A Price Worth Paying?

A long long time ago I got a degree in Foreign Affairs.  I had a passion for geopolitics and intended to spend my life in the military or as a foreign service officer.  I was, at least when I started college, a Cold Warrior.  That all seems bizarre to me now, life having led me down a much different path and taught me lessons that render foolish that way of thinking.

I still generally follow the news and some of the journals, but I no longer see the world as some sort of chessboard.  Now I prefer to think of political borders as the imaginary lines they are and I look forward to the day they are found only in history books.

So I didn’t allow myself to get worked up over Russia’s tiff with the Ukraine, for example.  And I’m not interested in whether or how the chief of our tribe “stands up to” the chief of the other tribe.  I don’t worry about whether or how “our” chess pieces should be moved in reaction to how the Red chess pieces are supposedly moving.  I’ll leave that to the folks who got their degrees and stayed on course.

But it does bother me that while sometimes sabers are merely rattled, other times they’re drawn and slashed through the lives of real people.  There are lots of ways we all are required to pay the price for our violence.

Last week I read THIS PIECE in the New York Times, titled “Weaning Europe from Russian Gas.”  The article notes that 30% of the gas consumed in the European Union comes from Russia.  14% of Russia’s export earnings are from that gas.  50% of that gas goes through pipelines that cross the Ukraine.

Because the European supply of gas is put at risk if it imposes sanctions on Russia, the author suggests buying coal from the U.S. (which is “cheap” he says) to replace Russian gas.  “Given the imperative to stand up to Russia,” he writes, “the European Union should delay, but not scrap, rules for phasing out dirty coal-fired power stations.”  The cost to the environment, he says, “is one worth paying.”  Likewise he argues that Germany should “should abandon their knee-jerk aversion to nuclear energy,”  despite having noted earlier in the piece that liquefied natural gas from Qatar is now too expensive for the E.U. because so much of it is being purchased by Japan to replace the energy lost with the tidal wave destruction of the Fukushima nuclear power plant.

But I wonder how the author and “analysts” like him are able to so easily tabulate the costs and declare them to be “worth paying.”

If these kinds of recommendations are accepted, then “the imperative to stand up to Russia” will come at a cost to the environment.  If Nature had a vote in the matter, she might disagree with the author’s conclusion that the price is “worth paying.”

In a time…

In a time that breaks
in cutting pieces all around,
when men, voiceless
against thing-ridden men,
set themselves on fire, it seems
too difficult and rare
to think of the life of a man
grown whole in the world,
at peace and in place.
But having thought of it
I am beyond the time
I might have sold my hands
or sold my voice and mind
to the arguments of power
that go blind against
what they would destroy.

Wendell Berry

Asparagus Time

As asparagus season rapidly approaches, here’s a link to a site with lots of great information about the amazing veggie: http://www.whfoods.com/genpage.php?tname=foodspice&dbid=12

And here’s something I wrote a couple of years ago, with more interesting information about the “Aristocrat of Vegetables”: https://practicingresurrection.wordpress.com/2012/04/02/the-aristocrat-of-vegetables/

Asparagus should be eaten when it’s in season locally, in my humble opinion. According to the linked article it should be eaten within 48 hours of harvesting, after which it begins to lose its flavor and nutritional value.

Take a look at the asparagus the next time you’re in the grocery store. Chances are it’s from Peru or Mexico. How likely is it that it was picked in the previous 48 hours?

A Walking Man

As the story goes, a Texas rancher is describing his ranch to a farmer from Virginia. “I can get in my truck in the morning and start driving west and by dinner time I still wouldn’t have gotten to the edge of my property,” the rancher says.  The Virginia farmer is silent for few moments, as if pondering the Texan’s words, then replies, “I used to have a truck like that.”

But seriously, our farm is a modestly sized piece of land compared to the huge tracts farmed in the west and midwest.  But it’s plenty big for us. It makes for lots of walking.

