Friday, June 7, 2013

Free Range Friday ~ The World

I just finished, albeit a few years after publication, six years to be precise, Barbara Kingsolver's book Animal, Vegetable, Miracle, a true story about a year in her family's life, eating only what they could raise or buy from local farmers. Ok, almost only; they did buy coffee and the occasional herbs from fair trade markets. It was an experiment against the Machine of Monsanto, commercially raised meat and poultry, vegetables that taste worse than the cellophane they are wrapped in and eating seasonally, the way America and the world ate for generations, up until the last few in our own and our parents lifetimes.

Work. Raising your own food is work, an easy reason to skip that, head to the super markets and pick up whatever you are having for whatever meal you and your family are eating, without thinking much about it. Or the local fast food stop to quickly grab a 'meal' and get that eating business out of the way. It's a great boon for doctors, insurance companies and gyms, where the consequences of our choices are fought on every level but the most basic one, what we put into our bodies. It's work, until you do it. Until you reap what you've sown and gathered that work into your arms, washed it, cooked it, eaten it. The pleasures that do occur the growing  expand exponentially, flowering into preparing meals steeped with satisfaction beyond any other flavor known any other way.

Some old photos from California. After 30 years of putzing around with plants here and there, being with my son on the berry farm where he lives, I was jumpstarted (in typical island fashion, a little at a time) back to the future.

One of my favorite photos of my son

I look at this and can feel the ache in my back and arms from planting strawberries.
The older plants yielding to make strawberry ginger jam. Yes, it's worth it.
In this one book, she covers pretty much everything that any of us fighting back toward a healthier world say and act upon, day after day, year after year. Even at six years past, the contents could have been written yesterday, except for the additional worsening of the frightening food scenarios occurring daily in our world.

BUT! The awakening of the public to insidious occupation of our fields and larders is growing. Banning GMO's in many countries, more gardens (each one a Victory Garden in my opinion, whether it is an acre or a line of herbs on your windowsill), more just saying no to poisoned food, it's happening, slowly slowly but each step in the right direction is a step toward regaining our farms and our health and, with wonder, back to food that tastes like it ought to taste, pungent, spicy, a burst, an explosion of flavor on the tongue.

Rather than buying that insipid mealy, tasteless tomato, more and more people are discovering for the first time that a tomato, brilliantly colored, spurting juiciness, full of seeds that can be replanted to bring forth its own true type. While buying seeds is now a minefield of choice between supporting Monsanto, who now even own many heirloom seed names, and supporting organizations such as Seed Savers, it is still possible to buy healthy seeds that will grow healthy plants. Or, you can go to farmer's markets where the dirty work, as in work in the dirt, has been done for you, giving you the opportunity to literally repay them. By supporting those farmers whose 7 day workweek, one or two of them topped off with days at the market, hauling in fresh produce/honey/eggs, a circle of wholeness can be completed in your kitchen and dining tables. Glory!

Real garlic, grown in good soil, uncontaminated. Most likely, the garlic you are buying in the store is from China. Not good. Why? You can read about it'll be looking for another source directly afterward.

So many meals were literally straight from the gardens to the kitchen. Joy joy joy!
It kicked me in the butt. Why haven't I been over to the big island to investigate more of what is going on there organically? I talk and don't walk. Vieques now has a farmer's market with organic food. I need to see it, talk to those who run it. We all need to request from Luis organic, local vegetables at the market in town. If enough of us ask, he'll deliver. And learning to eat seasonally in a place where winter doesn't touch down opens up huge doors for us, both taste wise and health wise, as well as downing our footprint size on the earth. People in the states have the issues of food trucked across the continent, fueled by a dying fossil base. We have not only that, ours is then shipped across the waters and then finally delivered to us, wilted, sad, and often tasting nothing like it did weeks ago when it was picked.

I used to run a fruit and vegetable market on St. Croix and spent a good part of each delivery day with my staff cleaning, tossing out, and hoping to put our produce in good enough shape to still tempt the buyers. The pickers at the market in Florida knew they could send us whatever quality they wanted to send; what were we going to do, send it back?

How unlike that were the products our local farmers would bring in for my 'Local Organic' section: avocados, mangoes, ground provisions and more, beautifully ripened into the colors of living food, aromatic and delicious. Now I hear the local farmers there are thriving as are the markets, vegetables, meat, fruits raised with love and the hard work that goes with it rather than poisons. Everyone wins. Poco a poco...

Rye bread I made in California, all the grains and flours were from local farms. Yes, ALL! It was rustic and it was delicious. After I have my elbow surgery in July I'll be back to making bread and while it won't be all local, it will be all organic. I can't wait!
So that is my food ranging for today. Invigorate yourselves. If you've read the book already, what are you doing about what you read? Do you think they are simply a crazy family, lucky enough to have a farm and the income to raise such a variety of foodstuffs? Is it worth the time and work to eat something that tastes good and is good for you and the earth? Or does it matter at all? I can only answer for myself and then act on it as best I can.

