Yes, yes, you know how the song goes. Gah, warm October day, out with my friend Eriko to see the secret farmers’ stands of Hayama. Yes, secret, you go past the housing development, down the side street, park the car, walk up the hidden path behind the farmer’s house, past the bamboo grove, climb the hill (at the top of which you can see Mt. Fuji on a clear day), and stop at the small stand where the farmer’s wife and her daughter-in-law sell vegetables and homemade baked goods.

I spied a few rows of swiss chard, with alternating orange, green, and pink stems and asked the farmer’s wife what they call it in Japanese: “suwisu charudo.” Haha. Actually, she says, an American neighbor planted it and left. She didn’t know what it was, so last year she just gave it away. But this year she wised up. There were only a few leaves left, but she picked it and handed it to me as a puresento. I grasped the bunch like flowers as she complained that the bugs liked to eat it; hers is an all organic farm. And she doesn’t advertise, it’s all word of mouth and that’s the way she likes it.

The kind of happiness I feel at buying freshly picked, organic (and cheap) produce sometimes strikes me as perverse, but there it is. Unbridled joy in a bag of sweet potatoes and a bunch of flat-leaf parsley. Add to that meeting the charcoal makers at the top of the hill, who giggle and joke with us—old folk happy to have company while they sit and wait for the bamboo to turn into charcoal (it takes three days of burning)—and I’m crazy delirious.

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