Green Wizardries: Bare Survival?


Now, a couple of old girlfriends have said to me very pointedly that they love my gardening columns but don’t like it when I write about politics.  As these friends are older than me, I have no choice but to abide by their wishes.  That said, I expect they haven’t read my column in about a year as I have given up writing about politics for at least that long.

It is not that I think things are fine.  Far from it!  I think the time to warn people to take constructive action to protect themselves from the ravages we will be experiencing has passed.  The American Empire is tottering around like an old, sick, drunken, circus bear and all their enemies are sharpening knives to cut pieces off the poor creature.  In fact, the USA today reminds me of Turkey, the Sick Man of Europe before the First World War.  

By the end of that war, Turkey lay stripped of its huge Empire and they were broke.  The Gods sent the Turks a hero, in the form of Kemal Ataturk, to pull them together but they still had a very tough time of it.  When Ataturk needed to defend Turkey from Allied invasion, he said to his soldiers, “I do not ask you to fight.  I ask you to die.”  And they did.  They died in droves for Turkey and for Ataturk.  They fought like lions and never gave an inch.  If the Americans are very lucky, they too will have a hero to pull them together but that is a story for the future.  

I expect an interesting and increasingly difficult thirty years ahead for Canada and Canadians, tied, as we are, to the shirt tails of the American Imperium.  The years after that may well be even more challenging; however, I will not be around to suffer through them so I don’t much concern myself with the really long view.  

No, what concerns me these days is the strawberry harvest which is very good this year.  I feel like a penitent Catholic as I spent much of this evening, shuffling around on my knees, not to show humility to the Gods which is where this practise comes from; it is an Ancient Roman custom absorbed by the new Christian faith that sprang up in the ruins of their Empire.  No, we have many beds of strawberries in the orchard and they must be approached with deference and humility on one’s knees because that is where the berries are.   

We slide the stainless-steel mixing bowls along the ground and lean over the beds, picking only the ripest berries until the huge bowels are full.  The berries are an old-fashioned June bearing variety we have propagated for years.  The berries are soft when fully ripe and so juicy.  Their flavour would make an atheist believe in the divine.  Then comes the slow task of cutting the green tops off and arranging the berries on cookie sheets to be placed in the freezer.  The next day, we scoop the frozen berries in ziplock bags and place them, reverently, in the freezers.  

We also do this later in the summer with Marion berries, a type of blackberry from Marion County in Oregon.  These blackberries are earlier than the wild-growing Himalayan blackberries which are also very good.  The Marions are a six way cross of assorted blackberries and one of their ancestors was a raspberry so their flavour is brighter and more intense than any other blackberry that I have tried.  Later still, we harvest a large portion of the grapes and treat them the same way.  A fruit salad of assorted berries and grapes in the winter really is a spectacular treat.  

An even more decadent treat is to make fruit ice cream.  We do this by putting coconut cream (you can use any sort of milk you like or even fruit juice to make a fruit sorbet) into the blender and then dropping frozen berries in one by one until the ice cream is as stiff as we want it.  I have never known this ice cream to fail to please!

Over the course of a year, we usually buy a couple of small boxes of mandarin oranges for the Winter Solstice and one or two hands of organic bananas.  Producing our own fruit saves us more than money.  It saves us exposure to dangerous agricultural chemicals.  It also saves us from burning oil by the barrel in order to eat fruit from foreign parts.  

A new crop that I am experimenting with this year is the walking onion.  This is an odd looking perennial onion that grows very long leaves with little onion bulbils growing at the top of the stock.  They are certainly easy to cultivate and if you want more, you just let the onion stalk fall down and the bulbils will root, creating an additional clump of scallions.