Monday, September 29, 2008

Fear Itself

Today on Democracy Now!, I heard an excerpt from FDR's famous 1933 inaugural speech. I hadn't previously realized the origins of the quote, "The only thing we have to fear is fear itself.", nor did I understand the speech's historical context, of being given in the middle of the Great Depression. I looked up the speech and read it. Here are some of the uncanny highlights:

"So, first of all, let me assert my firm belief that the only thing we have to fear is fear itself—nameless, unreasoning, unjustified terror which paralyzes needed efforts to convert retreat into advance....

...In such a spirit on my part and on yours we face our common difficulties. They concern, thank God, only material things. Values have shrunken to fantastic levels; taxes have risen; our ability to pay has fallen; government of all kinds is faced by serious curtailment of income; the means of exchange are frozen in the currents of trade; the withered leaves of industrial enterprise lie on every side; farmers find no markets for their produce; the savings of many years in thousands of families are gone....

...More important, a host of unemployed citizens face the grim problem of existence, and an equally great number toil with little return. Only a foolish optimist can deny the dark realities of the moment.

Yet our distress comes from no failure of substance. We are stricken by no plague of locusts. Compared with the perils which our forefathers conquered because they believed and were not afraid, we have still much to be thankful for. Nature still offers her bounty and human efforts have multiplied it. Plenty is at our doorstep, but a generous use of it languishes in the very sight of the supply. Primarily this is because the rulers of the exchange of mankind’s goods have failed, through their own stubbornness and their own incompetence, have admitted their failure, and abdicated. Practices of the unscrupulous money changers stand indicted in the court of public opinion, rejected by the hearts and minds of men.

True they have tried, but their efforts have been cast in the pattern of an outworn tradition. Faced by failure of credit they have proposed only the lending of more money. Stripped of the lure of profit by which to induce our people to follow their false leadership, they have resorted to exhortations, pleading tearfully for restored confidence. (Anyone read the report of Ben Bernanke bending down on his knees to beg Nancy Pelosi for her support of his proposal?) They know only the rules of a generation of self-seekers. They have no vision, and when there is no vision the people perish.

The money changers have fled from their high seats in the temple of our civilization. We may now restore that temple to the ancient truths. The measure of the restoration lies in the extent to which we apply social values more noble than mere monetary profit...

...Recognition of the falsity of material wealth as the standard of success goes hand in hand with the abandonment of the false belief that public office and high political position are to be valued only by the standards of pride of place and personal profit; and there must be an end to a conduct in banking and in business which too often has given to a sacred trust the likeness of callous and selfish wrongdoing. Small wonder that confidence languishes, for it thrives only on honesty, on honor, on the sacredness of obligations, on faithful protection, on unselfish performance; without them it cannot live...

...Our greatest primary task is to put people to work. This is no unsolvable problem if we face it wisely and courageously. It can be accomplished in part by direct recruiting by the Government itself, treating the task as we would treat the emergency of a war, but at the same time, through this employment, accomplishing greatly needed projects to stimulate and reorganize the use of our natural resources... (Has anyone read about Al Gore's proposal lately?)

...Finally, in our progress toward a resumption of work we require two safeguards against a return of the evils of the old order; there must be a strict supervision of all banking and credits and investments; there must be an end to speculation with other people’s money, and there must be provision for an adequate but sound currency....

Wow, imagine if we heard such a speech from our current (p)resident. I am particularlt struck by FDR's use of the word "terror", as well as the quote "Faced by failure of credit they have proposed only the lending of more money." History does repeat itself, if you're not looking closely enough. I'm surprised but somewhat relieved that today's vote in the House was not successful. Who are we rewarding and who is the dupe in this scenario? I don't know but I will tell you that I'm on the edge of seat, all the way out here in the country...

Sunday, September 28, 2008

Local Foods Potluck

Petols: Local Mattole Currency

Beets Extraordinaire: Beets with Lemon Zest, Peppermint, and Roasted Sunflower Seeds

Blueberry Puree with Filbert Milk

Native Grass Seed and Home Grown Corn Crackers with Dipping Sauces

Ahhh, just my kind of public event. Today was the Mattole Foods Potluck, a friendly competition to make the most complex and delicious dish of food possible with exclusively locally grown or gathered foods. Folks congregated at the Mattole Grange at noon, and paid their fee for voting rights in "Petols", our local currency created by resident Ken Y. (Petols are minted in silver, and therefore their value fluctuates depending on the current value of silver.)

