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'Every day was a new excitement to him. Every seed sprouting out of the ground seemd to renew a promise ...'


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demandezBiblitz90 appleTree-90

See also Peonies, Lilacs and all things Green.

A young Meldrum Beauty B.C. heritage apple tree chez Biblitz, above right, one of a pair deftly cultivated by a master gardener, who carefully grafted scion wood from its magnificent parent at the Biblitz ancestral home shortly before the place was sold. Idiot purchasers, silly asses, promptly removed the great tree, which had yielded bumper crops of lovely, pear-shaped, sour apples each summer for four generations!

Moortown

Hardcover
By Ted Hughes

The tractor stands frozen - an agony
To think of. All night
Snow packed its open entrails. Now a head-pincering gale,
A spill of molten ice, smoking snow,
Pours into its steel.
At white heat of numbness it stands
In the aimed hosing of ground-level fieriness.

It defies flesh and won't start.
Hands are like wounds already
Inside armour gloves, and feet are unbelievable
As if the toe-nails were all just torn off.
I stare at it in hatred. Beyond it
The copse hisses - capitulates miserably
In the fleeing, failing light. Starlings,
A dirtier sleetier snow, blow smokily, unendingly, over
Towards plantations Eastward.
All the time the tractor is sinking
Through the degrees, deepening
Into its hell of ice.

The starting lever
Cracks its action, like a snapping knuckle.
The battery is alive - but like a lamb
Trying to nudge its solid-frozen mother -
While the seat claims my buttock-bones, bites
With the space-cold of earth, which it has joined
In one solid lump.

I squirt commercial sure-fire
Down the black throat - it just coughs.
It ridicules me - a trap of iron stupidity
I've stepped into. I drive the battery
As if I were hammering and hammering
The frozen arrangement to pieces with a hammer
And it jabbers laughing pain-crying mockingly
Into happy life.

'Watch the field behind the plow turn to straight, dark rows / Put another season's promise in the ground.'



And stands
Shuddering itself full of heat, seeming to enlarge slowly
Like a demon demonstrating
A more-than-usually-complete materialisation -
Suddenly it jerks from its solidarity
With the concrete, and lurches towards a stanchion
Bursting with superhuman well-being and abandon
Shouting Where Where?

Worse iron is waiting. Power-lift kneels,
Levers awake imprisoned deadweight,
Shackle-pins bedded in cast-iron cow-shit.
The blind and vibrating condemned obedience
Of iron to the cruelty of iron,
Wheels screeched out of their night-locks -

Fingers
Among the tormented
Tonnage and burning of iron

Eyes
Weeping in the wind of chloroform

And the tractor, streaming with sweat,
Raging and trembling and rejoicing.

(--pgs. 30-31)

Meldrum Beauty chez Biblitz, ready for his close-up:

appleTree

Here is young Meldrum in April, 2010, now three years old and preparing to throw his first substantial - we hope! - crop of large sour pie apples. He's only a dwarf, of course, and probably would do well if espaliered, which would make it easier to harvest. Still, those who control the Biblitz purse strings know best.

gardener

seedlings-90 Biblitz, like good St. Fiacre of Kilkenny, finds peace and comfort in the sanctuary of the manor garden, site of some of the best roses and, alas, the most appalling heirloom tomato crops that never flourished on the Left Coast of Canada considered by many to be among the most fertile acreage in the world. The bitter, scarrred and rotted brown orbs despite the most careful nurturing in a greenhouse garage flooded by sunlight only managed to show themselves in mid-September just in time for the autumnal frost. West Coast Seed catalogs, forsooth! It is unhappy experiments like this that make one appreciate the value of supermarket produce. A price of $6.99 a pound for the glorious things now seems well within the realm of reasonable though, unfortunately, beyond the Biblitz budget.

No, Biblitz shall content himself this year with the cultivation of grapes, of course, flower seedlings - colorful new varieties of cosmos, peach and pink hollyhocks and a goodish crop of fennel bulbs, which provide an exceedingly pleasant licorice-scented alternative to celery in a variety of culinary delights. Recipes to follow!

COUNTRY LIFE

The end of the farmer's year

By Carla Carlisle
Dec. 9/09

How to install a flagstone patio.

Build your own tiki hut, bar, furniture.

... My reading now consists of the Farmers Guardian, a weekly feed at the trough of despond, and the the Thriplow Farms newsletter, an end-of-year account of the farming year written by friend and fellow farmer in Cambridgeshire Oliver Watson. ...

His 2009 newsletter arrived this morning. It begins: "In 2008 we made more money than we have ever made in my farming lifetime. Wheat yields were big, prices higher than ever and costs relatively low. This year we shall lose more money than we have ever lost. Wheat yields were average, prices were down 40% whilst the cost of inputs doubled."

