April 28, 2009
“And what is so rare as a day in June?
Then, if ever, come perfect days
…Every clod feels a stir of might
…The flush of life may well be seen
Thrilling back over hills and valleys…”
The poet James Russell Lowell lived most of his life in Massachusetts, and June in that northern clime would probably be equivalent to April here in the Mid-South.
One of the great pleasures this time of year is being out and about as field and forest don their new year’s finery. Everywhere is breathtaking beauty, even in the weeds growing rampantly along the roadsides and in fields. The landscape, freshened by spring rains, will not again be so lush and vibrant, offering a splendid palette of contrasting colors: the delicate light greens of new leaves on oaks, willows, elms, waves of crimson clover and purple vetch bordering the highways, fields blanketed with yellow buttercups, the startlingly brilliant, shimmering whiteness of dogwoods against a dark green backdrop of pines or cedars, masses of yellow jasmine climbing trees, pendulous clusters of white locust blooms, huge clumps of bright pink primroses.
“Now is the high tide of the year,
…No matter how barren the past may have been,
’Tis enough for us now that the leaves are green…”
Among the enjoyable things about my work is getting to visit nice people as I occasionally travel around.
Driving on Highway 45 near Brooksville, Miss., I spied a roadside stand with a huge hand-painted sign, “Vine-ripened tomatoes,” and adjacent greenhouses.
I wheeled around, went back, and found Rollin and Sandra Miller selling hydroponic tomatoes they’d grown from seed planted last August.
Sandra was kind enough to give a tour, showing me through rows of lush, dark green tomato plants, 10 feet tall.
“We pick them twice a week and sell all we produce,” she says. “People come from all over the area. We also get a lot of travelers off the highway.”
They plan to add other vegetables to give customers more variety.
Interestingly, Sandra grows pineapples — just as a hobby for her own table. She starts by rooting crowns from mature pineapples, and they thrive in the greenhouse environment. It takes three years to get an edible fruit, and she says, “You can’t believe how sweet and delicious they are, not anything like those from the supermarket.”
At the Secret Garden Nursery at Macon, Miss., I stopped to talk with Myron Unruh about a story lead.
His wife, Sheila, started the nursery a couple of years ago, and it’s now a riot of color from all the blooming plants. The business has been steadily growing, with customers from several adjoining counties, and as far away as the coast.
Myron worked for a while in Arizona, “but I missed these country roads; it’s just a different way of life here,” he says smilingly.
“I’ve farmed, have gone broke a couple of times, but always managed to find a way to come back.” Now he has business interests and buys and sells land. Farmland prices in the area, “if you could find any for sale,” are holding strong, he says.
“Some are saying with the economy the way it is, the bottom may fall out for farmland values. I don’t see that happening. Even in a poor economy, we’ve got to have food and fiber. Too many people now are too far removed from the land — they couldn’t survive without farmers.”
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