The protective netting, much to my surprise, did the trick for my tomato plants. The weeks passed without event, and I managed to harvest several dozen delicious grape and plum tomatoes. Made some great salsa and lots of gazpacho, and I even got to freeze some for use in my favorite tomato soup, which I'll enjoy while watching my beloved Cleveland Browns try to win a game this season.
But all that fresh, ripe, tomato glee came crashing to an abrupt end this past weekend. As I was watering the plants Saturday morning, I heard a rustling and saw the bottom leaves shaking. The grass around the plants was tall so I couldn't see the thing, but that morning I'd seen a squirrel in the yard so I figured it was him. We played a little game as he tried to find an exit and avoid the water I was dumping all around him.
Then he hit one end of the net and got sort of tangled, and I could see it was not a squirrel.
It was a rat.
I freaked out but was determined to get it away from my tomatoes. As I dropped water to keep it at one end, I scrambled to uproot the netting at the other, swearing at myself for having secured it so well. I finally created an opening, then dumped water on the rat to make it run the other way. It found the opening and practically flung itself in one leap into our neighbor's yard.
After catching my breath, I got Richard, who told me I'm lucky; he says a trapped rat will do anything to get itself free. I didn't know what this meant, but didn't care to imagine any scenarios. What I did know: it was the end of my tomatoes.
And so, the plants came down. The green tomatoes are packed in newspaper and stored in a box, with about 5% optimism on my part that they'll actually ripen. And the few orange ones are sitting on my window sill, catching some sun.
And unlike die-hard Red Sox fans, for me, there's not a next year (for tomato plants). One rat completely killed that notion.