Hold My Mail!

I do wish the bhastids wouldn’t start sending them out in January. But I’ll get to that in a minute.

We’ve had a slow month post-holidays chez Cass. I’ve been rehabbing from a hip injury and working my way through yet another draft of the fourth Elder Darrow book (due out sometime in the Fall). And doing my best to keep my head clear of the political fog, though I have three nephews in various branches of government service and I have spent time steaming on their behalf. The only comment I can make on the shutdown situation—beyond the obvious fact of its cruelty on people with no responsibility for it—is how much the political machinations illustrate the abyss between the people who ostensibly represent us and the actual lives we lead. Have I mentioned how my taxable income went down 10% last year and my taxes went up 94%? Many thanks, Donny, Mitch, et al.

On the plus side, I started teaching a writing course for MWPA, which introduced me to half a dozen very good writers eager to do the necessary work to improve and respectful of each other’s efforts, too. Which certainly brightens up my Tuesday nights.

The bhastids—a term I use, of course, lovingly. The seed companies. Why, in the bleak midwinter, do the catalogs all show up at once?

It was a gray, slushy, cold Monday at the end of last month when I got Johnny’s, White Flower Farm, and some off-brand catalog from the Midwest in the mail, full of glorious color pictures of fruit-heavy blueberry bushes, blossomed-out hydrangeas and lilies, pages of tomato varieties, and the various greens of, well, green vegetables. The profusion of color and juice was almost more than I could stand, look-look-look-looking out at the gray and brown of my dead back yard.

And of course, I immediately sat down with the order blank and started filling out my desires for the spring: spinach, lettuce, beans, peas, four kinds of tomatoes, zucchini. Summer squash, cucumbers, peppers (hot and sweet, three kinds). And this year, to fill in some corners of the back forty: a cherry tree, a half dozen marionberry bushes, strawberries (wait—delete that; my town has two commercial strawberry farms), maybe some elderberries or gooseberries for that odd pie in the winter. And on. And on. And on.

If you keep a garden, or have ever grown anything more challenging than a philodendron, you understand this urge. In the dead cold frozen-ground of the garden season, hope and energy springs eternal. I will, by gosh, add those six more raised beds this spring, rotate my crops so I have a continuous supply of greens into the hot weather, tomatoes and peppers after that, and the plans go on and on.

But I’ve done this before, you bhastids. Before I write out the check, before I seal the envelope, I set the whole mess aside for a minimum of forty-eight hours. All important decisions require a cooling-off period and sending in the seed order is not a bit different than picking the right time to call the fuel oil man.

On Wednesday, I sit down and look at the chaos my pen and my optimism hath wrought and find it easy to cull the list, remembering that I took down one of the raised beds last year and of the four left, two are already full, of asparagus and garlic. Slash, erase. Then I remember how poorly my tomato seedlings did last year, when we went to Florida for a week in March and the house sitter neglected to water them. Erase.

Hmm. Didn’t I have better results with the seedlings I purchased from Norm Jordan’s roadside stand in Cape Elizabeth than I did with anything I grew from seed last year? Crumple and toss. And so the final plan gets made—not the plan Johnny’s or White Flower Farm wanted me to make, but for once, I feel the triumph of experience over hope. Snuck one past the bhastids this time . . . Now for another go at those taxes.

About Richard Cass

Dick is the author of the Elder Darrow Jazz Mystery series, the story of an alcoholic who walks into a dive bar in Boston . . . and buys it. Solo Act was a Finalist for the Maine Literary Award in Crime Fiction in 2017 and In Solo Time won the award in 2018. The third book in the series, Burton's Solo, came out in 2018 and Last Call at the Esposito in 2019. Sweetie Bogan's Sorrow was published in 2020, to thunderous pandemic acclaim. The sixth book in the series, Mickey's Mayhem, will come out in 2021. Dick lives and writes in Cape Elizabeth.
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3 Responses to Hold My Mail!

  1. Kate Flora says:

    Returning from vacation to a mountain of flower porn, I gritted my teeth and threw most of the catalogs out. Yes, I would love to do raised beds, but the deer and woodchucks think they are salad bars. And don’t I have to support my local farmers? But yes, starting seeds is much fun, as is picking a handful of warm sun gold tomatoes. Does it help to remind myself I have a brown thumb? Nope. At some point I will yield to the allure of Gilbert H Wilde and purchase more daylilies

  2. We’ll be tackling the Johnny’s catalog soon. We’re still cutting up and cooking last year’s winter squash and Beth estimates one more meal of potatoes down cellar. Like you, every year we reassess what we can/should grow versus what we want to grow. It’s a fun battle.

  3. Amber Foxx says:

    Love the spelling. Bhastids. I can hear it.

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