By LYNNE IRONS
What an absolutely glorious first day of spring. I ran around like a crazy person trying to do everything. I had that false sense of hope and wanted to plant all the summer crops. Luckily, pure human frailty kept me within reasonable bounds. In the evening my granddaughter, Violet, and I took a leisurely drive up-Island, stopping to listen to the cacophony of pinkletinks. We called them spring peepers when I was growing up in Pennsylvania. Once, when she was younger, perhaps three years old, I told her about the tiny singing frogs and tried to get her out of the truck to hear them better; she remarked, “No, Mame, it’s too disturbing.” It still cracks me up. I suppose it is similar to the idea of crickets making sound by rubbing their legs together. I can imagine the uninformed remarking, “How big is a cricket, anyway?”
Our final destination that evening was the old Aquinnah town hall, where we joined a lively crowd for the Flying Elbows square dance to benefit the Community Baptist Church of Gay Head. A good time was had by all. Violet and I talked about square dancing in relation to farming and how the dancing is often held in barns after a long day of community labor.
Speaking of Violet, her end-of-first-grade project was a family traditions presentation. She presented our St. Patrick’s Day activity of planting a few potatoes. I had no idea she had been paying attention to my ramblings on the subject. So, true to form, we planted last week. We placed some of our old stored ones directly on the ground and covered them with spoiled hay. It took less than a half-hour. I am a bit hesitant this year, what with all the brouhaha about the blight. I used an area far away from my garden where I will not plant either potatoes or tomatoes again. It is an experiment which hopefully will result in a few meals.
My hellebores are in full bloom. How appropriate. They are also called Lenten rose. There is a purple one to the left of the steps at the Baptist Church in Vineyard Haven. They do require the admirer to bend down to turn the blossom upwards to fully appreciate its beauty!
Homegrown met last Sunday afternoon at the Agricultural Hall. We talked about the importance of taking charge of a portion of our own food security. Also, given the soil temperature at this time, it is fine to plant lettuce, beets, carrots, radishes, turnips, cabbages or any crops which say on the seed package “plant as early as the soil can be worked.” They only need soil temperatures in the 40s.
We also talked about the benefits of perennial vegetables such as asparagus, rhubarb, sorrel and, of course, herbs.
There was seed and plant swapping which everyone enjoyed. Both Cathy Walthers and Fala Freeman brought bags of fresh-picked watercress to share. I went home and promptly had a wonderful watercress salad!
The next meeting of Homegrown is April 19, from 4 to 6 p.m. at the Agricultural Hall.
In 1980, the Supreme Court made a decision which has affected many farmers. They decided that year that a patent could be taken on life. For example, the huge Monsanto company can own their genetically-modified seeds forever. If some blows over to your field from a neighbor’s, the seed giant can make you pay. They have been upheld in court for this very scenario. Recently, hundreds of Iowa farmers met with Department of Justice officials to begin some investigations about antitrust policies. Monsanto is in control of 90 per cent of the seed market for big agriculture. Their biggest seller is the Roundup Ready gene that has been inserted into soybeans and corn, our two biggest food crops for both humans and livestock. Just so you understand, this genetic modification allows the crop to take huge doses of the weed-killer Roundup and not die itself. Please remember, Roundup is a chemical descendant of Agent Orange, and we know how well that worked out for our Vietnam veterans. One of its side effects is causing or enhancing diabetes. Need I go on? Get those cards and letters out to your congressional representatives. I recently called Senator Scott Brown again to remind him of his yes vote for Massachusetts health care reform under Mitt Romney. I may have mentioned that he won because people weren’t fond of Martha Coakley, not because we wanted a Tea Partier in Teddy’s seat!