Pot Luck October 2014

There’s a nip in the air
    It is a cold morning, approaching zero, and the garden needs tending. In anticipation of a frost I covered tomatoes and peppers last evening, left squash to fend for itself, and uprooted basil that now I must strip and will process with olive oil and refrigerate until the week coming when there will be time to whip up some pesto. 
    Only hours short of the first day of autumn and there’s no hardwood piled in the yard to be cut and split. Not that I haven’t fuel to gather from the woodlot; standing dead spruce. There is plenty of that, and suitable for the outdoor furnace. My situation is far better than for many others in the area who depend on wood heat and who find themselves heading into winter short or without. It is offensive that we have to compete with European and U.S. interests for fuel growing on public lands.    
    There was a time when Crown wood was available to anyone with a saw and half-ton truck to fetch it. I’m told fear of liability slammed the door on that program. Insurance companies and ambulance-chasing lawyers are a formidable team shaping our world and fattening their wallets.
    Speaking of fat, the Deer mouse trapped last night must have been on steroids. Over the years the world must, too, have beat a path to the Victor mousetrap company’s door in Lititz, Pennsylvania, as Ralph Emerson assured his young friend Hank Thoreau would be the case. There is none better than the classic, copper bait pan model, not even Victor’s own attempts to come up with something more clever still.
    “Build a better mousetrap, and the world will beat a path to your door,” Ralph commented as he swept up the remains of a mouse dispatched with a 12 gauge shotgun on the back porch of his bungalow in Concord, Massachusetts. To which Hank replied, “As a single footstep will not make a path on the earth, so a single thought will not make a pathway in the mind.”
    “Right you are,” said Ralph. “Do not go where the path may lead, go instead where there is no path and leave a trail.”
    Deer mice go where there is no path and leave a trail, of sorts, which is their un-doing. Spying a wee dropping or two we reach for the Victor trap, mush a bit of cheddar into the bait pan, pull back the bail, fasten it down with the trip wire, and carefully place where mouse has gone before. 
    We have no House mice, Norway (or Brown) rats, or raccoons on this place – with the exception of encounters with two raccoons over the better part of a half century, encounters that ending badly for the furry bandits. They, like the Norway rat and I suspect the House mouse, thrive on the leavings of humans. Except for a few weeks out of the year I’m the only human inhabitant for a mile in one direction and an ocean the other. While the leavings about the homestead may not be meager, the way here is short of food and fraught with wild carnivorous peril.

    Oil and gas industry insiders say Nova Scotia will ban fracking for shale gas at its economic peril. Now they can wring hands over the outcome of the New Brunswick election in which the issue of fracking figured big – and led to Green Party leader and fracking critic David Coon beating out P.C. Energy Minister Craig Leonard. A good question asked by opponents of pumping undisclosed chemicals into the earth is why not leave the gas for generations to come when new, safer ways are discovered to go after that gas? Gas in the ground is money in the bank. Let’s save it.
    A greater peril and present danger to rural Canada is urbanization. Why is it happening, and not just here? What will it take to to staunch the flow of people to the next larger town? Immigration won’t do it. We are not opening the door to foreign farm workers, many of whom would love to move here permanently and would make appreciative, fecund, hard-working farmers. 
    A greater peril is over-regulation. Gordon Fraser and his family have been killing turkeys in their tidy abattoir in Pictou County, N.S., for neighbors going on four decades. Now the Turkey Marketing Board says they can’t. It’s not legal (they made the rule). “It’s unsafe.” 
    Turkey feathers! I’ve been there and have seen a clean, efficient, rural enterprise that is not making people sick. Even if it did, it would not be many and tracing the problem would be a snap. Fraser’s is not robbing from the mouths of commercial turkey farmers. It, like many other small outfits, is providing a local service to individuals raising a few birds primarily to look after themselves.
    In the name of safety and to protect huge agribusiness enterprises (JBS Canada, Cargill, etc.) pumping profits into the pockets of off-shore multi-millionaires, local farmers and country entrepreneurs are facing more rules and regulations every year. New hog identification rules, not yet enforced but coming, are not so much for our safety as they are to protect a $72 million dollar export industry. 

    “What are people for?” muses Wendell Berry in an essay written more than two decades ago. Good question. Not much, according to a fellow from Arkansas met recently on the Nova Star ferry to Portland, Maine. (Nice boat, by the way, with a friendly, helpful crew.) “Daddy always said, what a shame the only thing you can make out of people is people.”
    In his essay, Berry digs a little deeper, wondering why we need people, given all our technological advances. “Is the obsolescence of human beings now our social goal?” he asks. “One would conclude so from our attitude toward work, especially the manual work necessary for the long-term preservation of the land, and from our rush toward mechanization, automation, and computerization.
    The obsolescence of manual work is built into our genes. Humans have always looked for ways to push whatever required physical effort off on underlings or slaves. Now it’s machines and cheap energy (as well as underlings and slaves). Urbanization wouldn’t happen if most people accepted the bother of taking care of themselves. Spare us the inconvenience of maintaining our own homes, growing our own food, looking after our own children, and scrounging for firewood. DvL

    Congratulations and our thanks to 93-year-old Violet Austen from Chipman, N.B., whose name was drawn from among July/August respondents to our readers’ survey, and who is concerned about transportation and a lack of “old fashioned general stores.” We agree. So-called convenience stores by-and-large don’t have much to offer. Violet will be receiving a copy of “Getting Rid of Alders,” stories from the first 25 years of Rural Delivery magazine. DvL