Monday, November 10, 2014

When Veterans Day Becomes Night

Last Memorial Day weekend, wrapped in silky clean sheets, I gazed upon my sleeping lover and realized that his was a true face of the Vietnam War. He served as a Lieutenant in the Army (’67-’68), earned a Bronze Star and was involved in the Tet Offensive.  

At the age of 68, he wears a slight, rugged facial scar on his right cheek from cancer surgery, a souvenir from Agent Orange. He also sports a scar running up the base of his spine and he wrestles with demons most nights. All are souvenirs from an unpopular war fought nearly five decades ago.

His Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) runs deep and, at one point in his life, made it unbearable. None of the 11 mood medications the VA had stuffed in his medicine cabinet seemed to help. He told me about these night terrors on our first date, and the scar too. 

With our 20-year age difference, what little I knew of that war came from Hollywood. (Rambo sure seemed pissed.) I knew that the returning soldiers did not get parades or special ribbons; they were not greeted by a citizenry that appreciated their sacrifice. There were no "Support Our Troops" bumper stickers and the acronym PTSD had not yet been coined. (That came in 1980.)

Though he's come very far in dealing with this deeply-embedded trauma ("Used to be, if a big truck went by, I'd duck under a table," he said.), he has to carefully avoid movies that depict battle or intense gunfire. The chop-chop-chop of a military helicopter can also trigger terrible flashbacks.

Once, we were watching TV and a graphic ad for the "Call of Duty" video game came on. I squirmed uncomfortably. Finally, it finished and I turned to him, "Did that bother you?"

"Nah," he stated flatly, "that's just a game." It was a chilling distinction.

When visiting his grown children and their families, all will occasionally be roused up with lights on by his middle-of-the-night screams. “Next thing I hear is, ‘Dad! DAD! Wake up!’ and I know it’s happened again,” he said.

His most common dark dream triggers kicking, his brain replaying an actual scenario: trapped in a foxhole with the enemy in one-to-one combat. The long body of a machine gun is held to his throat, choking him, and his hands work at breaking free while his feet kick furiously to deliver damage.

I don’t know the details of what happened next but i don't think it ended well for that particular North Vietnamese soldier. 

He described how, one afternoon, he napped on the couch. Awaking with a jolt, he wondered, ‘Why is my foot wet?’ Looking down, he sees bloodied toes and a banged up coffee table. “Of course, oh my gosh, the kicking…” 

On various evenings, I have witnessed the ramp up of these hauntings and they are terrifying. His legs begin to move, his breathing quickens and a plaintive whimper comes from somewhere deep inside him, begging for help.

To witness such haunting terror in the face of my man - so strong and stoic in the day - is jarring.  Naturally, I try to stop these nightmares as they begin. (At long last, my night owl tendencies have a useful purpose!) I throw my arms and legs around him and whisper in his ear, “It’s okay, baby. It’s okay. You’re fine, you’re here with me,. It's 2014. You're in your own house, in North Dakota.” Gradually, the dream dissipates and those stubborn images - ghastly memories as old as myself - release their cruel grip. 

One time, he grabbed my arm hard and mumbled, “I’m glad you’re here. I’m glad you’re here.” He has only a distant recollection the following morning.

I pondered all this last May while the flickering shadows of a TV hockey game revealed raw vulnerability in the craggy lines of his handsome face. His head began moving side to side (“no, no, no, no”) and his brow furrowed with fear. The anguish in his voice was palpable, laced with a begging mercy.  The man who laid next to me – this retired bank president, father of two, grandfather of five – was suddenly a terrified boy facing his own death in a strange land for the millionth time.  

I shook him awake and his eyes popped open, staring straight into my own. His eyes, so dark and distant, revealed just how far away he’d been. He was momentarily shocked, disoriented and unsure just who I was; slowly, his mind returned to present day Earth. Then, a moment of recognition: “Oh, heh,” he snorted, embarrassed, “musta been that Memorial Day stuff I watched. All ten minutes of it…”

Then, he rolled over on his left side, facing the wall away from me. But just before settling in for the next round of sleep, he had to know. “'Hawkes win?” he asked, eyes closed.

