Cooking in Big Grove

Broccoli Florets

Broccoli Florets

The harvest is strong at the CSA and the abundance has been reason to engage in cooking again. It’s not that we haven’t cooked meals. It’s that there is so much to do in this brief time on the planet that like simmering pasta sauce from last year’s tomatoes, the activity was moved to the back burner.

Our own garden looks to produce a lot of tomatoes, peppers, a few cucumbers, and some celery. There is also a lot of fruit on the apple and pear trees.

There may be an eggplant or two from our garden, kale enough to feed the entire subdivision, and whatever I manage to get in the ground for second crop. At the grocery store on Tuesday, zero is the number of fresh vegetables purchased because we have more than we can possibly use— local food luxury.

The garden got away from me this year, and yesterday I mowed down the garlic patch. The bulbs were too small for kitchen use, and there is a supply of garlic scapes in the fridge for daily use until the bulbs from the CSA have cured. If I get to it, I plan to spade the ground and cover it with grass clippings.

Eggplant is a blessing and a curse. I made a casserole of tomato sauce, chunks of sliced eggplant, fresh mozzarella, and a cooked mixture of onion, diced eggplant, zucchini, fresh cherry tomatoes and kale for dinner last night. It was very tasty, but a person can enjoy eggplant only for so long during the season. Eggplant produces abundantly in this climate, and the rounds I baked and froze last year went into this year’s compost. Will eat it at the beginning of the season, but for how long afterward is an open question.

There is also cabbage from the CSA. Coleslaw is a typical dish. During my recent pantry review, I found plenty of canned sauerkraut— enough to last another year. There is also soup aplenty, so we’ll be sharing the extra cabbage.

 Someone at the CSA made pickles with kohlrabi and freshly grated ginger. I’m seeking that recipe for refrigerator pickles as a way of dealing with an abundance of kohlrabi.

One of the several challenges for a local food system is to prepare the harvest into a portioned, nutritious meal, then to sustain that activity for the entire year. Ingredients are always a combination of garden, pantry, farms and merchants, but it is the knowledge and action of cooking that makes local food viable. Cooking is physical labor and practice more than head knowledge. In a local food system we get plenty of both.

Letter to the Solon Economist

Iowa City Nuclear Free SignCommemorating Hiroshima and Nagasaki Day

Aug. 6 marked the 69th anniversary of the atomic bombing of Hiroshima, Japan when between 60,000 and 80,000 people were killed instantly, with a final death toll estimated at 135,000.

Aug. 9 will mark the anniversary of Nagasaki where about 40,000 people were killed instantly by an atomic bomb, with a final death toll of about 50,000.
We won the war and the world changed forever.

What has become of our nuclear weapons program?

The report isn’t good.

Late night comedians ridicule the state of our nuclear complex, the foibles of its officers, and the many accidents it produced. An example was Vice Admiral Tim Giardina, the STRATCOM deputy chief in Bellevue, Nebraska, who was fired by President Obama last October after being caught passing counterfeit poker chips at a Council Bluffs casino. Comedy is not reality, and Giardina’s situation isn’t that funny.

Last week Russia violated the Intermediate Range Nuclear Forces (INF) treaty, which was signed by President Reagan, and ratified in 1988, by testing a ground-launched cruise missile. Cruise missiles are delivery systems for nuclear warheads.

While the treaty violation does not comprise a new threat in the tense relationship between the U.S. and Russia, it is troubling.

“It suggests that Russia is moving away from a long U.S.-Russia tradition of restraining the most dangerous weapons even as they have serious disagreements on all sorts of issues,” said Daryl Kimball, of the Arms Control Association.

Life is scary enough without nuclear weapons, so what’s an Iowan to do?

It’s time to prevent what we cannot cure, and call for nuclear disarmament.

~ Paul Deaton is a member of the Iowa Chapter of Physicians for Social Responsibility, U.S. affiliate of International Physicians for the Prevention of Nuclear War, a 1985 Nobel Peace Prize Laureate.

