With the return of sunshine, the acre or so of sand protected from wind by our wooded pasture lot, house, and barn, is heating, drying, and amazing me. Yesterday the official high for our area was 41 F, but my son and I worked in shirt sleeves, bending fourteen foot hog panels into arches we plan to cover with 6 mil greenhouse plastic. I had no thermometer handy, but just feeling around the top inch or so of sand where last fall's carrots were, I had to guess the soil surface about 65 F — without the greenhouse plastic, which has yet to show up via Fed-Ex.
After basically a two-year vacation from farming and gardening on our own, my teenaged-son, Craig, and I are chomping at the bit, and it is possibly a blessing that our financial situation is so tight that our inclination to charge out there like football players and get stuff planted pronto is economically limited. It is still wintertime, and the warming sand won't protect us from some record cold snap.
Craig is more fired up than I am. “C'mon, Dad, quit scewing around,” he says. “Let's go. What are we waiting for?”
Recently the principal of Verona High contacted me during an afternoon nailing shingles on a roof for my buddy, Mort's, contruction company, and thanks to the ringing cell phone I was able to stand up a minute and relax my ankles, back, and knees. This wasn't the first time the principal had called to say Craig was facing afterschool detention and needed to be picked up at four. However, this time we were working on this roof way out in the hills, scrambling to cover one side with shingles before the predicted rain that night, and it would have been lame for me to desert Mort and his brother, Jimmy. We were all busting ass, hustling. “Man, I really can't come in at four. I'm in the middle of a job.”
“Well, Spec, this has been happening way too often. Craig is disrupting class and interfering with the other students' ability to learn. We can't tolerate that monkey business here at Verona High.”
“I agree. I mean, I don't like getting these calls, either. Really, I think we ought to look into home school.”
The principal's tone changed. He liked the idea, you could tell. “It's a lot easier than you think. Tell you what, you come in tomorrow, sign the papers, and I'll waive tonight's detention.”
It was a deal.
The next morning, Craig rode along the country roads, over rolling hills, to the fringes of the Hoosier National Forest to work on the roof with us. It was a gorgeous day, sunny in the mid-fifties, with sandhill cranes cooing from the air. At lunch time we drove into town, to Verona High, and didn't even have to meet with the principal. In the office, the girls and women giggled, reminding us to remove our hats, and sent us to a guidance counselor who gave us about three sheets of paper to sign. I didn't read them. Neither did Craig. After that, he scurried off to his locker and retrieved his gym clothes, notebooks, whatever, and we were free to go, they said.
“But I have to come in like once a week,” said Craig. “Like, check in with you guys?”
“But there must be some state-required curriculum,” I said.
“No. You're on your own.”
That evening I got an e-mail from the State of Indiana to the “MacQuayde Academy.”
I like the ring of it, and that's gonna be the name of our farm. For weeks I'd been trying to bust an original, accurate, catchy name for our developing website, but nothing had stuck. Leave it to the State of Indiana to do the brainstorming, I say. “The MacQuayde Academy,” they said.
We're in business.