Monday, September 01, 2008

A Republican Localvore, A Mini Ice Age and An Angry God

I've been away through most of August, on vacation and catching up on a number of local tasks while the weather has been cooperative. With September upon us, the change of seasons is impossible to ignore. The leaves are begin to turn as the air begins to chill, and the harvest is well underway. In recent years, several of my friends have transformed into localvores, sharing their experiences with me along the way. In the face of uncertain economic and societal times, producing a small fraction of the food (and fuel) I consume is not a bad set of skills to master.

This spring I added a garden basket to the three I cultivated last year. I'm still growing primarily tomatoes, with a mix of herbs. This year, I tried an experiment and varied the types of tomatoes I planted in each garden basket. Returning from vacation, I expected to find most of my baskets in the peak of production. Instead, I found in place of three of my four tomato baskets, baskets full of extremely fat and happy Tomato Hornworms. These critters are easily over four inches in length, and eat four times their weight each day. Its worth noting that my fourth tomato basket is actual free of Mothra's stunt doubles. I've actually seen them leave this basket, without stripping the leaves or fruit, and head to the other three for dinner and a movie. What's different about the lone basket which spares it from the green death? Its the only one in which I planted Roma (Plum) tomatoes. I'm not sure yet if there's an actual correlation between the plant variety and the infestation, simply based on observational evidence.

Speaking of the value of conclusions based solely on observational evidence, this year marks a special turn of the seasons as we (in the United States) will be selecting a new president in just over sixty days. To make sure every vote (at least the ones that matter) is harvested early and often, we, the electorate, are under siege by every conceivable media outlet with facts and figures to help us make our decision a more informed one. In recent days, the ratio of scientific, economic and political conclusions to seconds of critical thought per conclusion has grown exponentially. One is a lapse in judgment echoed by several highly visible politicos including Don Fowler, former head of the Democratic National Committee. In brief, the disruption of the opposing party's national convention by a potentially devastating hurricane was clearly a favor from God. (I was reminded by one of my localvore friends that this is not the first time such a controversial conclusion has been drawn, and in the past, has at least been backed up by multiple observations.)

Drawing specific conclusions about the effects (or causes) of large-scale chaotic systems is tricky business at best. One needs only to look at some of the arguments both for and against human-powered climate change to see that both camps are riddled with controversy and and ill-fitted curves. Just recently I read an article that adds yet another puzzle to the pieces. The sun has gone an entire month without producing a single sunspot - something it hasn't done (or not done as it were) in 100 years. The potential implication of this and related data concludes that we may be on the verge of rapid global cooling, or even a mini ice-age. This type of event has happened several times in the last 1,000 years, independent of human population. Our Mr. Sun, it seems, has a history of not wanting to be forgotten.

So what am I to conclude from recent events? Are my decimated tomatoes and my impending deep freeze the expressions of an angry God who is punishing me for my right of center leanings heading into November? Probably not. (Although if God is angry with me, it would seem that I've pissed Her off twice).

Regardless, I think I may need to be flexible as to this year's menu of local produce.

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