Allure on the Prairie

Canned Goods

Canned Goods

LAKE MACBRIDE— The allure of imagination is a writer’s arena. It can be a saving grace, enabling us to survive in a world gone mad. It can be a distraction from existential realities that beckon for attention. It is a blessing and a curse, perhaps the result of our too large brain combined with the relative security of life on the American plains. Perhaps it is simply a way to live.

Writers seek allure more than imagination, at least this one does. That moment when an idea rises on the horizon. A shiny object, not unlike a fashion photograph— each element prepared meticulously for our viewing, the scent of perfume imagined despite the reality of a two dimensional image on a screen. Allure is the well from which a writer dips a ladle and drinks.

Norman Mailer described the writer’s process:

You go in each morning, and there’s a blank page. Maybe it takes five minutes, maybe it takes an hour. Sooner or later you start writing, and then the words begin to flow. Where does that come from? You can’t pinpoint it. You always wonder, “Will it all stop tomorrow?” In that sense it’s spooky. In other words, you’re relying on a phenomenon that’s not necessarily dependable.

There is no shortage of things to occupy our attention. A recent story on the cable television business reported there are 10 million households in the U.S. that have an Internet connection, but no cable television. It’s enough people for Home Box Office to perceive a market and develop a direct sales, Internet delivered, bundle of subscription programs. Radio, then television, and now the Internet, have served to suppress imagination’s allure. Programming fills our attention capacity as we plug in to our favorite diversion. For a writer, this is a low level poison trickling into our veins, suppressing creativity. Allure vanishes leaving us feeling empty and used, yet craving more.

“No ideas but in things,” wrote William Carlos Williams. Would that it were so. His 20th Century produced a consumer culture in which people collected things without ideas. Certain die cast toys, boxes of pasta, tools, and my addiction— books and reading material. The result of someone’s ideas tangible and in our hands. Maybe Williams was warning us.

As we age, we become aware of our physical limitations and imagine more. Aging bodies become temples of memory to be filled by righteous and earthy memories. As our bones stiffen writers strive to avoid calcification of ideas. It takes work. We are not always successful.

“Memory believes before knowing remembers,” wrote William Faulkner. As we age, the hard drive of memory falls into disuse. We repeat old jeremiads in society, trying to get along. We can forget the allure of the imagination.

When a writer loses the ability to be drawn to the allure, one is no longer a writer. A scribbler maybe, a blogger definitely, a writer only in external artifacts and behavior.

We may be driven to package our awareness, like a gardener spending weeks in the kitchen canning and freezing produce for a winter of use. The jars on a shelf serve a purpose, the least of which is nourishment. They become another distraction from the allure of a life of imagination.

First Tomatoes

First Tomatoes

First Tomatoes

LAKE MACBRIDE— Earlier this week the first tomatoes were harvested from our garden. Two types of cherries which were sliced up and placed on a dinner salad. Few things are as good as a fresh tomato.

There are some 32 tomato plants in our garden and we hope there will be an abundant harvest. One never knows with the tomato blight, the uncertain weather, and bugs. We don’t spray anything on our tomatoes, and take what they will produce— less deductions for certain conditions. It has been enough.

First tomatoes are another benchmark along the year’s progress. Later this year than previously, but just as delicious.



This gallery contains 10 photos.

INDEPENDENCE— Friday was a mini-retreat from paid jobs as I drove support for a small team of riders on the Register’s Annual Great Bike Ride Across Iowa (RAGBRAI). The first ride was Aug. 26 through 31, 1973, when people got … Continue reading

Climate Change is Really Political

2012 Drought Conference

2012 Drought Conference

If one didn’t think the U.S. discussion of climate change was political, think again. U.S. Rep. David McKinley (R-West Virginia), added an amendment to a House appropriations bill to fund the Department of Energy and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers that would prohibit the two agencies from using funds that would “design, implement, administer or carry out specified assessments regarding climate change.”

