Thursday, March 27, 2008

Global Warming: Positive Proof

It's spring here in the Skagit Valley, and it's snowing. The daffodils are doing their best to look spring-like but are having a hard time competing with the frozen slush that is falling from the sky. What was once a sea of yellow is now a sea. Like low tide, there is standing water, mud and drooping flowers. And they want me to believe in global warming? I think for the sake of getting into the fields to get going on spring work, I'd take a little global warming right now.

Only a fool doesn't believe in global warming. All I have to do is walk into the Cascade Mountains and I will find fossil evidence that this area was once a tropical forest with palm trees. Obviously there was a time it was much warmer, it cooled off, and now the cycle is turning the other direction. Such is the planet on which we live.

As a farmer, I also believe only a fool doesn't take seriously the practice of conservation. Farmers have done it for years, long before there were environmentalists and the giant bureaucracies they create. We learned the hard way. The Dust Bowl, the continual planting of cotton in the Deep South before that, hard lessons learned.

Today, the really good farmers, the really successful farmers are conservationists and environmentalists. We do it not out of a media generated fear, or because a washed up politician has taken on the "cause" to gain notoriety. No, we do it because care for the land is ultimately profitable and that it is the right thing to do.

You see, most of us farmers don't actually consider ourselves environmentalists. Such "buzz words" really carry very little meaning.

We are stewards. We understand we have to put back what we take out. We understand, the land is ours to use but it is also our call to pass it on.

Saturday, March 8, 2008

Nuggets From Pay Dirt

When you look at this old photo, pay special attention to the man standing next to the fan of that rotary plow. That man is one of the main characters in my book "Vis Major." That man is Great Northern engineer, John Robert Meath. Next to him is his wife, Elizabeth.

There is a message written on the back of the photo. It simply states:

"This is the picture of the rotary Robert works on. The other picture is where it is working. This was taken one day when we were at Wellington."

Sadly, no date is included, and "the other picture" mentioned is long gone. A little detective work has helped narrow down the date. The overhead wires and the location of the mountain in the background tell me it is definitely "Wellington" (Although was probably renamed "Tye" when the photo was taken). It also indicates the photo was taken on the flat area that was once the "upper yard". This is where most of the railroad buildings were move after the 1910 avalanche. The big headlight a top the plow and the fact it is still numbered X-800 narrows the time frame even more. I believe it was taken between 1911 and 1914.

Wife Elizabeth remains a bit of a mystery at this point. In the 1910 US Census Meath is listed as single and living in a boarding house in Leavenworth. A few years later, along comes this photo of Robert and the very stately Elizabeth, herself a native of Robert's hometown in Wisconsin. Was the old prankster holding out on us, with a sweetheart tucked away in Wisconsin all the while he is railroading out west? Did the trauma caused by the death of so many of his friends in the avalanche give cause for the Robert to seize the moment, go back home and finally marry Miss McCabe?

The mind of the novelist wonders about such things. Rest assured some rewriting will be done as more is learned.

And here is Robert, later in life. It looks as if Elizabeth has been taking good care of him. The curled up eyebrow, the casual look, it all fits. You are looking at a man that was known for his sense of humor, sharp wit and yet never showing any undo emotion. You are looking at one of the very real heroes of the 1910 storm.

Monday, March 3, 2008

Out Sourced

From now on, no cucumbers for pickles and relish will be grown in Washington and Oregon. For anyone reading this west of the Mississippi River, when you go to your favorite fast food chain, or buy any pickle and relish product produced by Dean Foods or Big Valley, the cucumbers they are made from will be coming from India or Chile.

Big Valley (spin off corporation under the Dean Foods umbrella) abruptly terminated (broke) the contract they had with all the growers in Washington and Oregon last week. With one phone call I lost 65% of the income I made working the farm with no clear hope of replacing it this year. The word came too late.

I'm not the big loser, however. You are. Just remember, to keep the Costcos, Wal-Marts, Safeways and Krogers going strong, you will now be eating products fertilized with human waste, picked by slave labor making less than $1/day and sprayed with DDT. I'd think twice before eating those pickles in your next Big Mac as Dean and its spin off companies supply pickling products to most of the fast food chains in America.

What can you do? Well, there is one thing. The next time you go shopping, look close at the fresh produce. If your store does not plainly show point of origin, (where the produce was grown, NOT just where it was repacked for distribution), if that information is not marked above all produce, demand to know why it isn't and where your fresh produce is coming from.

Stores that do not plainly display point of origin of their produce do so for one very important reason: they know, given the choice, consumers will buy American quality. When you run on the cheap like the big chains, the last thing produce managers want is an informed consumer asking questions.

Our cucumber business has been out sourced to India. So has your health. You will do well to start asking your grocery store some very tough questions about where they are buying your food.