This grumpy farmer who lives in the foothills south of town brings the most amazing produce to market. I call him Mr. Sunshine. His blustery attitude practically dares marketgoers to buy his vegetables each Saturday. But his regular customers chuckle at the vibes and focus on the produce, which is usually much more inviting than his attitude, and so cheap the other farmers grumble. Everyone, customers and grumblers alike, marvels at his productivity, and wonders how it is that he can coax so much gorgeous bounty from the earth, all by himself.
The only people who Mr. Sunshine appears to tolerate are my two boys, 8 and 11. He showers them with books, toys and junk food — while ignoring his actual paying customers. I often leave the boys in this free childcare area while I do the rounds, gathering the few items I can’t get from Mr. Sunshine himself.
Toward the end of a recent market, Mr. Sunshine made a business proposition to the boys. He’d grown more winter squash than he could handle. Amazingly, he invited them to his secret, magic farm to come harvest a truckload of squash. The boys would sell it in front of our house in a homemade farmstand, where passersby could self-serve. He and the boys split the proceeds 50/25/25. Being their driver, Mr. Sunshine grudgingly invited me too – after I swore that I would not take photos.
The farm was smaller than I had expected, and dense with bounty. Since the first frost had already hit, and a harder frost was imminent, the squash were in danger of rotting if they weren’t collected ASAP. And it was more squash than even Mr. Sunshine could sell in the last few blustery markets of Autumn.
The boys and I hit the squash patch, where we loaded boxes of the colorful, hard-shelled fruits. They have whimsical names “Butter Baby” butternuts, “Bonbon” buttercups, “Jester” delicatas, and a new breed of red kuri squash called Steph Kuri. That’s right, Steph Kuri. Available now at my family farmstand.
We also filled boxes of spaghetti squash, which I don’t like. I don’t like the flavor or the stringiness. But a lot of people do, because they sure sell. But aside from the novelty, spaghetti squash is just not that useful. It’s like a Weird Al Yankovitz song that’s funny once but hardly something you want to rock out to every day. And we loaded many, many varieties of kabocha, including Winter Sweet, Speckled Hound, Speckled Pup, and Sunshine, which is many people’s favorite kabocha squash.
Picking, packing and even selling those …….