Saturday, October 29, 2011

At Shepherd's Farm in Carpinteria

FARM NEWS, Halloween Edition

By Fred Owens

I toured Shepherd's Farm in Carpinteria this week. They grow 40 acres of organic vegetables and have been doing that since 1973. It is a beautiful and tidy farm, well-managed. They sell vegetables at six farmers markets and provide more than 150 CSA boxes each week to customers in nearby Santa Barbara. They also wholesale to local restaurants.

I tasted Shepherd's strawberries. I picked them right in the field -- quite tasty and just sweet enough. They grow the strawberries through a white plastic sheet for weed control. These were first year plants, just set out this summer, and it was a pretty little patch of fruit.

I spoke with Antonio and Mark, two Hispanic gentlemen, brothers, who have worked for Shepherd for twenty years. It's good to have steady hands like that. I also spoke with Ricky and Josh, two interns who had been working there for several months -- they are part of the WOOF program.

And Kjessie, the farm manager, who keeps the ducks not lined up in a row, but quacking to the same tune.

A lot of Happy Campers are working at Shepherd's Farm. And last I met old Tom Shepherd himself. I asked him did you ever grow too much of something and then you can't sell it? He said, yes, that happens.

We had that happen at Love House Dahlias this year. We grew more sweet peas than we could sell, and then we grew more dahlias than we could sell.

This is so typical of American agriculture -- farmers are much better at growing than selling.

Autumn Comes. It's getting cold in the morning these days. I use the space heater for a bit. Pretty soon I'll be using the propane furnace. I live in a spacious motor home. The propane furnace really cranks out some good heat on a frosty morning. I was warm here all last winter. But I don't use the hot water heater -- it's too wasteful. Why would I heat up 10 gallons of water in the morning? It's better to go over to the big house and take a shower there. And then I only have a few dishes to wash, so I heat up some water on the stove for that chore.

I set out more winter vegetables this week -- red and green cabbage, cauliflower, broccoli, romaine lettuce. We started all that from seed, but yesterday I bought a six pack of white snapdragons and a six pack of stock -- got them at Flora Gardens in Ojai as a treat, and I will plant them today.

We have two new dogs on the premises -- I want to be careful about what I say -- they bark a lot. Yesterday I was out weed-eating the aisles between all the raised beds -- there's about 75 raised beds here -- so this takes a while. And the dogs kept barking while I worked. They will just have to get used to the sound of the weedeater -- I hope. But I was muttering dog-threats under my breath.

Jobs and Steve Jobs.
Steve Jobs eliminated thousands of jobs. His computers launched the era of desktop publishing and self-publishing, which has resulted in the loss of thousands of editorial, typographic, and graphic design positions.

I think the greatest loss is the editorial positions. The editors were the grown ups, the ones who said let's stop and think about this. Now anybody can say anything to everybody else. It's all freedom and no discipline. It's self-esteem with no self-restraint.

Under the old scheme, we had the writer/journalist -- he was a teenager, rambunctious and idealistic, but a bit out of control. The editor was the grownup, the adult.

And the publisher --- this is key to the understanding -- the publisher was infantile. One can function at a very high level and still be motivated by the infantile ego. Me! Me! Me! That's the theme of Citizen Kane -- he with the monstrous, infantile ego. And this was not a bad thing -- that driving force -- as long as you had that editorial control to keep the train on the rails.

But now, in the era of self-publishing, we have become increasingly infantile. We can mess our pants and no one can judge us for doing that. No one will clean it up either.

Steve Jobs and Being a Father. Steve Jobs, who accomplished so much and changed our lives, said, in his biography, that he wished he had been a better father to his children. I agree with that. If he had been a devoted father and in doing so not created any of the fabulous Apple computers, then the world would have been a better place. Being a good father is the best way to change the world.

Income Inequality. Severe income inequality has often resulted in social upheaval. That's an historic pattern, not an opinion. Just ask Marie Antoinette. Conservatives argue that income inequality is a good thing or at least harmless and that we should not indulge in resentment against our wealthiest citizens. But the pattern persists. Just ask the Czar -- oh they don't have a czar in Russia anymore. He was overthrown. It should never have come to such violence. And the Russian people made an even worse choice after getting rid of the Czar.