“No,” I say. “Kings. 5-2.”  I carefully withheld the glee in my voice for my hometown team, sparing his delicate state.

Long pause.

“Empty net?”  

And just like that, life goes on, with or without a parade.  


A big thank you to all who have served in our nation's military and especially those who have sacrificed body and mind. I live as freely as I can - a small gesture toward honoring your efforts.

Monday, October 20, 2014

My Little Questions Became One Big One

If ever there was a time I'd like captured and frozen in amber, it is right now.

At the Pembina Gorge lookout
As the leaves around me turn gold, orange and crimson, my head floats and bobs in an atmosphere of intense joy. I exist in this beautiful, remote region of my country, far away from the glitzy, fast-paced metropolis i grew up in, and I am charmed - taken aback, even. Other than putting it to bed, my garden is done and nearly dead. Once the electric fence is dismantled, I will harvest my Glass Gem popcorn and declare my SCRANCH project officially Over. (At least the North Dakota version….)

Glass Gem popcorn
Has it been three years already? Seems only yesterday I was fantasizing about my NoDak plan, plotting out the details and worrying about the risks. Ultimately, I am mighty pleased that I cast aside my numerous doubts and took the risk to temporary cleave my life in two - summers in northeastern North Dakota and winters in Southern California. With additional long visits in Colorado and Mississippi, I usually answered the oft-asked question, "Where do you live?" with a simple, "America."

What I have learned during my 'little experiment' is beyond invaluable, the entire rural experience was life-changing. I came in search of knowledge, a deeper comprehension of organic food production, Farmers' Market logistics and the realities of Big Ag, not to mention my own family's land - the rich, black soil that is now part of my soul. I now understand that the farming lifestyle, is exactly that, much more than a career - it is a relationship with the land that runs deep. All that big machinery, the Carhartt wardrobe and a life spent outdoors make farming a seductive concept. Throw in the wild card of Mother Nature's various blessings and destructive tantrums and we can call it exciting too.

With fewer people becoming farmers (due to the high costs of land and machinery plus and the lure of urban jobs) the average age of the American farmer is 57. With technology advancements, chemical applications and the decline of the family farm (and subsequent rise of the corporate farm), farmers are becoming an endangered species. I feel quite honored to have spent time amongst them even if they never understood why I was there. To my delight, I found that they loved answering all my questions; I think no one had ever asked them before.

But what I learned most of all during my city-to-farm-to-city life is that there is a terrible communications gap between farmer and consumer. Straddling both worlds, I see the farmer sometimes forgetting they are growing food and not just bushels and I see the consumer being too quick to blame Big Ag while insisting on perfect, uniform produce.

One of my perfectly imperfect babies
Truth is, the farmer will grow what the market demands and the market is Us. Period. The only vote that counts in this country is the dollar and where you choose to spend it. If there are changes to be made in our food system, we cannot wait for the bio-tech corporations (Monsanto, Dow, Simplot, Bayer, etc.) to do it out of the goodness of their hearts, for they have none, they are a capitalistic entity. The government is not much help either; their interest is assisting the processed food industry (farm subsidies, tax breaks, etc.) whether it benefits our health or not. Broccoli does not employ lobbyists but Kraft Foods does.

Pondering my future, I want to meld all my superhero powers (communications, media, gardening, comedy, Ag knowledge, high pain/bug tolerance) into a a solid laser beam of Change in the food industry. This is my wish. I don't know yet what that particular job will be, but it will come to me eventually.

Meanwhile, as my departure date looms near, i wonder what else I will take with me in my filthy pick-up, other than squash, garlic and a few remaining tomatoes. However, the bigger concern in my mind is what I am leaving behind. Last summer, I found love on the prairie, a fiery connection with an unlikely man in an unlikely place. We come from starkly different worlds, separate eras (20 years apart) and opposing political beliefs but somewhere in the storm of deep debates and a million kisses, profound mutual respect has blossomed. When I think of him, I can actually feel my heart expand and then I want to bake cookies.

