I began running a tractor when we moved to northeast Colorado. This, in my mind, was basically large-scale gardening: corn, wheat, and hay. I knew how to work the ground before the planter or drill came through, to care for the field, and to harvest the crop.
Growing up, we always had a large garden. Fresh tomatoes, hot from the summer sun, were my favorite summer treat.
Each year, in late May or early June, past any chance of a hard freeze, I take my hope-filled packets of seeds, and sow them into my little patch of worked ground. I tenderly and diligently water, weed, and sing The Garden Song (https://youtu.be/v9ZYZa5U9zM) to all the neat rows of zucchini, cucumber, and squash. I dream of fresh healthy goodness on my plate and of filling my freezer with the taste of summer in the long cold winter.
I gave up tomatoes first.
Try as I might, the tasty red beauties refuse to materialize.
After that went watermelon and cantaloupe. I already know there will be no cucumbers…some sharp-toothed critter gets through every barrier I erect or devise to protect and eats the tender leaves right down to the ground.
Squash plants grow and wind and their orange flowers push me to think about spaghetti sauce and parmesan cheese on those hot strands of translucent yellow yum. Alas no. Raccoons and skunks lurk, and sensing ripeness, drag the long vines out of the garden. They munch spots here and there and then simply abandon them in the dark of night.
But the zucchinis are the worst. They grow in their bush like ways and no animals ever bother. I watch and wait as each flower turns into cinnamon spiced bread or chocolately brownies, but only in my mind. If it’s a good year, I might harvest one or two. The flowers refuse to turn to fruit.
Finally, my neighbor to the southwest texts me: “Hey, I have a boatload of zucs, cucs, squash, and tomatoes. Do you want some?”
“I’ll be right over,” I text back. “As soon as I park the tractor.”