Another way to put it, from McKinley’s perspective, is if you don’t like science, ban it.

House Republicans took exception to the Department of Defense addressing the recommendations of the National Climate Assessment, and have added two agencies whose work is directly related to mitigating the effects of extreme weather to their list.

The floor debate captured the essence of the politics of climate change:

“Spending precious resources to pursue a dubious climate change agenda compromises our clean-energy research and America’s infrastructure,” McKinley said on the House floor. “Congress should not be spending money pursuing ideologically driven experiments.”

Speaking against the amendment, Rep. Marcy Kaptur (D-Ohio) said it disregards the research of the overwhelming majority of climate scientists.

“The Republicans, in general, don’t seem to trust the scientists,” Kaptur said. “This amendment requires the Department of Energy to assume that carbon pollution isn’t harmful and that climate change won’t cost a thing. That’s nothing but a fantasy.”

What next? Click here to read the rest of David Gutman’s coverage of this story in the Charleston, West Virginia Gazette.

And consider that June 2014 was the hottest month on record since records have been collected. Politicians like McKinley would deny the reality of human contributions toward global warming at the same time climate data released from the National Climatic Data Center of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, found that the worldwide average temperature over land and sea in June 2014 was 1.3 degrees Fahrenheit hotter than the 20th century average of 59.9 degrees. That is reality.

People seeking scientific proof of anthropogenic global climate change are barking up the wrong tree. The goal of science, if unlike McKinley, we accept science, is not to prove, but to explain aspects of the natural world.

Around 1850, physicist John Tyndall discovered that carbon dioxide traps heat in our atmosphere, producing the greenhouse effect, which enables all of creation as we know it to live on Earth.

Carbon dioxide increased as a percentage of our atmosphere since Tyndall’s time at the beginning of the Industrial Revolution. As a result, Earth’s average temperature increased by 1.5 degrees Fahrenheit.

The disturbance of the global carbon cycle and related increase in carbon dioxide concentrations in the atmosphere is identifiably anthropogenic because of the isotope signature of atmospheric carbon dioxide.

We can also observe the effects of global warming in worldwide glacier retreat, declining Arctic ice sheets, sea level rise, warming oceans, ocean acidification, and increased intensity of weather events.

It is no wonder almost all of climate scientists and all of the national academies of science in the world agree climate change is real, it is happening now, it’s caused by humans, and is cause for immediate action before it is too late.

Politicians like McKinley don’t get it, and advocate against reality. That’s nothing new for some members of the Republican Party.

~ Written for The Climate Reality Project

Dry Weather Returns

30 Pounds of Broccoli

30 Pounds of Broccoli

LAKE MACBRIDE— When the ditch in front of our house dried enough to run the lawn tractor through, it was a sign that dry conditions were returning to Big Grove. 140th Street remains flooded, but most of the other roads in the county are passable. After an exceptionally wet and pleasant spring and early summer, the hot, humid weather has returned and we need rain.

Forcing myself outside, away from kitchen work, I pulled weeds from very dry soil before the day got too hot. I watered the vegetables, hoping dew and rain later in the week will nourish them— will be watering again before nightfall.

Broccoli Closeup

Broccoli Closeup

The last 24 hours has been what local food enthusiasts live for— securing broccoli for the winter, blanching and freezing it. It is work, with these outcomes: the best heads were kept fresh to cook later in the week; some of the best looking florets ever are processed and freezing; stems will be converted to soup, which then will be canned for later use; the freezer is getting a thorough cleaning of last year’s produce to make room, some of them going into the aforementioned soup; frozen rhubarb will be converted to sauce and canned; blueberries? Who knew?; and finally, vegetables that were frozen and are now coming in fresh will be composted.

Last night and today’s work is positive in so many ways.

That said, would it be better to buy frozen broccoli from the store during winter? When one lives close to the means of production, the answer is an emphatic no.