My friend called me last week to say that our mutual friend, the extraordinarily generous old-timer farmer, had some bush beans, cress salad greens and tomatoes for her and that I could share in the haul if I did the picking.
So of course I said, “Sure!”
Keep in mind that this mutual farmer friend of ours has lived in Virginia all his life and grew up on the land he still owns. And his house is built into the side of a hill – yes, has bushes and grass and sod for a roof. And he has a stove pipe and several vents peeking through said grass.
And he has some really funny euphemisms and other fantastic anecdotes! So I said, “Yes! I am happy to spend time picking beans with Simon.” I made that name up to keep his real name anonymous.
I will start from the beginning… Oh – and if “Simon” lets me, I would love to write a book about him, complete with recordings of his classic old Virginia accent (which you don’t hear anymore due to all the dilution).
As I drive out toward Mr. Underhill’s house and land and garden, it is a chilly summer morning. We are in the midst of a “polar vortex” in July and it is 72 degrees in Central Virginia at 10 AM in the middle of July! I turn off the main highway onto a typical, green-tunnel-of-trees-and-canopy, country road. It is narrow and I go up and down hills and around several wide curves. At one point I cross over a one-lane-bridge – those are always fun. I take it for granted myself, considering I was raised in the country myself (in beautiful Nelson County Virginia), but then I realize there are probably some city folk who don’t have a clue what I mean. So a one-lane-bridge is a narrow, bumpy, wooden bridge over a little creek or stream.
I get out to the driveway onto Simon’s land, which has a cute name. I cross over a cow grate immediately, and I assume that at one point, this large swath of land held many heads of cattle on it. At first the driveway is all gravel and it is wider than my Toyota Corolla. The driveway looks like it is well trodden (by cars). Then I take a left at a fork and the lane narrows a tiny bit. Passing several white farmhouses, I drive another quarter of a mile and I take yet another left at a fork in the road. And now the driveway has tufts of grass sticking up in the middle, as there are obviously less cars that come this way. And I hear several plants and vines striking the side of my car as I drive by them (the road has narrowed and one side has trees which come pretty close to the two tire tracks).
Then a dirt spit juts off to the right but I stay in my two gravel tire tracks. Then I go across a bizarre chunk of concrete which serves as a bridge over a little trickle of a stream. I’m not sure how old that chunk is, but I trust it, for now. And now I know I am getting close – there are several large rocks which have weathered over time and are sticking up out of the ground like ancient teeth, plus there is an old, rusted barbed-wire fence on the right.
Now, in a strange twist of things, the driveway is suddenly paved. And I see the barns in the distance which rise behind Simon’s house. Going around a bend, which wraps around a vine-covered fence post, I am suddenly at Simon’s house. Now I say the word “house” with some hesitation. See above picture…
Outside of his front door, there is a large assortment of junk metal, old buckets – some of which contain plants and other which seem empty, hub caps, old tires and several fig trees of all things! Oh plus there are about half a dozen broken tools which have obviously been rusting for years. And his house is built into the side of a hill. Maybe that is why I made up the name Simon Underhill for him… 🙂
I knock on the door. Nothing. I knock again. He had told me that he was going to be in the back doing some canning, so assume that is where he is. I wander toward the garage and take a peek inside – more of the same, tools, buckets, gardening supplies, picks, tools for his truck, etc. Then his door opens and I walk briskly back to meet him.
He is in his underwear with a thin long-sleeved shirt on his torso, so his long spindly legs are peeking out from under the shirt. I am a little taken aback, but by this point I have learned not to expect the usual from Simon. He tells me he will be right with me and shuts his door.
I wander around the side of his house and look at the bushes and grass on his roof. Oh, I should mention that I sprayed my legs and feet with this potent insect repellent which contains DEET (30%) to keep the bugs and ticks away from me. But in the time I walk from his front door and around the back of the hill which contains his “house,” I already have to pick off two eager adult deer ticks. Yummy! 😦
I peer around at the dilapidated barns and farm out buildings behind his home. I anticipate asking him about these. I am curious as I suspect this land has a rich story to tell.
By the time I get back around to his front door, and fortunately I might add, he is dressed and holding two buckets….
To Be Continued…