Now, there is a question everyone has on their mind, right?
Here it is . . . my first grain. And, it may not be the keeper, unless I can find a way to dehull it. When you think of the average garden, growing a grain is not top on your list. Most likely, it is not even on your list. But, as a survivalist . . . yes, I claim to be one, next to environmentalist, minimalist, and the list goes on . . . a grain has to be on the list.
There has to be something to go with all of those veggies, canned tomatoes, and pole beans. Of course, a grain!
So, for some reason, I chose buckwheat. I don’t know. I don’t even eat it. I have tried it a few times, and it has a nice flavor but didn’t stick with it. I probably wouldn’t have tried quinoa again after the first time I cooked it but I have since learned how to get it light and fluffy. Great stuff!
I started planting the buckwheat in rows and then said, forget it, and broadcast the rest, which turned out perfect. It is now 4 ft. tall with the buckwheat turning dark brown. According to one website, it can be dark brown and still not be ready to harvest. Well, I am winging it.
This is the challenge. How to dehull it? Yes, there is some fancy equipment out there for the low, low price of . . . forget it. Actually, most of the equipment is for bigger operations or milling for buckwheat flour. The buckwheat doesn’t even look that big. Perhaps, I should have gotten a variety that was bigger if there is even that option. When I look at it, I think . . . there is nothing left after the hull comes off. I don’t want flour either. This is for groats or whatever they are called.
There was not very much online to help with this predicament either. But really, buckwheat is not the mainstay of the American diet. I need a direct line to people in Eastern Europe or Asia, who have been eating this forever. And, they do not have any fancy equipment to get their buckwheat dehulled.
Nature, it is one of the reasons I moved here. Let me tell you. There are very few places that real Nature exists anymore. In between the miles of big box stores, malls, housing subdivisions, corn and soybean fields, restaurants, grocery stores, schools, hospitals, office buildings, and warehouses, there are Nature Centers for us to visit.
But here, I experience Nature firsthand. Stars that fill the night sky, moonlight caressing the whole valley, frogs and toads, fog most every morning, birds singing, and silence. The stillness of the woods fills my being. It is an energy . . . an energy connecting me and the woods. We are one. Something a cubicle and fluorescent lighting can never do.
I hear coyotes at night. Never have I heard coyotes. Their yipping and howling intrigues me. I have heard owls for the first time. A deer screeched as I went to enter the woods on a path I cut. I was so startled, I retreated. There was a red headed woodpecker in the trees one day while I was getting water or wood. Because it was winter and the trees were bare, it was very easy to spot him.
The other night I heard something in the woods, and I tried to spot what it was with my flashlight. I deducted it had to be a deer because the sound of the noise was not light. I swear I saw two eyes shining in the light of the flashlight. For several minutes, I waited with bated breath to see if it would come out so I could view it. Didn’t happen. Oh, well. So many new things I have not seen or heard before.
My mom keeps telling everyone that I am cooking outside, which is true. And, up to that point, the weather had been good. Then it got cold. It was 4 below zero, and I was outside cooking, and it was still good.
Why? I can’t quite put my finger on it. Maybe it connects me with ancient practices. I mean, that is what they did. They didn’t press a button and turn up the heat. Is it awful putting on extra clothes and boots to heat up some soup? Not in the least. Believe me, I am still connected to plenty of convenient gadgets and processes but this is back to basics.
I recently finished a book by Eric Brende, “Better Off: Flipping the Switch on Technology,” which is about a couple that is foregoing technology to live in an Amish type community. There are converts, like they are, in the community, too, along with Amish families. There is probably a reason he explains why they are there but I don’t exactly remember. But they are there.
Why are we drawn to this type of lifestyle? The rest of the US thinks we are crazy. And, it is something other than just getting off fossil fuels. I think it is good for our inner beings. It is good because it brings us back to basics, to survival, some primal, instinctive nature we left at the doorstep of the Industrial Revolution. For all the good it seems, all the conveniences, deep down, I am thinking they are actually robbing us of our primal nature.
I went in my woods to gather twigs for kindling for my fires. Now put that on your list of activities that you can’t wait to do. For me, there are no words again to describe the task or feeling of being in Nature. Maybe it brings me back to my childhood when we made forts, climbed trees, and played in the creek. Maybe it brings me, once again, to primal, ancient practices we have long lost.
A friend sent an email before the winter really started. He said, “Winter is exciting.” So when I saw him next, I asked him why he thought it was exciting. No one would say winter is exciting. He said it is survival. He and his partner heat with only a wood stove, as well, and harvesting wood is ensuring survival.
