Let It Grow Organic Gardens

And I resumed the struggle. -Vladimir

Monday, October 31, 2005

There's Plenty Of Time. Why Worry?

The second week of November, I head out to Austin, Texas to sell Christmas trees.
Before then, I have plenty to do: chop more firewood; run power to the shop; clean out the greenhouse; make repairs on the truck; throw away all the refrigerators in the front yard. Etc.
Fortunately, November is many months away. I need not feel rushed or hurried, for November, well, that's one of the last months, isn't it? It comes at the end of the year, and we're still somewhere in the middle of the year.
Therre's a lot of room between the middle of something and the end of something. That much I know.
A lesser man would put things off to the last minute, and then run around like crazy. Not me. I budget my time and I work efficiently.
I used to put things off, but, there's one thing about me: I learn from my mistakes.
There's all the time in the world.
We're never caught with our pants down around here.
We're professionals.

Sunday, October 30, 2005

Poem For Sunday

Some boys kiss me, some boys hug me
I think they're O.K.
If they don't give me proper credit
I just walk away
They can beg and they can plead

But they can't see the light,
Cause the boy with the cold hard cash
Is always Mister Right,
'cause we are
Living in a material world

And I am a material girl
You know that we are living in a material world
And I am a material girl
Some boys romance, some boys slow dance

That's all right with me
If they can't raise my interest then I
Have to let them be
Some boys try and some boys lie but

I don't let them play
Only boys who save their pennies
Make my rainy day, 'cause they are
Living in a material world

And I am a material girl
You know that we are living in a material world
And I am a material girl
Boys may come and boys may go

And that's all right you see
Experience has made me rich
And now they're after me, 'cause everybody's
Living in a material world

And I am a material girl
You know that we are living in a material world
And I am a material girl

Thursday, October 27, 2005

A Few Reflections Upon My Recent Activities, Some Of Which May Provide Insight Into My Schizophrenia

Vegetables are very still. They hardly ever move. You plant them, they stay right there, and then a few months later, you go pick them.
Fish are different. They’re always moving. You have to go look for them, and you don’t always find them. Most travel more than I do. They go from the Bahamas to Gloucester and back. Some go to different oceans in different parts of the world. Always moving. As for sharks, if they don’t move, they die.
Being a purveyor of both of the above mentioned products, I find my mind must change speeds, sometimes several times a day. When vegetable production was my sole act of employment, I loaded the truck, brought the veggies to market, and stood there while people bought them. All was peaceful and still. Being a fishmonger I find myself on the go. I’m partnered up with someone who drives all the way across the state and back. He deals with people who have boats that go way out in the ocean. Like, where it’s over your head. I need to roundevouz with him once or twice a week, which means, of course, both of us being in the same place at the same time. I bring some of the fish to different markets. This is usually late on a Wednesday evening. I go to one place, double park or try to get the truck up onto the sidewalk, rush in with a heavy cooler full of fish, and rush out. On to the next restaurant, where it’s the same thing. Rush past the kitchen staff and make room in the walk-in. Rush out to the truck, argue with the meter maid, and keep going.
This constant changing of pace wears on me a bit. It confuses me. I think I was meant to rush around frantically all the time, or stay still all the time, but not do both. The challenge I face, I suppose, is learning how to do both at the same time, but it seems daunting.
I often wish I was a fish, swimming around with nothing but the scales on my back and an attitude. I could go where-ever I wanted, then go to sleep in a coral reef or an old shipwreck or something. I could swim over to the Azores, or go around the Horn, and talk to exotic fish from all over the world.
Other times I wish I was a vegetable. I’d keep my roots firmly in the soil and get to know the vegetables around me and we’d all grow together. We’d drop our little leaves down and feed the soil around us and raise up little baby vegetables.
It may be these two different poles constantly tugging at me that has brought me to my present occupations. But then again, it might not have.
Perhaps I should just remain what I am and be content with that. Whatever I may wish to become, I’d end up in somebody’s skillet, anyway.

