Wednesday, July 22, 2015

The First Tomatoes

In Tokyo, the fresh produce on offer was always of an exceptional quality. The fruit, in particular, was so perfect that it seemed unreal--much like the prices ($4 for one apple).

At some point during my two year stay in Japan and after shelling out more than my share of yen for fruits and veggies, I started thinking about the vegetables I wanted to grow when I returned to the US. I'd never had a garden before and wasn't sure I would have the yard for one any time soon. That's why it started with tomatoes.

A law school classmate with a green thumb suggested I start with a Patio Tomato. They grow well in containers, produce 3-4 ounce tomatoes, and mature quickly (70 days). For my first attempt at producing something edible, I didn't dare start from seed. Instead I bought my first Patio Tomato from Home Depot and later picked up another at HEB.

My efforts got off to a rocky start:

I let out a yelp when I found this caterpillar
chowing down on one of my first tomatoes.
After a little experimentation, I figured out where in the yard the plants would get the right amount of sun and how fend off pests. Pretty soon I had a little stockpile of ripe tomatoes in my kitchen:

Patio Tomato
Since I had also been growing some sweet basil, this means I've had more than my share of fresh, fragrant caprese salad lately:

Caprese with tomato and sweet basil from my garden
I've been surprised by how much I've enjoyed the process. There is something about the experience of growing edible plants that mirrors the excitement I felt in science lab as a teenager. The research, experimentation, and anticipation of results--there's a little suspense every time I walk into the backyard to see how things are coming along.

So much so that I've expanded my efforts. There are a few other varieties of tomatoes that I started from seed. I've recently started seedlings for a fall garden: broccoli, brussel sprouts, butternut squash, carrots, cauliflower, pumpkin and spinach. I also have mature herbs, watermelon and cantaloupe vines, and lemon and lime trees growing.

It all started with one little tomato plant from Home Depot. Thanks to TP for the encouragement!

Friday, July 17, 2015


The new firm doesn't have vacation days. I can understand why: when I left my prior firm I had enough vacation to net me a parting gift in excess of $10k. From an employee point of view, I find the no vacation day (or, alternatively, so-called "unlimited vacation") policy difficult. This job is all about maxing out billable hours or at least meeting the minimum requirement. Due to bar leave and the slowness associated with ramping up both when I joined and post-bar leave, my hours aren't as great as I'd like. That makes it hard to justify a vacation.

So, I'm making the most of being back in Austin by getting out and about on weekends. There are so many places I didn't see while I was a student holed up at the law school. One such place is Mt. Bonnell.  I visited on a foggy morning this past winter:

View from the Mt. Bonnell platform.
This excursion is a bit over-hyped. The number of stairs you climb to get to the viewing platform is grossly exaggerated, but the view is nice.

What's your favorite Austin weekend spot? I'd like to add it to my list!