Monthly Archives: July 2010

Violet, You’re Turning Violet

In my last post, I mentioned that we are now getting produce from a CSA farm. It’s Redfire Farm in Granby, Mass. One of the distribution points for the CSA shares is close to the house, so it’s actually fairly convenient. Costwise it’s more expensive than the produce from my usual source, Russo’s in Watertown, but the shares are generally a fairly good quantity of food, and the quality is very good. And of course, it’s all organic, and the money supports workers in our regional economy. Personally, I like being able to buy my food direct from the producer as much as possible. In the summer, there’s also a good farmer’s market near here in Somerville, but we’re getting enough from Redfire that I haven’t had to go over there yet this season.

One of the benefits of having a share in the CSA is the privilege, I guess, of being able to go to the farm and pretend to be a field-hand for a morning and pick your own produce as part of your share; no additional cost except for actually getting to the farm. Which for us, is more than an hour’s drive. But we did go out there a few weeks ago at the peak of the strawberry harvest and came away with eight quarts of strawberries, and also some nice field peas and snow peas. Here’s a photo of the wife pretending to be a field hand:

It turns out, eight quarts of strawberries is a lot of strawberries. And strawberries, as you may know, do not keep for very long at all. The next morning, we had strawberries with waffles (I use a beastly, chrome-plated early 1950s-vintage Sunbeam W-2 waffle iron that still has its original cloth-wrapped cord. Works better than anything you can get new.). Then I made some strawberry ice cream. Then I made some strawberry jam, which actually used up most of the remaining berries. I’d actually gone out and bought some canning supplies just for this.

Another benefit is that they offer some of the produce for additional bulk purchase, and also sell some produce from other nearby farms. After we used up the strawberries, I was able to get a flat of 12 pints of blueberries.

Blueberry buttermilk pancakes. Then blueberry syrup, 5 jars. Blueberry jam, 7 jars. Blueberry buttermilk ice cream. That, I have to admit, did not come out so well. I started with the recipe I’d used for the strawberries, and substituted the buttermilk for the milk. But the blueberry pulp started to clump before going into the custard, necessitating the use of the blender. The result was less than satisfactory flavor and texture. I realized too late that I’d made an error; I should have made a syrup out the pulp and used that. And since I still have so much syrup, I suppose I could give it a try to find out. Or the syrup could go almost directly to a sorbet; that would be nice, too.

Blueberry muffins. The last pint has been going into my granola. When they’re gone, I’ll have had enough blueberries for a while.

Holding up one-seven-billionth of the sky

I mentioned in a previous post, some months ago, that I do some freelance work. Recently, my temp job became a permanent job, which is a good thing, but I’m still taking some freelance work. The freelance work is how I pay for my toys. The freelance work often involves reading some pretty wretched books. So often, when I think I want some bit of consumer goods fluff, I think to myself, is this worth reading some vampire romance novel for? Frequently, the answer is no. This can get tested to the limit when a) the assignments are dreadful conservative pundit books and b) the object of desire is a new bicycle.

Now, you’ve seen these guys on TV, or at least, seen Jon Stewart making fun of them on TV. So, you have some idea of what they go on about and how stupid they are. Now imagine 300 pages or so of this concentrated and uninterrupted stupid. Even when they on occasion hit upon some notion that makes half a bean of sense, they treat it so halfassedly that you want to disagree with them just for the sake of form. If you have a passing familiarity with facts, logic, and reason, or even just a sense of human decency, these books are extremely irritating.

I’ve given up trying to point out errors of fact or consistency. Why bother? Most of the time, it’s deliberate. They don’t care, and they’re not going to change anything because of some snotty proofreader. Well, okay, it’s not entirely true—when I pointed out to one author that there were no Mormons in Colonial New England, that was fixed. (Why these things are not caught by the editors or copyeditors is another rant entirely.)

