Tuesday, March 18, 2014

Keepin' It Light (How a Blonde Beds Sweet Potatoes)


            All he got from my call was that I was confused again. (Nothing unusual to Thurman. This farming/gardening stuff is very new to me ...Fortunately Thurman is a patient man.)  
            He called yesterday to say today was the day to plant my root crops. Getting my sweet potatoes bedded was to be my #1 focus. I've learned the hard way not to plant on the wrong sign. Time spent with Thurman has proven that almanacs and planting calendars are forces to be reckoned with. Planting in the sign of the bowels (for instance), will not a great crop make. (Each sign deserves a commentary all its own, which I shall dwell on later. Learning about almanac signs has been half the fun of knowing Thurman.)
            Meanwhile what Thurman had yet to know about me is that "comic relief" is a big part of my equation. Ask anyone who’s known me for more than a week and you'll know I love practical jokes and my second my favorite holiday makes"Ides of March" look like "Ned in the First Reader" which is to say April Fools Day finds friends avoiding me like the plague... While timeframes, and planting seasons are serious business in anyone’s book, some days it’s just too dang tempting NOT to take advantage of days like this... Suffice it to say, Thurman took the bait.
            For the second time in as many days, Thurman had walked me through the steps of putting my sweet potato eyelets underground, (starting in a bucket, facing sunward so as to sprig outwards and upwards to become --in a matter of weeks-- the “slips” I would plant to ensure this year’s sweet potato harvest.)
Meanwhile, Thurman is well familiar with my often missed interpretation of things. If I’m not holding a pen, writing things down specifically in my notebook, well, he’ll likely hear from me before the day if not the task is through, as I cross check to make sure I did things right.
Because Thurman (being both a true farmer, and true friend) is a man raised by his mama to be both Southernly and gentlemanly, he's very patient in these moments, and good to look over my shoulder when I'm first assigned a new task and good to swing by after his last run to the co-op,  to insure that his patient mentoring isn’t botched by a girl relatively new to farming.
            Today was the day (according to almanacs and feed store planting calendars everywhere) to “bed sweet potatoes” … (if not ALL potatoes, for potatoes are root crops and this was an underground/root crop kinda day. Even “eye” understand this part).
            He called yesterday with the head’s up and we talked again today, going over the step by steps one last time. To make absolutely certain I didn’t botch this proposition, Thurman even spotted me a bucket full of his own dirt. Just to set the stage here: there was no way under God’s blue sky I could screw this thing up… (Insert “Law and Order” drama tone here.)
            At 5:45 this evening I reached Thurman. (Note: Thurman has no cell phone; no answering machine…None of this sophisticated technology designed to save us all time.....Thurman wouldn’t give you a plug nickel for any of this...)
            “Before you call it a day, could you PLEASE come check on my taters?"This was my seedling of an idea...My set up call.... "I THINK I did it right. But just to be safe, could you spot check me on this one?"
            Pulling a page out of my 6-year-old memory bank, I recalled one of my favorite childhood reads-- It was a book called “Amelia Bedelia” …a story that centered on this ditzy maid whose interpretations of tasks, made all us kids giggle.
            In Amelia B’s story, when given her list of maid duties, things like “Change the towels" and “Draw a bath” were interpreted literally. Amelia cut up guest towels to literally change them. She sketched a picture of her bath in literal line "drawing". 
            In like manner, I decided if I was to “bed” my sweet potatoes, Thurman deserved a blonde interpretation. After all, what's farming if we can't throw in a little humor? How funny would it be to see my biggest three taters (with big ol root-eyes sprigging from the tops of their so-called heads), tucked in side by side as if ready for bed, surrounded by stuffed critters purchased earlier this week at the local Goodwill store (so as to feel no guilt when the pups tear them apart).
            The look on Thurman’s face was priceless.
            Yes, I know a farmer's time is valuable. But making Thurman laugh has value as well.To see these dirt-covered sweet potatoes, strategically tucked in their little dirt bed in true “This is how a blonde would do it" fashion, well, it was worth the price of the ticket to see Thurman roll his eyes. In true Amelia Bedelia style, I “bedded" my taters alright…complete with bedtime story book tucked by their little sprouting heads.
            At the end of the day and for all Thurman brings to my life…bringing a smile to his face is as important to me as understanding the signs. Thinking up ways to keep him on his toes tops my list of new things to ponder as I farm.... Thinking up new ways to make him roll his eyes is worth every second spent planning, for after all, it's times like these I cherish most.

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