About SEAMSFASTER

Delectation of Tomatoes was established in 2011 and is based out of East Carbon, Utah, United States of America. These are the primary guiding principles: • Preserve and propogate heirloom seeds from around the world, with an emphasis on tomatoes • Promote ecologically responsible and sustainable food growing practices • Encourage self-reliance and independence from the “System” for nutritional needs • Enhance physical and psychological health • Facilitate appreciation for and enjoyment of the best food the earth has to offer Accordingly, offerings and services have included: • Seeds - more than 3,000 varieties in inventory, 60% of these tomatoes • Starts - up to 30,000 seedlings raised each spring • Produce - CSA's, restaurant, health food stores, famers markets as outlets • Service - consulting on strategies, solutions, workshops, classes with particular focus on design solutions for growing year-round at higher elevations All phases of this business use only organic (though not officially certified - are you kidding? who has time or $ to jump through THOSE hoops??), non-GMO products and methods. Currently (2018), primary focus is on service and offering seeds, with plans to again offer starts and produce in the near future. Links to a few online articles about the business: http://thegreenurbanlunchbox.com/blog/2014/2/10/seed-saver-spotlight-dale-thurber-owner-delectation-of-tomatoes https://www.linkedin.com/pub/dale-thurber/9/643/240 http://www.wasatch.coop/about-us/meet-member-owners/item/34-dale-thurber-testimonial http://www.catalystmagazine.net/last-month/item/1976-supporting-small-endeavors http://www.deseretnews.com/article/765611694/Local-gardener-is-new-king-of-growing-tomatoes.html?pg=all http://www.ksl.com/?nid=359&sid=22154419&title=delectation-of-tomatoes http://slowfoodutah.org/programs/micro-grants/micro-grant-recipients-list/ http://www.utahpumpkingrowers.com/top_giant_tomatoes.html Personal information is essentially irrelevant, but could potentially be of interest to someone at some point... Born in Idaho Falls, Idaho; raised in Southern Utah (Cedar City, Escalante), then Salt Lake Valley area for most of youth. Fmily of Origin: 5th of 9 children, 3 brothers, 5 sisters. Academics: Advanced classes, graduated near top of class, scholarships throughout college; B.S. Zoology; cum laude, BYU; M.S. Tropical Ecology/Zoology, BYU; Ph.D. Ornithology/Forest Resources Science, West Virginia University; Post-doctoral fellowship at the National Museum of Natural History in Washington, DC. Profession, primary: Endangered species biologist, emphasis on birds; also worked with several plant, mammal, reptile, amphibian and fish species; research, management, conservation, published several scientific articles. Profession, secondary: Taught college courses part-time at three institutions of higher learning over a 20-year span, including Biology, Zoology, Ornithology, Nature Studies, Ecology, Anatomy & Physiology; currently Dean of the College of Natural Sciences at Allied University (online university under development). Profession, current: Organic micro-farmer, nurseryman, seedsman; over 3,200 varieties of seeds in inventory from all over the world, including one of the largest private collections of tomato seeds in the USA. See website at www.delectationoftomatoes.com Personality: Passionate about life; a dreamer and visionary, seeking to make this world a better place through my business, teaching, writing and interaction with others; working to overcome the evils of egoism and develop a more Utopian-like society; Myers-Briggs personality profile is INTJ (aka “Mastermind”); Gentle, kind, patient, tolerant, fun-loving, sensitive, empathetic, respectful, egalitarian; no hot temper, not a hint of violence – though when I'm intensely focused on a project I may come across as distant. Health and habits: Never tried drugs, alcohol, tobacco, etc. and never plan to; try to grow and eat the healthiest food possible and live a clean, meaningful, principle-driven life; listen to college courses (>150 so far) or influential literature when driving or working whenever possible; have not been sick in >10 years but have been in better physical condition... Sports participation: Many, especially wrestling (very few losses) and running (hundreds of road races, >10 marathons, most under 3 hrs., PR 2:34). Music: Clarinet, drums, trombone, saxophone, others, especially piano – memorized many Chopin and other classical works; a few compositions, taught piano lessons for several years to kids aged 5-11. Hobby, animals: Raising small pets and other wild animals – rodents, birds, reptiles, amphibians, arthropods, unusual pets and fish by the hundreds Hobby, plants: Avid gardener from age 7 or so; always appreciated and spent a lot of time hiking and exploring natural areas – wetlands, forests, deserts, riparian, aquatic – learning about and collecting plants and animals Other hobbies: exploring, hiking, running, biking, swimming, camping, writing, learning, sharing, service Religion, Family, Political views: Hmm - email me if you want these kinds of details.

Third End of the Candlestick

Virtually everything in the cellar died over winter, despite some light and occasional watering.  Between the aphids and fungus gnats, as well as neglect, they didn’t really have a chance.  When am I ever going to learn to quit trying to get pepper plants to survive the winter? Even the wasabi plants died, once I brought them outside where they were exposed to full sunlight and frost. At least there are a few dozen pepper pods from which I can save seeds.

Regrettably, I have not found a moment of time to devote to propagating garlic since I harvested bulbs last August. They have been patiently waiting for me to act, but cannot wait much longer. Not a day passes without me thinking, “when can I justify the time and effort to get these garlic replanted?”

Neglected Garlic

Somehow I did manage to justify an hour of time to cut down the new growth from that huge Siberian Elm stump on April 18th. It felt good just to get a bit of fresh air and exercise! Though I still cannot manage the time or resources to deal with stump removal.

Yunnat revisited –
Perhaps this variety shares the trait of many commercial varieties in that the fruits need to be treated with ethylene gas to ripen.  I’m reconsidering classifying this as a “long keeper”, since it seems that most of the seeds germinate inside the fruit before it even softens!  Actually, none of them have even softened, except when rotting.  The crunchy flesh of 6-month old tomatoes tasted just fine in burritos – minus the sprouted seeds.  Maybe those are edible as well?  They just don’t look appetizing.  Plus, I’m a bit reluctant to intentionally ingest tomatine – see this brief article for one perspective.

I thoroughly enjoy sharing seeds of so many wonderful varieties with other gardeners and small market growers! Positive feedback and constructive comments are what keep me going and help fuel this passion! Several unanticipated seed trades have now put the total number of tomato varieties in seed inventory at just over 3,000. Life was just so much easier when there were only 1,000!

So far, 226 new varieties of tomato seeds have been added to inventory over the past few months, with dozens more on the way in the next week or so.

I started planting seeds for other gardeners and small market growers on March 6th and completed that part of seedling production on April 23rd. Here is how those numbers break down in terms of numbers of varieties:

Tomato249
Pepper44
Eggplant17
Physalis10
Basil10
Others17
Numbers of Varieties of Seeds Planted for Other Growers

Total number of seedlings destined for other gardens is about 6,500 – hopefully all of them will find a good home!

There is very little overlap between those 249 varieties mentioned above and those I am planting for the seed saving project this year.  First cut was 891 “MUST GROW in 2022” varieties.  I am trimming this number down somewhat as I methodically go through every variety of seeds in every box of my tomato seed inventory.  It takes me about 8 hours to go through each of 18 boxes, and 3-4 hours to plant and keep records as I go.

So this 2022 seed-saving project was started on April 20th and will take over 140 hours to complete.  I am only on the letter “G” and have already planted seeds of 345 varieties of tomatoes for seed saving.

 So far, most of this work has been done between 11 p.m. and 5:00 a.m.  My primary bout of sleep has started between 4:00-5:00 a.m. for 11 of the past 14 nights.  The one reasonably normal bedtime was last night, at 10:45 p.m.  I “slept in” until 3:15 a.m., when I awoke with a start and got back to work.  It is nearly impossible for me to sleep for more than 3-4 hours at a stretch (is this “Long COVID” or evidence of character flaws?).  But I need 7-8 hours of sleep, just as most adults do.  I end up getting an additional 1-2 hours of sleep each day via unplanned, unwanted, very inconvenient, compulsory naps.  That is, I fall asleep unintentionally while working. High stress, yes; but I consider it mostly eustress, since I have convinced myself that what I am doing is of significant value – “value” in the non-money sense. Don’t get me started…

I cannot seem to find a third end to that proverbial candlestick that I can burn.  And it’s just going to get worse, much worse, in May, as I prepare for and make deliveries all around the state of Utah. See Delectation of Tomatoes Seedling Tab for details.

