Working the soil

I’ve decided: I’m going into farming.

It was an impulsive decision, of course. Like all the others.

A scanned red tomato, along with leaves and fl...
Image via Wikipedia

On my way into HEB this morning, passing shelves packed with plants, I had a vision: homegrown tomatoes. Red, sweet, tart, fleshy, seedy, from-vine-to-table tomatoes. Real tomatoes.

Bacon and tomato sandwiches.

I selected two hardy specimens and set them in the baby seat of my shopping cart.

A recently blossomed flower on a Quadrato d'As...
Image via Wikipedia

Then my eye fell on the bell pepper plants, and I had another vision: $1.18 each, regular price.

That’s today. Goodness knows how much they’ll cost tomorrow.

I selected one pepper plant and set it in the shelf at the front of the cart.

Then I pushed them all over the store so people could appreciate my virtue.

It is a truth universally acknowledged that God made the country and man made the town.

I shall sow little seraphic seeds, regenerating the asphalt jungle.

I shall be a veritable Wordsworth, taking solace in nature.

Five minutes into planting, I shall start to itch, but a poet must sacrifice for his art, and I’m determined to have at least one decent tomato before summer is over.

It won’t be easy, though. I come from a long line of farmers, there’s not an agrarian bone in my body. I spent my life wandering among the cotton wagons lined up at the gin scale, but I can’t tell you when the ginning begins. August? Late July?

Image via Wikipedia

Every summer, I asked what people meant when they talked about the square, and my mother would launch into a detailed description of the maturation of the cotton plant. I never got the picture.

I know what a nice stand of maize looks like, and I can identify a corn field burning up in the sun (South Carolina, summer 1986), but that’s about all. I know that oats are very green and very pretty in winter.

I should be ashamed of myself. My father loved nothing more than getting on a tractor and plowing, watching the black soil turn. He and Mother talked crops and cows over dinner.

I, on the other hand, spent my life with my nose in a book. In summers, I took my nose out long enough to go swimming and horseback riding, but most of that was done between chapters. I named all the cows, but I saw them as pets.

My body was in the country. My mind was in the bookmobile.

But now I’m returning to my roots.

I brought the plants home, set the tomatoes in front of the microwave and the pepper on the table. (Counter space is at a premium here.)

When William jumped onto the table, as I knew he would, I put the pepper in the sink.

Before I go to bed, I’ll put all three plants into the bathtub and close the bathroom door. Cows you can trust; cats you can’t.

Tomorrow I’ll buy potting soil, get out the Benadryl, and make myself a farm.

And then I’m going to apply for my government subsidy.


Thanks to William Cowper ( “The Sofa,” from The Task ) for writing, “God made the country and man made the town.” Thanks to Jane Austen (Pride and Prejudice) for writing the rest of that sentence.

Image of tomato by David Besa from Sonoma, USA (Flickr) [CC-BY-2.0 (], via Wikimedia Commons

Image of bell pepper (Quadrati d’Asti Giallo) by JayMGoldberg (Own work) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

Image of cotton boll by KoS (Own work) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons