Jen over at Life Begins at 30 asked who'd join her in NaBloPoMo (National Blog Posting Month) and I thought, "Why not?" Except, hello, there is no way I'm putting a picture of Yoda or a gun on this blog. So I made my own: I am a hoarder of Dover woodcut clip art, and this lady''s just been waiting for her chance to climb out of that folder. It's true that I no longer use quill and ink for my correspondence, but I did once, and it's the writerly spirit that's called for here. (Besides, who ever saw Yoda write anything?)
I'm sure I'll find some way to cheat.
Usually I stick blog recommendations at the end of my posts, but today I'm so excited that this one is going right up front. Harold McGee has been blogging since August. HAROLD McGEE! (That's him in the photo with me in the lefthand column). Here is a great little snippet, from an entry on organic vs. conventional agriculture:
"Organic agriculture, with no pesticides or mineral concentrates, usually exposes crops to more stress, and its produce is usually higher in phytochemicals."
I have to wonder though, if human nutrition matters more than sustaining the earth's ability to produce food. Pesticide use producing antioxidants and phytochemicals seems counterproductive: I guess you'll need your antioxidants to combat the cancer that the pesticides could cause. (You'll have to read the whole paragraph: I can't print the whole thing here.) And I imagine Harold will find his way here to let me know what I'm missing.
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Pictured on the right: pineapple guava, also known as feijoya, which grow wild here in Santa Cruz. They're our new “oh dear God, what insanely flavorful fruit!" obsession here. Nell Newman (woot! she shops at the same markets I do) tells me that the flowers taste as good as the fruit, but of course, if you eat the flowers, you don't get the fruit. So there's that. Heh. These came from Thomas Family Farm, $3.50/pound. Everett Family Farm just planted a bunch of them, too.
Here's a tip to all my farmer friends: I want a glut of padron peppers next year, please. Selling out at the Saturday market before 11 a.m. and having none at the market on Sunday means YOU ARE NOT GROWING ENOUGH TO KEEP UP WITH THE PADRON BLACK HOLE THAT IS TANA AND BOB. Thank you very much.
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I've been going to the gym regularly, and recently started reading a book that came highly recommended by Jean and Bob out at Deep Roots Ranch. I've written here about Joel Salatin, of Polyface Farm, who is the hero of every rancher I know, as well as many farmers. He's written many books, and the one Jean loaned me is called You Can Farm: The Entrepreneur's Guide to Start and Succeed in a Farming Enterprise.
(Joel Salatin never met me. As I told one of the workers at La Milpa Organica Farm, "You plant seeds. I bury them.")
He's also got a book called Holy Cows And Hog Heaven: The Food Buyer's Guide To Farm Friendly Food that intrigues me, along with other book that address the business of farming.
Well, being that farming is not what I'm cut out for, You Can Farm is nevertheless a very pleasurable read. Salatin is a man of such intensified character that his sentences read as though they were carved out of oak. The first thing he does is call out to those who can think for themselves, and who will be able to navigate the terrain that awaits them should they choose to become farmers. He boldly proclaims that the reason industrial agriculture is failing is largely because the farmers themselves put themselves at risk by partnering with unsavory businesses and the U. S. Government.
"Because the older farmers are generally not open to new ideas, especially ideas as radical as the ones I propose in this book, you can be fairly assured that these successful models are not going to be adopted on a grand scale any time soon."
“As a fourth-generation farmer with a deep legacy of alternative thinkers on whose shoulders I stand, my advice may not be 100 percent correct, but it is tempered with lifetimes of wisdom.“
“As the industrial agriculture complex crumbles and our culture clambers for clean food, the countryside beckons anew with profitable farming opportunities.”
“Faith in the system is at an all-time low. Does anyone really expect Tyson to produce clean, nutritional chicken? Does anyone really trust the government to honestly inspect these plants? This lack of trust spawns brand new niche marketing opportunities for unique food.” (Folks, this book was written in 1998.)
As an agriculture writer when he was younger, Salatin saw “the unhappy farmers, the sick animals and collapsing bank accounts... The agri-industrial complex was rotten to the core. I saw the dead animals piled up outside the concentration camp factory houses, listened to countless farmer horror stories, smelled the drugs and manure."
Chapter 3, "The Right Philosophy," delves into spiritual (not religious) considerations, ecology (a word “not invented until 1869, from the Greek root, oikos, meaning ‘household’"). He lays the groundwork for the necessity of holistic thinking, and sub-chapter headings read:
Environmentally enhancing agriculture.
Bioregional food sufficiency.
Seasonal production cycles.
Decentralized food systems.
Entrepreneurial private sector small business.
Humane animal husbandry.
Relationships between rural and urban areas.
Rural non-industrial development.
Biodiversity and soil building.
Home cooking instead of processed food. “Isn't it amazing that at the same time surveys show Americans are increasingly concerned about the safety of its food, we are entrusting more and more f its production and preparation to entities we don't know? Talk about intellectual schizophrenia.” (Again, a reminder: written in 1998.)
Clean, nutritional, personally-inspected food.
Non-embarrassing farm incomes.
Emotionally exhilirating lifestyles. “Go to any conventional farmers' meeting and you'll see a bunch of older men sitting around grouching about how awful everything is. They complain about the stranglehold of the huge corporations, from processors to fertilizer dealers. But of course every Monday morning they rush pell mell to patronize these entities they view as their enemies. They're all wearing caps emblazoned with the logos of these nasty corporations.”
Drawing from a lifetime of experience in which he has been completely committed, devoted, and attentive to his life as a farmer and family man, Salatin's words absolutely ring with common sense and authority. If he told me that nailing my feet to the floor would enable me to fly, I'd ask for the hammer. (But he wouldn't do that, because his honesty is also transparent.)
I'm a third of the way or so into this book, and it makes time on the stationery bike go by in a whiz. I had suspected it would be compelling, hoped it would be entertaining, and prayed I might learn some things I didn't know. So far, success on all fronts. Here's a little McNugget for you: “To find folks who want to opt out of the conventional fare is easy when Time magazine reports that roughly 10 percent of the weight of supermarket chicken is fecal soup.” (Emphasis mine. McDonald's nasty chicken pun intentional.)
So: a resounding endorsement of Joel Salatin's book, You Can Farm, even if you, like me, have thumbs blacker than Bill O'Riley's heart.
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Are you cooking pumpkins, as I've been doing? Here's the recipe I used for Pumpkin Risotto. Modifications: shallots instead of onions, two cups pumpkin, two cups arborio, and added shiitake mushrooms. Divine.
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Ruhlman alert: Anthony Silverbrow interviews esteemed food writer Michael Ruhlman in this podcast. Well done. Ruhlman opens up, and the give and take is balanced. This is only the third podcast from Anthony (is Silverbrow a real name? Sorry, we call Bob "Silverback." so curiosity is genuine), and I do like what I hear.
Day One of NaBloPoMo: post complete. Only 29 more to go!
THOUGHT FOR THE DAY: “You know what I'm doing starting 1st November? Jesus Christ Superstar.” — Sebastian Bach
Well, better him than me.
Thanks for visiting.