Cauliflower Fields Forever

“I can resist anything except temptation.”– Oscar Wilde

“I can resist anything except green bean casserole.”– Jeff Brown

“Where’s the cauliflower?” I asked my wife, scooting around a corner with our cart.

“It’s in the fruits and vegetables section.”

We were at the grocery store the day before Thanksgiving.  Vickie and I were entrusted to prepare the broccoli and cauliflower cheesy dish.  This was all fine with me, but I had mixed feelings about our mission.  In years past, I was in charge of the beloved green-bean casserole.  (A.K.A. Food of the Gods.)  This year somebody else was baking it (I hoped) and we were entering uncharted territory with a vegetable I had little experience with.   

“What kind of cauliflower are we looking for, Vick?”  My mind kicked into full smart alec mode and I gestured toward the cauliflower display.  “Let’s see, we have natural cauliflower, low calorie cauliflower, sugar free cauliflower, gluten free cauliflower, classic cauliflower, new improved cauliflower, caramel cauliflower, and my all-time favorite: movie theater butter cauliflower.”

Vickie picked through the heads.  “Here’s organic cauliflower for $2.94 and white cauliflower for $2.18.”  She picked up a green head.  “This one is $2.99.”

Interesting fact: Four out of five people who enjoy cauliflower recommend organic cauliflower to their friends who eat cauliflower.

“We’re getting the white stuff,” she said as she put one of the oddly shaped vegetables in our cart.

“Wait, Vick.”  I said in the most concerned tone I could muster, “Is this free-range cauliflower?  I won’t buy any vegetable, especially a brainy one like cauliflower, unless it’s been treated humanely.”

She rolled her eyes.

“I think it’s important the heads were allowed to roam the farm freely, unencumbered by fences.”

“I don’t know, Jeff.”

Another interesting fact:  Whenever Vickie uses my first name in a sentence, I know I’m getting on her nerves.

I wondered where cauliflower comes from.  Trees?  Cauliflower bushes?  An old familiar tune popped into my head…

Let me take you down, ‘cause I’m going to Cauliflower Fields

Nothing is real and nothing to get hung about.

Except they look like cerebrums, I thought, as I maneuvered into the checkout line. 

On Thanksgiving morning, I chopped up the broccoli and threw it in a pot of water.  Then I was ready to perform the lobotomy.  I rinsed the brain off in the sink and set it on a cutting board.  I glanced at Vick who was busy making deviled eggs.  “I’m ready to make my first incision.”

She shook her head.

“I’ll start by completely removing the frontal lobe,” I explained.  Then I chopped.  “Wow that felt really satisfying.  I think I’ll chop some more.”   Chop, chop, chop…

“Hey, Vick.”

“Yes, Jeff.”

“Do you know whose brain this is?”

“I don’t know.”

“It’s Abby…someone.  Abby Normal.”

She shook her head.


Pretty soon the broccoli and cauliflower were steamed to perfection.  I dumped it all in the crock-pot and Vick added her cheese sauce.  It looked and smelled pretty good.

A couple hours later we were at my sister’s house for the big meal.  As I loaded up my plate, I took some of the broccoli and cauliflower.  Everyone else did too.  Our dish was such a hit I’m thinking about taking on more responsibility next year.  Heck, maybe I’ll even prepare the turkey.

As long as it’s a free-range one.

I Got Your Back

“Don’t look back. Something might be gaining on you.” –Satchel Paige

“Don’t look back.  Something might be drooling on you.” –Jeff Brown

Our dog, Arlo, sleeps between my wife and me at night.  It goes without saying that I never lie facing in, so I don’t get a lot of variety, sleep position speaking.

My flight to dreamland usually begins with me lying on my left side.  Every night as I try to drift off, Arlo puts his paw on my right shoulder.  Instead of going unconscious, my mind focuses like a laser beam on the weight of his paw.  I imagine Arlo standing behind me, posed like George Washington crossing the Delaware River.

Yeah, I don’t get a lot of sleep either.

I don’t dare turn around to see what he’s up to; otherwise it’s like a scene from Jurassic Park.

Dr. Grant:  Keep absolutely still; his vision’s based on movement.

Jeff:  Don’t be ridiculous.  I’m just going to turn my head to— OH MY GOD!

If there’s one thing I’ve learned in my pathetic life, it’s never make direct eye contact with Arlo, especially if I’m lying in bed.  Somewhere in his tiny canine brain, he interprets “eye contact” as “unrequited love.”

Interesting Fact:  Arlo has a tongue and he’s not afraid to use it.

The assault on my personal space begins with steamy breathing in my ear.  He moans softly as he licks the back of my neck.  Then, like an awkward teenager, he goes for first base.  I push him back and say sternly, “Arlo!  I’m not in the mood.”

Like a lover scorned, he retreats to somewhere behind me.   Finally, as I start to drift off, he vengefully jabs his paw into the middle of my back.

Arlo:  Freeze!  Hand over all your peanut butter flavored Mini Bones.

Then my backside endures a barrage of bumps, kicks, and jabs and I imagine him as a masseuse.

Customer #1:  I feel so relaxed.

Customer #2:  His paws are magic, but I wish I brought my lint roller.