... If Oliver Walston is losing money with all his equipment and know-how - he was the first farmer I knew to have a computer, he always has the latest, biggest kit - what chance do the rest of us have? But he explains the problem. Farming today has nothing to do with husbandry. What separates the good from the bad - and the rich from the poor - marketing. It's not enough to get the agronomy right, you have to second guess the rainfall in Australia, the price of oil, currency exchange rates and the capricious moods of a small gang of commodity traders. You then speculate as to when to sell 'forward' (that's where he went wrong in 2009) and when to hang on. Farming, like hedge funds, is a crap shoot.

But hedge funds may be less risky. ... (-- p. 96)

So what's the attraction?

The Pastures of Heaven

Paperback
By 1962 Nobel laureate John Steinbeck
Introduction and Notes by University of Georgia Prof. James Nagel, a very good egg!

He had to reassure himself a great deal before he made his first contract for beans in the field. In the first year of business, he made fifty thousand dollars, the second year two hundred thousand. The third year he contracted for thousands of acres of beans before they were even planted. By his contracts, he guaranteed to pay ten cents per pound for the crops. He could sell all the beans he could get for eighteen cents a pound. The war ended in November, and he sold his crop for four cents a pound. He had a little less money than when he started.

This time he was sure of the curse. His spirit was so badly broken that he didn't leave his house very often. He worked in the garden, planted a few vegetables and brooded over the enmity of his fate. Slowly, over a period of stagnant years, a nostalgia for the soil grew in him. In farming, he thought, lay the only line of endeavor that did not cross with his fate. He thought perhaps he could find rest and security on a little farm.

... The moment he had bought the farm, Bert felt free. The doom was gone. He knew he was safe from his curse. Within a month his shoulders straightened, and his face lost its haunted look. He became an enthusiastic learner; he read exhaustively on farming methods, hired a helper and worked from morning until night. Every day was a new excitement to him. Every seed sprouting out of the ground seemd to renew a promise of immunity to him. He was happy, and because he was confident again, he began to make friends in the valley and to entrench his position.

... Within three months he had become a part of the valley, a solid man, a neighbor. He borrowed tools and had tools borrowed from him. At the end of six months he was elected a member of the school board. To a large extent Bert's own happiness at being free of his Furies made the people like him. In addition he was a kindly man; he enjoyed doing favors for his friends, and more important, he had no hesitancy in asking for favors.

... Bert had been frowning soberly as a new thought began to work in his mind. "I've had a lot of bad luck," he said. "I've been in a lot of businesses and every one turned out bad. When I came down here, I had a kind of an idea that I was under a curse." Suddenly he laughed delightedly at the thought that had come to him. "And what do I do? First thing out of the box, I buy a place that's supposed to be under a curse. Well, I just happen to think, maybe my curse and the farm's curse got to fighting and killed each other off. I'm dead certain they've gone, anyway." (From Chapter 1, pgs. 17-19)

On the tough row young Steinbeck had to hoe on the road to literary success:

... there was little in his (Stienbeck's) early life to suggest the status he was later to attain. He was not an outstanding student in Salinas High School, from which he graduated in 1919...At Stanford University his record was less than exemplary...some semesters he dropped out of school and worked as a common laboror, learning the ways of ranch hands and migrant workers, and later returned to Stanford for a semester or two; he left the university without graduating.

He made an unsuccessful attempt to establish himself as a writer in New York City, but he ended up pushing wheelbarrows filled with concrete for the foundation of Madison Square Garden.

... The manuscript (of The Pastures of Heaven) had been sent to Robert O. Ballou, an editor at Cape and Smith, and he accepted it for publication within three days. Steinbeck received the news on this thirtieth birthday, February 27, 1932, and it was the most encouraging development of his young career, but the euphoria was not to last. In March he learned that Jonathan Cape had gone bankrupt, and his book was not to be published after all. Then, in a fortuitous development, Robert Ballou, set adrift by the failure of the firm, landed a position at Brewer, Warren, and Putnam, and he brought The Pastures of Heaven with him. By May production on the bedeviled volume had resumed under the new imprint, and it appeared in October to very little fanfare, partly because the firm lacked the funds to market it aggressively. Indeed, shortly after publication of Steinbeck's book, this publisher also declared bankruptcy, and Steinbeck made very little money on the project. The Depression, later to figure so importantly in his fiction, had hit him personally ...
TeaMan90
If the publication of the volume was encouraging for Steinbeck, the reviews were less so, for many critics did not understand the genre and faulted a collection of interrelated stories for not being a novel. (From the excellent introduction, to be read after the stories, pgs. vii-xii)