Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Berries and other random thoughts

Lunchtime. I'm eating a salad, made with locally grown, Calypso farm lettuce and Deirdre Helfferich garden lettuce (also originally from Calypso, but that was when they were mere sprouts--they had to grow up in the rough-and-tumble weed-laden neighborhood of MY garden to get to edible size), also nasturtium flowers from my own garden; imported olives (green with pimentos), olive oil, basalmic vinegar, and okra (pickled, spicey). Pretty tasty.

This weekend I went berry picking with friends, getting blueberries, crowberries, and bearberries (a very few). Brought the Bad White Dog along the first two days for bear-scaring company (more about the BWD in the next post), and Monkey the Old Man Dog (who's actually rather young) the next day. He wasn't so good at the bear-scaring: bear scat all over, big bear paw print right nearby. We moved elsewhere to avoid any, um, distressing situations. It was really wonderful, however, to pick and hear the wind blow, voices from far away, birds croaking. No such thing as silence, really--but it was very soothing. Sunny sometimes, overcast others, but warm and pleasant.

Growing or gathering food is something that makes me happy. It satisfies something that just doesn't come any other way. Certainly not going to a supermarket, which is an almost painful experience. Too much crap. The pain is on an almost subliminal level, ignorable, mostly. Going to a fresh food stand, like picking up the share at Calypso's tent once a week, is much better, a social occasion out in the open, but still a bit hectic, still not as deeply pleasing as picking it myself.

I've been thinking about how to move into a greener mode. ('Spose I really should start bicycling.) Anarchy in the AK talks about the problem of greenwashing. This morning, listening to Democracy Now! there was a wonderful interview with Andrew Bacevich about his book The Limits of Power: The End of American Exceptionalism, who nailed one of the basic problems with American living (and government policy) right on the head:
I think the great majority of us basically have allowed ourselves to become seduced by this culture of consumption, of not taking seriously the notion that someday the bills come due, that you can’t simply run up a line of credit that stretches from here to infinity. We don’t want to look ourselves in the mirror. We don’t want to recognize the need to make some changes in the way we live.
It's not just our credit card bills, or our mortgages, or our national debt: it's the use-it-up-now mentality that makes frugality unfashionable and spendthrift behavior the norm. Buy, buy, buy all that crap, all those shiny useless toys. Use up our nonrenewable resources NOW, because they're there, because we can. Forget about saving, anything.

And me, what do I do? Well, I'm not bicycling, that's for sure--and that's stupid. Because the bills really are coming due, now. On a grand scale. And on the local scale, soon enough.


Jessica said...

I was so relieved to see, a few days ago, that Fairbanks has farm shares/CSAs available. I am hoping to move up there soon to go to UAF, but live in upstate New York now and was really afraid that there wasn't that kind of stuff available up seems to be spreading fast. Are there any fruit shares in AK? Can you grow fruit (other than berries) in the climate? I, like you, feel something very fulfilling by picking berries and gathering food on my own and hope to continue that kind of thing up in Alaska.

It's funny you mention Bacevich, as well...he was a professor of mine at Boston University, one of the most exceptional people I've ever met. He really goes against the grain in all of his books, and it was sadly ironic that one of his sons died in Iraq last year (he very publicly denounced the war). I saw him on PBS the other day...his other books aren't half bad, either. For someone that spent so long in the military, he has a very interesting perspective.

Thanks for a great blog post. If I do move to AK, I'll be returning to pick your brain I am sure.

Deirdre Helfferich said...

There's a guy on Chena Hot Springs road with an apple orchard, also tons of other fruit trees (miniatures). The Phillips grow apples, too. There's all kinds of fruit you can grow up here, lots of you-pick farms, but I don't know about fruit shares.

My day job is as an editor at UAF's School of Natural Resources & Agricultural Sciences, and I've been working on a news blog there, which has links to a bunch of CSAs and farmers markets (I have a few here, too). You may be able to find something through those, but so far I've not seen any fruit shares offered by the local CSAs. You can certainly grow fruit, however: cantaloupe, berries of any sort, crabapples, apples, pears, plums, cherries. Those fruit trees take some special care, of course.

If you come north, look me up!

Molly said...

I grew up picking berries in Oregon, and haven't been able to track them down in Fairbanks (also haven't spent a full summer there. But the end of August seems like it should have a few berries left). Any good good spots you don't mind sharing?


Deirdre Helfferich said...

Gads. One just doesn't ask that. Berry spots tend to be jealously guarded, although it depends on what type of berry and if they're wild or farmed. People will drive miles and miles to get blueberries, for example, and a hundred miles for cloudberries. Rasperries and rose hips and cranberries are all over, but currants are not so common up here. August is definitely berry season, though. And mushroom season, and fishing, and soon hunting.

Winter preparations.

Jessica said...

I will DEFINITELY look you up -- I am actually applying for a teaching assistantship in the UAF Northern Studies department (already sent in my grad materials but have to send a portfolio for the actual assistantship)...but I would really like to become part of the community, I will miss that aspect very much when I move away from here so I am so glad your blog is filled with links and helpful information. I saw a UAF e-mail on the extension program and that there was some info on canning, I think it is so incredible that UAF makes that kind of knowledge accessible.

I really hope I can get this position...I want nothing more than to move up there and live there forever. I'm writing this while munching on delicious CSA-grown yellow watermelon!

Jessica said...

Oh yeah, what's your e-mail address? I can't find it anywhere. Could you e-mail it to me so I have it? Mine is jessicapezak / gmail . com

Molly said...

Fair enough...just thought I'd try my luck! (I suspected you wouldn't give away any wild sites, but I had to give it a shot.)

Any recommendations for a good you pick farm, until I manage to scout some good wild raspberry spots?

Deirdre Helfferich said...

Jessica: e-mail and other contact info is here.

Molly: dunno about U-picks. I don't use them. But there are several in the vicinity. Pearl Creek Farm? I'd do a search on the net.