Yesterday, I was reading an article about the government gathering all phone calls from Verizon, a leak of a 'program' that started a few months back, having an open door to run to July of this year. The article was not exactly startling as much as it was unsettling. What was startling were quite a few of the comments.

Many of them said exactly the same thing, 'I've got nothing to hide, I don't care.' I started thinking about the statement 'I don't care.' Caring implies doing something about what you care about, to keep whatever it is you care about as you believe it should be. Of course, that can lead to all sorts of things, blinding, obsessive fanaticism among them which is rarely a good thing. But I wondered just how much of the state of affairs that we live in, food and societally  wise, is a result of 'I don't care.' Fast, fat producing meals packing on obesity, earbuds and electronic devices replacing conversation, exercise and social gatherings, bland, literally poisoned food, wars for oil, wars for diamonds, wars for water, decimating homes and lives for profit. 'I don't care, it doesn't affect me.' Really? Caring takes work and it seems we'd rather play, giving over our world to those who enjoy the profit and power of our carelessness.

Poco a poco. Many are working to change the direction, change the conversation, change the results. What will you do? What can you do? The old bumper sticker cliche' Think Globally, Act Locally still has true merit. That's all I know.

I'm challenging myself to get off my rear end and find out what Puerto Rico has to offer us, here on this tiny island. Vibra Verde is a huge step in the right direction, the veggie market, albeit filled with many un-local foodstuffs, at least is introducing vegetables into local lives.

Fashionably unfashionable
A group of us just got back from snorkeling. As we were gathering our things, talking about the beautiful underwater gardens (thank you, Mary Ann and kids, so many hands working together under the sea to restore its beauty and filtrations), the nurse shark, the eel, the rays, the fish, the turtles, our talk turned to food. Everything I spoke of above was the conversation and I'd not even mentioned (yet) what the subject of my blog post was today. Ideas and desires flew, tentative plans for gardens, for learning and observing trips were made. Others on Culebra are already doing things that we'll be finding out about, trying to co-ordinate what is available and known, what can be done, what we can do.

We love to eat! We love to eat good food. And we can. Poco a poco, we're on the path and the path is bright.

Have a focused frenzy of food fantasies Friday. Do something farsighted.


  1. Glad you enjoyed the book...

    1. Thanks for giving it to me!! Now I'll be more crazy than ever, but hopefully more positive. You can only hope.

  2. I loved that book! It was part of my journey to healthiness. I love this post!

    Read this for laughs and giggles -

    Thank you for challenging yourself. I can't wait to see what you do for Culebra in this respect!

    1. Well, it will definitely be a group effort, as Lori noted when she asked if I'd like to be the committee chairperson. I think I scared even the chickens on the beach! I'll check out the article, thanks!

  3. Don I know yu fum som plez?
    This is cap'n Red of the Gypsy Star. At least we know a whole bunch of the same people. Richard and Dorothy on the Malo Falau, a green tri hull, Huss Malik who had the inn and now lives here in Sarasota, Bob and Betty Chapman on"Music" in St. Croix for a number of years, (Betty had a piano on board that she played to charter guests and is a distant cousin) They are retired here in Florida also. So many years, so many faces and places. We were at home on our mooring near the little red pump house in Charlotte Amalie for six years....but glad to know some one is enjoying one of our favorite places. All the best to you and yours. Keep on with your delectable life. Red Sears ( Bradenton Florida.

  4. ....also, I think you gave me more detail on the strange woman who lived in the mangroves on the west end of the Culebra harbor entrance...also my old friend who was killed by a power boat running over him while diving for lobster. Could you remind me again what happened to his son...who was an infant at the time. Thanks, Red

  5. No doubt we've run into each other somewhere along the way, Cap'n! I'll try to answer your questions via email. That 'strange woman' is Joanna, now living in a senior facility over on the big island, doing as well as can be expected.

    Yep, a lot of people have moved back to the states, or other places in the world, away from the islands and one day I might join them. But not yet!

  6. Yes...WE do move to the states for various reasons...mostly medical...but our hearts are STILL in the island of our choice. For me....St.John, where I taught school for VI Dept. Of Ed., was "Capt.Karla" for InterIsland Boat Svs. for 14 yrs, and gave up the fight when Marilyn wrecked my dreams...then to PR...and now back in the desert wishing for tradewinds and clean water. BUT...I've learned so much from being yr will be my last for teaching public school, and my yrs here are going to end. 5% humidity isn't my thing.Trying to grow your own food here IS an adventure, but luckily CA is close...and my retirement will be an adventure...and I WILL be playing in the dirt!!

    1. I have another boat friend from here who moved to the desert; he loves it! It sounds like your future has some big adventures ahead and desert time has served you well. I hope for the same feeling if and when it comes my time to go.