Water Issues, Dodging Frost, UGPG, and the Usual Time Crunch

Water restrictions and consequences – welcome to the arid high desert climate of the Intermountain West

During the summer months, I probably use more water than most residents in this town. This happens with restrictions, though I do store water in barrels and buckets and so have not lost any plants due to lack of water. But it is rather a pain to water in the dark.

Shortly after this notice of restriction, the water started to smell and taste bad, really bad, like the exudates of anaerobic bacteria – you know, H2S! I purchased a water filter, then a good stainless steel kettle, and I’m boiling all of my drinking water now.

On September 20th, I attempted to capture video and photos of the rising harvest moon as it rose over the mountains about 4 miles away; but I just don’t have the right equipment or experience…

I have been dodging frost, off and on for the past two weeks, with a recorded local low temperature of 34.2° F. Not that forecasts mean much beyond a week or so, but October 15th is the next date with predicted temperatures flirting with frost at 36°. This would be very fortunate and might allow dozens of tomatoes to ripen of very late-planted varieties. Late as in 155 varieties were planted from seed on May 27th and 28th! With the cooler weather of September, most of these varieties are finally setting fruit. But will those fruits have a chance to ripen enough to produce viable seeds before hard frost?

September is serious harvest season for tomatoes, especially since I got such a very late start. It seems that I’m several hundred hours behind on the work, despite putting in as much time as I can on this massive project.

Let’s start with the two biggest tomatoes harvested this year, on September 6th:

Big Zac (OP) 2.108 lb.

Big Zac (2.108 Thurber 2021)

Bigzarro, 1.956 lb., harvested September 24th.

Bigzarro (1.956 Thurber 2021)

Several other relatively large Bigzarro specimens were harvested, including this one, which looks like it could have (should have) topped 5 lbs. if grown under ideal conditions. Instead, it did not even hit 1 lb. and contained only 1 seed:

Bigzarro (0.710 DT 2021)
Bigzarro (0.710 DT 2021)

Speaking of seed-stingy tomatoes, here is a Domingo that “should” have gone big, but only reached 0.714 lb. and had only 15 seeds. One batch of 5 Domingo tomatoes contained a total of only 9 seeds. And some other varieties of big tomatoes (1884, Church, others) have produced zero seeds so far this season.

Domingo (0.714 Thurber 2021)

But I did get to witness some BIG tomatoes this year, along with many other impressive vegetables and some truly enormous pumpkins at the annual Utah Giant Pumpkin Growers (UGPG) weigh-off on September 26th.

Here’s a line up of the tomato entries:

Giant Tomatoes at UGPG Weigh-off

Nearly all of these were of the variety Domingo, and the heaviest was hard green (meaning it could have grown significantly larger) specimen weighing in at 3.736 lb.!

Domingo (3.73 Wolfley 2021)

All the other big ones were of the variety Domingo as well. I submitted my two heaviest, and the got 9th and 10th place. A bit embarrassing, since I used to be known as the grower of giant tomatoes in Utah. Somehow, someday I need to get a garden installed and get that soil right!

Other vegetable entries included a very tall (nearly 18′ I think) sunflower, and a sunflower with a 25″ head, a 17.36 lb. swede (rutabaga), a world record butternut squash, and much more.

And last and largest, an amazingly huge state record pumpkin tipped the scales at 2,142 lbs.! More results and photos will be posted at the UGPG website

Pumpkin, Dill’s Atlantic Giant (2,142 Bowman 2021)

Ok, onto the major tomato harvest project of 2021. At this point I can only guess that I’ve harvest about 1,000 batches of tomatoes. I feel like I’m at least 300 hours behind in the workload; and I estimate that 1 hour of harvesting tomatoes results in 25 hours of additional work processing: photos, note-taking, preparing for fermentation, seed extraction, drying seeds on plates, counting, inventory, sorting, data entry, etc.