Last summer, at the Fargo Fair
Our love is strong and true but alas, we are at different points in our lives and, unhappily, the winter will pull us apart.

I am terrified, not only to leave this unique place I hold dear, but the man I share my days and nights with - how will I face a life without him as my partner? I spent last winter moping around sunny California with an enormous hole in my heart. Sure, I enjoyed time with family and friends, feasting on LA culture, gorging on sushi, running on the beach, but inside, my guts felt black and blue. I don't wish to go through that again.

Furthermore, I do not wish to endure six months of hard winter cut off from the world; he does not wish to leave his family or his lifelong home. Analyzing this puzzler from every angle in my dear friend Lisa's Orange County hot tub one evening last February, she gave me some tough advice: "You're just going to have to go back there this summer, love him as hard as you can, then say goodbye."

The first two parts, I have done. And so, for all my in-depth research and hard-won knowledge, I am left with one nagging question:

How do you walk away from love?

Saturday, September 20, 2014

Family, Freezes and Finding Strength

Photo by Dianne Millar
My family visited the farm recently, making the twin treks from Long Beach, California and Ocean Springs, Mississippi. I was beside myself with joy; there was at least one day where I could not stop saying, "I am SO happy!" which would have been ridiculous had it not been so sincerely felt.

Beyond the images and words I post online, it is wonderful to have real-life witnesses to my experience here in North Dakota, a state rarely visited. That my mother, brother, sister-in-law and nephew came so far to revisit this magical place did my heart a lot of good. I think they enjoyed it too.

Naturally, we partied. I put on a Shed Shindig in their honor. We borrowed tables and chairs from the local fire department, swept the dead mice out of our corrugated tin shed and strung lights. (MaryAnn and Carol surprised me with their expert skills here.)

I put jazz on cassette in the old blacksmith shop and a bonfire was lit under a nearly-full moon - cigars came out, farm talk ensued and memory lane got walked. The pot luck dishes were amazing and some kids played dress-up with all my old San Francisco duds - boa feathers in every color still roll down the prairie.

We even had our own porta potty. I'm telling you it was as big as it gets 'round here. If the weather hadn't been so perfect we might have had more guests but alas, it was ideal for harvest.

After all the parties, 4-wheeling and open-fire cookouts, we moved our celebration to the nearest big city, Grand Forks, where we were honored by cousins with big meal gatherings and lush accommodations. (I slept in the bedazzled bedroom of the former Miss Teen North Dakota complete with Xmas lights around the bed and hot pink everything.)

OMG - heaven! So NOT my trailer....
Many photos were taken, hugs were exchanged and exclamations of "It's been too long!" were pronounced. Amusingly, both the Mississippians and the North Dakotans thought the other ones lived in the sticks. Fascinating to see citizens of the Deep South and the Deep North - from the two most misunderstood states in the nation - convene for a long-awaited blitz of food and fellowship.

Occasionally, my sweet nephew, Robbie, would pull me aside and whisper, "You need to come back next summer."


Brrrrr! Tomatoes covered.
On September 12th, Father Winter dropped his icy fingers down to zap crops both large and small. One farmer I know lost an entire field of beans (Brent lost a section of beans too) and I got hit as well. Thanks to Brent, who gamely helps me cover up every year, I managed to save nearly all my tomatoes and only lost those which I am done with anyway. Still, my watermelon, cantaloupe and popcorn may not get ripe before we get into full frost season. 

My Yellow zukes got zapped but they still work.
It all makes me feel a bit rushed. People keep asking me when I am leaving and I cover my ears, shut my eyes and shake my head. I know the day is looming but I can't stand to think about it as reality. How will I get the strength to leave this place? To turn and walk away from the land, the people, the freedoms and big open skies, not to mention one man in particular?