“Why don’t you just hire an assistant or two”, more than one person has suggested. Find me someone who will work hard, fast, safely, effectively, and free of significant errors (mix-ups are a HUGE problem in this line of work…) for 40 hours per week for compensation of $1.50 per hour and I will gladly hire them! I’ve done the math, over and over. This sort of “business” just cannot sustain paying any more than that. For example, I would need to charge $48 per seed packet in order to earn (after business expenses) what the average American makes per hour. As if anybody would pay that rate for seeds!

It has been enjoyable to finally get outside and do a bit of gardening work, specifically setting up the low tunnel for 2022, completed on April 29th, two weeks behind schedule:

In addition to really struggling to find the time and energy to pot up seedlings, the weather has not been cooperative until today. Last night, the forecast low and “official” low was 34° F. But my remote thermometer recorded 22.6°!

And a small bucket of water had a 1/4″ layer of ice on its surface. Soil thermometer, predictably, measured the water below the ice at 32°. Clear evidence that “34°” was meaningless (maybe I am learning at least one life lesson!). Actually, between 3:30 and 7:00 a.m., I watched the temperature fluctuate quite a bit between 23 and 34°.

Temperatures are forecast to be more moderate over the next few days, but there still frost in the forecast – just when others are expecting me to deliver seedlings.

Once the low tunnel was set up, temperatures reached into the mid-80’s – just right for seedlings!

Now that shelf space and floor space are being made available, potting up from plug trays to 3-1/2″ pots can begin in ernest.

Can I manage to pot up 5,500 more seedlings and get them all hardened off in 4 days? Not likely, but I can try. Getting ZERO sleep for the next 3 weeks would help a lot, if my body and brain could handle that. They can’t. Especially if I expect to be able to drive about 1,200 miles safely while making deliveries.

Ideal timing for potting up seedlings from plug trays is 14-21 days from seed sowing. The oldest of these tomato seedlings were planted 42 days ago and are starting to suffer because of my “benign neglect”. Call it insanity — or stupidity, if you prefer. I keep hoping things will get better; that I can work faster, get less sleep, or afford to hire some help.

Here are trays of pots ready to receive some stressed-out seedlings – enough to easily keep me occupied until 5 a.m.

Ending on a more upbeat note – first blossom of the season is opening on an Aunt Molly’s ground cherry – before even potting up!

= = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = =

Update, May 2nd, 2:55 a.m. –

When I finished up outdoors at dusk last night, the forecast low was for 42°F. I rather hoped that I could get 8-10° buffer with the combination of a portable radiant heater and box fan, both set at lowest settings. But, by 1:15 a.m., the outdoor temperature was down to 33.6° and inside the low tunnel it was 36°, with the forecast showing another 4° drop before sunrise. With significant wind and a moonless, cloudless night, my mind registers (based upon experience – some of it resulting from significant losses to freezing temperatures): “HIGH DANGER OF FROST”.

So, I just returned from disentangling my large tarp (see blog post from September, 2020) from weeds and placing it as a fourth layer over the low tunnel. I also turned the heater up to maximum. At the moment, the temperature inside the tunnel is 45.3° and still rising, while the open-air temperature 10 feet away is 32.7 and falling.

I am satisfied with a 12° temperature gain with this adjusted setup. I will need at least that much buffer, as the forecast for about 48 hours from now is 30° – which, it seems, should be translated to 20° to reflect reality.

There is seldom concordance between what I want and what reality gives; but waxing philosophical is probably not appropriate given the circumstances and middle-of-the-candle hour…

Gardening: Hobby, or Something More?

March was pretty much the tail end of seed saving from the 2021 growing season and the indoor dwarf tomato project.

Final Batches of Tomato Seeds from 2021 and Winter Dwarf Tomato Project

There seem to be different species of fungi doing the fermenting this time of year, including production of this impressive “snowball” formation.  I took a lot of “-ology” courses, but not mycology.  Guess I’m still easily impressed by natural phenomena.

Distinctive, Snow-like Fungal Growth on Fermenting Tomatoes

Inca Berries were a standout – the few I saved stored all winter long, retained a very good flavor, and were processed for seed saving on March 6th.

Inca Berries – Keep Well Over Winter!

Finally, on March 15th, with some good help, I managed to get all tomato seeds from the 2021 season boxed, labeled, integrated, and re-organized.

21 Boxes of Tomato Seeds

This tomato collection consitutes 18 large boxes for the primary inventory, one medium box of “unknowns” (crosses in development, accidental crosses, misplaced seeds, and other oddities), one box containing just seeds of the three most popular giant varieties (Domingo, Big Zac, Delicious), and one box of “in processing”.  There are always some packets “in processing”, as I am almost never caught up with sharing seeds with other gardeners.

It takes more time than some might imagine to hunt up, keep organized, and re-file seeds when there are some 20,000 batches.  One can only imagine the frustration that ensues if a bundle of seed packets is mis-filed; oh, the hours of wasted time and elevated blood pressure…

An interesting anecdote:  March 7th was a very windy day.  While packaging seeds, I looked outside and observed perhaps the most interesting dust devil I have ever seen.  About 300 meters away, there was a swirling, spiral column of dried tumbleweeds (Russian Thistle), about 80 of them, stretching at least 200 meters into the air.  I stood agape, intrigued. by the time I had the presence of mind to grab my cell phone and try to get video footage, it was pretty much over.  But here’s a brief, grainy snip from that short video”.

Dust Devil – A Tumbleweed Tornado!

Among all the plants moved to the cellar last October (see previous blogs) under a metal halide light, essentially the only survivors were the wasabi plants:

Wasabi, Winter Survival, Ready to Bloom

Aphids had a free-for-all and I just had no time (or was it energy, or discipline?) to take care of the problem.  The wasabi plants were also hit hard by aphids; but perhaps they don’t taste as good as the pepper plants, etc.?  The forming flower buds reveal membership in the family Brassicaceae.

Over the winter, I was gifted about 15 fig cuttings, which, along with some stubs and other pieces saved, have been stored in the fridge over winter.  On March 17th, I soaked these cuttings for several hours.

Fig Cuttings Rehydrating

I made a blend for the potting medium, which I sterilized in the oven at around 200°F for about 2 hours. Mold is apparently a major enemy to successful rooting of fig cuttings.

Sterilizing Potting Mix

Then I hunted up some clear water bottles from other people (I don’t buy bottled water, but I do filter drinking water as needed), potted cuttings, and placed them in an insulated cooler, next to a radiant electric heater, covered with a large box, and am keeping the cuttings at 76-89° F and 40-60% humidity.

Attempted Rooting of Fig Cuttings

No sign of rooting yet, but this can take a while.  I was 1 for 3 a year ago, so if I get even 3 or 4 of these to take, then I will feel fortunate!

The one fig plant from 2021 was kept indoors over the winter, dropped its leaves, and started leafing out again a couple of weeks ago.  I even managed to keep it outdoors for 3 days during a warm spell.

Fig Tree, Beginning of Year Two

The Dwarf Pomegranate plant can also be seen in this photo, but so far no sign of life.

Another indoor survivor of the winter:  three tomato hornworm pupae (Five-spotted Hawkmoth, Manduca quinquemaculata, dark morph) – see earlier posts.

Five-spotted Hawkmoth Pupae, Manduca quinquemaculata

When they emerge in June or so, I don’t want them laying eggs around here.  But the adults are so interesting and beautiful, I just gotta give them a chance at living a few more months, when they can do no harm.

“March Madness” around here is planting thousands of seeds indoors in 128-cell plug trays to offer other growers in Utah as seedlings.

Planting in 128-cell Plug Trays

More than in any previous year, I am having difficulty managing the time and energy to get seeds planted.  Part of the challenge is keeping records of every seed: source, dates, germination rates, etc. through every stage. This is my primary seed germination test efforts, and the processes is quite slow and tedious with just one person.

So far, I have planted only 21 trays.  Last year at this time, I had planted 39 trays.  I keep thinking that I will get faster; but time and energy are so limiting.  What seeds I have planted are germinating and growing well.

This year, I am focusing almost exclusively on tomatoes.  This is because:

• Over the years, tomato seeds have accounted for about 95% of seed sales

• I have very limited resources (time, space, energy, greenhouse, etc.)

• I am feeling more and more compelled to turn this endeavor into a business, not just a glorified hobby.

