Archive for April 29th, 2008

Independence Days: My First Challenge

Sharon April 29th, 2008

I’ve quoted Carla Emery’s wonderful passage about Independence Days and how she plants on this blog before, but it bears repeating.  She wrote,

All spring I try to plant something every day – from late February, when the early peas and spinach and garlic can go in, on up to midsummer, when the main potato crop and the late beans and lettuce go in.  Then I switch over and make it my rule to try and get something put away for the winter every single day.  That lastas until the pumpkins and sunflowers and late squash and green tomatoes are in.  Then comes the struggle to get the most out of the stored food – all winter long.  It has to be checked regularly, and you’ll need to add to that day’s menu anything that’s on the verge of spoiling, wilting or otherwise becoming useless.   

That was Carla’s version of “Independence Days” – a world where every day was part of the food cycle.  She wrote more about this in one of my favorite

 People have to choose what they are going to struggle for.  Life is always a struggle, whether or not you’re struggling for anything worthwhile, so it might as well be for something worthwhile.  Independence days are worth struggling for.  they’re good for me, good for the country and good for growing children.

Now there’s a Declaration of Independence for you.  Or perhaps the Constitution of the United Food Sovereign People of the World.  It is so desperately needed that we do declare our independence from the globalizing, totalitarian, destructive, toxic, dangerous agriculture that destroys our future and our power and pays to destroy democracy.  And so, when in the course of human events it becomes necessary for people to divorce themselves from a system that has become destructive, and thus:

We the people, in order to form a more perfect union of human and nature, establish justice and ensure food sovreignty, provide for the common nutrition, promote the general welfare and ensure the blessings of liberty, for ourselves and our posterity do ordain and establish this constitution for the United Food Sovereign People of the World.

I’ve never really run a challenge before on this blog, but I thought I’d start one – the Independence Days challenge!  We’re already sort of doing this over at the food storage group (if you want to subscribe send an email to [email protected]), but I thought I’d bring it here, because I think it is a thing worth struggling for.

I challenge myself and all of you to work on creating food Independence Days this year – that all of us try to do one thing every day  to create Food Independence.  That means in each day or week, we would try to:

1. Plant something.  Obviously, those of us who live in the Northern Hemisphere and having spring are doing this anyway.  But the idea that you should plant all week and all year is a good reminder to those of us who sometimes don’t get our fall gardens or our succession plantings done regularly.  Remember, that beet you harvested left a space – maybe for the next one to get bigger, but maybe for a bit of arugula or a fall crop of peas, or a cover crop to enrich the soil.  Independence is the bounty of a single seed that creates an abundance of zucchini, and enough seeds to plant your own garden and your neighbor’s.

2. Harvest something. From the very first nettles and dandelions to the last leeks and parsnips I drag out of the frozen ground, harvest something from the garden or the wild every day you can.  I can’t think of a better way to be aware of the bounty around you to realize that there’s something – even if it is dandelions for tea or wild garlic for a salad – to be had every single day.  Independence is really appreciating and using the bounty that we have.

3. Preserve something.  Sometimes this will be a big project, but it doesn’t have to be.  It doesn’t take long to slice a couple of tomatoes and set them on a screen in the sun, or to hang up a bunch of sage for winter.  And it adds up fast.  The time you spend now is time you don’t have to spend hauling to the store and cooking later.  Independence is eating our own, and cutting the ties we have to agribusiness.

4. Prep something.  Hit a yard sale and pick up an extra blanket.  Purchase some extra legumes and oatmeal.  Sort out and inventory your pantry.  Make a list of tools you need.  Find a way to give what you don’t need to someone who does.  Fix your bike.  Fill that old soda bottle with water with a couple of drops of bleach in it.  Plan for next year’s edible landscaping.  Make back-road directions to your place and send it to family in case they ever need to come to you – or make ‘em for yourself for where you might have to go. Clean, mend, declutter, learn a new skill.  Independence is being ready for whatever comes.

5. Cook something.  Try and new recipe, or an old one with a new ingredient.  Sometimes it is hard to know what to do with all that stuff you are growing or making.  So experiment now.  Can you make a whole meal in your solar oven?  How are stir-fried pea shoots?  Stuffed squash blossoms?  Wild morels in pasta?  Independence is being able to eat and enjoy what is given to us.

6. Manage your reserves.  Check those apples and take out the ones starting to go bad and make sauce with it.  Label those cans.  Clean out the freezer.  Ration the pickles, so you’ll have enough to last to next season.  Use up those lentils before you take the next ones out of the bag.  Find some use for that can of whatever it is that’s been in the pantry forever.  Sort out what you can donate, and give it to the food pantry.  Make sure the squash are holding out.  Independence means not wasting the bounty we have.

7. Work on local food systems.  This could be as simple as buying something you don’t grow or make from a local grower, or finding a new local source.  It could be as complex as starting a coop or a farmer’s market, creating a CSA or a bulk store.  You might give seeds or plants or divisions to a neighbor, or solicit donations for your food pantry.  Maybe you’ll start a guerilla garden or help a homeschool coop incubate some chicks.  Maybe you’ll invite people over to your garden, or your neighbors in for a homegrown meal, or sing the praises of your local CSA.  Maybe you can get your town to plant fruit or nut producing street trees or get a manual water pump or a garden put in at your local school.  Whatever it is, our Independence days come when our neighbors and the people we love are food secure too. 