I made a black bean stew for the potluck. Here is the list of ingredients:
Home grown:
Black beans, Amish paste tomatoes, mixed peppers, summer squash, sweet corn, home ground coriander (cilantro seeds), oregano, and basil.

Gathered: Local seaweed, collected at summer solstice low tide south of the Mattole River mouth.

Collected from other local sources:
Ground Beef from my neighbor Dick S.
2005 Pinot Gris from neighbor Bob B.
A white onion from the Little Dipper Farm (our CSA farm)
Apple Cider vinegar from neighbor Seth Z.

I thought it would be a rather impressive list of ingredients, and it truly is, considering how much stuff we normally buy at the store, but it turned out my chili was one of several bean soups. Local food advocates Merlin and Ken have been growing their own beans, and made black bean soup, white bean soup, spicy mixed bean soup, etc. So my dish wasn't so out of the ordinary. Not to mention that there were two other meat stews that were simply delicious, even more so than my own, oh well.

But the most delectable, difficult, and fascinating dish was made by Jen H., who concocted homemade crackers, made with ground native grass seeds and home grown grinding corn, and she also provided three delicious toppings to go with them. Wow. They were nutty and impressive. There was also an interesting invention involving "filbert milk" mixed with pureed blueberries, which won for best dessert. My friend Seth had created a brilliant sweetener by reducing home pressed apple juice into syrup, which I had the pleasure of trying before the event, and found it quite tasty. He used this to sweeten an apple tart, whose crust was made with homegrown and ground corn and home-rendered duck fat (Seth raises ducks). And alas, even my idea of growing wheat this fall is not so original, as one contestant used their own home grown wheat to make pasta noodles, and topped it with a very delicious mixture of summer vegetables.

What a fun experience, playing with what we have, and leaving out what we don't have. With the exception of the noodles, grains and dairy were conspicuously missing, and I think all of us, if my guts are any indication, are probably suffering from a stinky bed tonight after all the leguminous offerings. Definitely, we're gonna have to tackle the grain and dairy issue to be eating locally and nutritionally correct, while avoiding digestive disturbance.

I'll post some photos another day, when my camera is living inside the house again (I left it in the car!)

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

You Reap What You Sow

Here is a quote from a NY Times article today.

"As for the president’s television appearance, Senator Harry Reid of Nevada, the Democratic majority leader, said the president should use it to explain things to the American people.

“Today we face what economists call the gravest economic danger since the Great Depression,” Mr. Reid said on the Senate floor. “We’ve come to this point after eight years of President Bush waging a war on fiscal responsibility. His Republican philosophy of removing all accountability from big business — and expecting no responsibility from them in return — has created this crisis that now threatens to devastate America’s working families.”"

My sentiments exactly. I am so fed up with the people in power saying, "How did this happen?" I am thrilled that people are demanding accountability. It is no mistake that this disaster has arrived at the tail end of W's presidency. I believe his administration has all but purposely created it, by being fundamentally economically irresponsible. You cannot lower taxes, spend billions on a war without just cause, and deregulate the financial system, and expect things to work out in favor of our country, let alone the average American.

Sorry, Georgy, it's a little too much like the little boy who cried wolf. The last time you urged immediate action without delay, it was to wage a war that many in high ranking positions deemed would fail, and it has miserably, all to chase weapons of mass destruction that weren't even there, which other people were ALSO telling you. So tell me now why I should believe you here? It certainly has the potential to affect me more directly than Iraq. But I am SO TIRED of the lies...

Monday, September 22, 2008

What Does a Teetering Economy Mean to You?

It's been a while since I've done a political blog...the reality of what's transpired over the weekend is slowly sinking in. Does anyone else out there feel as though we are facing historical times, a la Great Depression? Times that will be remembered until our grandchildren are asking about it? Most of the commentary is suggesting that the next several years are going to look pretty stagnant. And outright disaster has been narrowly avoided, maybe. I sure hope. I don't know about you, but I am feeling more than a little resentful toward our seemingly ignorant (p)resident who all summer continued to suggest that our nation was "not in a recession". Excuse me?

