"Someday's gonna be a busy day..."

Tuesday, 18 September 2012

The Sunflower Project: Part II - The Operation

In hindsight, expecting my husband to plant one measly row of sunflowers was like expecting me to eat one dill pickle chip. We just can't help ourselves.

D and Carm got their uncle's corn planter and rigged it up to put in half an acre of sunflower seeds - organic, no less - in my freshly ploughed former meadow. D scoffs at anything remotely organic, but he couldn't find regular sunflower seeds for sale at a price he liked. I suggested that he ask the farmer on the fourth concession, the one whose field I'd driven past. To my shock, D actually went to the guy and told him the story. How his wife wanted sunflowers. To look at. D said that the farmer looked perplexed, then gave D a pail of seed for free.

"See?" I told him. "Sometimes it pays to have a crazy wife."

I visited the field every other day, dragging the kids out to check for progress. I told them how beautiful it was going to be, and how Daddy and Uncle Carm had done it all for me. The half acre of corn, I pointedly ignored.

The kids didn't share my enthusiasm until the first plump sunflower sprouts popped out of the ground in July. Jade and I shouted with triumph; Dylan trampled as many as he could in a gleefully destructive frenzy. The sprouts had come up in uneven clumps, with big bare patches that drove D crazy and made Carm shake his head, but I didn't care. I had my field of dreams.

As I monitored the progress of our sunflower operation - which I began to refer to as "my" sunflower operation - it occurred to me that I'd need to paint a sign or two to attract customers. No one thought I would actually sell many; Carm, D, even my own father expressed their skepticism openly. But I just knew people would buy them. Who doesn't love sunflowers? Who doesn't enjoy slowing down for a roadside stand on a lazy summer day? Well, apart from my in-laws, that is. I kept my chin tilted at a proud angle and let the disbelievers scoff. They'd see soon enough that I was right.

Anyway, I figured the sign had to be special. I'd often rolled my eyes at other roadside vendors whose signs were sloppy or boring. My sign would be beautiful, artistic. No slapdash paint on a strip of plywood for MY sunflower operation.

A lazy drive along our road on the August long weekend produced a windfall. Up here, everyone leaves garage sale leftovers by the side of the road for easy pickings, and long weekends are garage salers' dreams. I found a huge wooden easel and a smaller styrofoam sign with a blank back, just begging to be decorated. The gods that smile on enterprising small-business owners were smiling down on me for sure, although Jade was concerned that I was stealing other people's stuff. "Shhh, honey," I told her. "This is called recycling."

I spent the good part of that evening trem-cladding everything bumblebee yellow before I realized that I didn't have any other paint for the lettering. A quick rummage through Jade's craft box produced a bottle of purple paint and some ratty brushes. I proceeded to write the word "SUNFLOWERS" in swirly, curlicue letters, creating a giant sunflower in the middle using the "L" as the stem. It looked a bit like a purple hedgehog on a stick, but hey, it was "arty." Carm dropped in that night and I found him standing in the vestibule, surveying my handiwork. His silence spoke volumes. I ignored his lack of artistic judgement and took the signs out to set against the garage to finish drying.

Putting up with yellow tremclad under my fingernails and my brother-in-law's scorn would have been easier had the purple paint I'd used for the hedgehog lettering not melted off during that night's rainstorm. Apparently children's paint is not waterproof. I said many bad words, and hid the signs before D could see them. If I drove to Canadian Tire, he'd know for sure about my screw up, and then he'd tell Carm, and then I'd never hear the end of it. I snuck out to the shop and rooted through D's bench of stuff for something, ANYTHING I could use to re-do the lettering before anyone saw the purple sludge. I found a can of black tremclad and got to work. Black and yellow were sunflower colours anyway.

Finally, the signs were ready to go. Now I needed to fix up a display. I found my old pink beach umbrella and shoved it in a pail of water softener salt. I rescued two small tables from the dusty obscurity of the shop, and slapped a waterproof tablecloth that had been my mother's on top. Two big buckets stood ready and waiting to be filled with flowers. I found my peanut butter money jar, and my old bull-terrier plastic piggy bank. I tied a purple bow around his neck and wrote "SUNFLOWERS" on his side with a Sharpie. Everything went into the bed of our newly acquired truck; I was nearly ready. All I had to do was harvest.

But that would be the easy part, right?

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