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The woman I'd like to be

(post, Lalena Dolby)


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Lives and farms on Marsh Road, a dead end on the edge of Verboort, Oregon.  She is in her 60s. Large oval tinted glasses rest low on her nose as she ambles along from the greenhouse to greet me in her aquamarine gardening apron, which gently cascades over her plump center. 

She asks what she can do for this young lady, and twenty minutes later, I’ve admired her twelve chickens, toured her herb nursery, and met the farm dog, Dutchess, whom her husband used to call Suzie but for some reason started calling Dutchess some time ago.  I say I’d like some eggs and she says, "12 for 2 or 18 for 3?" This is when I know I’m dealing with the type of rural person I grew up with, and love. She is practical and resourceful, and beats to her own drum. No $7-a-dozen-eggs-because-the-market-will-bear-it on this farm. Barbara simply sells the extra eggs she and her husband can’t eat. She’s washed them, she says, but can’t guarantee them against salmonella. I take my chances.  They are the most perfect eggs I’ve laid my eyes on in a while.

I ask about the tomato starts, which she propagates herself. One in particular caught my eye, 'Bonny Best'. I ask her about it and she tells me that when she first moved to this land in 1973 there was an old man in Verboort growing this one. She loved it and has grown it ever since. 

When all was said and done, I’d been set back $9 and had a truck full of diverse farm treasures— a fuzzy leaved peppermint scented geranium, eighteen beautiful multicolored eggs, 'Bonny Best', and a sprouting garlic bulb and three stalks of lovage that she threw in, because I liked them, and she is generous. But best of all, she gave me wise words. When I expressed my appreciation for her green thumb, she said: "When we are children, we start with just a tiny sprout in a window sill. And when we are old, we might have a small potted geranium on the table in the retirement home. And, in between, well, we get to do this."

This weekend, I lived up the in-between. Life is short and growing is long, and so I went a little crazy in my barely 400 square foot plot of land. Here is what I planted:

Big Leaf Cilantro, Carrots, Asparagus Bean (Dow Gauk-Yard Long Bean), Mideast Prolific Cucumber, Blue Lake and Treviso bush beans, Jalepeño Pepper, Sweet Marconi Pepper, Demon Hot Thai Pepper, that garlic bulb Barbara gave me, onion sets that I found on the community table at the garden, Italian shell beans given to me by a friend that are rumored to be the same ones that Ayers Creek grows, an insectory mix by Wild Garden Seed,  and of course, old man Verboort’s 'Bonny Best'.