PictureFarmer Small's pumpkins
I was standing at the kitchen counter making dinner when Farmer Small climbed up.
"The vegetables are ready to pick so I brought some to show you."
"Great,"  I said. "What did you pick?"
I looked over at him.  " Your pumpkins look a  lot like sungold tomatoes."   
"Really?" asked Farmer Small. "To me they look like pumpkins.  Maybe you need to change your perspective." 
"Maybe you're right," I said.  "Why don't you toss your pumpkins into this bowl with the lettuce, cucumbers and croutons, and I'll think about that while I eat my salad." 
"Fine," said Farmer Small. "But don't come crying to me when there are no jack-o-lanterns for Halloween."
"Wait a minute- I planted actual pumpkins seeds back in the Spring. What happened to those? " 
"The chipmunks ate those and then you just put the other pumpkins in your salad. So now you know. See you later." 
With that, Farmer Small hopped off the counter and slid out the door, leaving me with my salad and my new perspective.   



I was walking through the yard on my way to work  when I noticed Farmer Small  hanging out by a hanging basket of flowers.  "Hey Farmer Small.  I thought we agreed that you were going to stay out of my flower gardens." 
"I'm not in the flower garden. I'm on the hummingbird feeder." 
"And what are you doing  on the hummingbird feeder?"
He threw up his hands in exasperation as he answered.
"I'm going to catch a ride on the hummingbird."   
Of course.  Why else would one hang out on the  hummingbird feeder?
"Does the hummingbird know about this?" I asked.
"Not yet," said Farmer Small.
 "Well, have fun trying to ride the hummingbird."
Farmer Small smiled at me. "Well, you have fun going to work."  
Hmmmm.  I suspect that Farmer Small will have more fun than I will today.

PictureRoses saved from bugs!
"Hey, guess what?"
"Hi Farmer Small," I said. "Nice to see you! What brings you inside?" 
"Aren't you going to guess?" asked Farmer Small. 
"Sure, I can guess.  You came in to tell me that we should be getting fresh vegetables from the garden soon." 
"No, that's not it," said Farmer Small. "There might be some vegetables in the garden but it's hard to tell with all the weeds." 
"Well, you know our deal. You are in charge of the vegetables and I am in charge of the flowers." 
"That's the surprise,"  said Farmer Small. "I helped you with the flowers." 
" You helped - how?"  I said. 
" I saved your roses," said Farmer Small.  
" From what?"   
"How did you save them from bugs?" 
"I cut them, and brought them inside."
I looked at the floor and saw a pile of greenery, thorns  and rose petals.  Some bloomless bushes were visible through the window. The flower garden looked like Edward Scissorhands had a seizure in it.  
"Exactly how many roses did you save?" I asked. 
" Almost all of them," he said.  " I can finish this afternoon!" 
"We have bug spray, you know," I said.
 "Bug spray?" asked Farmer Small. "Organic bug spray?"
I nodded.
"That should work," he mused.  
"Yes, that's why we have it. So we can enjoy the roses on the rose bushes. Outside. In the flower garden. Where you are not supposed to be."  
"So you're not going to thank me for saving your roses?" asked Farmer Small. 
"Why don't you go save the vegetables from the weeds," I said.  "That might inspire some gratitude." 
He was muttering as he hopped off the table." I doubt it."   

Some weekends ago I attended the New England Society of Children's Book Writers and Illustrators conference in Springfield, MA. The conference was   excellent, and I was fortunate  to attend workshops by Marcia Amidon Lusted, Sudipta Bardham-Quallen, Kate Messner and Kami Kinard. In addition to great workshops and presentations, the conference has a series of raffles during the weekend.  And I won! A writers group put together a basket to celebrate the debut novel Golden Boy written by Tara Sullivan, one of its members.   Tara tells the story of Habo, a thirteen year old African boy who is  an albino. Forced to leave his home with his family, Habo learns that he is being hunted because albino body parts are thought to bring good luck.  Golden Boy is an engaging and important book and I feel lucky to both have won it and read it. It is being released this month so keep an eye out for it.  For more information about Tara, check out her website at www.tarasullivanbooks.com

PictureA strawberry that was in need of protection!
 "Hey Farmer Small, I've been looking for you."
"I moved out."  
"Why?" I asked.  "You're hard to live with." he said.  
"C'mon now, it hasn't been that bad!' I protested. "All relationships require some give and take." 
"Fine." he said. "I moved out because of the give and take."
"What are you talking about?" 
"Well, It's only June and you don't give a darn that the chipmunks, bugs and weeds are taking over the garden!" 
It's true that I have been a bit lax in my gardening duties.  It's been a busy spring.  But I wasn't going to take the grief that Farmer Small was giving me. 
"Hey," I said. "For a small plastic man you have a big atttitude. "
"It's my big attitude that keeps the chipmunks and bugs away."
"Baloney!  I saw a fox run across the yard with a chipmunk in his mouth the other night."
"And who do you think had the fox take out the chipmunk?" asked Farmer Small.
I thought about it. With connections like those, it's probably good for me and the garden that Farmer Small has  moved out for the summer.