But we can do better than that. In America, the great industrial age of the late 19th century led to the fabulous wealth of the Vanderbilts and the Rockefellers. But we did not give in to a violent revolution against the upper class. Instead, we introduced progressive regulation, such as the income tax -- which prevented "class warfare." As did FDR's New Deal, which saved capitalism.

So, to repeat, resentment against wealth is human nature. We should not envy those who have so much more than we do, but we are not angels, we are Democrats.

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Fred Owens
cell: 360-739-0214

My blog is Fred Owens

send mail to:

Fred Owens
7922 Santa Ana Rd
Ventura CA 93001

Saturday, October 15, 2011

bums on blankets

We have Occupy Ventura starting today. It will take place in the Mission Park, across the way from San Buenaventura Mission, founded in 1792. This old plaza is very mellow, a fountain, ceramic tiles, bums on blankets -- why do we insist on calling them homeless? That term is too generic. We have unemployed people, mentally ill people, drug-addicted people, drunkards, life-stylers and wannabes, plus plain old criminals. And bums, especially beach bums, a Southern California specialty.

But they all go by the moniker of "homeless" and they all do the stupid pit bull and over-loaded shopping cart thing. There is a samelessness to this group, and a lack of aesthetic appeal. If circumstance or choice put me back on the street, I would be a lot more creative and inventive. This may sound trivial, but I think not.

I think they are called "homeless" because they are a living metaphor of society as a whole. They are the visible sign of our collective homelessness and our collective business.

Laura Wood would say, and I agree, that when the home-makers quit making homes and got jobs, that was when homelessness began. She would say that women are the home-makers and men are not.

I felt differently. When women wanted to go to work, I felt that an equal amount of men should or might want to stay at home and be a kind of masculine home-maker in place of the woman. This is what I did, and I have been the object of abuse and shame ever since, from men and women alike who applaud the careerist and mock the home-maker.

But the result can be seen in the mission park -- homeless people, bums on blankets.

Friday, October 14, 2011

Tomatoes and Sagging Gates -- part 2


By Fred Owens
Georgie started the turnips in the greenhouse before going back to England in mid-September. Last week I took them out in flats when they were about four-inches tall and planted two 30-foot rows.

I put them in the new raised bed that Michael had constructed this summer. He had but good wire mesh underneath to keep the gophers out, then he replaced the topsoil and added a three-inch layer of sifted leaf mulch -- it looked like a work of art after he was finished.

It also seemed like the perfect place to plant the turnips for a winter garden, because it was in such a sunny place.

So I took out the flat of four-inch turnips to plant, but I was concerned about the heat. I figured that transplanting in the heat would put them in a swoon. So, after I got them in the ground, I put a very taut piece of twine between the two poles at each of the turnip bed, and then I flung a 30 by 20 foot piece of shade cloth over the plants, figuring to leave it there until the turnips got adjusted to their new home.

That was five days ago -- and the turnips are doing just fine.

Now I have two flats of red and green cabbage to plant in Row E, near the fence. This is a problem because about a dozen ground squirrels live on the other side of the fence and they love to chew on little cabbage plants. This summer I planted a whole bed of zinnias in Row E and the ground squirrels ate them all.

So I need a plan. I might have enough black plastic netting to cover one or two rows of cabbage plants. This might work, so I will plant a small patch and then wait. If it keeps off the ground squirrels, then I will plant the rest of the cabbages in two or three weeks.

Next I will plant more onions. The ground squirrels don't bother with the onions, so I will just put them in the ground and walk away. I have been doing well with onions this summer, so I'm feeling good about this.

The Possum Tragedy. We are not at war with critters on this farm, we salute all life, and so, not being overly fond of possums, we were still roundly dismayed at a recent tragedy.

