Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Garden Bliss

Last evening when I finished fiddling around at the garden, tucking in a few more plants from among those donated, I straightened my back and had a moment of bliss, thinking how happy I am to have this garden.

I added a cucumber, another pepper, another eggplant, another tomatillo and some cinnamon basil - so I now have four kinds of basil. This seems like greed - but also sensory bliss.

I've also realized that given my struggle to find local garlic - or any California garlic - at our markets, I am determined to start growing my own. The soil is so much improved from adding compost that I think I can grow it over this winter and be successful. And I intend to learn to store it properly. Seems to me that one of the problems with market vegetables - and even farmers' market vegetables - is that things like onions, garlic, and winter squash are not prepared properly for keeping. Why would you when you can fly them in off season from Argentina, she said sarcastically.

Saturday, June 21, 2008

It was good to have a few days off, but to have them hot, and then to come home to even more of the same has left me enervated and even further behind in most everything, including this blog. This is the third little wave of extreme heat we have had this season - and it's just the beginning of summer. Is this the beginning of accelerating climate change, or just normal variation? I certainly can't remember such a hot June in all the years (now 23 in total) that I have lived in California.

I've been reading through the backgrounders from the UN climate change and food conference early this month, and I find that so much of it, though intended to describe the developing world, applies here.

I can't get the pictures of those drowned pigs in Iowa (from the News Hour) out of my mind. Would it have been possible to rescue the hogs if there hadn't been 3000 of them confined in that barn? Someone will scream sacrilege, but I couldn't help thinking about the difficulty in rescuing people who are living too close together without the means to help themselves to safety. Katrina images, I suppose. If we are the hogs keepers, then we are the ones responsible for their useless deaths.

If I were sentimental about animals imagine what I would be writing.

Meanwhile, I learned that National Geographic has a page with many stories about global food.
I'm posting the link on the list to the right.

Thursday, June 12, 2008

Even more garden news

I almost forgot to post a link to this great story by Pat McCaughan on a community garden project in the Diocese of Los Angeles. I wish I could have been there!


Hope for African Food Security?

Here's what Kofi Annan said yesterday in a News Hour interview about the global food crisis as it is being addressed in Africa:

And the idea is to work with other stakeholders to ensure that the African farmer gets the right seeds, seeds that are high-yield and pest-resistant, and ensure that the African soil, which is the most depleted, is improved, working with the African farmers, making fertilizers available to them, the right type of fertilizers, and working with them on the quantities they should use, on water management, on storage, and marketing, so all along the value chain.

Reading between the lines here, I am wondering:

- is he well intentioned about developing sustainable food security in African nations?

- or is he letting us know that this will be an opportunity for vertically integrated global corporations to screw up African agriculture - so it's not dependent on food aid, but is in perennial debt to Monsanto and ADM (one of the news hour sponsors).

This page describing various iniatives of the organization Annan is heading
looks good - but I am not sure I am sophisticated enough in my knowledge to read between the lines.

On the bright side, in his News Hour interview Annan did address the problem of agricultural subsidies in rich nations. The interviewer, however, did not lead him into a deeper exploration of this question. Of course, not - the subsidies don't benefit farmers in the US for the most part; they benefit Monsanto and ADM.

The whole interview transcript is here:

What are you beefing about now?

The latest Episcopal Ecological Network newsletter contained a rant from one member about not eating beef. I get this, having done it for ten years or more. (Unlike stopping smoking, I did not note the actual date, since, as far as I know, beef is not physically addictive.)

What I also get is that rants are not the way to change hearts and minds.

If you've been reading this blog, I hope you've been reading the Minimalist in the Wednesday NY Times and the blog Bitten. If not follow this link for some sensible advice on how to move the meat off the center of your plate.


Meanwhile I've been thinking - if it's methane we're concerned about, surely we need to cut down the amount of dairy products we eat, too. And some food alarmist did opine that cheese is addictive. Oh my. I can substitute some soy products for dairy, but others are really unappealing. There's also the fact that we have good local dairies here, but no local commercial soy growers. How does one weigh food miles vs. bovine flatulence when deciding how to eat green?

Garden News

Word of mouth locally and news reports from Britain and the US all suggest that vegetable gardening is on the rise. Marian Burros reported on the phenomenon in yesterday's New York Times. Her gleanings about who and why seem to match what one can learn by observation and conversation.

It's the price of decent produce which is the trigger, even though there are lots of other reasons (exercise, food miles) to grow your own. She even suggests that if you don't take a traveling vacation, you have more time to garden. That's one I hadn't thought of: the gardening staycation.

At the TLC community garden things are finally beginning to move. One thing I've noticed is that most of the interest seems to be among younger and older adults - and the pictures in the NY Times article illustrate this.

Water has been in at our community garden for several weeks now, and my plot is planted - at least as much as I am going to do for this spring and summer. I now have two twenty food beds. Our second heat wave has finished off the peas, and I'm letting the last of the lettuces go to seed for next year. I'd already interplanted the hot weather crops in that bed - tomatoes, peppers, tomatillos, eggplant, basil - so they'll keep on chugging as I pull out the peas. There are blossoms on the tomatoes and one of the peppers has set fruit. Nights have been warm, so the tomatoes should be setting fruit also.

My second bed is planted in green and shell pole beans, summer and winter squash. It needs a top dressing of the compost which was supposed to have arrived yesterday. There was not enough on hand to do the job right, but I was eager to get my planting done. I'm determined to get a few boxes built during the summer, and do some winter cropping this year. Probably chard will go in when the beans are done, and lettuce in the smaller boxes.

Late this afternoon I am going to help water down the rest of the plots so that they can be tilled and planted soon. I don't know what those gardeners are going to do for gopher proofing - my beds are lined with wire. But we have it on good authority - from Joe Imwalle - that tomatoes can be planted as late as Bastille Day and still yield in our climate.

Meanwhile, just the act of watering for a couple hours on a hot evening seems like a good thing to do - refreshing all the way around.

Wednesday, June 4, 2008

Coverage of the Global Food Conference

As I said a few days ago, I'm interested in which media outlets are covering the conference - and which aren't. NPR has had bulletins from Sylvia Poggioli yesterday and today - but with more emphasis on the politics than the science and economics. BBC is covering it, too.

Here's a quotation from UN Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon:

"We have an historic opportunity to revitalise agriculture... I call on you to take bold and urgent steps to address the root causes of this global food crisis."

And here's the link to more quotations from the opening salvos:

I especially liked this tell-it-like-it-is approach from Croation President Stjepan Mesic:

"We must admit the fact that we have reached the present situation because of decades of mistaken understanding of global development, because of a truly brazen imposition of unacceptable models on other communities and ways of life, because of unfair rules of international trade and the hypocrisy of international financial institutions, because of favouring big business at the expense of ordinary people."

Monday, June 2, 2008

We've been discovered

Tourists are coming to Sonoma County to eat local and write about it for the New York Times.


While I can sing the praises of some of the places mentioned in the article, I would like to add that you don't have to be precious or pretentious to eat locally here. But perhaps it helps to live here, and to have a sense of how community (the opposite of tourism) and local food work together.

I hope these folks go home and do something about their local food system - and not just for well-to-do foodies.