Pot Luck July/August 2014

Oh happy day
    The sun is shining, the air is warm, a breeze is blowing – and the garden, slowly recovering from hurricane Arthur (which brought no rain this side of the vortex) is drying out. Arthur’s powerful blasts from every point of the compass over 24 hours flattened some vegetables and even twisted a few cabbage and broccoli plants off at ground level. How fortunate that unlike so many of you farmers in Arthur’s path I’m not trying to make a living off the land; only growing enough to feed myself and guests. 
    Here's hoping risk management programs are stepping up to assist those in need. 
    We’re still dealing with power issues here at home a week after the storm. We’ve half power to some of the house, full power to parts, and no power to others. For reasons beyond understanding by mere consumers 11:30 pm (not 11 pm or 12 midnight: 11:30) is when things were to return to normal last night, or maybe it will be today, or maybe tomorrow, or. . . . 
    A young German who was helping out these past couple of weeks was surprised how many times he has experienced power outages while in Canada since the first of the year. It’s been a new adventure for him. He’s 20 years old and never had to run a tub of water, gather up candles and lanterns, blanket the freezer, fire up the generator to prepare for a siege. All exciting. 
    In Europe they bury the power lines. We might do the same.
    In defense of those delivering electricity, when many lines were put in across rural Canada much that’s now treed, at least in this region, was pasture. Our provincial power corporation wants to protect wires by killing shrubs with herbicides and trees with chainsaws. Have they cheerleaders out there urging them on? If so, I have not heard them. On the other hand I have heard myself and others complaining loudly when a threatening shade tree is marked for execution or signs go up advising that the spray truck is on its way.
    In condemnation, rather than improved prices or service since our own power corporation was privatized (as we were assured would be the case) we have gone the other way. Same with postal service. A good oxymoron that. Both better get on the temporary foreign worker program if they want to see the decade out.    
    Or hire students. Work is foreign to a lot of them. I wouldn’t dare say that but Wendell Berry did in remarks following receipt of the annual Louis Bromfield Society Award in 2009 and published in the summer ’09 issue of Farming Magazine. 
    “If agriculture and the necessity of food production ever penetrates the consciousness of our politicians and economist,” he said,  “how successful will they be in job-training our overeducated, ignorant young people to revive our own aging and dwindling farm population? What will it take to get significant numbers of young people white of collar and soft of hands to submit to hard work and long days, not to mention getting dirty.”
    That same year Berry vowed he was prepared to go to jail rather than knuckle under to a proposed federal farm premises identification program. He would do so, he said, not for himself as he was getting on in years, but for the sake of youthful small farmers needing fewer rather than more stifling rules and regulations – such as the newly implemented Canadian PigTrace program.
    Wouldn’t it be great to have writer and agrarian philosopher Berry visit the region to meet young people getting worn to a frazzle and hands dirtied farming. Given half a chance he would no doubt encourage passive resistance among small farmers to unnecessary premise and livestock identification in Canada. 
    Berry was in Prince Edward Island in about 1978 for a conference at the ARK – along with Wes Jackson and the late Win Way. Quite a trio. Another of their ilk, retired Missouri Professor John Ikerd was in P.E.I. only last month, keynote speaker at a dinner honoring Island inductees into the Atlantic Provinces Agriculture Hall of Fame. 
    Agriculture in North American faces a crisis of corporate control, Ikerd told his audience. This according to a report by Editor Andy Walker in the Island Farmer. “Whoever controls agriculture controls the food and whoever controls the food controls the nation,” Ikerd warned. 
    Once an advocate for the Earl Butz “Get big or get out” school of farming, Ikerd now writes and speaks in defense of sustainable practices, and corporations, he said, are not concerned about sustainability, “because it makes no economic sense – economic decisions are by definition short-term.” 
    What would it take to encourage Ikerd and Berry to return to the region in November in time for the ACORN conference and trade show in Halifax November 12-14? The fact their good friend Vandana Shiva will be there? Or that the event overlaps Food Secure Canada’s Eighth National Assembly being held at the same Marriott Harbourfront Hotel with several well known activists including Maude Barlow (Council of Canadians)?

    Just now stopped for lunch and whirred up a batch of garlic scape pesto and is that ever a fine thing to do with those beautiful flower stalks! In the past I’ve grilled them and steamed them. Now that I’ve pestoed a batch I don’t think I’ll go back to cooking them in any way.
    Next month, September, Rural Delivery will focus on preserving the harvest. We welcome ideas and stories from readers. Where do you store your spuds, squash, green and dry beans, fruits? Dry, freeze, freeze dry, pickle, ferment, can (with a pressure canner maybe), store in the cellar or underground? All of that. Thinking again of pesto, last year I picked and bagged a bunch of basil leaves, threw them in the freezer, and they kept well, through three power failures.
    Time to step out and water the cow, gather an egg, pull a weed or two. With any luck we will see some of our readers in Cape Breton soon, at the 5th Annual Small Farm Expo being held this year at the Gaelic College in St. Ann’s, July 28, sponsored by the Nova Scotia Department of Agriculture and Perennia.
    If you miss that event, make darn sure you get to New Ross, N.S., for the 11th Annual Maritime Hand Mowing Championships Saturday, August 23, at the farm museum. Lee Valley Tools and Co-op Atlantic already have donated prizes for this popular day of activities celebrating heritage farming skills.   
    Best to all, DvL

May Survey Winner

    Winner of the May RD survey draw (and a copy of “Getting Rid of Alders” stories and more from Rural Delivery’s first 25 years), is Douglas G. Stevenson of Corbyville, Ont., who would like to see more about woodlot management and tree planting stories in the magazine and greatest need is protection of the environment. Thanks to Douglas and all who took the time to fill out the survey.