Where will that strength come from? I wonder. I guess Father Winter's icy hand will just push me out.


Meanwhile, in the present, yesterday was epic - routine for me here, but so special. Sleeping in until 9 or so, then heading to my favorite running spot and putting in a solid 5 miles, yelling "Thank you!", "I love you!" and "So beautiful!" along the tree-lined route. Then home to a delicious breakfast of fresh dill-and-tomato eggs with bacon and avocado. Work. Internet. Necessary computer time. ("The Internet is both my liberator and dictator," I often say.)

Then, off to the garden to pull everything for Market - Lemon cucumbers, Scallop squash, Rainbow cherry tomatoes, Champion tomatoes, Romaine lettuce, Freckles lettuce, dill, Green bell peppers, eggplant, sage, Red onions, cantaloupe, Yellow zucchini…and on it goes.

Yellow Zukes
Off to Cavalier, about 17 miles south, for the weekly Farmers' Market, corner of First and Main. Initially, I stop at the home of my love, a man 20 years my senior who owns my heart. His garage also houses my Market table and the two giant wooden signs we made to alert passing motorists to our presence: "FARMERS MARKET TODAY" with a giant red glitter arrow.

His neighbor's stepson is visiting from Hawaii or Washington, traveling around in a outfitted Vanagon and my love is gamely visiting with him. Soon, another neighbor wanders over and then beer happens. I hang out there for about a half-hour before making haste for the market. Selling begins promptly at 5 p.m. and not a second earlier.

Delicious toes!
There are just two other vendors there. A young girl is selling homemade doggie treats to raise money to do Jr. Iditorod in 2023. The other is my friend, Lillian, a young mother of three who also hails from California. Her stepfather sets up hay bails and dried corn stalks to showcase her colorful display of pumpkins and squash. In between brisk sales, she and I discuss life, God and our fondness for North Dakota and its men. It rains on us a bit but we pay no mind. I nibble on the toes of her baby boy, Nathan, whom I adore and together, again, we wonder  where I will get the strength to leave.

Before we both go our separate ways, I give her the bouquet of bright sunflowers that I'd picked as a table decoration; she'd just turned 28, exactly 20 years my junior. We exchange solid hugs and I head for home.

After changing clothes - out of the stiff jeans and into stretchy pants - I head to the shed for some much-needed yoga. I turn on all the stringed lights, dance a bit to an old Sheilia E. cassette, light some sage and candles and whip out the yoga mat. Damn, it feels good.

Then, my love texts me and we talk on the phone, planning our romantic getaway weekend in Fargo. He tells me details of a community meeting he'd attended and together, we laugh. I finish up my yoga, close up the shed and head to the trailer, where I pour myself a glass of red wine. I dine on rib eye, creamed cucumber dill salad, Sweet Meat squash (grown my yours truly), and tossed salad with fresh tomatoes (mine) and bleu cheese crumbles. I end up inhaling an entire bar of dark chocolate because I'm feeling victorious for some reason.

Harvest at sunset

I step outside in the pitch blackness for a smokey treat and wonder, again, how it is I'm going to leave.

Wednesday, September 03, 2014

Summer Blur

Despite what the calendar says, Autumn has arrived - the searing heat has gone, replaced by a crisp air and shortened days.

I hate it.

The click-over to the next season means that the eight gazillion green tomatoes I have in the garden may not fulfill their destiny of becoming a tomato-and-mayo sandwich or profitable produce for my wallet. It also means that winter is now on the horizon and my departure date draws near; this fills me with more dread than I can convey. When I think about leaving, my stomach aches. If there was a way to freeze a moment in time, I would engage.

At this moment, we sit on the cusp of the harvest frenzy. There has been too much off-and-on rain making fields dangerously muddy and thus, risky for tractors, combines and grain trucks. And come October 1, the sugar beet harvest will commence - no matter what else is going on - and things get kicked up several notches. In October, harvest goes 24/7 and those famously pitch-black North Dakota nights become salted with blazing lights in the fields - truly an incredible sight.

