Tuesday, 11 September 2012
The Sunflower Project - Part I: The Fantasy
When you're married to a man like D, you learn that there is no such thing as a casual suggestion. As I've mentioned before, D likes to keep busy; he enjoys projects, especially if they involve the operation of farm equipment or other dangerous machinery.
So it was with a complete lack of sense that I mentioned, one languid evening last summer, that I would love to have a row of sunflowers - just one row - along the north meadow fence. My husband stopped sorting the recycling long enough to fix me with a squint-eyed stare.
I was gardening at the time - pruning the butterfly bush, tearing out old chamomile stems, trimming back the sweet peas - simple acts that allowed my mind to wander. For some reason, it wandered to sunflowers. I'd driven past a giant field of them along the 4th concession earlier that day; all those friendly sunflower faces had made me grin. I'd been charmed. And, more importantly, inspired.
"Sunflowers make people happy, you know," I said, tossing a handful of weeds in D's direction. He snorted. D hates recycling, mostly because I can never remember how to sort it to meet Kinloss dump requirements, and partially because he grew up in a household that burned their garbage - no sorting required. Now was probably not the ideal time to share my daydreams, but what the hell.
I peeled off my garden gloves in a slow, strip-teasy manner. "We could do family photos in front of them." My husband pretended to stare morosely at the recycling, but I knew he was peeking at me out of the corner of his eye. "I could even sell some." I tossed aside my clippers and took off my hat, shaking out my hair. "Just one row?" I said, sauntering over to him. He grunted. I threw my grubby arms around his sweaty neck. "Oh come on, I'll do all the work - pleeeeeeease?"
That's how it began. A casual request. I wanted sunflowers, for no other reason than to look at them. Sunflowers make me happy. D likes me happy. And D likes to plough and furrow and do other farmery things with his dad's tractor, so wasn't I a sweet gal, giving him the perfect excuse to operate heavy machinery? I pictured myself walking behind the tractor, planting seed after seed like some thrifty farmwife from the Laura Ingalls Wilder era. I could see the row of shining sunflower faces as they beamed at me in the early morning light. Clearly, I was still daydreaming, since I am never awake to see early morning light, but the dream was definitely tantalizing. And all I'd had to do was ask.
Fast-forward to April, 2012. It's a miserable spring morning. Someday is shrouded in mist. I am huddled in my office under a blanket, trying to type a report with one hand when I hear the hollow clop-clop-clop of horse feet echo up the laneway. I get up and look out the window to see two giant Percherons slow to a stop at eye level with me. They are pulling a wagon loaded with damp Mennonite boys.
I intercept a jovial Mennonite man who informs me he's here to remove all the fences in the back fields for my father-in-law. This is news to me, but I graciously point him to the doomed fences in question and go inside to make them some coffee. So much for my meadow, I think, and so much for my sunflowers. D's dad is obviously going to plough up my lovely little meadow and plant feed corn or soybeans or something equally useful and boring. Humph.
After I've delivered the coffee, I phone D at work.
"Did you know your Dad told a bunch of Mennonites to come take out all our fences?"
"Yeah Kimmy. Dad wants to plow up that field and use it. Those fences are no good anyway. Why, are the guys there now?"
I can tell he's bummed to be missing the fence destruction party. "Yeah. But...my meadow..." I whimper.
"It's a field, not a meadow, and it's not ours anyway," he says, and I sigh.
Later that night, we walk out to see the results. My meadow looks naked and forlorn without its rail fence borders. I hate the thought of stupid soybeans and wonder whether I can talk my father-in-law into planting something pretty, like flax.
Now skip ahead to late May. I'm working in my office, windows open. The phone rings. It's Nancy from the Lucknow Co-op with the list of sweet corn seed varieties that D has asked for.
"Sweet corn varieties?" I echo, bewildered.
"Yeah, we've got Golden Bantam, Peaches n' Cream, Honey n' Cream, Big Jim, Bodacious, Miracle...tell your husband the first two mature early, the rest are at 72 days."
"I will tell him," I say more perkily than I feel and hang up.
I dial D at work.
"Did you order a bunch of sweet corn?!"
"I did not order a bunch of sweet corn," says D in the patient tone he usually reserves for our three-year-old. "I ordered a bunch of sweet corn seed. Kimmy, I gotta go. We'll talk tonight."
I pounce on him the minute he walks through the door and perform a major freak out, which contains the following points:
1) I work full time! We have two small kids! Why the hell do you think we need an acre of sweet corn? (Half-acre, D corrects)
2) Who's gonna pick it? Who's gonna sell it? Have you lost your freaking marbles??? (I bet if you stopped reading that Game of Thrones crap you'd have plenty of time to pick sweet corn, D suggests)
I'm about to storm out of the kitchen and let D deal with supper on his own when he grabs me by the waist and sits me on his lap. I squirm and growl.
"Now Kimmy, just listen," he says. "I used to pick sweet corn - shit, did I ever used to pick sweet corn! More corn than you can even imagine! You can pick, oh probably twenty dozen in an hour. Hell, you could probably pick even more than that. I'll help you, don't worry, it's no big deal."
I groan. "But I don't WANT to sell sweet corn. We're too BUSY. I asked you to wait until NEXT year. You never LISTEN to me!"
D gives me a squeeze. "Oh, but I do. I have your sunflowers out in the garage, and me and Carm are going to plant them tomorrow night."
I stop squirming. "You bought sunflower seed? Really? From that guy on the Fourth?" I envision the bobbing row of bright faces and squeal with joy. I'm so excited I forget to ask where we're going to plant the row. I even forget about the corn.
"See, I listen to you sometimes," D says and he gets a kiss instead of a kick. And I putter around the kitchen, smiling like a sunflower, forgetting that when you marry the son of a dairy farmer, nothing is ever as easy as it sounds.