Sunday, February 26, 2017

And Who Will Do the Harvesting?

My site in a co-op RV park is twenty miles from the rich California Central Valley.  Although my spot is at 1,800 feet elevation and is rocky, granite strewn, close by are the fertile valley soils that nurture an abundance of foods. Some 230 crops, farmed on 1 % of the nation's croplands, produce 8% of the total harvest of fruits and vegetables.

A few days ago, driving from the Bay Area back to Coarsegold, the almond orchards were blooming.  Not quite yet at their peak, they still provided a mass of blossoms as I traveled along I-99.  The ground is green, with lots of yellow wild mustard showing, as a result of a wet winter, breaking the long drought.

Almond Orchard, Central Valley.  These trees are not yet at peak bloom.  I hope to get back to get additional photos.

But there is a problem.  Most of the harvesting of California's crops, the work in the packing sheds, and much of the pruning and irrigation work is done by immigrants.  U.C. Davis, the large agricultural school here, estimates as many as 70% of farm workers are undocumented.

In reports from U.C. we learn that most of those workers are not newcomers.  People entering the US at the Mexican border has dropped.  The combination of better opportunities in Mexico, lower birth rates there, and more border enforcement have all played a role.  Most of the people now working in California's agriculture have been here ten or more years, they have put down roots in the country, their children are acculturated.   The farm communities of California, like their counterpoints in the country's center, are politically red in a state known for its blue, liberal leanings.  Many of them voted for the current POTUS, attracted to the messages on taxes, regulations, water, of listening to them. They heard the rhetoric of fences and throwing out the undocumented.  But quotes from individuals indicates they didn't really believe people, their employees, people they have known for years, would be deported.  Now they are worried.

A few years ago, when our unemployment was running at 10%, attempts were made to recruit through the unemployment offices.  There were only a handful of takers.  So, as people are deported and others decide to keep their families together by going back below the border, don't be surprised if the prices of our food stuffs increase dramatically.

The following chart, which I found on-line, prepared by the California Department of Food and Agriculture.  Note: it was from compiled and published before this year's wet winter when drought, not employees was the issue.

I pulled next to the road to get this photo of a flooded area near the San Joaquin River.

Wednesday, December 21, 2016


                                     THE SOLSTICE

T’was the eve of the solstice, the air crackled with cold
Friends gathered round to celebrate traditions of old.
Not a cloud marred the sky on the year’s longest night
Against the black velvet, millions of stars sparkled bright.

Inside was all cozy and from the kitchen came scents
Assuring a merry midnight feast for all the ladies and gents.
Roast, potatoes, greens, plum pudding and wine
A feast of the season upon which the party would dine.

From out of the woods, all quiet and somber,
Came a line of robed figures, of twelve was their number.
 Flickering candles waved reflections on snow  
And to signal those inside came some drumbeats, low and slow.

The guests inside rushed to the windows and silence descended
A robed figured raised his arms and the twelve voices blended
“It came upon a Midnight Clear,” and then “Oh Tannenbaum”
Smiles lit faces, eyes sparkled and breathing was calm.

After 4 songs, and the briefest of pause, the host said “Come In”
We’ve been awaiting your songs.  Toss your hats in the bin.
 Cloaks on the beds, don’t cover the kids, come and be merry,
 Have a glass of hot cider, warm up and don’t tarry."

The winter solstice marks the longest night of the year,
Yet it is a celebration that the longer days are near.
Animals bed in warm winter dens while people dance under trees straight and tall.
The host raised his glass:  "Peace on Earth and Good Will to All."

  Our writer's group at Park Sierra had a prompt to write a winter poem in the style of "Night Before Christmas."  I am not a writer of poetry nor do I usually do rhymes, but I had fun doing this one.   

So, I wish you all Peace on Earth, and Good Will, and the recognition that the seasons change, the earth spins on its axis, difficult times pass, and we all look to friends for support and affirmation and hopefully return it ten-fold.

Wednesday, December 7, 2016

Barefoot Contessa Photo Workshop

Barefoot Contessa Photo Adventures is an intensive photo workshop program.  Chris and I enrolled in one called Lighthouses of the Outer Banks, in late October and early November of this year.  Up well before daybreak each day and out to places along the coast, lighthouses, and fishing piers, we would photograph for a couple of hours and return to our Inn for breakfast.  There would be another shoot in the evening.

With limited time we would download our images and choose two, one from the night before and one from the morning.  I found there was barely time to select, much less edit and felt hampered by my limited editing skills.  Then the group, 12 participants and the 2 instructors would critique.  They were tough, but insightful critiques.

Margo Pinkerton and Arnie Zann are more than accomplished photographers. Besides an incredible list of credentials (National Geographic, GEO, Time, Life and more), they are inspired leaders.

I had a lot of difficulty.  I got caught up in the admonishment to find my own vision, not to do iconic lighthouses or other photos and found myself grasping to break away from the group and do something momentous.  It failed.  Finally at the end of the workshop it came together and I got a couple shots that pleased me immediately.  The one above was my favorite.

But, now home, and going through all the photos at leisure, I am finding additional images I like.  In several cases I wonder why I shared the images I did with the group as some of these please me far more.  Oh well.  I am enjoying them now. With minimal editing, so far, here are some of those.

The first two are part of the same series as the large photo at the start of this blog.  Slightly different angles, changing the mood with the light balance and the changing light, all the time standing in the water and feeling the outgoing water pull at my feet and the tripod legs.  Somehow the feel of the photos mirrors the physical pull of the water.

I have used small images for this layout, but clicked on one and you can see the whole group, as a slide show, at full size on your monitor.