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July 23, 2014

F O R A G E R

 

 

Who needs an asteroid when Humanity can destroy the planet all by itself?  Scientists theorize that a celestial impact event caused the implied mayhem we note in fossils of sea creatures buried far above the level that water might ever have reached, the disarming presence of petroleum at 35,000 feet below the surface created by vast tonnage of suddenly deceased zooplankton, massive diversity die-offs in the Permian period 300 million years ago, the remains of millions of insect species that perished then. It’s so self-centered of us to merely mourn the sentient life extinguished by the great gas-off in the Siberian Stairs eons ago. What about the little shrubs? Was any psychotropic botany lost? Now you feel cheated.

We’re accelerating through space fast enough to unload the same kind of unfathomable planetary destruction, riding our own accident into the haze. The various environmental burdens we blithely measured for the past few decades have gone exponential while we have been negotiating modest interventions aimed at slowing down the catastrophe. There are too many people willing to say it’s even too late to counteract the damage done.

Stop promising us about the wondrous carbon emission levels we’ll see in 2025, Ford-Mercedes-Toyota. There may not even be a 2024! I haven’t read much of George Monbiot, the UK Guardian’s truth teller and author of Heat (2007), but back then he was optimistic. Now he’s losing it. He recently wrote: “ To succeed is to destroy ourselves. To fail is to destroy ourselves. That is the bind we have created. Ignore if you must climate change, biodiversity collapse, the depletion of water, soil, minerals, oil; even if all these issues were miraculously to vanish, the mathematics of compound growth make continuity impossible.”

At least there is still celery.  And papalo!   While there is still time, at least we can indulge in some feel-good food. And the beverage! A nice stiff one. I still need to try this recipe out, but based on the ingredients it has to work: Take the massive papalo bunch, take all the leaves off (small stems are OK) and put them in a blender with a bunch of peeled garlic, a cup of sour cream, maybe some red onion salt and pepper. Now turn the Waring all the way up to EXACERBATE and create. If you are quite done, thank you, with steaming the kale or marinating it for salad, this is a good dipster recipe for kale’s raw use too. But don’t contaminate the papalo! Papalo must remain pure. No kale in the papalo puree. Add more salt later to taste. You never take it out once it’s in. While we’re waiting for the slow, or perhaps sudden unlive-ablity of the biosphere (quick might be preferable), using the celery as a utensil to scoop with will provide us with another means of crunching through this remorseless vegetable. When will it end? People have been leaving them aside lately, which is to be expected. Even the holy kale, gift of summer is discarded now and then. Somebody is so over the kale. But no telling how long the kale will survive because the dread Bagrada Hilaris  is now observed en masse. But it’s whacking the arugula I planted to surprise you with, which should not come as any sort of surprise. That is, that the insects should prefer what we want most. I wonder if they will discover the cabbage? They will ruin the radishes too, so we may have to pull them prematurely.

Guess I will just have to plant more C-E-L-E-R-Y.

Then in the winter we will be able to blend up some cilantro or parsley with the sour cream instead of the papalo. Bagrada doesn’t like cilantro, as I have noted far too many times.

What you have in your CSA Share today is the photo negative image of April 27th. The Day The Well Died. On that day I had to stop planting anew and maintain what was already planted with the meager irrigation available through the hose bibs of Help of Ojai and our great benefactor, The Ventura County River Water Disctrict, who gave me a one-month exemption in order to provide you some carrots and beets. Those are now passed. New ones do grow, but delayed. But we did save the celery and the papalo of course, and nurtured the eggplant and what looks like a modesly successful tomato crop that refuses to ripen. Soon it must, mustn’t it?

When the well broke, we set aside more zucchini and postponed the cucumbers. We just planted our sweet corn a few weeks ago, can you believe it? Melons look promising. Sweet peppers will no doubt thrive. We have dependable chile peppers, but you don’t need to worry. I will never put the chile peppers in the box.

July 16, 2014

F O R A G E R

 

Talc. Such a miserably dry word. Just pronouncing it makes you thirsty. Talc describes the soil as it flows out behind the tractor while pulverizing the earth in order to dominate it a little longer with some instant agriculture. Rip it with tough metal tines, throw a bit of magic soybean meal on it and walk a big fat rototiller over the bed with the force of 64 horses churning the stuff to dust like a Hamilton Beach blender turned all the way to OBLITERATE.

Now plant a few thousand tender transplants into the talc, lay on some sadly disposable plastic tubing and watch the rain that fell in 2010 drip-drip-drip out the teensy holes, the water spreading out into a contiguous line all the way from the well to the tender roots now embedded in the powder of the season.

Should I refrain from reminding you continually of the doom? I’m always returning to the morbid portent of running out of water and the habit must seem self-indulgent. Of course someone should bleat about the inevitable calamity of dry taps sucking air in unison down every fresh street and throughout orchards and plantscapes. Perhaps not. If the severe and unthinkable end of water is unavoidable, is there reason to warn? The lake will shrink into a muddy puddle sooner or later. Perhaps we should all wash the dust of our vehicles one last time before packing up and driving away. I am sorry to do the math, but the math is unavoidable. If we are three to five years into a serious drought and three years of serious rain are needed to erase the deficit, it seems that we are depending a little too heavily on the coming rainy season to float us back up to peace of mind.  The smart people, those bleaters woefully warning that 18 months is the maximum water storage available for Southern California, have been doing the same math.

