Archive | September, 2009

Father of the True Green Revolution

18 Sep

Norman Borlaug died at age 95 of cancer complications this past weekend.

He was the living scientist I most admired.

From a WSJ article:

“Norman Borlaug arguably the greatest American of the 20th century died late Saturday after 95 richly accomplished years. The very personification of human goodness, Borlaug saved more lives than anyone who has ever lived. He was America’s Albert Schweitzer: a brilliant man who forsook privilege and riches in order to help the dispossessed of distant lands. That this great man and benefactor to humanity died little-known in his own country speaks volumes about the superficiality of modern American culture.”

Due to Borlaug, my 70’s undergraduate classes in international agriculture were full of hope on the one hand, because his pioneering research in plant breeding led to underdeveloped nations being able to feed their growing populations instead of suffering mass starvation,  and cynicism on the other, since shorter plant stems and use of chemical inputs brought their own problems.

But as he is quoted in the WSJ: “Trendy environmentalism was catching on, and affluent environmentalists began to say it was “inappropriate” for Africans to have tractors or use modern farming techniques. Borlaug told me a decade ago that most Western environmentalists “have never experienced the physical sensation of hunger. They do their lobbying from comfortable office suites in Washington or Brussels. If they lived just one month amid the misery of the developing world, as I have for 50 years, they’d be crying out for tractors and fertilizer and irrigation canals and be outraged that fashionable elitists in wealthy nations were trying to deny them these things.”

In July he had written an editorial to the Wall Street Journal.  An excerpt:

“Even here at home, some elements of popular culture romanticize older, inefficient production methods and shun fertilizers and pesticides, arguing that the U.S. should revert to producing only local organic food. People should be able to purchase organic food if they have the will and financial means to do so, but not at the expense of the world’s hungry—25,000 of whom die each day from malnutrition.”

The WSJ obituary and  this article are best at describing who the man was.

Norman Borlaug on Why Famines still exist.  Hint: it is not because there is too little food.

I Don’t Think So

15 Sep

The girl tells me Bouncer is actually resting and comfortable in this position.


A Real Circus

15 Sep

Saturday evening, thanks to a Very Generous Friend, three of us went to see Cirque du Soleil’s Alegria in Syracuse.  What an enjoyable, eye-opening, entertaining experience!

It was my first circus.  The sheer masterful physicality and incredibly complex technical aspects were more intriguing and as beautiful as the  fascinating costuming and music.  Colors, textures,  light and shadow,  layers upon layers of movement and sound.

Gymnasts, singers, musicians, contortionists, fire spinners, trapeze artists, silly skits, graceful, beautiful bungee cord and metal hoop dancing, a blizzard of paper snow.

I bought the Alegria DVD to share with family and friends.  It was filmed in Sydney, Australia a few years ago in a very large space packed with people.  We have watched 30 minutes of it so far.

Truthfully, what we saw and experienced Saturday was as good as and in most ways better than what is on record.  It seems to me that this show has been allowed to change and morph and develop as time and people have changed and moved.   Here is a review from the Albany show.  Alegria has been performing for 25 years!

The performers were obviously so pleased to be performing, so happy to be in front of an appreciative audience.  They were young, in their first physical flush, and proud that they could amaze and entertain and be paid to do what they enjoyed.  They were also mostly not from this country, so one wonders about available opportunities and freedoms here versus where they are from.

I wonder if Cirque du Soleil is the place snapping up new circus-type talent in the world today?

The set was huge, and complex.  Safety was in the forefront: I think one kind of clown (ridiculously costumed and masked persons wearing lots of extra padding to make them look fat and old) served the same function as clowns in a rodeo: they were there to ensure and help with safety.  The skills exhibited were near Olympian level.

To think everything gets broken down, packed up and moved to a new city on an almost weekly basis!  Feeding everyone, washing costumes, hauling it all, practicing in between times, what an undertaking.


12 Sep

Late blight has hit this area pretty hard.  Thanks to Sue’s heads-up, Jay cut off diseased leaves and sprayed our tomatoes several times before it showed up in force here, which enabled some of the fruit to ripen.  I have canned two loads (seven quarts per load) of Sungolds, taken large bowls of them to several gatherings, eaten many out of hand and as salad, given quite a few away, and this morning Isabelle picked the last from the  eastern plants before Jay cut them down to dispose of.

I picked all the red tomatoes fit to eat yesterday before the rain.  We got half an inch overnight.  They amounted to about 3/4 of a bushel.  Most years I get at least eight bushels.  Also picked most of the Sungolds, about 1.5 gallon’s worth.

This morning the less than perfect red tomatoes and Sungolds went either into  Suzanne’s Meju Maja to produce five quarts of tomato broth and a half gallon or so of sauce with herbs or into a double batch of tomato soup concentrate with onion, garlic and herbs to freeze.  It will be frozen in to use as Sunday meals during the winter.  Salt and chicken broth or half and half are added when used.

Thanks to my mother, we are not dependent upon just this year’s harvest for out tomato needs.  She has built up quite a canning backlog over the years which we are helping eat through.

Isabelle will have a nice bowl full to take to a meeting tonight.



11 Sep

And the first cyclamen:


Birds of Different Feathers

9 Sep

Yesterday  morning early Jay and Daren went goose hunting.  There is an early season here intended to knock down the resident Canada Goose population.  If you can find them on legally huntable land.   They are in lots of research fields, but…

Anyway, Jay came home with one goose and stories involving misses, misfires and double pumps to explain why he had only one and Daren had none.  But one goose is good, much better than no goose at all.

Jay has been listening to me and actually encouraged Hawthorne’s interest in the goose as he has hopes we might be able to train him to retrieve downed birds.  Jay kept a wing and the head and neck with a small cape for H. to play with.  The dog is in heaven when we bring them out.  Today he actually was carrying it around and flinging it.  Good dog. He might figure out what to do.

Then this morning I got a call from Sue’s husband; another chicken had just been hit in the road.  (Jay and I had prepared a lovely rooster for her after it insisted on being hit–I got feathers, she got the meat).  I drove up and retrieved a light-colored banty hen.  Hawthorne was very interested in the whole dry plucking, gutting procedure.  He also got trimmings and a foot to carry around for awhile.

We had some excitement when I decided it was too breezy to singe the fine hair feathers off the carcass outside and for some now inexplicable reason filled the bottom third of my white enamel sink with crumpled Wall Street Journal pages and lit them.

Newspapers burn high, hot and fast. It was a conflagration, though small and contained.  We opened windows and doors, and turned on the oven fan.  I think Isabelle will stay away from matches for awhile.  But the bird was singed really well.

So yesterday I had goose liver and heart for lunch and today chicken liver and heart.  Fried in butter, eaten with bread and butter pickle slices.  Yum.

And tonight: chicken cacciatore .

The Bass of His Dreams

7 Sep

Jay went fishing this morning.  He came home and in the house with some groceries,  a big smile, and the faint smell of fish.

Behold the behemoth: 20 inches and five pounds of large-mouth bass.

giantThe shirt says “Buscad primero el reino de Dios y su justicia”.

Seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness.

Jay said he has never before caught a 20-incher.


That bass was almost as big as Hawthorne’s head!


Jay did catch other fish, but would not allow them to be photographed.

Hawthorne looked at them.


Only Pounce is unimpressed.

unimpressed “I am a cat, and therefore unimpressed”.

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