Several years ago, when I was still a daily news reporter, I covered an event in which three busloads of youngsters from inner-city Philadelphia arrived to visit a potato chip factory. It was the first time most of them had been out of the city.
“We saw cows!” several of them reported excitedly.
Continue reading Wilderness is for wandering
In the middle of the 19th Century, oil refineries began pumping out kerosene, refined from crude oil, to light lamps along American streets. Kerosene had a useless byproduct which refiners, including Standard Oil founder John D. Rockefeller, needed to evacuate.
Continue reading Rethinking resources
As I write this, I am dreaming of turkey and preparing to enjoy sleeping off visions of Thanksgivings Past flowing through my gobbler-doped cranium.
In my youth, Mom would have spent the week baking. The knotty-pine walls of the dining room echoing timed-released aromas of turkey and pies and fresh bread.
Continue reading Giving thanks
A few years ago, I visited my son and his family in Cincinnati. At the major-chain grocery near his home, I bought some “fresh” apples. At the first bite, I understood why city kids – at least the kids whose parents bought from that store – did not like fresh fruit.
I have tried to eat wooden decorative apples that were easier to chew, and with more flavor.
Continue reading Block hackers; Buy local
For years, the largest seed company in the world also, in many quarters, has been the most hated. No, I’m not talking about Burpee, which is pretty big, and not at all related to the company that is the subject of this week’s ruminations.
Continue reading Killing more than weeds
Mystification surrounds the identification of the person who came up with the idea cheese would be prettier yellow, but it wasn’t someone who lived on a farm. In it’s natural state, cheese is white – or bleu, as in bleu cheese, which is laced with mold.
Continue reading Real cheese (mostly) ain’t yellow
Beside a road off Pa. Route 34, somewhere north of Gettysburg, Don Yost and John Deere team up to pull a chisel plow through a field of corn stubble.
Last year was no-till for the field, and the crop was corn. No-till means the ground is left unturned, the roots of the previous crop keep the hillside from flowing to the bottom in heavy rains, and new seed poked into the earth with a tool made for the task.
Continue reading A beautiful time for a drive or a walk
“When one tugs at a single thing in nature, we find it attached to the rest of the world.” – Naturalist and preservationist John Muir, 1838-1914
The quote received a bit of supporting illumination from the Environmental Protection Agency this week – a little reminder that this great life-system of which we humans are part is a sophisticated (some might say complicated) bit of cosmic machinery.
In a report published Wednesday (Jan. 6, 2016), the EPA said it has figured out what is killing honey bees. The culprit (or one of the culprits), it seems, is neonicotinoids-based pesticides. That has been a suspicion in some quarters as an explanation for what is generally termed “colony collapse disorder.”
Continue reading EPA defines a bee killer
I like raw milk. I will die one day, I am told, but I think I would not blame the milk.
On the other hand, it could be dangerous when carried in the handlebar basket of a teenager’s bicycle. We picked up two gallons of milk every other day from a nearby dairy farm. One day, as I coasted down Norton Hill on the way home, I met a car speeding the other way, enough on my side I was forced off the pavement.
I rode onto the berm, and when I tried to get back on the pavement, it gave way, and down I went. I broke my pointing finger and tore my thumbnail. I’m pretty sure the two gallons of raw milk had little, if anything to do with the fall, though they did make the front of the bike about 16 pounds heavier coming home than going away.
Years later, I became a journalist, and wrote a story about Kenton Bailey, a seventh-generation Mainer and the last fellow in the state to deliver raw milk door-to-door – though he would not allow me to call it “raw.” The word upset some people, he said. I had to call it “unprocessed.”
One of the treats of drinking raw milk is you can taste when the cows are put in the barn for winter, and when they go to the pasture in summer. It is a subtle accent on the flavor.
Milk we buy in a grocery story has been so mixed up it’s lost all its character. A tank truck picks up milk from Farmer Jones, then Farmer Smith and Farmer Brown and the white liquid slosh-mixes on its way to the processing plant, where it is dumped in huge tanks to mix with milk from farmers McBride, McHugh and McGillicutty.
Continue reading At last, I’ve found my milk
Going on vacation is loads of fun, especially in the people we meet. Like the night in Maine last week when we had dinner at the Salt Bay Café in Damariscotta, Maine. Couples three were we, sitting to our first dinner on the rocky coast of the Pine Tree State. We each ordered our favorite choice of fresh-from-the sea fare.
[pullquote]… he would grow a pumpkin – his first “boat” was 754 pounds – and build the boat, but he would not get in it.[/pullquote]
I had oysters. I love the things on the half-shell, with jalapeño relish to spice ’em up a touch.
Continue reading Vacations are about the people
(Published in the Gettysburg Times, 1/17/2014)
The Tuesday Noon Coffee and a Movie Philosophical Society meets here, as does a Wednesday night knitting club. During the day, shoppers stop by for conversation and a cup of joe.
“Here” is Merlin’s Coffee, at the far end of a short alley at the Outlet Shoppes, on the outskirts of Gettysburg. Sometimes called by customers “the cat house;” owners Donna and Eric Burns, of Hanover, are deeply invested in rescuing cats, have named the business for one of the animals, and have decorated the interior with cat art and knick-knacks. All their employees agree to allow Eric and Donna to donate the tips to animal rescue efforts.
