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Growing up obliviously green

by: Ca-48 Steve Young

Wed Jul 23, 2008 at 09:47:53 AM PDT

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(Steve Young is a fantastic friend of our movement. If you click on our ActBlue page (left column of the site) you will see him listed on there as someone we oughta support! - promoted by OrangeClouds115)

The passage of time enlarges perspective.  I grew up green and did not know it.  I'm not talking about conservation and recycling (though my parents did and still do) nor do I mean opposing the war (we did vigorously).  Instead, I am talking about green from the stand point that we grew our own food.

I grew up in Utah.  My family did not have a farm.  We lived in town.  The quarter acre lots were big by today's suburban standards, but that was not enough land for my father, he "rented" the next door neighbor's back yard every summer and "farmed" the property.  On our property, we had a cherry tree, an apricot tree, an apple tree and a plum tree.  We also had a raspberry patch.  On the neighboring property we grew corn, squash, beans, watermelons, beets (I still don't like beets), pumpkins, onions, tomatoes, potatoes, and cucumbers.

Ca-48 Steve Young :: Growing up obliviously green
The summers in Utah were hot, usually over 100 degrees during the heart of summer, and every day as my parents went to work, I had an assignment.  It might be weeding the two rows of corn, or picking the raspberries (my favorite job - though the yield was always less than my dad expected - hehehe).  But in looking back on it, I learned great lessons.  I learned about work, the law of the harvest, and the reward of  touching the earth.

Each summer my father would buy a load of manure and have it delivered to the property line.  As a child I thought is fun to run and jump into the pile.  I did not know at the time what it began as.  My father and mother would just laugh.  My father would use his one wheeled, hand cultivator to harrow the winter hardened ground.  We would then spread the manure and he would use the cultivator to plow the manure into the soil.  Next he plowed rows for the row crops, and mounded areas for our plot plantings.  

We then walked the rows planting.  We would not think of casting seeds as many people think of planting - oh no, that would waste the seed, and the birds would devour them.  We walked the rows, poking the new rows with our fingers to make seed holes, six inches deep, then placed two seeds (or one potato eye) in each hole, and covered the hole.  I preferred the mound plantings because they were spaced more than the row plantings.  

I liked planting tomatoes best.  We used small starts from the nursery, placed them in rows, and put white paper domes over them and buried the edges of the domes with soil.  I thought of the tomato domes looked like rows of Indian tee pees.

I watched all summer for our trees, and vines and plants to sprout, then bloom, then produce.  From August on, I was picking fruit, or harvesting vegetables.

We did not eat everything - we canned or packed most of it.  I spent many autumn hours in the kitchen preparing food for the future. We boiled corn on the cob, then packed it in freezer bags and kept it in our freezer.  I learned to bottle and can fruits and vegetables, and make jams of all kinds.  We did not can or preserve zucchini, we gave that to all our neighbors - let them suffer with it as much as we did.

All winter we would enjoy the fruits of our summer labors like frozen fruit on ice cream, and our jam on toast in the morning.  It is indescribable to enjoy the flavor of fresh picked corn on the cob in February when snow lay heavy on the ground.

It has been many, many years since those days, but they resonate in my memory and my mouth waters remembering the taste of home grown, pure food from our own labors.

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Amazing story Steve (4.00 / 5)
Do you have pictures? I suppose even if you do, they wouldn't be digital. When I left Wisconsin, I was hoping to begin canning during my summers but once I got to CA I realized that here there is no point. The wonderful SoCal climate produces food year round so there's no reason to can, pickle, or freeze it.

I've heard that the House has a great cafeteria and even a farmers' market now. You might not be able to jump in a pile of manure when you get to DC but at least you'll have some good food.

Well... (4.00 / 5)
You might not be able to jump in a pile of manure when you get to DC

Are you really sure about that?


[ Parent ]
That's What I Get (4.00 / 4)
for becoming distracted by work mid-comment and not finishing it up for over half an hour -- you "stole" my idea!  Admittedly, it was almost too obvious not to pick up.

[ Parent ]
Heh... (4.00 / 1)
I think it was sort of a 'set-up' myself.  She's way too smart not to have seen that coming from at least one of us...

[ Parent ]
I Think That Much (4.00 / 4)
of Capitol Hill and the DC culture could not wholly inaccurately be described as a "pile of manure"!  But then, if used properly, as Steve is well aware, it can be a great catalyst for growing new ideas; otherwise, it's basically just ___.

I'm looking forward to next January and having another strong advocate for better food.  On the whole, we have more than enough food in this country (though its availability, affordability and distribution could certainly use some work).  What we need is to make everyone -- in Congress and across America -- understand that "more" is not always "better".  And, indeed, sometimes it is worse, both for the land and the health of the consumer.

[In DC, of course, it's just a fairly short walk from the various House office buildings down to Eastern Market, where the food is always good.]

[ Parent ]
The paradigm (4.00 / 7)
Food, as a national policy issue, does not concern how much.  That will always take care of itself (unless we develop ways to transform everything we eat into fuel additives).  To me the issues are food quality and accessibility to food.

Steve Young, Democrat for Congress [Ca-48]

"For a fresh start"

You can help change congress

[ Parent ]
I'd say an issue too is the monopolies (4.00 / 4)
that exist in the food system as well as everywhere else in America. If we could get the govt to enforce the Packers & Stockyards Act and the Sherman Anti-Trust Act that would be huge progress. Right now there's a big merger between I think JBS and Smithfield... it's all just more of the same. Practically every part of the food industry is highly, highly consolidated and that makes it harder for new players to enter the market and it also gives the big monopolies tons of political power.

Below I wrote about Jackie Anderson and her jams. You can buy her stuff at a few farmers markets and at our local Whole Foods but she couldn't get it into Ralph's. It's not that Ralph's wouldn't buy it. They would. But they would require her to pay "slotting fees" per jam flavor, per store. She would have to pay them to sell them jam. That's the same in all conventional groceries. Kraft can afford the slotting fees. Small entrepreneurs can't.

[ Parent ]
Which Was Exactly My Point (4.00 / 4)
and one that I inferred from your remarks that you believed in, though you have now said so even more explicitly.

The consumers who are most involved and best-informed on the subject of food will usually be able to seek out and obtain the best quality, but clearly there is a role for the federal government to play in looking out for everyone in this regard, above all in ensuring that what we eat is safe to eat.  In terms of accessibility, this touches on matters from raw financing, to more creative use of assistance programs, better stewardship of agricultural land (avoidance of monocultures wherever possible, or allocation of water resources, for example), improved transpotration, and so on.

As I inferred above, but did not make excplict, I am quite eager to see you as a member of the 111th Congress (and beyond).

[ Parent ]
he's on our ActBlue page (4.00 / 1)
hint hint...

[ Parent ]
I'm just old fashioned (4.00 / 5)
Even with readily available food in California, I still buy flats of peaches, peel, slice and freeze them.  I have bottled strawberry jam, and etc.  I do it because of the memories it brings back.  It is a dying art.  Unfortunately, my children did not take much of an interest in canning when they were younger.  

Steve Young, Democrat for Congress [Ca-48]

"For a fresh start"

You can help change congress

[ Parent ]
I freeze strawberries (4.00 / 1)
during the good strawberry seasons because when the berries get really cheap they are also the sweetest. The rest of the year they aren't worth eating. Unfortunately I like my berries so much that I often eat them faster than I can freeze them.

There's a fantastic woman named Jackie Anderson who makes Jackie's Jams in San Diego and I buy those all the time. So she does the canning, I do the eating. She uses all local, organic fruits.

[ Parent ]
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