The Mighty ‘Mato™, background, shows more vigorous growth than the regular Brandywine variety, in front. (Click to embiggen.)

A new breed of tomato, the Mighty ‘Mato™, is on trial in Thistle Ha’s garden this year. What’s unique about this tomato is that it’s a grafted plant, combining vigorous root stock with a Brandywine scion, a heritage variety famous for its quality and flavour. Grafting techniques have been used for fruit trees for a long time. Recent grafting experiments by greenhouse growers produced two to three times the number of tomatoes compared to the non-grafted variety. The Mighty ‘Mato™ is the first grafted tomato available for home gardens. Its root stock has been selected to be more tolerant to diseases and over/under watering, and to produce substantially more fruit over a longer season. A desirable tomato for home gardeners with summer vacation absences, limited growing space, or an aversion to using pesticides.

We are growing four regular Brandywine tomato plants beside the Mighty ‘Mato™ to check the marketing claim that this is a “super tomato”. Not all home gardeners know that tomatoes are stem rooters; planting the stem all the way up to the bottom leaves results in additional root formation and more vigorous growth. The graft on the Mighty ‘Mato™ is marked with a band, but instructions do not emphasize the importance of ensuring that the graft remains above the soil surface during planting. Otherwise the scion will form its own roots, eliminating the benefits of grafting, and resulting in an ordinary tomato at an extraordinary price – $15 a plant.

From mid-April until mid-December, 2011, the farmhouse was renovated. As the work progressed, daily progress reports and photos were posted to show the details of how our contractor started with, for example, this:

Before: old dining room (click on all photos to embiggen).

and ended with this:

After: Charlotte's new kitchen.

For those interested in reading about troubles and triumphs of this project from start to finish, all posts concerning it have been consolidated into an article entitled “2011 House Renovation”, located in the Pages section on the right-hand side.

…that the federal and Ontario governments jointly announced a plan to build an airport and adjoining city in North Pickering. Part of Thistle Ha’ farm was inside the planned airport boundary.

On the 40th anniversary of this announcement, tribute was paid to members of the original Pickering airport protest movement, People or Planes (POP), who after years of dedicated effort finally convinced both governments that a dreadful mistake had been made. Airport plans were canceled in 1975. Unfortunately, all governments since then have dithered over what to do with 7,500 hectares (18,600 acres) of Canada’s best quality farm soil that they had expropriated for an unneeded airport. To this day, local groups such as Land over Landings, whose supporters include children and grandchildren of original POP members, continue to lobby the politicians to create a national land trust to be permanently farmed and provide food to surrounding urban sprawl now known as the Greater Toronto Area.

In the video below, local film-maker Peter Shatalow has captured highlights of the tribute, which includes many inset photos referencing POP people and their publicity stunts, including the clever signs, and the Pickering and white-clad Whitevale “fuseiiers”. The march recreates infamous POP protests which included the Grim Reaper and caskets symbolizing what the governments were killing in the community. This time, however, the march was one of hope – the casket was open, revealing seeds planted in North Pickering soil, waiting to grow this spring, and for many springs to come.

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