January 22, 2011

local sweet potatoes from the peanut man

Under deep hay in the insulated pumphouse in my big barn back home is a treasure of sweet potatoes that I grew last year. They are massive, well coloured and delicious and have been growing in the valley for over 30 years. This is how I found them:

I stopped for smokes at a small store in a town down the valley last spring and an aged man with big dirty hands and a cheeky grin was hanging out the front. He looked me up and down and asked me "do you want to see my peanuts". The word was incongruous and I wasn't sure I heard him right, so I excused myself to hear again that indeed it was "peanuts" he wanted to show me (the "T" was obscured in his valley accent) I wavered a moment and then agreed, because he was ancient I guess, and off we went behind the store to a series of small sheds. He insisted I come in, as there was a double door and he didn't want his "peanuts" to get cold. His cheeky grin became diabolical. It was then I noticed the sweet potato slips in pots under lights through a grimy window and I went in with him. Hundreds of peanuts green and a smaller number of sweet potato slips. He has been growing peanuts in the Annapolis Valley for over 70 years, having started them in a school science project and planting them thereafter faithfully every year. The sweet potatoes he had started from tubers he found at a store 30 years ago and it was these massive beauties that interested me. I left laden with a dozen slips. I hope he is still around, because for sure I will be going to see his peanuts this spring. And if the mice or rot have got my sweet spuds lets hope his dirty hands and cheeky grin are still preserving something special indeed.

January 19, 2011

the stupidity of googone

I have another couple of months work to save for a tractor and blown in insulation before I return home to the farm. I have moved companies and am working in a large camp perched lucratively beside a large black gash in the snowy boreal forest. It is surrounded by frosty poplars, under great plumes of oily steam with beams of lights thrusting skyward. The trailers are perfectly aligned with matching porch lights lit at the same frequencies. My job is to remove all evidence of industrial and human debris from surfaces and appliances: I am a janitor.

There is a large boot room one first enters that is the threshold of this establishment and where the black gooey bitumen encroaches daily carried in on boots, gloves, PPE, etc. The rules for removal of all outside clothing is strict and they are left on hangers, shelves and the floor of this room. The union workers ("boys" as they are called) strip down to sweats, longjohns, moccasin or sneakers and then exit the boot room into the more easily managed neutrality of the halls and diningroom. Apart from a "GetRDone" poster one could then be anywhere.

One of the tools of my trade is a solvent called googone that I am required to use. After the room is assembled in order, scrubbed and vacuumed, I erase every blot of the oilsand that dared enter and interior spaces are as clean as is necessary to forget real consequence.

The joyful sky ballet of the ravens or the butt end of a bobcat sneaking back into the poplars and the full blue moon shining her light over rows of endless trailers is nature intruding in this carefully controlled world. I worry that there may soon be a substance equivalent to googone to rub out moon light or coyote tracks, lest the power of the natural world detract from the business at hand.