Down on the funny farm

hay bale

I missed out on the hippy movement of the 1970s because I thought I wanted to be a banker. The banking environment wasn’t receptive to tee shirts and earth shoes, so I squeezed myself into a navy blue suit and unbearably high heels and called myself a banker.


I never did figure out how to compute a percentage so that career was short-lived. I moved on to even more unsuitable vocations – all the while longing to be in the great outdoors digging in the dirt or feeding a herd of chickens.

The greatest gift you can give a child is to advise him to figure out what he likes and pursue a career in that area. He will never have to work a day in his life.

Fast forward about four decades. I’ve decided to give in to my natural urges to grow and nurture things. One big problem: I have a garden the size of a postage stamp. It’s surrounded on all four sides by towering oak trees which cast deep shadows on the property. I can’t grow monkey grass much less a cucumber.

Thankfully, my best friend, Jack. has a huge backyard and he offered the space to do with as I please, although he did draw the line on my plans for a goat and a few chickens. He provides the land and the water; I supplied the plants and supplies; and my son “B” tends the whole thing.


We had a major hurdle to overcome: We know zilch about urban farming and when the three of us get together to do our “gardening,” I’m reminded of The Three Stooges. We bump into each other and get tangled up in the hoses. On day two, we discovered most of the tender sprouts had been attacked by slugs. We poured beer into bowls and placed them around the garden, a new twist on the “beer garden.” The slugs hop in, slurp up the beer and can’t get out. At least they die happy.

We’re dreaming of a bumper crop of exotic vegetables. We planted 18 heirloom tomatoes with strange names like Baltic Stupice, Bloody Bath, Caspian Pink and Black Krim. We also planted sugar snap peas and an assortment of squashes and peppers. My new variety of Drunken Woman Frizzy Headed Lettuce is already being harvested, but it’s a tad bitter.

We also planted some Trinidad Scorpion Peppers which are the hottest pepper known to man.  They score a million units on the Scoville scale. I don’t know what we will do with them – make pepper spray perhaps?

I’m thinking of reserving a space at the Community Market to sell what we can’t consume. There’s a limit to how many BLTs one can eat on a hot summer day. I also plan to make my own tomato sauce and can it up in Ball Jars. Move over Paul Newman, I’m coming soon to supermarkets everywhere.

I figure I’ve spent around $400 in setting up this garden. Crazy? Yes. We could have purchased tomatoes for the next three years for less than that. But hey, it’s a hobby. Golfers, who spend a fortune on green fees and hi-tech metal clubs, may forever remain weekend duffers. Fishermen who spend thousands on boats and lures may never bring home anything larger than a guppie.

If we get only a dozen tomatoes, it will be okay. You can bury a lot of troubles digging in the dirt.  It occurs to me that urban farmers are the ultimate study in hopeful people.  We do all this work without any idea what we are doing, yet hold out hope that something will grow and produce.

I’ve learn one lesson. Don’t wear perfume to the garden unless you want to be pollinated by a herd of bees.

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