David Plants crop
Not radishes, but Farmer Frei still feeding the family.

“Draw a finger or a stick through the soil, making a line about a quarter inch deep. Place seeds in trough about a quarter inch apart and cover with dirt.” These were the instructions on the back of the envelope that contained the radish seeds. “After sprouts have established, thin to one sprout per inch by pulling.” I always had difficulty pulling the extra sprouts; hence my radishes were often stunted and misshapen. Perhaps radishes have a lot in common with life plans.

This all started months earlier when I accompanied my mother to our local farm and seed store in downtown Kirkwood. I was a boy of five or six and my mother took me along on most all of her chores. I did not mind this. The reason for our visit was that my mother took it on as her responsibility to keep the wild birds fed during the winter months. This store, named O.K. Hatchery, was near the railroad tracks and looked to be over 100 years old. The three heavy wooden steps leading up to the creaky screen door, were each worn down into a bowl shape in the middle from years of footsteps. I suspect that someone had to sweep water out of the steps every time it rained. Upon entry, you were greeted with the strong smell of chicken feed, sunflower seeds and a sundry of other farm and garden needs, all in open wooden barrels. The aroma was amazingly pleasant to me despite the fact that animal feeds probably aren’t that tasty to humans. 

During one of our visits, my mom excitedly showed me a rack of seed packets and asked me what I wanted to plant. I was excited about this project. I was going to grow all sorts of foods. Be a farmer. As I was choosing all the ways to feed my family, my mother started suggesting flowers. “Flowers? Why would I want to plant flowers???” We settled on radishes. I watched them grow with great anticipation. I ate them with great importance. They became the centerpiece of my meals. I’m not sure our family would have survived that spring without their sustenance. 

During my time of growing radishes,  my difficulty with pulling or culling was due to the lost potential of future yummy treats to eat. Perhaps the difficulty of culling possibilities has remained with me. But in hindsight, I’ve never minded a few misshapen radishes in my life.