Out on the tennis court -- it used to be a tennis court before we turned this place back into a farm -- we store old pots and garbage cans and what-not. One old garbage can had a bunch of culled dahlia tubers in the bottom. Two possums climbed into the garbage can to eat the tubers.

They ate and they ate and then it rained and rained, and pretty soon the garbage can began to fill with water, and you would think that a possum, being smart enough to climb into a garbage can, would be smart enough to get out.

But no, they drowned. We discovered that the next day. I don't know why this made me sad, but I started to think about all the critters around here, great and small, the cute ones and the predators and the pests -- there is a lot of death around here.

I solemnly buried the two possums next to the tennis court and I am constructing a small garden and shrine in their honor. I'm calling it the Tomb of the Unknown Critter. This is a shady spot, so I hope to plant Astilbe, Bleeding Heart and a variety of ferns -- Currently we don't have a budget for buying decorative plants, but someday the shrine will blossom for the possums.

Success with Tomatoes. I grew Brandywine tomatoes from seed this year. Heirloom and organic, low-acid and not too sweet. You can just eat them. I'm trying to eat as many as I can.

Success with Carrots. I have overcome a mental block about growing carrots. You know that feeling, which is "I can't grow carrots. The little seeds are too tiny to plant, and if they come up, they are too thick and I can't thin them out, so I can't grow carrots."

But I gave myself a calm determination to overcome this obstacle and I got the carrots the grow this year.

Sagging Gates. This could happen on any farm. The wood gets soft on the gate post and the screws don't hold and the hinge kind of works its way loose and pretty soon the gate is scraping the ground when you open it. Then you check the gate post itself and it kind of wobbles. We arrived at this problem over at my brother's house. But he said he didn't use that gate very often, and then I said "Well, then we don't have to fix it just yet."

Politics. I don't have much to say. I was going to occupy Wall Street or Los Angeles or something -- I have vast experience in this area. I have slept on the sidewalk a hundred times in a dozen cities. I have dealt with the police. When you live on the street you have to get straight with the police every day. Here's a few things you need to know about "street work."

1. Never scare the police. Never do anything that frightens them, because they will strike back with power. This is what the wise old hobo taught me. He said, "Don't worry about being afraid of the cops, worry about them being afraid of you."
He said, "Never put your hand in your pockets when you're talking to a cop -- they might think you're armed."

2. Cops don't care a fig for political issues one way or the other. With a cop, it's all about turf. If you're on the street, on a certain block in a certain town, then you are on his turf, his beat, and that's all he cares about. He may or may not defend that turf ferociously. You may or may not refuse to move. But don't ever waste your time arguing the issues with a cop -- they don't care. But they do care intensely about the square footage of sidewalk under your feet.

3. Sanitation is not a phony issue. When one or two hundred people camp in a certain spot for over a month, things can get very funky -- believe me, I have seen this many times. You might need to go home for a day to wash your socks and take a shower. I think it would be a good idea to power wash that park in Manhattan -- not as a reason to get rid of the demonstrators, but simply because of basic hygiene.

So, instead of occupying Los Angeles, I went with Laurie to a two-day music festival in a campground next to Joshua Tree National Park. The weather was perfect and the music was wonderful. We had a really good time.

California Will Rise. A while back I wrote a California Booster Essay, about how this great state has wonderful opportunities for personal and financial gain. It was an optimistic statement, and not just a feeling, but grounded in reality. California will grow in a good way. Of course nobody believes that. Public opinion is almost unanimous in declaring that this place is going right down the toilet. All is lost. We are doomed to a squalid future. The California Dream has turned into a nightmare. That's what everybody says -- except me.

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Frog Hospital and Farm News Subscriptions. If you find this newsletter worthwhile, send a check for $25, made out to Fred Owens and mail it to Fred Owens, 7922 Santa Ana RD, Ventura CA, 93001.

Or Use PayPal. Go to the Frog Hospital blog and use the PayPal button.

Fred Owens
cell: 360-739-0214

My blog is Fred Owens

send mail to:

Fred Owens
7922 Santa Ana Rd
Ventura CA 93001