It’s going to be an early spring. I’m not a meteorologist but remember Dylan’s words: “You don’t need a weatherman to know which way the wind blows.” Plants and animals have an innate weather forecaster that’s readily observed and recent past points to an early growing season. Plants are blooming sooner than ever and squirrels aren’t hiding their nuts with such a stubby winter.
In case you haven’t noticed, it hasn’t rained much in these parts the last couple years. Snowfall this winter was hardly worth the “snow emergency” scam the city fathers perpetrated, generating a $36,000 windfall in parking tickets in the process. Fifty-degree days in January aren’t supposed to be so common.
We’re deep in a drought that equals the Dust Bowl days in scope. FEMA figures it to be the costliest natural disaster in United States history. Go ahead, read that again: This current drought will be costlier than hurricane Katrina (the Po’ Boy Purge,) Superstorm Sandy (eraser of John Cheese and the East Coast Elite,) or Hurricane Andrew. The current drought impact map from the national Drought Monitor Center at UN-L is frightening to behold. By September of 2012, over 54 percent of the country was in drought. The 2013 projection covers most of the country, going deep into the Central Valley of California where most of our fruit and vegetables are grown. Nebraska looks hardest hit, with most of the state in the worst category: exceptional.
Us urban folk think the immediate impact seems to fall in the “inconvenience” category — so far. Our lawns won’t see a green spring. We’ll water more and run the AC earlier than usual. But soon, very soon, we’ll feel the pinch in our pocketbook. Food prices will soar. Time to grow your own.
I picked a bad week to support ethanol. As bad as the drought is, intentionally allotting most of our arable agricultural land to field corn and soybeans (read “ethanol, livestock feed and high fructose corn syrup”) is equally culpable. This summer, those FLEXFUEL SUVs popping up will be parking between you and affordable food.
Produce prices will skyrocket. A grocer friend told me the wholesale price of pesticide-free (organically grown) broccoli will be in the neighborhood of $2.50 per pound. That’s wholesale. Already you can expect a big bump in conventional meat prices. The junk-food corn fed to confined animals is getting costlier. Parched pastureland cannot produce grass. Because of that, the US cattle herd has shrunk to its smallest size in 60 years.
I love the smell of compost in the morning. It smells like — Victory! The great news is: we can grow our way out of this — to an extent. While we normally can’t raise cattle in the back yard, chickens are a possibility these days. And certainly a garden is a must. During World War II, Americans and Brits grew what were known as Victory Gardens, supplying much of the food to home dining tables and the war effort. Of course, in the 1940s our meat-centric diet was still years in the future so stuff you could grow in the backyard was commonplace on the menu. It should be again.
Though nothing waters plants as well as rainfall, with drought-tolerant planning and sensible irrigation systems, a 21st Century Victory Garden can and will provide your pantry with a cornucopia of affordable nutrition through the season and into the following spring. Starting a garden is a must, so here’s how to begin and some things to consider.
No excuses. Even if you’re an apartment dweller or have limited space, you can grow your own. Patio pots can go a long way to providing for the table. Two well-tended tomato plants in pots can deliver enough for a happy couple with leftovers for canning or freezing. There are literally dozens of community gardens that provide extended plots in the Metro Area with low-cost or free access.
Keep it clean. Since you'll be growing your own, why not avoid the Frankenfood and poisons that corporate farming relies on so heavily? At present, sweet corn, zucchini and acorn squash are the only genetically modified consumer crops legal in the US and aren't available to home growers anyway. But learning how to grow without chemicals cuts down on cost of inputs and risk to health.
Seed money. Consider growing from seed rather than starter plants. You'll have to start tomatoes and other crops indoors for a jump on the season so look into it now. Around the first of April, you’ll be ready to put some of the early greens in the ground as seed. The easiest are also the most healthful: Swiss chard, kale and spinach. These leafy greens can feed you all the way to Christmas if you play your cards right. Once the leaves reach about 6 to 8 inches long, you can start harvesting younger leaves for salads. Don’t boil greens. You’ll leach out nutrients. Steam them lightly. That goes for collards, too. Poke is the exception. Yes, it’s going to be an early spring. Nice for kiting and bicycling but a woeful harbinger of the extended forecast.
Heartland Healing is a New Age polemic describing alternatives to conventional methods of healing the body, mind and planet. It is provided as information and entertainment, certainly not medical advice. It is not an endorsement of any particular therapy, either by the writer or The Reader. Visit HeartlandHealing.com for more information.