Tuesday, July 23, 2013

Shake it, Baby, Shake it!

Ruth lived well over three thousand years ago, but to read about her is to admire her. She is in the line of descent to Jesus. We begin her story in a time of famine. Ruth was a gleaner of grain, which was a provision under God's law for the poor, to keep them from starving.

Now, of course, there are no poor in America. The War on Poverty has solved that. In the same way, the very idea of famine in the US is absolutely unthinkable. So will you join me if I just imagine that there could be hungry people here?

I will also imagine that among these people there will be a lady who is threatened by hunger. She will be a modern-age Ruth. But instead of bending down to gather heads of grain, she reaches up to bend over the tops of plants and shakes them so that they release their seeds. She has a little sack hanging from her neck by a string. She might prefer a little plastic bucket. Either way she shakes the seeds free to fall into her container.

Each plant produces about two hundred thousand seeds, though not all at once. So she let's the plant live. She may return to harvest more seeds later on, like milking a cow. The seeds of this plant are very small, but they quickly add up. Soon she has enough for a meal, either as a cereal or to bake in a loaf of bread or to make into a bannock.

This scene is not imaginary for many people, for this plant is extremely widespread and produces a lot of good food. It is the Palmer Amaranth. You may know it as pig weed. It easily outgrows crops like cotton or soybeans. Nothing but cutting each one off can stop it. Chemicals no longer do. It has become immune to poisons.

I looked it up in You Tube and copied off the first screen. There are all kinds of speakers talking about how to kill this plant. Billions of dollars are spent trying to eliminate a plant that people in other countries cultivate as a crop.

Much of the agriculture in Africa is done by women. Corporations are trying to convince them to grow good old commercial American crops and then export them to this country. Hopefully they will receive enough money for their efforts to buy food, though they were previously raising it.

Learning that the world is dominated by insane people has really helped me to understand it.

The honorable occupation of farming has been taken over by chemical companies and banks. Farmers, who were once pictured with pitchforks and wearing battered straw hats, now own millions of dollars of land and equipment. Yet even with subsidies many are in debt and will die in that condition. Chemicals such as herbicides, pesticides, and fertilizers are expensive. It costs a lot of money to poison the soil as well as to buy expensive equipment.

But weeds are defeating the efforts of many despite these things. Weeds grow for free, don't need to be planted or fertilized. So far I haven't seen any weed farms, not here, anyway. But a modern day Ruth can gather free food as Ruth once did. Like her ancient counterpart, she and her family will not starve.

About the title, I just wrote that to get your attention. Did I?

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