Occasionally, I get a bee in my bonnet. Or ants in my pants. Whatever insectually-inclined idiom you use, I call it “hot-foot.” I need to fix something that isn’t broken, I try to change something that doesn’t need changing, I want to pack up my bindle and hit the road.
Why? It could be genetic. Being a “matzo-pizza” I am the product of two famously nomadic tribes — the Jews, usually at the hands of some Cossack-induced pogrom, and the Sicilians . . . well, let’s just say mi famiglia had to move and change their names a lot.
For whatever reason, I am at the top of my form whilst planning some escape route — whether it’s a three-day vacation or a total 180 in Who I Am and What I Do.
In the past 10 years I have been a journalist, an editor, an artists’ model, actor, innkeeper, life coach, screenwriter, restaurant owner, fund-raiser, goatherd, Reiki master, pug breeder, minister, mom, retreat leader, public speaker, Civil Service liaison, and a director on endless volunteer boards, from those of statewide lodging and restaurant associations to local business bureaus to arts organizations, and sometimes juggling many of those at the same time.
Some people don’t like change. I thrive on it. And the change that I have been focusing on lately is to become a farmer.
In my Harriet the Spy notebook, I furiously jot notes of vegetables we would grow, animals we would keep, where we would live, how much acreage we would need. Would I sell food, make candles, or form some other cottage industry, or simply become self-sufficient enough to live off the fat of my own land? It’s a fantasy that dwells in a John Steinbeck dream. Maybe I could tend the rabbits. I love rabbits.
An honest appraisal is always useful at this point. I know as much about farming as, say, a dog knows about cooking. I love the sights, the smells, the delicious outcome of farm produce. But only rarely, if ever, has one of my dogs fixed me dinner. And my sad little 6-by-6 garden of fragile eggplants the size of teardrops, grossly misshapen cucumbers, and tomatoes that adamantly refuse to ripen certainly does nothing for my pastoral résumé.
What I know about farm life is what I read: I am an armchair farmer, plowing through books instead of fields; the stories of Michael Pollan, Barbara Kingsolver, and other writers who try their hand at living the rural life grow verdant in my imagination.
Earlier this season, my husband, Eric, brought a tomato worm into the house. It was beautiful in its own way; huge and bright green, with interesting little horns on its head, and cute little baby tomato worm eggs on its back.
“Awww, how sweet,” I thought. But they weren’t destined to be cute little worm babies. They were wasp eggs, ready to devour the caterpillar the moment they emerged, eating him alive to become big nasty stingy things.
I was horrified. I insisted, before the revolting larvae hatched, that we all stand around the toilet, say a little blessing for the tomato worm, and then ceremoniously send him off to the great Septic System in the Sky, a vastly preferable fate to being wasp food.
Eric, who was born here, learned how to drive a tractor on the Dayton farm when he was 10 or 12. Or maybe it was at the Marders’. He has worked at various garden shops and nurseries over the years, and had his own landscaping business back in the day. Planting comes naturally to him. He can name everything in its original form — “plantica erratica” or “silexia novatopia,” sending me into a marginally less-mustachioed Gomez Addams swoon. Plant Latin is my Spanish Fly. Don’t think he doesn’t know it.
But planting, as a career, is obviously way over my head, as are all the other things that make up a farmer’s life: keeping books, marketing wares, packaging, shipping, tomato worms and wasps, dealing with subsidies and farm bills, keeping up with new laws, and other things so beyond my comprehension that it would be insulting to a farmer for me to try to include them here.
I could never do it. Ever.
So then I have to ask myself: Why change? I wake up every morning next to a guy who says “another day in paradise” while looking at me, and he seems to mean it. I have three healthy, brilliant children who appear to enjoy my company 94 percent of the time, and have the power to make me laugh even when I don’t want to. I have parents and siblings and friends who love me (and the feeling is mutual), and a career that — if I look at my mental punch list for the perfect job — pretty much covers the bases.
The best way I can show my love for the bucolic ideal in my head is to support those who actually do it for a living. I buy from local farmers as much as possible.
It’s time to take a few deep breaths and put down roots; not the kind that grow in the ground, but those of the rare yet productive “bridgetus stayputicus” variety.
Bridget LeRoy is a reporter at The Star.