I’m not suggesting you should do all these things on any day (heck that’ s impossible) - but every day try and do one of them – or every week, or every weekend, if that’s what your schedule allows.  It takes practice to live and grow and eat this way – so let’s do it now while we’ve got the time and energy and each other for support. 

I’m going to try to do this, starting now, and running all year long.  If you sign up in the comments section, I’ll try and set up a cool sidebar thingie, like all the funky challengers do.   We’ll do weekly updates, and I want to hear how you are doing too!  Who’s in for in Independence Days?


Kindergarten Ethics and Disasters No Longer Waiting to Happen

Sharon April 29th, 2008

Want to know how the world ends (ok, not ends, but changes in a really hideous way)? 

 Here’s what Russia says about climate emissions

“Energy must not be a barrier to our comfort. Our emerging middle class… demands lots of energy and it is our job to ensure comfortable supply,” he said.

“We don’t plan to limit the use of fuel for our industries. We don’t think this would be right,” he said, referring to the current round of Kyoto.

Asked if Russia would resist capping the use of fossil fuels, which emit the planet-warming gas carbon dioxide when burned, under a new climate deal after 2012, he said:”In the foreseeable future, this will not be our model, no.”

He pointed out that the United States had also declined to impose emissions caps.

Yup, as long as we’re not going to do shit about cutting our emissions, no one else is either. India made the same case – they’re poorer than we are.  They already use less.  Why, the nations ask, should they stop making emissions when the US won’t?  And meanwhile, the North Pole may lose its ice this summer, and the methane is bubbling out, because America cares about global warming – but not enough.

And this, I fear is what will destroy us all – the simple inability we have to stop lying to ourselves.

What do I mean by lying?  Well, the lie is that we’re special.  And don’t think I’m indicting anyone here but myself – despite my Rioting efforts, I don’t consume a fully fair share of the world’s resources.  The thing is, I need some more to live within the society I live in – I really do need them.   People might well take my kids away if I gave up too much more – it has been known to happen.  And, of course, I couldn’t make my living or do this without them right now.

 But that doesn’t change the fact that other people need what I use  too – or need me not to use so much.  So the lie is this – that others won’t mind if we use just a little extra.  After all, we’re not used to doing without.  Those people in India and Ecuador and Egypt, they are.  They are used to just eating rice, just rice – so it doesn’t matter if I have to take the kids to basketball and the all of my trips there and back use as much grain as a person would eat in a month.  After all, I *need* it.  And even though no rational person would ever suggest that my kids’ need to play basketball is greater than someone in Bangladesh’s need to eat and not drown in rising seas, we still do the math that way.  Even me sometimes.

I’m trying though.  I really am.  The Riot for Austerity helps.  The reminders of hunger and misery help.  And kindergarten ethics helps.  I don’t need to come up with a perfect definition of sustainable, or figure out every detail to know this – we have 6.6 billion people on the planet.  There is enough to go around – enough food, enough energy.  But the way it goes around changes as there are more of us – we have to get better at living together.  The old rule of kindergarten is this – you can’t have it unless there’s enough for everyone to have a fair share.

Believe it or not, that’s pretty much sufficient.  You can’t have it unless there’s enough to around – and if you do have some, you have to leave enough for everyone else to have their share.  And what’s really funny is that you can have a lot with that – one ton of carbon annually, for example, would give you wealth beyond the dreams of avarice by the standards of most people who live today – just not us.  We’re inured to plenty by excess.

With kindergarten ethics there’s enough food for every person in the world to eat to fullness, enough water to have everyone drink their fill and still a bit more to grow good things.  There are fish enough in the ocean for each of us to celebrate and enjoy a lobster or fish dinner once in a while.  There’s enough oil in the wells for us to visit beloved family and friends on occasion, and hold a huge family reunion feast.  There are enough trees for each of us to sit in the shade – all 6.6 billion.  There’s enough wealth for all of us to have clothes enough and shoes and a little house.  There’s enough space for all of us to have public parks and most of us to have a little garden somewhere.  There’s enough.  Not as much as you or I might want, having gotten accustomed to more, but enough to make people in Nigeria cry out with delight.  Enough to impress your own great-grandparents.  And if we don’t honestly believe that the only lives worth living are our own – and thus that no one else’s life is worth valuing – enough for us and our posterity.

The US cutting back its emissions might not work on China, Russia or India.  But there is truly no hope if we don’t decide to cut our emissions – and radically.   The elevator is going down, and fast.  Someone can either stop the fucking staring contest and notice what is going on, or we’re all going to the basement, which is an ugly, scary place to be.

 I’m hoping I have a frost tonight. I live in rural upstate New York, and at this point my last frost date looks to be April 13.  Now if you don’t live around here, maybe you don’t know, but my normal last frost date is May 22.  It is hard, of course, to make any generalizations over a couple of years about new normals, but the last three years have had last spring frosts on April 30, May 6 and now maybe April 13.   Don’t get me wrong, I want to plant tomatoes out in April, I really do.  I just don’t like how this is going.  I like my climate, my seasons.  Most of all, I like knowing what I’m leaving my children.  And on some level, even the idiots who lead governments know that Russian and Indian and American children will all inherit the same future.  They just don’t care enough.