Done

Yesterday was a beautiful spring-like day.  The temperature soared into the high 60s. Birds were singing.  It was a gorgeous day to be outside.

But I spent almost the whole day in the library of our local university, poring over 14 volumes of the work of John Wesley, wrapping up the final tedious task of finishing my thesis.  As I researched and wrote it I collected quotes and information from lots of Wesley source documents, both in print and online.  For consistency and ease of reference, however, I needed to source everything to one recognized collection of his works, something I should have done all along.  So while nature was celebrating gloriously, I was holed up in a little room all day.

But it’s done now.  For better or worse, I’m through with it.

I’m satisfied that I’ve been able to demonstrate that there is a discernible Wesleyan food ethic,  consonant with the contemporary food movement.  My paper argues that our ongoing cultural conversation about food would profit from the introduction of that ethic into the conversation.

Now I’ll just wait to see what my faculty advisors think about it.

And it is very likely that yesterday was the last day of my life I’ll ever spend in a library writing a paper for school.

Postscript:  Friend and fellow blogger DM asked to me answer some questions for a series of posts he’s going to do interviewing fellow bloggers.  He’s posted his interview of me, so go and check it out if you’re so inclined:  http://ialsoliveonafarm.wordpress.com/

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Water Trouble

The drought in California is now being called the worst in 500 years.  Tensions are mounting as water is rationed to the industrial farms (which depend heavily on irrigation) to assure there is enough for the massive and ever-growing urban populations.  Growers are bemoaning the loss in yields they’ll have to bear.  Cities are complaining that their water sources are being diverted.

The situation is an unsustainable mess and it will continue to get worse over time, drought or no drought.

We’re asking the California environment to do things it isn’t capable of doing.

We’ve made ourselves dependent upon food grown there, in an environment not suited to that kind and scale of agriculture.

Someday folks will be asking the question we ought to be asking now:  Why did we allow this to happen?

Changing the Way

As a society we are overfed and undernourished.  For the first time in history, poor people are often obese. There are lots of theories about why our culture makes such poor food choices, even while the consequences of doing so are so obvious.

The reasons are no doubt complicated and interwoven.  The bottom line of course is too much caloric intake.  But that still begs the question of why.

One common argument is that folks (especially the working poor) are too busy to prepare meals and eat good food.  I’ve been in the situation of working late and coming home too tired to make a meal.  I can understand the temptation to pick up something at KFC to feed the family after a long exhausting day on the job. But in the parts of the world where there are no fast food restaurants and junk food, the working poor still manage to prepare and eat good food (if they have it).  And plenty of working people in our own country prioritize meals and nutrition.  The problem can’t be attributed entirely to our being too busy to eat right.

And the health crisis is affecting the unemployed poor too, however.  They too are eating junk and they, arguably, have plenty of time to make a decent meal.  Why is that?

One theory is that good food is too expensive, so the poor have to eat cheap unwholesome food.  There is truth to this, but it is also true that a meal at McDonald’s or a meal from a convenience store is usually more expensive than a wholesome meal of inexpensive food like beans, rice, frozen veggies, etc.  It’s more complicated than just the price of food.

Another theory is that the poor often live in food deserts, without access to good quality food.  So they have no choice but to eat the junk that is sold in their community.  There is truth to this one too.  I know of communities where the only food available is from overpriced convenience stores selling crap for food.  People who live there don’t have cars or the ability to get to a real grocery store, so they tend to feed themselves and their families the health-impairing food that is available to them.

But consider this ARTICLE about a food desert in Philadelphia.  After polling the neighborhood and determining that there was interest in having a good quality source of food, a store was built there to offer it.  Michelle Obama came to the grand opening. At least one food desert was going to be healed.  But after the store was built folks just went right on shopping and eating the way they always had.  The store made no difference at all.  In that community, at least, the answer wasn’t just making quality food available.

Changing the way we eat is not going to be easy.  It seems to me that education is an indispensable part of it.  Folks simply have to understand what food means to their health and have to come to realize that the food they’re eating, however much they like the taste of it, may be poison.

When I was a kid it seemed that nearly everybody smoked.  It’s taken a long time, but the tide has clearly turned against smoking.

Maybe the same thing will happen with food.  But it’s not going to be easy.

The Future?