Wednesday, October 19, 2005



The annual end of season harvest festival pig pickin was held the other evening, and it ended on a melancholy note. And not just for the pig.
There were no hayrides nor prize-winning cobblers. We had no scarecrows nor gourds nor quaint autumnal décor.
We had beer and pot and George Dickel. And the front line of agriculture in these parts, these days.
Nearly every farm was represented in some way or another, and the saliva on the pipe presented a DNA sample of modern sustainable agriculture.
But these are rough times, and a lot of farms are tottering on the brink. Few are self-sustaining or self-sufficient. Nearly all rely on a second income of some kind. Some people work off farm, landscaping or as delivery drivers. Some sell fish. Some rely on their parents. Some watch the big chunk of change they had when they quit their corporate jobs dwindle and dwindle. Some marry lawyers.
Our information minister would have you believe otherwise. Things are rosy and cheerful according to the press releases, and we’re likely to spend the day standing before our homes wearing dour expressions and pitchforks. The food is pure and local and sustainable and politically correct. And subsidized by larger forces in the economy.
The farms in this neck of the woods are not self-sufficient. There are no closed systems, where inputs equal outputs. On the contrary. Without a pile of money that came from somewhere else, most farms would go under. Cases of lettuce and green beans don’t pay for the equipment needed to grow cases of lettuce and green beans.
Eliot Coleman used to talk about going "beyond organic." That’s how he subsidized his farm – by going out on the lecture circuit. Organic means growing food without chemicals and in a way that feeds and improves the soil. Eliot said we need to go beyond that. Maybe you’re using an organic fertilizer, but what if it got shipped in from a thousand miles away? How organic is a farm that’s responsible for burning so much deisel fuel? For putting one more truck on the interstate? Using plastic bags? They come from a factory somewhere, and that water near it is probably kind of yucky. People starting talking about local networks. Farm inputs should be local and sustainably produced, they said. Organic should be defined not only by what happens in your fields, but the cascading effects that your farm has on the overall environment.
Wise words, and many of us take them to heart. We do the best we can to keep things natural in an industrialized world. We come up against a brick wall somewhere, and have a meeting about it. We make slow advances.
The beyond organic thing and the local and sustainable thing needs to be taken to one more level. It won’t be easy, and it may not even be possible. But it needs to be recognized and talked about. We need farmers to be able to build a farm with capitol that is local and sustainable. The world has not been done a favor if food is grown with money that comes from someone’s parents’ corporate jobs. Agriculture is no better off if truckloads of organic vegetables are produced by capitol that comes from the farmer’s previous life as an investment analyst. The food is hardly pure until it pays for itself by itself. Until then it’s a plaything, a folly for rich kids who want to be farmers, decoration for rich people who want to eat fashionably.
The pig pickin’ has jumped around the past few years. It’s hostess has farmed on land she’s rented from rock stars and bankers and other kinds of people who can afford land. She’s on the road again and it’s not quite clear where she’ll farm next year. Where-ever it is, she’ll kick ass. She always does. She farms part time on rented land and grows food that has a sort of elan to it, and looks better than anyone else’s. Perhaps someday we’ll have a pig pickin on a farm that she owns, and that got paid for by farming. Unlikely. The rich get richer and the poor get poorer, and the more things change, the more they stay the same.