There are still so many important but undone tasks:

• Update computer files with seed inventory from 2021

• Carefully go through all 20,000+ packets of seeds (25,000+ if you count melons, squash, peppers, beans, corn, etc. etc.) and do a complete inventory

• Select among all of these seeds for growing in 2022

• Plant seeds for tomato seed saving project (what I’ve planted so far is for other growers)

• Start fall garden cleanup from 2021 (such a mess out there)

• Greenhouse, high tunnel, low tunnel work – I better stop here or overwhelm will set in…

Heck, I still haven’t found the time to unpack from my move almost two years ago; not exactly an inviting place for visitors.

Still Moving In – Boxes Stacked to the Ceiling…

Closing in on 133 months since the business entity of “Delectation of Tomatoes, etc.” (DT) was officially registered with the state.  Gardening has been a hobby, more or less, off and on, since I was 7 years old and we rolled up the sod from the backyard and put in a 1,000 square-foot garden.

I essentially took over that same garden spot from my aging father (now deceased) in 2008.  By 2011 I was finding so much satisfaction from gardening, especially growing giant tomatoes, that I felt compelled to share seedlings and especially fresh produce with other people.  Sharing seeds was not a big part of the original vision.  But seeds travel (five moves since 2015…) much better than garden plots, compost piles, and a local customer base.

From the outset, DT was intended to be a hobby, a stop-gap endeavor until a full-time position in my career field (Endangered Species Biologist, college instructor) or allied field came along.  Month after month, year after year, as the failed applications piled up (>1,000) and failed job interviews mounted (dozens), finally, about four years ago, I realized that nobody was ever going to hire me; at least not for anything more than a mundane, mindless, mind-numbing, manual labor job.  Something about, “insanity is doing the same thing over and over, and expecting different results” finally drove deep enough into my stubborn mind.  So I decided to make a serious attempt at transforming DT from a glorified hobby into a legitimate, recognizable business.

Unlike many gardeners and seed savers, DT is my only source of income: no “real” job, no savings, no investments, no retirement funds, no assets, no family help, no working spouse to subsidize my hobby, no large donors, etc. So I either make DT work, or I become homeless. To be fair, Slow Food Utah has given me three microgrants over the years – without which grants, I probably would have been forced to close up shop 10 years ago.

“Saving and sharing seeds of thousands of rare varieties from around the world” is absolutely not a recipe for financial success, or even for survival of a most Spartan and streamlined small business. Rare products with zero or nearly zero demand are eliminated from production in a “legitimate” business. Perhaps 98% of what I offer would never “make the cut” if DT were only about making money.

Obviously and logically, this endeavor belongs under the auspices of a government agency, a land-grant university, or a non-profit seed preservation organization.

So, I guess what I’m saying, is that financial support is needed from big donors – from individual people or organizations which support the mission of Delectation of Tomatoes. More than anything, I need to find a way, a financial resource, that will allow me to hire a fulltime employee (or two or five…) without breaking into the already extremely tight budget of DT.

Any ideas? email me at dale@gianttomatoseeds.com

And yes, I’ve tried crowd funding, a couple of times. those attempts brought in exactly zero dollars and zero cents – though it has been a few years

For weeks I have been thinking seriously about writing up a detailed history, the “whys” of gardening, etc. – something much more that the DT Disclosure Statement published here:

DT, Shared Files

What I want to write would easily fill a full-length book.  And I’ve got more than enough photos (100,000+ and counting) to go along with the words.  Alas, that clock is once again screaming at me, “BE PRODUCTIVE!!”; the weeks, seasons just pass on so quickly.  So, back at it…

Sharing Seeds

Many thanks to the scores of gardeners from around the world who have purchased seeds from Delectation of Tomatoes! This helps tremendously with my efforts to preserve, propagate, and promote the growing of heirloom varieties from around the world!

The past few weeks have been busy with packaging and mailing out seeds, as well as attending local seed exchanges such as: https://www.facebook.com/OgdenSeedExchange/

We’ve had several nights of very cold temperatures, with daytime temperatures barely making it into the 20’s. Recorded -12°F during my latest trip to the Ogden Seed Exchange.

A recent trip to Arizona (to visit younger brother with advanced ALS…) encouraged some very brief, spontaneous sight-seeing.

Significant snowstorm during the trip back – Flagstaff in a blizzard makes for challenging driving… Fresh snow upon returning:

Fresh snow, 2-23-2022

Trying to reduce waste to 1 bag of garbage per month; plenty of leftover bags from last spring for this use:

Pressing tasks from my last blog post completed in recent days – with some great help from cousin DT:

Rotting melons, cucumbers and squash from the 2021 season processed for seed saving.

All tomato seeds from the 2021 season alphabetized and integrated with batches of seeds from the previous 11 season. Estimate is 20,000 batches of tomato seeds in inventory now, though some of them have been depleted to nearly zero.

Caught up on seed requests for the moment, for the first time in over 2 months.

I was very pleased to receive this placard from a colleague and friend, and it now adorns my front door:

Motivation…

February has been an intensely busy month, but there’s not a lot to show for it here. Nearly all the effort has gone towards helping other growers from around the world obtain some wonderful tomato seeds (etc.) for their gardens/farms this year, and that is very satisfying. Like I say at workshops, etc.:

If you’re human, you have to eat to survive.
If you’re going to eat, it’s better if you eat healthy food.
It’s hard to find healthier food than what you grow yourself.
While you’re at it, why not enjoy the fruits of your labors by trying wonderful new varieties from around the world?

DELECTATION 😁

DT Seed Store

Projects Put on Pause

Over the past few years I have been developing and publishing lists which many growers may find helpful. These files are supplemental to the main website and to this blog, and are available for anybody to view:

DT Shared Files

The Big Tomato List – many contributors have helped in documenting 322 varieties which have been grown to at least 2 lbs. (or some at least credible claims)

Very Productive Varietes – obviously biased by where I have grown, soil conditions, weather, etc.

Heat Tolerant Varieties – those which have done well for me in summers of 95-105° F, along with many which have been reported by other growers to do well in areas like Phoenix Arizona, Las Vegas, South Texas, etc.

Dwarf, micro-dwarf, and compact determinate varieties, more or less suited to growing in containers or small spaces.

Extra early varieties – 85+ varieties that can ripen within 65 days of transplanting if weather remains warm.

Container varieties – 105 varieties suitable for growing in 1- to 3-gallon pots

Tastiest Tomatoes – 241 wonderfully delicious varieties, and counting…

An overview of how to successfully grow giant tomatoes.

In mid-January I “took off” four days to attend the Utah Farm and Food Conference. It was a very positive experience, but I was already struggling mightily to keep up. Regrettably, some growers have had to wait for a week or more to receive their seeds. But now, finally, on the last day of January, I am very close to being caught up with seed request. Sharing seeds with other growers is the most rewarding part of operating Delectation of Tomatoes, so no regrets on that account! I just need to continue learning how to refine and streamline my seed packaging process.

Though I’m not typically prone to bragging, there is one thing that I am very VERY good at — better than almost anybody you will ever meet!

Yes, I sense your cringing…

I am REALLY good at: overestimating my abilities.

Anyhow, following are just high priority projects put on pause in January until I can generate the time, become more efficient, sleep less, create more energy, let go of more things in life, or some combination of these.

Completing processing of melons, cucumbers, squash, eggplant, etc. harvested several months ago (I did manage to process one watermelon – see below)

Alphabetizing and collating tomato seeds havested in 2021 with those harvest in 2009-2020. (Alphabetizing completed, and collating completed through the letter L, but I took off three days from more pressing tasks to get this one half done).

Assessing which tomato varieties need to be grown again in 2022. (I got through the letter A while collating seeds, but that project took ten hours and put me a day behind on more pressing tasks)

Conducting a complete inventory and reorganization of tomato seeds.

Data entry from inventory of seeds harvested in 2021. (I got through the letter A, but it took about 3 hours away from more pressing tasks)

Planting garlic (four months behind now)

Taking care of pepper and other plants in the cellar (I’ve not even looked at them in 6 weeks)

Complete and submit plans to the County Inspector for finishing the greenhouse that I abandoned last spring.

Initiate a crowd-funding project for installing a large high tunnel (40 ft. X 100 ft.), estimated minimum cost of $20,000 – something that would take me 20 years to pay for on my own, but would generate enough revenue through sales of fresh produce to pay for itself in 2-3 years.