Officials are right to advise conservation. But should The Gov lay all the responsibility on poor Gwen and Glenn, who have decided to only wash their children every other day unless they are wretchedly filthy, and painted their names with finger nail polish on water glasses so they can drink and then store the glasses without unnecessarily washing them repeatedly and spent a small fortune on mulching their back yard. When Gwen couldn’t find her car in a big parking lot last week her companion asked her what color it was and Gwen couldn’t remember. “ It’s sort of a dusty-coppery-gray, or was it blue?”  She gave up and came back with Glenn at 11 PM when the lot had cleared out and her dusty-coppery car ( not blue) was more obvious.

Shouldn’t Big Boy cut back? Why does Little Boy always fight the war? The local water districts are not distributing water meters until the drought ends.

 

July 9, 2014

F O R A G E R

 

Good old Papalo. Can’t keep a good weed down. He was rangy and root-bound when he arrived here from Don’s, but he’s bursting with some good old-fashioned Bajio goodness, a fresh, not unpleasant but obscure Zapotec treat to chew on. You’ll know Papalo when first you lay eyes on him because many have never seen the herb before. Then the taste will underscore the exotic. Truth is, people claim Papalo cures the common cold, or at least prevent it. Eleanor boasted that it made her smarter but I don’t know how she can tell because she’s already pretty smart.

I could say something melodramatic, like, “This is what a drought looks like”. Or…”Papalo….goes well with some roasted, crushed acorns, a little kelp and some free range sand crabs.” The sand crabs are early and plentiful this year. Wait until they blow up in size though. Right now they are barely big as your baby fingernail, but give them time to scavenge about in the surf break and they’ll reward you with easy-to-catch and easy-to-eat satisfaction. Not that we are desperate. Though we should at least pretend we are desperate, because we are, blindly, even though the automatic sprinklers are still firing away on perfect lawns and Rosie Conklin can hose down her driveway like we just had a winter full of cloud busters and boulder crunching torrents. But does it matter if Rosie squirts her asphalt? Should we Gestapo each citizen-snitch so nobody will water a fern lest the water gendarmes haul us before the tribunal of public scorn and brutally Thumbs Down us in the Ojai Valley News? Should we abandon our holy mission at the Farmer and The Cook to serve everyone on washable plates and start shoving burritos at people on paper? Thumbs down to people with thirst! Thumbs Down to crockery and stainless! Thumbs Down, Thumbs Down, Thumbs Down!

Sorry Gwen, but what with the drought you have to either drink out of this paper cup or put your mouth under this spigot. Hold still and Dusty will turn the handle for you. She’s one of our designated quenchers.  Remember to savor, Gwen, don’t gulp. And your dog can’t have any water either. He’s got to drink at home where nobody can see him.

Yes, this is what a drought looks like. I don’t believe we have ever observed such scarcity of produce before. Sure, we got some carrots, some beets, the rest of the potatoes and onions. Even illegal celery. I say illegal because it is against the law to grow it in Ventura County during the summer because we are in a Celery-Free time period. “ Growers* are supposed to lay off the celery for a few months so bacterial disease will not be harbored into the fall. And you know about celery in the fall. Think stuffing. Imagine a big old bronze turkey crammed with celery-infused stuffing. I’ll bet you can smell it even. Yummy stuffff-ing….

If the bacteria kills all the celery in Oxnard then there will be no stuffing, unless you want to use Papalo instead. But that would take half the thanks out of Thanksgiving. What would you do with all your cheese spread too, if there was no celery? But I am not too worried about contaminating the Oxnard Plain just because I have a few hundred celery plants struggling in the heat. It’s a mighty far waft for the alleged celery bacteria to blow all the way down there-against the prevailing sea breeze, I will remind you. But don’t tell the celery police about my contraband celery or they’ll send a SWAT Team up here in camouflage and helmets to yank the crop out of the ground like they do the Mary Jane.

You don’t know how many people have suggested that I should grow the Mary Jane here. Are they crazy? Guarding against the crows is bad enough, but can you imagine the load of trespassers I would engender if I grew that stuff? Celery is illegal enough for me. They also suggested I could grow the hemp, the rope-dope that’s had all that buzzy THC wrung out of it. They say hemp’s drought tolerant. Yeah, in Nebraska and Iowa where it rains in the summer, ya freaking hop-heads!

 

 

* I have never been called a “grower” though the news media calls me that because I “grow” things for a living.  The term “grower”, when used in common speech, almost always refers to a Marijuana farmer. They even call his farm a “grow”….  as in,  “ I heard the Sheriff busted a big grow up in the Dick Smith Wilderness last week.”

 

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