We're told now that the Feds stepped in because all credit markets were about to freeze. That people weren't going to be able to get home loans or car loans. Which would screech most economic activity to a speeding halt since Americans spend on debt. For an interesting discussion on this topic, check out this Op-Ed called Punctured: Bubblenomics. Seems we've been riding the bubble a little too high for our own good, and now we're about to get what we had coming all along.

Here is Obama's perspective on the economic crisis:

As each day passes, I am increasingly convinced of the DIRE NECESSITY to elect Barack Obama in November. I lie awake at night wondering how a stay-at-home mom living in a small, remote village in northern California could possibly do anything to influence that outcome. But I keep rubbing up against a feeling of "how can I NOT do anything". People everywhere, unless they are very wealthy (and we all know there aren't very many of them) are going to be MUCH worse off if we continue this trajectory we are on much longer. This Republican reality that we're living, the fallout of which my daughter's grandchildren will be inheriting and paying off forever, is not my idea of a world I'd like to be living in. We have got to put our foot down. THE BUCK STOPS HERE!!!! I am investigating the options for action, like actually volunteering for the Obama campaign. They have a tool on their website called Neighbor to Neighbor to help get you started. If you're inspired, go for it, we can't afford another four years, lest we have to wait in bread lines, and all lose our life savings. How far are you willing to go?

Saturday, September 20, 2008

Fall Meals

Thought I would include some more seasonal recipes today, as we continue to have delicious treats from the garden...

Roasted Root Vegetables
Last night we had this with our sicky soup (recipe follows). The beets and fresh herbs were from our garden, the potatoes from our neighbor's farm, the parsnips from our CSA, and the garlic from our neighbor's home garden. Just use what you've got!

Any assortment of the following:
Whole Garlic Cloves, peeled
Onions or Shallots
Winter Squash, cubed

Coat well with olive oil, salt liberally, pepper to taste. Add chopped herbs of your liking, last night, I used thyme, rosemary, and sage. Place in a baking dish, and cover with foil, bake at 375 for about an hour, till veggies are fork-soft. Remove lid and continue baking until tops crisp and brown.

Kira's Sicky Soup

My friend Kira made this once when I lived at her house, and it has become my favorite soup to eat when sick.

One onion, sliced in half rounds
Several cloves of garlic, minced (2-3 or more)
shiitake mushrooms, if you have available
4 large chard leaves
6 medium paste tomatoes, skins removed and chopped, or one 28-oz can pureed tomatoes
2 cups veggie stock
6 cups water
one package bean thread noodles or one bundle soba noodles
3 tbsp miso, or more to taste
cayenne pepper, to taste
grated ginger, to taste

Saute onion well in olive oil, until translucent. If using mushrooms, add next and saute until well cooked. Add garlic, cayenne, and ginger and stir around for a few minutes. Add stock and water, and bring to a boil. Add in tomatoes and simmer until well softened and broken up. Add in chard, cook for just a few minutes to soften. Add in noodles, and cook for a few minutes more. When noodles are done, turn off heat. Scoop out some liquid into a jar or mug, and add miso, to dissolve well. Add back into the soup and serve.

Baba Ganouj
Yummy Eggplant spread, I just made some this morning.

2 globe eggplants, baked as halves in a 375 oven, until very soft, flesh removed from skin and put into food processor
2 tbsp tahini
2 cloves garlic
1/2 tsp cumin
3/4 tsp salt (or to taste)
juice of a lemon, or to taste
a dash of cayenne

Mix all together in food processor, and serve with crackers or pita bread. YUM!

Thursday, September 18, 2008

Oh, Firewood

This last week, I was almost singularly focused on a typical fall project: getting our firewood together. Anyone who burns wood to stay warm in the winter knows that this task, if it slips the radar, can be a very compromising problem. Wet firewood has a hard time getting going in the woodstove, and doesn't burn as warm as if it is dry. The firewood work itself is pleasing to me, even though it is A LOT of physical work.