Last tomato harvested from the main tomato growing season of 2021 (not counting long-keeper and micro-dwarf varieties), likely Pederson’s Beefsteak:, consumed on January 16th, and still quite tasty!

A long-keeper variety, or at least is acting like it, Yunnat (Russian, Юннат, translates to “Youth”, with about 10 tomatoes still ripening very slowly. This is one of just a few cases over the years where I’ve observed seed germinating inside of a rotting tomato. This is particularly interesting, since these tomatoes have been stored where temperatures state been 45-60°. And growth documented, for at least one seedling!

A very delicious watermelon, harvested on October 9th, not cut open until January 25th – that’s 108 days on the shelf, almost like a winter squash! The flavor was still very good: sweet, juicy, delicious. Texture was just a little off, but nothing to dissuade me, as I love a good melon!

Watermelon, Grandeur (F2?), 108 days from harvest

There are still over 100 cucumbers, melons, eggplants, squash, etc. waiting for me to extract seeds. I also processed a Guatemalan Green-Fleshed Ayote squash for seeds, and it turned out to be one of the most delicious squash I’ve ever eaten! Unfortunately, none of the seeds were mature, and the flesh only had hints of green. Purple in the photo is mold.

Microdwarf tomato project pretty much neglected for months. Too cold, too many fungus gnats, too much benign neglect. But one variety stood out as resilient and hardy, despite the bad treatment: Gold Pearl, still producing!

Gold Pearl (microdwarf)

Back to the primary project this time of year – supplying other growers with seeds of some amazing varieties! Just more fun than I deserve to have! LOL

Thanks for supporting the preservation and propagation of heirloom tomato varieties!

Velocious, Voracious Chronometer

Calendar tells me it’s 2022 already – how is that possible? It seems the clock is not only whizzing by, but doing so with an insatiable appetite, consuming, devouring everything in its path — like the Langoliers…

Say what? Time to start thinking seriously about the next growing season? Well at least I’ve mostly completed tasks from the last one.

On December 12th, I finally finished, essentially, STAGE 2 (see November 2021 blog post for descriptions of stages) of processing tomatoes for seed saving, with only 34 batches left, and most of these were microdwarf varieties, grown indoors under artificial lights.

On December 25th, STAGE 3 was completed, and on December 31st, STAGE 4 completed and a good start on STAGE 5. STAGE 6 is the most time-consuming of all. But I have some ideas for batch processing, for making the first significant, large-scale update to the website since 2016.

Indoor microdwarf tomato project pretty much ended because of low temperatures (tomatoes are subtropical plants, after all), fungus gnats, benign neglect, and the reality that they are determinate varieties. The electric toothbrush got many good workouts. But when the temperatures are in the 45-55° range, good blossom formation and fruit set might be a little much to hope for. Here are just a few of the microdwarf plants before final harvesting:

There have been several significant snowstorms in the past few weeks – a very good thing! Will it be enough to get the region out of severe drought conditions?

For some reason, the local deer seem to have a particular affinity for the compost pile.

A very white JWST Launch Day (25 December) – another reminder of Sagan’s powerful Pale Blue Dot speech.

Several critters have been taking refuge inside, where it’s relatively warm, such as this hobo spider, Eratigena agrestis (Not at all certain of identity, as I am not an arachnologist and did not take the time…)[maybe the belief that I sleep alone is just a comforting delusion]:


On December 30th, I started in earnest processing cucurbits for seed extraction. So many distractions since these were harvested on October 9th! The saddest part is that most of these are too ripe (or rotting) for tasting, though the seeds should be just fine. It’s cool enough indoors that there is little chance the seeds have even “considered” trying to germinate.

There remain a few batches of tomatoes leftover into 2022, including a few microdwarf and long-keeper varieties, specifically Purple Smudge Orange Flesh and Yunnat.

Following is a list of the most delectable tomato varieties harvested in 2021, at least according to one set of taste buds (this is a big part of my quest: discover wonderful varieties from around the world and help make them available to other gardeners…). These all scored 8.5 out of 10 or higher on my taste scale, so these would all come “highly recommended” by me:

Absinthe
Alice’s Dream
Altaiskiy Oranzhevyi
Ambrosia Gold
Ananas Noire
Apricot Zebra
Artisan Blush Tiger
Beaverlodge Plum
Big Braggart
Bigzarro
Black Fire
Brandywine, Apricot
Buckman’s Beauty
Bunte Pflaume
Canestrino di Lucca 
Champagne Bubbles
Chapman
Cherokee Chocolate
Cherokee Lime Stripes
Chocolate Cherry
Coastal Yellow Egg
Coeur de Strie de Pessac
Coeur de Surpriz
Copper River
Criollo Argentino
Dagma’s Perfection
Ded Ivan
Dr. Wyche’s Yellow
Earl’s Faux
Elgin Pink
Fourth of July (PL, OP)
Gary’O Sena
German Pink
Ghost Cherry
Gorets
Great White
Hazel Mae
Imur Prior Beta
Italian Heirloom
Italian Sweet
Ivory Pear
Jabuchar Velika Plana
Kapidag Red
Kavkazets
Kootenai
Kosovo
Kozula #156
Kvadratnyi iz Irana
Loxton Lad
Lucky Cross
Lyagushka Tsarevna
Maddeline’s Vine Candy
Mayo’s Delight
Meri’s Croatian
Midnight In Moscow
Nahuelbuta Pink
Neves Azorean Red
Oaxacan Jewel
Orange Paruche
Orangevyi Orangutang
Oud Holland
Pederson’s Beefsteak
Pink Berkeley Tie-dye
Pink Jazz
Purple Reign
Reinhart’s Chocolate Heart
Rosalie’s Big Rosy
Rose Beauty
Rosella Purple
RW Cephei
Schlicht’s Orange Cherry
Serdtse Tibeta
Sergant Peppers X Libanaise des Montagnes
Staroobryadcheskyi
Summer Cider Apricot
Sunchocola
Sweet Sue
Tadzhikskyie
Tanager
Tel-Aviv Train
The Musketeers
Tobolsk
Trokhtsvetnyi
Tsindao
Uluru Ochre
U-Pick
Vater Rhein na Sinyuke
Virginia Sweets
Vorlon
Wagonwheel
Waltingers Fleisch aus Indien
Wes
West Virginia Straw
White Cherry
Yablochniy Dugosel’skiy
Yakut
Yasha Yugoslavian
Yoder’s German Pink
Zolotyie Gory Medeo
Zurcher Original

Note that about half of these are offered for the first time by Delectation of Tomatoes. Please navigate here for requesting seeds (and thereby contributing significantly to the preservation of heirloom seeds from around the world):

Delectation of Tomatoes, List of Tomato seeds available

This essentially final list includes 2,565 varieties, including 254 new varieties.

Major pressing tasks (aside from filling seed requests – but that’s the fun part!) include:

  • Extract seeds from cucurbits, eggplants, etc.
  • Finish entering data from seed saving project
  • Collate all inventory seed packets from the 2021 season with those from prior years
  • Name more than 15,000 photos so they can be found quickly – getting some fantastic help with this seemingly overwhelming project from John N. – huge THANK YOU to John!
  • Write up descriptions of more than 1,000 varieties, link with photos, and upload to website
  • Massive update and overhaul of the website.
  • Prepare for local seed swaps by prepackaging, massively
  • Try to find time to sleep (oops, that doesn’t belong here…)

Adventures in Ultramarathoning

“Adventures in Ultramarathoning” began to accelerate on October 5th, when I reluctantly began to accept the almost certainty that meteorologist were not joking about the big, season-ending cold front that was moving in.  Such acceptance dictated that I could no longer harvest at a “leisurely” pace, waiting for tomatoes to ripen, and processing them for seed extraction promptly.  I had to start sprinting, every waking hour, to harvest ahead of the looming deep freeze.

As related in October 2021 blog posts, my “sprinting” was not nearly fast enough, and I had to cover about 300 tomato vines and “procrastinate” the harvest until the temperatures rose a few degrees.  That, or completely throw away all the effort put into raising those vines.

Many times over the past two months, distressing thoughts of the “Sunk Cost Fallacy” kept gnawing at my mind, often contributing to my sense of falling into the maelstrom of insanity.

This year, this seed saving project has indeed felt like persevering through an ultramarathon every day, day after day, for nigh on 60 days straight.