The dog often uses my back as a manicure table when I’m in bed.  It’s annoying when he chews his toes, tugging and licking them until my t-shirt feels damp.

Jeff:  Arlo, your nails look amazing.  What’s your secret?

Arlo:  Spit.  It softens claws as you chew on them.

Jeff:  That’s disgusting.

Arlo:  You’re soaking in it.

Finally, I can’t stand it anymore and I get out of bed.  I head to the kitchen pantry and throw open the door.  There, on the bottom shelf is my secret weapon…

A genuine basted beef hide wraps a savory middle that sends your dog to his own little busy world.

At least that’s what the manufacturer claims on the package.  I grab one and head back to the bedroom.  Guess who’s in my spot?  I toss the smelly baton-shaped turd to the foot of the bed.  Arlo gleefully lunges for it and I climb back in.

“What’s going on?” asks my wife, rubbing her eyes.  “You woke me up.”

“Nothing,” I grunt.  “Go back to sleep.”

A minute later I feel the dog crawl up behind me and put his paw on my shoulder.  It’s almost like he’s saying, “I know you’re having a tough time, Jeff, but I want you to know I’m here for you.

I got your back.”

The Perfect Escape

“The big question is whether you are going to be able to say a hearty yes to your adventure.”  –Joseph Campbell

“The big question is whether you’re going to say “yeah baby!” or “woohoo!” on your next big adventure.” –Jeff Brown


“Our spouses are crazy for not doing this,” I exclaimed, as my daughter and I signed the liability wavers.

A man held a harness out in front of me and asked that I “step into it.”  I’m doing this literally and figuratively, I thought.  As I pulled it up to my waist, I noticed it had all kinds of clips and clasps and slide adjustments. 

I definitely needed an adjustment.

“Go ahead and tighten the side straps yourself,” he said, as he helped Jessica with hers.  I could tell he didn’t want to be anywhere near my, uh…lower extremity region.   This was fine with me, so I did the best I could.  When I was done, I felt ridiculous, yet strangely kind of sexy.  I’m certain I looked like a Village People reject. 

Panelist Judge: Sorry Jeff, but we’ve decided to go with the construction worker.

Jessica and I donned our helmets and gloves and started climbing the stairs of Tower 1.  

My wife took this picture of Tower 1 from the safety of the ground.

The zip is a two part flight from Tower 1 to Tower 2 at Bloomsbury Farm in Atkins, Iowa.  The zip line expert waiting for us at the top was very friendly and didn’t appear have any qualms about being near my lower extremities.  “Those straps need to be tighter,” he said in an authoritative voice.  Then he breached my personal space and pulled them so tight I would’ve messed up Macho Man if I were singing at that particular moment. 

This shot taken from the top of Tower 1 is from the Bloomsbury Farm website. There were hundreds of people roaming the grounds the day we were zipping.

We were 51 feet high and had a bird’s eye view of the entire farm on this sunny fall day.  I could see hundreds of people wandering the crowded agritourism grounds, enjoying the hayride, pumpkin patch, and corn mazes.  There were two zip line cables attached to the tower above our heads.  They were 700 feet long and ran parallel to each other.  Tower 2 was our destination and there was only one way to get there:

Go back down the steps and walk.

Okay, there were two ways to get there, and sliding down the cables while dangling from underneath was clearly the most reasonable.    

The zip expert attached Jessica’s trolley and safety rope to the left cable.  Then he hooked me to the right and asked, “Do you guys want me to count down?”

I thought a prayer might be more appropriate, especially since we were about to slip the surly bonds of Earth and touch the face of God.  (FYI:  I was really hoping that second part didn’t happen.)  I asked my daughter, “What do you think?” 

Grinning ear to ear, she said, “Sure.” 

“3-2-1 jump!”

Jessica leaped off the platform.  I followed. 


There we are!

The cable bowed slightly as it took my full weight and the trolley made a “zzzzzzzzz” sound just inches above my head.  I would’ve felt the wind in my hair, but I was wearing that stupid helmet.  I could see my daughter speeding ahead of me as I started to rotate counterclockwise.  My mind raced as fast as my body…

Oh look, that’s where I came from.  Oh look, that’s where I’m going.  Oh look…    

For the record I didn’t actually yell, “Whoopee!”  In fact, I didn’t say anything at all.  The whole experience of zipping down the cable was absolutely exhilarating; I’m just not the kind of guy who goes around hooting and hollering every time something exciting happens.  Oh sure, I let out an occasional “woohoo” in print, but in real life? 

It’s just too embarrassing.

My wife thinks it’s interesting that roller coasters and zip lines don’t bother me the slightest, but the thought of getting home too late to let the dog out gives me nightmares.  “It’s all about escapism,” I told her.  “When I’m doing these fun activities, I don’t have time to worry about things like the economy or the cost of replacing our carpet.”

Before I knew it, my daughter and I were peering off the edge of Tower 2.  She beamed at me, ran a few steps, and jumped.  I took a deep breath, cleared my mind, and followed.    


Yeah, I didn’t say that either.

Jessi comes in for a landing.

Jeff without a care in the world.

To learn more about Bloomsbury Farm, visit their website at