By Freida Marie Crump
The Coonridge Digest
Greetings from the Ridge.
“Herb, we’re too old. We just can’t do it anymore.”
“Speak for yourself, Freida. I’ve still got it in me.”
“Whatever was in you has long since left, Herbie. It’s time to hang it up.”
And so began our annual battle on whether or not to plant a garden. I’m not entirely unsympathetic. I know that there’s something in the DNA of a retired farmer that makes him want to dip his hands into the dirt once the frost comes out of the ground and May rolls around. We used to have an old cow that quit giving milk after about ten years, but she’d walk into the barn every morning with the others, expecting some miracle to occur. That’s Herb to a tee. He spends March and April daydreaming about luxurious rows of green beans and tomato plants so by mid-summer he’s plumb tuckered with the daily routine of hoeing and watering and it’s Freida Marie who spends the rest of the summer trying to save Herb’s garden.
“It’s the American way, Freida! A man’s got to have his garden or he loses touch with what makes him a man!”
“Look in the mirror, sweetheart. You’re about 15 years too late.”
“George Washington! Thomas Jefferson! I’m next in the line of great American patriots who loved their gardens!”
“And who you do you think was home weeding, picking and pickling while George and Tom were off crossing their Delaware’s and penning their Declarations?”
This is when the argument goes into phase two. “We’ll just cut back, then. Just plant a few things.”
“You can’t plant a few tomatoes, Herb. They morph overnight. They clone each other in the light of the moon. Zucchini takes on a life of its own. Peppers and peas multiply when your back is turned. By the time the garden is in full-bore I’ll be out there every night picking squash while you by the air conditioner telling me that you’ll get to it tomorrow.”
One year I told him I’d plant the garden then I went to town and bought a basketful of plastic vegetables. I scattered them here and there over our little plot after a couple of weeks figuring that he’d only see them through the kitchen window anyway. When it came time to gather the crop I’d grab a handful of corn and beans from the grocery store. Just my luck he’d pick that year to actually walk out back to the garden and I had to do the Heimlich on him to cough up a rubber radish.
“Freida, there’s a drought in California this year and we won’t be able to get vegetables.”
“Then go to the Farmers’ Market, Herb. I’ve yet to see a suntanned San Diego melon peddler at our local market. We spent the first 70 years of our lives growing the turnips. Let’s spend the next 70 eating them.”
“I don’t like turnips.”
“You’re missing the point.”
Phase three finds Herb waxing romantic about the sublime joys of a homegrown tomato. It figures that the closest he ever comes to poetry would be in a fit of ecstasy over a vegetable. “I’m not talking about those plastic tomatoes they slap on your Big Mac, Freida! Just think what we’ll be missing on our August hamburgers!”
I tell him that there’s a quick cure for the tomato problem and it’s called neighbors. “Just do your feeble old man routine, Herb. Walk up and down the street moaning about your tomato deficiency and by the time you get to the end of the block the kind folks in our neighborhood will have fresh produce hanging from every screw in your walker.”
Which brings us to phase four, the reconciliation. I’ll tell Herb we can have a garden if he’ll till and plant it. Some time around the first of July he’ll get around to it and I can once again content myself to my ideal of toiling over vegetables: eating at Olive Garden with a plastic fork.
You ever in Coonridge, stop by. We may not answer the door but you'll enjoy the trip.