Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Jesus wept.

Me too.

This weekend I went to Crescent City. The Bishop likes a deacon along when he visits a congregation where there isn't one, so because of my prior work consulting with St. Paul's and my wish to see friends (and buy Rumiano cheese) I made the 300 mile drive.

One of my goals was to find out what was happening in the wake of the March tsunami. I met Nancy Suksi, who is working as a special assistant to the Harbor Master, at church and then visited her at the harbor on Monday morning before heading home.

The shocker was to take a good look at the harbor and see how very few boats were there.

The tsunami damaged the sea wall, already weakened from a storm a few years ago. As a result that harbor has so much silt in it that it must be dredged before it is fit to use. New permanent docks will need to be built, but there is no way this can be done before crab season which starts December 1. Dredging is costly, docks are costly and Del Norte is one of the poorest counties in the state, and certainly the poorest on the coast. Of course there is FEMA money - but it comes as reimbursement, after the work is done.

Nevertheless, folks in Crescent City remain hopeful (though not overly optimistic) that their plan to dredge the harbor round the clock during October and put in some temporary docks for the crab season can be accomplished.

That's the story when you've got a community whose well being depends on fishing - other than government jobs fishing is the main industry in Del Norte - and that makes recovery from a disaster which affects the fleet and harbor a double whammy.

Some of the boats from Crescent City are now fishing out of Eureka or Brookings, Oregon. But this is not a long term solution. Fuel is expensive ($4.07 is the best price in town for gasoline), moving crab pots and other equipment to other ports isn't easy, and navigating unfamiliar ports in winter, the stormy season, isn't pretty or safe.

Some of the boats - older wooden boats used by fisher families whose modest livelihoods depend on them - were lost in the tsunami. There are some funded recovery jobs for these folks, but not enough and not well paid. For a comparative statistic, consider that fishing out of Crescent City pays four times what tourist industry wages pay. The recovery jobs may pay more than cleaning a motel room, but closer to that than fishing does.

Churches are stepping up to the plate with charitable help for those who are struggling. I am so impressed with what St. Paul's is doing, and how so many of its members are involved - from helping with their community meal to leadership of important civic initiatives. Never underestimate what a small congregation can do.

So by now you may be wondering why this on a food systems blog. Well, sometimes we forget the fisheries sector of our food system. Much of the dungeness crab we eat at our holiday parties and January crab feeds comes from Crescent City. I don't know where winter celebrations would be around here without it. Sad, I think.

But the other thing that breaks my heart is that the disaster that hit this small community right in its vitals has received so little press, so little attention. It made me think - when do the disasters that hit our rural food producing communities get any media attention? Unless it's a drought that wipes out all of one of the big commodity crops, we rarely hear about it. Or if we do, we hear once, and never get updates on the recovery process, as we do when tragedy disrupts an urban area. Yet the proportional impact in a rural agricultural or fishing area may be even greater.

And yes, I really did weep looking at that empty harbor.

Thursday, July 21, 2011

Cuteness Alert

Tired of those emailed photo collections of kittens with the misspelled captions? But embarrassed to admit you do kind of like them, especially on days when you really need cheering up?

Check out this collection of photos
compiled by Slow Food USA as part of their campaign to defeat legislation banning photography on farms and CAFOs.

Why the alert? If you liked Babe you will love these photos, and there is a camouflaged cat lurking in one of them.

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

The Farm Bill, Global Hunger and local onions

In an attempt to raise awareness (and funds) American Jewish World Service has posted an interesting quiz. How much do you know about the impact of our Farm Bill on the hungry of the world? Are you ready for the 2012 Farm Bill campaign?

I thought I knew a lot, but only got 12 of 14. There's always something to learn.

And this reminds me. I met a man on Sunday who does all the "right things" in his garden in the Sonoma Valley, but still asserts that we need American industrial agriculture to produce enough for the world. We had a great conversation about many things - this is a lifelong learner in the sense that every gardener is, but also in an openness to learn about global issues around agriculture and food.

Apparently Lowell has a tradition of every fall bringing pumpkins and winter squashes to church to sell. He brings them, and asks people to make a donation to the church for what they want. This year he had a bumper onion crop, and brought some lovely ones. I'm suggesting that he do it with every crop. (I sensed a certain weariness on the part of his wife with the tyranny of husband induced bumper crops and the need to can and freeze.) Anyway, I'm going to dig up and print out a few articles on the promise of ecological agriculture for the developing world for Lowell.

Treasures in the blasts

I'm going through all the email blasts from various organizations and campaigns.

Lo and behold - on ENS a commentary about blackberry jam:

What I have in common with Lori Erickson - the diaconate and blackberries.

What I don't have is a husband to pick them. I spent quite a bit of time on Saturday hacking my way into the Himalayan blackberry patch behind the community garden, with scratches on my arms to prove it. So much growth this year from the late rains, and they are a bit behind in their ripening. But in a week or so they'll be fine. I use a few greenish gravensteins with my blackberries to make jam.

Another thing I don't have - people to eat it. Between the folks who can't eat sugar and the folks who won't, I can't find homes for a couple of small batches. And please - don't tell me about sugarless jams. Moderation in all things including moderation!

Still, there is that overwhelming sense of abundance and grace from getting a crop I don't have to tend - well, except for hacking out the excess new growth to harvest them.

Blackberry and zucchini season - God's extravagant generosity.

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Nothing but what I've been saying...

but still it's nice to see someone else say it.

Here's an article from the Houston area about "Slow Church" - taking the time for liturgy, prayer, and sharing food and time together.


I mean - we have Slow Food (I belong to the Russian River chapter) and Cittaslow - Sonoma is one - though I think it should either be Slow City or Citta Lenta - what's with the Itaglish?

So why not Slow Church?

Frankly, I think smaller and more rural congregations do better with a pace of life which does allow time to savor and opportunities for conviviality. I also see that Trinity in Sonoma where I am volunteering these days does pretty well. But I feel a longer essay coming on to explore applying the values of Slow Food to church life, and perhaps promote the explicit claiming of the best of this countercultural movement.

Thursday, July 7, 2011

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Changing of the Garden

Monday I made a meal of the last of the edible podded peas and the first zucchini! This marks the transition from spring to summer in the garden.

Actually the peas lasted longer than they do some years, as they kept getting a new lease on life from late rains.

The lettuce is bolting wholesale now, and I finished harvesting the garlic today. I found one inch long green bean - and lots of flowers, of course. I got my tomatoes and peppers in late. The plants are looking good and are blooming, though they haven't set fruit yet. The yellow summer squash is behind the zuke - but that's good for variety in that season when it seems like forever until the tomatoes start really producing, and it's beans and squash day after day. Beets are the one thing I seem to remember to plant early and often, in little rows that will give me a couple of bunches each and some greens. Beets the all purpose plant. There are some in my fridge, and a few that can be pulled anytime, plus some for two and four weeks from now.

It's open season on jars, too. Yesterday I ordered a box of no-spray apricots which I will pick up tomorrow. I had great success with brandied apricots last year, even though I ran out of brandy. Amazing how a pint of those can brighten up a winter evening - or several in a row. Most successful flavor: white rum and lemon verbena. This is now my recipe for Tipsy Apricots.

I hate the heat, but I love the foods of summer.