Non-Profit Internet Source for News, Events, History, & Culture of Northern Frederick & Carroll County Md./Southern Adams County Pa.


The Village Idiot

Do you actually know how big an acre is?

Jack Deatherage, Jr.

(4/2011) God called, by way of the house phone, back in February. Iíd been expecting to hear from Her, though the method She chose to contact me was a little disconcerting. She sounded exactly like my friend Marty.

"Jack." She begins.

"Yeah. Whatís up?" I brightly reply, not having a clue as to who Iím actually talking to.

"You know how youíre always going on about wanting a bigger garden to work?"

I feel panic beginning to build. This isnít Marty, this is Her!

My homesteading friend in Texas warned me that God, the Universal Creator, was going to grant my desire for a garden of marketable size and scope. I was to get ready to accept or reject, but Iíd better know my mind because She was going to make the offer soon!

"UhÖ yeah." I was still having trouble with God sounding like Marty, but I was hanging in.

"Well, how Ďbout you working the acre between my house and Hillmanís place? Thereís a good source of water and the acre hasnít been cropped with anything but grass for the last five years so you could probably get it certified "organic" if you wanted too."

I donít think I paused very long to consider. After all She has offered me things in the past, a million dollars comes immediately to mind! So I said "yes" this time, though I was thinking Great. Here I am 56 years old and the last 35 years Iíve been a slug, and NOW She wants to give me an acre to work?

"Iíll help you out as best I can." She says with that Marty voice. "I can turn the sod with the tractor and disk it for you. After that youíre on your own."

"You got a dealÖ uhhÖ Marty." Boy, did She sound like Marty.

Wanting to be certain Marty knew about the deal I called him the next day and sure enough, God had taken care of that too. I was to confirm my use of the acre with Martyís brother Mike, who was also agreeable to the idea.

Yee HAW!!! We gots us an acre to garden! I was on-line spreading the news among my several homesteading/gardening/farming friends before the fact of an acre set in. Mark Zurgable posed the question while I was looking over the seeds and tools I figured Iíd need from his hardware store.

"Jack, do you actually know how big an acre is?"

Of course I did, Iíd looked it up the day before. "Forty-one thousand square feet bigger than anything Iíve ever gardened before." Oh, I thought I was ready.

Mark gave me that sad smile he usually gives me when Iím talking nonsense. (He often smiles at me like that.) After trying to caution me about just how big an acre actually is Mark allowed he could supply most of what weíd need to get started once Marty had opened the acre for us. (Us being Dear Wife (DW), who, while on board with the whole idea, thinks it will end up being more work for her and an excuse for me to wander over to Hillmanís place to play with his dogs and avoid pulling weeds. Women!)

Still floating on my little cloud, DW and I picked up Marty and went over to survey the acre. Hoo boy. Itís actually closer to an acre and a half, or so Marty thinks. We didnít have a tape to measure it with. Evidence of deer as thick as ticks on a stray dog was everywhere! Groundhogs have center stage on the acre plus! Having gardened (off and on over the last decade) on the farm Marty lives on, Iím well aware of vegetable eating insects in that area that Iíve never had to deal with in town.

Looking across that very long lay of grassy ground; Markís question comes to mind. "Do you actually know how big an acre is?" I do now! I donít think me and my little 6 hp rototiller are going to survive this.

We discuss how the wind rakes the field (Iíve decided it ainít a garden, itís definitely a field!) Where we should plant the perennial crops like asparagus, raspberries and eventually blueberries. Which crops are likeliest to be deer ravaged and whether planting them nearest the house (at the west end of the field) would deter deer. (We all doubt it.) And what would we cover crop most of the field with? We still hadnít decided that as we went home.

I allow I was more than a little giddy when I went to bed that night and it wasnít from the half glass of wine I sipped. Iíd gotten over the shock of how big 43,560 square feet actually is. (Out of sight, more likely to delude oneself.) We could do this! Years of playing at gardening could turn into something to replace the factory when it finally closes and leaves me collecting aluminum cans for cash. I dozed with visions of plum trees in my head and grape vines supplying me with fruit I could ferment. All to be lifted in praise to Her of course.

The tick I found imbedded in my chest the next morning eventually caused Doc Curley to comment, "Jack, thatís an infected deer tick bite."

Always hoping for the best I asked "Do you mean the bite is infected or the tick was?"


Sometimes reality sucks. Ask the tick that died as I pulled her loose. I knew there was a balance to be met when I accepted the acre as our next garden. Honestly, I figured Iíd be hoeing away at some weeds around about mid July when my heart would quit. That may happen yet, but the tick is a slap up side the head. A reminder that Iím stepping out of my relatively safe life into a world Iím not ready for. (When I last walked along woods edged fields on a regular basis no one here had ever heard of Lymeís disease!)

Brought down from the clouds, Iím taking a more reasonable look at what we have been given. We simply donít have the money needed to go full-bore at an acre of anything. What we do have is a desire and a willingness to work as much of the ground as makes sense for two people their first year out. Weíre going to make mistakes and weíre going to learn from them. If I donít drop dead in the field, and She doesnít change Her mind causing Marty and Mike to regain their senses, weíll eventually establish a market garden on that acre.

Of course, I really wouldnít wander over to the Hillmanís place to avoid hoeing weeds. Iím sure theyíd find even more odious work for me to do there!

Read other articles by Jack Deatherage, Jr.