Continue reading Feline wizardry makes some enjoyable joe
(Published in the Gettysburg Times, 10/18/2013)
It’s nearly 7 a.m. The sun soon will come into view. Not long ago, I would sat on the back porch to read. Now I am glad the electronic paper on which I write has its own illumination.
[pullquote]“Seven out of 10 people will live in a city by 2050,” Meaghan Parker, writer/editor at the Woodrow Wilson Center.[/pullquote]
A school bus passes my home, right on time. It will stop in a hundred yards or so to pick up several students and carry them to brick-walled institutions of learning. Would that it take them to a forest or a garden. I live in a county where agriculture is one of the two main industries, so a smaller percentage of our kids than, say, Baltimore’s or New York’s, think food comes from a Food Lion, but even a few are too many.
The stream beside our back porch looks and sounds cooler these days. The Forest of Brown-eyed Susans and Echinacea has withered, as have the clumps of Hostas, their tall purple bell-bearing stalks nearly completely bereft of their autumn royalty.
Continue reading Idea: kids pick up lunch on the way to school
(Published in the Gettysburg Times, 8/30/2013)
My spouse has been exploring Alaska this month with a high school girlfriend. Grady the Golden and I have had to fend for ourselves. We’re doing alright, thank you, though the company of She Who Must Be Loved would not at all be a bad thing.
I had told her, during one of our evening phone calls, that I had lost a little weight while she’s gone. Not enough to make friends start tacking the ambulance company’s telephone number on the fridge, but enough I’m using holes in my belt that have been pretty much useless for, well, too long. Continue reading Sorry guys, no trash this week
Few of us really know the work others of us do. That goes for everyone from the farmer to the potato chip maker. Most everyone works pretty hard doing what they do, but few of the rest of us are as willing to pay for their work as we are to charge for ours.
I’m not suggesting that everyone be paid the same, regardless of task. But last week a potential buyer loved and wanted a print I’d created – until she learned the price. Suddenly, there were serious problems with the print, all of which came down to she didn’t want to pay for it. Continue reading On assigning value to the fruits of our (neighbor’s) labors
(First published in the Gettysburg Times, 5/17/2013)
I was visiting the other day when someone acknowledged the strawberries tasted good, but suggested washing them with vinegar to ensure that if there was any insecticide on the berries, its “-cide” was rendered harmless.
There was a time when washing one’s food meant using water to remove the garden dirt. Vinegar was for making pickles and sauerkraut. Mom took the four of us kids to the Pick Your Own strawberry fields, where the farmer at the checkout table threatened to charge mom for the berries we kids had eaten while picking. Unfortunately, he had neglected to weigh us when we entered the field. Continue reading Buy fresh, buy healthy, buy local
(Originally published in Gettysburg Times, March 22, 2013)
Have you ever wondered what’s next in the soft drink line? A television commercial the other night had the answer.
Pepsi NEXT. With 60 percent less sugar – though less sugar than what, it didn’t say. Pepsi LAST, maybe?
I like carbonated water. I rarely drink sodas because a) I’m diabetic and b) I’m not sure what they use to replace sugar is better for me than the sugar it replaces. Your mileage may vary; I’m not preaching here. Still, it would be nice to now exactly what is in the stuff we eat and drink. We have gone a long time surviving on jokes such as, “I don’t eat anything I can’t pronounce,” but that’s not true, either. Trying to read the list of ingredients in, say, a loaf of bread can cause one’s eyes to tangle.
Continue reading If we knew what we’re eating …
Pennsylvania State Senator Daylin Leach, D-Montgomery & Delaware counties, told a gathering in the state capitol Tuesday morning his bill to require labeling of genetically engineered foods was about allowing consumers to make choices, not a statement about food safety.
“People in America demand information,” Leach said. “People don’t like being told, ‘You don’t need to know that; it’s OK.’” (Additional remarks by Leach in video at the end of this piece.) Continue reading GE labeling bill author says it’s about choice
A bill that could require labeling genetically engineered foods sold in Pennsylvania is slated to be introduced in the state senate Tuesday morning. Several farmers, church leaders and consumer group representatives are scheduled to accompany Sen. Daylin Leach (D- Montgomery and Delaware counties) as he announces the bill on the capitol steps.
The bill would make Pennsylvania the first state to require GE labeling. Continue reading Bill to require labeling GMO products to be introduced Tuesday morning
Farm Aid 2012 is Saturday, Sept. 22, at Hersheypark Stadium. This is Year 27 of the event begun in 1985 by Willie Nelson, Neil Young and John Mellencamp – Dave Matthews joined the team in 2001 – to raise money for programs that support family farms in their competition with land developers and huge factory farms.
I was raised on a farm, of sorts. There was Mom, Dad and four of us youngsters, and a 50-foot by 100-foot patch that kept us in veggies. We grew corn, asparagus, beets, carrots, and several other crops. And we picked crab apples from the Bates’ tree, bought raw milk from the Ellises.
Continue reading …
Men and women are picking tomatoes to earn 50 cents for each 32-pound bucket, $50 to hand pick more than two tons of tomatoes in a 12-hour day.
Of course, cheaper isn’t always better. The idea leaves thousands of farm hands needing taxpayer support for food stamps and medical care because their wages will not cover the expense.
For one more penny a pound, the person who picked it can see a doubling of her wage, but it’s hard convincing grocery chains and restaurants it’s the right thing to do.
Continue reading …