Thoughts . . . by Mark Rich

. . . scribbled . . . scrawled . . . trimmed . . . typewritten . . . grubbed up . . . squeezed from circumstance . . .

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Glimpses of a Fruitless Future

Even though spring wines have worked out for us more often than some late-season wines, I may forgo them this year——being busy with writing, with antiquing——and with fretting over the step I want to take with the spring dandelion blossoms and rhubarb stalks. I want to use them in wines sweetened only with grapes, either by the traditional method of using raisins or the contemporary method of buying the must——pairing dandelion with white grapes, and rhubarb with white or red.

I may yet talk myself into starting anew along this line of experimenting——yet still must face the questions: can I afford to take the time this year, when I am trying to make good on some greatly overdue project deadlines; and can I afford organic must——especially during spring auction season?

Yesterday morning, not too early but early enough that the air was cool and lacked the humidity it would take on later in the day, Martha and I were standing by our young Cortland apple, admiring its blooms——and seeing not a single ground bee at the blossoms. The sun shined; the night had been cool, not cold. Even the sand cherry, with its abundant smaller white blooms, attracted no notice except our own.

I feel it is one thing for agribusiness, monocropping and factory farming to take away our honey bees, and quite another for it to take away native bees. The first act represents an assault against civilization and tradition: for apiculture and Western culture have come down to us over the centuries and perhaps millennia hand-in-hand. The second represents an assault against the native North American ecosystem, which has been struggling against pressures created by the human communal lifestyle for fifteen thousand years or more but especially since the 18th century.

The vineyard where I worked for a time is as much a suspect in the local area's bee problems as are the much larger corn and soybean monocroppers.

The owner of that vineyard rarely praised an organic grower. I recall him doing so just once, one morning when he spoke admiringly of an organic corn field. What pleased him, in other words, was this farm's example of factory-style monocropping, which it practiced even if certified for its adherence to organic-farming methods.

On the other hand, the owner of that vineyard seized any opportunity that arose to ridicule or criticize organic growers, especially small ones——always, of course, in his affable, nicest-guy-around manner.

Monsanto herbicide made up part of the vineyard's arsenal. I could have examined the containers for the fungicides and pesticides being used, but never did, closely——not that I would have recognized the neonicotinoids on the ingredients lists.

The vineyard owner used other toxins and poisons in the vineyard, too. One day when our Scottiedog was there with Martha and I, Lorna began throwing up, repeatedly——an incident that may have helped cause or hasten the digestive-system problem that killed her before we had finished our time with the vineyard.

Neonicotinoids rank high among suspects in the collapse of bee populations——a problem that made itself more severely felt this last winter than in previous ones. Yesterday, in doing some reading on the issue, I learned that wine grapes number among the crops that typically, in agrifactory anti-culture practice, receive neonicotinoids.

I will drink the wine that I have remaining from the vineyard, which I made. One case of it, in fact, I made from organically raised grapes from a different farm. From this time forward, however, I will be feeling qualms about wine grapes lacking organic certification. I have known since the 1980s that table grapes are one food above all to eat only if grown organically: but the attractions of wine and wine-making made this knowledge about vineyard practices recede from my thoughts, for quite a while.

Later yesterday I went into the backyard again and did see native bees, although not in a profusion——and I even saw a probable honey bee. After our morning visit to the garden, which had scared us with its lack of bee action, at this warmer hour I felt a bit reassured——although not inclined to alter the thoughts that had growing in my mind during the morning.

Just now in the front yard I looked at the blooms on our youngest apple, a Wealthy. Sunshine, breeze, sixty-nine degrees, eleven a.m. Nary an insect about. Around the tree, in the lawn: beautiful bright dandelion blooms, perfect for picking.

And beeless.

Cheers ...

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