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Volume 16, Issue 30 - July 24 - July 30, 2008

Grumpy’s Day at the Farm

Having just lost a tooth, my granddaughter was all smiles for our visit with the Bay Gardener

Those three words could apply to many situations, from hot stoves to glue drying on a household repair job. If you’re a parent, you’ll recognize the circumstances bound to come from each and every youngster aged five to seven. Care to take a guess?

If you guessed the pet iguana, you’re wrong. Mouse in a trap, wrong again. Bumble bee on a soda can, you’re still off the mark. About the time a child enters the first grade there’s always the terrifying discovery of the first loose baby tooth. The parent is promptly informed — and always with the tagline, Don’t touch it! It’s a traumatic experience, one we’ve just been through with granddaughter Grumpy, also known as Mackenzie Noelle Boughey.

To her, a floating tooth was both fascinating while also traumatic as the loss of any body part would be to a youngster, but things were complicated by our schedule. Grumps loves farms, especially if household or farm pets are around. Frank and Clara Gouin had both. We were to visit them to pick peaches via a special invite. It was marked high on the calendar, but…

But, how does a girl with a front tooth hanging by a thread bite into a peach, a grape or anything else ripening with dignity — and what if that tooth dropped out that far from home? Many things go through little girls’ minds when faced with a first in their young lives. They gotta be sorted out.

The tooth was accommodating; it fell out the day before our date with Frank and Clara, so tensions were eased as we headed to Upakrik Farm in Deale, which is literally up a creek, in particular picturesque Rockhold Creek. Grumpy was more than elated to find Dandy, a seven-year-old golden retriever, and 10-year-old Spooks, a Norwegian forest cat, as if awaiting her arrival. Both are truly people pets, they want people around. Spooks got her name because she arrived on a Halloween from nowhere and never left.

First order of the day was to pick peaches, and accommodating Frank — who Bay Weekly readers know as The Bay Gardener — had set aside a young tree with ripening fruit for Grumps. With Frank, Spooks, Dandy and Grandpop in tow, Grumpy soon had a sack of peaches — then it was a stop at a nearby Hatteras swinging chair to sample the crop. A great opportunity for this once farm boy to ask a question always nagging me about peaches, my favorite fruit when fully ripe and soft.

Ripe peaches have a short shelf life of three to five days, they’ve got to move fast. To hedge their bets, most markets usually sell peaches still quite hard and not yet ready to top cereal or be eaten like an apple. For a guy like me who appreciates a soft ripe peach, what can be done?

Frank had a simple solution: Put them in a brown paper sack and leave them on the kitchen counter for three to four days and they’ll fully ripen and be soft like peaches ought to. It can help to add a bit of ethane, which is done by adding a red delicious apple or an over-ripe banana to the bag. I tried it. It works. But, don’t try that in winter when peaches come from afar and are greenish. They won’t soften, Frank warns.

What a farm, in all 11 acres situated on a point where there’s always a breeze. Upakrik has flowers tucked into every spot of soil not growing fruit, vegetables and trees. Never have I seen a location so fully utilized or more fit for living, what with 136 peach trees, 7,000 Christmas trees, a couple of persimmon and fig trees. Name a vegetable, and it’s there. Frank and I, I learned, have much in common — we like opera, damson plum jam and we’re plagued by raccoons.

When I wrote here once of my battles with ’coons, Frank suggested I try blinking lights to discourage them. That’s what I had done when much younger — and it worked, but won’t where I now live on three lots on the shores of Stoney Creek. I tried the blinking light, and neighbors called to see if anything was wrong; one evening a police cruiser stopped to check things out. End of experiment, the invader still makes its call.

I’ve visited countless mini farms along Chesapeake Bay, but never one with so much as Upakrik. Take your fancy gentleman farmer mansions, I’ll take Rockhold Creek and Upakrik with its fully restored 1949 John Deere tractor, 1940 Allis Chalmers tractor in the early stages of restoration, the canoes and skiffs, some of which were made by Frank, and the 1972 23-foot swing keel MacGregor sailboat now in final restoration in a big barn in which there’s an office for Frank to pound out his weekly gardening column.

With so much going on at Upakrik, Frank is immune to the woes of most columnists, like me: what to write about this week. Look anywhere on the farm and you’ve got this week’s topic. I believe Frank, though a New Hampshire native, has found paradise on the shores of the Bay. And Grumpy, now awaiting the second loose tooth, agrees. Enough said.

© COPYRIGHT 2008 by New Bay Enterprises, Inc. All rights reserved.