Sunday, April 13, 2014

Out of Season, Out of Stock


The produce manager, a friend, chuckles as he looks at my outfit. I've forgotten to take off a bright fruit and flower apron from my earlier project.

I stand there making indignant noises by the $3.49/pound apples.

"This is crazy. No wonder they're called 'heirloom' apples. They're so pricey, you will them to your grandchildren."

A big jovial man, he laughs.

"You're spoiled," he said. "Is this apple season? Of course they're pricey."

"Well, duh, I know that, and frosts are settling on local fruit tree blossoms and we don't know about drought, and and... But maybe some good will come out of these outrageous prices."

I cut my eyes at him. He looks benign, Buddha-like.

"Maybe more of us will plant gardens this year."

"We won't be growing gardens without rain."

"Well, yes, there's that and I hear you. It means some more labor, deep digging organic matter, mulching, watering in the cool of the morning..."

He laughs again.

"Maybe. Those who can, do. Those who can't or won't, shop here."

Once upon a time, America stretched vast and fertile. Not so long ago, though it seems the stuff of ballads now,  mythic... Burl Ives ...

Tra la la tweedily dee dee
It gives me a thrill
To wake up in the morning
To the mockingbird's trill.
Tra la la tweedily dee dee
There's peace and good will
You're welcome as the flowers
On the mockingbird hill...

Food the bountiful, the varied, the ever-available grows precarious this year. Drought clamps hard on the fruit and nut basket called California. The state has cut off all, all irrigation water to farmers.


Prices will continue to rise. Non-availability may be a shocker.

In my mind's eye am remembering a vegetable kiosk in divided East Berlin. Three veggies on offer: dried up whitish cabbage, carrots hanging limp over the box edge, and small shriveled potatoes.

A lot of US produce, especially through the winter, comes from California.

Fukushima continues shimmering out its Jet Stream and Pacific Ocean horrors. One customer comes in now with shopping sacks, and his Geiger Counter, to decide what's safe to buy.

Employees and bug-eyed customers try not to freak out hearing the clicks start up.

Back when I lived in Maine, dear friends paid the mortgage on their little farm by growing greenhouse "yuppy chow" (gourmet mixed lettuces, mesclun) and delivering it to area restaurants through the long coastal winters.

Local is looking pretty good. An enterprising grower near here is producing winter greens in hoop houses. I buy those.

Writing the article, "Radiation Remedies" the morning after Fukushima blew set me to ruminating what we've allowed.

And what we'll do now, as local communities and global peoples.

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