From the moment the piece of mail arrived, I knew it was a godsend.
It was unsigned, but the address was certain. A photograph of a tremendous, aging tree told the rest. Keep in mind, this was a year ago:
"We would like to welcome a new addition to our family. We have named him 'Aaron.' He is our new maple tree! Here is a picture of him, you'll notice that he's not very big yet, but we got him at a really good price and couldn't pass him up."
The sapling in the foreground was barely noticeable, thanks to the behemoth that was shadowing it.
"Oh, silly me ... in the background you might notice our old tree that we've affectionately called 'Brett.' Actually, the more that I look I guess it's hard to see poor Aaron at all with Brett's monstrous presence in the background ... notice how awesome Brett is! We aren't trying to replace him, not by any means ... however we realize that someday the time will come when he loses his branches and will no longer be able to provide the proper shade. It's good to be prepared."
The letter's author announced an invitation to another season of big-screen Packers football - and discussion - and noted the date of the opener.
It was Aug. 18, 2010, when Brett Favre announced a "very tough" decision to make another NFL comeback with the Vikings.
The previous season, Favre had led Minnesota to the doorstep of the Super Bowl. He had twice shredded his favorite rival - the Packers. So it was hardly a shock that the old gunslinger, perhaps against his better judgment, would give it another go.
The surprise was the squash overtaking my garden.
At some point, apparently, I'd buried a darn zucchini. (Let's not repeat this, but it might have come from my mother-in-law.)
I'd heard stories of gardeners overwhelmed by bushels of squash, but never suspected it would happen to me.
When the green fruits appeared, I waited for them to turn pale, hoping it might be a winter variety. By the time I understood it was zucchini, I was on uncharted ground.
It's one thing to unload a delicate green fruit. But what of the stone-hard baseball bat variety?
When my mother-in-law visited, I mentioned the prolific harvest. On subsequent visits, she locked her car for fear I'd slip one into the back seat.
Baseball bat zucchini, I have to say, is a lot of work.
I made one nice dish with Becco's sausage and Prego sauce. Then again, one might serve Becco's with a side of sawdust and pull it off.
I came to rue the cutting board, but plugged away at the crop.
The inhabitants of Casa Patterson in rural Niagara, with its expansive TV and roaming hens, are versed in the Lombardi creed: God, family and the Green Bay Packers.
Somewhere along the way - maybe with the best intentions - they added Brett L. Favre to the list.
It was time to give the Anderson cutting board a rest.
In the garden, I selected the best young zucchini of the still-growing crop and labeled it Aaron.
I found the gnarliest, past-its-prime, Ginsu knife-destroying specimen in the history of horticulture and named it Brett.
Bearing these "gifts," I complimented Ben on the invitation.
The Pattersons didn't flinch.
Lisa smiled, and the next week served zucchini breads.
The loaf marked Brett was full and sweet. Aaron was a miniature, and seemingly frightened to the flatness of a chin strap.
What is it with these people?
On Oct. 24, 2010, at Lambeau Field, Brett L. Favre threw for two touchdowns. Unfortunately for the Vikings, one of them was to Green Bay linebacker Desmond Bishop - one of three second-half picks for the Pack.
Favre, ever the warrior, went down fighting.
With 48 seconds left, he threw a magnificent strike to Percy Harvin for a go-ahead touchdown. Hugging his Minnesota teammates, he was again the ageless lord of the yard, slaying the Packers a third straight time.
Until a replay review ruled the pass incomplete.
The unraveling of the Vikings, on the other hand, was irreversible.
Four weeks later at the Metrodome, Aaron Rodgers threw for four touchdowns; Favre, none; Packers won, 31-3.
The Vikings relieved coach Brad Childress of his duties the next day.
The Wikipedia entry for the 2010 Vikings season says Favre "turned in abysmal performances for most of the season."
Let me be the first to say that's harsh.
Someone should definitely edit the entry.
The Pattersons would be good candidates. But they're probably up to their ears in jobs, family, and collecting eggs with bloodspots in case we do another gift exchange.
I'd be happy, too, to soften up the entry. Except, the zucchini is back. My free time is all about zucchini casserole, zucchini relish, zucchini chili, zucchini pizza, zucchini cobbler, zucchini fritters, zucchini hash, zucchini daiquiris ...
The best gesture would be if someone on the Packers would step up and edit that unfortunate Favre item.
But they're no doubt preoccupied with the upcoming season and, oh, if they do have spare time they're so, so busy polishing their Super Bowl rings.
Jim Anderson's email address is firstname.lastname@example.org.