Spring came early that year in the foothills of the Great Smoky Mountains. With the advent of warmer weather came thoughts of fresh vegetables from the garden.
“Let’s go ahead and purchase our tomato plants,” said Edward. “We’ll get a good selection if we buy them this early.”
“That’s fine with me,” replied Iris. “We can wait a bit before planting them because we could still get another night of frost.”
At the local nursery they found a large assortment of strong, healthy tomato plants. “How about three red beefsteak and two Mr. Stripeys from this heirloom section?” suggested Edward.
“Those sound good to me,” replied Iris, “and how about two hybrid reds and two hybrid yellows? That would make nine tomato plants altogether.”
“Well, that should do it for the two of us this year,” murmured Edward as he walked over to where Iris stood. “And we’ll likely have a few extra tomatoes to share, too.”
Within a couple of weeks the soil had warmed and the weather was predicted to be safe for putting out tomato plants. The plants thrived in the warm spring sunshine and then the weatherman predicted a frost. “We’d better cover the tomato plants tonight,” lamented Edward. The couple covered the tender plants with empty clay pots from the garden shed. “There now, that should keep ‘em safe for the night.”
Early the next morning the plants looked fine as Edward removed the clay pots. Again that evening the weatherman predicted frost. The clay pots went back over the tender tomato plants and again, the tomato plants survived the frost. Yet a third time the evening weather forecast called for overnight frost. So for the third consecutive night, Edward covered the plants.
The temperatures dropped far below predicted that night. As the couple lifted the pots off the tomatoes the next morning, Iris faltered, her throat constricting painfully. “Oh, how sad to see those especially fine specimens killed by so much cold weather. We can’t hope to find such choice plants this late in the planting season.”
“No, but Iris, we’ll select the best ones we can find and replant. We’ll do exactly what we’ve done before when our hopes got dashed – we’ll start again. This isn’t the first time we’ve needed to have a little faith. Why don’t you start a few from seed, too?”
The second group of tomato plants, while alive, did look rather stunted compared to the first batch and there were only five of them. Edward and Iris planted them along with a healthy dose of fertilizer and a mountain of hope. Under their watchful care, the replacement plants were thriving nicely when the weatherman predicted yet another unseasonably cold snap.
“This is the strangest year I can remember. I can’t recall ever getting freezing temperatures this late in the season,” Edward remarked as he prepared to cover the second planting of tomatoes.
The next morning found Iris and Edward checking on the tomato plants. “Oh, no, not again!” exclaimed Iris as she lifted the clay pots off the dead little plants. Edward, I’m thinking maybe we ought to forget about growing tomatoes. It’s so discouraging to find them dead. Maybe we should buy our tomatoes this year. ”
“I understand how you feel, dear,” Edward declared as he moved over to rest his hand on Iris’ shoulder. “Even with a small thing like a few tomato plants it’s not easy to see your hopes dashed. But, “the Lord gave and the Lord has taken away; blessed be the name of the Lord.” * We’ll just do what we’ve always done when life sets us back in some way. We will keep on keeping on; we’ll plant again with what we’ve got. You know you like watching things grow and you enjoy having extra tomatoes to share with friends. “
“Yes,” Iris admitted, “I surely do enjoy slicing a fresh juicy tomato from our own garden. And those tomato seeds I planted indoors are starting to come up. Maybe it won’t be long before we can plant them.”
“We’ll plant those seedlings and as soon as they start sending out suckers, then I’ll plant the suckers, too! Our crop may be a bit late, but we will grow plenty of fresh, home grown tomatoes for the two of us plus a few extra to give to friends, “ said Edward.
And they did!
* Job1:21b (RSV)
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