My lack of foresight, imagination, optimism, etc. resulted in a reality that, with better planning (such as purchasing and using several more large frost blankets), I could have extended the growing and harvest season well into November:

As it turns out, the hard freeze of October 15th and 16th were the last really cold nights until November 17th!  There were many nice days, essentially an “Indian Summer”, during which I longed to be working outdoors.  With close attention to forecasts and careful management of frost blankets and space heaters, I could have, in theory, squeezed another 33 days out of the growing season!  But there is the time and effort, the worrying and distractions from other tasks.  And how was I to know?

Far better, of course, would have been to have that 40’ X 100’ high tunnel already in place and operational – with propane heaters turned on at night as needed.

On the other hand, as any experienced gardener knows, there is very little growth and maturation of tomato fruits when the temperatures are below 60° F.  As can be seen from the weather records, after October 15th, there were only five days when the high temperature reached 61° or higher, with the highest being only 63°.

On the other hand (running out of hands – now counting feet and digits…), as gardeners know who use high tunnels (polytunnels, greenhouses, glasshouses, walipinis, etc.), on sunny days, with proper management, temperatures can easily rise to 90° or more, even in late Fall or early Spring.

All this second-guessing is making my head spin.  The fact is, I don’t have a high tunnel or a greenhouse – not yet anyhow.  And at 6,200’ elevation, I just need to accept the reality that night temperatures can get cold almost any time of the year.

Somehow, a few marigold plants survived the hard freeze of October 15th, and a month later, when I harvested seeds, there were still a few open blossoms! Of course they did not survive the much colder weather of late November.

Started harvesting Stokes Purple sweet potatoes – still have an hour or two of digging.

Final Fig of the season (variety Black Manzanita) was thoroughly relished – and not mixed with tasting tomatoes.  The plant has dropped most of its leaves.  Likewise with the dwarf pomegranate.

This time of year, temperatures in this unheated house typically range between 45° and 60°, maybe up to 65° directly under the LED lights.  This is not warm enough for subtropical plants, including micro-dwarf tomato plants:

Fruits are ripening well, though slowly.  But vines are now stunted and sickly.  Good chance they will not survive the winter, as temperatures will continue to decline for a couple more months, and I just cannot justify the added expense of electricity for lights and space heaters.

STAGES of Tomato Seed Saving

STAGE 1 – Harvesting tomatoes

Completed on October 21st, as documented in earlier blog post.

STAGE 2 – Preparing for fermentation

This involves:  weighing tomatoes, taking photos, tasting fruits at the peak of ripeness (as far as possible), writing “field notes”, cutting and crushing fruits into containers, adding enough water to make a slurry, and setting aside for fermentation. 

As of this 3:00 a.m. this morning (November 30th), there were only 91 batches of intact ripe, rotting, or ripening tomatoes left in containers, waiting for me to get back to work and complete Stage 2.

Fermentation is necessary to remove the gel coat that surrounds each tomato seed, thus greatly enhancing germination.  And, very importantly, seeds with gel coats typically float in water, along with most of the tomato pulp, thus making seed separation a nearly impossible task.  Seeds from which gel coats have been digested (by fungi) or chemically removed (chemicals not used here…) sink in water, thus greatly facilitating the separation of seeds from everything else.

Fermentation in the warmer days of summer and early Fall typically takes 3-4 days – at times just 2 days when it’s really hot.  But with this cooler weather, 5-7 days are needed.  Even 8 days, but that 8th is never the plan – I just get exhausted at times and cannot help but sleeping for a couple of hours, here and there.  Sometimes, the friendly fungi form impressive mats on surfaces of fermenting tomatoes.

STAGE 3 – Seed separation

This is the most time-consuming (see previous post), most stinky, and most frustrating of all stages.  Even using heavy-duty rubber gloves, my hands have been soggy and wrinkled many days for hours on end.  Use of fans and a small HEPA air filter have been essential to allow me to breath comfortably.  In previous years and locations, this has been mostly an outdoor project.  But it is faster, more efficient, and more comfortable to have a kitchen sink, a table, and shelving very handy.

I am not afraid to throw away seeds that float.  That’s a very good indication that they are immature and thus worthless, except as compost!  Because I harvested tomatoes from about 300 vines after frost (though under some protection), about 20% of those tomatoes had some frost damage.  Many of those partially or fully rotted before complete ripening and seed maturation.  This was, thankfully, a very small portion of the overall harvest for 2021.

After seeds are separated and thoroughly rinsed, they are spread out into single layers onto plastic plates and placed on shelves or tables for drying.

As of this morning, there were 93 batches of fermenting tomatoes – all of which need to be processed by the end of the week.  This is in addition to the 91 other batches at Stage 2.

STAGE 4 – Seed packaging

Even with the ceiling fan going (which is 24-7 this time of year), it takes 3-4 days for seeds to dry sufficiently to eliminate the risk of molding.  When packaging seeds, I do a rough count (estimating by tens) for inventory purposes, place seeds in small glassine envelopes, then place those envelopes inside the coin envelopes which followed each batch since harvesting.

As of this morning, there were 95 batches of tomato seeds drying on plates.

STAGE 5 – Organizing

This involves organizing, alphabetizing, and placing inventoried seed envelopes into boxes.  Then comes transcribing field notes and seed counts into computer databases.

This phase has barely begun for 2021 tomato seeds, with about 1,500 batches only partially advertised.

STAGE 6 – Communicating

In reality, this is the most time-consuming of all, and I am YEARS behind “schedule”!  This involves naming photographs (I’m closing in on 100,000 photos taken for Delectation of Tomatoes), editing photos to fit on the website or seed packets, writing descriptions for each variety, including weights, dates and photos for each batch, and publishing these on the website.

This stage is the real “log jam” on this assembly line, as is obvious to anybody who has visited the online store of Delectation of Tomatoes.  Very embarrassing, even shameful that I’m not keeping up.  Fortunately, thankfully, there are many gardeners who are willing to overlook these unprofessional shortcomings on the website, and, gratefully support this effort by purchasing seeds.

Within the past few days, I’m even getting some great help from a volunteer who has started naming the 30,000 or so photos that are still unnamed in my photo library!  What an incredible time saver this will be when it comes to preparing photos for uploading to the website and preparing descriptions for seed packet labels!

Obviously, skipping Stage 6 means I’m just spinning my wheels, just “having fun”, just engaged in a glorified, grandiose hobby with no real purpose other than to keep myself perpetually exhausted, bankrupt, hungry, and homeless.  “Man cannot live on tomatoes alone”.

So those are the six stages of seed saving, summarized, with a few relevant photos following.

Actually, there are about 100 additional batches of overripe to rotting cucumbers, melons, eggplants etc. that are impatiently waiting for me to finish this massive tomato seed-saving project.  But let’s talk about those later, shall we?

All those green tomatoes that went to waste? Well, most of them eventually ripened, and the local deer appreciated the free feast. They are obviously related to goats! Speaking of deer, I counted 54 of them on my way home from market the other day.

A DAY IN THE LIFE

Thursday, November 25th
Went to bed the night before at 10:30 p.m., thoroughly exhausted, hoping to get a full night of restful sleep.

2:25 a.m. — awoke with a start, a combination of shoulder pain and mind racing about all the urgent tomato processing work, got right at it. Listened to Ancient Greek Philosophers-Scientists on Librivox, along with several podcasts.

4:20 a.m. — breakfast of tomatoes, oatmeal, tomatoes
Then worked on seed orders, email.

5:45 a.m. — low on energy for processing tomatoes, so packaged seeds instead.

8:45 a.m. — overcome by sleepiness, nap time

12:55 p.m. — awoke in pain and almost panic, so far behind; very unusual to sleep for more than 4 hours at a stretch, directly back to tomato processing

4:10 p.m. — lunch of tomatoes, Crockpot black beans on bread, tomatoes

5:20 p.m. — sundown, brief email processing, then another nap

6:15 p.m. — back at tomato processing, hard

9:30 p.m. — dinner of tomatoes, microwave-baked potatoes, tomatoes

9:40 p.m. — more packaging tomato seeds

1:15 a.m. — midnight snack, Ramen noodles, then worked on photo processing

2:45 a.m. — back to bed, hopefully for the night

For years I have fought against sleep – just way too much to do to blink out for 8 hours a night. Now, with the lingering ill effects of the COVID vaccine (see June, July blog posts), I really have a love-hate relationship with sleep. Can’t sleep when I want to, can’t stay awake when I need to. Sleep pattern is not just irregular, but chaotic. Too bad it’s not as simple as a light switch! Obviously, health suffers… Now 80 lbs. heavier than when I started Delectation of Tomatoes. Long story there…

And now, for a few tantalizing tomato photos — descriptions to follow

Following is an excerpt from the latest update to the associated website, specifically an update to the tomato seeds saved in 2021:

DT TOMATO SEEDS LIST

Update November 30, 2021

Seeds were (or are being) saved from about 2,000 batches representing 600 or so tomato varieties in 2021. This project is about 95% complete.

