We learned a new word this week: derecho. As in, a derecho blew into town at 60 mph, wreaked havoc across the city, and took out our power.  Early the next morning, after inspecting the yard and house – no real damage, just nuisance branches down – we hustled over to the garden.

We assumed we’d have to shore up some tomato cages blown askew with their heavy fruit-laden branches, but they were fine. Instead, we had two thieves to contemplate.

Thief one: Something gnawed on two sides of a softball-sized nearly ripe Brandywine tomato. Probably a squirrel, driven mad from the heat and lack of rain. It wasn’t quite ripe, so the poor little animal must’ve been thirsty indeed to suck on a still-bitter tomato.

Thief two: Someone took every one of the Violet Jaspers. The plant had dozens of  the golfball-sized heirlooms on it; all were gone. Since we couldn’t find any evidence of them nearby, we assume the worst.

It’s not the first time someone helped themselves to our garden produce. It could be kids—the high school is on the same property as the community gardens. It could be a drive-by bandit. It could be a homeless person.

There is a stand of woods behind our Chinquapin garden that I have walked through many times. The Army hastily put up barracks there during World War II to house Torpedo Factory workers. I wouldn’t be surprised if there are some building remnants somewhere off the main trail that provide meager shelter.

Last year, on the edge of the woods, I saw a man who clearly was homeless. I was startled, but the recession left many victims in unusual places. I wouldn’t be surprised if there are some people living in those woods, and if they took our tomatoes – well, they need them far more than we do. So bon appetit.

Sandy Johnson is a journalist and a gardener, equally passionate about both. She lives in Alexandria, VA.  Visit her on her blog, Grassroots & Gardening.

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