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Friday, June 4, 2010

Return of the Native

June Delphinia

Gladys and I were late visiting the Valley today. I spent the morning with daughter Marika in the Wedgwood district of Seattle. She met me at her door decked out in a party hat. In her hand was a birthday donut (pink frosting!) sporting one burning candle. What a surprise! A birthday party for two: Dad and daughter. And a greater surprise: the birthday boy blew out the candle and still had enough wind left for a three hour visit. It’s a cozy house she and Avi have in a cozy, quiet neighborhood. I was given a tour of the cozy backyard which, Marika complained, was far too cozy for slugs and other garden pests that were making sieves of her plantings. Their One Hundred Year Old apple tree bears apples this year despite the bushwhacking I did on it last spring. How do you like them apples, Avi?

Besides, it was raining this morning.

We were just about to swing the corner by Andy Werkhovens’ when I noticed a young fellow bent in the weeding position in the garlic patch in a field by Kelly Bolles’ Organic Farm. He saw me as I rode passed, straightened up, and greeted me by name. There was no mistaking that broad smile and cheerful voice. Sure, there was the facial hair and the bushy ponytail. Older, he was, too, and heavier, covered in places with a veneer of Tualco Valley soil. He was a lot cleaner the last time I saw him, dressed in a white tuxedo in the Tualco Grange parking lot, surrounded by members of his wedding.

That was years ago, and now Brandon Bischoff has returned to the Valley and to a life he says “is a good fit for me”: raising row crops to sell at farmers’ markets. Brandon has leased some acreage from Kelly Bolles and is farming it. Brandon He has returned to what suits him after selling life insurance for a year and a half (until it nearly killed him [my words, not his]). It was the hand of a farmer I shook, a hand with good, honest dirt on it, instead of a hand that once offered a policy filled with fine print, a sometime hedge against death—and probably a Whole Life policy at that.

Brandon and Marika were classmates, graduates of Monroe High School, Class of ‘97. He asked about her, heard she was married he said. I filled in a few details for him. I believe Brandon’s life has taken a few twists and turns  since that happy day at the Grange, and for that reason I didn’t press him for a review. We talked about his crops instead. It’s a fine stand of garlic he has, too. I told him I knew where my garlic for this year’s pickles would come from. Brandon smiled and said he’d give me a good price. I told him not to bother, that I’d come some night and pick what I needed. That broad smile again…. We talked about lettuces, staggered plantings, other vegetable talk until I could see I was keeping him from his work.

So the Valley has sprung yet another surprise on me: Brandon Bischoff, farmer returned to the land. It was good to see him after all these years. I look forward to more visits—that friendly smile-- maybe learn more about his journeys since that day at the Tualco Grange. And as for his garlic, I’m glad it’s there, too. I’ll be glad to pay top dollar for it.

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