Sunday, March 04, 2007

Farm Market

This morning I woke up hearing the drip of spring melting. We've had a few minor snowfalls here this winter. Certainly nothing to complain about, except for black ice keeping me out of my driveway and garage for a few weeks. Listening to the thaw, I conjured a picture of the white ground in my mind, and smiled to think we would see what was under the snow soon. For some reason I suddenly got excited because I thought of my favorite local farm market, The Pickin' Patch. I had desperately missed the market since we last went there at Halloween to take a hayride and haul our pumpkins. Some weeks hence, The Pickin' Patch would open and offer tender garden plants. In the summer, depending on the month, we would be able to get a map of this year's farm in the shop, walk or drive out into the vast fields, and pick succulent non-Big-Agra produce.

Next, I tried to remember the last time I'd been to the market.

Late last summer, almost too late to get anything at the farm, my in-laws brought our 15-year-old niece to visit over a long weekend. We all thought it would benefit her to see another part of the country and get her out of her rather stifling, boring routine at home. She is a very introverted girl who seems unsure who she is. We don't know, either; but perhaps a change would open her horizons a little. She is quite sweet and level-headed, even if she insists on wearing smudged black Goth makeup around her eyes and spike-studded leather bracelets on her arms. And skull rings. And Chuck Taylor high-tops. (You'd have to expect this. What else? When she was a baby and little girl, her mother never let her wear anything but frilly pink and blue girly clothes. She's gotta throw something back in her mother's face.)

We gave her the Tyke's room, and the Tyke stayed on the pull-out sofa (wicked! He loved it! The sofa rocked!). We decided that on Saturday or Sunday morning I would take niece to the Pickin' Patch, and we'd go grab us a mess o' stuff. I was really looking forward to taking her out there, huffing and puffing as we trudged to the correct plot, and tromping around in the mud and yanking live fresh food out of the ground. I was sure she had never done this before, and it would do her good, and we could bond a bit along the way.

The morning came and we all had our breakfast. Niece spent part of the morning up in Tyke's room reading, and then came down for bagels. Then she went back up with the mandate that her purpose was getting ready to go to the market with me.

Quite a bit of time passed. Grandma and I cleaned up, and we killed time by discussing little articles Grandma had snipped out from newspapers and magazines and brought to us. Grandma and I nervously looked at the clock several times. Odd--Niece is usually pleasantly compliant in addition to her extreme quietness. But Niece didn't come down. And kept not coming down. I was waiting. We had other plans for the afternoon (touring Mark Twain's house just down the road, for instance), so I started pondering going it alone in order to get back in time to do the next activity.

Finally I picked up my purse and started heading down the stairs. Grandma said, "Well, I thought you were going to take [Niece] with you?"

"Well, yes, that was my plan; but it's been more than an hour and she hasn't come down. That's okay. I'll just run out and get a couple of things and be right back." Grandma looked at me a bit askance, but agreed that it was odd that Niece hadn't come back down.

I went over the mountain to the Pickin' Patch and got my instructions about where to go from the clerk kid at the cash register in the shack. I was after yellow crookneck squash and a big mess of Swiss chard. I was wheezing and immediately was sorry that I had chosen this day to go to the patch; the plots I needed to access seemed miles away from the shack and my inhaler wasn't helping eradicate the asthma at all. I walked and walked and finally got there.

At first the pickin's seemed slim. Then I realized I was in the cucumbers. A really respectable gang of weeds camouflaged every vegetable I was looking for. This actually made me happy; it meant the farm wasn't bombarding the crops with pesticides, and that the surviving plants were hardy. I wandered around from row to row until I could identify what I wanted, and went in for the pick. I got such a huge bag of chard, and such a haul of squash, and so many whole bushes of basil, that I was sorry I hadn't brought some duffel bags or rucksacks--or a wheelbarrow, or a horse. It was hard to hold the plastic bags without their tearing my hands or my dropping them. But what a satisfying piece of work!

After I trudged for what seemed an hour, I arrived back at the shack and set my haul down. I got a few of the season's last tomatoes from inside the stand and paid for the lot of it.

When I got home, Niece was out of Tyke's room, reading at the breakfast table. Grandma was waiting for me, with her hand over her mouth.

This is what she said, very quietly.

"Well, remember how I thought it was so strange that you would leave without Niece? It's a good thing you did. During the time you were gone, I finally went up there to see what she was doing. It turns out she was up there the whole time locked in Tyke's room. She couldn't get out because that darned doorknob came off again and left her stranded. But she didn't holler or ask for help or anything."

We had us a grand meal that night.

Hats off to you, Pickin' Patch! I look forward to the next time I can unknowingly, viciously, lock my niece in my house of horror and drive off in search of fresh produce.


At 3/09/2007 3:41 PM, Blogger Nance said...

I know I was just here, and there was not this raft of posts. Do you suddenly download a ton of them after editing?

Anyway, how horrible for your niece! What did she say? I can't believe you didn't tell that in your post!

And I would absolutely love to be able to have a place to grow a bushel of basil. Mmmmm. What did it cost, if I may ask?


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