My current lifestyle borders on primitive. Many would say it is definitely primitive. But I would argue, or, at least point out, there are many conveniences within the so called “primitive” lifestyle I have. There are many things that I have that were created with fossil fuels that primitive or indigenous peoples didn’t have. But, I suppose, by our current standards, it is primitive.
What is the price of having technology? And, I am still a far cry from having no technology, although my lifestyle looks very radical. Environmentally, the price is huge. Survival is at stake. Psychologically, or perhaps spiritually is a better word, the price seems small. But is it?
Technology has taken us so far from Nature that we don’t know what it is, for most of us anyway, and visiting a forest or nature center doesn’t count in my book. There is a saying in the Koran that goes something like, “a loss is a gain, and a gain is a loss.” If technology is a gain, then we have truly lost Nature in our inner most beings, as we are Nature. Who wouldn’t take convenience? A push of a button over cutting wood for a fire?
I don’t have any idea how to measure what we have lost. I only feel there is a price we have paid for it.
My first response is that growing vegetables is a crap shoot . . . but in reality, there are a lot of issues involved. The weather, soil, critters, how much knowledge the gardener has, and who knows what else all comes into play to grow those veggies.
Well, I am still a newbie when it comes to growing vegetables. Even expert gardeners continue to learn new methods. Growing potatoes, onions, garlic, and now buckwheat are the newest vegetables for me. But, I want to know why my zucchini grew like crazy and the butternut squash didn’t do as well as I thought it would. Hmm . . . more to learn.
I continue to say one of the main solutions to the climate crisis and to ensure survival is to grow our own food. And, the pandemic really pushed people in that direction. With sheltering in place, people bought seeds and started gardening . . . and canning. I needed a few more jars and couldn’t find them anywhere. Well, I did find some at the Tractor Supply store in town because no one thought to go there. My sister even canned tomatoes for the first time this year.
So, what did I learn this year in the vegetable garden?
I should have weeded the onions more because . . . they are gone. All 120 of them! They were so beautiful the first couple of weeks. Oh, well. I didn’t put any straw around them, and I had plenty of straw. Just missed a beat there. What was I doing? Assembling Leopold benches . . . or socializing. I don’t know.
Last year the cabbage was in a different location, and all 20 heads did great. I was giving them away. This year, the critters were feasting on all of them. I didn’t make any sauerkraut.
Don’t use 10-year-old pole beans seeds because they won’t come up. Fortunately, I had some new bean seeds, which came up, and, they are doing great. It looks like there will be a decent harvest.
The potatoes did better than last year because I increased the space for them . . . and I did dig a trench . . . but I really don’t know if I pushed that dirt up next the plant in time to actually do any good. It is fun to dig them up . . . but not when it is 85 and in the middle of the afternoon. A friend mentioned there is also a tool so the potatoes are gently pushed up instead of being pierced with the shovel.
Tomatoes love heat . . . and we had it! Last year, I had 20 plants and didn’t can any. This year, I had 20 plants and canned 41 pints. Go figure. Well, the location of last years tomatoes weren’t in the best soil either.
Why did the zucchini do so well? Who knows. I gave it away four times and have been eating it for a month. It never does this well.
The butternut squash has arms everywhere from seven mounds . . . but I have only counted about 11 of them. A friend said it was not the summer for squash. Too dry. But, a couple of them are 13 inches long . . . if that is any consolation.
The garlic did a little better because I cut the scapes off but they could be bigger. Back to the drawing board with the garlic.
Forget celery. I keep trying to grow it with no success. Back to Google.
I needed to weed the cucumbers and green peppers better, too. Didn’t harvest any.
My kale is so beautiful . . . if I do say so myself. It is Russian kale, and it lasts really long into the fall so I planted a lot. Last year there were nights that were well below freezing, and the kale didn’t mind at all.
I am finding strawberries and asparagus are not worth the effort. Neither are producing much at all.
I wanted to grow a grain, and buckwheat is the first grain I have chosen to start with. I don’t even eat it much. Actually, I have only cooked it once or twice. It is very difficult to find any equipment to dehull it. I have just started to harvest it, and it is a bit of a science project. Well, anything can be a science project if you haven’t done it before. I may try another grain next year. Quinoa would be nice.
So that is what I have learned this year in a nut shell. There is always next year. And, how long will I last on what I have grown? Last year it was about a month. This year? It will depend on how many beans I harvest. It has definitely been a better year.
There is an end. We live on a finite planet . . . although we may think otherwise . . . blinded by where all the products come from or the melting Arctic Ice or Greenland. There is an end. Unless we do something about it. Or . . . can we still do anything about it?
