Risa has been fussing over her starts in the unheated potting shed -- they all are able to stand some cold, as none of them -- yet -- are tomatoes, eggplant, or peppers. But after eight weeks of "January thaw," in which the bees came forth, blossoms cracked open, worms turned, and Risa worked in bare feet, the jet stream has wandered a bit. The skies are full of cerulean and sunburn by day, and the eye of Sirius is a startling icicle by night. Despite the assurances of the "weather personalities" the mercury has dropped to 28, 28, and 25(F). Beloved took a pickax to the poultry's drinking water in the mornings.
Everything is under cover, and happy, but, still, she worries.
She knows she's only pretending that her life depends on her produce, and that the deeper she goes into the hundred-foot-diet exercise, the odder her food habits must seem to her associates. She said as much, while eating homegrown kale, peas and potatoes, to Beloved.
"Don't worry, dear;" Beloved replied over her Kashi. "If it ever comes down to it -- and I can see that happening -- we may all be grateful. Hungry is a great motivator."
Frost, flood, drought, disease, hordes of birds or insects, foxes, raccoons, hawks, deer, gophers, voles, squirrels and cannibal chickens: fear of all these may seem anti-Nature. Certainly many, many farmers have fallen under the spell of snake-oil pitches for monoculture, insecticides, herbicides, seeds with terminator genes and the like. When she sees her plants under stress, Risa can see why this occurs. When some of her cherished crops wither and die, she wistfully wonders what technological miracle -- currently available -- might have saved them. And she shot at a marauding hawk this year.
In the eastern part of the U.S., in the summer of 2009, gardeners and small farmers were hammered. Intensified and extended precipitation brought a fifty-year high of blight to a thousand-mile swath of tomatoes, potatoes and such. To those who were just starting their kitchen-garden efforts, it must have seemed a crushing blow.
Risa hopes they won't give up.
Monoculture and other practices of the industrial agricultural system have some resistance to disaster, but that resistance comes with the costs attendant upon aquifer depletion, soil depletion, depletion of genetic diversity, oil and coal dependence for farm implements and for commodity storage-transportation-processing-and-retailing, and increased reliance upon debt. Any one link in that chain breaks, they all break.
Historically, all such chains have eventually broken.
So it's maybe a good thing for us that Kashi is currently available. But it would be even better if we could all manage without it if need be.
Victory gardens supplied something like half the produce in the United States during World War II. Each year of the war, the ranks of the gardeners grew. Since then, the various back-to-the-land movements that have sprung up have borrowed some of the spirit of the war gardeners, but, as there was not so obvious an emergency, each time the energy has faded away.
Risa sees some of that fading occurring now, as the paid lobbyists of the industrial/financial order successfully ridicule and disparage every movement toward diversification and decentralization as it arises. Their power to see that no one can think clearly about getting along without them has been amplified by the rise of radio and television, and the demise of independent newspapers. The potential of free information dispersal on the Internet remains great, but is under increasing assault.
There is now almost no public domain. We're being -- 24/7 on thousands of channels -- talked down to by a self-anointed overclass, and the contempt in the messaging is palpable.
There are many strategies, more or less useful, one might do to resist this tide, and Risa has tried some of them. She was several times arrested in 1971 as an anti-war protester. She's been a civil-rights activist, a philanthropist, an LGBT activist, a religious nut, and a public-domain activist. She feels her efforts in these directions have not been an entire waste of her time. But in one area alone, she feels as able to act with integrity toward the present and future as ever, and that is in her homesteading.
Here, she can, to the extent possible, make, or if not make, find, or if not find, borrow (or lend), or if not share, buy used, or if not buy used, buy local, or if not buy local, buy quality, or if not buy quality, do without, to her heart's content. All of which provides a small but real resistance to that economic dependency so dear to the megacorporate heart.
And the center of this relative (but nevertheless important, if multiplied by millions of practitioners) resistance is the kitchen garden, with seed saving.
With access to any bit of land, or even a terrace or balcony (be it yours, your rented space, or that of a kind neighbor) you can produce food for yourself or others that is free of pesticides, did not exploit near-slave labor, was not hauled across a continent on the blood of dinosaurs and so did not (much) thicken the heat-absorbing brown haze in the thin envelope of air upon which almost every living thing absolutely depends.
And at the same time, most years, you'll be having fun.
To Risa, these considerations outweigh the heartbreak of offering her tender starts to the inconsiderate icicle eye of Sirius.
Most of the time, anyway, she thought, as she put away the last bite of steamed potato and peas and reached for the mint tea.
Our inability to see things that are right before our eyes ... would be amusing if it were not at times so serious. We are coming, I think, to depend too much on being told and shown and taught instead of using our own eyes and brains and inventive faculties, which are likely to be just as good as any other person's. -- Laura Ingalls Wilder in The Missouri Ruralist