Tuesday, August 12, 2008

The First Harvest

While we have all been engaged in our personal and collective dramas, the earth has been traveling around the sun, as she does, and summer is upon us in the northern hemisphere and, especially, our gardens.

Despite all accounts that the planet's ecosystem is in collapse, our gardens are again producing such an amazing variety of plant types, some cultivated but many planted by the surrounding environment.

And that surrounding environment is the Coyote Creek Riparian Corridor. As long as the corridor is vital, the migratory birds and waterfowl in the Pacific Flyway will move along the creek, bringing us constant surprises. Sometimes these new species pick the least-possible fertile locations to grow, like dirt-filled cracks between bricks or curbing.

Other plants are placed on the earth by our hands, while our hands do all the removal of all the bio-growth that happens around here, when its nature has been fulfilled. Thankfully, our city, San Jose, provides unlimited piles of yard waste to be picked up every week, so I don't have to compost all this stuff right here. I can order a load of compost returned to me whenever I need more mulch.

Cari claimed a piece of land right next to our bedroom side windows to plant sunflowers. These were the same blessed seeds we used in ceremony on the Winter Solstice. Nearly every seed germinated and produced some of the largest and tallest sunflowers that I have ever seen.

Blessed Be!

The vineyard is also ready for grazing. First '08 vintage were bunches of spicy white seedless grapes, that I lust for more of every year when they ripen. If the water supply was more abundant than it is right now and the food-growers 95% water discounts were in place uniformly ( i.e. for both commercial farmers and local community farmers, like so many folks are), I might plant a dozen more of this varietal, if I could find it.

This weekend, the first large tomato harvest came in. The first produce went off to my family chiropractors and staff and my neighbors. By the second picking, we had to get out the large scale kitchen equipment to process the first 30 pounds of perfectly red, ripe and round tomatoes. Added herbs were just outside the door, like fresh basil, and oregano, plus fresh parsley and cilantro from the CSA. (Community Supported Agriculture) The peppers and eggplants are also ripening and will be on the menu soon.

And a word of thanks to our most essential garden assistant, the bees.

Thank you, your majesty, and all your helpers

The ubiquitous cherry plums are also ripe and ground fruit is trying to ferment beneath every tree, even on part of the driveway near the carport. The next fruit crop will be the figs, probably in September, followed in December by the oranges and tangerines. Which brings us Full Circle, back to the Winter Solstice.

I am glad San Jose now hosts many Farmers Markets so hundreds, hopefully thousands of local folks are buying fresh produce directly from local growers, many certified organic. As Michael Pollan advocates, "Shake the Hand That Feeds You" If you cannot grow your own fruits and vegetables, the Farmers' Market or joining a CSA are the next best options.

Our neighbors Angelica and Sergio, at the corner of Brookwood and E. William St. have organized a CSA for about 20 families. They buy organic produce from Ledesma Farms, located in Watsonville and Los Banos. The Ledesma's sell at various farmers' markets in San Jose, so Sergio connects with the farmers each Saturday at the Willow Glen Farmers' Market and brings back crates of fresh produce. The MacKay's on 18th St. and I show up at 10 AM and we help divide the produce into single, medium and familly shares during the next hour. When folks start to show up at 11AM, we all catch up on news with each other. With the young ones playing around their beautiful gardens, the scene is tribe-like and the feeling of community is stronger each week. Subscription rates are quite modest: $15/wk. for a single share, $22.50 for medium share, and $30 for a family share. Subscriptions are for any part of the spring, summer or winter growing seasons. The photo below is of a single share last April.

Once you get in the grocery store, the link to the earth that produces your food starts to fade quickly into a mirage, at best. Growing conditions and transportation costs are unknown to you. The price you pay is not a signal of the where or how the food is grown. The "added value" that you pay at Whole Foods Markets is the story you get with the product that you are buying. Our dear friends the DiDinato's are so proud of their daughter, Francesca, who has risen to the corporate heights of chief cheese buyer for Whole Foods. What a cool job for a young urban professional. She can tell us the stories of the many delectable cheeses she buys for their customers

In Michael Pollan's In Defense of Food, he exposes the processed food industry and the nutritionist's that make it all possible. He advises that the only real food in a market is on the perimeter. The inner isles are where the processed foods are located, and it is there where the reductionist science of nutrition has allowed factories to take over the feeding of the world. This would be where I would embed a link to Soylent Green if I had one.

Never Thirst!

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