Savannah Morning News
June 7, 2015
Man, do I love farmers. Not those big old big-bellied corporate types sitting behind giant pieces of machinery, working thousands of acres, backed by vats of noxious poison, but those human types who get out to broadcast seeds by hand, get down to pull pernicious weeds, get close to check for suspicious nibbling, get serious to research how to combat said nibbling, get creative to rid predators, get up early to catch the worm and get to bed early after a little interlude in front of the tube with a spoon and a carton of Talenti black raspberry chocolate chip gelato.
It’s a beautiful thing what they do, our farmers. Maybe the noblest thing of all.
Yes, some of us call ourselves gardeners but that’s a far cry from being a farmer. That’s like saying if we play tennis or swim laps we understand how Serena Williams feels if she misses an overhead or Michael Phelps if he has a bad turn at the split.
Right about now, I’d rather leave the heavy lifting of the summer gardening to someone else. Let someone else worry about the corn (it’s tasseling too early), the tomatoes (they’re setting blooms but not fruiting), the watermelon (they’re starting their world domination sprawl and are about to overtake the purslane).
I’m more likely to put together a bouquet of flowers every other day than pick enough vegetables for dinner. The other day the garland du jour included the all-time beautiful alstromeria (or Peruvian lily), the stunning red/orangey crocosmia, a mound of tall, white yarrow (although I’d rather have yellow, but that’s a gardener for you, never satisfied), a nice selection of the delicate, undulating sea oats (the legal kind), a few spears of the independent and handsome equisetum (or horsetail), and, the kicker, some unruly and striking snips of gloriosa lily (a plant so beautiful someone in the Postal Service thought it deserved to be on a stamp).
None of these plants have been watered. Ever.
None have been fertilized, weeded, mulched, top-dressed, treated or enriched.
None have listened to Mozart, Sibelius or Nine Inch Nails.
When it comes to the summer and the garden my attention span is that of a two-year-old. I might stroll through, scissors in hand, snip- snip- snipping something for the dining room table; checking on the progress of the moonflowers, or glancing upwards at the giraffe-like frangipani to see if it’s bloomed yet (it hasn’t). But that is about all I feel like doing. I’m not proud of this; it’s just a fact.
It’s a terrible thing when you realize your passion is waning. It’s as bad as opening three books and finding none to your liking, hanging up 75 garlic plants to cure and then thinking maybe the smell of garlic might be making you a little sick or deciding it’s a perfect day to make guacamole but none of your avocadoes are ripe and neither are any in the markets.
It’s not about the heat, this aversion to the garden. This happens to be a very cool summer. We even have an occasional breeze.
It’s not about the work. There are crazy people like myself who love to weed and leave plants all tidy so they can have room to grow and thrive, an activity I don’t mind doing in other people’s gardens (it’s a mitzvah, a good deed) as long as it’s not in my own.
It’s not about the food. We do not have to live on what we grow. We can go to the farmers markets or the grocery store any time we want.
It’s just about taking a break, the way people up North do in the winter. They stay inside. They read. They clean out their closets. They write letters. They might watch movies in the day (horrors! I just ordered Leon Uris’ “Exodus.” Perfect. It’s three hours long).
But when I want those long skinny cucumbers you can eat skin and all or the heat-loving eggplant for eggplant parmesan or wax beans you can simmer and eat straight out of the pot – or fresh peaches, tomatoes or okra – there’s always our local farmers. Man, do I love farmers.