Before starting on my graduate degree, I spent a term as a substitute teacher for a math teacher I really liked who was out on maternity leave. It was a great experience and also helped me realize what a tough job teachers have. Tough, but rewarding – it’s nice to know what your “end product” is.

Teachers create people… I’m not talking about the teacher being on maternity leave, I’m simply saying that teachers nurture and help grow young minds. That’s the main reason that we always need to be careful to not only help our teachers, but understand what they are fertilizing our children with, in terms of ideas.

I’m all for being exposed to different ideas and people, as parents, we just need to make sure we are doing the majority of the “watering, weeding and fertilizing” of our children at home.

That being said, a co-worker approaching retirement asked me if I would tend his garden while he and his wife went on a month-long vacation to Europe to travel and visit friends and relatives.

I jumped at the chance.

His garden is at work, where we have a community garden space where folks rent a plot for the year for a very nominal fee. I’ve always thought I’d like to give it a go. Therefore, when giving the opportunity to pretend to be farmer for a little while, I was happy to do it.

First, going to our community garden, is high entertainment just standing in the middle of it and looking around. When scientific type folks garden, they all have different approaches to deterring varmints, bugs and each other.

Deer, rabbits and raccoons consider the garden a buffet and studying the fences, wires and barricades that these afternoon and weekend farmers construct is like being in the middle of a war zone where these folks are making their last stand.

Low fences, high fences and structures of all kinds are erected to protect the little plots from the wildlife seeking to dine on prized tomatoes, corn and cantaloupes. You can’t blame the critters, it’s an easy meal that they don’t have to fight to eat. Other than climbing over or digging under the fences that is…

There is a definite pecking order in terms of gets the “best plots.” The longer you’ve been farming/gardening, the higher your priority. The strategy seems to be to go after the good soil and the interior garden plots. I thought about it and the good soil made good sense, then I realized that the interior plots even made more sense.


Well, it seems the varmints get filled up on the plots on the outside or edge of the gardens and never make it into the interior plots. However, after a couple of months, these folks seem to be the quickest to wave the white flag and surrender. They generally have plots full of weeds, which seem to be a good place for the attackers to hide and keep moving in.

All and all, I will just say that like teachers, I appreciate what farmers do for us all. Depending on the weather, fighting the varmints and dealing with bugs is hard work.

The good part of my substitute farmer position is that I get to pick all the vegetables and eat them. Peppers, tomatoes, squash, eggplant and melons are more compensation than I could ask.

George Washington once said, “I’d rather be on my farm than emperor of the world.” I understand that, but I also understand that one of these little plots out in our community garden would be about all that I could handle – maybe more than I could handle. I have to see if I can get a recording of tractor sounds to play while I’m pulling weeds and picking peppers.

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