We dominate Nature with extreme extraction, along with endless ways to manipulate it . . . this beautiful, amazing system that gives us life. Can we create an oak tree, elm, maple, or pine? The deciduous trees shed their leaves after displaying red, yellow, orange, rust and fall to the ground to fertilize the ground below. Only to sleep during the winter months and come back to a vibrant green in the spring and do it all over again. The song of the whales, songbirds in the summer, conversation of the crows in the trees, brilliant colors of flowers and butterflies, bugs, and designs of moths . . . migration of birds, salmon spawning. There is no way we rival Nature. We are just a part of it. But somehow, we are doing an excellent job of destroying it.
Granted, no one thought the invention of the car would wreak havoc on the planet or any other product. It surely seemed an obvious way to get from point A to B and beyond.
And, the Industrial Revolution was born and products were manufactured en masse to an ever unending consumer appetite . . . and delight. Well, the corporations were also happy with the profits they were accruing. The allure of one convenience or product after another is just too much to resist. Big screen TVs, fancy SUVs, new fashions every season with shoes and purses to match, washers and dryers, dishwashers, cereals and dinners in a box . . . can anyone imagine life without a cellphone? We hyperventilate when it is missing for a nano second.
We have done so well at eradicating any bug that gets in our way with Roundup . . . we don’t have a windshield full of splattered bugs. Anymore, I rarely see any bugs on my windshield. Doesn’t leave much for the birds to eat. No wonder they are disappearing. And, when I see a robin poking around for dinner in a manicured lawn, I wonder how nutritious or deadly that worm is. But, who needs robins anyway?
It is hard to break free of what is so easy to rely on. How many times have I heard people say in horror, “We can’t go back.” And then we have a corporate/political monster that is hell bent on driving us off the cliff . . . that would be the US . . . even though most of its citizens want it to do something about the climate crisis.
There was an article or documentary many years ago about the discovery of an indigenous tribe in the Amazon, I believe, that they were documenting. They wanted the tribe to come over to the life of convenience. A man they interviewed stated simply, “I fish three hours a day and spend the rest of the time with my family. Why would I give that up?”
Now we have a pandemic . . . created by the dominance of Nature . . . that has overshadowed the climate crisis. How many forest fires are in California this season? 30. How hot did it get in Death Valley? 130? The hottest temperature on the planet. How hot in Siberia? 100. How did European crops do this summer? Not well. I have attached the articles for all below.
Then with Trump taking over the Post Office because that will stop fraudulent voting . . . or voting at all.
Deindustrialization . . . now there’s a word . . . and no one talks about it. It definitely needs to happen to address the climate crisis . . . to really solve the climate crisis. I realized this when I had an “embodied energy” moment some years ago. Once you get on the train of reducing your carbon footprint . . . or water footprint . . . or zero waste . . . embodied energy is not far behind.
For anyone not familiar with the term embodied energy, it is basically all the energy needed to produce a product or service. It could be anything from a house to snacks you buy in the grocery store and everything in between.
Let’s take a box of raisin bran. Innocent enough. First, a field had to be plowed to grow the wheat to make the flakes, then trees were cut down and processed to make the box, oil was extracted for the sleeve and all the transportation for all of the ingredients, grapes were grown and dried into raisins, the wheat was milled and processed to make the flakes, a printing press was used to get the graphics onto the box, and it was all brought to another facility to become raisin bran. All in all, there were about 8-9 manufacturing plants to make that one item on the grocery shelf. That does not include all of the conveyors and machinery in each of those factories. Those factories needed to be heated or cooled and all have electricity.
And, what does that mean? Tons of CO2 are emitted into the atmosphere from all the fossil fuels needed to get that one product manufactured and transported to the store.
That is what is necessary for one product. Now go through that process for each and every item in a grocery store. Yes, my head wants to explode at the thought. No wonder China is so polluted. And before we blame China, that is where the majority of our products come from.
And, at the end of it all, let’s ask ourselves if we really need that raisin bran? If we are really concerned about the climate crisis we are in, can’t we all just have oatmeal for breakfast?
So, back to deindustrialization. Just switching from fossil fuels to solar and wind is not going to cut it as a climate crisis solution. We like to focus on the energy we use in our homes and buildings, along with the transportation we use. We never look at the energy we use to make products.
Besides all of the CO2 emitted from all the convenience products we use and consume, we must also remember we live on a finite planet. Read Jared Diamond’s book, “Collapse.” He reminds us all what “carrying capacity” is all about. Some societies made changes to survive and some did not. Will we?
