Thursday, July 28, 2011

Fried green (and red) tomatoes

I’ve had the first ripe tomatoes this week from what passes for a garden, small and stressed by heat (both tomatoes and garden). The first locally-grown sweet corn showed up this week, too, at HyVee and from private vendors. So mid-summer’s upon us in this troublesome year.

The corn’s late --- last week’s “fresh” sweet corn had been imported from Florida. It tasted good but seemed odd, in Iowa, in mid-July.

Although my tomato plants look ok, so far, the peppers look just plain scorched. I don’t water the garden, as a rule --- it’s not cost-effective. So everything out there is on its own.

But I do feel a little guilt shopping the farmer’s market or the HyVee produce aisle. Grandpa Miller continued to garden on a farm-family scale after building a house just southeast of here and moving into town in his 80s. And he preserved and canned --- in quart and half-gallon jars, never in pints.

When I think about that I think about plowing up more of the back 40 and planting a full-scale garden --- briefly.


One of the news stories this week has involved a new round of cuts proposed by the cash-strapped U.S. Postal Service --- 3,700 “low-activity” post offices nationwide, about 12 percent of the total.

That could affect 178 Iowa post offices, including two in Lucas County --- Derby and Williamson. Wayne County post offices considered for closure include those in Lineville and Promise City. Other familiar post offices now in danger include those in Melrose (Monroe County), Woodburn (Clarke County) and, in Appanoose County, Cincinnati, Exline, Mystic and Plano.

It’s sad, but hard to justify the existence of most. In Derby and Williamson, the post offices are among the few remains of what once were business districts --- the Williamson café/bar’s still there; nothing’s still there in Derby. Derby once was a thriving farm center; Williamson, a thriving mining town.

My mother, who grew up on a farm northeast of Williamson, used to talk about the summer routine there that involved going door to door in Williamson selling fresh produce during summers in the late 1920s and early 1930s --- before the mines closed and may of the houses were moved away --- to help make ends meet.

That was torture for shy farm kids --- and there were language barriers as well, since many of the mining families were first-generation immigrants and some of the women at home during the day were not accustomed to speaking English.

I wonder how many folks drive through or pass by Williamson nowadays with no idea of or interest in why it’s there.


And in Washington, the budget train continues full-throttle toward a washout while the crew squabbles in the caboose. It’s fascinating in a horrifying kind of way as more attention is devoted to who will be blamed for the wreck than to working together to avert it.

I’m going to go sweep out the barn this morning, getting ready for tonight’s ice cream social. Such things clear the head.

Maybe if we moved the Capitol’a janitorial staff into the House and Senate chambers for a while and let those guys and gals work on the budget while senators and representatives clean the toilets we’d get something accomplished.

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