5 bottoms

On my way into town this morning I heard an interesting report on National Public Radio about the dramatic shifts in weather being experienced in the midwest and their consequences. States all across the Corn Belt (including Iowa, Illinois, and Indiana, and parts of Michigan, Ohio, Nebraska, Kansas, Minnesota, and Missouri) experienced near-drought conditions in 2012 and crop yields dropped significantly as a result. This year farms are experiencing conditions at the other end of the weather spectrum such that only 2% of the corn crop is in the ground because of near-record amounts of rain. Given the number of days to maturity, for corn for example, there is a critical window for spring planting and farmers across this part of the country are in a pretty tight spot. I point this out in the hopes of getting anyone who is disconnected with the work of producing our food to stop and consider what it takes to grow the produce and meats that line the shelves of the brightly lit and heavily stocked aisles of our local markets. Take a moment and ask yourself what it would take for you to grow your own food, all of it. I can give you a bit of insight into what it would take … lots and lots of effort. So, here’s to those thousands of folks who simply want to get into their fields to plant their crops to put food on your table. Let’s all hope for a bit of dry weather across the midwest. Just enough for the farmers to get those tractors out to work the land. I took the photo below on my way back to our bit of ground yesterday. I’ve been watching the fields down by the river since promising you a few weeks ago that I would be looking for the first tractor to turn the soil. As I hit the road down by the river this 4440 with 5-bottoms came into view. I needed to get home, Joanna was waiting, we had a date to shear sheep. A promise is a promise however so I stopped to capture the image. [For those of you who know the I Spy series of books for kids, I spy a Robin … do you?]

plowsmall

16 thoughts on “5 bottoms

  1. The little guy/girl is certainly taking advantage of the situation here! Fresh worms–yay! Your post reminds me of a discussion I had with a co-worker earlier this morning. We were thinking of what our parents’ diets were and where the food came from and comparing it to our reality. What a change just one generation has brought! Traditional Newfoundland food was, until the sixties: Fish fish fish first. Meat: mutton, hares (we call them rabbits), caribou and moose fresh beef was ararity. Families who owned cattle might ‘slaughter’ one from time to time but the meat would be pickled and spared along. For those on the north coast, seal was fairly popular in season. Game birds: ptarmigan & grouse (we call them partridge but they are not), turrs (sea birds more commonly called murrs elsewhere) and duck. Chickens are relatively new and turkeys only came here during WWII. Vegetables were the ones that could be grown in our rocky, sour, soil: potatoes, cabbages, carrots, turnips (rudabagas really) and rhubarb. Grain was almost exclusively imported bleached flour. Fresh milk was relatively uncommon but carnation brand condensed milk was a staple. We drank tea NOT coffee–my grandparents mostly used molasses as a sweetener, not sugar. Berries were a daily staple: bakeapples (Rubus chamaemorus) harvested from the widespread bogs were probably the favourite, followed closely by partridgeberries (Mitchella repens) and, of course, blueberries. Now, just a generation later, ALL that is gone. The things noted above are, at best, an occasional delicacy for us older crowd and something the younger ones deem “Gross.”The typical Newfoundland diet really eaten by us on a daily basis is indistinguishable from what you would find in a typical household in Pennsylvania.

    • Wow … thanks for taking the time to lay all that out in detail Maurice – Joanna will find it interesting (as I did). Very instructive. Joanna and I have always recognized that eating the way we do (conter-culture I suppose you could call it) is very difficult and takes lots of planning. We could eat like everyone else, TV dinners and processed foods, but we choose not to. Everything in life is a trade off. We have chosen to live (and eat) this way because it allows us to grow our own food thereby knowing (very much) where it comes from. The cultural and social changes which have moved folks off the land have dictated, to a large extent, our dependence on the local market. Few tend gardens and even fewer raise livestock. The lives lead by your parents and certainly your grandparents would, perhaps, be view by most today as difficult … and I bet they were difficult. Eating the way they ate took effort and thought. Today it’s just too easy to pick up frozen-this or processed-that. At what cost? Something to consider. And the more we do it the more we grow dependent. As a final thought, I find it unfortunate that those of us who chose to live ‘closer’ to their food are thought of as somehow eccentric. I like to remind those who think of me in that way that an object with an eccentric orbit still goes round … just along a different path. And, in the end, what’s wrong with that? Not too coherent a response .. sorry. What I’m trying to say is that the world might be a better place if we all lived (and ate) as your grandparents did. D

