When 2020 began gnashing her stinky teeth in March with the pandemic and endless earthquakes, my wife and I sought ways to manifest calm and divert our family’s attention to things less devastating. (Remember when this was all new and we had the capacity to come up with cool ideas?)

We started doing Cosmic Kids Yoga with our son, Harvey. We dabbled in bread making. And our crowning coronavirus achievement was securing a plot at our neighborhood community garden just on the other side of our next-door neighbor’s house.

We were like, “This is tough, but we’re tougher. We’re going to move, and cook and play in the dirt to keep ourselves sane this spring. We’ve totally got this.” *arms up, hip bump*

Ugh, the naivete.

We treated ourselves to a bunch of veggie starts on Mothers’ Day (apostrophe placement intended), and promptly transformed our container of soil into a bed of delicious possibility.

We’d water it daily and give it pep talks even more frequently. We’d weed and track the progress of every new leaf, every bud and thank every bee doing its pollinating magic.

Trite or not, our little plot became a beacon of hope for us. A labor of love.

Even as spring turned to summer, and the yoga mats began to collect dust (namaste still for a bit) and it became too hot to bake bread, our garden sustained our interest. It’s our baby — our version of a pandemic puppy. We’d let it sleep on the bed if we could.

We have tomatoes, bell peppers, mustard greens, pumpkins, watermelons, zucchinis and an artichoke, and everything aside from the artichoke is producing bountifully. It’s wildly satisfying. And despite Harvey’s impassioned pleas, we’ve waited for each nutritious morsel to ripen to perfection before picking it.

Except, over the past couple weeks, all that hopeful anticipation has plowed into a brick wall of disappointment. Someone has been beating us to the picking punch. And friends, my pendulum has swung from zen to rage.

At first, we figured it was a hungry being, human or otherwise, who was stealing our produce. It was disappointing but not infuriating (although, I wouldn’t have hated a “thx for the noms” written in dirt or something).

I posted a video rant in the form of a public service announcement to my social media grumbling that community gardens are meant to be made by the community, but not necessarily eaten by the community. When a friend responded saying they wouldn’t have known that was the rule, I thought, “Hey, yeah, this could be a well-intended and health conscious opportunist who just doesn’t know the drill.”

So we made a sign.

(Marina Gomberg | The Salt Lake Tribune) The Gomberg family is not pleased with the veggie thief or thieves that have taken their produce. No one is more upset about it than Harvey Gomberg, 4.

It had a picture of our sad 4-year-old and gently requested passersby not take things unless they really need food.

Then we waited. We watered and pep talked and planned staycation meals around our next bounty.

But as we rounded the corner into the garden a week or so ago to harvest what would have been our biggest haul, we were met with a horrific crime scene.

My eyes darted around scanning our plant pals only to notice they had been relieved of all their ripe vegetables, and that’s when I felt a perfect cherry tomato pop under my sandal.

It might as well have been my hope in humanity. Deflated and souring.

Things hadn’t just been plucked. They’d been strewn and stomped. Not even eaten. Antioxidants wasted!

It wasn’t just our plot, but all of them. Nothing was spared.

Who does that?!

It didn’t seem like the work of a critter. No, this reeked of a manmade ‘mater massacre.

We wanted revenge.

Then remembered we have an impressionable child watching, so dialed down the fury and made a new sign that says “We’re watching. Back away from the veggies” and includes images of Harvey in an Incredibles costume, some important deities, a cast member from Reno-911 and Santa Claus. We thought we’d meet our thieves wherever they might be.

(Marina Gomberg | The Salt Lake Tribune) This is Marina Gomberg's second sign trying to stop someone from picking their veggies.

Since guilt seemed not to work, we’re moving to idle threats this time, and I hope you’ll wish us luck.

Your guess is as good as mine if we’ll be eating the world’s most satisfying BLT in the near future, but if you see us building raised beds in our yard for next year, you’ll know why.

Marina Gomberg is a communications professional and lives in Salt Lake City with her wife, Elenor Gomberg, and their son, Harvey. You can reach Marina at mgomberg@sltrib.com.