Following is a draft interim list – interim because it will still take some more time to dry, package, inventory, error check, etc. “Probably” and “Maybe” reflect the reality that there is much work still to do and I cannot justify relying just upon my memory for all of these.

In 2021 I raised 668 varieties of tomatoes and attempted to save seeds from most of these. This project includes:

276 new (to DT) varieties grown in 2021, indicated below by, “New variety in 2021, have seeds”.

19 new varieties grown in 2021 from which I probably have seeds, indicated below by, “New in 2021, probably have seeds”

321 varieties grown in 2021 to refresh or replenish seeds, indicated below by: “Fresh seeds in 2021” – seeds are available now.

28 varieties grown in 2021 to refresh or replenish seeds, but for which I am unsure at this point whether I was able to save seeds or not this year, indicated by, “Maybe fresh seeds in 2021” – but definitely seeds from prior years are available now.

The list also includes 1,960 varieties not grown in 2021, but for which seeds from prior years are currently available

This comes to a total of 2,604 varieties. These are listed alphabetically below. I recognize that many of these are hybrids and are not indicated as such. I have a good deal of research and growing out to do to determine whether these are at the F1, F2, etc. stage, or whether they are stabilized hybrids and should be considered as open-pollenated (OP) varieties. Big seed companies often (apparently) tack on or leave on “hybrid” to a variety name to increase sales, even when the variety is stable.

There are another 250 or so varieties not listed here: off-types, mix-ups, de-hybridization projects, too few seeds to offer, crop failures, etc. Please email me at dale@gianttomatoseeds.com if you want more information about those.

Tomatoes Everywhere!

Only the bathroom does not have containers of tomatoes stacked in every nook and cranny, and that’s only because it’s a small room and opening doors takes up all floor space.

This space crunch is especially true after my effort to give away about 200 lbs. of unripe tomatoes failed and I had to bring in all containers out of the cold. It seems that virtually nobody wants to deal with green tomatoes, even when they are free – and I certainly don’t have the time to deal with so many more.

I have to sidle sideways, like a crab, to get from point A to point B in every other room. I’m not always successful in my efforts to not knock over or step on tomatoes. And whenever I can, I keep all windows open and fans blowing. Else there is that overwhelming vinegar-like smell, mold spores everywhere, along with abundant sneezing and sniffling.

I keep running out of empty plates, empty containers (even though I have hundreds), and especially lids.

It feels like I am working fast and efficiently, yet I seem to be almost unable to keep up with the ripening tomatoes. Predictably (I suppose), I timed myself. Working virtually non-stop, it took me 3 hours, 35 minutes to process 15 of the larger containers of fermenting tomatoes. That’s nearly 15 minutes per batch – yikes! On another day, counting time off for eating, processing seed orders, taking naps, etc., I calculated that I can extract seeds from about 67 batches per day (meaning a 24-hour period; with highly irregular sleep, I’m as likely to be processing tomatoes at 4 a.m. as I am at 4 p.m., or 7 a.m., or 11 p.m.).

Preparing tomatoes for fermenting (taking photos, weights, notes, tasting, cutting, crushing, etc.) is a little faster, about 82 batches per day. And packaging seeds after they have dried is even faster – about 30 batches per hour. So, estimating that I devote about 14 hours per day to this project, this all works out to around 25 minutes to process 1 batch of tomatoes. Of course this is all post-harvest and pre-database management and excludes processing photos, field notes, etc.

This works out to about 34 batches processed per 14-hour day. Since I will likely have at least 2,000 batches of tomatoes processed for seeds before this project is done, this works out to 59 days (14-hour days to be clear) devoted exclusively to processing for seeds. “Get a life” I say to myself…

Here are a few photos of the process in action

Extracting Seeds from Fermented Tomatoes

I have taken well over 10,000 photos of tomatoes, etc. so far this year, and I’m very far from finished taking photos, let alone naming and processing them. To be honest, I still have some huge batches of photos dating back to August, 2017 that I have not yet fully named!

Here’s a view of the original exclosure, established in 2020, after hard frost did it’s business a couple of weeks ago. And weeds did exceptionally well this year, such as this Russian Thistle (tumbleweed) – how many hundreds of millions of seeds were dropped onto the garden space this year as a result of adequate rainfall and far-from-adequate efforts to remove weeds before flowering?

The indoor microdwarf tomato project is faltering. The LED lights are not intense enough and there are not enough of them. Maximum temperature achieved is around 70°F with lights on for several hours. But with no heat in the house, temperatures can drop to the 50-55° range when the lights have been off for several hours. This too-cool-for-tomatoes phenomenon will just get worse as winter deepens.

Nevertheless, some tomato ripening is happening, 79 days from seed sowing. I’m also trying to give the two dwarf pomegranate fruits all the time that then need to produce viable seeds.

True Potato Seed (TPS), variety Blue Velvet update: Very low yield of seeds (about 35 total) and tubers. They need more time, more space, more compost, more pollen, and more commitment. Unfortunately, I will not have any seeds of this variety to offer this year, though I did try – see earlier posts this summer.

Another delectable fig consumed, with three more to go.

Still lots of seed extraction needed from melons, squash, cucumbers, beans, etc. Yes, I still have rotting squash from 2020 from which I have not extracted seeds. I should feel so much shame… Peppers were a near total bust this year.

Here’s a watermelon, given to me second-hand from a local farmer, from which I was hoping to extract seeds. Alas, it was a seedless variety! I’m tempted to launch into a tirade about multi-national corporations controlling food supplies and seed availability; but in the interest of time and fatigue, I’ll restrain – for now.

I’m also tempted to publish lists of tomato varieties from which I have saved seeds or am in the process of saving seeds for this year. But at this point, such lists would be partial and inaccurate. So that too will have to wait. I will get such lists published ASAP.

In the meantime, here is the most current list of more than 2,400 varieties of tomatoes for which seeds are available now – and thank you for your support for helping with the preservation and propagation of heirloom varieties from around the world!



https://www.delectationoftomatoes.com/seeds.html

Delectation…

Impending Hard Freeze; Interim Report for October

The inevitable is arriving momentarily: season ending frost and the concomitant shifting of gears. There have been several light frosts over the past few nights:

But this is the AccuWeather I just did a screen capture of:

Hard Freeze Warning, East Carbon, 10-13-2021

Actually, as of a few hours ago, the low was forecast to be 26°. But significant cloud cover has resulted in this revision upward. However, 25° and 26° are forecast for the next two nights. So, GROWING SEASON IS OVER. At least for tomatoes, etc.

I have been harvesting like a maniac for the past four days:

Containers of tomatoes stacked from floor to ceiling, spilling over even into the seed room – something I never anticipated, especially with those four shelves of wire racks available!

Yet, after four days, I am only halfway finished with harvesting tomatoes. About 20 wagonloads so far, with that many more to go. I’ve invited many people over to come and help. A few have come to glean the smaller green and extras of ripe tomatoes (about 300 lbs. worth taken so far). But I just have not been able to bring myself to insist that they help me harvest for seed saving in exchange for all of those free tomatoes. I need a crew of 10 people this time of year. I’m just not that well connected, or persuasive!

So I covered the third tomato patch (exclosure) with a large tarp, hoping to get back to it once the sun rises. And I planned on harvesting all night to finish up the second patch. But the little electric light and cell phone light just were not cutting it. After about 50 of those sickening crunching sounds of stepping on tomatoes, and having a hard time finding and reading tags, I gave up for the night and covered the rest of the vines in the second patch with thick row cover fabric. And perhaps, just maybe, fatigue had something to do with giving up on the harvesting project for the night.

I estimate another 35 hours are needed to harvest the rest of the tomatoes, with only a 10-hour window for getting the job done before the real hard freeze sets in – too cold for tarps and frost covering. It appears that I will have to focus on only the ripe and ripening tomatoes, and simply allow thousands of perfectly good green tomatoes to freeze, then rot in place. That’s hard for me to do! I’m the kind of person who won’t discard even a grain of rice from my plate. [Is it that Depression-era mentality learned from my grandparents, or a genuine ethic of abhorring waste and excessive consumption?]

