Ah, yes, July is nearly upon us. It's typical that if you are a farmer or know a farmer, you complain or have heard complaints of weather, weeds and pests. But, in July, better known as Hell Month, these decrees are taken to another level. Don't let the smiles, sun-kissed faces and, perhaps, toned physiques of your favorite farmers fool you. As a farmworker, let me give you a little insight: July is a case study in crazy. Mentally, our brains are akin to pressure cookers full of angst, anxiety and volatile emotions ready to blow. If you are a fortunate individual who remains stoic, Zen and even-keeled, then you should bottle your tranquility remedy, sell your concoction to your lunatic peers and get out of farming. Otherwise, as we transition from the calm-ish spring months into the height of summer, here a few things you should know when interacting with your "friendly" July farmer:
* If you ask "how are you?", be prepared for a long-winded, woah-is-me response. In July, you're unlikely to get a casual "good" or "fine" from your farmer friend. Instead, we farmers prefer a flair for the dramatic. By the nature of our expressive responses (with corresponding hand gestures), you may even assume that in our spare time we participate in community theater. Responses elicit two extremes: Everything is either the best or the worst. On good days, we may say, "These are the best sun sugars I've ever grown," and we may generously foist a pint container of them upon you. On bad days, well, let's just say, we prefer hyperboles: "I don't know what to do - the weeds are taking over the farm!!!!" "This is the worst growing season ever!!" Or, depending on how long it's been since you've last seen your farmer friend, they may just look at you blankly and laugh uncontrollably like a wailing hyena or, perhaps, cry.
* Emotions run high, so tread lightly. The next time you feel like popping in on a July farmer, it's important to remember that the person you usually know and love during the rest of the year is no longer in your presence for the entire month. In his or her place is a highly sensitive, emotional, over-stimulated, maniacal individual. A July farmer could either shower you with produce and hospitality, or he or she could punch and obliterate a heirloom tomato - an otherwise innocent bystander - while in a state of blind rage and frustration*. (*True story!) If you are planning a trip to the farm, arrive armed with nourishing food or drink, preferably items that calm the nerves. There may even be an anointment of sainthood if you offer to hand-weed or harvest that ever-bearing monstrosity known as summer squash.
* Keep it positive, but not obnoxiously so. Visiting your farmer friends in their natural habitat of the farm is extremely considerate, given that their social lives cease to exist beyond the confines of the property during July. To ensure that you have a positive interaction with your farmer, avoid the obvious statement of "Boy, you look tired." And, of course, it's a given that you shouldn't point out the puffy eyes and dark circles on their faces. Although sympathetic, you should not make this assertion unless you 1.) say it from a moving vehicle or 2.) give yourself a head start and are prepared to run. If, however, you feel like gambling and proceed with the "tired" comment, you could witness the other emotional extreme: Your farmer friend may just break down and turn into an emotional blob of nonsense.
To the loved ones of July farmers, thank you for your patience and love. But, you've been warned.
To my fellow farmers, remember, no one forced you into farming. Put a brave face on and avoid freaking people out. This will pass, the clouds will part and August will appear!