|The scarecrow keeping watch|
The Farmer and old Cooper met around town years ago and hit it off like good buddies. Cooper lived in the little white and red house until he was 100 years old. He never had kids and his wife died about twenty years before him. Cooper and the farmer became good friends over time and when Cooper died, the Farmer inherited his house and land. “Real estate developers think I am nuts. They come around trying to buy the land off of me, thinking its crazy to use it for growing vegetables, and I just ignore them. Then they really think I am nuts.”
Cooper had the land since the depression, says Farmer. He built the garage first and then lived in it with his wife until the big house was ready to live in. “The house is pretty much the same, even the old wood stove,” says Farmer. When I told him that the photos I was taking would end up on the internet, he said he would tell his kids. “I don’t have a computer. I don’t have a cell phone. I have one of these phones,” he mimed holding a separate ear piece and mouth piece, “they call it a candle stick phone.” He said he didn’t mind me taking photos of the plants, people stop and do it all the time he says. “One guy set up a tripod, was taking pictures of the sunflowers. Sometimes they talk to my scarecrow. They think its me! You can take pictures, just none of me,” he said, “And leave out my name,” he added. We’ll call him Farmer.
|the suburban farm in the spring|
Cooper worked his land for decades. Farmer has been at it for six years. “This is not what I thought I would be doing with my retirement. I thought I would be working on old cars, until I got this house,” he said, peering out over the rows of tomatoes. “You can’t just put it out and leave it. Its like having kids - you gotta keep up with it.”
Between his own life in Edmonds and the stories he collected from Cooper, Farmer is like a town historian. “If you dig down, the dirt gets pretty hard,” Farmer explained to me. “You’ve heard of the term skid road? they used to do that here - skid the logs down the hill to the water. They had 4 or 5 mills down there at one time. Making shingles mostly. I’ve found old bottles and such in here. No bodies though.”
The vegetable plot is a full city lot of its own and is a lot of growing space for one man. Farmer has his own system down well and if there is one thing that you notice when you drive by is the neat rows and the organization of it all. “I don’t know if you would call it rotational, but I do move what I plant every year,” he explains. “Next year, the corn and pumpkins will be up here and I’ll put the potatoes at the bottom. Its a cold spring, so you take a risk planting corn. but if you don’t, you miss your chance. You know what they say - it should be knee high by 4th of July - but I have only had that twice. You get corn if its warm enough to germinate, you just get it late.”
|the farm in the summer|
Amongst his rows of peas, corn, tomatoes and onions, he always leaves room for a patch of pumpkins. A group of preschool kids come down every year and pick their own. “Because, you know, they think those pumpkins grow in the back of the supermarket.” He likes doing his part to teach them differently. “A lot of kids, they don’t like to get dirty, but out here they don’t seem to care.”
With some luck, there will still be places to get dirty and grow seeds when those preschoolers are old enough to retire to their own gardens.
A version of this story first appeared on MyEdmondsNews.com