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… As I’ve Gleaned

 

 

Covered In Bees

 

I have a complex relationship with bees. My name means “little bee”, so I grew up identifying with them. I was told as a child that the bumblebee defied physics… That they defied all natural laws every time they took flight. No one knew how they did it. And, if you don’t take into account their flight mechanism, that’s true. If, for example, you built a bee like you would a plane, it wouldn’t fly, but the way the bee achieves flight in the first place is quite different than the way planes do. Regardless of the science, I’ve always liked being named for a critter that should not fly but flies, anyway.

I liked bees and they liked me… or maybe they hated me, it’s hard to tell. I was stung three times in one summer; it seemed like they were everywhere. I developed an allergy and that was that. I couldn’t hang out with bees anymore.

But enough about my issues… The point is the BEES. As gleaners, we’re more connected than most people to the rhythm of things; changing seasons, rising tides and that basic element of life, reproduction. Most of us know that bees are vital pollinators, and most of us know they’re in trouble. We all want to save them, but how? I’m happy to report that there are a lot of things we can do, with varying levels of involvement to choose from.

The first and easiest thing we can do is throw money at the problem. Getting involved is great, but if you haven’t the time or have an allergy, this is something that will actually be of tremendous importance. Let’s face it; money still makes the world go ‘round, and there are people out there doing necessary work. Consider donating to a research project like The Pollinator Stewardship Fund on http://pollinatorstewardship.org/ or to an educational outreach program like the National Resource Defense Council.at https://www.nrdc.org/about#mission .

If you want to get your hands dirty, plant a bee garden. Oregon produces some of the most beautiful wildflowers in the world, and local plants are vital to the survival of the local honeybees. A shallow bird bath or other water feature can help the little beasties on their way, too. If you use pesticides, do so sparingly, and make sure any insect traps you buy say on the packaging that they won’t harm bees. They exist, I promise.

There are a couple of other options that are more involved, but are still easier than full-on beekeeping. Prices range from reasonable to “wow, you really love bees”, but there really is something for everyone. Gardeners’ Supply Company offers a stylish Mason Bee House for $17.99. Mason bees don’t sting, so these turnkey hives even work for “allergics” like me. And if you’re up for something more like an avocation, but find yourself short of land, go completely bonkers and get some hive-hexes from https://beecosystem.buzz/ . This company designs hexagonal hive cells that can be installed indoors, so you can observe the workings of a proper hive. A vent leads the workers outdoors to forage and pollinate, and the entire colony is protected from harm. Cells can be purchased one at a time, allowing you to build your colony into something even more special. Check it out:

hex bee

So, in closing, just be as nice as you can to the little guys. After all, they’re gleaners, just like us. We all need each other.

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As I’ve Gleaned…

The Village Feast

In time out of mind, every meal was cause for celebration. People who returned to their hut, cave or cliff dwelling with food were hailed as conquering heroes, and rightly so. Our early history was a tough time to be alive, or rather, to stay that way. Food and water was a brief respite from what must have been a nearly constant anxiety over what might happen next. So time was taken for gratitude.

Cut to the 21st Century… It’s a lot easier for us now, but we’ve traded something away for the relative security we enjoy. “Enjoy” isn’t even the right word for it anymore. We cram breakfast sandwiches into our faces on the way to work, eat frozen dinners in front of the t.v. and mindlessly cruise the refrigerator at midnight. Food isn’t a celebration, it’s a chore, or a temporary cure for an equally temporary boredom.

Part of what returns to us when we gather and plan for our food is a sense of pride, certainly, but it’s also a return to heartfelt gratitude and excitement over our finds. I don’t know about you, but I spend the trip home from a glean imagining all the cool stuff I’m going to do with my share of it, and how my little family will celebrate with me and make yummy noises. It’s a bit of a holiday, and I bet you have similar experiences when you return home with your treasures.

The food we gather is only half the story. The rituals that surround this thing we do allow us to experience a bit of the Village Feast, the Harvest Celebration. It’s the first and best way we humans came together and formed a community. Breaking bread with each other creates and strengthens the bonds of a community, and we get to experience that in small doses as we divide our shares, trade recipes and complain about our aching backs. It’s one of the most human experiences I can think of.