This year, we have had a very large, unsightly assortment of mangy tree sections and limbs that Drew hauled with the tractor into our curtelage, in addition to some wood we bought at an auction as a donation to the Petrolia Volunteer Fire Department last fall. Quantity was not an issue, as it has been in some years past. This year's difficulty was the lack of access to woodsplitter, and the fact that here we are in September, and as of last week, the wood was still not stacked under cover, leaving us vulnerable to the unpredictable schedule of first rain.

At last, we secured access to a hydraulic woodsplitter, but alas, Drew has been working full time on his project and was not available either for splitting OR for child care. Wife to the rescue (well, to be fair, Drew did do a bunch of bucking and splitting last weekend, on his days off). With some juggling, and the goodwill of neighbors willing to babysit Ella for a few separate sessions, and the ability to stack wood during naptime, we got the wood put up and under cover. WHEW! It feels like such a relief, since I had been hoping to get this task done in July. Ahhh, to be warm in December.

Well, we did even have our first fire the other night. The fog has been a thick and moist presence almost every night for the last nine days or so. The weather is a-changing. For now, I can rest, knowing we will be warm and dry, regardless of the worst the winter storms can throw at us.

Straw Balin'

Our lower field, cut and baled

As Permaculturists, we are really into our straw bales...we use them for lots of things, mulch, mulch, more mulch. Did I mention mulch? Mulch protects the soil from our pounding rain, and creates habitat for beneficial insects. In the dry season, it helps conserve water. And when used as an ingredient in sheet mulching (basically layering a lot of organic matter overtop of cardboard), it composts into great soil material. They are also additives to compost piles. We also periodically have dreams of using them for micro straw-bale building projects, like making a more sound-proof space for the generator. Earlier this summer, Drew and I stood in the garden and had a conversation that went sort of like this:

Me: We are gonna need to get a bunch more bales for sheet mulch projects this fall, to prepare bed space for perennials next spring.

Drew: How are we going to get them here without a truck? Delivery has gotten really expensive.

Me: I know, I'm not sure.

(Pan out looking south)

Drew: You know, we do have a lot of our own straw just right here in the ground.

Me: Hey, you are RIGHT! WHAT ARE WE THINKING? Some permaculturists we are.

It finally occurred to us that we could bale our own. HA! What a brilliant idea! Several weeks ago, Drew needed bales for his restoration project, and to that end, borrowed a hay rake and baler to use with his tractor, and voila, straw bales. WE have even sold some to the restoration project, and made a few bucks. Now that is thinking. It did require a little bit of learning on Drew's part, since we have never run hay equipment before. But even without the proper haying mower, we did alright.

I spent my morning bucking the bales with Ella in tow in her carseat, carting them back to the garden and the shed porch, before they get weighted down with the rain that is supposed to fall tonight. Not much on its way, but have you ever tried to lift wet straw bales?

Here's to sheet mulch and future raspberry beds...

Saturday, September 6, 2008

Food Revolutionary

The other day as I was placing sealing lids on my hot jars of pear butter, it occurred to me what a revolutionary act it was. I was thinking through my reasons for why I was doing it. And I thought to myself that most people would scoff at the sweat and dirt, mussed hair, and heavy breathing necessary to grow the food, let alone to process it while standing over boiling water in the middle of August. I imagine lots of folks wondering, well, why don't you just buy it at the store, for a convenient, low price? Why all the sticky bother?

In these moments, I remind myself, first of all, that one cannot FIND pear butter at the store, or if you happen to find it, say at a kitschy, specialty shop, you will pay a dear premium for a product that likely has sugar and other additives together with the pears. The kitschy pear butter may not be local. And besides these groovy food quality, price, and local factors, it is worth it to have our own pear butter because it is delicious on pancakes in February, when fresh, ripe pears are a distant memory (unless you are lucky enough to have a root cellar or an electrical cold storage!). Besides, it's much more exotic than applesauce, though we make some of that, too.

But what's really radical about it is just the unplugging: unplugging from a disposable waste stream (no throw-away container), unplugging from far away, trucked-in food, unplugging from the distance between grower and eater, from the need to go to the grocery store to purchase the food we eat, unplugging even from the idea that one must spend cash money to eat. It's simple, clean, delicious, saves resources, and is therefore healthier for everyone involved. So I feel good when I am canning and sweating, despite 90 degrees, in the kitchen, in August.