In politics, coming in second is called “losing”. But at the Fair, coming in second isn’t necessarily so bad. Second prize is a few dollars more on your prize check. If you order your seeds from Fedco http://fedcoseeds.com , as I do, those few dollars more will pay for another package of something to plant in next year’s garden. If you submit the only entry in a category and the judges won’t even give you a first for showing up and making the effort, that red ribbon might be “faint praise”. In a category crowded with entries, second prize can be a triumph.
Let’s take a quick look at Wishetwurra Farm’s second prizes from the 2015 Martha’s Vineyard Agricultural Society Annual Cattle Show and Fair.
Second prize for “Green Tomatoes, 5”. I remember that the first prize winners were really huge. No contest for first, if you like big. It’s always a thrill to find find five matched tomatoes on a single stem. When I saw these in the garden, I knew that they would be the submission in this category.
Second prize for “elephant garlic, 2”. These are very, very nice, and very, very large, but do you notice the flaw? The wrapper on the bulb on the left has split open. Why? The plants got a heavy watering just as the cloves were forming, and the growth spurt split the outer wrapper layers. Judges consider splits like this to be a flaw, so despite these being three or four times larger than the other entries, they were demoted to second place.
“Baking Potato, 5”. Try to find five “as-identical-as-possible” potatoes sometime. These just didn’t match well enough. Number five potato was noticeably an outlier. It’s easy enough to get a fine fivesome if you grow acres of taters, but if you’ve only got tubers from three or four plants, finding the perfect “quintuplets” is hard. There are always a lot of entries in the potato categories, so competition is strong. When I got back after taking these to the hall, I found a potato in the yard. The potato that was supposed to be the fifth potato in this set. Darn! Do you feel stupid when you make mistakes like that? I did.
“Red Tomatoes, 5”. Tomatoes are one of the most competitive classes at the Fair. These are “Better Boy” tomatoes that were started from seed. They’ve got a few surface flaws, as you can see, and they aren’t fully uniform. But who wouldn’t be thrilled to have these fruit? I was — and when I first saw this ribbon, my brain said, “Yes!!!”
In years past I grew quite a few flowers. My efforts were never enough to adequately compete with Ozzie Fischer or Sue Silva, but they were enough to get some seconds and thirds, and once in a great while, a first. If you ever beat Ozzie or Sue in “Adult Horticulture”, you have accomplished something. We had a few zinnias this year, and entered them, mostly on whim. The big zinnias were a mixed lot, and of course they struck out.
But our little zinnias placed second.
My favorite little “Persian Carpet” zinnias. They’re just so cute.
Last and not “number one” was the entry in the “Largest Sunflower Head” category.
After the Fair, I wedged this seed head into the branches of the little redbud tree that’s near the bird feeder, and which shelters the hummingbird feeder and the bird bath. The chickadees, tufted titmice, and woodpeckers will enjoy dissecting this sunflower head. We’ll enjoy watching them working at it.
And now, for a few words from our sponsors….”seconds”.
Baseball maxim: “You can’t steal second base with your foot on first.”
Proverb: “The best time to plant a tree was 20 years ago. The second best time is today”.
Hilaire Belloq wrote: “It is the best of all trades, to make songs, and the second best to sing them.”
Happy daring, planting, and singing to you all.