As I write this, my knee and foot are propped up in a chair. The knee is swollen, turning some interesting earthy colors and shooting pain from its central location whenever it decides. My knee is in control of my life right now, dictating every action. Don’t underestimate the foot.

As I write this, my knee and foot are propped up in a chair. The knee is swollen, turning some interesting earthy colors and shooting pain from its central location whenever it decides. My knee is in control of my life right now, dictating every action. Don’t underestimate the foot. It was the instigator of my fall, tangling itself in carpet and a landline cord. The knee simply tried to lessen the impact of my descent onto cold impersonal tile. Landing squarely on the left knee with the right knee hesitating to participate, my right arm flung itself out into the air for support and found the floor instead. The phone came apart as it hit the surface, scattering batteries in all directions. My son, on the other end of the line, was left in silence.

My kneecap was fractured, a vertical fracture that will take 3-4 months to heal. Yay.

The feet. My parents thought they’d have to carry me to school since I avoided walking at a very early age. Turns out the heelbones were malformed and the feet had no arches. Throughout my childhood I received foot therapy, foot wraps, steroid shots, and wore lace-up reinforced orthopedic shoes (called Barefoot Freedom of all things), steel braces, inlays (some cork), and plastic orthotics. More than a few plaster casts were made of my feet. The foam imprints now made in boxes are so civilized. Despite all the help my feet had received, all was for naught when I went down for the count.

My reward for surviving the nasty fall was the last fresh Cherokee Purple Heirloom tomato harvested from my plant. This awesome plant produced at least 15 tomatoes ranging from 4 to 8 inches in size with some weighing over a pound. No more tomatoes can be found on any vine although Cherokee Purple is indeterminate, a tomato that can continue to produce fruit throughout the growing season. Our night and daytime temperatures rose too high and the tomato ceased flower production. Tomatoes prefer a range between 59-68 degrees F at night and 70-85 degrees F during the day for optimum fruit production. The magnificent plant will be babied, watered and kept alive for fall tomatoes, at least that is my goal.

Thick luscious slices interspersed with thin slivers of onion to accompany cottage cheese is my favorite way to enjoy tomatoes. The Cherokee Purple has abundant rich flavor, is meaty yet juicy, with the slightest tang of sweetness. The little tomato plant I purchased in early spring had been grown by Bonnie Plants.

Bonnie Plants was started over 100 years ago (1918) by Bonnie and Livingston Paulk in Union Springs, Alabama. With $50 in their pockets they bought 2 pounds of cabbage seeds, planted them in their backyard, and months later the cabbages were taken to town in a buggy and sold. The name “Bonnie Plants” was for Bonnie. Onions, strawberries, tomatoes, peppers and other veggies were added as the company grew and expanded. Bonnie Plants first introduced commercial potted vegetable plants. Today 300 plant varieties of Bonnie Plants, including organics, can be found in all 50 states and Canada. The company president is Bonnie and Livingston’s grandson!

The Cherokee Purple (Solanum lycopersicum) is one of the best yielding heirloom tomatoes on the market. A retired chemist resurrected the ancient tomato. Craig LeHoullier has 3,000 varieties of tomatoes, one of the largest personal collections in the US. Throughout his Raleigh NC backyard he grows 200 plants a year. In 1990 he got a packet of tomato seeds in the mail from John Green of Sevierville, TN. The seeds came from some delicious tomatoes he had gotten from a woman who had been given the tomatoes by her neighbors. The neighbors said these tomatoes had been grown by their family for 100 years. The seeds had originally come from Cherokee Indians.

The story may well be true. Craig took on the challenge and was extremely impressed by the tomatoes produced. He described the color of the fruit as a bad leg bruise and named them Cherokee Purple. Tomato seeds are fairly easy to save and have long viability. Under proper storage tomato seeds can live 10 years and some have germinated after 16 years. This tomato tolerates humidity and disease better than other variety of dark tomatoes.

Craig sent the tomato to Jeff McCormack of Southern Exposure Seed Exchange (SESE). Jeff loved the flavor and in 1993 listed the variety in the cooperatively-owned seed catalog. Today the SESE continues to use certified organic seed stock as well as non-certified but ecologically grown seed stock from trusted sources. They have pledged to not knowingly sell genetically engineered plants or seeds.

Not yet finished with the Cherokee tomato, Craig saw a mutation arise in his Cherokee Purples in 1995. The tomatoes were yellow with a brown mahogany hue. He named them Cherokee Chocolate. In 1997 a different variation cropped up in the Cherokee Chocolate. These tomatoes had a yellow skin but green flesh and earned the name of Cherokee Green.

The cardinal and wren offspring are currently being taught the ropes of being successful songbirds. The parents still have occasional panic attacks, but all seem to be going smoothly. The mother and baby raccoon, the young opossum and roadrunner visit on occasion.

The sponge mop is no longer a nursery. The latest batch of wrens have fledged. Days ago I watched as babies milled around inside the tiny tube-like interior. Today it is empty. For the first time in weeks I can sweep the patio, except now the turkeys are back.

The mother turkey brings her brood of 7 rapidly growing poults twice a day to the backyard. They peck around in search of birdseed. While she remains ever vigilant, one or two young birds like to hop up into the redcedar and perch on the branches. A few dig in under the birdbath. Some play a game of chase. Others make small turkey wallows in the leaves, fanning their wings and tails to make a soft comfy place to rest. Nothing looks sadder than hot, droopy turkeys. The leaves again cover much of the patio.

The yearly Perseid Meteor Showers are back. They streak across the night sky from now until August 24th. Originating from the 17 mile-wide path of the comet Swift-Tuttle, the Perseids can be a dud in the middle of the night or a brilliant shower bursting with fireworks before sunrise. Peak is August 12th. Full moon arrives August 15th, which may interfere with the viewing of the meteor shower. There may be clouds, overcast conditions, or even rain. Plan to see them anyway. For me it always marks the start of school. Years ago in Okeene. Warm windy night. Blanket spread out on the ground. Hands behind head. Waiting to see a short or long streaker, fast green stripe, quick blip, dot of light continually enlarging until it suddenly disappears or the sky full of little bits of comet madly dashing off in all directions.

Best viewing time is between 2 am and dawn. Lose a little sleep. So worth it.

Becky Emerson Carlberg, graduate of Oklahoma State (Plant Pathology) is a teacher, artist, writer as well as certified Oklahoma Master Gardener and Master Naturalist. Contact her at