Richard Smith’s article in Truthout in November 12, 2014 titled, “Climate Crisis, the Deindustrialization Imperative and the Jobs vs. the Environment Dilemma” talks about what Naomi Klein did not in her book, “This Changes Everything.”
Granted, it takes guts to talk about what really needs to be done, and Richard does it. I highly recommend reading that article. Eliminating all the products we don’t really need will create millions of unemployed people. What type of economic system will we wind up with? Not a comforting thought without something to replace our capitalist/consumer economy. But, what choice do we have if we want to survive? We may end up with a better standard of living by growing our own food and creating community with a local economy. There are solutions if we look at things in a new way.
Deindustrialization . . . try that out as a topic at the dinner table.
A little detour from the seriousness of the climate crisis and the pandemic.
I have become a birder. So much, that I bought a pair of binoculars this spring. Now, when I look off into the distance and see some birds, I can discover that they are bluebirds . . . or a hawk having lunch. Last summer, I was talking so much about all the birds I was seeing that three different friends sent me bird books. Then, I broke down and got a bird feeder. I feel that is a little like cheating because I am now luring the birds out of the woods . . . so I can actually see them more. I would never have seen all the birds I have seen this summer without the bird feeder. There are an amazing number of birds here that I never saw in Illinois. Take for instance, the indigo bunting. Once you see one, you will think that it is so cool, beyond believable. Well, I better calm down now for all of you who are not birders . . . yet.
Back to my chipmunk story. Instead of squirrels eating all the bird food . . . it’s the chipmunks. They are such pigs, too. Anyway, I bought the container above and put the bird food in there. It is not loose, obviously, but in a brick form. So, I put it up mid afternoon and by morning it was half gone. I like this form of bird food because it usually lasts longer. Not so . . . when chipmunks are eating it.
Well, a little later that day, I pulled out my binoculars and noticed one of the chipmunks was inside of the container. Mind you, those holes are only 1 inch by 1 inch. As I spied on it, the chipmunk looked frantic, as it was trying to get out of the container. It would poke its head through the hole and struggle, and then it would take a little more of the food.
“Ha, you little scoundrel, you are too fat to get out. Serves you right for eating so much.” So, I thought I would help it out a bit. Surely if it saw me coming, it would want to run for its life and find a way through that 1×1 hole. I made my way up to the tree it was hanging in, and that little chipmunk did indeed, scramble for its life and got out of the 1×1.
I have since bought a shepherd’s hook to hang the container away from the tree. It is better but those chipmunks can really leap a long way from where they are. I didn’t want it out in the open so the hawks can see it. Those chipmunks have figured a way onto the feeder from a branch above.
Here is another picture of a raccoon raiding the bird feeder in the middle of the day, no less. I thought this raccoon looked really fat but a friend said it looked like a mother that has been nursing some little ones. I took a closer look and sure enough, that looks to be the case.
I started wondering if I am the only mad person growing 30 tomato plants, 120 onions, 29 potatoes, 24 cabbage, etc., like a squirrel storing nuts for the winter. Except for the friends in my area, everyone else is growing the token two to three tomato plants, along with some lettuce, radishes, cucumber, and a few pepper plants. The first part of Jonathan Safran Foer’s book, “We Are the Weather,” brings up the curious observation that people may have all the facts but do not act on them. I forget if he comes to any conclusion as to why. It is a very good book.
We have all the facts about the climate crisis, and many people are on board with doing something about it . . . like NOW. But, are they growing their own food? Not really. They are looking at the larger, governmental plan. While I can see that the governmental plan is the best way to implement community gardens and local food in their overall plan, which would also include getting rid of the grocery store or redesigning it to contain only local necessary items . . . hmm . . . and doing away with processed food as the way to go. But, why wait? We can do that now.
People could be starting their community gardens with other friends and neighbors. Someone could be in charge of growing the tomatoes, another person could grow the potatoes, and on and on. How it gets worked out in big cities is another question but there is a solution for that, too.
But, let’s add the fact that the whole pandemic and its urgency has overshadowed the whole climate crisis. Greta was in the news, along with the Sunrise Movement and Extinction Rebellion, almost daily. Now? . . . nothing. We are still on course to see humanity become history if we do nothing. Granted the pandemic is something we can see before our very eyes, while the climate crisis happens in slow motion in the distance of disappearing Arctic Sea ice and polar bears going extinct.
Let’s not forget . . . resource depletion. The thing no one talks about that I harp about every chance I get.