I should pause here to point out that in my experience, liberal pundit books are not much better, but somebody else must be getting those to work on. I mainly get the conservative ones. But pundits are generally worthless as a class, regardless of ideology. A pundit is like a used car salesman; their job is to sell you a product that might look shiny and clean on the outside, but is badly damaged in the guts of it. They know this, so they need to get your money and hustle you off the lot as quickly as possible, and they’ll say anything to get the job done.

The point is, I could pass on these books. I don’t really have to take them. I won’t starve or be homeless. Heck, I could pay for the new bike without them, it just makes it a lot easier. I even told the production editor who gives me the work, I’m going to spend the proceeds on organic vegetables and a new bicycle, just for karmic balance. She was amused. It helps that I like the client I do the work for. They pay a decent rate and they’re easy to deal with. The projects are sometimes actually fun.

The organic vegetables come from a CSA-organized farm in the Pioneer Valley of Massachusetts. Not surprisingly, it’s more expensive than buying the industrial produce at the supermarket, but not really more than at say, the local farmer’s market. The quality of the produce is good, and the shares are more than enough for the two of us. In fact, it’s a challenge to use it all. There will have to be zucchini bread this week. A couple of weeks ago, I made strawberry jam. Now I have a fridge full of blueberries.

The bicycle is a shiny red Jamis Aurora Elite. I wanted a bike that could take daily commuting through New England weather and carry loads of groceries, but still be fun to ride on the weekends. So far, I’m pretty happy with my choice, though there’s still a few things I want to change—like the cheesy flat fenders. This is a fairly well-equipped bike, and the stock rear rack is actually quite nice and sturdy, so what’s with the crap fenders? Replacements have already been ordered.

But more about that stuff later.

Meanwhile I know that the bookstores of our country are being flooded with this pure, unadulterated bullshit. I mean, I’ve been in the publishing business long enough to know that it mainly floats on bullshit of one kind or another—whole categories of bullshit—and that this has been true to some extent for as long as the industry has existed. And meanwhile the entire global economy is crumbling and the Gulf of Mexico is as oily as . . . the gulf of Mexico. I can’t even come up with a metaphor for that one. Largely due, in both cases, to a long history of corporate and regulatory incompetence malfeasance.

Okay, well, of course, we all know about this. We’re all mad about it. I just get irritated and cranky because my work sometimes makes me come face to face with the fact that there’s one group of people trying to sell the idea that the solution to our problems is to basically ignore them, pretend they aren’t real, because any actual substantial change threatens the whole system they leech off of. It’s to their advantage that shit like this keeps happening. And on the other side is a group of people that think that the way to deal is to shuffle the deck chairs of the regulatory Titanic, because any actual substantial change, etc.

You know, we try to do our bit. Live within our means, ride and walk to work, recycle, compost, and so on and so forth, and all of these assholes are doing their best to make sure that nothing you do matters one little bit. They want the message to be: you don’t matter. The answer comes from the free market or from government, but not from us. We need to get back to work and and the mall and buy more stuff. From China. Just shut the fuck up and buy more stuff from China. The last thing anybody wants is for large numbers of people to actually start considering the consequences of how they live.

So I get to be trapped in a room with these bozos* for hours on end, listening to them droning on and on. Kind of like this post, except much, much longer. Imagine this post, going on and on for hundreds of pages. That would suck. You would probably say, I’d rather be out riding my new bicycle. And you’d be right.

Okay, enough venting. I’ve vented. It’s the heat. The heat is making me cranky, too. And the ants. The ants are getting in the house. It doesn’t take much to make me cranky. What I want to know is, why aren’t all the stupid fuckwads who said there was no global warming because we had a lot of snow last winter now coming back and saying they see the light, or at least feel the heat?

Sorry, that was more venting. Once started, it’s hard to stop that train.

And when the venting is done, I just have to remember: there’s a new bike. And blueberries.

*This is unkind to bozos. I recently worked on a book about Bozo the Clown. Who, it turns out, was a decent likable guy who just wanted to make people laugh. Maybe if more of these cretins were actually a little more like Bozo, things wouldn’t be so bad.