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I may be a genius.

Not for sure…the votes aren’t all in yet, but I’m feeling pretty good about my chances.

Here’s the story. You be the judge.

I live in western Minnesota. Compared to the rest of the world, our weather here can be interesting. A clear memory from few decades ago: we took a group of church kids to the mountains of Jamaica, on the road from Lucea to Savanna la Mar, to repair hurricane damage in a church. The morning newspaper warned that winter weather was coming, with a possibility of the temperature dropping down into the 50’s.

Western Minnesota is NOT Jamaica.

Samuel Johnson once said, “A second marriage is the triumph of hope over experience.” No matter how experienced I am, when May rolls around, it seems like time to plant the garden.

Of course, that persistent hope is often followed by an internal, “What the hell was I thinking?”

The radishes, onions and potatoes had all made a substantial appearance when the weatherman started telling us we were in for a couple days of below freezing temperature.


This wasn’t our first rodeo, so I found enough tarps and drop clothes to cover the garden. But then I looked at the pear tree.

Years ago, I planted fruit trees against the south wall of one of the hog houses - two pear trees and two apple trees. I thought the southern exposure would help them get a head start on spring. Turns out, after further research, it was a bad idea. Because the air was warmer by the barn, the trees were lured into blossoming too soon. It’s a little like basketball players turning pro after one year in college. It can just be too soon.

I moved on to other bad ideas and over the years, the trees died one by one. Now, a single tree remains. Some years we get pears, some we don’t, and I try not to think about it too much.

But this year the tree was gorgeous, with thousands of blossoms, and I was already planning where to store bottles of pear cider as they fermented.

Then, frost.

The frost didn’t have to be a deal breaker. I did some research. In Florida, farmers sometimes hire helicopters to hover over the orange groves on cold nights. Excessive, not to mention loud. Another technique is to light smoky fires and tend them through the night. Not impossible, but I was too lazy to stay up all night tending a fire.

When I was still farming, we had a semi that we’d replaced the tarp on and I still had the old one laying around. At forty feet long and ten feet wide, it would cover a pear tree. I gave that a think. Deploying the tarp would involve me climbing on a metal roof, carrying 100 pounds of tarp, building some sort of structure to keep the tarp from crushing the tree, keeping my balance on the roof while flinging the tarp over the tree - it seemed like we were edging into “hold-my-beer” territory. Not to mention the chance of, you know, death.

I think scrubbing that idea alone should give me some points in the Genius – Male Division.

Finally, real genius.

After I quit farming, I converted the hog house into my wood shop. I was still running the heater while I was building kitchen cabinets. One of the exhaust fans still worked and it just happened to be right behind the pear tree!

I made sort of a surgical mask for the tree - keeping up with current times - from a small piece of canvas, turned the fan on, and went to bed.

It worked. Worked the second night, too.

“Sure,” you might say, “you saved a few pear blossoms. Whooptie-do. That’s no sign of genius.”

“Excuse me,” I might say, “if you look at what’s passing for genius in our country, the bar isn’t set very high.”

And then I’d go make some pear cider.

Copyright 2020 Brent Olson

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