Sunday, October 16, 2005


Things Are Not As They Seem Part I

In town this afternoon and fiddling with a friend's computer, I once again learned how to use that funny little function that allows me to track followers to this blog.
There I discovered that twice -twice!- within the last month some poor soul somewhere on the planet (Vancouver, WA and Malta, respectively) arrived at this blog by typing Ajahn Yantra into a search engine.
Ajahn Yantra, for those of you yet to Google him, is a Thai monk who rose to prominence some fifteen years ago. Tall, good-looking and confident, he quickly became quite the celebrity and his followers ranged in the million, and were spread across the globe. He became a popular monk on the international lecture circuit. Temples were built for him as far away as Australia. He preached loving-kindness, and his warm smile and genuine manner did much to relieve the spiritual discomfort of many devotees. He was reputed to be a fully enlightened being. His reknown began to wane with accusations that he did not understand the full implications of a vow of celibacy.
I only saw him once, at the funeral of a quite different sort of monk, Ajahn Chah. He had arrived with hundreds of devotees, and it was hard to miss him. Peasants came from miles around to prostrate themselves before him. He spotted me walking across the temple one day and I was summoned to center ring. He asked me some basic questions and gave me an amulet and then I was allowed to leave. He seemed quite pleased to have been seen with a Westerner.
I forget exactly how I referenced him in a previous blog post, but I doubt it was of any significance. Whatever I said, the gods of the internet have decided it was important enough to present to any and all who Googled Ajahn Yantra.
I can't imagine anyone Googling Ajahn Yantra unless they are a devout Buddhist, are into a serious meditation practice, or are in need of a calming presence bestowing a hope of loving-kindness. Whatever the case, I can't help but think they arrive at this space in no condition to read the contents here-in. I apologize for any trauma this blog may have inadvertently caused to any Buddhist.
I used to be something of a Buddhist, myself. I was interested in self-inquiry, enlightenment and solutions to the ultimate mysteries of the universe. I sat in rooms with my legs crossed for long periods of time. I read lots of books. I traveled afar, finally arriving in the Orient. I knelt before monks and statues. I ate lots of rice.
I returned to these shores with something of a reputation. Friends and acquaintances assumed I possessed some sort of mysterious wisdom, and they probed me for it. They asked me questions and they observed my actions. My every movement supposedly contained some sort of message.
All this was unbeknownst to me. I felt just as confused and scattered as ever, but I had eaten lot of rice. I was happy enough being confused and scattered, and I was delighted to have eaten so much rice. I didn't know why everyone was staring at me. I can only conclude, now, years later, that anyone staring at me was a devout Buddhist, was into a serious meditation practice, or was in need of a calming presence bestowing loving-kindness. I hope I disappointed no one, but I fear I did. I assure you this was not my intention; I did not know what was expected of me. I apologize for any inconvenience or trauma I may have caused to any Buddhist.

Monday, October 10, 2005

We Found It, We Named It, We Built It

A million times I don't know what I do myself. Some of the people say what was he doing. Some of the people think I was crazy. I wanted to do something in the United States because I was raised here, you understand? I wanted to do something for the United States because there are nice people in this country.
Simon Rodia
on building the Watts Tower

You have seen them sitting there
waiting for the bocci ball to stop rolling
waiting for the bell
to stop tolling & tolling
for the slow bell
to be finished tolling
telling the unfinished Paradiso story
as seen in an unfinished phrase
on the face of a church
as seen in a fisherman's face
in a black boat without sails
making his final haul

This was a day of parades before everyone started whining about dead Indians. Time was when people would get together 'cause the mills and the shipyards were closed for a day. They'd get together and stuff their faces and drink too much and argue about the Yankees. Then they'd stuff their faces some more and then they'd argue about something else. The old people would talk about who they knew who had just died and then someone would invariably ask me what grade I was in. Then everyone would argue some more. They were all thick, cholesterol-laden dagos stepping out of block-long sedans and tucking their shirt fronts down into their pants and screaming into the nearest house. They were happy to have a holiday, because they had made it, made it into their own version of success, which included their own house with a back yard and a block-long sedan. So they'd sit down on the sofa and stuff their faces and argue.
Ernesto was the first one over. I never knew him; he died when my Mom was in high school. He jumped ship in Pascagoula and went to work loading and unloading brick trucks. That's the story as it was always told to me, anyway. The Gulf Coast - New Orleans, Pascagoula, Mobile, - was full of Mediteranean types - they'd all signed on as crew in the old country and then jumped ship and stayed here. Ernesto - Mom referred to him as Poppo - loaded his brick truck for a while, then became a brick-layer's apprentice. He did that until he became a brick layer. He learned his trade from the blacks, the story goes, and somewhere along the way married my grandmother. He was a brick-layer until he became a general contractor. Most of the houses he built are still there, including the big one on DeMuey Street that my Mom and my aunts grew up in. He died in 1957 with not much left of his lungs or his liver, but each of his daughters was in college and his widow was set for the next forty years.
That's why everyone wanted a holiday. Because they'd gone from unloading brick trucks to having block-long sedans in a generation or two, and they felt like they deserved a day off and a parade. That's how I remember it, anyway. Nobody much cared about how many Indians died of smallpox or how rich the King of Spain was. They gathered together with their families and their communities and reflected on what they'd made for themselves and what they had provided for their children. That's a pretty good idea for a holiday. A holiday to remember the first guy who got off the boat here, and everyone descended down from him. A holiday to reflect on all the work they've done and a holiday to remember how good we've got it. We don't live in a place where the King sends horsemen in to chop people's heads off because the village didn't pay the wheat tax, or, whatever, and no one I know is about to sign on as crew on a freighter just to get away.
I say we give Labor Day to the Native Americans. We don't need it anymore. The trade unions are about as extinct as the Pawnee, anyway, and more people can indentify Chief Seattle than can identify Eugene Debs. Labor Day can be renamed and used to celebrate the Great Spirit and the sky and the buffalo. We'll have to rename Columbus Day, too, I suppose, but we still get a parade. It'll be a parade for labor, but without any capital letters. Take any political suggestions away from the holiday set aside for our ancestors who worked hard, and return the focus to family and community.

