Right this very minute, there’s an enormous food dehydrator sitting in your driveway.

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 Inspired by my late great-grandmother, a thrifty and innovative gardener who dried her apple crop on clean window screens inside the family car, we decided to make the best of the current heat wave and process a batch of sweet, tasty roma tomatoes.

 

 

Three hours into the operation, the  slices are drying very nicely and — as an extra bonus — the truck’s interior smells wonderful.                                                                                

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Speaking of trucks, I found this one in an old sketchbook from the days when my girls were small and we were tenants on a working farm. The truck belonged to my neighbor, a gentle and ancient gentleman who was probably the most knowledgeable gardener I will ever meet.

My neighbor was also an amateur naturalist with an encyclopedic knowledge of our regional insects and wildlife. He was a frail-looking fellow and I was alarmed to look over my back fence one afternoon to see him sprawled, face down, in the cow pasture. But after wading out to him through the tall summer grass, I discovered that he was lying there very happily, absorbed in watching some particularly interesting insect activity.  I’ve never forgotten the pure delight he found in observing the orderly and unseen communities — from fire ants and webworms to scrub jays and coyotes — that lived within the woods and fields of the farm where he had been born, and had lived nearly 90 years. He was a deeply religious man — a member of a small evangelical church — and sometimes I saw him in town on Sundays, looking stiff and a little grim in a suit and tie. But I think he felt closest to his Creator when he was stretched out on his stomach with his nose just inches from the rich Alabama dirt, a witness to a thousand tiny miracles.

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