Saturday, August 11, 2007

Tomato Worms

This story is for Mike and Emily.

My garden this year was small; by design, not incompetence. Honest. Anyway, all I attempted to plant this year were tomatoes, corn, beans, squash, cucumbers, and lettuce, in four 4'x8' garden plots, as instructed by 'The Square-foot Garden' book.

One of the reasons that I really like the square-foot garden method is that, well, I really have no idea what the plants I want to grow look like when they sprout. With the garden planted grid-style, at least I have an inkling of where the plants I want to grow will be coming up. That way, hopefully I can avoid weeding them by accident. One morning in late May, I was watering the garden beds when I noticed that the corn was coming up. I had baby corn plants! And I recognized them!! Smugly, I thought to myself,"Maybe I can do this gardening thing, after all!"

Please remember that I grew up in California, where "gardening" meant "growing flowers". Vegetables came from the grocery store. The only time I remember my parents attempting to "garden" anything but flowers was the year they decided to plant tomatoes. Along with the flats of petunias and begonias, for some reason they picked up 4 tomato plants the year I was in 5th grade. I was given the esteemed job of picking off all the tomato hornworms. As an incentive, a bounty of 10 cents per worm was offered. It all worked well, for a while. Early every morning, I would go out, pick my worms, collect my money and walk to school. After school, I went across the street to the mom-and-pop corner store and bought candy. My friends wanted to know where my new-found wealth came from. "Tomato worms", I told them. None of my friends knew what tomato worms were. I described them, and everyone "Ewww"-ed and "Yuck"-ed. And they wanted to see one.

So the next day, I got up, picked my worms, collected my money, and instead of putting all the worms out to be squished, I took one with me to school. It was a great hit. My best friend wanted one, and offered to buy it from me for 25 cents. I thought this was a great idea! All my other friends were clamoring for their own tomato worms, and were willing to pay their quarter, too, if I would supply the worms.

Business was very good for a day or so. In the morning I collected 10 cents per worm from my parents, and then took the worms to school, where I collected an additional 25 cents each from my friends. I was living high on the hog. But, alas, all good things must come to an end. My friends' parents complained to the school principal about the worms their children were bringing home from school, the principal called my parents, and I was forced to close up shop. I still got my 10 cents per worm from my parents, but they then confiscated the worms and burned them. And they never attempted to grow vegetables again. I wonder why.


Mike said...

Sounded like true capitalism at work to me! rofl.

Those tomato horn worms are the same thing we call tobacco worms here. I have seen them 3-4" long and as big around as your finger a time or two. I bet you could have got $0.50 for one of those! ;)

Emily B said...

That's a funny story. The things kids can think to do. I'm not actually a gardener. Anything that grows at my house has to be hardy. As in, it has to decide to come up on its own, survive with no care, and sustain itself. Mostly I have blackberries and weeds. This year I had a surprise gourd plant that sprouted by the front porch where Danny dumped a bunch of seeds when he cleaned out a gourd someone had given us.

David Wayne Hampton: said...

A great story! I hate using chemical pesticides, so I usually pick the things off by hand as well. I use compost in my garden, and every spring I get what I call "volunteers," plants that come up on their own without me deliberately planting the seeds. Similar to Emily's gourd, I had three cantaloupe vines come up from when I must've bought a few at the grocery store the year before, then dumped out the scraps in the compost. I almost pulled them as weeds, but was glad I didn't. I ended up getting five of the sweetest melons I've had in a long time.

Kentucky Dreamer said...

I detest those worms. Last year after a heavy rain, those things started showing up every where. I don't know if it was from the rain or what.
So far this year, the only one that I have seen has been in the drive way, and it was smashed already.

Great story, thank you or sharing it.

Fabian G. Franklin said...

Ha ha Worm Entrepreneur Extraordinaire. What a flourishing business you had for awhile. Funny post, made me smile.