a magpie tale of another life

This is a response to Willow's latest Magpie Tales visual creative writing prompt.  Visit Magpie Tales and find all kinds of wonderful writers and poets and their takes on the prompt and giving hearty support to each others' creative efforts.  Give it a try! A creative challenge is good for you!

I come from tomato country, in what many call Canada’s “banana belt” – Essex County.  You never tasted a tomato as good as a warm, fresh picked field tomato.  No tomato was redder, richer and full of flavour as those.  Sadly, most of the tomatoes there are machine harvested now, and with the forced ripening for one-time harvesting, they have never tasted the same.

There was a tomato factory in Amherstburg when I was a kid, and every August the familiar tomato soup smell permeated the air as the farmers rolled in daily with their wagonloads of tomatoes, and the colourful and exotic migratory workers from Jamaica would appear in the streets.  Sometimes the boys in my neighbourhood would run after the tractors and hitch a ride on the back of the wagon.  That tomato soup smell always reminded us that back to school was coming

When I grew up I married into a farm family and one of their crops was tomatoes.  Workers would come in from Quebec each year to pick them.  For a few years before my kids were born I would sit on the planting machine with the others and feed the seedlings into the grippers on the wheel.  The steady clicking and turning of the machine had a meditative effect – and made the job rather pleasant, and I learned to love the bitter smell of the plants.  Later in the season we would hoe weed patches – a much harder job but you sure didn’t have any problems sleeping at night!

When I think of those years I think of gorging on summer’s bounty.  We would have fresh corn and toasted tomato sandwiches every night for supper.  We canned pickles and tomato sauce and our freezers were stocked with bags of corn, tomatoes, cauliflower, broccoli and asparagus.  I remember long days, with barbeques and dogs and deeps suntans and the smell of dirt and grass on my stained, calloused hands. 

These are the things I think about when I find field tomatoes on the market in August and I pick one up and take a deep whiff.


My girls, Kelsey and Carly with their dad on the farm.


  1. KatheW July 11, 2010

    oh what a full lovely life for you and your family. I totally enjoyed reading your piece! Well done!

  2. Carol July 11, 2010

    Wonderful post! Conjured up all sorts of memories for me too. I grew up in a small village on the west coast of Scotland…also farming country…but cows not tomatoes…I bet tomatoes smell much nicer!! *grins*
    C x

  3. Susannah July 11, 2010

    Thanks for sharing this slice of your life, I really enjoyed it. I could smell the tomatoes! 😉

  4. Helen July 11, 2010

    Oh, I remember those days too ~ though mine were in the Midwest farmland. Thank you for writing this great Magpie memory.

  5. Tumblewords July 11, 2010

    A great memory, well told!

  6. bkmackenzie July 11, 2010

    Beautiful memories of tomatoes, farming and family…there is nothing like the smell of vegatables in the field of summer…very nice magpie…bkm

  7. CatLadyLarew July 11, 2010

    I can smell those tomatoes now! Beautifully written!

  8. Stafford July 12, 2010

    Oh yes, farming. Hard days in the sun and deep sleepy nights! Lovely nostalgic recollection.

  9. brian miller July 12, 2010

    it seems tomatoes ring heavy in our memories…nice write, i really enjoyed the snapshots of life..in your magpie.

  10. D.S.Lear July 12, 2010

    what wonderful memories! great magpie!

  11. Sherrill July 12, 2010

    You should see the tomato farms down in Leamington now, Jenn. They’re all under glass. There are greenhouses as far as the eye can see… and as you know, it’s “great big sky” down there (much like the prairies).
    I just came back from a wedding down there. The biggest change was from Mother Nature and the tornado last month. Holy cow! The place is unrecognizable in spots especially Seacliffe Park. All the old stately trees were snapped off and now lay in piles of logs, at their feet. So very sad. You can be sure the alot of those homes, where you used to drive under a canopy to get to them, are now worth a whole lots less.
    Beware the wrath of Mother Nature.

  12. Jennifer July 12, 2010

    Yeah, and hothouse tomatoes are flavourless. It’s too bad, seeing the landscape covered up that way. And such a unique topography there. Really too bad about the tornado damage too.

  13. Jennifer July 12, 2010

    You bet they do Brian – something about tomatoes!

  14. Jennifer July 12, 2010

    Thinking about it I’ve been hungry for tomatoes for days Susannah!

  15. Jennifer July 12, 2010

    He he! But can tomatoes “moo?” I’m sure it’s beautiful farmland there! (My Morrisons originate from the western isles.)

  16. Lisa B (Jaded Heart) July 12, 2010

    your magpie swept me back into time with you on a ride of a beautiful memory! thank you so much for sharing.

  17. christine July 13, 2010

    How wonderful to have lived on a farm and those childhood memories were a pleasure to read about.. I quite envy you the summer days you had.

  18. Selma July 13, 2010

    Wonderful, evocative memories. I particularly like how the smell of tomato soup was a reminder it was almost time to go back to school. I can taste the toasted tomato sandwiches. These are all memories to be treasured!

  19. Marilyn July 13, 2010

    I loved reading this post about, you painted a wonderful picture with your words – I also loved the old family photo. Thanks for sharing your memories Jennifer.

  20. willow July 13, 2010

    My husband grew up on a farm and came away with a wonderful, practical earthiness. Sweet photo!

  21. deb @ talk at the table July 13, 2010

    okay Jennifer.
    Essex! Amherstburg. !
    I went to Essex High, Colchester North prior.
    Not the blissful memories like you, ‘
    but talk about a coincidence.
    I’m floored. Absolutely floored.
    and tomatoes = Leamington.

  22. Jennifer July 13, 2010

    You are kidding! Wow. How small is the cyber world? I worked in Essex for a couple of years just before I left the area, and my grandmother lived there for quite a few years. Floored too. 🙂
    (don’t take my nice memory as a blissful life – I probably wouldn’t be a writer if it was all bliss! We grab onto the things we need to, I guess.)

  23. Jennifer July 13, 2010

    Thank YOU for visiting Marilyn.

  24. Jennifer July 13, 2010

    Thanks Wills – it’s one of my favourite photos. My tiny girls in their “babin suits.”

  25. Peggy Jo Farr July 14, 2010

    Thank your for sharing a wonderful story. I learned something new too. Superb!

  26. Jennifer July 15, 2010

    Aw gee, well thanks for stopping by Peggy.

Comments are Disabled