In my observation, a large part of farming is waiting - waiting for rain, waiting for no rain, waiting for temperatures to rise, waiting for temperatures to drop, waiting for wind (to dry fields), waiting for no wind, waiting for parts and waiting in line at the elevator and/or sugar beet piles. But make no mistake, just because farmers are good at waiting doesn't mean they do it without complaint, it's just not part of their nature.

Brent, waiting, and not happy about it
Meanwhile, golden oceans of ripe wheat surround me, making me long for wings. The even beauty of these fields temporarily overtake my concerns with chemicals and GMOs as I watch a graceful crop duster lower down on a field, spray and then swoop up into the wild blue yonder. Long stretches of smiling yellow sunflowers seem to be everywhere lifting their big, eager heads in the day and then, dropping their chins at dusk.

Driving down dirt roads, I'm always tuned to 98.3, CBC (Canadian Broadcasting Company), and inevitably, Julie Nesrellah or Tom Powers will dish up the perfect musical accompaniment - usually the perfect classical piece or an earthy folk tune. My heart soars and I thank God I am here in this magical place so rarely seen. What divine fortune!

My running church
I ran 5.11 miles this morning on my usual glorious path - a snowmobile route lined with a cathedral of cottonwoods - and felt exuberance in every cell of my being. Earlier this morning, I had made a customer delivery of basil and cucumbers to a delightful woman named Joy (of course!) and my gratitude was off the charts.

Tomorrow, my family visits from California and Mississippi and I am beyond excited. They have all been here before but my nephew, Robbie, last visited at age 3 - he is now almost 11. There is so much to show him and though he lives straight down the Central Time Zone on the bayou - literally from one border to the other - I hope he can see what I see - a unique remote magic come to life.

Thursday, August 14, 2014

Robin Williams RIP

Like so many, I am reeling with the sudden death of Robin Williams. Despite all his fame, wealth and success - not to mention all the love and affection from family, friends, fellow artists and millions of fans - it was not near enough to ease his deep and complex pain. My heart hurts when I think of how he left us alone in a world without his magic. And then, my head chimes in and says, 'Well, at least he left us on his terms.'

When my friend Sydney said, 'It's like a 9/11 of sorts,' I knew what she meant. While his death is not on par with a global terrorist event, it does evoke a similar brand of shock, the kind that freezes a moment in time so you remember where you were when you first heard. (Me, in Sydney's living room, watching the headline flash on the muted TV. Me, yelling the news to her on the patio and her, not believing me. When the word "suicide" came out we both crumpled in to chairs, hands over mouths.)

Today, we learned that not only was Robin battling severe depression, substance abuse, career woes and financial concerns, but he was also showing early signs of Parkinson's Disease. Here was a man who brought laughter to millions but could no longer find the joy in his own life after one immense challenge after another piled up until he could no longer bear the weight.

Seems unfair, doesn't it?

I once interviewed Robin Williams' mother, Laurie, for an article on Moms of Celebrities that I did for the Nob Hill Gazette. It was pouring rain but I met her in some country club in Marin. We were there several hours, chatting away and she enjoyed telling stories about Robin's childhood and her own life. We visited a few more times on the phone and I'll always remember her big smile, the same one she gave to her son, who then shared it with the rest of us. What an honor that was.

When I lived in San Francisco, I lived in the same neighborhood as the Mrs. Doubtfire house which has now become an impromptu memorial to Robin. I also lived not too far from SeaCliff, a tony neighborhood that included Robin's house overlooking the GG bridge with his famous flagpole in the front. When he was home, a pirate flag flew; when he was gone, no flag. This way, his hometown always knew where he was. 

On a very selfish note, having an iconic comedian commit suicide on the first day of my comedy festival was profoundly horrible timing. Our weekday shows thus far have been sparsely attended and I can only think that many comedy fans are staying home to re-watch Robin's best performances in films and stand-up. I know that's what I would be doing.