An interesting prediction of the future of religion in America:

“In a few years, perhaps a decade or two, religious America will catch up to Orange County’s present. There will be a shrinking number of evangelical megachurches, gradually aging and waning in influence. There will be numerous small, eclectic, multiethnic evangelical congregations whose emphasis on spiritual commitment and social service is unlikely to attract a large, mainstream following. And there will be surging numbers of immigrant Catholics, Pentecostals, and Muslims. The political influence of evangelicalism will decline. America will not become like Europe, where ossified state churches proved unable to compete against the inherently secularizing forces of market capitalism—and where immigrants’ faith expressions are often met with hostility. America will remain exceptionally religious. But traditional evangelical Christianity will no longer be a dominant presence in that religiosity.”

From Jim Hinch, Where are the People?

h/t Adam Moore

Inside Work

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We’ve been snowed in the last few days.  There isn’t much that absolutely has to be done outside these days, and when we’re buried in snow the list of necessary outside jobs becomes very short.  By the way, I know those of you who somehow manage to survive in the far north (which appears to me uninhabitable) will find it amusing that we’re seemingly paralyzed by a foot of snow.  I tip my hat in your direction, in honor of your resilience. Meanwhile, we stay inside.

So these are the days for catching up on inside work.  And there’s plenty of it to do.

Yesterday we tackled one of our ugliest annual chores, which, however unpleasant, is, I’m told, one of life’s two certainties.  Although I’ve found that farming is a surefire way to avoid having to pay income tax, that fact comes at the cost of having to wade through a large pile of forms and paperwork every year, in order to account properly to our masters for our failure to multiply our talents.  It feels good to have gotten that done.

These days it’s easy to make the time for paperwork and farm planning. Most of the year there are so many things happening outside, which seem to require attention urgently, that the “inside work” gets ignored until it piles up into an intimidating mess and missed deadlines.

To avoid that, we now have a regularly scheduled weekly meeting to catch up on all planning and paperwork.  Both of us just keep a list of paperwork that needs doing or decisions that need to be made and we sort through it all over a cup of coffee on Sunday mornings.  Doing it that way has really helped us stay organized and has been a great way to keep paperwork backlogs from occurring.

Days like yesterday remind me of how glad I am to no longer be chained to a desk.

Trellising

I don’t like trellising plants.  It’s just another example of me being hard-headed about gardening.  When I was a boy we didn’t even stake our tomatoes.  The terrapins got some of them but I as recall there was always an abundance left for us.

Now, of course, I do stake and tie the tomatoes.  But I’ve still resisted trellising.

I tried growing sugar snap peas on trellises many years ago and it was a fail.  The garden we used was still dead and poisoned.  So they just didn’t produce.

But I used their failure as an excuse not to try again.  I went right on planting large gardens of bush English peas, but never tried the sugar snaps again.  But I’m finally going to give it another shot.

This year, in addition to our Alaskas, I’m going to plant Sugar Anns, a bush sugar snap.  But I’m also going to break down and trellis some vining sugar snaps as well. Maybe I’ll even trellis some cucumbers.

I love the thought of picking peas without bending over.

“Enhanced”

At the Virginia Biological Farmer’s Conference I sat in on a fascinating talk by Ben Coleman of Mountain Run Farm, discussing how they raise and sell their grass-fed beef.  He mentioned how often water is injected into industrial beef to make it weigh more. That surprised me.  I knew it is a common practice with chicken, but I didn’t know about beef.

Doing a little research I discovered that the worst offender is industrial pork.  About 90% of the pork sold in supermarkets has had saline solution injected into it.  Check the packaging the next time you’re in a grocery store.  If it says the meat is “enhanced,” then it has saltwater brine in it.  The USDA permits up the injection of up to 12% volume saline solution in meat and allows the industry to use the euphemism “enhanced” to describe the practice.

I blogged about it a couple of years ago (HERE), saying:

If you buy meat that is labelled “enhanced with broth,” what that actually means is that the meat has been injected with saline solution to increase its weight and make it look plumper.  This is very common with chicken.  The label is intended to make you think you’re getting a superior product.  Instead, you’re getting ripped off.

How much water and saline solution are you paying for when you buy meat?

Meat purchased from actual farms (such as our pork) hasn’t been injected with saline solution.  Another thing to think about when comparing prices of real meat and factory meat.