      • Yes to all of it. I like your analogy to the eccentric path … a lot! I am also reminded of the tools that were used. The cream-separator in your previous post is a good example of how ‘craft’ and ‘skill’ was needed in living lives. My grandfather built and repaired boats, all using hand-tools. He caught and cured fish that way too. My grandmother tended the garden, cooked the meals, prepared yarn and knitted clothes and washed them, all by hand (I’m assuming my grandfather sheared the sheep…not sure though but I do have the old spring-ended shearing scissors somewhere). Their lives were not just busy. They were also very skillful. Young people may laugh–disrespectfully–at their great-grandparents’ ineptitude with computing technology but they totally miss the point that those people were incredibly skilled but in different areas. Of course they also miss the simple fact that, in turn, their great-grand children will find them equally inept :>)

        • All wonderful points which lead me to draw conclusions about social and cultural evolution. Not only is it the times that are changing … but our skills as people, individually and collectively, are changing. The old skills (fishing and knitting) are being being replaced by new ones (coding and building computer networks). What does this cultural shift mean in the long (geological timescale) run? Argh … what a thought for an early Thursday morning! Perhaps you and Elke and I can get together and form a think tank and solve all the world’s problems … in just a morning. D

          • We’d be far more likely to create a few new ones instead, I figure :>)
            That said, I’m currently on two rants:
            1–quiet spaces on this earth. I live in one of the least populated places on the earth and there’s nowhere you can go to escape the sounds of technology. Even our vast totally unpopulated interior–the air is constantly filled with Trans-Atlantic jets.
            2–Our decreasing lack of contact with the physical world. We are of this planet and have evolved over time to be quite versatile in how we interact with it. Think of us as a system. Our sensation, navigation, location, collision-avoidance, balancing, motion and articulation ability simply cannot be replicated through technology. It’s just too sophisticated. Working with it takes time and that’s what we are doing when we grow, develop and play. Unfortunately, though, parents and the rest of society are totally caught up i ‘teaching’ our kids only to interact in the electronic world. I fear that this imbalance will, in the end, not lead to the selection of those who are well suited to continue our species. I fear for the future.

          • I think it’s not necessarily as bad as all that! The local food/slow food movement has been gaining ground steadily, seen in the uptick of farmers markets and rise of urban community gardens, even among young trendy people whose job skills run more toward coding and social networking then hoeing weeds. I’d say for a certain demographic, we’ve again reached a point where it’s considered pretty cool to be a farmer selling vegetables at the market. The tricky part is though, that’s a pretty small demographic. The much larger one is the majority of people who simply can’t afford to care about the path their food took to their plate, because they’re too busy trying to make sure there is a plate with any food at all on it. On a global scale, simply because we’ve passed our ecosystems carrying capacity so drastically, it simply doesn’t seem feasible for everyone to provide for themselves nutritionally the way we used to be able to. I think we’re part of an incredibly lucky contingent of humanity to be able to expend the time and effort we do towards perfecting our personal food supply by growing and raising our own, while at the same time having all the creature comforts and securities of jobs unrelated to whether we had a bad lambing season or a crop failure.

            • Argh, the voice of reason rears her level-headed head. OK. (1) I agree that the very small demographic we appreciate and can relate to exists. (2) As a fraction of 7,000,000,000 those folks comprise a very small minority. (3) I understand the trade off between simply eating and eating well. (4) And how about eating sustainably? Think about the word. People think they are doing so well when they are doing what they think is sustainable. [Have we had this conversation before?] What are we sustaining? A world that’s in lots of trouble? I’d prefer to go ‘backwards’ to the way things used to be … and, how do we do that? This is too complicated! Too involved. You make a good point however … and that is that this conversation is one which can only take place among folks living in developed economies. You are correct in pointing out that the vast majority of folks around the world simply worry about food on the plate – no matter where it comes from. It is embarassingly bourgeois of us to be talking this way – in ignorance of the rest of the world. Such large issues. So little time. D

  2. I don’t spy a robin unless he’s about to be run down by a tractor. I’ve been thinking about the farmers in the midwest too. The dustbowl images come to mind. Hope that never happens again. I can smell the turned earth here. Back to grandpa’s farm.

    • You got it George … he didn’t get run down … he was just making sure that things were being done correctly. And was picking worms in the bargain. Thanks for checking in. Much appreciated, as always. D

  3. This image is so appealing on many levels! First, the colors are bold, they jump off the screen. I love the texture of the freshly tilled earth and so fortuitous that you captured the robin! Skill or luck?? 🙂

    • Entirely luck … I didn’t even see it until Joanna pointed it out on the computer screen as I reviewed the images when I got home! Thanks for the supportive critique.

  4. We still have snow, lots of it. I keep wondering how meat producers are managing to feed their stock; this has been a very long winter to be putting out hay.

    • Hey Ogee. Thanks for your response. And, yes, I too worry about our Earth. Many folks talk of the issue of sustainability … and don’t stop to realize that the word means maintaining things as they are. Well … wait … what if things aren’t so great AS THEY ARE? Shouldn’t we be talking about putting things to right … back to the way they used to be? Anyway … what else can we do other than do the right thing and lead by example. Cheer up. The sun is out and the sky is blue today! D

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