So, let's say hypothetically, that you live in the Denver area and need some cheering up. Please come to one of our three remaining shows:
  • Friday, August 15: The D-Note in Old Town Arvada, 7:30 p.m. free!
  • Saturday, August 16: Denver Bookbinding Company, 7:30 p.m. $20 - free apps, beer and a public head shaving!
  • Sunday, August 17: Lannie's Clocktower Cabaret in downtown Denver, 7 p.m., $15 (half off parking under the nearby Rock Bottom Brewery)
Let's also say, hypothetically, that you just want to get rid of all that extra cash that's been weighing you down and looking for a cause that offers a clean-cut solution to one of the world's mysteriously disturbing problems, consider donating to Smile Train. Why do I feel so strongly about this? Because I grew up with facial disfigurement and being a kid is hard enough, I can't imagine going through that as a poor child in a world with no resources, no support. No comedy! Humor was - and is - my main weapon in dealing with medical drama.

To fix these kids and give them a smile, it's a $250 (free for patients) for a 45-minute operation - DONE. 

Either way, grab a friend who is down and go see some comedy this week, or the next. Somewhere. Anywhere. The world will always contain soul-crushing darkness but we have to find a way to keep laughing in the light whenever we can.

Thursday, August 07, 2014

Call for SCRANCH Interns

Soon, my isolated farm world will be turned on its ass with intense travel and giant ruby milestones – a wedding, a reunion and a week-long comedy fundraiser to run. But before landing in Colorado and California, a request:  

Call for SCRANCH Interns! I need some help and most importantly, I need a witness and temporary sidekick. 

  • Field Work: help harvest, maintain garden and assist with Farmers Market
  • Kitchen Work: assist in using harvested produce and herbs when cooking
  • Reporting: document the experience – writing, photos, video, music and yes, social media. Did I mention video?  
What to expect: hard work, unpredictable weather and a unique view of an expansive hidden America where the food industry starts. There will likely be pie.

  • Required 4-6 days in August – October.
  • Uniform not required but khaki is nice.
  • Can cover 1/2 airfare, lodging, transportation and most meals.
Curious? Here's a post from last summer's intern

Taters in bloom!
Interested parties shoot me an email ( or contact me via Facebook. 

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Stubborn Realities

Orphan sprouts!
I'm the decider. This time of year, I must thin the plants. My maternal instinct pains me to waste even a single plant baby so I end up collecting them all in cups filled half with water. They line my kitchen counter, which is already tiny.

First, I try to replant them in a deep hole with a solid drink of water and wishes of luck on life anew. Or, I bring some to the Market to sell fresh - mostly Lemon basil, sage, cilantro and parsley right now. Finally, I strive to use them in cooking. Tonight, I baked a sweet potato and covered it in sea salt and chopped parsley. Then, I sauteed some garlic (from the store, mine's not ready yet) in olive oil with onion slivers, apple chunks and cubes of local sausage. At the last, I added scissored bits of garlic scapes.

Garlic scapes and parsley
Still, the act of choosing who will live and who faces an uncertain future feels slightly God-like. I am still not comfortable with the concept but have grown used to the power and the idea that's it's another teensy version of what real farmers (and ranchers, especially) must face. Culling the herd, as it were, so everyone has enough room to thrive and reach full potential, is a necessary evil.

The wide open skies of this region drive home this point. My mind has room to roam here, to play within itself, wander around and open new doors. There is surely something to the need for head space, else why would so many suburban home layouts include vaulted ceilings?

Through my windshield on the way to 'town'

At my usual running spot the other day, I chatted with a farm worker I usually see there. He was high up in his semi cab and delivered a warning: "If you see a red flag behind me, on the edge of the road, that means we're spraying for bugs. Pesticide," he said, dragging on his cigarette. "I'd find another spot to run that day, if I were you."



