15 October 2010

Selling Spring

Last week I received my “Guide to Winter Warmth” issue of the L. L. Bean catalog. Since moving into a new apartment a couple months ago, much of our mail still arrives with yellow forwarding labels from the post office or it is addressed to someone else entirely. Curious whether the catalog was for me or the previous tenants, I flipped the glossy booklet over to check the address label. Sure enough, it was for me. No forwarding label. How do they do that?

Anyway, next to the address was another interesting trick of direct marketing. Right there, in a bold, dot-matrix-type font, the sales folks from L. L. Bean wanted me to know:

-8 F
Last winter, this was the
coldest temperature recorded in

Seriously? In some circles, pointing out facts like that means taking the risk someone will spit at you.

Alas, it’s an asskicker economy and people need to make a living. At L. L. Bean, that means selling coats and sweaters. And, I suppose, that also means selling the idea that winter is coming hard and fast. Bundle up.

Having taken up this project to explore the world of Midwestern gardening, I couldn’t help wondering how the change in seasons would impact the business of gardening. How, exactly, would a nursery or garden center cope with fall and the approach of winter?

09 October 2010

Free Food

Throughout my childhood, I moved easily between our house and the neighbors’. Later, after leaving for college, I often spent at least some of my trips home in their kitchen, drinking their coffee. And, after more than twenty years, I still come into the Miltons’ house, without knocking, and raid the homemade brownies.

As it happens, Sue Milton retired to Mayville – less than an hour away from Madison – which makes it fairly easy to continue visiting. Except, now that I’m older and supposedly more mature, I do what I can to make myself useful (or, at least, appear so) when we visit.

During spring, summer, and early fall at Sue’s house, usefulness necessarily includes helping with the garden. But, around here the true scope of gardening is a little ambiguous.