Thursday, May 03, 2007

Like a Phoenix Approaching Its Burning Day

It is raining. Hooray. Lots was transplanted from the seedling beds to await the rain and it came.

It has been a rather eerie spring. April brought two snows, which itself would be ok and not even all that unusual, but it also brought about three nights with temps down to 19 or even lower up here on the mountain. There are always leaves by my birthday. Always. But this year there weren’t really. They had started, then the cold came and they got burned off. The tops of tall trees even now are largely without leaves, so if you look out into the understory, everything looks normal, but if you look up, or look at the folds of the mountain vista, it is not normal. Not barren but not lush either. Just plain weird.

I suppose everything will come back out and recover. I wonder what it will do to seed crops. The poplars were particularly hard hit it seems. Of course, they can do without seed for a year. But what about the mast, the acorns and hickories and such, that the deer and squirrel depend on? I don’t know. I don’t think we will have a speck of tree fruit, but then our trees needed a lot of work so in some ways that makes this a really good time to work on them.

We have chicks coming next week. And the spring version of the traditional fall draft horse auction is this weekend. I’m testing out milking the newly fresh goats. The cow’s production is back up to 3 gallons/day. I need a pig, bad. For supper tonight we’re having soup made from salt pork broth from roasts we had earlier and salad from the garden. Gosh but I do love that. Nothing like it. And the wild foods that are available now -- we’re past fiddleheads and haven’t found any morels, but we’ve had terrific young polk and the nettles are ready and the lambs quarters are almost ready and the locust blossoms won’t be far behind.

And it occurs to me that I currently have an obsession with proximate vs. ultimate causes a la this Jared Diamond character I’ve been reading. And just off the top of my head, this is what I think: Industrial agriculture is the ultimate cause which caused the excess population which itself is a cause for other ills. It still shocks me but doesn’t surprise me that people don’t get that GMO, specifically RoundUp Ready, was an improvement and that no till ag IS an improvement -- in industrial agriculture.

And folks, industrial organic is only an improvement of that same scale -- a little better in that paradigm but doing nothing about the real problem which is industrial agriculture. Everybody needs to be a farmer, everybody needs to understand soil mechanics, everybody needs to know the chemistry needed to safely preserve food, everybody needs to speak the language of at least one non-pet animal. That’s the only thing that might be improvement enough to stem the tide of massive starvation.


Wendy said...

I really like your insight, and I wholeheartedly agree - even here in suburbia, it's so easy to plant a small (or large ... depending how large one's patch of suburban lawn is ;) garden, or raise a couple of chickens or ducks. In most places there are no restrictions against either, and even in places where food "crops" might be discouraged, things like blueberry bushes, apple trees, hazel nut trees, asparagus, and other perennial plants, trees, and bushes make for a pretty yard, and are useful as edibles. There's no reason for an acre of grassy lawn ... no reason ... unless one has a horse.

kathleen said...

It is impossible, however, to lern to speak the language of any non-pet animal in a high rise apartment building, such as the one I live in at the moment. And what I would give for a tiny yard...

Danielle said...

Yes, edible landscaping and square-foot gardening are terrific solutions for more urban situations. Even in a high-rise, one can vermipost—worms could conceivably qualify as an urban non-pet animal.

I'm not sure I'd agree that everyone needs to be a farmer: more that everything needs to become locally sustainable and that would include a return to the barter system to balance different necessities and skills. imnsho, anyway


El said...

People also need to pay attention to the rhythms of the day, to the flows and ebbs of the seasons. You certainly have your eyes open, CG, and I would argue your eyes would be open even if you lived in a high-rise apartment.

I would say people need to have "nodding familiarity" with the ways of the natural world, especially when it runs head-on into the human-made one. Industrial farming is one evil, but I don't think industrial living (i.e., city-living) is evil in and of itself. People just need to make wise choices, and those need to be made by looking at the long view.

And I think that is what is so compelling about writers like Diamond. His view is very long.

the Contrary Goddess said...

