Swamp Farmers, defined: New Hampshire vegetable farmers who have been invited by dear friends to join in a week-long trip to Okefenokee Swamp in Georgia. These farmers haven't had a family vacation, for oh, say 14 years, which just happens to be the same number of years since they bought their fine farm. Now they are so excited about the Okefenokee Swamp, they want to live there!
Why a big old swamp in Georgia, you ask? Oh many, many reasons:
Eighty degrees in December. Ah . . . maybe a farmer could Georgia-swamp-it in winter and NH-plow-it in the summer?
Related point of interest: As the farmers study the farmland north of the swamp, one farmer asks, squinting against the sun,“What's that white stuff in the furrows? Doesn't it look a little like snow?” The other farmer shades his eyes. “That's sand, my dear,” he answers. “That's sand.”
400,000 acres of wetlands, in a National Wildlife Refuge. That's a nice big chunk of land that doesn't require plowing or planting or weeding. Of course, somebody did have the idea to drain the swamp for farmland in the 1890s, and guess what? It didn't work. The logging worked, however, and thousand year old, twenty feet around cypress trees were cut down and hauled out, before the swamp was established as a refuge in 1937. The cypress grow at a rate of one inch in diameter every twenty years, an incredibly long slow quiet beautiful process. The whole swamp itself is a beautiful process, full of the lovely ibis and egrets and herons and anhingas and buzzards and cormorants.
Related point of interest: the swamp is also winter home to the beloved phoebe, who nests over the farmers' back door every spring. “Aren't you surprised to see us here, friend?” said one farmer to the phoebe. “I sure am surprised to see us here,” said the other farmer, followed by, “It's so wonderful! Let's stay here forever!” After all, there are black bears and turkeys and robins and deer and fox and otters here, too, along with the pygmy rattlers and swamp frogs and swamp fish and swamp plants. Surely a northern farmer could fit right in.
13,0000 alligators. That's a nice big bunch of critters that don't need grooming or feeding or watering. And the farmers saw almost all 13,000 - they are so numerous that a New England farmer forgets to be scared, and enters the calm still basking-in-the-sun state of the alligator.
Related point of interest: a farmer also appreciates the sweet slow slipping of the alligators under the water when the canoe comes too close. “Thanks, gator!” say both the not-so-scared-yet-still-mighty-respectful farmers.
50 canoes and 100 paddles. All lined up waiting for swamp farmer adventures. The trails at the Okefenokee are mainly canoe trails, and paddling through the cypress and live oaks and Spanish moss takes a whole different set of muscles than farming. That is a fine thing. Sometime as a farmer needs to use a different set of muscles. Especially the basking set.
Related point of interest: The four basking farm horses and three basking farm kitties were so glad to see the farmers, when they got back to the snowy farm. Wonder what the horses and kitties would think of canoeing in the swamp?
Originally published in the Monadnock Shopper News, Jan 20- Jan 26, 2016