Daily Connector | Things that keep me focused | Phil Hart

When I was a boy, my brother and I spent many summer mornings hoeing in my grandfather’s half acre garden.  We’d each get paid a quarter and split a bottle of Pepsi.  Those mornings began my relationship with tomatoes.  Fresh sliced tomatoes were served almost every meal they were in season, and my mother and grandmother canned lots of tomatoes each year.

Julie and I planted a garden the first year we were married, and tomatoes were a primary crop from the beginning.  A year later, spring of 1976, I was working for a wholesale tree farm and drove a load of shrubbery to a nursery in Chillicothe owned by Clarence Gumm.  “Gummy” and I got to chatting about tomatoes and he insisted I take a couple plants of a variety his father had brought back from Italy after WW I.  He called the tomato West Virginia Straw, and it turned out to be the nicest slicing tomato I had ever seen. I have been planting and saving seeds from that heritage tomato ever since.

COVID has dramatically changed the flow of my life.  Holiday gatherings, church events, vacations, and sports seasons formed a pattern that I was used to and kept me moving in a direction that I recognized and felt comfortable with.  One of the few life practices I have that feels “normal” these days has been the garden - mulching, planting, weeding, harvesting, canning, and now planning for next season. 

I’m deeply grateful for being introduced to the practice of gardening when I was young.  It helps keep me focused and reminds me where I am in the seasonal flow.