August 2008

I got a fig!

I was so excited when I saw it start to swell and knew if was going to ripen. Finally came the day I decided to pick it the next day. My timing must have been right, because that morning I saw ants climbing on it so it had to be ready. The blemish you see is where they started to haul away bits of it, probably for a feast at the Hare Krishna temple in Antville.

The picture is fuzzy because even though I took multiples they were either too dark or too close and I didn’t use the closeup button on the camera. Normally I would take pictures and then view them so where it would be possible to take others if all were bad I could but in this case the tongue won and before I checked out the photos I had picked the fig, washed it, did the thank you thing, and consumed it.  Slowly — small bites and as much chewing as the melt in your mouth experience of a fresh fig will allow.

This is the first fig I have gotten on my fig tree in many years. When I was progressing towards the end stage liver disease thing, I lacked energy and early in the process marginally important things got left undone, more and more being left by the wayside as I went deeper into fatigue.

That meant stuff that was fun but not economical like my fig tree. Which meant I wouldn’t wrap it in the fall and it would topkill. It would come back the following year from the roots but by that time the summer would be over and no ripe figs.

Two winters ago I did wrap it but with the 5th coldest February in history and slightly inadequate bundling I still lost most of the top. This past winter everything went right so it hit the deck running this spring. Abundant moisture during the spring and early summer meant lots of fruit set, the question was whether the cool August we have been having would allow for ripening of the figs.

While August has been great for human comfort, we have been having cool nights which have greatly slowed the tomatoes from ripening. I thought the same might apply to the figs.  That is what happens when it topkills, it sets a lot of green figs, then cool September nights hit and ripening stops before I get anything.

It remains to be seen if more will ripen.  If this is the only one, and I value my labor at minimum wage, it probably works out to something like $50 a pound (75 euros per kilo) for that single fig,which would make it an opulence, and well worth it IMHO.

As figs are abundant producers when they have a long enough season, if rapid global climate change ends up manifesting as a tropical climate for New Vrindaban as Srila Prabhupada predicted, the fig tree and I will have a beautiful relationship.



A baby’s feet, like sea-shells pink,
…….Might tempt, should heaven see meet,
An angel’s lips to kiss, we think,
…….A baby’s feet.

Like rose-hued sea-flowers toward the heat
…….They stretch and spread and wink
Their ten soft buds that part and meet.

No flower-bells that expand and shrink
…….Gleam half so heavenly sweet
As shine on life’s untrodden brink
…….A Baby’s feet.

A baby’s hands, like rosebuds furled
…….Whence yet no leaf expands,
Ope if you touch, though close upcurled,
…….A baby’s hands.

Then, fast as warriors grip their brands
…….When battle’s bolt is hurled,
They close, clenched hard like tightening bands.

No rosebuds yet by dawn impearled
…….Match, even in loveliest lands,
The sweetest flowers in all the world—
…….A baby’s hands.

A baby’s eyes, ere speech begin,
…….Ere lips learn words or sighs,
Bless all things bright enough to win
…….A baby’s eyes.

Love, while the sweet thing laughs and lies,
…….And sleep flows out and in,
Sees perfect in them Paradise.

Their glance might cast out pain and sin,
…….Their speech make dumb the wise,
By mute glad godhead felt within
…….A baby’s eyes.

Fresh locally grown foods cooked from scratch, sound familiar? While the “locally grown” part of Srila Prabhupada’s vision remains to be fully implemented, it is there.

Is Slow Food finally picking up speed in the US?

Associated Press Writer

BOLINAS, Calif. (AP) – Trailing Alice Waters through a Marin County garden, watching her gather fragrant pea blossoms and lemon verbena, it is easy to believe the tide is turning against America‘s mac-and-cheese culture.

In this wealthy rural enclave, there are no Starbucks or Wal-Marts. It is home to uber-eco rancher Bill Niman; small farms are nestled into hillsides; the shelves of the co-op are stocked with local, organic greens.

Yet Waters knows that to the east lies a nation starved for time, bloated with fast food and mostly ignorant of her effort to make people think more about where, how and by whom their food is produced.

Still, the grand dame of the so-called “slow food” movement sees evidence of progress nationwide: Bustling farmers markets. Bans on trans fats. Greater awareness of food sources, albeit driven by waves of food contamination scares.

