Motivated by my classroom in the Agriculture Area, in the very late 90’s at North Hollywood High I left the HGM to start the Naturalist Academy (an SSP-funded small learning community for honors-level students focusing on environmental studies). We published a little student journal, The Natural Inquirer, and these were my musings at the time. (I remain drawn to serendipitous juxtapositioning, the ecology of ideas, the connexion of events.)
The Farm Report #1
The harvests are in and the planting continues! Less than a month into the new school year and we have provided one lucky winner (for guessing the weight) a 67 pound giant pumpkin; and others have experienced dozens of huge zucchinis and other squash, tasty tomatoes, and a variety of eggplants, peppers, cucumbers, and other garden treats. Parents, students, teachers, administrators, and other NHHS staff have been introduced to this year’s crop of 100% organic veggies, and thanks to some good-natured Naturalist Academy students, our first batch of product has been delivered to one of the local homeless shelters.
In fact, I have oft wondered at the skills of Ishmael, the cook at the Valley Homeless Shelter on Lankershim. Once upon a time we brought him boxes of radishes. I said, “sorry its nothing but radishes.” He said, “Oh, don’t you worry none, we’ll use ‘em.” And then I began to speculate about the higgledy-piggledy nature of food donations, and what he must concoct out of the random offerings in the shelter’s kitchen. From our miscellany to countless cans of kidney beans and succotash, Ishmael must be a cassarole connoisseur only pregnant women, insomniacs, and the very hungry can appreciate. Suddenly, I seem to be having a craving for peanut butter and pickles…
Which reminds me: You do realize that peanuts are neither peas nor nuts, and pineapples, for that matter, are neither pines nor apples? Things are not what they seem! Compassionate conservative, for example, seems as oxymoronic as military intelligence, especially in the wake of the data harvested by the 9/11 commissions. Reminds one of the Warren Commission and that balderdash about lone gunmen. Of course you remember Earl was governor of California once upon a time. And the now governor Arnold once played a pregnant man, with Danny Devito, who was also in the 1977 (year of my high school graduation) Academy Award winning “One Flew over the Cuckoo’s Nest,” which was based on a novel by Ken Kesey, who, with his merry pranksters, were featured in Tom (not Thomas) Wolfe’s “Electric Kool-Aid Acid Test.” And Tom’s scintillatingly written first novel, “Bonfire of the Vanities” was turned into a mediocre movie with Bruce Willis, another Republican actor who apparently wants to keep that Bush nut in office.
Actually, nuts grow on trees for the most part, and bushes, which usually include most shrubs, do well when they are kept trimmed. (Where’s Edward Scissorhands when we need him? Who was played by Johnny Depp, who was a Pirate of the Caribbean, based on a Disney ride, who own ABC and refused to release Fahrenheit 911.) I say, “give peas a chance!” Actually, we’ll be growing some scarlet runner beans during this late summer season, along with another patch of giant pumpkins, and enough squash for Halliburton to feed all the boys and girls in uniform (as well as the private contractors) in Iraq. Of course it’s hard to get kids to eat their vegetables. Bush the 1st is famous for refusing to eat broccoli, which, along with tomatoes, has been found to be down right (or left) anti-carcinogenic.
So, in conclusion young scholars, eat your veggies, but don’t be a conspicuous consumer.
The Farm Report #2
Corn, Beans, and Squash. Known as the three sisters in Native American agriculture, these three are both companion plants, which grow well together, and they they eat well together, providing a rich variety of nutrients to the non-conspicuous consumer. And we grow all of these in the Ag Area at No Ho Hi, particularly squash! (Calabasa in Spanish, which includes pumpkins, and I’ve already mentioned our giant ones.)
I haven’t mentioned my sister, Nancy (I have only one), who knows a heck of a lot more about organic farming than I, as she is the CSA (Community Supported Agriculture) Coordinator at the the UC Santa Cruz Farm & Garden program (part of the Center for Agroecology and Sustainable Food Systems). My point here is that I recommend to all our Naturalist Academy scholars both her program and UC Santa Cruz – one of the most beautiful college campuses anywhere. Why not be a Banana Slug?
Of course, one doesn’t want to see slugs on one’s corn, beans, squash, n/or bananas. But if you do, don’t kill them, they are sacred as are all Nature’s creatures, including yourselves! Certainly, the patron saint of the City by the Bay (which in fact is quite near UCSC) would concur. On yet another hand however, both my sister and I have been upstaged by our brother who is a doctor, yes, a MD. However, due to these scholastic endeavors he is still burdened by many a college loan (don’t tell him I told you), and at this time of college applications (scholars, get busy!) I think it wise to consider the financial ramifications of your higher education plans.
Be not like the federal government, do not run annual deficits, and do not accumulate ridiculous debt. “I owe, I owe, and off to work I go” – should not be your motto – yo?! Which reminds me of Native Americans, erroneously called “Indians,” but a clear reference to India wherein the venerable religion of Buddhism got its start, and the Four Noble Truths, one of which claims “Desire causes suffering.” Which hearkens further to Socrates, “To have no wants is divine.” So whether you get into college or not, may you have three sisters (of various professions), but want nothing more (and perhaps less).