Rogue wheel damages crops in Windham Community Garden

WINDHAM – It used to be that weather and wild animals were the only ones that could spoil a bountiful garden crop. Now, rogue trailer wheels should be added to the nuisance list.

When David Nadeau, a Windham town councilor and, in his spare time, one of the 62 residents who tend a plot in the Windham Community Garden, went to check on his vegetables last week, he got quite a surprise: a greased-covered trailer tire, hub and all, had broken off a passing trailer and knocked over his tomato stand, destroying about a third of the crop.

Best as he can figure, the deviant wheel, which weighed about 50 pounds, broke off the trailer as it was pulled east on Route 202 past the community garden, which is located near the intersection of Swett Road. The careening tire, brake drum and all, then bounded toward the roadside garden, slicing through a plastic mesh fence that fronts the acreage. The wheel then bounced its way through two other plots – amazingly sparing those veggies as it went – and slammed smack into Nadeau’s handmade wooden tomato trellis. Tripped up, the heavy wheel managed to travel a few more destructive feet before landing in some of Nadeau’s peppers.

While no one got hurt – and apparently no one reported to Windham police the obviously damaged trailer – a summer of hard work of growing the tomatoes from seed had been sadly wasted.

Nadeau, more amazed than saddened by his bad luck, was making the best of the situation on Friday as he tried to salvage the damaged crops. After assessing the destruction, Nadeau said he lost about a third of his tomatoes as well as some squash and peppers.

“What really bothers me is that I raised these from seed,” he said. “After doing all that, and waiting to see them ripen, a wheel comes out of nowhere.”

An experienced gardener, Nadeau was proud of the tomatoes, not only because they were growing with gusto – as is most everything in the community garden with this year’s near-perfect weather conditions – but because they were mostly of heirloom varieties. Some are purple while others are white. Some will weigh 4 pounds when fully ripe.

While he lost the equivalent of a 5-gallon pail full of smashed veggies, Nadeau said he still has plenty of veggies to enjoy after they ripen on the vine. And he’s not given up hope at using the two plastic bags-full of banged-up tomatoes that were knocked off. In fact, he’s got a menu full of dishes ready to go.

“I’m going to make fried green tomato parmesan, green tomato pie, and pickled green tomatoes,” Nadeau said while his grandchildren, Davin and Jessie Farinella of Windham, walked around the garden Friday afternoon. “And I’ve got enough that I should also be able to make either a chutney or a green tomato relish. We’ll make it work.”

David Nadeau and his grandchildren Davin Farinella, left, and Jessie Farinella, are pictured with the rogue trailer wheel that damaged Nadeau’s crop at the Windham Community Garden. (Staff photos by John Balentine)