Ted Kalvitis - Far Muse

Bet the title fooled you. Many readers likely presumed that I was about to review Nora Kimble’s book by that name. Well, no, that’s going to take a while. It’s a thick book, to be precise it’s 702 thousandths of an inch thick not including the covers. (Precise enough?) Of that 702, I’ve managed to find the time to read 86 thousandths of an inch of book content.

(My dad, a tool-and-die maker, gave me a micrometer for a crib toy.)

Now let’s walk up to the chalkboard and figure this out; 86/702 divided by 2 = 43/351. Well, we can’t stop there, so let’s lop off the decimals and divide again to get 21/175.

Let’s divide again-by 7 this time to get 3/25. Another brick wall. 

But there’s something we can work with; Make that 25 a 24 and we see I’ve read slightly under 1/8 of the book or 86/702.

In that small amount of reading, I’ve long ago lost count of the many humorous and heart-warming images that have leapt from those pages. And it’s all (so far) in historical context thatis World War 2. Not only is this book entertaining, it has a valuable place in the American History classroom.

Anyway, Nora’s book isn’t what this is all about. Some time last year, Antique Power Magazine’s founding editor Pat Ertel invited me to do a guest editorial. I did so, describing how I put together a tech article on using spent shotgun shells as caps and plugs on disassembled tractor components.

We couldn’t photograph a live shell for fear that someone might plug a hole with one and attempt to drive it in. Emptying these shells involved a young and very petite female photographer firing off a 3-inch magnum (she screamed) while in “bomb tech” fashion, I defused a huge 10-gauge round to make it appear spent.

Pat had forgotten to tell me that a guest editorial isn’t a paying gig. Therefore, I figure that he owes me one. I’ve been watching his Letter From the Editor page in Antique Power for just the right one. Well, the planets must have aligned when I read the current offering, in the May/June issue, vol. 28, issue 4. 

Pat’s yearly garden experience is one many of us share and are sure to recognize. Thus the phrase, “My Sentiments Exactly” instantly came to mind. See how it all ties in? Well, maybe a little bit, even? Anyway, I’ve obtained permission to lift Pat’s story from Antique Power to share with Review readers.

A Letter from the Editor

By Patrick Ertel

When I as a child growing up on the farm, food was all around me. It was our business to grow food, and the desire to grow was instilled in me at an early age. Although I haven’t lived on a farm in 50 years, I never lost the instinctive need to grow food. These days I take my obsession out on a small patch of dirt behind my house. I call it the “Back 40,” even though it’s less than 1/4 acre.

I eagerly look forward to January when the garden seed catalogs start pouring in. Over the years I’ve bought seeds from a couple of dozen places, and I’m still on the mailing list of every one, so I collect a considerable stack.

I have this vision of myself sitting by a roaring fire while the wind howls and the snow swirls outside, smoking a pipe as I leisurely pore over the catalogs, carefully selecting the seeds that will grow a bounty of food to sustain my family through the winter.

In reality, I don’t live in a Norman Rockwell painting. My family would prefer to be sustained by pizza, and I don’t have a lifestyle that allows me to do anything in a leisurely way.

I order the seeds in frantic fits and starts over the course of a couple of weeks and invariably double order some things and fail to order others at all. I get carried away by the descriptions in the catalogs and always order more seed than I could possibly plant. The catalogs’ vivid, mouth-watering descriptions of the food their seeds will bring forth are so masterfully written that they tempt me to skip the whole gardening bother and just eat the catalog. 

Every year I’m taken in by the pictures and descriptions of some new exotic plant that someone invented, as if God hadn’t given us enough to begin with. Last year I got taken in by kalettes. Kalettes are a cross between kale and brussels sprouts. I don’t like to eat kale or brussels sprouts, and I’m at a loss to explain why I worked so hard to grow such an awful plant. It must have been the pictures.

I have friends who speak of growing food as some kind of spiritual experience. These are people who write books about the “bounty of the earth” and can be heard on NPR talking about the miracle of beans and whatnot. We obviously haven’t had the same gardening experiences. 

For me, gardening is an annual battle between myself and Mother Nature. I come to the battle equipped with an old Troy-Bilt rototiller that I inherited from my dad, a rake and a hoe. Mother Nature throws deer, moles, voles, rabbits and hordes of vicious insects into the fight, and that’s just her ground attack. She hurls down torrents of rain, wind and hail from the skies, or defiantly withholds water and bakes the garden with a blistering sun. 

I am so overmatched -- I don’t know why I keep trying.

But hope springs eternal, and every year I change the oil in the old Troy-Bilt and grind up a perfect rectangle of brown, fragrant soil. I carefully sow perfectly straight rows and vow that this year I will keep my garden neat, clean, and free of weeds all season. I’m pretty successful until about July when the weeds begin springing up overnight and arrive full height, in full bloom, and ready to go to seed. 

I struggle to keep up, but by August I have to hack my way through the towering weeds to harvest the surviving green beans and cucumbers. By September, I have gleaned enough produce from the weed patch to declare myself satisfied. I mow the garden flat, and for another year, Mother Nature and I have fought to a draw.

Hope you have a great harvest this year.

* * *

My sentiments exactly.

First published May 11, 2016

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