Seeds: Tiny town needs a home; tomatoes need warm night

Published: Saturday, Aug. 24, 2013 - 12:00 am
Last Modified: Saturday, Aug. 24, 2013 - 1:54 pm

Tony Quattro worries that time is running out for his tiny town. It needs a place to go.

“I’m getting desperate,” he said. “I’m getting to be 90 years old. Who will take care of my buildings after I’m gone?”

Quattro’s “buildings” are dozens of painstakingly crafted miniatures of Gold Rush-era landmarks. Made by hand by Quattro, each structure measures no more than a few inches tall, but took months, sometimes years, to create.

“I’ve tried everyone in the book, but nobody seems to want them,” Quattro lamented. “I’ve run out of ideas.”

So, Quattro is putting out a general plea: His miniature masterpieces need a good home.

“I hate to break them up,” said Quattro, who admitted he’s already given away a few of his favorites. “I’d love to see them become a traveling exhibit for schools. Or maybe they could become a regular display at the State Fair or a museum.”

From Sutter’s Fort in Sacramento to Fourth Ward School in Virginia City, the miniatures feature many familiar sites re-created with incredible detail, all lovingly carved and crafted by Quattro in his Citrus Heights home.

“They’re all made from scratch,” he said in a 2009 interview. “I like adding little touches. It’s all improvised.”

Looking for something to do in retirement, Quattro started making his town about 40 years ago. With itty-bitty hinges crafted from leather, the doors open on most of his creations. The carefully framed windows are real glass. Quattro even created stained-glass windows for his churches. The paddle wheel on his riverboat really turns.

The roof of a 6-inch farmhouse is covered with more than 9,000 redwood shingles, each whittled individually by Quattro. A dioarama of Fort Ross features thousands of tiny “pickets” for its fence.

Quattro’s masterpiece is the Fourth Ward School. For the rock foundation, he crushed granite and shaped the dust with epoxy to make little stones. The 3-inch cupola with louvered windows took more than 100 hours to carve from a single redwood block.

Sutter’s Fort took three years to construct out of adobe bricks, each one-eighth inch long and kiln fired. Quattro used the original plans for the fort to make his re-creation as close to the real thing as possible.

The real Sutter’s Fort displayed Quattro’s miniature version more than 20 years ago. His buildings also have been shown at area schools, libraries and the Sunrise Mall.

But now they need a permanent home. He hopes someone will step up and volunteer some space before he’s gone.

“I still work on them,” said Quattro, noting that his eyesight is failing. “It takes me two months or more to make one. But I’m kind of discouraged; why make more when I can’t find a home for these?”

But he remains hopeful. He still has the same dream: To share his miniatures with more children.

“I’d really like more kids to see them,” he said. “Kids really enjoy them the most.”

To learn more about Quattro’s work or to suggest a place for its display, contact his niece, Nancy Garrett, (916) 988-2607.

Tomato time ... finally

Mild summer weather has been very comfortable for Sacramento residents. But tomatoes? Not so much.

Much of this summer has been too cold for tomatoes to ripen normally. But the recent little heat wave should have kicked them into high gear.

It’s not so much how hot it gets during the day, but the overnight lows. Tomatoes prefer warm nights over 60 degrees to really get red.

“This summer has been great for people but not tomatoes,” said Suzanne Ashworth of Del Rio Botanical in West Sacramento. “They just sit there like it’s March.”

According to Ashworth, this extra-mild summer also affected the sugar-acid balance in tomatoes this season. So, many varieties may not taste the same as we remember them – or think they should taste.

Tomatoes that ripened in early July during that triple-digit heat wave probably were our peak of flavor for the 2013 season, Ashworth noted.

“The days are getting shorter,” she added. “We’re already down to 12 hours of sun a day, and every day it will be less and less. Slow ripening affects sugar-acid balance so much. They just don’t taste like they should.”

Call The Bee’s Debbie Arrington, (916) 321-1075. Follow her on Twitter @debarrington

Read more articles by Debbie Arrington

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