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Farm To Farm

Dry, scorching days have sent watermelon vines running, sweet corn stalks shooting. I've been irrigating broccoli, sugar snap peas, and carrots overnight, the first harvests coming in for our new vegetable CSA, produce we will be delivering door-to-door to our subscribers.

We, I say. Part of the reason I needed a woofer around was to accompany me on the home deliveries. A farmer tries to learn from mistakes of the past, and over a decade farming in Boonville I certainly banged my noggin against some hard lessons, like discovering that electric fence wire doesn't work in dry conditions unless you run a ground wire about six inches to a foot from the charged one. Back in the summer of '04, the old Jersey, three-titter, hippie cow that we inherited from Franz at Star automotive schooled me by mowing down rows of sugar snap peas, carrots, beets, and lettuce once the moisture had evaporated from the soil, transforming the clay from conductor to insulator. There were other hard knocks. Lettuce molded under fabric rowcovers, chickens got confused when I tried moving the mobile coop, but the gravest mistake I made farming in Boonville happened after my second ex had left me, housewives showing up for jars of milk let their kids jump on the trampoline while we did more adult stuff in the barn, and the reputation developed that Spec was the “milkman,” offering more than farm goodies.

“I just need a chick to ride around with me while I deliver produce,” I told Antonia. “Don't want to end up with the same reputation here in Indiana.”

The “milkman” reputation was largely exaggerated and not due to any extraordinary powers of charming or seducing on my part; rather the whole setting and circumstance were responsible. Rumors served to enhance the deal. Some of our customers in Boonville indeed experimented with “open” marriages, but more often than not it was the more or less monogamous, faithful housewives who were tempted to mess around in the hay. Things would start innocently enough. So and so would show up regularly, say Tuesday afternoon after yoga or something, and maybe vent about all the stress running kids here and there, the washing machine broke down, typical household headaches that their husbands, equally stressed, were tired of hearing about. They'd vent, and I'd listen. The next time they'd bring beer or a spliff, and so on. Rarely did anything untoward occur, but the reputation billowed in such a small community, one of the main reasons I really had to exit stage and head off to farm in Indiana.

Partially for this reason we're planning to do home deliveries on Thursday evenings when the whole family ought to be home, rather than doing the “milkman” trick of setting jars on doorsteps in the mid-morning when the kids are in school, the husband at work, the housewife bored and lonely, maybe hitting the bottle. Also, the morning is the best time to be out hoeing weeds or harvesting, and I look forward to one evening per week visiting friends while exchanging last week's empty basket with this week's full one, relaxing after a day's work with Antonia at the wheel so I'm free to ride shotgun and sip beer. “This a religious, traditional community,” I tell her, “which means that fooling around is no joke, unlike the relationship you and I have.”

Our romantic life is a joke, not meant to last.

“I don't care, Spec, long as it's for a fun reason.” Antonia, the part-time, night school philosophy professor, taught a standing-room-only course last semester, one based originally on the concept of fun reason that she titled, Erotic Logic. Part of her purpose for doing this tour of duty on the farm is she's compiling research for next year. “I'm just worried I'll end up breaking your heart, anyway. You act like it's a joke, but deep down — ”

“No, you can't break my heart. It's been wrecked too many times. It's totalled. Good thing I had insurance.”


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