Two steps forward, one step back: A pal of mine runs a local farm here with her hubby and four kids. This year, they managed to get their Romaine lettuce into the local grocery chain store, Leever's. I was excited to purchase a head (before mine came in) knowing it had been grown just down the highway. I suggested to the cashier that they put a small sign up labeling the lettuce as "Locally Grown" and name the farm. He was baffled by this concept, no matter how many ways I tried to explain it.

"But all our produce is local."

"What? No! Most of it is from California and Mexico. I think people would prefer it if their produce didn't have to travel so far."

"I don't understand what you are talking about."

I tried again and his eyes glazed over. I left, highly frustrated, with him saying to me apathetically, "Sorry I ignored you."

The audacious heads
When I urged my pal to ask the manager to label it "Local", she had already done so and met the same resistance. "Yeah, I tried that. He said, 'I don't think people care about that. If anything, they would prefer their produce come from some other place.' Seems backwards but in his mind, there are no benefits in doing that."

It is hard to fathom this ancient mentality, especially in a grocery store literally surrounded by fields of wheat, corn, potatoes, soybeans, canola, pinto/navy beans and barley. You'd think being so close to the beginning of the food industry would bring insight to those selling it but alas, no. Perhaps I'd have to survive a winter here to grasp the persistent belief that only produce from warmer climates will do. With the price of gas, you'd think that idea would get tossed out at first chance.

Local potatoes in bloom

Bemusement. Finally, I've settled on a description for the look that I sometimes get here. So often, people's faces contain a notable mix of amusement and confusion when talking to me. Occasionally, it goes beyond that.

At a family funeral last week, my cousin (part of a hugely successful family farm operation) got a gander at my business card, read my made-up title: "Blogger/Farmer" and laughed a bit too hard. "Farmer?!? Oh, that's a GOOD one!" With watering eyes, he clutched his belly, looked at the card, then at me, then snorted another hearty guffaw.

Tractor Talk: The beau, Walter and Cousin Carol

Meanwhile, my cousin, Walter, age 94, likes to poke fun. "You still here?" he often says upon greeting me, and then chuckles to himself. I gracefully resist the urge to ask him the same.

My Cherry Belle radish haul
A few days ago, Brent and Wayne stopped in the lane on their way to hauling grain. Both had watched me carrying a wheelbarrow's worth of composted dirt toward the garden. By my estimations, it was 85 degrees with 1,000% humidity. They pulled up next to me, shaking their heads in wonder. I put down the 'barrow and slumped my head on the passenger side door jam, at the burly arm of Brent. "Wanna switch jobs?" I said, panting.

"Noooooope!" said Wayne.

"Not a chance," said Brent.

"Oh, that's right. You guys are off to make real money."

"Um, well…" said Brent.

"Oh, well, not exactly," said Wayne. Corn prices had been painfully low as of late.

"At last you guys got air conditioning," I offered.

"No air conditioning," said Wayne, "it's broke."

We chatted a bit more about the grueling heat and the relentless cruelty of bugs - mosquitoes, specifically. Then, they drove off, happy at least not to be me, doing everything by hand with no help, no spray and no machines. Why? they must wonder. What is the point? Everyone has a garden here but nobody - and I mean, NOBODY - would think of not using pesticides or herbicides on their plants. When the skies are filled with crop dusters (I can hear them buzzing right now overhead) and the roads are loaded with fertilizer tanks, the idea of turning one's back on modern-day 'progress' seems ludicrous.

The organic trenches
My beau often teases me. "Y'know, honey, just a couple squirts of RoundUp'll fix up that garden real quick. Lot easier than hoeing."

"No. No. And, just to be clear, NO!" I say. "You really think I came all this way just to cave in to chemical ease? That sod spot is pure! I'm not going to f**k it up after all this work."

"So if I came out to farm and sprayed it behind your back you would be mad?"

"You are CORRECT," I said, fuming at the idea. I glared at him. He stared back, smiling, and above all, bemused.