We have a utility vehicle that can get us around the farm pretty quickly, but most of the time I choose to walk.  It’s .3 miles from our house to the front part of our farm, .7 miles from our house to the eastern edge and about a half mile (I’m guessing) from our house to the northern edge.  I walk nearly a mile every morning to do my chores and over the course of a day I probably walk several miles on average.

Walking is excellent exercise of course and it’s good to ambulate without spewing fumes, burning fossil fuel and making noise.

All the walking I do has caused me to notice how little most folks tend to walk.  I’ve even seen gardening videos on youtube of a guy showing how to plant potatoes from the seat of a utility vehicle, presumably to avoid having to actually walk while doing it.

I like to walk.  I don’t like the idea of not being able to do it.  Given the choice, and absent any rush, whenever possible I’d rather than walk than drive.

I reckon I’m a walking man.

Home Cooking

One of the very best things about this life is how good the food is.  I eat three home-cooked meals every day, with most of the food coming from this farm.  Although that was once the norm, it must be exceedingly rare these days.

When I was growing up it was only on rare occasions that we’d eat at a restaurant.  These days however eating away from home is increasingly common.  Consider this from the USDA:

I’m surprised that in 1970 almost 26% of American spending on food was for food eaten away from home.  I would’ve guessed the percentage would be lower.  I’m also surprised that in 2012 that number was 43%.  I would have guessed it would be even higher.

Of course all this away-from-home eating isn’t taking place in fine restaurants serving quality food.  These days over 20% of American meals are eaten in a car.

According to the USDA food eaten away from home is generally less nutritious than food eaten at home.  The rising popularity of eating away from home is contributing to the obesity epidemic and the health crisis.

There are lots of reasons why we eat away from home so much now.  Back in the day I ate plenty of meals in my car, and it wasn’t because I considered that ideal.

Still, it seems to me that we miss out on more than just nutrients when we lose our tradition of cooking and eating meals in our homes.


It was a beautiful morning yesterday when I went out to do chores. There were bluebirds on the fence and birdsongs in the air.

I snapped this picture of Jolene’s cute kid.


Then this happened.



It’s the fourth snow of March here in southern Virginia.


Planting Blueberries

First, a disclaimer.  I am certainly no authority on blueberries, having tried twice before to grow them and having failed both times.  But having decided to try again, here’s a little basic information for anybody else who might want to give it a try.

Blueberries require acidic soil.  So before planting it’s necessary to do a soil test.  Ideally the soil pH should be 4.5 to 5.0.  If the pH is too high, you can bring it down by applying sulfur.

We have a new garden with a pH of 5.3, which is too acidic for most things.  We decided to dedicate a bit of it to blueberries.  Even though we’re a little higher than the recommended pH, it seemed close enough to me, especially considering the way I planned to plant them.

We decided to plant rabbiteye blueberries, which are native to the Southeast, as opposed to highbush blueberries, which are native to the Northeast.  For improved pollination it’s best to plant at least two varieties.  We chose Powderblue and Tifblue, and we ordered our plants from Ty Ty Nursery, in Ty Ty, Georgia.

There was snow on the ground when they arrived, so we kept them in a refrigerator until we could work the ground.  I tilled in some compost and spread some bone meal (because the soil was deficient in phosphorous). Then I dug holes for the plants, filling in the holes with about 2/3 peat moss and 1/3 topsoil as I planted the bushes.  After that I put a thick layer of pine bark mulch around the plants and watered them thoroughly.





Deer destroyed our last attempt at blueberries, so this time I put a wire cage around each plant. If they grow as they should I’ll have to remove the cages before too long, but at least this will give them a good start.



This year we’ll pinch off any blooms and let the plant spend all its energy establishing itself.  Maybe next year we’ll get a few berries.  The year after that we should be getting plenty and if all goes well they’ll continue to produce for many years.

At least that’s what we’re hoping for.  If any blueberry experts happen to read this and want to offer some advice, I’ll be happy to receive it.