Monday, July 21, 2008

Burning Down the House

I went to college in the early 80s. The Talking Heads were then a popular band; I attended house parties on campus (don't tell my parents!) where a packed wall-to-wall roomful of people swayed, with a barley pop in hand, to Take Me to the River, and a couple years later to Burning Down the House.

[We also sang Rick James' Super Freak, but that's another story. If you aren't familiar with The Talking Heads or Rick James, you skipped the late 70s to early 80s and haven't lived, my friend.]

Flash forward 25 years. Today's news stated that food manufacturers will raise prices by 20 to 25% by the end of this year. There could also be a cut across the board to state's funding by the Feds of up to 34%. Gosh, is that all? No, really, tell me the bad news.
Early this evening while listening to Market Place (NPR), I thought it ironic that the piece played at the end of the story was Burning Down the House. After all, IndyMac bank has failed. Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, those adoring GSE's (government-sponsored entities) of the mortgage world, have not failed (they say) but the bearded Ben Bernanke, the King Bee of the Federal Reserve Board, has pledged for the Fed to give Fannie and Freddie trillions of dollars if needed so they'll have adequate reserves. Trillions with a capital T. Give probably isn't the right word, but just where are the dollar bills coming from that generous Ben intends to lend? From you and I? From hot off the printing press, or both?

Burning down the house, indeed.

[Some of you know that in a previous life I was a Mortgage Broker, they have 12 Step programs for people like me. Thankfully, it seldom comes up in my current life, but when it does, I always state that I was ethical. Please forget my former job as I try to do. The recent news from the mortgage world scares me. No, it horrifies me. I never could have predicted a Nightmare of such epic proportion when I left the business two years ago.]
[Photo courtesy of Creative Commons.]

Saturday, July 19, 2008

Daydreaming of Venison Stew

Before this summer, I had not considered deer a nuisance. Now, having had some experiences with them, I do. Lately, instead of thinking "What beautiful, graceful animals they are," my thoughts have tended towards "Wouldn't it be nice to have venison this winter?"

The deer have repeatedly leaped our garden fence and dined at their leisure, noshing on dwarf and espaliered apple trees (but never touching the pears), and an assortment of vegetables to their hearts content.

Last night they finished off the remaining--and nicest--two rows of green beans left of five. I. Was. Mad. Emerson and I replanted the beans July 6 after our first batch (using old seed) failed to germinate. It was late, but I figured we'd have a harvest in mid-September. I'd put up green beans weeks after everyone else, but the end result would still be the same: rows of freshly canned green beans in my pantry. Not this year. Unless I buy a bushel of beans elsewhere.

I consulted gardening books and web sites in hopes of finding something to deter deer. Nothing worked. What failed? A headless so-called scarecrow (a t-shirt on a hanger with a pair of Emerson's old pants safety pinned to the shirt) that I relocated throughout the garden, spraying old perfume all over said scarecrow (deer supposedly do not like varied human scents), a homemade garlic, liquid soap and oil mixture sprayed on plants and again on the scarecrow (deer supposedly dislike garlic), three grocery store plastic bags hung throughout the garden (to rustle and move), red pepper flakes abundantly sprinkled on rows of vegetables, citrus peels scattered with wanton abandon on the same rows of vegetables and around the suspect fence border. I even found an old hard boiled egg hidden under lunch meat in a fridge drawer and tossed that in the garden one afternoon.

I had yet to try a few tactics, which I'll attempt to save our green peppers. I will throw a sheet over the area of the fence that I suspect they are jumping, as deer supposedly will not go over a barrier if they can not see the other side. I will put down several feet of fencing on the ground on the outside of the fence, as supposedly do not like to get their feet tangled. I might even try a portable battery-operated radio, left on low all night in the garden. Perhaps I should have tried these ideas first.

A new, tall fence or a reinforced 'enhanced' fence is at the top of my Wish List.

And there is no supposing about it, though I don't eat much meat, I do enjoy venison.

Tuesday, July 08, 2008

Stimulus Gardening

"Uncle Sam says -- GARDEN To Cut Food Costs," sound advice from a WWII-era poster. Would that our dear Uncle offered us this sage advice in 2008.

Instead the "advice" we've received from the Big Cheese, is to spend our Stimulus checks on cheap Chinese crap. (Did I say that?) We, the American Consumers, ARE the U.S. Economy. Without us spend, spend, spending, our economy begins to fall off the map. So, go on. Rush out and spend your 'free' check buying More Stuff you don't need and don't have room to store. That's it. Fill your big 'ole SUV with $4.09/gallon gas. Drive to Wal-Mart, the ethical big box store, and shop, shop, shop until you drop--or your check is gone. But hey, it's okay if you overspent. That's what the credit card is for!

Back to my reality. I'm growing potatoes for the first time. I have helpers who pick off the fat, rust-colored potato bugs with black stripes that would eat every potato leaf if I let them. Why it took me so long to plant potatoes, I don't know. We also have Roma tomatoes, zucchini (Eight-ball and Costata Romanesco), celery, onions, and green peppers. We enjoyed spinach and sugar snap peas that are finis. I planted lettuce seed twice but the seed was either too old or not stored properly. Emerson and I replanted green beans and cucumbers that deer ate when they discovered they could jump our 6' garden fence. They also got our cantaloupe and watermelon which are regrowing but it may be too late--or they may be munched again. Hope not. Before next spring arrives, we'll have a new 8' or 10' fence around our garden. This one is on its last legs and the deer know it.

Before this year we never had a deer problem. Now, we do. Our supreme Border Collies are now forced to stay outside at night to bark and hopefully Chase the Deer. They have the barking part down. This is reverse training going on because the last two years we worked on training the dogs to come in at night so we could sleep. They are confused. So am I.

But this much I know. Gardening is a healthier and more productive thing to learn and do with your time and your family, particularly in these strangely uncertain times, than going to Wal-Mart to spend your darn Stimulus check. If you must spend it, pay down debt. If you've already done that you have my congratulations. Buy more seeds (and store them properly), support local food producers (more than likely you don't grow it all yourself), buy used books, and while you're at it, support local musicians.