Wednesday, October 05, 2005

Swan Song

The seed catalogs are wrapped up and gone now. Thrown unceremoniously into the recycling bin at the dump. Damn near forgot them in the front of the truck I was so busy with the beer bottles. I took one long last look at the flowers on the cover of one of them before I pitched it, then fired the truck up and took off down the hill.
They all seem so rosy and cheerful when the season starts – before the season starts, one should say. They promise sustainable happiness and old-time bliss. My favorites are the ones without pictures – they feature highly stylised paintings of bean vines and sunflowers and ladybugs. It kinda makes you want to - garden.
Well, that was before. We’re shut down now, and a cold wind blows in from the North and all the leaves are about to fall off the trees. I got up reasonably early this morning and picked and packed and loaded and sold and came home. Market. Last one for the year.
The fields are at rest now, officially. They no longer beckon each morning with unfinished tasks and promised greenery. They sit idly under rye shoots and I say to them: Rest. I’m going to.

Sunday, October 02, 2005


Oh, So That's Why They Call It Spadefish

We're back in the seafood business.
It comes and goes, depending upon whether we have a driver coming up from the Coast.
As of last Friday, we have a driver. We'll see how long he lasts.
I've got the feeling he'll finish out the season for us. He's been excited about making the run and was excited after his first trip. He was, as they say, "psyched".
I've added a new twist to the ocean-based themepark I've got set up by the side of the road: a huge banner that proclaims: FRESH SEAFOOD.
I had two last Saturday, so I faced one toward the parking lot, meaning, toward approaching customers, and I faced the other toward the street. The one toward the street really brought the customers in.
I mean, brought the customers in like nothing I've seen before. Not the FRESH PRODUCE sign, not the balloons, not the colorful used car lot pennents, not the Broadwing intern dressed up like a giant lettuce. And the people it brought in, they were of a somewhat different, shall we say, demographic group.
None of the new faces we saw on Saturday morning had just stepped out of a Volvo. Au contraire. The new faces were more, um, down home and more, um, colorful.
No freaks choking down granola and whining about the rainforests. No, these were actual homo sapians walking around the parking lot of the co-op, buying a bag of shrimp or mackeral and then checking out the other market offerings. Its as though we've finally struck upon a cure for what ails most organic farmer's markets: that sense that you're drowning in a very small pool of WASPy liberals who are just itching to tell you al about the herbal laxative they've just discovered. That feeling that everyone is going to break into a rousing version of Crosby, Stills & Nash's Our House while simultaneously doing the same yoga poses in some twisted and progressive Busby-Berkeley routine dedicated to world peace.
This was more like North Carolina sans crystals, and we all remarked on how refreshing it was.
Fish, I can only conclude, is the great commonality that will bring all people together. Lions will lie down with lambs, rastas will rub elbows with NASCAR fans, and black and white will live together in harmony, if only people spend more time shopping for fish.

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