Mutant Tomato Farm

Sunflower and Bee This is the place where I try to make magic happen.


On any given sunny day, I can be found tending my garden, all 4 feet by 8 feet of it. My garden box, also known as a raised bed, lies in a once vacant lot, nestled between two apartment buildings in New York City. In the valley between them, I plant tiny seeds and hope they turn into delicious vegetables. Today’s photo is one of the three sunflowers I managed to grow last year, complete with a rather curious bumble bee hanging on. It was great, seeing that bumble bee. It meant that the “city girl” must have done something right in order to get one of Nature’s wild creatures to stop and check out things.

As for the name, well that also came about because of last year. I didn’t understand the difference between determinate and indeterminate tomatoes. I planted 4 of them, and all 4 took to root rather nicely. I also didn’t know that I was supposed to prune them. By August, all 4 plants were well over 6 feet tall and still growing. They blocked the light from most of the other plants I tried to grow. Those tomato plants looked like small trees. I spent a few weeks trying to find out what I did wrong. Why were my tomatoes looking like something out of Day of the Triffids? Now, I know better. This year, they look nice and normal.


As I was clearing and preparing “phase 2” of my garden (read raised garden bed #2, same size, that I was granted by the administrators of the community garden I’m always in), I started to think of my ancestors.  I found myself wondering if any of the original women of my line tended gardens in Africa. As I raked the weeds out of the soil, I wondered. If they had them, what did they plant? As I added manure and minerals to the soil, I wondered. Once they were slaves in a strange, cruel place, did their masters allow them to have vegetable gardens to supplement the meager supplies they must have received? As I carefully dropped seeds into  holes I made with my finger, I wondered. Did they forage for wild plants, mushrooms, nuts, berries, fruits, and herbs? All would have been plentiful in wooded areas near a plantation in South Carolina. As I covered my box with a plastic cover to keep Ghetto Squirrel, Kit Kat, and Ray Raccoon out until I could build a fence, I wondered. Did any of them create magic by planting seeds?

I know later generations of women in my family did. My great-great grandmother had a full-sized garden on her own land. They say Hibernia Rowe was a tiny brown-skinned woman, probably less than 5 feet tall. She was also known in her neighborhood as an herbal doctor of sorts, having been taught by one of her own parents. So, do I get my love of plants and need to put my hands into dirt from her? Perhaps. On more than one occasion, my grandmother has looked me sharply in the eye and looked deep as if she was looking for something, only to nod her head and call me Miss Bunya, what people would have called her grandmother in the 1930s.


As I was cleaning up after preparing the box, I took a look at the packages of supplements that I had sprinkled over the soil. Both the blood meal and the bone meal came from a porcine source. This little fact made me laugh, since pigs are inseparable from my family history. My more recent ancestors certainly owned and ate them. Today,  if you connect them with my folk, you might get accused of making an insensitive generalization about southern living. So, even though I’m a highly educated northern vegetarian, I still find myself connected to pigs. Definitely worth a laugh or two.


I’ve heard that some people don’t want to be reminded of their southern roots. Not me. I applaud them. I also applaud the women who found a way to create a little magic so far from their African homes. And I’m thankful that I have the freedom to think about whether I should plant beans or lima beans. It is not about survival for me, just a hobby that will eventually make a nice dinner for my family. I think about those women, and I wonder. Were any of them like me?


Feed Me!

Why is it that a cat can always hear the sound of a can being opened?

And mind you, it doesn’t have to actually be a can being opened, it just has to sound like one. First the sound, then the thunder of eight feet running at top speed, plowing into anything stupid enough to get in the way.

Like my legs.

Now, this might even be worthy of a chortle or two if it wasn’t for the size of the felines in question. If they were nice, normal sized cats, say 5 or 7 pounds each, I might find the crash bang boom into my legs cute. But when 15+ pounds of hunger crazed kitty is coming at you from the north and from the south at exactly the same moment… All you can do is hope they hit each other before they hit you.

No such luck.

Hopping gingerly from foot to foot as I untangle myself from the now yowling mass of furry quadrupeds, I fill the food bowls. Plop. Plop. Two cylindrical shapes fill the once empty bowls, and the kitchen goes quiet. All yowling ceases as a pair of green eyes and a pair of amber eyes follow the descent of the bowls from counter to floor. The meowing starts, one voice soft and feminine, the other with a hard masculine edge. They watch, mesmerized, as they lift their voices in prayer or song to the almighty food bowls. The sacred bowls touch down to earth with two ceramic clanks.

And then the feeding frenzy begins.

Today’s menu is some sort of salmon concoction that my daughter says smells good. First, I look at her strangely, because there is no way that stuff smells good. Then, I watch, spellbound, as she hunkers down to watch the fur ball duo eat. She’s getting way too close to Neo’s bowl as she continues to say that that salmon surprise smells good.

Will today be the day her 7 year old brain convinces her that her furry friends won’t mind if she samples their dinner?

I hold my breath because I’m honestly not sure what she plans to do. Finally, she backs off, perhaps because Neo is now eyeing her suspiciously. Able to breathe again, I step over both cats, who are now switching bowls and digging in. This puzzles me because I always make sure both bowls contain the same meal. Perhaps the food tastes different if it comes from a different bowl?

Cats. Go figure.

Shaking my head, I leave the kitchen and sit at my dinner table for my own meal. I have done my duty to the savage beasts that share my apartment. I have made food appear for another meal.

Welcome to my world

Well, I finally decided to do it, start this blog, I mean. And now that I’ve gone and done it, time to say something.

This is the place where I’ll share things I find out about writing, plants (read gardening), and felines (as in the two that run my life).

Quick Q&A

How long have you been writing?

Tough one to answer, actually. I can clearly remember sitting and scribbling imaginary letters before I actually learned to write my name. And believe me, my imagination was a pretty wild place even then. Once, I started school, there were writing assignments, of course, but I always had to write more than the teacher asked for. I won an award for my writing (Grace Rainey Rogers Award from the City College of New York) for writing short stories loosely based on my life when I was in graduate school. I had my first article published in 2013. I am hoping this is only the beginning, and that someday I can truly feel that I’m a writer, as opposed to saying that I like to write.

What’s the plant thing about?

The plants… well, let’s just say that if it were up to me, I’d live in a green house. Right now, they are slowly taking over every available window in the house. And I’m nowhere near done. I’m also a member of a community garden, Neighborhood Neighbors, in Harlem, NY. My plot is my joy, and I intend to share every moment of the gardening season with you.


It would be a true understatement to say I’m a cat person. When I was about six, I seriously wanted to be a cat. My very loving, very tolerant grandfather supported my efforts to become one by going so far as to put my snack bowl on the floor to let me experience eating like one. (Not a joke, he really did.) It wasn’t a punishment, heavens no. It was just his way of letting me be me, whatever that meant. I grew out of it, of course. Although, I do meow at people on occasion. (A habit I seem to have passed on to my offspring, as they also meow at people . Long story) Anyway, I got my first two cats when I got my first apartment, and I’ve had cats ever since. The most I’ve ever had at one time was five. Due to natural aging, I’m down to two at the present time: Neo and Trinity. I’ll introduce them to you in time.

Well, thank you taking the time to read my first post. I promise there will be lots more to see.