Mystery Patch

Plant, then ignore.

That’s been our modus operandi when it comes to establishing berry bushes, grapevines and hops.

And it has not served us well.

Martin and I set out with the best intentions — we nurture a fledgling plant, water it as needed, and track growth. And then… that’s it.

We ignore said bush, tree or vine, leaving it vulnerable to parasites, disease or marauding, munching sheep.

The pumpkin patch would’ve been another victim of neglect —

–had we’d known that it existed.

A couple of months ago, Martin was planning to take another whack at the mystery weed marching through the lawn. (I’d already mowed over it once before.)

But on this particular day, he spotted a yellow flower among the weedy leaves.


The flower led to a leafy vine and a line of pale-orange orbs the size of tennis balls. Not far away were larger growths, like basketballs, nestled in a hard-to-mow spot between the boxwoods and the deck.


Google “how to grow pumpkins” and you’ll find a wealth of gardening guidance. Tips about soil pH and fertility, how to plant with adequate spacing and depth, and tips on weeding and watering.

Our pumpkin patch was the product of one simple act: Hadley stuck some seeds in the ground.

“Remember when I told you that I was going to plant pumpkin seeds?” Hadley asked me.

Not really. In my defense, the kids are constantly burying things in the yard, in “Jack and the Beanstalk” fashion. Who thinks that anything will come from it?

Hadley’s patch proved us wrong.

All summer we marveled at the little heirloom squash and the hulking carving pumpkins growing in size and deepening in color, with absolutely no assistance from us.

By September, however, I noticed that the leaves were withering and a few of the pumpkins were suffering from soft rot.

I gave a vague description to a local pumpkin grower and he triaged the problem: a combination of powdery and downy mildew. Any efforts to fight the pathogens would be too little too late, but we could spare some of the squash by harvesting them early.

And that’s what we did.

I’d say that in the future, we’ll take better care of Hadley’s garden but let’s be realistic; we’ll probably apply the same “technique” that we’ve used with other plants.

In this particular case, neglect actually worked.

Pumpkins are a hardy crop!

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This Week in Pictures




It’s been a long week, punctuated by doctors appointments, weather events and minor flooding, and I’m too tired to compose anything literary. So for you faithful Funny Farm followers, here are a few images recapping the week:

Martin and the kids continued their Mother’s Day tradition of planting a new berry bush in our garden. This year they added more raspberries and strawberries.






On Tuesday night another monster storm tore through the area. A weather event that’s typical in August, not May — a real gully-washer. Not to be confused with Thursday’s gully-washer. Here are Martin and Hadley, watching as it closed in.




And finally, notable this week: I dyed my hair.


I’ve been calling it “midlife crisis mauve,” but truthfully, my reasons for doing this are pretty mundane. I tinted my locks like an Easter egg because I felt the need for a change.  I wanted to shake things up… and the tattooist in town had the day off. Kidding, Mom.

It’ll wash out. Eventually.



Okay, so that’s it! Hope to see you local readers at the Potomac Hunt Races this Sunday.

Otherwise, stay tuned for a brand new episode of Funny Farm next week.



Bad Apples

In 2009 Martin and I carefully selected certain species of apples trees that would thrive in our soil. Then we nurtured our saplings. We watered, weeded and sprayed them. Warded off pests. We treated them with love. Like our kids.

Yea, right.

Enough fiction. We plugged the plants into the ground and cordoned them off with a roll of sagging chicken wire — a vague effort to stagger the deer. Then we left the apple trees alone to cope. To wilt despairingly in summer drought, and serve as snacks for insects and deer — the latter of whom deftly bent over the chicken wire.

Through it all the apple trees survived and this summer we glimpsed at bits of red weighing down the limp young branches.

Last week Brynn and I ventured into the sheep field, pried back a corner of wire and harvested the crop.

And all of our efforts were rewarded with…

….the ugliest apples to ever sprout from a tree.

They are blighted, spotted from insect infestation and pocked with peculiar, human-like warts. Not to mention, they are stunted and hopelessly deformed.

“They look like a bunch of butts,” our friend Mike remarked.

Which is why we call them the “butt apples.”

What a lovely centerpiece…

Much to my surprise, no one wanted to sample these home-grown, organic gems.

I felt obligated. And guess what?

They taste great! They are sweet and crunchy — as good as any store-bought fuji…

…if you can get past the deformed, warty, insect damage.

See? Yum… and I’m still alive.

Coincidentally, shortly after we harvested our fruit, Hadley showed me her homework assignment which read as follows:

Send one apple with your child….their favorite type to eat…in a bag labeled with their name. We will be tasting different varieties as well as graphing them in different ways.”

I’m tempted to send Hadley to school with a butt apple; I imagine the teacher’s horrified expression as she fishes one of these beauties from the bag.

But I will spare Hadley the embarrassment.

I’ve got plenty of other opportunities to humiliate her in the future.