The Mushroom Farmer, Book 3, Chapter 12

The mf has a new project, thank gosh. Where would he be without new projects?

A: Rabbit hole alert! Alert! Alert! Rabbit hole!

I appreciate the heads-up, and yet…

A: Don’t you go “and-yet”‘ing me. I said RABBIT HOLE.

All right. Let’s try this: The mf is going to thresh his oats.

A: Now you’re talkin’.

He does not know exactly how he is going to do this, but feels confident it could involve a Whiffle ball bat. This would unite elements of his personally so powerfully there might be a supernova.

The only problem is that instructions on oat threshing come from an internet page too splattered with ads to be reliable. The ads broke up the page’s narrative flow.

A: What are you trying to say?

Back off!

A: Wow. All right. Fine.

Now I am just going to wait here, impassive and nonplussed. I apologize to you, dear reader, for the interruption. While we’re waiting, let’s put the end in mind: a goodly amount of homegrown oatmeal. Won’t that be wholesome and fulfilling? Think of all the other things a person could potentially have in mind, and compare those images to homegrown oatmeal. Which is more wholesome and fulfilling?

A: The homegrown oatmeal, definitely.

Right? We tend to consider in these pages the plants that are not growing in the mf’s farm — the plants and fungi — and while perhaps giving too little attention to what’s thriving, such as the oats.

The oats are handsome and plentiful; tall grasses with strong fibrous stalks and slender, angular leaves like the wings of futuristic aircraft. The grain hangs in pendant buds resembling slashing raindrops or falling tears. The mf gives oats a 10 out of 10 for decorative effect, like the student in his AP Eng Lang class who gave The Odyssey a 10 out of 10 for being epic.

The mf took umbrage at the student applying such a superficial rating to one of the most heralded sagas of world literature. Oh, he took great umbrage, but listen — isn’t it supposed to be his job to teach kids critical vocabulary? I know we’re getting away from oats here, but what are we supposed to do, turn a blind eye when students respond superficially to foundational works of world literature?

A: Rabbit holes everywhere you look these days. Infrastructure — it’s not a joke.

No kidding. Well, anyway, I was just trying to say that oats are plentiful and magnificent all around the mf’s little farm, and the time may indeed have come to do some harvesting, if only he can find a reliable source on how to do that.

A: Oh, I get it now! You just harvest the stalks using a scythe, which is plenty exciting in and of itself because that makes you like the Grim Reaper. Cut the oats with the scythe, bang the stalks against the side of a bucket so the seeds fall off. Then let them dry out.

After that, you layer the oats between two sheets and bang on them with a plastic baseball bat!

OH MY GOSH!

That will be the rapture.

The saints will truly come marching in.

MYSTERIOUS INTERLOPER (perhaps the sound of my soul): Listen, people: that is the sound of my disparate natures fusing into one. Listen beyond the crow caw. Listen beyond the thrum of the 405 and moan of jets overhead. Swatting oats with a Whiffle ball bat. I can see true north from here.

Then, you pour the dried seeds from the bucket into a trough while a fan is blowing. The fan literally separates the oat from the chaff. And then you can feed those good ol’ oats to your chickens OR make yourself a great big bowl o’ oatmeal and feel wholesome and satisfied which is much much better than feeling stuck way down a rabbit hole.

*

The oat harvest is one of many many many decisive actions the mf has available for the taking on the Monday of Memorial Day weekend.

He can fix his irrigation. Yes. He has pipe, valves, and sealant. The new handiness is risen.

He can spread a cubic yard of soil hither and thither in the Final Spring Plant-off, during which time everything that’s going to get planted before Summer Vacation does in fact get planted.

Or not. For it is a sad truth that not everything can get planted. I am concerned, for example, about beans. Any kind of beans, at this point, but especially beans that grow on vines that will twine around the corn the MF will be planting One More Time.

Some corn has emerged, but in patches, not long handsome rows. You know by now how the mf feels about this: mildly enraged. He would like to stick his face right up to where he has planted corn and scream, “Why won’t you grow!”

But that won’t help things. You can talk to your plants, but not scream at them. Just lay down a generous shovelful of fresh dirt and try, try again.

Meanwhile, I have some good news. Pumpkins are volunteering in the parkway. Yes, you heard me. The mf buried a pumpkin last winter in the parkway at the height of the pandemic. It was a tiny, shriveled pumpkin, starting to rot when the mf buried it in a proper funeral in front of the pumpkin’s friends: a stapler and a baseball, three composition notebooks, a quarter-full cylinder of silver glitter.

Welcome back

Oh, it was quite the ceremony, and now guess what? Yes! Pumpkin seedlings have sprouted in the parkway after the mf’s assiduous pick-axing to distribute rock phosphate to ameliorate embedded lead. The seasons are going round and round; the painted pony is going up and down. Oh, to have the old prophecies fulfilled! It is a joy, a great joy, magnificent in the feeling and even more so in the sharing.

Published by MarkGozonsky

Mark Gozonsky has been writing stories and essays since he was a music snob prodigy in early-1970's San Antonio, Texas. Since then he has written about not only music but also baseball, gardening, teaching, parenting, cycling and the... glory of love. Lit Hub and The Sun have published his work, and so has the Austin Chronicle. He lives with his wife in Los Angeles, where he teaches English to some of the nicest kids in the world at an arts-themed public high school downtown.

2 thoughts on “The Mushroom Farmer, Book 3, Chapter 12

  1. Phil Ochs — the kids wouldn’t know of him or the song. Just the words move me to tears. And hearing them in his voice…well, it’s more than moving.

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