My first tomato!

FirstTomatoOne of the flowers on my tomato plant has turned into a tomato. It’s tiny and hard to see, but it’s there. And it looks like the other flowers are getting ready to follow suit. I should have some juicy, red tomatoes in a few weeks.

Coming soon: Tomatoes!

tomato-flowersI’m pleasantly surprised that my tomato plant is now in bloom. I grew it from seed, and I’ve been pampering it for almost three months now. Growth has been slow because of the cold, gray spring we’ve had, and it’s running behind – there were already tomatoes at the farmers market yesterday. This variety is Early Girl, and it should have been ready to harvest by now. But at least it’s blooming. It has about a dozen flowers in full bloom and at least a dozen more buds getting ready to open. I should have my own vine-ripened tomatoes in a few weeks.

Considering it’s my first attempt at growing my own food, that makes me happy – especially since I managed to kill the strawberries, squash, and eggplants I attempted to grow. Who knew over-watering was so easy?

The color of summer

strawberriesFarmers market season opened in Chicago four weeks ago, and I almost skipped the two-mile hike this morning. The only plants ready to harvest during the first month of the Midwest’s abbreviated growing season are typically leafy greens and asparagus – good for you, certainly, but I was starting to yearn for some color.

I forced myself out into the 77-degree (in the shade) heat, knowing strawberries would be up next, though I wasn’t expecting them until next week at the earliest. I figured I could at least ask one of the vendors and get a time frame.

I was pleasantly surprised to find strawberries everywhere – the small sweet ones from the first harvest. I made a comment about them to one of the vendors, the one I bought a quart from. She said they just started to ripen this week, and she “was happy to be able to pick them yesterday,” in time for today’s market. Her table is always one of the most diverse during the height of summer, but the past few weeks she’s only had asparagus and rhubarb (which I have no clue what to do with).

I’m now looking forward to the rest of the season, no more temptation to be lazy and stay home on Saturday mornings, no matter how hot and humid. Once the colors start to appear, there’s no stopping it. In a few weeks, my backpack will be crammed full of just about every color imaginable. And I’ll be just as happy to eat those plants as I was the strawberries this morning – “was” because they didn’t last beyond breakfast. Actually, they were breakfast.

For dinner, I think I’ll pull out the wok and stir fry, highlighting the asparagus and garlic onions I bought this morning. Greens may be still be commonplace right now, but they’re certainly not boring.

And they wonder why they’re bankrupt

The Postal Service really made a mistake in providing tracking numbers for so-called Priority Mail shipments – it makes their lousy service all the more obvious.

On Saturday, I shipped a package Priority Mail 2-Day, and the tracking info on the USPS website insisted that the expected delivery date was Monday – even when on Tuesday, the package still had not left Illinois:

USPS-Tuesday

I checked again this morning, and they finally updated the expected delivery date, which is nowhere close to two days – it’s not even two business days.

USPS-Tuesday

It took four days to get a package from Chicago to San Francisco – three days just to get it out of Illinois. It wasn’t time-sensitive, and I don’t really care that it took this long to get there, but I paid almost 12 bucks for Priority Mail delivery, and only because they forced me to – if something is over a pound (this was one ounce over one pound), your only option is Priority. Which apparently really isn’t a priority.

Both FedEx Ground and UPS Ground could have delivered in the same time period – for around a dollar less, it turns out. And I would have known every step of the way where it was.

The postal service keeps whining about revenue problems and blaming their dire financial situation on the increasing use of email and having to make large pension payments every year. But the truth is, the postal service is unreliable. Tracking information is updated once a day (if you’re lucky), and you have no way of knowing when your shipment – whether it’s a first-class letter or a 2-day package – is going to arrive. There are simply no guarantees with the postal service, and that’s why they’re going bankrupt – it has nothing to do with people’s changing habits and needs.

The US Postal Service simply can’t be trusted.