Aug 072011

A table full of fresh veggies from Tonopah Rob's Vegetable Farm in Tonopah, Arizona

Take a good look at these locally grown fruits and veggies, they may soon be one of the last looks you’ll be able to take – outside of marketing materials that will recall a different age. Unless you are into that old fashioned stuff.

Don’t believe me? Consider this: as recently as 1955 a majority of households had a woman or girl who could sew. Back then, 63% of women and girls knew how to sew, many still knew how to darn socks, spin fiber into yarn, quilt, and weave. By 2006, only 22% of American women and girls knew how to sew. Now I don’t mean to imply this is necessarily a negative, but the fact is, a family is less independent when they are dependent upon larger systems where the local skills for taking care of one’s self are long gone. Us humans have a very long history of making textiles, around 20,000 years worth according to some evidence.

Farming is in a similar situation, 140 years ago between 70 and 80 percent of our population was employed in agriculture. Today only 2 to 3 percent of the population is employed in agriculture and less than 1 percent of the population claim farming as an occupation. Point being, individuals are now far removed from growing their own food. True, they have greater access to a wider variety of foods, but they are dependent upon the viability of industrial farms, the price of fuel to distribute food across great distances, and if the corporate model decides that a type of produce is no longer a worthy seller, it can simply disappear those items. The good thing is that we no longer have to toil in the back breaking labor of working the earth. Then again, we don’t know how anymore either.

This brings me to today’s thought. A couple of hundred years ago, people would not have believed that within a relatively short number of generations, humans in Kansas  would be buying fresh kiwis that were flown in from New Zealand. A hundred years ago, I doubt many people would have accepted that the majority of their clothes should be disposable, made in India or China, and would wear out in a year with nobody complaining. Modernization has taken much of the drudgery and responsibility for the mundane out of our lives.

The next step is to remove cooking from our lives. Why do we need to cook our own meals? Wouldn’t life be yet another degree better if we could get rid of food that might spoil, be contaminated with e-coli or salmonella, or require all the time of buying cookbooks, finding ingredients, preparing lengthy recipes, with all of the uncertainty of not knowing if our preparation is as good as the chow mein we had in New York City?

So here’s the next big internet idea, the next Amazon, or NetFlix. We’ll call our company, International Frozen Food Incorporated – IFFI for short. Our line of frozen meals will feature recipes from around the globe, made in kitchens from Mumbai to Hong Kong, from Senegal to the Philippines. The customers set their likes and dislikes in a preference file, choose if they are vegetarian, vegan, lactose intolerant, non pork eater, ground nut allergic, reduced calorie, diabetic, etc. Then they choose what country’s meals they want to try and as with Netflix, they build a queue of ethnic delights they want to sample and in what order. As with Amazon, meals will feature reviews and ratings. Every week, a new box arrives with the post containing your frozen meals for the week.

Just imagine, IFFI Dim Sum or maybe you’d prefer our IFFI Fish from Malaysia, and what could be better than IFFI Jambalaya direct from New Orleans? Every meal is standardized with a caloric count related to your weight, height, and age. Prices are $3.99 per meal – across the globe!

Some people reading this might think, Wow, sounds great. Personally, I don’t think this sounds like a great idea. We humans are more and more dependent upon monolithic corporate structures that take care of most of our needs in exchange for our brand loyalty. We in-turn give up our independence. We have become helpless and would prove useless to ourselves if we needed to grow our own food, make our own clothes, or find clean water. Soon, we will no longer know how to cook for ourselves as we won’t need to.

And what do we get for our reliance on forces and services outside of ourselves? More time to toil at work, play video games, watch TV, and shop as we entertain ourselves to death within the climate controlled walls of a safe place. Do we really no longer need reality?

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Jul 062011

Solitude by Joe Fenton, signed copy #2 of 100 now rests on our wall

The print on the wall behind Caroline is titled, Solitude, it is from artist Joe Fenton. A couple of weeks prior on a Saturday afternoon, an email from Joe popped into my mailbox. He was notifying everyone who joined his mailing list that his webshop was now open and that Solitude was one of the first prints that was available. I ordered within 10 minutes of his email arriving and for my speed, we had signed print number 2 of 100 sent to us.

This has been the year that Caroline and I have purchased more art than in the previous 10 combined. My apologies for the reflection, the folks who framed Solitude tried talking us into using museum grade glass, but if you have ever priced a large 60" x 31" custom frame with non-reflective museum glass, you’d know that the costs can be heavy. If you ever want to see a tiny corner inside the heads of Caroline and I, look at Solitude and you will see part of what makes us fall into delight.

Jun 302011

Trusty red watering can broke its handle, fell to the ground and exploded

I still can’t believe this and Caroline may never recover from her shock – we may sue someone. With our favorite little red watering can full to the brim with plant-nourishing water, Caroline as on so many other days for the previous 10+ years, went out to water her plants. Today though, would not be the familiar routine we had grown accustomed to. The handle broke right off with the bucket, still full of good clean American water we paid for, falling to the ground and exploding with a loud crash. I raced to the front balcony to witness the look of distress on my wife’s face and a red lonely handle still in her grip. She may have been crying, although it could also have been some of the splashing water from the ripped-open now-dead watering can.

You can imagine our anger that this cheap Chinese-made water bucket only lasted a year or so more than a decade. I am certain had we been able to buy a good old American made plastic bucket, it could have lasted 50 years because our plastic is superior to that foreign stuff. American plastic is only made with oil drilled in Texas because it is big and tough, like gristle from an old cow. We decided not to sue this time, but if this $5.99 plastic water bucket we replaced our beloved bucket with doesn’t last at least 20 years, there’ll be hell to pay in China.

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Jun 182011

Caroline Wise and her 8 feet of hand woven towels - her first ever.

Last year Caroline took possession of a floor loom, a big contraption used for weaving cloth. Back in July, 2010 she was on the verge of making her first sample weave, but with our monumental Grand Canyon trip that put everything else in the backseat. It would be a while before she could return to learning the craft of weaving. Well, here we are in June, 2011 and her first fully completed project is now off the loom. This almost 10 foot length of dish towels are yet to be cut up and washed the first time and already Caroline has taken possession of a more sophisticated tabletop loom. If only it were the 17th century and she had these skills, we’d be making good money with what is now a fading hobby only practiced by a small minority of men and women who are keeping the art alive.

Mar 272011

Jessica Aldridge and Caroline Wise on our balcony where Caroline was teaching Jessica how to dye roving that Jessica would later spin into yarn

Today would be dedicated to Jessica and Caroline spending time together. It started out on our balcony where Caroline taught Jessica how to dye roving using acid dyes that she would later learn how to spin into yarn. Jess had the opportunity to spin on a drop spindle and also on Caroline’s wheel. The next lesson was how to knit. With those two busy in their world of fiber I was free to make one of Jessica’s favorite meals she was first introduced to on a previous visit, I made Pani-Puri. This Indian snack popular on the beaches of Mumbai (Bombay) makes for a great dinner – if you have a full day to prepare everything.