Although the weather has been cooler in September, with much better fruit set, there are still many blossoms dropping, such as on this Green Doctors Frosted vine.

No surprise that my most prolific producer this years has again been a cherry tomato, Champagne Bubbles in this case.

Champagne Bubbles

Coeur de Surpriz – unique combination of colors in a heart shape, and truly delicious flavor

Sunrise Bumblebee

Sunrise Bumblebee

Banana Legs – quite delicious when fully ripe!

Banana Legs

Ananas Noire – an old standby with a great combination of beautiful fruits with outstanding flavor and high yield

Ananas Noire

Sergeant Peppers X Libanaise des Montagnes – again very productive as last year.

Sergeant Peppers X Libanaise des Montagnes

American Blue

American Blue



Banded Amazon

Banded Amazon

Charlie Chaplin – tasty, very productive, paste style, great for salsa, etc.

Charlie Chaplin

Ambrosia Gold – even better tasting than Sungold according to many!

Ambrosia Gold

Yummy Sammich

Yummy Sammich

Zailiyskiy Alatau Zholtiy

Zailiyskiy Alatau Zholtiy

Coeur de Strie de Pessac

Coeur de Strie de Pessac

Domaine de Saint Jean de Beauregard

Domaine de Saint Jean de Beauregard

Apricot Zebra – one of the tastiest and most productive of the season

Apricot Zebra

Brandywine, White

Brandywine, White

Auria Dwarf, very productive. After seeds removed, made a wonderful spaghetti sauce! Many unique shapes, some a bit provocative?

Striped Stuffer – indeed mostly hollow

Blackfire Orange

Blackfire Orange

Mortgage Lifter, Bicolor – super tasty as well as large, this specimen 0.982 lb. with a couple of larger ones still green.

Mortgage Lifter, Bicolor

Black Pear – this line is smaller than standard and is very tasty

And hundreds more… After harvesting and photos comes cutting, squishing, and putting aside to ferment for 3-4 days.

The smells, oh, those old familiar, penetrating, malodorous fumes of rotting tomatoes! My little seed business and I have become synonymous. It is I that has become a fly magnet, distinctly not a Ch*** magnet! I live alone, and it’s highly unlikely than another person on earth could tolerate all of this. There is plenty of unwelcome company though – house flies and fruit flies by the hundreds!

Fruit Fly Larvae
House Flies Like the Smells!

The odors dissipate rapidly once seeds are placed on plates to dry. But it will be a while before I am rid of all rotting or fermenting tomatoes! Each stack of plates takes 1-2 hours to inventory, package and put in place.

Seeds Drying on Plates

A very ambitious goal is to have all tomatoes harvested and processed, seeds packaged and inventories, and databases updated and uploaded with all the new varieties for this year – all by November 1st. If only I didn’t need to eat or sleep…

There is the indoor microdwarf tomato project, with dozens of little tomatoes coming on, such as this Chibbiko.

Other veggies, briefly.

Most squash vines have been producing well, especially male squash blossoms, which I’ve been eating for breakfast. Even on September 30th squash blossoms were opening. Lots of pollination by hand, often on cool mornings, has resulted in low pollination rates, with likely few viable seeds. But we shall see. Squash harvest has barely begun.

One squash variety I’m anxious to try is Guatemalan Green-Fleshed Ayote. Enormous, healthy vines, very late to put out blossoms, just hoping there will be time for at least one fruit to mature.

Bottle Gourd – very late to set fruit, not sure if there is still time to produce viable seeds.

Bottle Gourd

Beginning of Melon harvesting as well. Hithadhoo Maldives – a very odd variety in terms of shape, color, texture and flavor. Flesh was white, pithy, dry and flavorless, sort of like eating Styrofoam. Turns out it was bred for consuming the seeds and gel around them! Hoping for another try.

Melon, Hithadhoo Maldives

Melon, Farthest North – quite small (softball sized) with delicious flavor – not overly sweet.

