“It would be irresponsible not to speculate.” – Peggy Noonan
No doubt there were more important things to be learned; but here are three things that I learned. Maybe one thing I’ll learn this coming week is not to play the magpie and collect bright shiny objects!
Fedco Seeds is incredibly cool. (It’s a worker-owned co-op, like Mondragon.) I got their catalog because I want to think about planting some fruit trees, and it has fantastic, Whole Earth Catalog-style front matter, which includes (besides much else) this important information on seed-saving:
Seed Saving Organizations
The Seed Savers Exchange, 3094 N Winn Rd, Decorah, IA 52101, (563) 382-5990, www.seedsavers.org. A grassroots network of gardeners and plant collectors who maintain and distribute rare varieties of food crops. Their 2011 Yearbook lists 694 members who maintain a total of 13,876 different vegetable varieties. The SSE houses their larger collection at their 890-acre Heritage Farm. Annual membership is $40. The Flower and Herb Exchange is at the same address. Annual membership in FHE is $10.
The Scatterseed Project, 39 Bailey Rd, Industry, ME 04938. A project for conserving genetic diversity. No catalog, but all varieties are available through SSE. Scatterseed maintains ~1100 varieties of peas and 700 of potatoes among its over 3000 plant varieties.
Seeds of Diversity Canada, PO Box 36, Station Q, Toronto, ON M4T 2L7, Canada, (866) 509-7333, www.seeds.ca. Dedicated to the conservation, documentation and use of plants with Canadian significance. Promotes a pollinator observation program. Publishes Seeds of Diversity Magazine plus a 2,900-variety seed exchange directory. Annual membership $40.
The Farmington (ME) Seed Savers Group. A local group of gardeners and small farmers whose focus is on education and on preserving vegetable varieties suited to our region. Monthly meetings on the third Thursday. Offer three open-to-the-public educational programs during the winter. Contact firstname.lastname@example.org or email@example.com or David King at (207) 639-4302.
So, if you want to make sure humanity has a back-up plan in case Monsanto and corporate agriculture turn out as we all hope it won’t, these organizations would be a good place to start. Also, seed saving is fun. (Note that “Fedco does not knowingly carry genetically engineered seeds.”)
Depending on your economic class [dread word], we either just came through or are mired in the deepest economic crisis since the Great Depression. The puerility and vapidness of the current political discourse only adds to the sense of foreboding [see below: “I think I’m getting the fear”] and overall discomfort. Even our president, for all his eloquence, hasn’t been able to rally the country with his inspiring speeches.
Learning that the Fireside apple [here] was named in honor of Roosevelt, I started reading FDR’s Fireside Chats. His rhetoric, clarity of vision, and reasoning were breath-taking. Most inspiring is his vision of the role of government. As he said in October 1933, we are “constructing the edifice of recovery—the temple, which, when completed, will no longer be a temple of money-changers or of beggars, but rather a temple dedicated to and maintained for a greater social justice, a greater welfare for America—the habitation of a sound economic life…” Compare his vision of government as the architect of a more secure life, with Ronald Reagan’s vision of government as the problem, not the solution. As FDR said in his talk in May 1940, “there are a few among us who have deliberately and consciously closed their eyes because they are determined to be opposed to their government, its foreign policy and every other policy, to be partisan, and to believe that anything that the government did was wholly wrong.”
For those folks, and for all the rest of us who keep an open mind, we’ve sprinkled quotes from his Fireside Chats throughout the catalog. Read them, think about how much of what he said then applies today. We couldn’t begin to include all we would like. Seek out the full texts; they are easy to find online. We can find fault with any president. FDR shows us that we can find hope and inspiration as well. Perhaps the Occupy Wall Street movement could take inspiration from Roosevelt’s words: “We had a bad banking situation. Some of our bankers had shown themselves either incompetent or dishonest in the handling of the people’s funds.” March 1933. “We insist that labor is entitled to as much respect as property.” Sept 1936. As Woody Guthrie wrote in his song Dear Mrs. Roosevelt, “This world was lucky to see him born.”
Now, an anarchist would would find a lot to disagree with in that passage: Why is property entitled to any respect at all? And the Marxians have been complaining for generations that FDR saved capitalism. And as for the right… “Let’s go to the Trans-Luxe and his Roosevelt.” For myself, I find the return to FDR, and the writer’s connection of FDR to Occupy, heartening, but some of the language — “our President,” “inspiring speeches,” and pulling out the “to be partisan” passage — almost heart-breaking in its trustfulness (I almost wrote “capacity to be deceived”). The Ninth Circle of Hell is reserved, if I recall correctly, for Betrayers.
Anybody read William Gibson’s Zero History? Here’s another Festo product (hat tip furzy mouse):
“Propulsion of a ballonett by means of peristaltic motion is hitherto unknown in the history of aviation.” Indeed!
“I hate to say this,” said my attorney as we sat down at the Merry—Go—Round Bar on the second balcony, “but this place is getting to me. I think I’m getting the Fear.”
“Nonsense,” I said. “We came out here to find the American Dream, and now that we’re right in the vortex you want to quit.” I grabbed his bicep and squeezed. “You must realize,”I said, “that we’ve found the main nerve.”
“I know,” he said. “That’s what gives me the Fear.”
— Hunter Thompson, Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas
Just a little exercise in the phenology of the zeitgeist…. A couple of weeks ago, after learning a little bit about pruning fruit trees, I had a conversation with a friend about a sudden sense of foreboding and unease; one of those “I can’t put my finger on it” discussions. The sudden angst wasn’t because of President Spread ‘Em’s strip search order, because that hadn’t come down. Our conversation was in the middle of “Summer in March,” which gave a lot of people, me included, the willies, but I don’t think that was it either.
We couldn’t put a name to it, this new feeling, and we couldn’t figure out its source. It could be a new narrative [or fnord, as K Ackerman suggests] in our famously free press; our elites, after all, herd us like the animals they believe we are, and the Temple Grandin-like press is one of the main ways they do that; perhaps, for reasons of their own — fear drives consumption — they decided to start cracking the angst whip by injecting some new narratives into the discourse. Recovery! But the narrative seems much the same as usual to me.
My quite capable and resilient friend said: “I feel like I’ve got nowhere to run.”* And I agreed. I felt the same way. Another way of saying this is that we agreed our personal hedging strategies (for example, currency arbitrage via expatriation on retirement) were no longer as robust as they had at one point seemed.
Readers? Are my friend and I just statistical blips up here on the margins? Is it a class thing? My friend and I are way down in the 99%. (Up here in Maine, we have a joke: “Depression? What Depression? We’ve always been depressed!”) Tax time? Did anybody else get The Fear in the last two weeks? (NOTE: I’m looking for something time-bound, here, not the sort of angst that’s been going on since, oh, the year 2000 or so.)
NOTE * Perhaps, from some perspectives, this could turn out to be a good thing. If you’re in the “Worse is better” camp.