Welcome to austinagrodolce … My family and I garden with more intention and enthusiasm than allocated budget or overall design plan. It shows. Wildlife populations don't seem to notice our lack of cohesive design, they just like the native plants here. It seems by growing local we've thrown out a welcome mat. Occasionally, we're surprised at who (and what) shows up.

Monday, June 2, 2008

Basket Ten - Tikkun Olam

Ten is one of the four "perfect" numbers, and I'd have to say the experience of picking up my basket this week, if not reaching absolute perfection, is certainly hitting close to the mark.

This week we have more romanesco and magda squash, cucumbers, romano beans, sweet basil, gorgeous red onions, red ace beets, more new potatoes and the last of the Farm's leeks for this season. One especially exciting offering is a red carrot, ancestral to the orange, and reportedly best cooked. I figure on trying them out roasted coated with some good olive oil, sea salt and a little fresh rosemary from my own garden.Week to week I have become more adept at using the vegetables in our baskets in ways that not only stretch but enhance our dining experiences. I am familiar enough with the regulars and repeaters that I no longer have to frantically search out recipes. We are developing our own set of "favorite" ways to enjoy beets and carrots and squash. I have finally discovered for myself how handy it is to have versatile leeks standing by in the refrigerator. It has been very gratifying.In a somewhat similar vein, I've been writing over in A Season for Everything about how much I enjoyed Bible study as led by Dr. Barbara Rossing at our recent ELCA Synod Assembly. Her scholarship and expertise stretched my understanding and approach to reading scripture. She pointed out that in a time when we are faced with growing evidence of how desperately ill our world has become, we can look to scripture for stories of healing. She maintains that in a world where "our way" has led us to the brink of destruction, we need to look for another way. A new way.

As resistant as I am to change, I am learning to enjoy discovering something new, ferreting out new details or supplemental information to an already widely known fact. New information may not answer every question, but it can almost always help shape my thinking in some useful way. Whether we are talking about vegetables or a way to garden or an approach to life, I am, to my own surprise, beginning to lose at least some of my fear of the unknown. So it is less of a surprise, as Spring moves to Summer, besides growing familiarity with the veggies, something I've liked the most about the weekly rhythm of CSA baskets has been reading the newsletter we get from Tecolote Farms. They arrive online now in our email box, which saves paper.

That is typical of farmers I am discovering, to be frugal and careful with important and limited resources. Nobody knows better than somebody trying to raise food for a living about the consequences of conspicuous consumption and wasteful behaviors.

Each week's issue typically contains a list of our vegetables, a recipe or two, and then my favorite feature - a great additional bit from owners David and Katie Pitre that gives us some idea of what is going on at the farm.We hear about the origins of various crops, where they get their seeds, about bugs wreaking havoc with the collard greens. The recent issue notes how their tomatoes are slow in setting fruit this year, a phenomenon I am seeing mirrored in my own teensy backyard garden plot.

This information helps demystify the food we get in our baskets week to week. It all works toward personalizing our relationship with our food and assists our ongoing education in responsible eating.I admit, at the inception of this experiment in local, sustainable, organic eating, I knew being introduced to new foods would be slightly intimidating. What I did not know and would never have guessed, was how my education would be expanded far beyond the boundaries of what vegetables would be available for harvest in any particular week in Central Texas.

You see, in our basket newsletters the past couple of weeks we have also been learning about the unfolding saga of dry well problems at Tecolote Farm and area wide in Eastern Travis County. Today we learned a bit about the origins of the policy currently in force.

It seems the underlying culprit in this particular dustup is is a policy based upon something called the "1904 Rule of Capture".Although it sounds more like some diverting faux war grab- the-flag type of field game, the 1904 Rule of Capture is the result of a water use law suit brought by a citizen, Mr. W.A. East, against his neighbor, a railway company, operating close by East's property in the Denison Texas area in the late 1800s and early 1900s.In 1901 the Houston and Central Texas Railway sunk a water well to supply water for their locomotives and machine shops. Their neighbor, W.A. East, sued the railroad company for damages when his well subsequently ran dry. On June 13, 1904, the Texas Supreme Court ruled against Mr. East and established the Rule of Capture in Texas.

The Texas Supreme court based it's findings upon earlier rulings in English Common Law, primarily coming from a case known as Acton vs. Blundell in 1894. In Acton, the ruling essentially stated that in the sinking of a well, it was impossible to know where the water under the ground had come from, how it might be traveling underground, or how that had or would change over the course of years. The resulting uncertainty made it "impossible", according to the court, to effectively administer any "set of legal rules" over the water involved.This has left in place a body of law that essentially dictates that whoever has the "largest straw" gets the first and potentially only, drink of water. In this case bigger is not only better, it is legally protected. Law in this instance, has chosen to codify "us vs them" into a guarantee of privilege regardless of impact.While the sourcing and movement of water underground is no longer a mystery, how to balance the competing claims and demands upon an increasingly limited resource clearly remains in a secret realm when it comes to legislators in the State of Texas. Taking water from any one group to benefit another typically generates nothing so much as steam from the resultant political heat and pressure.And we should feel their pain. King Solomon himself would have trouble finding a compromise in the current maze of competing interests. In the political half life of an elected official, when it comes to potential constituencies, size definitely matters.In the face of a diminishing essential resource however, there are some few clear needs readily apparent. Aquifers must be protected. Water use must be monitored and regulated and waste must be reduced. Placing wells where they will not directly compete can cost more money. In the real world, without legally binding policies, it will be the exception rather than the rule to find folks willingly spending more money than they have to, in order to relocate a well and save their neighbor's water access. Especially when most of us are still locked into that legally reinforced "us vs them" mode.When it comes to water, as with any life giving and preserving resource, it will take more than words. We will have to find some way to forgo words of dissent and to jettison laws that arbitrarily protect some at the expense of others.

We will all need to take a step back from our personal preferences to look at what will work best for the healing of the world. Our world. There are no easy words to serve as answers for our competing interests. We will have to accept that, when it comes to water, there can be no room for "us vs. them" thinking. In this way as in many others, our society, our culture, our rule of law points out how we are indeed, desperately ill.

Desperately ill, but not ill to the point of death. We yet have choices, opportunities for healing, and as a Lutheran Christian, I am called upon to make responsible choices to work with God towards the healing of the world. There is a Hebrew term for that, rising out of the Jewish tradition and adopted by people of faith of every stripe - Tikkun Olam.

One step in that healing direction for me has been to subscribe to Tecolote Farms CSA Basket program. To begin to stretch my understanding of what it means to eat locally, seasonally, responsibly, sustainably. It will be a true shame if this all ends abruptly in a legal "us vs. them" battle over water rights.We are all us. We are all them. It is not "your" water or "mine". It can only ever be ours.

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