“All kinds of things are going on that are pushing people into this slow food place,” she says.

Even, perhaps, slow food itself. After years of lurking, barely a shadow of its European counterpart, Slow Food USA is about to make its first major foray into the U.S. cultural and political scenes. Tens of thousands of people are expected to attend Slow Food Nation over Labor Day weekend in San Francisco, a Woodstock-like festival and symposium meant to underscore the connection between planet and plate.

It’s the first serious test of whether Slow Food _ a philosophy born in Europe and often hobbled by a snob factor _ can evolve into a movement capable of altering the appetite of the average American.

“We don’t want (the slow food movement) to be about celebrity chefs and fancy restaurants,” Waters says.

To that end, organizers have worked hard to mainstream their message, offering forums highlighting everyday and heirloom foods from the South and Southwest, as well as discussions about eating well on a budget…

Waters knows it’s a mountainous if. Americans resent paying more for food, even for higher quality, she says.

“This food gets lumped into, ‘It’s only for the people who want to pay the price,'” Waters says. “But you know, people are willing to pay it on Nike shoes and cell phones and God knows what else they’ll pay it on.

“They don’t see that if you don’t pay up front, you pay out back: You’re going to pay in your health, and in the loss of your culture and in the pleasure of your life.”

At its core, Slow Food is a pushback against fast food, a response to the industrialization of eating and an effort to refocus on local, artisanal and heritage foods. It is meant to foster concern about where food comes from, how it is produced, who is producing it and how they are treated while doing so…

“You smell these flowers and lemon verbena and basil _ it’s intoxicating,” she says, with a wave to the bouquet now on the table of a cottage she is borrowing for a vacation. “You don’t need the rhetoric. You just need the plate of food.”

And she continues to think big, still pressing for her longstanding dream of a vegetable garden at the White House.

At a fundraiser for Barack Obama last month, with wife Michelle Obama in attendance, Waters spoke about urging President Clinton early in his presidency to install such a plot on the South Lawn.

It didn’t work, but the idea lives on. According to Waters, thousands of people have signed a petition recently urging the leading 2008 candidates to commit to a “first garden.” She hasn’t secured a commitment yet.

“Back then (in the Clinton years) I just felt like a lone voice, but now people are talking about this idea of a vegetable garden on the White House lawn,” she says. “It’s the symbolism of it, it’s stewardship, caring about what people eat.”

See my house at Google maps.

You can zoom into the second highest level of resolution.

In the view that shows the roads, if you go East to the lower resolution area and then North along McCreary Ridge Road, just before that splits into Big Wheeling Creek Rd and Limestone/Dallas Rd you will see an almost parallel road branch off on the West side. That is the road from the Palace to the temple.

I have been waiting for this to get a better picture of the temple area for a while but apparently Google Maps shares a flaw with my own false ego and thinks I am more important than the temple.

“America is in a hole and it’s getting deeper every day. We import 70% of our oil at a cost of $700 billion a year – four times the annual cost of the Iraq war.

“I’ve been an oil man all my life, but this is one emergency we can’t drill our way out of. But if we create a new renewable energy network, we can break our addiction to foreign oil.

“On January 20, 2009, a new President gets sworn in. If we’re organized, we can convince Congress to make major changes towards cleaner, cheaper and domestic energy resources.”

– T. Boone Pickens

“To put it plainly, T. Boone Pickens is out to save America.”

– Carl Pope, Executive Director, Sierra Club

The Pickens Plan involves large windmill farms, which he is personally investing billions into in Texas, and natural gas. You can read about The Pickens Plan here. He is probably heavily invested in the Barnett shale in Texas. New horizontal drilling technology in the last 5 years has made the natural gas in this formation accessible for capture.

There is a similar shale underlying much of Pennsylvania, all of West Virginia (where New Vrindaban is located), and parts of New York, Virginia, Ohio, and Kentucky known as the Marcellus shale which is getting a lot of interest these days.

