Discover more from Squirrel Tomatoes
Episode Three: Piper MacFadyen
Elderly Tomato Wizard
Squirrel Tomatoes chronicles my attempt at growing tomatoes while battling squirrels.
It also features guest authors who I ask to write anything they want as long as it is at least 69 words in length. I do not edit them, and they retain all rights to their work. Today’s guest author is Piper MacFadyen. Piper says she is a nice lady who lives in Toronto with a Siamese cat who loves yelling and a human man who does not. She enjoys cooking food and singing songs. She is not a writer but friends seem to think her Facebook posts are pretty funny. Her internet name is @maginary_girl, and you can follow her on Twitter and Instagram.
I love what Piper wrote.
Elderly Tomato Wizard
By Piper MacFadyen
Marcelino lives next door. I’m told he’s my grandma’s age-ish (she’s 89 this year). When Marcelino came to Toronto from the Azores in the 60s he brought tomato seeds with him (he is not this guy). His tomatoes grow to be approximately the size of a small child’s head. They probably weigh about the same too but I dunno man I’ve never held a child’s head in my hands. My aunt Christie says he uses “anaerobic composting” (that was a fun google spiral) so maybe try that out if you want your tomatoes to be ginormous and dense and also kinda taste like they already have salt on them(??). He also uses a bunch of old rebar to stake his plants, so you could give that a go too. Marcelino was horrified when my grandma moved in and dug up the vegetable patch in the back to plant flowers. He apparently wouldn’t let us put a fence between our yards that he couldn’t see through because “the plants need to breathe”. I suspect he just wanted to, y’know, see through the fence. He liked to keep tabs on the neighbourhood but also probably mostly on my grandma. My downstairs neighbour Sophie recently described the “fence” on his side of the property line as “a work of scavenger art” which I thought was pretty good. It’s all chicken wire and random bits of wood and probably some more rebar.
When I moved back here around 6 years ago I told Marcelino he could stop taking the garbage bins out to the curb every week—he did that for Grandma—to which he replied: “If I stop moving, I die.” (Jeez okay fine.) Marcelino also collects empties. Like, a lot of empties. When he suspects I’ve had a party, he’ll instruct me to bring mine to the back for him. One time around midnight at a house party around the corner, a car pulled in behind the house and out climbed Marcelino. “Hey, Lino!” said the dude in the yard next door. “What is a ‘Lino’?” said me. Dude went on to tell me that “Lino” had been collecting their empties every week for the past 20 years. He gets around! Anyway, the beer cans/bottles he collects get returned to The Beer Store for the cash deposit (that’s an Ontario thing) and the wine bottles are cleaned (probably?) and filled with homemade wine. He harvests the grapes from our backyard vines every year and usually gives us a couple bottles of the latest vintage at Christmastime. Marcelino Wine has been called undrinkable by some, but my dad and I have been known to polish off a bottle at the end of the Christmas party when all the “real wine” is gone. My mother chooses not to participate in this tradition.
My interactions with Marcelino are usually brief. He’ll sometimes ask about the family: “grandMOther” (Grandma), “the son” (my dad), “the daughter” (aunt Christie). More often he’ll provide the short-term weather forecast: “Not too hot today. Rain tomorrow, maybe Tuesday.” Mostly I just give him a wave from the front porch, or when we cross paths up the street on my way home after last call. (When he sleeps I do not know.) My dad’ll invite him in for a drink if he’s around at Christmas. He’ll say he can’t drink on account of his “blood presh” but always comes in for one anyway (he likes Scotch). This year he taught downstairs neighbour Tom how to prune the grape vines ‘cause the ladder’s too dangerous for him now. Aunt Christie’s been putting his gardening secrets to good use (she saved some of his tomato seeds and her plants this year are monsters). He’s even visited Grandma a few times at the nursing home she moved to. Dad says I should give him a bottle of Scotch for Christmas to secure my share of next year’s tomato harvest. Maybe instead I’ll just save me some seeds, dig up some flower beds (sorry Grandma) and get to work on my own patch of Azorean mutant fruit.
Thank you, Piper.
See you next week for my tomato and squirrel update (The Swamp), an interview with Cathy Barrow, and guest writing from Tyler Kord.