Full circle and the ironing board

A few weeks ago, I bought an ironing board.  Andrew was with me for our weekly Wal-Mart run, and when I asked him to wedge the ironing board into our cart and then drive it over to the grocery section, he looked at me askance.  In fact, it was hard for him to look at me at all – or even drive the cart very handily – what with the ironing board limiting visibility.

I told him it was a less expensive alternative, that it was adjustable, and that I thought it was a brilliant solution.  The problem the ironing board solved has to do with tomatoes, namely my tomato seedlings.

It is my habit to start tomatoes from (purchased) seeds in February.  In former years, I have used small peat pellets.  When water is added, they fluff up, and I plant two seeds in each, put the seeded pellets in a tray with a clear plastic lid, and set it on the server, our network computer.  The server sits on the floor of our office closet, and the tomato seeds sit on the server because it’s warm and they like their bottoms warm.

Once the little guys sprout, I move them upstairs to the attic where I have a PVC frame holding fluorescent tube lamps on a timer.  The tomato plants need to be very close to the light, so they don’t grow “leggy” trying to reach the light.  The lamps are hung from chains, so they can be raised as the tomato plants grow.

The problem is that the darn plants never all grow at the same rate!  This means that I have to stack books or video tapes under different ones to get them up close to the light.  And then when they get taller, I have to remove portions of the supporting stacks.  this makes for a lot of crawling around on the attic floor, and that is a pain.  Then, eventually, their little threadlike roots start growing out of the peat pellet, and I transplant them into larger peat pots, which, of course, are taller, and even more adjustment is necessary.

At some point, it occurred to me that, rather than constantly raising and lowering pans holding individual plants, perhaps I could put them on some kind of a table.  This would mean less bending and my body would be happier, but it would have to be a table whose height was adjustable.  Hmmm. . .

In the days when we pastored a church, we received a vast array of junk mail; everything from cassette tapes to floor mats to church insurance to communion supplies to church furniture.  Our church closed many years ago, and we filled out some form somewhere that made all the junk mail stop, but I guess the cessation was only granted for a decade, because in the last year or two, it has all resumed.  Sigh.  I normally just ditch it all, but a few weeks back, when one of those church furniture catalogs came, I leafed through it looking for adjustable tables.

Yes, such things do exist, in both wood and plastic versions, but they are quite costly.  The cheapest one I found was $85 (which I was not about to pay!) and from there one could spend up to $329.  Now, my tomatoes are pretty valuable, but there’s no way I’m spending that kind of money on an adjustable table.  Shoot!  They’re only even under the attic lights for about six weeks!!!

So, as the calendar marched into January, I kept thinking about what a pain it was going to be to find enough things the right height to prop up these seedlings – and then to lower them again.  Frankly, I was seriously not looking forward to that part of the gardening year.

And then one day I got out the ironing board.  I squeezed that little bar on it, propped its one end on the floor and whipped it out, and as I did so, I thought, “Hey!  I could make this ironing board any height I wanted it!  It’s like my old crockpot, fully adjustable.”  (The new crockpots only have low, medium, and high settings – a great loss of function, if you ask me.)  I played with the ironing board for a moment, raising and lowering it.  Although I always use it at maximum height, if I wanted to, I could set it a mere foot off the floor.

Hmmm. . .

Say!  An ironing board for the tomatoes in the attic!  It’s cheap.  It’s metal.  It won’t be damaged if some water spills on it.  I can set it a height (under the lights) at which I don’t have to bend much.  In fact, I could set the lights as high as possible, and then just lower the ironing board over time as the tomatoes grow.  I might still have to put the slow growers up on something, but that wouldn’t be much of a problem if I didn’t have to crawl on the floor to do it.


So I spent $14.95 and bought an ironing board.

On February 6, 2014, I planted my tomato and pepper seeds and set them on the server.  On February 11, the first eight plants sprouted and were moved to the ironing board.  On February 12, Scott ate on his sandwich the very last ripe homegrown tomato of the 2013 crop.

We have come full circle, and as Scott said, tomatoes are now officially a year-round activity.


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