by Frances Edstrom, columnist
What to do on a 90-degree day in June? A drive in the countryside in the Winona area is my favorite. Up out of the valley of mugginess onto the breezy ridge and on into the plains, you can see why it is that we are known for our agricultural excellence, and apparently why the coastal populace is puzzled as to why people live here. (Some of us live here precisely because the multitudes of people who live on the coasts don’t live here!)
Up on top of the bluffs and stretching as far as the eye can see are lovely rolling hills quilted in newly planted black dirt. In a matter of days, the corn has popped out of the ground, as though a giant had unfurled a mammoth bolt of corduroy. I wonder if the farmers get the same jolt of delight at the new plant life as I do. It has to bring a smile to your face, as do the first spring flowers in town.
It looked as though at least one crop of hay has been cut, no big round bales yet, though. Cows were lolling in the shade and any mud they could find. Do you think the cow brain is developed enough to say, “Wow!
Spring is here! Fresh grass!” Or do they just follow the leading lady out to the field and eat what’s put in front of them?
John always had a dream of living on a farm in the country. However, he was more of a romantic than a farmer. He wouldn’t even cut the grass in
the yard. It was such a rare occasion that I took a photo of him in action once. It was many years ago, before cell phones or even iPods. He was maneuvering the mower with one hand while holding a transistor radio to his ear with the other. The Vikings were playing, but we were hosting an upcoming Winona Health Birthday Ball party, and it was a matter of life or death (his, if he refused to mow).
We tried a short sojourn in Norton Township, where he grew tomatoes and zucchini, beans and carrots. It was a labor of love, as water had to be hauled out to the garden plot almost daily during a long spate of dry weather. When winter came, the driveway to the house was so badly situated that we had to hire the township plow to clear the snow so we
could get to work and Cassidy could get to kindergarten.
Pretty soon I grew impatient with country life and we moved to town for 30 years. Almost end of story, except for 10 years in Pleasant Valley, where the only one who grew anything was me, and it was begonias and geraniums, lilacs and peonies.
Now that he is gone, I am once again in a neighborhood, where there so far is not one flower to be seen in the yard, but for begonias in pots on the front steps.
Perhaps this dearth of vegetation other than grass is why it was so thrilling to see the new life in the farmers’ fields. Soon, it will be the Fourth of July, when I will be getting lots of company, and I will insist on a trip out into the country again so the grandchildren and I can check to see if the corn is “knee-high by the Fourth of July.” Then we will come home and light sparklers in the yard. This will be our first year back in town, and I am wondering if we will get the answering sparkling of fireflies, or if I have left them behind, too.