The Mint Farm by Liesl Nunns

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wooden sign that says "mint" in herb gardenRose brings the books home for me on day one of my flu-ridden confinement. The Old Order Amish in Plain Words and Pictures and, simply, The Amish. She knows I love the Amish—in the way one loves all things experienced theoretically and from the perspective of novelty: with casual abandon. As with, say, parrots that can talk or rodeos, there is a great appeal that can be relished when the familiarity of first-hand experience doesn’t get in the way. (My phone judges itself to be 14,210 km away from Intercourse, Pennsylvania.)

The library at Rose’s work is closing and she is, for the time-being, changing hats from Librarian to Misc. Not all the books and journals will find a new home, and she cannot not bear to see them sent to the dumpster. The Amish collection, at least, is spared this ignominy and is clutched gratefully to my pajamaed bosom.

“Did you know that celery is an important dish at Amish weddings?’ I ask Rose as she makes us dinner. “And that they mainly use three kinds of wagons?”

“We should get a wagon at the mint farm,” she says.

“And be Amish one day a month!”

We eat dinner together and compare our days. The last of the evening sun streams right into the lounge of our apartment and we bask in it as we sip our cold drinks, glasses stuffed with mint leaves from our first windowsill crop (“free luxury,” we always say as we crack the ice cubes in). The apartment—“the Maisonette”—is very small but it’s perfect to us. We live in each other’s pockets somewhat but we never fight, for we are the best of friends. The Maisonette has no balcony, no garden, but we find endless fascination in the goings-on of the parking lot (construction workers carrying lunchboxes the size of a spaniel; free spirits from the university picnicking on the grassy verge; skateboarders; once, a minor crime unfolding), and in any case, we are but a minutes’ walk to the waterfront, to Civic Square, to cafés and to all manner of places suitable for recreational activity. The Maisonette is not a forever-thing, but it is perfect.

“You’re the best wife I’ve ever had,” I tell Rose.

“You too, my love.”

“Did you know that Amish brides wear a dress of blue, green, or lavender?”

“I did not!” She is so happy to know that.

I fall asleep to the traffic hum, only to be woken at three a.m. by two homeless men companionably telling each other to fuck off. Through the wall, I can hear Rose laughing too.


“When Rose and I are mint-farmers,” I had told my boyfriend, “you may help with the harvest, but you’ll have to wear a loin-cloth.”

He had questioned this and suggested he is unlikely ever to do such a thing. I text him on the second day of my confinement to say that that, if he were Amish, there’d only be three professions available to him: farmer, clergyman, or wagon-builder. He replies that he’d rather be a wagon-builder than a labourer at our mint farm, easily. But it does not matter because I do not intend to keep him as long as all that. He is nice for now, but he is not a forever-thing either. And I can tell he feels the same, which is what makes it okay.

“Why do you want to be mint farmers anyway?” he had asked in the initial days of our not-love affair. “I’m not sure that’s a real thing.”

As if mint just happens.

“Everyone loves mint,” I had pointed out. “We’re going to live the middle of nowhere, with a wrap-around veranda where we can sit at night looking out to the mountains and having a gin. And we can just reach out and pluck some fresh mint and put it right in the glass. Who wouldn’t want that?”


On the morning of the third and final day of my confinement, Rose is making me tea, and I have to give her the bad news that our first crop has been struck by blight. Some sort of furry white infestation that we hadn’t seen coming. I stand vigil at the windowsill while Rose looks on Amazon for a guide to mint husbandry. She’ll be late for work, but that job isn’t a forever-thing either. She’s too good for them.

Out in the parking lot, a construction worker returns to his ute after a long night’s work. To our surprise and glee, he pulls back the cover on the truck bed and two large dogs leap out. They run joyful laps around the cars, nipping excitedly at each other and darting up the embankment where the first of the sun drops like honey.

Liesl-NunnsLiesl Nunns graduated with a doctorate in classical languages and literature from the University of Oxford in 2011 and now lives back in her hometown and favourite place in the world: Wellington, New Zealand. She divides her time between writing, working in arts administration, and editing a literary journal that she recently founded with her best friend (with whom she really does dream of starting a semi-Amish mint farm). She has work published in Southerly and forthcoming in Waypoints Magazine.


IMAGE CREDIT: Creative Commons


  2 comments for “The Mint Farm by Liesl Nunns

  1. Liesl, I stumbled across your gem of a work here quite by accident. Your style is so inviting and engaging. Thank you for sharing your writing and your experience of your experience. (incidentally, my sister and I had a fascination with the Amish for a while too – check out the documentary-style show “Breaking Amish”!!)

  2. This is lovely, but for the fact that the Amish are horrible puppy mill breeders. But I’m all for the mint farming — and the gin, of course.

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