There is no industrial living without industrial ag, I'd say. Which I'm not sure what all we'd have to live without. In Diamond's view, I think, perhaps a lot. But I'm not so sure. My culture has wonderful traditions of storytelling and music (just for two examples). And those things, frankly, are LOST in industrial culture. So you have the internet (which, btw, I think is great and offers a whole 'nother mode of consciousness) and tall buildings and preachers who don't otherwise support themselves and arteests. Is it really wort it?

the Contrary Goddess said...

Although, I have to add, there are lots of possibilities for growing even in cities. Gene Logsdon mentions what he saw in ethnic neighborhoods in Philly in his autobiography, You Can Go Home Again.

Anonymous said...

I'd love to hear more of your POV re: GMO's and specifically Roundup ready alfalfa.

You'd know more about it than me, but the whole thing makes me jumpy.

the Contrary Goddess said...

about that POV, it isn't that I think GMOs are a good thing. But I do have a bad reaction to people *who are against them to be against something*. If you eat corn or soy (or meat or just about anything else), and if you eat "organic" corn or soy, do you have any clue if it was better to grow OP and lose topsoil to erosion or to grow RoundUp ready and lose less? Stuff like that. I don't have pat answers to it, except to try to grow OP the corn we eat, the grass that our animals mostly eat. And while we do some tilling, we do it in truly sustainable ways, not the way of Big Organic. Etc.

See, it is the matter of the questions asked, and answered. Not the preconceived notions.

Like "organic" says you can't use manure. Unless it is composted. Well horse-hooey. The reason for that rule is INDUSTRIAL ways of growing.

I really don't know about alfalfa per se.

But I do know about asking questions and not ever being satisfied with the answers.

Danielle said...

I'm totally in agreement with you on the "organic" issue. I've been going round and round with the certification process in my mind, not just "Organic" with a capital "O" but with Certified Naturally Grown and Demeter—anything that's become institutionalized rather than following good sense and weighing the pros and cons intelligently and contextually.

All the rules and regs make me batty because they're one size fits all designed to think for consumers so that consumers don't have to think at all—they can look for the pretty logo and feel at peace.

Going local: thinking, knowing, learning, and either growing your own or knowing your farmer, how s/he grows and why.

Anonymous said...

Thanks for the clarification, CG. I am reminded of something I saw at Miles From Babylon re: absolutism. I think you've hit the same note.

GMO's worry me insofar as they seem to be released into the biosphere before a good account is taken of what long-term effects there may be. That said, surely there are times when they are helpful and appropriate.

And don't get me started on the whole "Organic" thing - the more I read/learn about it, the more it incenses me.

the Contrary Goddess said...

hmmm, well, tf, I think the absolutism may be in the chord here, but I guess I'm thinking more along the lines of people not seeing what the real problem is. Of course, problems are always onions, with layers. But it seems to me that people are simple minded (and I mean that in the worst possible way) with the "W is stupid" "global warming is the evil corporations' fault" & "if I only eat food that says it is local & recycle my toilet paper, it will all be ok".

It is that people's lives, right now, are not sustainable. And here is what I have to say: if your life right now is not sustainable, you ARE the problem. Not W, not the evil corporations, not Monsanto, not the church. You.

I don't worry too much about it because I think those people will die. And that's what makes me mean (according to the folks who are going to die anyway).

And I do think El is on to something about having one's eyes open. There are going to be waves to ride and if you don't see them coming . . .

And people won't listen so I might as well just shut up. There are always more options than you think of is all I have to say. I am not just lucky to live like this.

And people do not just fall into being able to work or having real tangible skills.

Ah, shoot, but I'm started now. shutting up before I completely make a fool out of myself (if it isn't too late already)

Ren said...

Dh and I were just having this conversation the other day....he was saying how the government is NOT going to wake up and make conservation and sustainable living a possibility for the country and I just looked over and said "WHAT? It's up to each of US, not some governmental body....what about just making different choices??!!" Gasp.

He gets that part. What he meant was that most people aren't going to make a damn change unless the government does something. Argh to the tenth power. But that all starts with the schooled mentality I say.....

Maybe that's generalizing too much though.;)