Green Wizardries with Maxine Rogers

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Green Wizardries, The Harvest Season, by Maxine Rogers

I write this on Lunasadh Eve, 31 July.  There is not a cloud in the sky and the land  of Canada is parched from West Coast to to Prairies.  I have been talking to farmers and things are not looking very good for the year to come.  A lot of farmers are having to slaughter cattle and sheep because they have no pasture left and not enough hay for the winter.  This summer has been really bad for the hay crop which is scanty due to the drought conditions.

You may think this has nothing to do with you but I can tell you that animals slaughtered this year will not be having young next year.  This is going to cause a rise in meat and dairy prices that is going to hurt a lot of people who are already struggling to pay for the vastly-inflated cost of food.  It will take a number of good years for farms to get back up to a level of production that will sustain the farmers.  We may also not get a number of good years.  Some farmers will certainly be forced to give up farming resulting in less food being produced.  Canada imports too much of its food in any case and this will just make our food-security situation  more dire.  

This might just be the perfect time to think of becoming a bit more self-sufficient.   My husband and I were listening to a podcast of a young couple who have a market garden.  When asked what they thought people could do to improve their lives, the woman said, “Learn to prepare a meal from scratch. Sit down at the table with your family and have a meal and grow some food even if it is only some herbs in a pot.”  

I thought this quite sensible advice but my husband said, “She really has to suggest that?”  Yes, she did because cooking a meal from fresh, natural ingredients is something too many people have convinced themselves they have no time for, or that cooking is some sort of arcane art that they cannot learn. 

The trick to cooking real food is to have a handful of recipes that everyone in the family likes.  Once you have this down, and the meals need not be complex, you can learn other recipes to round out your repertoire.  There is nothing wrong with making salmon-salad sandwiches and a green salad for lunch.  There is nothing wrong with a hearty vegetable soup and a slice of fresh, home-made bread for supper. The Vancouver Regional Library has a plethora of cookbooks, all for free, and the internet is a great resource for learning cooking techniques and looking up recipes.  

A lot of people really don’t cook.  I used to live with a friend when we were in University together.  She mostly ate a lot of goldfish-shaped crackers and other packaged junk she bought at the grocers.  She never bought any fresh vegetables and I believe she would have developed scurvy if I hadn’t taken pity on her and invited her to share my meals prepared from the produce in my garden.  In any case, she had a anxiety disorder which I believe her terrible diet was exacerbating if not causing outright.

I also know families who almost never sit down at the table to eat a meal together and that is a shame as there is nothing like the ritual of eating a meal together to develop team cohesion.  I saw this at a military dive club when I was a young scuba diver, many years ago.  When I joined, half the club was not talking to the other half.  Bad feelings ran high.  

Then, we rented a lodge for a weekend dive trip and had to sit together at a large table and eat a communally-prepared meal.  That did wonders by increasing the civility in the club which in turn allowed us to get along better and even make friends across the class and rank barriers in the military.  It does the same for families and any other group of people.

As for growing food, I cannot understand why some people insist on living in the country and buying every morsel of food they eat from Costco.  Commercially-prepared food is wonderful to deliver profits to the corporations who make the pseudo food but it delivers nothing but sickness to people who eat it. 

Tomatoes are a prime example.  The most popular tomatoes in the grocery stores have been bred to never ripen.  They turn red but are still unripe and hard which makes them easy to ship and they last longer on display.  They are also tasteless and usually sprayed with vile chemicals.  They are expensive and will get more so.   

A home-grown tomato, if it is from heirloom seed, will ripen and have excellent flavour.  You need not put any poison on it.  You can pick it at the peak of ripeness and its cost is free while its value is inestimable.   Our actions now determine the sort of harvest we will reap in the future.