I tend to be a little too proud of my new calling as a micro-farmer, but life has a way of putting me in my place. Some days things happen to remind me that I have more in common with Oliver Wendell Douglas than with Eliot Coleman.
For those who don’t recognize the names, Eliot Coleman is a master organic gardener and author. He’s a leading figure in the “grow your own food” movement.
Oliver Wendell Douglas was the central character of “Green Acres,” a sitcom of the 1960s.
He escaped from a successful career in the big city to pursue his lifelong dream of being a farmer. He ended up being an object of the residents’ bemusement. He bought a tumble-down shack that nobody wanted, wore his three piece suits to do farm work, and drove a Lincoln Continental convertible instead of a truck. (Apparently he paid Mr. Haney so much for the farm, shack, and ancient tractor that he couldn’t afford appropriate clothes or vehicles.)
He was given to launching into high-sounding speeches about the noble American farmer making our country great by tending his crops, which his Hungarian wife characterized as his “plants shoosting up to the sky” speech. He had to delay planting his corn once because his index finger got too sore from poking individual holes in the soil for each seed.
Now I had already moth-balled my old business suits before I started Belly Acre farm, but I do admit to planting some crops with an index-finger dibble. My old VW GTI is hardly a Lincoln, though it does look a little odd as a farm wagon.
The other day, Mom’s church circle met at her house while I was working in the garden. I came inside to say hello and to offer some of my surplus to the ladies. They all smiled indulgently (didn’t I see that same smile on Fred Ziffle’s face on Green Acres?).
No, thank you, they all said when I offered an assortment of vegetables. Their husbands or children had provided more than they could use already.
One of the ladies asked a question about how my garden was doing. Just as I was getting ramped up on my “it’s wonderful to work the earth and get back to real food,” (my version of the shoosting speech) she nodded knowingly and said simply, “it’s a lot of work, isn’t it?” That was followed by a round of comments from the group about how much her husband or children worked in their garden and how every year they wonder if it’s worth it to keep doing.
Finally, remembering that Doris Ziffle never quite understood what Oliver was talking about, I excused myself and went back to work.