When I was very young, maybe 6 or 7, one of my favorite teachers told me a story about the difference between Heaven and Hell. He said that the places were exactly the same; an infinite table spread with all the finest, most delicious food you could ever imagine, food that would never spoil or lose its flavor. It was a divine bounty in the clouds, where you could, if you wished, eat chocolate forever. The most unusual part of both banquets, though, were the spoons attached to everyone’s hands. While these spoons were lovely, ornate and covered in gold, they were quite long; too long, in fact, for anyone to actually be able to serve any of the food before them, or to bring a bite to their lips. My teacher told me sadly that it would break my heart to see those poor people in Hell, eternally starving before a bountiful harvest.

As I was meant to, I asked my teacher why, if everything was exactly the same in Hell as in Heaven, I should be interested in going either place. He smiled and leaned closer to me, as people do when sharing a wonderful secret.

“Because in Heaven,” he said, “The people are feeding each other.”

I think of that story whenever we glean and share what we make with friends and neighbors. I’m not a religious person, but I really believe in the deeper meaning of that story. We create something when we share in the village harvest.

 

We’re creating Heaven.

As I’ve Gleaned…

Learning What We Used To Know

So, I’m new to the notion of gleaning, and to living a life where I can make a choice about where my food comes from. Bigger cities are a special kind of “food desert”, where you can get anything at any time, as long as you don’t want to know where it came from. What people call “Big Food” is big business, and part of their job is to crush the competition. To accomplish this, these companies advocate legislation prohibiting the distribution of food in public places, unfenced gardens and livestock like yard chickens. After one near arrest for passing out sandwiches to homeless folks in a Denver park, I can attest to how serious cities are about these ordinances. The argument in favor of these laws is that they protect public health, and that’s true. It’s true for one reason only, though…

We got stupid.

Now, when I say “stupid”, what I actually mean is ignorant. We have allowed ourselves, over the past few generations, to forget nearly everything our evolution ever taught us about the natural world and our place in it. There are countless skills that have been lost, that we, as a culture, have abandoned. This lack of knowledge leaves us more vulnerable than we realize.

I have evidence of this, though it’s purely anecdotal. I have a friend still in Denver… Let’s call her Pauline. My friend Pauline, WHO TOTALLY EXISTS, is kind of a mess, physically and emotionally. While I’m sure many factors contribute to her issues, I honestly believe that, were she not in the city, she wouldn’t be nearly as sick as she is. Pauline is chronically “busy”, which means she is constantly stressed. She eats out at least once a day, usually drive-thru fare. She is dangerously overweight and genuinely has no idea why, she has high blood pressure, anxiety, sinus problems and ends up with bronchitis at least twice a year. Her knees are shot and the only exercise she gets is the rush from her house to the car. Recently, she told me about a doctor visit wherein it was suggested that she cut way back on animal protein and eat small meals, six times a day. Pauline has no earthly idea how she can accomplish this, just like she has no idea why fruit is better than juice or how her intestinal health impacts her immune system.

The thing is, it’s not her fault. When her eyes widened at the thought of me gathering stuff from the side of the highway and she asked me if I was planning to, like, EAT it, I realized how complete the victory of “Big Food” is. Pauline has been completely brainwashed into a fear of anything that doesn’t come from a store or restaurant, wrapped in plastic or waxed paper. Only that is food. Everything else is, on some level, dangerous to her.

We have forgotten how our bodies were designed to function, we have forgotten how to grow things. We have forgotten how to cook, we have forgotten hard-won lessons on procuring and preparing real food. Real food is work, it’s sweat, it’s imperfect. It’s the way we’re meant to be, grazing on seeds and berries as we explore the landscape. Kind of like eating six small meals a day, mostly plants.

So, with this first post, I’d like to congratulate all of us on finding our way back to this very elemental place. Now that our toes are back in the dirt, may we be wise enough to embrace this way of living as our birthright. Humans have always been opportunistic gatherers. That’s why when we go find our own food, it feels good… It feels like coming home.

 

 

Down to Earth fun

Here are a few things happening at Down to Earth this month.

Making Dilly Beans- Free
Saturday, August 18
11am-12:30 pm in our nursery
The OSU Master Food Preservers will be presenting a free workshop and demo on dilly beans. You’ll be packing jars and getting hands-on experience with the canning process. You’ll also take home a jar of pickled green beans!
Class is limited to 8, call to reserve your spot. (541) 342-6820
***if the class fills up, you can still drop-in to watch the demo!***
Bring Your Knives & Tools for a Sharpening Event – Cost Varies
Sunday, August 19
10am-2pm outside our nursery gate
Have any garden tools, knives, or scissors that are losing that nice sharp edge, making your work more challenging? Michael Baines from A New Edge Sharpening will be at our store. Pricing is reasonable, and depends on the size of what you need sharpened.