Ministry of Controversy

The Week That Was

Langemigrantmother02_3 It was perfect weather for gardening in Saratoga Springs this week–cool and sunny–perfect weather for getting the pinks away from the burgundies and the talls away from the smalls. Except that it was no time to be thinking about gardening.

It was time for reading the business news obsessively, every hour watching for breaking news and mulling over the really pressing questions:

1. What is happening when countries all over the world have been privatizing state-run enterprises right and left in recent decades, yet our government has just bought 80% of property-casualty insurer A.I.G.? Remind me quick, where are we living and under what political system?

2. Is Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson the Leader of the Free World? Because our president has been peculiarly absent while the financial system as I understood it collapsed in the last two weeks. Henry Paulson, the same person who as late as July of 2007 was fatuously proclaiming this the best global economy he’d seen in his lifetime.

3. Are our granite countertops and fancy backyard grills really to blame for this global financial panic? Is the world falling apart because we foolhardy Americans borrowed too much in some fantasy of what hearth and home should be like? Should we blame the entire debacle on HGTV? Or is it that financial firms all over the world have largely subsisted in recent years on selling air to each other–and each taking their bit in terms of fees?

4. What about that other completely unexpected twist on world events, the return of evangelical conservatives to the political stage in the eerily attractive form of Sarah Palin?

5. And what does this all mean for the gardeners? Will we all be turning into backyard farmers out of dire necessity in extremely short order?

All I can say is that as investors flee to safety and our retirement accounts crash into nothingness and we all lose our jobs and vote for one of two seemingly idea-free presidential candidates–it’s important to remember that there is no market, anywhere on earth, that delivers the returns of a vegetable garden.

A packet of organic seed of my favorite pole beans, Blue Coco, costs $1.20 at Fedco. I devote two sides of an arch to said beans–two patches two feet long and one foot wide. I expend exactly as much forefinger labor as is necessary to push about two dozen beans into an inch of soil. In return, I harvest about $30 worth of beans a week, every week for at least eight weeks. That’s a 20,000 percent return in a few short months. No hedge fund ever delivered anything like it.

Or is the vegetable garden overheated and showing signs of becoming the next great bubble?

Posted by on September 19, 2008 at 4:43 am, in the category Ministry of Controversy.
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15 responses to “The Week That Was”

  1. We are a nation of borrowers and largely consumers only, not producers now and yes Wall Street’s buying and selling of air, those abstract positions, futures and weird financial bonds would be called a pyramid scheme in the real world.

    What system do we live in? One of privatized profit and socialized liabilty. Remember the Keating Five? Who was in the middle of that?

    I have been following the advice of a well spoken vegetable analyst and planted potatoes late in the season, the first of August or so, beets, turnips, radish, lettuce and cabbage relatives for a fall garden.

  2. Michele Owens says:

    Christopher C, you are SET, no matter what befalls the nation.

  3. I think my garden bubble has burst! We are well into our 6th week of drought, with no signs of rain for at least another week.

  4. Heather says:

    As Thoreau says, men have become the tools of their tools.
    I have to say, though, between your blog (which I love) and this economy, I have been inspired to replace my front lawn with perennials (my neighbors are starting to do the same) and start a sweet veggie garden in the back yard.
    I hope I don’t get lumped in with the Sarah Palins of the world, though, if I say that I too am a conservative Christian. Conservative in that I don’t spend more than I earn, I take the Bible seriously when it says feed the poor and love your enemies, and I think that when you mix religion and politics, politics usually win.

  5. arythrina says:

    Heather – I think you explicate a beautiful form of conservative christianity. I only wish more people would join you and get away from the artificial culture wars that have unnecessarily split this country.

  6. Michele Owens says:

    Beautifully expressed, Heather. I wish John McCain had picked you as his running mate.

  7. Tomato Lady says:

    I am writing down the name of that bean. Beats a hot stock tip any day of the week.

  8. Lisa Albert says:

    “…when you mix religion and politics, politics usually win.”

    Well said! And it mirrors what I read about a woman – a remarkable, admirable Muslim woman in Iran – who said she did not want her faith dragged through the mud of politics. I felt instant kinship, despite our different faiths.

