Thursday, May 31, 2018

Ralph and the six-foot squash

Last week I paid a visit to my wonderful Italian neighbours whose plum and apple trees I help pick in the fall, Lidia and Ralph. I found them in excellent spirits, though 93-year-old Ralph had a fall and banged his head in his greenhouse the week before.

Lidia doesn't want Ralph gardening alone now, so the day after his fall, Ralph called up his 88-year-old friend, and the two of them planted tomatoes together. Lidia laughed and laughed about it, and said she woke up laughing in the middle of the night because the friend wore his best leather shoes for the job. I'm simply amazed by these people. I hope I'm still able to plant tomatoes at their age!

Lidia poured us all a shot of Bailey's Irish Cream while she was making her wonderful espresso coffee. She also served a delicious cake she had baked just that morning. Her cousin, Mario, was visiting. The three tried their best to keep the conversation going in English, but it often reverted to Italian, and I had moments where I imagined I was in Italy with beloved grandparents. That's the kind of people Ralph and Lidia are.

After our little snack, we went out to the garden and greenhouse where Ralph grows hundreds of tomato plants, peppers, and his most famous plant, a long, thin, zucchini type squash. A few years ago, he made the papers and local TV news with a seven-foot squash that hung from the roof of his greenhouse. He brought its seeds with him when he came to Canada in 1956. When I exclaimed over the idea of growing something so big, he made Mario and me follow him to the basement. On the counter behind his 1970s wet bar was a squash from last year that was at least six feet in length, saved for its seed!

When we went back outside, I planted two rows of onions for Ralph, and he gave me a squash plant to see if I would be able to grow it as well as he does. I've managed to grow Ralph's roma and banana tomatoes successfully in the past.

So now my happy little "Ralph Squash" has a garden box all its own for this summer, and I'm hoping to grow one that, though it may not get to six feet like Ralph's, will at least give me some seed for years to come to always remind me of Ralph and Lidia. One squash is probably more than enough!

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