This month, almost 2 million first-year students will head off to college campuses around the country. Most of them will be about 18 years old, born in 1990 when headlines sounded oddly familiar to those of today: Rising fuel costs were causing airlines to cut staff and flight schedules; Big Three car companies were facing declining sales and profits; and a president named Bush was increasing the number of troops in the Middle East in the hopes of securing peace. However, the mindset of this new generation of college students is quite different from that of the faculty about to prepare them to become the leaders of tomorrow.

Each August for the past 11 years, Beloit College in Beloit, Wis., has released the Beloit College Mindset List. It provides a look at the cultural touchstones that shape the lives of students entering college. It is the creation of Beloit’s Keefer Professor of the Humanities Tom McBride and Public Affairs Director Ron Nief. The List is shared with faculty and with thousands who request it each year as the school year begins, as a reminder of the rapidly changing frame of reference for this new generation.

The class of 2012 has grown up in an era where computers and rapid communication are the norm, and colleges no longer trumpet the fact that residence halls are “wired” and equipped with the latest hardware. These students will hardly recognize the availability of telephones in their rooms since they have seldom utilized landlines during their adolescence. They will continue to live on their cell phones and communicate via texting. Roommates, few of whom have ever shared a bedroom, have already checked out each other on Facebook where they have shared their most personal thoughts with the whole world.

It is a multicultural, politically correct and “green” generation that has hardly noticed the threats to their privacy and has never feared the Russians and the Warsaw Pact.

Some excerpts from the list:

For these students, Sammy Davis Jr., Jim Henson, Ryan White, Stevie Ray Vaughan and Freddy Krueger have always been dead.

1. Harry Potter could be a classmate, playing on their Quidditch team.
4. GPS satellite navigation systems have always been available.
5. Coke and Pepsi have always used recycled plastic bottles.
7. Gas stations have never fixed flats, but most serve cappuccino.
10. Girls in head scarves have always been part of the school fashion scene.
20. The Warsaw Pact is as hazy for them as the League of Nations was for their parents.
23. Schools have always been concerned about multiculturalism.
28. IBM has never made typewriters.
30. McDonald’s and Burger King have always used vegetable oil for cooking french fries.
33. The Tonight Show has always been hosted by Jay Leno and started at 11:35 EST.
36. They may have been given a Nintendo Game Boy to play with in the crib.
43. Personal privacy has always been threatened.
44. Caller ID has always been available on phones.
47. They never heard an attendant ask “Want me to check under the hood?”
50. They have never known life without Seinfeld references from a show about “nothing.”
51. Windows 3.0 operating system made IBM PCs user-friendly the year they were born.
57. Off-shore oil drilling in the United States has always been prohibited.
58. Radio stations have never been required to present both sides of public issues.

See the whole list here.

The current temple in New Vrindaban is a wonderful place, but it is a post Prabhupada era project. Bahulaban is where Srila Prabhupada actually visited three times and is very historical.  Unfortunately, as New Vrindaban contracted after the troubles, it was abandoned.  Adi Guru has been organizing a project to restore it.

Today a lot of members of a team that has been assembled to do the needful came together for some hands on. While they work in offices during the week, this weekend they came out for some old fashioned  New Vrindaban style service involving a lot of dirt and sweat.

I went out for as long as I could last until I wasn’t able to stand anymore and needed to go take my afternoon nappy. As I was leaving I realized I had my camera so snapped some quick random pics.

It was a BYOW event. That would be Bring Your Own Weedwacker.

There was a lot of hauling of debris, clearing out the inside of the temple as well as around the outside.

The backhaul. Don’t they look snazzy in their new gloves.

A lot of miles were put on accumulating the debris piles by hand.

A lot of weeds were also cleared around the temple so Soma will be able to get into work on the foundation. Lots of Japanese Knotweed.

Where else could you have seen a scythe hauled in a minivan?

The overgrown steps from the main parking lot to the temple were opened up so next time there will be room for even more participants to park.

I was thinking about all the devotees who climbed these steps over  the years to the temple. I conferred with Varsani Swami and we conservatively estimate that Radhanath Swami would have taken these steps over a 1000 times, for example, just in case anyone wants to “follow in the footsteps”.

Janardan showed up, shown here in a rare nonmoving moment.

This day filled my heart with joy that the place I worked so hard at and for won’t just rot away, that some folks have understood its importance and there is a realistic hope it can be restored.

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