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Farm To Farm

Friday I emerged from bed a couple hours after noon, made a pot of tea and went out back to toss a loaf of cheap ass white bread to the five hens and one cock who comprise my entire wealth of livestock these days.  I got by for about eight months without purchasing feed, finding that overgrown zucchini when busted against the concrete floor of the coop sufficed as a staple.  Of course this was supplemented with sweetcorn, watermelons, cantaloupe, etc., and later the delicata and butternut winter squash.

The squash supply ran out recently, and I keep meaning to get to the feed store in town but the river's been out, transforming the four mile trip through the bottoms into a twenty-five mile journey on the highways, so I've been buying that 99 cent bread at the grocery store.

It may sound odd that a farmer would be snoring the day away, awakening when the sun has already begun its apparent descent to the south and west.  I guess the term "farmer" would be loosely applied to me these days.

"Are you happy with how the season went?" my buddy Mort asked one afternoon in December while I painted closets in the house he had constructed with the intent to sell.  He'd offered me the work mostly just to hang out with me for a day and see how I was doing.  Painting closets would be a good job for Spec, he no doubt concluded.

With inadequate ventilation, the paint fumes were getting to my head and I had to go open a window, crack a beer, and fire up a bowl of reefer before I set into describing the 2013 farm season at "Driftwood CSA."

Early in the spring it became apparent that my teenaged son, now 16, and I needed some female company at the farm.  He had embarked on what the Amish dub a "rumspringa," meaning the rebellious period when kids are expected to run feral.  Without a second adult to back me up in the daily battles, my hands were tied if he decided to go to war, and my situation was hopeless.

"You need an older woman who's responsible and will help take care of that boy," the older women told me.

At first I didn't want to invite a woman who would go romantic on me.  After farming together and raising two boys in Boonville for nearly a decade with my second Ex, my heart won't allow another farm romance.  Every night I still dream that my second Ex and my two youngest sons--now 8 and 10 and living as migratory hunter gatherers in various paradises seasonally--the deserts of New Mexico, the mountains of Washington, and currently the Big Island of Hawaii--have reunited with me at the Farmhouse in Indiana.  Those two boys, as well as my teenaged son who is living in Indiana with me, are the reason I got into farming.  Well, my second Ex actually spurred me on about the year 2000, when we met at Round Mountain Ranch in Ukiah where I was goofing off, growing half an acre of watermelons and some Hopi Blue corn but mostly partying and pretending to be a professional poet, whatever that is.  This amazing woman encouraged me to actually give  farming a shot.  Without her and the two boys who are both enthusiastic about growing vegetables, my heart just isn't in the growing of vegetables.  The same for my teenaged son, who longs to have his younger brothers here.

So this spring, with my teenaged son, now bigger than me in stature, insisting on sleeping until late in the afternoon, I elected to invite a young lesbian couple to live at the farm.  Mostly I just wanted somebody else to give a fuck about cleaning the bathroom and kitchen, and to label the different receptacles "Recycling" or "Trash."  Also I needed a second party on hand when my son became ridiculously confrontational, to witness the affair and prevent violence and insanity.  I thought two cheerful lesbians would solve the problem.  "The girls," as everyone called them, in their early twenties, actually enjoyed drugs and parties much more than they cared about whether their food was grown organically, and soon the farm turned into a chaotic festival of debauchery.  A girlfriend of theirs, Jetta, started coming out, and little to my knowledge (at first), the farm I knew during the day, as I half-heartedly attempted to coax somebody to  help me plant onions, etc., contrasted sharply with the "Farmhouse" as it is known, at night while I slumbered from my day's endeavors.

Jetta caught my eye and also, as we started sleeping and going out together, revealed to me what had been going on at night while I slept, which explained why nobody could get out of bed until four in the damn afternoon.

Either due to jealousy or some other causes, "the girls" and my son all split, while Jetta moved in.

