. I get so sad and angry about these little tomato tragedies, it's a wonder I haven't had to go to counseling for it.

Fried Green Tomatoes, anyone? What I managed to harvest off those branches... about 10 days after I took this picture, some are slowly turning red, others are stubbornly refusing

This is only the 2nd year I've used this spot for tomatoes, and last year the gophers just didn't catch on, I guess. Needless to say, next year they won't stand a chance. I'll build a planter box or put down gopher wire everywhere, or something, but for this summer... I never know how many of my beautiful little tomatoes will fulfill their shiny, tasty potential.

Nonetheless, those bucktoothed jerkos haven't stolen all my tomato glory. Despite destroying half of my sungold cherry tomato plant and half of my early girl tomato plant, the remaining branches are treating me well. I even have a fiesty little volunteer "Yellow Pear" cherry tomato plant behind the recycling bin.

We've had enough cherry tomatoes for our nightly "Giant Salad"...

... and for Cajun-Creole Tempeh with Creamy Grits from Vegan Soul Kitchen. Mmmm, I loved this recipe! I'd never made it before, but it was really wonderful. Those creamy grits were crazy good, and I loved the combination of the sturdy tempeh with the cajun spices and the fresh cherry tomatoes. I'll definitely look forward to making this again.

And here I am, triumphant and victorious in my catch! All the more pleased with the tomatoes I do have... knowing they have struggled against the Evil Gophers of the Underground Lairs to rise and ripen!


  1. Really AWESOME tomatoes!

  2. Wow, your tomatoes are gorgeous. Sorry about the lost branches, though. I feel your pain. We have a ton of green tomatoes to use up too 'cause I picked them after the plants got flooded a few weeks ago. They're not totally dead yet, but close. Sad. Regardless, I like your blog!

  3. i'm so sorry for your lost tomatoes but i'm sure you still have a huge bounty on the way. i'm jealously surveying my own tomatoes—plentiful and gopher-free but still so green! how long must i wait?

  4. Hey Amey,
    Looks like you've still got lots of tomatoes! I'm jealous.

    You're being so good about posting often...wtg!

  5. Damn you, gophers! Congrats on the tomatoes you've been able to grow, though! On a side note, that tempeh and grits recipe looks amazing. I frickin' love grits.

  6. Anonymous3:34 PM

    Your tomatoes are gorgeous--I am so jealous!

    Would you consider a live trap? My mother has used them successfully in the past. She catches the animals--she has had issues with possums, groundhogs, and muskrats--and then drives to a field and lets them go. They are not harmed and they are released back not too far from where they might be an option?


  7. I am so happy someone got a good tomato harvest this year....My tomato plants died and the ones that are living don't have much.

  8. If you put any green tomatoes you have in paper bags and leave them by a sunny window, they should ripen up nicely.

  9. Awesome-looking tomatoes! Victory!! :)

  10. I feel your pain! I couldn't plant anything in the ground this year because of gophers. We did think of catching them and letting them go in the field across the street but didn't do it. Someone told us about a product they used, and the gophers went away. It's called Mole and Gopher Repellent by Sweeneys. It doesn't kill them they just don't like the smell or taste. We bought it but didn't even use it because a couple of weeks later the gophers just were gone. I know they'll be back and I'm prepared!!!!

    Your tomatoes do look lovely though.

  11. good to know, but sad for your losses lil amey. i had no idea about gopher wires and baskets and whatnots. i need to check into it.



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