"Hi Farmer Small. Where have you been? 
"I've been busy doing things. And now, I have a problem with my tomato plants in the can." 
I looked at the can. The tomato plants were a crowded leafy mess.  In the middle of the mess was an odd looking figure. 
"What's that thing in the can?"
Farmer Small beamed. "That's my garden gnome! My friend Janine gave him to me."
"Don't you think he's too big for your can?"
Farmer Small scowled at me. 
"No. He's not too big.  The can is too small. That's the problem with growing things in cans."
"How about if we transplant the tomatoes?" I asked. 
"You have a bigger can?" 
"Actually, I have some peat pots we could put them in." 
"Well, where would my gnome go?"   
I thought about it.  I have never liked garden gnomes. I have always thought that they were kind of creepy. 
 "I'm thinking we send it back to your friend Janine."  
Farmer Small looked at me. "He has feelings and a name you know." 
"Really - what is it?" 
Farmer Small shot me smile. "Alaska." 
I groaned. Farmer Small started jumping around laughing. "Gnome Alaksa! He's not real! He's plastic!  Can't you tell what's real?" 
Not anymore.


Farmer Small lectures the snow.
The snow drifts were piled high at our house.  I was still in bed when I heard the back door open, a woosh of wind and a little, tiny profanity.  I uttered my own little tiny profanity as I went to investigate.  Farmer Small was struggling against the wind as he attempted to go outside.
"What the heck are you doing?" I asked.
"Going outside to provide a weather update."
"Why are you going outside to provide a weather update?"
"I don't like the ones the weathermen on television are  making. I'm going to give a different update." 
"What makes you think people will listen to your weather update?"  I asked. 
He shrugged. "They listen to that idiot groundhog." 
He had a point.   
Farmer Small cupped his hands around his mouth and started to yell:
"This is a weather update.  Spring is here! The sun is shining, and there are mild temperatures in the upper 50s.  There is no snow.  We now return to our regularly scheduled programming." He turned to me and smiled. "See, isn't that better?"
"Yes, but it's not real." 
"Someday it will be real," he said. 
"Why did you go outside to give your update?" I asked.
" To make sure the snow heard my update - you know, in case it didn't know it was supposed to leave."
"And what is the regularly scheduled programming we are returning to?" 
He shot me a look to let me know that I was about as smart as the groundhog.

Famer Small helps make dinner.
I was in the kitchen assembling the ingredients for our traditional corned beef and cabbage dinner when Farmer Small hopped up on the table.
"What are you doing?" he asked.
"Making dinner for St. Patrick's Day." I said.
"Because you're Irish?"
"I am partly Irish." I said
"Am I Irish?"
"You're probably Playmobile or Fisher Price," I said, "but today everyone is Irish."
"Even the Grumpy Farmer?"
"He's 100% Irish."
He thought about that for a moment and then asked" Can I help make dinner?"
This was a new development. Even though Farmer Small wasn't  known for being helpful, I decided to give it a try.
"Sure," I said.  "First you take a leek . . ."
"Take a leak?!" said Farmer Small "What kind of recipe is this?" 
"Not that." I said. "A leek is a vegetable. What kind of farmer are you? " 
"I'm a great farmer! And I'm not helping you." With that Farmer Small jumped off the table. 
"Fine." I said.  
I watched him stalk off, perturbed that I had called his horticultural skills into question.
"Happy St. Patrick's Day." I called
He said something back in his tiny voice.  It could have been "You too."  Hard to tell.  Anyway, Happy St. Patrick's Day from this household to yours.  

Happy St. Patrick's Day!
The sky was so blue today that it was easy to forget that we just had a major storm.  When we went to  Kennebunk beach, the waves were vigorous and frothy, and storm refuse was scattered across the sand and over the retaining wall onto the road.   Sand dollars were lying on the expanse of beach between the water and the rocks  and the sand was studded with beach glass, smashed lobster traps, remnants of lumber and stones.  The beauty of the day brought people out walking the beach and dodging the bulldozer that was moving mounds of sand to protect the houses lining the beach from the very ocean that their owners were so keen to be close to.  Every once and awhile, an agressive wave would break past the others and run far up onto the beach, as if to remind the bulldozer of the futility of its endeavor.  I might have had some thoughts  of fragility and inpermanence but I lost them as I bent down to collect dulled shards of broken glass.  

 Sunday brought another 10 inches of wet heavy snow.   It was pretty and peaceful as I looked across the back yard,   but I wondered when there would  be a sign of spring.  
"Oh no! "  a little voice complained."Not more snow! "
The peaceful moment was over.
"What's the problem,  Farmer Small?" I asked.
"That groundhog is an idiot! Spring isn't coming -why people listen to that rodent is beyond me!" 
 Since I agreed with Farmer Small, I didn't have much to add to his rant. It didn't matter because he wasn't finished. 
"This stinks! My tomatoes are sprouting.   They'll need to be outside soon, and there's still snow."
"They look good, Farmer Small.  Have you told the Grumpy Farmer that they've sprouted?" 
"Nope," he said. 
"Why not?"  
"I'm not giving him my gardening secrets. He can grow his own tomatoes." 
"There weren't any seeds in the present you gave him."  
 "Heh,heh,heh," he laughed as he walked away,   
Farmer Small is a scary little dude.