I have moved a number of grow bags with peppers and other plants into the cellar, as well as a few into the house.

From what I’ve read, Wasabi needs temperatures between 40-70°. There was only about a 10-day window in late September when the outdoor temperatures stayed within this range. So they did get a little bit of natural sunlight before I had to bring them back to the cellar. Living at elevation (6,200′) results in much more diurnal temperature fluctuations than occur in most coastal areas. Thus my desire (and need) for a greenhouse, or at least a high tunnel.

And this is a “fun” notice posted a week ago. Note the letterhead – authoritarian, don’t even get me started…

No Public Comment…

So many wonderful new (to me) tomato varieties discovered this season! But I do need to get some sleep before getting back to harvesting. So photos and descriptions will have to wait. Oh, ok, I’ll do this one:

Accordion Orange

Plus – I did not encounter a single tomato hornworm this season until October 5th!

Soon thereafter, I discovered this:

Dark Phase of Manduca quinquemaculatus (Tomato Hornworm)

Even after so many years of growing tomatoes, I had never seen or even heard of this darker version! I’ve since encountered three more and am currently feeding them inside in a 5-gallon bucket with unneeded tomato leaves. I have many large piles of unneeded tomato leaves at the moment…

Dark Phase of Manduca quinquemaculatus Raising Indoors

Estimate is 300 more hours of tomato processing work for this season for seed production. Somehow, it’s seeming unlikely that I will be able to complete this task by November 1st as I had hoped and planned. What is wrong with me!?! 😵

Back at it!!

= = = = = = = = = =

Update October 14,2021

Cloudy skies for that past several nights has resulted in minimal frost damage, limited mostly to surface tomato leaves, as plants were covered most nights.

Even marigolds (variety Aztek) have been untouched by frost; and squash plants, despite some frost-damaged leaves, are still producing blossoms!

However, late this afternoon, a strong wind from the NNW started blowing and light snow flurries gave way to a clear sky and plunging temperature. Here is the forecast for tonight:

No Escaping a Hard Frost Tonight!

As of 11:47 p.m., one outdoor digital thermometer is reading 22.8° F – not a good sign.

One full week of intensive harvesting and I have managed to remove all useful tomatoes from about 700 vines; that is, all of the vines in the first and second deer exclosures. So careful harvesting (untangling vines, writing field notes, etc.) for seed production means I can manage to harvest from only about 100 vines per day. I found it to be more effective to completely remove vines, one branch at a time, to make certain that there was no question about which variety each tomato was. With some vines sprawling 10′ or more, and becoming interwoven with several other vines, this was not a simple task.

This intense outdoor work has meant almost total neglect of seed requests and of processing tomatoes already harvested. Here’s the progress of the second exclosure – A job which took almost four full days:

Unfortunately, despite my best efforts, I just wasn’t fast enough, and the third exclosure still has about 300 tomato vines with thousands of fruits needing to be harvested. I have harvested ripe tomatoes several times from this exclosure; but the final harvest will have to wait until the weather warms up a bit. It’s unknown whether this protection will be adequate to protect the fruits – my guess is probably not.

Row Cover Fabric and 40’X40′ Tarp for Frost Protection

In the second exclosure, tomato seedlings were transplanted between 89-110 days from seed, plus 88-94 days to final harvest. This comes to a range of 177-204 days from seed to final harvest. Hundreds of tomatoes harvested during this final harvest were full sized or ripening. But with the much cooler outdoor temperatures of the past few weeks, the ripening process was slowed almost to a halt. Most of those saved for seed extraction should ripen fully indoors and produce viable seeds. Many thousands of immature and smaller tomatoes were saved or given away for consumption.

In the third exclosure, tomato seedlings were transplanted between 46-78 days from seed, plus 88-94 days to final harvest. This comes to an expected range of 134-172 days from seed to final harvest. It appears that this 134 day range will likely not be adequate for some of the larger-fruited, late-season varieties. But time will tell.

The real issue now is not getting tomatoes to ripen indoors; but rather, getting tomatoes processed for seed before they rot too badly. This amounts to some 500 batches, many of them rather large batches. One batch with several large tomatoes can take up to an hour to process. Especially if I dig out the seeds and make tomato sauce from the rest of the fruits, as I did with this batch of Buckman’s Beauty (a fabulous tasting, very sweet variety):

I am hopeful that within 3-4 weeks, I will be able to publish photos and lists of some of the most delicious, earliest, most productive and most interesting varieties grown this year. Once the dust settles, I am expecting to have seeds available for somewhere in the range of 2,500 to 2,600 tomato varieties – which of course will mean many of the best-tasting or most productive varieties in the world!

Seeds, including many (300+ varieties) from 2021, are available now from:

Delectation of Tomatoes, Seeds

It’s looking like mid-November before I will be able to process all of these tomatoes for seeds – plus get seeds dried, packaged, organized and inventories. A full-time crew of 10 people would be really nice right about now…

= = = = = = = = = =

Update October 19, 2021

After a 2-day trip, yesterday was another long day of harvesting in the third exclosure. Remarkably, surprisingly, the tarp and heavy row cover fabric were quite effective at protecting tomato fruits themselves from 20.3° temperature on October 15th! That’s according to my own digital thermometer – official low was 27.

All vines touching the tarp were frozen and black a couple of days later. Parts of many vines closer to the ground were in fine shape, and most tomatoes (estimating 70%) had no frost damage at all! Tomatoes on branches of vines near the edges that were not covered did not fare well at all. Here are two groups of tomatoes (variety Yellow Pear) from the same vine, one group from a branch under the tarp, the other from a branch outside:

Yellow Pear, Frozen and Not

Many batches of tomatoes were almost untouched by frost, such as this one, variety Yunnat ( Юннат ):

Yunnat, Harvested from under Tarp after Hard Freeze

The final harvesting task is about 85% complete, with only 150 vines left to harvest from.

But it snowed! Starting early this morning, and continuing into the early afternoon:

Remaining 150 tomato vines were covered again, but it remains to be seen whether the fruits will be worth saving, with 30° in the forecast in a few hours.

Processing many hundreds of batches of tomatoes continues at a frantic pace. Space, containers, and time are all at a premium – trying my best to get them processed before they rot. Hundreds of tomatoes that were picked green, but full-sized, are ripening up nicely indoors, where it is significantly warmer than it has been outdoors for the past few weeks.

“Pet” dark-phase hornworm larvae are fattening up impressively. Placed in bucket with 6″ of soil in preparation for pupation. The curiosity of that inner biologist in does not want to die…

Tomato Hornworm, Dark Phase

= = = = = = = = = = =

October 21, 2021

TOMATO HARVEST FINALLY COMPLETED! This afternoon, I finally cut down the last tomato vine from the third exclosure, saving whatever tomatoes looked like they had some chance of producing viable seeds, tossing small and immature tomatoes into a bin for giveaway to others, and leaving the frost-damaged tomatoes for the deer or other critters.

Here is the progress through the third exclosure:

Other than two days of helping others and filling seed orders, and one snow day (spend processing tomatoes) it has been 12 days straight of harvesting. So basically 9 days to harvest from 1,000 plants of over 500 varieties for seeds.

Resulting in an ENORMOUS processing backlog and a very crowded little house. Other than narrow walkways, floor space and shelf space in every room is taken up by tomatoes at some stage of processing.

Talk about tomatoes taking over my life! The setup here is so much better than in previous years and locations, however. All tomatoes are indoors, safe from freezing temperatures and hungry critters. I can process in the middle of the night (and I often do) without disturbing others. Sink, running water, shelf space are available 24-7. Nobody around to complain about the stench, the flies, the absence of anyplace to sit, the madness of it all…

Just some estimates at this point:
50% of tomatoes produced this year were saved for seed production.
40% were picked too immature or green and went to gleaners or other giveaway
10% were thrown out due to frost damage

Among approximately 1,000 plants, representing 550 or so varieties, tomatoes were produced of 540 varieties. However, likely only 470 or so will produce viable seeds. There were dozens of varieties that only had one, or a few tiny tomatoes that have little chance of producing mature and viable seeds. These are mostly the very late, large-fruited heirloom varieties that didn’t even start setting fruit until early October, and there just has not been enough time or heat. Better luck next year for these!