"I can't ever feel romantic again," I told her.  "You can be my 'hoe,' though."

Jetta agreed to the concept.  She played the role in high style, probably the first vendor ever at the Saturday Market in Bloomington to strut around in high heels and a mini skirt, half drunk on vodka at nine in the morning.  The other vendors--especially the older guys, would come up to our stand out of curiosity just to watch our evolving theater.

Not one to let a pun go unexploited, my thoughts wandered as I hoed weeds, now accompanied by a twenty-two year old gal whose string bikini comprised most of her daily attire.  "The only thing I was ever good at was using a hoe," I told people.  "I ought to do an instructional video."

"We should have a music festival," this buddy they call "Hippie," suggested.

"Yeah, 'Hoefest,'" said Jetta.

Gradually we signed up local bands and set the date for late September.  As early as July, though, musicians started coming out to the Farmhouse in the evenings, as we set up a stage in the living room.  I had started playing the banjo one year earlier, finding it much more enjoyable than the guitar had been, and decided to hell with it--if my son was going off on his rumspringa, I'd do the same.

"My dad's just going through his mid-life crisis," he told Jetta in one of his frequent attempts to set off her rage.  "When he's over it, he'll kick you out."

"He's just trying to piss you off," I advised her.  "Don't let him bait you like that.  He does a lot of fishing, is why he's a master baiter."

The music scene eclipsed our farming efforts.  Over the winter I'd composed one song, "Damn She Got My Lighter," that people--even teenagers--kept requesting, so I had to come up with more tunes.  I'd never really wanted to be one of those musicians who play by themselves all the time, and enjoyed all the practicing even if the weeds were choking out the bell peppers and sweetcorn.

Our plan was to take the stage at Hoefest, though with the stress of putting on a music festival I barely got out to play "Damn She Got My Lighter," on Saturday night, and bungled some of the words.

However, one of the bands who played at "Hoefest," the "Reno Boys," invited my friends and I to start playing an open mic with them up in the city of Seymour on Wednesday nights, which led to gigs in Bloomington, so far.  Our approach is evolving, as the Reno Boys are a string band more talented than I, musically, so for now I sort of open for them and am thrilled when some of those guys join me on mandolin or guitar.

"I almost like your banter between songs better than anything," the sound guy in Seymour said.

I wasn't sure if he was trying to say that my songs sucked, or if he was genuinely complimenting my humor.  However, due to those comments I used connections from the music festival to get signed up for a comedy night at Max's place in Bloomington.  The plan, the first time, was to do a short intro to the song, "Damn She Got My Lighter."  Short due to the five minute time limit.

"I bet I never even get around to playing the song," I told a nurse in her mid-forties who has been taking me to see all kinds of country and rock acts in the big cities, also inviting me to give private concerts in her living room.  Were it not for her encouragement the last year or so my act would never have developed.

Sure enough, the first night at Max's Place I got lost on this tangent pretending to be stuck in the 90's, and went four minutes past the five minute limit before asking the sound guy if I still had time to play the song.  They invited me back, and the next time saved my act for the last one before the headliner, assuring that I didn't have to worry about the five minute limit.  Finally I succeeded in playing, "Damn She Got My Lighter," after going off about the Donner Party for several minutes.

After enduring decades of humiliation attempting to pose as a farmer in this absurd Global Economy that is rapidly falling to ruin, I'm enjoying myself.  "You chose the wrong profession," people have been telling me all these years.  "You should be a comedian."

But I'd always shied away from attempting stand-up comedy, mostly because my dad had always said that comedians were the most unhappy people on earth.  Now I have decided if people are going to be laughing at me all the time, anyway, I might as well get paid for it.

You can view the first two comedy performances if you look up "Spec MacQuayde" on YouTube. I hope to return to a farming lifestyle some time this spring, as in a couple weeks it will be time to start planting onions, tomatoes, peppers, broccoli, and other crops in the greenhouse.

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