Tuesday, August 19, 2014

out here in the fields

Sunday mornings are sacred for me. No, no — not in the religious, church-going way, but in the sense that I don't like to do a goddamn thing. I wake up, make myself a cup of coffee, flip on the TV, plop myself down on the sofa and prepare myself for a full day of Gilligan's Island, The Brady Bunch and a compellingly hokey episode of The Love Boat. Yessir! Sundays don't get much better than that!

Late Saturday evening, our neighbor Rae called to ask if Mrs. P and I would like to accompany her family on a "pick your own produce" adventure at an orchard in the suburbs just south of Philadelphia. My wife, who loves adventures and loves the concept of "the more the merrier," jumped at the invitation. Rae optimistically asked, "Josh is a 'hayride' kind of guy, isn't he?" My wife laughed. "Yeah, sure he is.," she responded. Hanging up the phone, my spouse asked if I'd like to go on the proposed outing. I smiled and answered the same way I have answered many, many times over the past thirty years, "I will be happy to do anything you'd like."

Sunday morning we arrived and piled into a hay-filled, flatbed trailer that was hitched to a tractor — a real live farm tractor. We were informed by the wizened and weather-beaten farmer that we'd be driven out to the area of the farm where we could pick peaches and corn, two produce commodities that I wasn't aware even knew each other. I reluctantly sat down in the dry hay bedding and the tractor rumbled off along a tree-lined, bumpy dirt path. I checked the time. Yep, right about now Peter was probably breaking Mom's favorite lamp, despite repeated warnings to not play ball in the house. Soon, Captain Stubing and crew would be departing for locales "exciting and new" and here I was in the back of a farm vehicle, covered in what was, essentially, horse feed.

Rotten peaches, rottin' in the sun
The tractor shuddered to a halt and, armed with the cardboard box equivalent of a bushel, we headed down a wide aisle shaded by leafy peach trees. Now, I don't eat a lot of fruit. I was a bit disappointed that we wouldn't have the opportunity to select our own pineapples and bananas. I had swarthy visions of hacking the mighty stems with a machete, until it was explained to me that those tropical fruits only grow in the tropics (hence the name) and that Delaware County, Pennsylvania did not fall into the realm of a tropical clime. Still, I followed my group as they strolled among the trees choosing large peaches, their skin blushing and inviting (the peaches, I mean). Some (like the ones pictured) weren't so lucky to be among the picked. We set forth with the harvest, and satisfied with our haul in the peach department, we crossed a ruddy, dirt path to where a series of corn stalks were compacted into cramped rows. Now, I like corn. It is tops on my "Vegetables I Will Eat" list, followed closely by French fries and more corn. (I know, I profess to being a vegetarian, but that doesn't mean I exclusively eat vegetables. It means I don't eat meat. As a matter of fact, I don't really care for vegetables. But, being a vegetarian does not prohibit me from eating pie and Oreos. And I take full advantage of that.) I uncharacteristically dove headlong into the glut of the corn crop, examining the husk-covered ears clinging to the thick stalks. With an audible crack!, I snapped off some of the larger ears and tossed them into my cardboard carry box where they unnaturally mingled with the peaches. O., Rae's husband, approached me holding an ear of corn, freshly stripped of its protective husk. O. was chomping on a raw piece and offered me a section which he had broken off. "No thank you," I said, as I waved him off, "I prefer mine cooked. I don't want to eat raw corn out here like I'm an escaped prisoner hiding from the warden's guards in a cornfield and foraging for food."

The hay wagon pulled up, ready to drive us back to the parking lot. Our little group boarded, along with a dozen or so others, like migrant farm workers returning from a hard day in the fields, all carrying their spoils of the earth's bounty. As we chugged to a stop at our destination, I turned and announced to my fellow "You Pick"ers that all of this stuff is readily available at a place called a 'supermarket' and little to no effort need be exerted to yield the exact same result.

He Who Walks Behind The Rows
During our little exercise in "let's pretend to be a farmhand," Mrs. P snapped this photo of me and sent it off to our son via text. She included the message, "Look what I got your Dad to do."

He instantly replied, "What? Go outside?"

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