Melon, Farthest North

Watermelon, Early Moonbeam, stepped on while watering at night. Flavor is very good.

Watermelon, Early Moonbeam

Watermelon, Truck Buster – munched on by deer, excellent flavor

Watermelon, Truck Buster

There has also been some damage by deer in one of the tomato patches, as I got lazy and have not closed up the deer fencing securely every night.

Of course there are other pests, especially insects, such as grasshoppers. This species is still to be identified. Similar to Schistocerca obscura (Obscure Bird Grasshopper), but is very likely a different species.


I was surprised to discover pests in my hollyhock seeds! Apparently these little weevils hatched out from eggs. I put all the seeds in and out of the freezer several times. We’ll see if that works. This is a male of the Hollyhock Weevil, Rhopalapion longirostre.

Hollyhock Weevil, Rhopalapion longirostre

Despite 50+ attempts at hand pollination with a battery-operated vibrating toothbrush, only two potato berries were produced, both of the variety Blue Velvet. One fell off, the other is bagged, waiting to mature fully. It’s my understanding that these fruits are usually green when ripe, so seed extraction will be happening soon.

Potato Berry, Blue Velvet

Okra has done very poorly this year: started very late, crowded out by beans and marigolds, does not like the chilly nights at this altitude (6,200′). But it looks like one variety, Texas Hill Country will produce a couple of small pods. Very attractive flowers!

Okra, Texas Hill Country

The Dwarf Pomegranate plant is done flowering for the season and is trying to get two fruits to mature before frost:

Pomegranate, Dwarf

A bit on the philosophical side. A few years ago I stumbled upon this YouTube Video geared towards entrepreneurs:

15 Sacrifices You Need to Make If You Want to be Rich

In my circumstances, I would change the title to:

“15 Sacrifices You Must Make to avoid bankruptcy, eviction and starvation”

Here’s the list of those 15 sacrifices:

 1. Family

2. Health

 3. Friends

 4. Hobbies

 5. Time

 6. Happiness

 7. Sleep

 8. Who you are

 9. Entertainment

 10. Stability

 11. Income

 12. Comfort

 13. The need to be liked

 14. Pride

 15. Immediate Desires

It rather feels like some demon read my mind and my life and made up this list, just for me! To these, at least in my circumstances, I would add:

16. Weekends and any week, ever with less than 100 hours of work

17. Holidays – For example, I look forward to Christmas every year because it is the one day I can justify not replying to emails, ignoring seed orders, and focusing just on database management, naming photos, or website work

18. Exercise – At least any time deliberately set aside for exercise (I can scarcely imagine how anybody has time to go to the gym, go jogging, or the like), though some days during the growing season I get many hours of moderate exercise

19. Conversation – Whether by phone or text messaging, I feel compelled to keep all focused conversation to a minimum. Personalized emails I can usually get to within 3-4 days, as this is a middle-of-the-night activity when I’m just too wiped out to work on seed orders or such

On the bright side, because about 80% of my work is almost pure manual labor, requiring minimal metal bandwidth, I have the luxury and pleasure of listening to and learning from audio recordings for 50-60 hours every week: Lectures (The Great Courses, now Wondrium, at least 215 courses to date), debates, podcasts, audiobooks (many hundreds), and the soundtrack of educational videos. So interactions with other humans involves about 98% listening and learning, and about 2% speaking and writing.

This “imbalance” gives some perspective: There are literally tens of thousands of great philosophers, professors, thinkers, scientists, debaters, and others that are worth listening to; while I am just one very little person – a failed scientist, failed college professor, failed husband, failed father, failed athlete, failed musician, etc. With plenty I want to say and write and share. But why even try much, when there are so many incredible people worth learning from?

So this ratio of learning to expressing, rather than being 49:1, logically ought to be 99,999:1.

Except for: That immense obstacle called “the ego”, and human emotional needs that I still have not been able to fully shed.

So, with so very much work left to do, should I get back to work or try to sleep?