Saturday, April 11, 2009

Bottling day

Last summer's blueberries are now sitting in brown bottles, waiting for June. The blueberries are in communion with nectar collected by bees.

Honey, fruit, water, yeast, and time.

It takes about two million flowers to make a pound of honey. 5 gallons of mead takes about 15 million flowers. A bee makes about 50 to 100 trips each time she wanders away from the hive collecting nectar.

150,000 bees collected nectar and converted it to honey. Millions upon millions of yeast converted the honey to ethanol and carbon dioxide.

My job? Just make sure the honey and the water and the blueberries and the yeast end up together in the same bucket, and once started, keep oxygen out.

Pretty simple, very good.


I got my first quahogs of the season yesterday. A quahog leaves a keyhole in the sand--one siphon in, one siphon out. Last spring I could not tell a quahog hole from a skimmer hole--now I can. Good news for me, not so good news for the quahogs.

I wandered about the flats in Villas looking for a keyhole. I saw hundreds, maybe thousands, of holes left by jackknifes and razor clams, but no keyholes.

I wandered a couple hundred yards from the high tide detritus. Then I saw it. I jammed my hand into the sand, and my fingers recognized the firmness of the quahog. Spring has arrived.

Making mead is simple; eating clams more so. Open, then eat.

One was chowder sized, not much smaller than my fist, and not much younger than me. The other was somewhat younger, maybe 10 years old.

I took them home, put them in the fridge for a couple of hours, then tossed them back in the bay just after sunset. Won't be long before I get a mess of them for dinner.

Pretty simple, very good.


So why do we teach?

Few of my children know what a quahog is, and even fewer care.

I am willing to bet Bill Gates never dug up a quahog, but he thinks he knows enough to teach your children. I bet Melinda hasn't clammed either.

They have a lot of money clams. They want to teach your children. They have a foundation--the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation (how cute is that?):

The foundation’s education work in the United States is focused on two major initiatives: ensuring that all students graduate from high school ready for college and a new effort to improve postsecondary education so that more students earn a degree or certificate with genuine economic value.

"Genuine economic value."

Not sure what that means--Treasury bills? Stock in Microsoft? A killer instinct?

Here's the deal, Bill. We are still attached to our land, the placenta for those of us who have wandered from the womb. Technology, high or low, does not change that connection.

A quahog has genuine economic value. The quahog has protein and sugars and can keep me alive. It also happens to be delicious. I can now get them from a tidal flat to my kitchen with a little bit of knowledge and some low-tech tools (kayak, paddle, bucket, rake).

I doubt Bill Gates has eaten shellfish fresher than I have, unless he carries a knife on a tidal flat. If he did, though, he wouldn't be trumpeting "genuine economic values" as the vague modern notion that it is.

He'd be trumpeting clams.


Kate Tabor said...

Blueberry mead? Sounds amazing. I have a blog friend in Minnesota who just extracted 12 lbs of honey from her hives. She's talking mead as well.

"Genuine economic value." That is a scary phrase. At this point, like the ability to find a quahog, the things that I know how to do that have "genuine economic value" are: plant and tend my vegetable garden, sew, cook a meal from the things that grow in the garden, preserve the things that grow in that garden, mend clothing (and yes, Margaret Schmidt taught me how to darn socks when I was 5 years old and bored), make a quilt, bake bread...

I used to refer to these as my "rural skills." Now I see they are something different. But I don't know how to find a quahog or make mead. Seems I have some things to learn.

Kate Tabor said...

And now that I've had breakfast and the blood sugar levels are restored I have been thinking; what I teach students has NO genuine economic value. All I could teach them would be reading comprehension skills for non-fiction writing and writing skills that are purely vocational. Okay, we could argue that using your imagination has genuine economic value and being able to express yourself in words so that people can and want to read what you write has value, but try to quantify that? Why would anyone choose to read Gilgamesh or The Great Gatsby or Neverwhere if we need to and can't quantify the value?

doyle said...

