A Farmer’s Delight

I know you are insatiably curious about what farmers, especially us urban farmers, do after the first hard freeze.

Caution: The following content is intended for mature adults only.

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Casey and I like to kick back and hang out at the local coffee shops. Sometimes we can spend half the morning just deciding which one. The rest of our day, like that of Godot’s friend, is filled with waiting. But the one for whom we wait is our mailman—the always-dependable government servant who delivers our farmer’s porn.

Yesterday, the mailman brought more. This is the real deal. These are bigger, thicker. In another, perhaps Victorian time, they would have been delivered in plain, brown envelopes, their covers hidden from all but the intended recipient. It’s likely you all have seen them at one time or another. Maybe a few of you also subscribe. I don’t know about you, but I get them mostly for the pictures. Many will claim that, for them, it’s about the articles and other information, but for me, I’m not ashamed to admit that it’s really all about the photos.

Eagerly, I scan the pages, marker in hand, noting the most appealing—those deserving a return later for a closer, longer, lingering look. Wow, look at those melons! Yes, I’ll be back to this page for sure. Often.

In the evening, when it’s quiet and I’m alone, I flip again through the pages before I go to the publication’s website for even more pictures to add to my collection. By the soft glow of the monitor I download image after image. Each photo feeds my addiction; each is a promise of future gratification. Maybe the next will be the perfect one.

Online I continue to try to find and select only the finest examples of each. To narrow my search I try keywords—flesh, pink, ripe, early maturity, young—all to no avail. Every query yields more and more images, each one more tempting, more tantalizing than the last, and of course, all equally inaccessible for now. Later they can be mine. At a price of course.

Sometimes I wonder, why do I find myself so attracted to the foreign? Is it because they seem so exotic? The appeal of the unknown? The promise of future pleasures? Certainly the allure of the unfamiliar is a big part of it. Yes, I know it will be some time, if ever, before I can touch them, but for now the photos are so full of promise.

I turn more pages. Choices from the Middle East, Eastern Europe, Asia, and South America grace each page, each and every one nearly as tempting as the others. Surprisingly none are from Australia or Iceland. In my experience the Russians rarely disappoint. All are fine examples from good, strong peasant parentage.

Your carrier, too, groans under his appointed burden, as I hope mine does again today.

I write, as you most assuredly know, not of something tawdry, not of something merely titillating like the Sports Illustrated Swimsuit Edition,” but the genuine article—the real hardcore stuff.

I wait for the annual vegetable and flower seed catalogues.

Page after page of the season’s most dazzling and alluring flowers and deliciously ripe vegetables and fruits, all there for the ordering. And order I do. Dozens more selections are added to my shopping cart. More selections than I could grow out in two lifetimes. And still I add more.

There are reportedly over 600 different seed catalogues offered annually in these great, wide open, most disunited of states we call home. Fortunately for my letter carrier I haven’t begun to contact even a fraction of them. Besides I can barely keep up with the ones I’m getting now.

The “grow your own” mantra has taken on new meaning, as each passing generation seems to have taken to the backyard or community gardens in such numbers that seed company sales are up 20–25% across the board. Growing and selling vegetable seeds is one of the best growth industries these days (pun very much intended).

By February, when my seed orders have been delivered, I will have added substantially to my collection, like a young boy’s baseball cards or a girl gone wild over Barbie and her accessories. New packets and envelopes from this year are added to cans and jars of last year’s seeds stacked hither and yon, piling up on every flat surface waiting for order to descend upon the chaos.

By St. Patrick’s Day there should be thousands of seeds in flats, each commanding their own bit of attention. Feed me.

Water me. Shine some light on me.

Eventually the dreams, the temptations, and the hubris of winter are inexorably followed by the realities of summer. By June, many of the plants started from seed, nurtured, given special care, feeding and more than a little attention will be cast aside to wither and die. Nothing more than an early season contribution to the compost pile. They can’t all make the cut. Lack of time, space, and the energy to transplant them all into the ground bring on the demise of an unlucky lot of them as assuredly as the most biblical of pestilence.

It’s the cycle of life—the farmer’s life: Dream, order, plant, harvest, and eat. Repeat.