Get the latest updates as we post them — right on your browser

. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Trying to Separate the Squash From the Men

To Our Readers

Has something you've read here startled you? Are you angry, excited, puzzled or pleased? Do you have ideas to improve our coverage?
Then please write to us.
All we ask is that you include your full name, the name of the city from which you are writing and a contact telephone number in case we need to get in touch.
We look forward to hearing from you.

Email the Opinion Page Editor

After our prolonged battle, my wife finally won out and I started accompanying her to our dacha. The unbearable summer heat in Moscow and the mosquito repellents suggested by my daughter-in-law Nadya played a crucial role. The mosquitoes stopped coming near me. If it were up to me, I'd build a monument on behalf of all dacha-goers to the people who invented such a thing. And the pesky country crows disappeared. The heat probably scared them away and they went off to rest someplace cooler. No complaints here.

The kids started coming out there regularly, too. A passion for agriculture had mysteriously awoken in them and I thought to myself that, before we knew it, they might quit their jobs at penniless research institutes and go into farming. It wouldn't be so bad: year-round, home-grown vegetables without any chemicals.

Meanwhile, they'd tilled our whole "potato field" — about 1,500 square meters — and planted all sorts of vegetables in neat beds. Nadya proved to be the most ardent farmer. Who would have thought — a beautiful city girl with a stunning manicure and you can't drag her out of the dirt!

One time I drove in from the city and went out to look at the garden. In the distance I saw something red and round and tried in vain to understand what it was. It turned out to be Nadya on her knees planting squash seeds; I recognized my daughter-in-law, in a red sundress, when she sat up with her head straight. The squash patch where Nadya had hunched to the ground was soon full of huge green leaves interspersed with yellow flowers — all squash-to-be. My wife was overtaken with a desire to contribute somehow to the family's agricultural activities. Before bed she started reading a book called "My Dear Gardeners." "Listen," she said, "it says here that for a good harvest squash should be artificially pollinated. In other words, female flowers should be poked with male flowers."

She figured out which gender was which and, during our next dacha trip, determined that all our flowers were female. Without losing a moment, she marched off to our neighbor's house and soon returned with three squash flowers in hand.

"The old lady next door kept looking at me like I was crazy," my wife shrugged and set about diligently poking the "female" flowers with the "male" ones, all the while repeating: "Grow, grow, my boys, grow quick and big. I like you fried and I like you stewed."

She worked her way through the garden until suddenly I heard Nadya laughing: "Watch out, mom! Your squash 'men' are already satisfying cucumber 'women!'"

About two weeks later, the squash appeared. Both where my wife had poked and where she hadn't, they were exactly the same.

Vladislav Schnitzer is a journalist and pensioner living in Moscow.