Our Year on the Farm


The Green Plague

When we had moved into our house, I’d asked our landlord about planting a garden. He tilled up a patch next to our shed, and as the summer wore on, we took great pride in our modest rectangle of neatly tended rows of vegetables. The smell and feel of the earth as we worked it, the appearance of the first blossoms, and the satisfying crunch of freshly-picked spinach or beans made the hours of work seem more like recreation. We made periodic trips to the manure pile for fertilizer, and had animated discussions about whether we should sleep with the windows open or closed. My wife, who grew up in Lancaster County, Pennsylvania, rather enjoyed the earthy stench of cow dung. I, being from the suburbs and therefore more fully enlightened, understood this material to be nothing more than raw sewage. If the cesspool had run over, I reasoned, would we set up our lawn chairs in the puddle so we could enjoy its delicate perfume? Of course we would not. So why should we lie in bed and inhale sewer gas? Personally, I would have preferred bus fumes.

This was not a crop; it was a plague.

We had naively planted ten hills of zucchini—enough, we soon discovered, to supply a national chain of vegan restaurants. This was not a crop; it was a plague. We ate zucchini bread, zucchini muffins, zucchini casserole, and zucchini soup. Lying in bed at night (with the windows open), we could almost hear the things growing.

A woman at our church had put her husband on a diet. Every week we took her a grocery bag full of zucchini, and one day her husband, a towering hulk of humanity, grabbed my lapels and slid me up the wall until I was at eye level with him.

“Listen, Pal,” he said amiably between clenched teeth, “if you ever bring one more zucchini into this church, I’m gonna have to kill ya!” He set me down and patted my cheeks good-naturedly.

I heard from him not too long ago, after all these years. He’s fine—a grandfather now—and he told me about his family and his work. He and his wife live in a new house in another town. Business is brisk.

As I recall, the subject of zucchinis never came up.

Zucchini image came from the Smart Money Guide blog site.

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7 thoughts on “Our Year on the Farm”

  1. HA! Funny man. Ever heard of the phrase ‘breed like rabbits’? The zucchini plants were the originators! You should tell your friend about zucchini lasagna though. Long strips of zucchini coated in cheese, glorious cheese nestled in a bath of tangy marina sauce! Oh yeah, I forgot, tomatoes breed like rabbits too…

    Although, I must say, as a bus driver, I’ll take your ‘sewer gas’ over ‘bus fumes’ any day of the school week…

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