First fresh, ripe fig I’ve ever tasted! Variety Black Manzanita.

I could have easily, happily, eaten a dozen of them! Quite tasty, though not nearly as sweet as I expected.

Largest fruit of Guatemalan Green-Fleshed Ayote is still on the vine, not close to mature, being covered every night by wood chips. Probably wishful thinking to hope it will produce viable seeds, but at this point, I gotta try!

Guatemalan Green-Fleshed Ayote

Enough of self-expression, now back serious nose abrasions (grindstone)…

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

P20

P20

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.

Grasshopper

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?



Mid-summer Productivity, Fun and Fascination

Several significant rainstorms in August, maybe 4″ total, with remnants of hurricane Nora on the way. Extra rain means better, faster grown and productivity. As well as higher humidity, more blossom set, and more bugs. Still, the local city council just passed an ordinance that severely restricts water use for gardens, enforceable with a $1,500 fine and up to six months in jail. You don’t want me to articulate the tirade in my brain…

Most pepper seedlings were finally transplanted between August 2nd and August 18th – super late… Most went in to the garlic bed shortly after the garlic was harvested.

Peppers and Sweet Potatoes Replace Garlic

Some went into growbags and were placed in the aborted greenhouse.

They are all growing and producing SO much better than they did in the 3-1/2″ pots!

There were so many delays, and I moved seedlings at least six times before finally getting them transplanted. About 100 pepper seedlings were set aside as “extras” and are still in 3.5″ pots.

I’ve now saved seeds from about 220 varieties of tomatoes. Unfortunately, for the most part, I’m getting only 1 to 3 tomatoes per vine so far.

Tomato Seeds Drying

Obstacles during the past four months (see earlier blog posts) have contributed to delays and low production. For now (since I have a couple of thousand photos still to name from this season’s tomato harvest), I’ll just highlight a couple of interesting varieties.

Phuket Egg – quite a unique variety, with young tomatoes ripening from Ivory to Pink, then finally to red. About the size of a robin’s egg. Nice flavor, one of the more productive varieties so far.

Galapagos Wild: 93 days from seed sowing to first ripe fruits.

Galapagos Wild

Vernisazh Chernyi: Artistic and very tasty

The Musketeers

Bosque Blue Bumblebee

This Bigzarro specimen appears to have developed from a megabloom composed of at least 8 fused ovaries. I’ve had my eye on it for weeks.

Alas, because of my benign neglect, it reached only 0.710 lbs. I will have a few tomatoes bigger than this, but likely nothing over 2 lbs. this year.

One of my tomato plants appears to have a remarkable mutation – beautiful purple flowers!

Just kidding. This is the fairly common weed, Solanum dulcamara (Bittersweet Nightshade), which produces tiny red berries that are mildly toxic.

Tomato exclosures have turned into a veritable jungle, and harvesting is, well, challenging. Especially with my sore shoulders.

Swimming in tomato vines is about as close as I get to swimming in water. It’s almost as much fun, but a solo activity that often knocks off my headphones, leading to some frustration (I would just die of bordom and anxiety if I could not constantly engage my mind by listening to podcasts, audiobooks, and lectures while engaged in mostly mindless manual labor).

August has meant lots of covering blossoms and hand pollinating squash and some melons.

One of the more interesting varieties of squash I’m growing this year is Guatemalan Green-Fleshed Ayote, a butternut relative (Cucurbita moschata). The plant is very healthy, but only this morning (8-31-2021) did the first female blossom open.

I’ve been saving and refrigerating male blossoms for months in anticipation of this event. Unfortunately, it’s highly unlikely that there is time for full maturation of seeds before hard frost.

Last year I saw not a single squash bug. This year – dozens, including several egg masses, and this cluster of nymphs:

Squash bugs have killed three vines and are working hard on four more. I’m just not keeping up…

One interesting melon variety that’s doing well is Hithadhoo Maldives.

Melon, Hithadhoo Maldives

Fruits are not ripe yet, but I’m salivating… My seriously sweet tooth just cannot get enough of melons, sweet tomatoes, and other sugar-rush types of fruits.

This is also my first time growing Natsu Suzumi cucumber:

Cucumber, Natsu Suzumi

Really tasty when young; but as with all cucumbers, fruits must ripen fully and stay on the vine until frost to have any hope of producing mature, viable seeds. Translates to something like, “Cool Summer”.

Lemon cucumber has become a mainstay, in part because it produces enough that I can eat a few of them, as well as saving several for seed production.

Cucumber, Lemon

A few varieties of watermelon have fruits growing on them, such as this Carolina Cross from a championship line (327 Kent 2018):

Watermelon, Carolina Cross (327 Kent 2018)

This is one time I would bet money (if I were the betting sort) that the offspring will be far smaller than the parent. Regrettably, I really, seriously do not have the time (or $) to pamper and mollycoddle watermelons, pumpkins, squash, or even tomatoes to produce the really huge, competitive specimens. Someday, hopefully…

Bottle Gourd vines have producing male blossoms for at least three weeks. Now (today, August 31st), finally two female blossoms have opened, with three males available for pollen. I sacrified one of those to try my luck with hand-pollinating. But there were several moths flying around, so there is a good chance that both will pollinate. Female flower is the third one here.

Some intriguing bean blossoms –

Cherokee Wax is the only bean variety producing much yet. Someday I hope to be able to grow and save seeds from 100+ bean varieties every year. Packed with nutrition…

Figs (variety Black Manzanita) are starting to ripen, but will there be enough heat left this season to get them to fully ripen?

Fig, Black Manzanita

Small Dwarf Pomegranate (only 10″ tall) has put out 20 or so blossoms. It looks like two of them have actually set fruit!

Dwarf Pomegranate

Perhaps I will have a few mint seeds by October –

Mint

I’ve been keeping an eye on a volunteer morning glory vine, and it has finally started to put out a few blossoms –

Morning Glory

Gooseberry Leaf Globemallow (Sphaeralcea grossulariifolia) have done well this year – quite distinctive color.

I found a few patches of Hollyhocks alongside the road with a variety of colors, including a striking, deep burgundy color:

Predictions? Yup: I’m obviously an addict, so of course I saved hundreds of hollyhock seeds! (I can think of worse addictions, but let’s not go there just now…)

Then there is the Golden Raintree (Koelreuteria paniculata), a tree species that has fascinated me since I first encountered one at about the age of 11. Yes, again, seeds saved last fall!

Could it be that very low pollination rates are a result of predators on bees, such as this robber fly?

Robber Fly Devouring a Bee

This one apparantly hangs out around the squash blossoms. I see robber flies every day, but it’s not likely that they have a major impact on the pollinators – just an educated guess based upon some training in ecology and predator-prey interactions.

Maybe this explains how these bees met their demise –

Another interesting predator that I captured and kept as a pet for a few days was a Common Desert Centipede, Scolopendra polymorpha. These nocturnal, slightly venomous predators feed primarily upon insects, but have been known to eat lizards, frogs, and even small rodents.

This critter was so interesting that I kept it as a pet for a few days, feeding it grasshoppers, flies and moths. But I don’t have time for a pet (or human relationships…), so I released it back to where I captured it after a few days.

If it’s not obvious, I have been fascinated by the natural world for as long as I can recall. No surprise then, that I was an endangered species biologist for 25 years and taught college courses, part-time, in the biological sciences for many of those years.

Please note: I have seeds of over 2,300 varieties of tomatoes (plus seeds of >1,000 varieties of other types) available now at:

Delectation of Tomatoes, Seeds

But it takes me several hundred hours of work to harvest tomatoes of well over 500 varieties, take photographs, record field notes, extract and ferment seeds, separate and dry seeds, package and inventory seeds, enter what I have available into databases, then publish the new stock on the website. This is a process that will take me at least until Thanksgiving, more likely Christmas. Regrettably, this process means that I am always several months behind expectations (mostly those that I impose upon myself).

I am very grateful for all of those who support this massive project, despite the patience that is imposed upon us all because of the frustrating combination of my excessive ambition and very limited abilities and resources.

Plus a quick follow-up on health status — Virtually all pain is now focused in shoulders. It’s manageable, and mobility is up to about 70% compared to 15% or so a couple of months ago. Chronic, almost debilitating fatigue is a major issue I’m still working on. Still waiting on results of detailed blood work to get an official diagnosis. Thanks to the many people who have expressed concern and well wishes!