I’m not much of a sports fan. I’ll occasionally park myself in front of the TV during Wimbledon — only during the last tier of matches, mind you — and some Olympic sports can hold my attention for a little while, but that’s really it. John, on the other hand, is mesmerized by sports games. I’ve even caught him sitting rapt in front of televised bowling.

Now, I do realize that most of the population disagrees with my disregard for organized sporting events. Even so, I’ve been known to be callously outspoken about my opinion. Recently I chided Stephen about his favorite sport, lacrosse, and realized almost instantly that I’d stepped over the line. It’s bad enough that I have only the most rudimentary understanding of the game in the first place, but to add insult to injury (or vice versa), Stephen was a lacrosse player in high school and I know from experience how the memory of a beloved high school sport can affect a man.

See, Farmer John was a wrestler in high school.

No, no, no. Not that kind. John wrestled like school wrestling teams are supposed to do it.

Which, honestly, to me looks just as weird. The lingo used in the sport is even more bizarre. Half Nelson is probably the most famous wrestling term, but then there’s Pick Up An Ankle, High Leg Over, Underhook, Undercup, Crossface, the expanded and ever-popular Crossface Him Towards You, plus many many more of that ilk.

Not that I’m making fun. No, no, no. I’ve learned over the years what a soft spot John has in his heart for this sport, and I need to show some respect. Especially considering how I’ve had to hone my own wrestling skills lately here at the farm. And I’m not talking about wrestling with John. He’d be able to Crossface me in a matter of seconds, without even bothering to Underhook.

No, I’m talking about wrestling tomato plants.

At least two-thirds of the total number of tomatoes we grow throughout the season are determinate varieties. When they reach a reasonable height, one that’s easily restrained within our heavy wire cages, they set a whole slew of tomatoes in a short period of time. Once we harvest all the fruit, the plants are mostly finished. Sometimes they’ll gift us with a second set of blooms, which is a real bonus, yet there’s never a need for additional bracing to keep the plants upright.

Indeterminate varieties, on the other hand, continue growing and growing while they set fruit more sporadically. The advantage to these varieties is that they supply us with tomatoes for a longer period of time. The disadvantage is their unruliness. If we don’t keep tying them up on a regular basis, they become a tangled mess.

We try so hard to avoid that problem. Still, every year there comes a point when they get away from us. This year it happened just last week, because of all the rain. You shouldn’t touch tomato plants when they’re wet — they’re far too susceptible to diseases. Consequently, by the time we were able to work on our ever-growing indeterminates, some were this close to having gone too far.

Normally, a well-attended, routinely cinched-up indeterminate tomato plant looks like this.

Trying to tame a row of plants whose vines have grown far too long between ties becomes a wrestling match to beat all wrestling matches. It ain’t no high school tournament, that’s for sure. It’s the Big Time.

All you can do is attack and hope for the best. And if you’re lucky enough to win, after your opponent takes a beating like that, he’s most definitely the worse for wear.

In my case, after wrestling a couple particularly wild beds of tomatoes — which, as a matter of fact, were lying on the ground in a similar fashion to the white-masked mystery man above — they weren’t pleased.

Yet unlike the bald aggressor in the previous photo, my goal wasn’t to obliterate my foe. If I have my way, these tomato plants won’t need a slab of raw meat pressed against blackening eyes; no stitches will be required. I suppose I should be a little embarrassed to admit that, since the whole point of wrestling is about beating down the other guy.

I think that’s what I dislike most about many sports. Some can be so humiliating for the loser, especially those involving physical contact. I should practice positive reinforcement whenever John watches a less violent sport, to show my support. The next time I catch him tuning in to a gentler sports game, I’ll try not to be so quick to tease him for it.

Oh who am I kidding. Bowling with sunglasses on? I’m sorry, but like the indeterminate tomatoes out in the farm, restraint sometimes doesn’t come easy.

* * *

For Wednesday’s farm stand, we’ll have:

The first of the “Rattlesnake” green beans; LOADS of Asian cucumbers (two varieties); various types of tomatoes (we’re experiencing a bit of a “tomato lull” right now so we won’t have oodles this week, but more will be coming soon!); new potatoes (Red Lasoda and the last of the Yukon Golds); bunches of basil; zucchini, Zephyr and yellow squash; sweet Yellow Granex and Red Creole onions; lots of purple and golden beets; bunches of basil; yellow bell peppers; and fresh elephant garlic.

Jo Dwyer
Angel Valley Organic Farm
Farm stands:
Saturdays 9:00-1:00 in Jonestown on FM 1431 at the blinking yellow light; and
Wednesdays 10:00-2:00 in NW Austin at the Asian American Center, 11713 Jollyville Road (1-1/2 blocks north of the intersection of Jollyville and Duval)