So, back to the reason why I am growing buckwheat. I wanted to add a grain to the list of most storable vegetables . . . to get me through the winter. Although I am not a squirrel, indigenous peoples thought ahead about the winter and what they would eat. As I planned my garden, canned tomatoes, sauerkraut, pole beans, onions, garlic, butternut squash, potatoes, and, a grain were all on the list to get into the dirt. While radishes and lettuce are a tasty treat, they won’t be there in the dead of winter as the snow is beating against the window and piling up in my driveway.
How did I choose buckwheat? It is in the list of grains to try to grow. Quinoa, millet, rice, and oats are also on the list. I don’t even eat buckwheat, although I have tried it, and it was tasty. It has a lot of protein, it grows fast, has deep roots to choke out the weeds, and is good for the soil. Those are good reasons right there! I do have to find out how to dehull it, which won’t happen for a month or so.
Right now it is in flower at about 4’ high. It hasn’t fallen down yet, as a friend mentioned may happen with a hard rain or storm. The deer haven’t discovered it yet. Shhh . . . let’s not say that too loud. Maybe they are waiting until the buckwheat shows up.
I am really excited about this new endeavor. Excited about growing buckwheat? Do I need a life? Not really . . . I have one . . . and this is part of it!
It sounds like a crazy question. A grocery store, of course, if you live in the US. Other parts of the world may get food each day from a market. Some people forage or grow their food. So for us, a grocery store is normal. We think it will always be there.
As I have written in previous posts, the whole food system and grocery stores are responsible for much of the CO2 in the atmosphere. Food can travel thousands of miles before it gets to a grocery store bin or shelf. Processed food contains even more CO2 in the form of embodied energy because it requires many manufacturing plants to process the product. All that CO2 contributes to the climate crisis.
Who thinks about all that? Not many.
But, let’s look at another side of the food issue; the pandemic. If there is one glaring issue the pandemic revealed, it is that our supply chain is fragile . . . it is very vulnerable. At the beginning, shelves were empty as people rushed to stock up. As the virus spread to meat packing facilities, they started closing. The trickledown effect had cattle, pig, and chicken producers with no place to take their animals so they had to slaughter them. If you ordered anything online, you may have noticed that it took longer to get to you, depending on where it was coming from.
I don’t know about you but I go to the grocery store every week. Without it, I’m gone. Sure, I am working on growing my own food, mainly for environmental reasons, but I am not there yet. I don’t know how to forage. I don’t hunt and won’t start because I am a vegetarian. I bet you go to the grocery store, too.
Local food and growing your own food have never been more important. Weaning oneself off processed food is another good step. Supporting farmers’ markets and community sponsored agriculture (CSAs) are great choices. If you don’t have the space to grow your own food or live in a condo or apartment, many towns and cities have community garden plots. They charge a small fee for the use of the plot and supply water. The plots are plowed in the spring. There are also a lot of very knowledgeable people gardening there. It is also a very peaceful place to spend time taking care of your garden.
Food security is critical. Most societies in the past collapsed because of soil depletion, deforestation, and water scarcity. We are going through all of those globally now. I highly recommend Jared Diamond’s book, “Collapse.” Resource depletion, which no one talks about, is another issue we all must be aware of. We live on a finite planet.
The pandemic is not going away anytime soon. If growing your own food is not on your To Do list, I’d reconsider.
So, let’s just start with this beautiful, female oriole. Since sheltering in place started back in March, there was no library open to post. Forget trying to do it on my phone. We are progressing . . . or are we? Some states opened and are now closing back up because of the extreme number of COVID cases. It’s a new world. The beginning of a lot of new things. And, climate change has so much to do with it. So I can now visit my library and begin to post again. There is so much to share and think about and plan for. I hope this post finds everyone safe and healthy!
Yes, the world runs on oil . . . and money. We all have to work. It is capitalism. The consumer economy ever drumming to the beat of endless growth . . . on our finite planet. An economy of extreme extraction. The more I learn . . . the more I just want to cry.
Emily Zhao’s article in Medium on January 29, 2020, “How Climate Change is Finally Changing Economics” is about the sleeping giant of economics waking up. In the 11th hour of the climate crisis . . . the financial world is now paying attention. How nice.
Nothing until it hits their bottom line . . . their profits. Millions of people can die, and they do nothing until they lose money. It is sickening.
How many years have environmental activists been sounding the alarm? From Rachel Carson’s Silent Spring . . . to the Love Canal . . . to Josh Fox’s Gasland . . . to Greta . . . and everything in between. And, as Greta pounds home in every speech to the leaders of the world, “Nothing is being done.”