Dear Kate,

Fortunately, not all living requires chasing genuine economic value. A few old farts still believe public school should help give children the tools to pursue happiness and become effective citizens.

Farming well requires imagination. Our long-distance monoculture methods will only last as long as the oil and natural gas last--hundreds of years is not so long in the overall scheme of things.

The reason we read Gilgamesh, of course, is to realize when folks like Mr. Gates are hitting us over the head with a hunk of bologna.

I can't make a quilt--maybe I'll barter clams for quilts some day....

Tracy Rosen said...

Real economic value, huh? I vote for the clams and mead over business and investment right now. We can survive on clams and mead. and happily, too!

doyle said...

Dear Tracy,

To be fair, I'd vote for the mead and clams over business investments even when the economy is scorching hot.

I've never munched on a T-bill, but I'm sure fresh clams taste better.

You recently asked on your blog "What are you celebrating?" (and for those who have not visited her blog yet, go take a peek--you will not be disappointed) I am celebrating the return of the quahogs!

This Brazen Teacher said...

Ah, see I knew I liked you.

Have you ever read "Last Child in the Woods?" You would love it- in that you reflect the sentiments of the book here in this post. Although it might similarly piss you off, being that the book is also chock full of research connecting practically every problem children have, to a lack of connection with nature.


Unknown said...

Today the kids were edgy. Teachers tried to explain it with "the assembly" this morning or blame it on administration or talk about a lack of accountability.

My theory:

1. It's spring
2. It was crazy windy today

Even in a technocratic society, a middle school teacher can prove what other people miss. We are tied to our geography. We are the product of our land.

Bob Heiny said...

Kudos, John. I agree that Spring and wind affect students. I learned that decades ago. For whatever reasons, I still get restless as Spring opens and still sometimes try to catch up with the wind!

As for economic value, I suggest that Mr. Gates wants teachers to prepare graduates to live for something other than themselves. That means to exchange sosmething others want from you for something you want from them. That's a crude operational definition of economic value. Yes? Why would teachers balk at that premise?

doyle said...

Dear TBT,

I have read the book--it's a fun read, and makes a lot of good points. I wish Mr. Louv himself was not so cautious about the outdoors--or perhaps he was just anticipating the fears of his readers. He's got himself a nice little cottage industry now.

Dear John,

We get to see the day-to-day fluctuations, the seasonal trends. You are quite right--we are tied to our geography. It's fun watching people attach hypotheses to activities that are based on obvious things we fail to see.

Dear Bob,

I have to admit that setting up a straw man and lighting it on fire make for entertaining exchanges on blog posts only a few dozen people read, but I'll squelch my amygdala for the moment and respond:

As for economic value, I suggest that Mr. Gates wants teachers to prepare graduates to live for something other than themselves.I hope everyone wants that--we do, in fact, work to prepare students to live for something other than themselves. That's why public education exists. To suggest that that's Gates' motive for promoting his agenda is either naive or disingenuous.

That means to exchange sosmething others want from you for something you want from them. That's a crude operational definition of economic value. Yes? Why would teachers balk at that premise?I'd agree that that's a crude operational definition of economics, but economic "value" would require a bit more--our economy thrives on hidden costs.

No one here suggested that teachers would balk at the premise of teaching economics. What this teacher balks at is people like Gates manipulating public schools to produce their version of a useful life, defined as fitness to participate in a global economy.

I think a far more useful discussion here would be to discuss the relative merits of the values, skills, and content sought by Gates & Co.

Bill Farren said...

"Always leave enough time in your life to do something that makes you happy, satisfied, even joyous. That has more of an effect on economic well-being than any other single factor." Paul Hawken

It seems Mr. Gates' love of computing seems to have helped his economic well-being. I'd like to see a majority of his foundation's contributions to schools help kids find out what it is they love doing. That will make them rich.

doyle said...

Dear Bill,

I'd like to see a majority of his foundation's contributions to schools help kids find out what it is they love doing. That will make them rich.Amen. And I love your website--it reintroduces sanity into the equation.