The garden is going in. The garden is going in! After months of dog-earing seed catalogues, sending away for heirloom and organic seeds, and studying seed charts and soil pH mumbo jumbo, the actual planting has begun. So far I have onions, garlic, radishes, spinach, lettuces, broccoli and green peas planted. Everything looks good. (But I don't want to start bragging yet. A garden is nothing if not humbling.)
Yesterday I ventured to the town's Feed Store in search of more seed potatoes. Purple potatoes, baking potatoes, and regular potatoes weren't enough. Actually, my Dad, second generation gardener and Knower Of All Things Gardening, gave me ten dollars and told me to run and buy red potatoes. I did.
The Feed Store here is something from a story book. First off, it's ancient. Its rusty tin roof and creaking wooden steps bid you to an era you only see in movies. I get the feeling sometimes, as I'm climbing the worn steps, that I'll push open the door and, instead of finding old men in overalls cursing Obama and the Economy, I'll find men in coats and tall hats, arguing about President Lincoln and the War.
Once inside the long, slanting building, these are the things you notice first: an enormous black wood stove with a tin pan of peanuts roasting on top. Always. Since I was a girl. The men stand around the stove, shelling peanuts and tossing the shells on the knotted wooden floor. Near the stove, kittens tumble and mew from a basket. I've always wanted one. Since I was a girl.
Horse tack, field corn, chicken feed, dog collars and cattle medicine fill every nook. But along the wall by the door, steps away from the kittens, is what gets me teary eyed: Every Kind of Seed Imaginable. There's pre-packaged seed for (sniff) "town" people and bins of bulk seed for the country folk. The scale by the tower of brown paper sacks groans whenever you weigh your bags. Even if you only have two pounds. Even if it seems the old thing should have accepted her lot in life by now.
I walk the wall, slowly, reading the names of seeds and dreaming. Candy Corn. Louisiana Pink Purple Hulls. Christmas Limas. Big Boy Tomatoes. Red Heart Peppers. Zipper Cream Peas. (Those are my favorite. I bought 4 dollars of "Zippers" as we all call them here. They go for 30 dollars a bushel at market.) And when I get to the seed potatoes, I'm relieved to see nearly 20 potatoes left. RED PONDEROSA is scrawled on the box in pencil. 50 CENTS/POUND. I fill my brown paper sack, weigh it on the groaner, and take my five-plus pounds of good eating and assorted seeds to the counter.
There's a corgi in a dog bed to the left of the register. She's always in the same spot. I have no idea how she gets up there and never ask. She watches you without raising her nose. It used to be appreciated when you'd buy her a Milkbone, but not these days. She doesn't even chase the kittens anymore, I'm told. I shake my head and offer a "bless her heart" as if on cue. The cashier, with her Too Much Lipstick, nods approval.
You pay with cash. Or checks. I can't believe people still write checks, but they do in here. Oh, the Feed Store has a credit card machine, but you get a withering stare whenever you pull out your Bank of America card. Cash is king. Pay, get your change, and pet the kittens on your way out, nodding to the men who nod at you on your way down the stairs.
I got my seed potatoes cut and quartered like you're supposed to do before planting. They're withering now, fanned out on brown paper on the table. But you know, I got to thinking last night: I don't have any good mashing potatoes. Think I'll go back this morning and get the YUKON GOLD- 75 CENTS/POUND.
That and pet the kittens one more time.