    As for the financial mess, if those fools in government (and that includes McCaine and campaign adviser Phil Gramm of the Gramm-Leach-Bliley Act infamy) hadn’t worked to eliminate government regulations that kept the greed in check on Wall Street, we wouldn’t need to be doing a tax-payer bail-out.

    But back to gardening. I’ve dreamed up a way to incorporate raised edible beds in my deck. I think I’ll wait until dear hubby has finished with his current honey-do chore before springing this new one on him.

  9. Diana says:

    And here I thought the whole thing was My Fault – no granite countertop. The world economy seems to be predicated on the over-spending of Americans. New patio, anyone?

    If we have to live on what we can grow, I’ll finally manage to be rail thin.

  10. Rosella says:

    Blue Coco, eh. On my list for next year! I have had good luck with Emerite, a French-type pole bean, but I think I will change next year to Coco!

    A friend just called me — all upset because her two-year-old computer isn’t working properly, and the repair person told her to toss it and buy a new notebook which would “only cost $400 to $500” How did that “only” get in there? And when did we decide that a two-year-old piece of high tech whatever isn’t repairable?

    Back to the garden — I have just spent the afternoon making moussaka from the eggplant and tomatoes from the garden. I freeze it in plastic bags and resurrect it in the winter, making the lovely cheese-y topping then, and re-live summer.

  11. Carolyn says:

    The folks who contribute to this blog are terrific.

  12. TC says:

    1) I thought it was American democracy. But I’m a jilted gardener/voter.
    2) Yes, because he’s related to Pat Paulson, who ran for president in 1968 (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jMoqFxhoJG8)
    3) Partly, yes. I admit to becoming greatly attached to my credit card because paper money became scarce.
    4) Ms. Sarah practices Pentecostalism and speaking in unknown tongues is a common form of communication most other politicians utilize from time to time.
    5) Possibly, and if so, we can all get free money by subsidizing our land in the CRP!

    Personally, I don’t our country can be saved from economic disaster by a New Gardening movement.

    Keeping things in perspective, your soil is probably much more fertile than mine.

  13. TC says:

    1) I thought it was American democracy. But I’m a jilted gardener/voter.

    2) Yes, because he’s related to Pat Paulson, who ran for president in 1968 (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jMoqFxhoJG8).

    3) Partly, yes. I admit to becoming greatly attached to my credit card because paper money became scarce.

    4) Ms. Sarah practices Pentecostalism and speaking in unknown tongues is a common form of communication most other politicians utilize from time to time.

    5) Possibly, and if so, we can all get free money by subsidizing our land in the CRP!

    Personally, I don’t think our country can be saved from economic disaster by a New Gardening movement.

    Keeping things in perspective, your soil is probably much more fertile than mine.

  14. Kim says:

    While I’ve enjoyed most of the comments here, I can’t address any but the last question. All I know is that one 15 year old boy (not mine) is in awe because we can walk outside and pick something he thinks is expensive and doesn’t see much of (even though his family drives Volvos, BMWs and Escalades and is obviously far more wealthy than mine with VERY different priorities) and have it for a snack on the walk around the yard. I’m talking about red and gold raspberries by the handful, something he doesn’t get much of unless we offer some of ours to him. I’m just hoping that awe takes root down the road and maybe, just maybe, that 15 year old grown up a little bit will plant a food crop or two. And for the record, we live in one of those groomed subdivisions, ours just isn’t as well groomed as some. We have a half acre – mostly in backyard thanks to our cul-de-sac location – most of which is in shade. Raspberries produce pretty well even in half shade. This is their first year, and we’re getting quite a few. I can’t wait for next year for more berries and an opportunity to take out more grass and plant more food. Not because I have to (yet) but because I CAN. And because, as we all know, what we harvest from our own yards is far, far superior to what we can get anywhere else.

  15. Benjamin says:

    Let’s bring change to the country and to gardeners. Change in the nurseries. Change in the landscape. Change in the bank accounts. Change me, oh lord oh lord yes, look at us changing yet, eerily, changeless. Indeed, neither candidate inspires. Can you imagine if our politicians had to sit down and write, say, a Declaration of Independence? It wouldn’t happen, would it. Where are all the Americans at in Washington? Where are all the great forward thinking patriots?

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