Tag Archives: food

Urban Gardening

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S. Squire Rooster and Lady Brownie Hen, standing around and on concrete block herb garden. Chickens don’t bother herbs, but they love worms, grubs, termites, roaches, lizards, and fiddlers. I keep my yard as free of artificial chemicals and traps as possible, but I can’t stop the county from dumping malathion on our heads.

August 18, 2017

As people starve in Venezuela and other places, I remind myself Americans don’t know what starvation feels like.  We suffer from the opposite problem, obesity, diabetes, heart disease, life-style-related diseases resulting from consuming too much of the wrong things.

 

My herbs begged for pruning the other day.  It took several hours to cut, sort, wash, chop, and store, but I got a half-gallon of mint-stevia tea and almost a pint of basil-chive pesto.  My mind is free when I’m doing finger-trained things like chopping herbs.  I thought about how easily herbs grow on my deck, and how even urbanites with window sills, balconies, or patios could grow food.

I thought about my “green footprint” and how all greenery—even so-called weeds—contribute to cooling the earth and re-claiming oxygen from CO2.  So even growing an herb or a potted tomato on the patio adds to your oxygen green print.  Citrus grows well in patio pots, too, depending on where you live.

When the government controls the food supply, it’s a set-up for famine.  Julius Caesar used that to advantage, and so have rulers the world over.  That’s what makes centralized power so fragile.  We’re seeing that now, with President Nicolas Maduro in Venezuela.   He has the military guarding the food.  I’ll bet lots of folks now regret leaving the farms to work in factories and oil refineries.  At home, they could grow their own food.

We have the same situation brewing in the USA, but here the strategy is more insidious. We can see it being played out in all the mergers and acquisitions in the food, drug, and poison industries.  Most notable is the planned purchase of Monsanto by Bayer, based in Germany.  So Monsanto will go underground, should these two poison giants (depending on your point of view) merge.  Second, a little different but no less significant, is the merger of Dow and DuPont, two chemical giants.  Dow has the trademark on Styrofoam and has its own versions of genetically modified (GM) corn and other patented plant products.

Finally, we have the impending merger of Swiss Syngenta, the world’s largest crop chemical producer, and China National Chemical Corp., a state-owned outfit.  More than half of Syngenta’s sales come from “emerging markets.”  At a $42 billion price, Wikipedia reports the purchase of Syngenta to be the largest for a foreign firm in Chinese history.

The farming industry (which is often distinct from and at cross-purposes with “farmers”) is supposedly opposed to the Montsanto/Bayer merger.  The opposition claims it will increase prices and reduce innovation.  The poison companies say they will increase research and development.  (That’s what scares me most.)

In the US, the ethanol mandate represents the biggest government power grab of the food supply to date.  GM corn manufacturers are now making “ethanol-grade” corn.  Well, folks, what does that mean to you?  It means to me that Monsanto, Dow, Syngenta, and other GM manufacturers are busy downgrading everyone’s food supply to generate electronic profits on Wall Street.  Of course Archer Daniels Midland, ConAgra, Cargill, and other Big Food are all for burning perfectly good corn whiskey in cars.  Cars consume it faster than alcoholics do, and the government gets more in taxes, so of course the FDA, CDC, and EPA are complicit.

So with the mergers of the world’s six largest seed, agrochemical, and biotech corporations, which are in the business of poisoning us from the ground up, it behooves all of us to start producing our own food, individual by individual, as space and sunshine allow.

 

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Deck herbs, some in concrete blocks, others in clay pots.  Cat litter boxes do a good job of catching water.  Can water and/or fertilize from the base.

Herbs are probably the easiest plants to grow, and many are perennial.  My chickens don’t like them, the deer don’t like them, and they are amazingly bug-resistant.  Stevia, chives, mint, oregano, and rosemary are all perennial.  The rosemary bush is taller than I am.  Since stevia was approved by the FDA as a natural sugar substitute a few years back, corporate marketing has improved its image. Less well known is that it’s a perennial extra easy to grow in a small clay pot.

So I harvested overgrown stevia, mint, chives and basil.  I made stevia-mint iced tea and basil-chive pesto.

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Set-up for making mint-stevia tea.  Mint is on the chopping board.  kco081717

I use a one-half gallon container for the tea, fill with cold water, let the water come to a boil, and turn the burner off.  I stir in the chopped mint and stevia, replace the lid on the pot, and let it steep all night.  In the morning I strain the tea and transfer it to the refrigerator container.

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Set-up for making basil-chive pesto.  Curved knife blade with rocking motion works best for fast and safe herb and veggie chopping.   kco081717

Making pesto is a breeze with a mini-food processor.  Pesto keeps weeks in the refrigerator and infinitely in the freezer.  I freeze fresh pesto and gouge chunks out of the mix as needed.  I use it in salad dressings, spreads, sauces, marinades, and Italian dishes of all kinds.

I use a standard blend of ingredients with whatever herbs I have.  Two to three cloves of crushed or chopped garlic, a couple of handfuls of chopped herbs, a handful of grated parmesan cheese, a handful of chopped nuts, and enough olive oil to make the processor work right.  I use soy sauce or olive brine instead of salt.  I like red pepper, too.  If you overdo the red pepper, extra olive oil helps a lot.

More traditional pesto recipes call for pine nuts, but they are expensive, somewhat hard to find, and not worth the price.  I prefer walnuts or almonds, but any nut will do.  Put them in the processor early, as they take time to grind up right.

Cheese is also variable.  Hard cheeses, like grated parmesan or romano, tend to last longer in storage, but I’ve used jack and cheddar, too.  Pestos are as versatile as your imagination.

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My version of pesto pizza.  Rye toast smeared with basil-chive pesto, topped with parmesan cheese and salad olives.  Broiled in toaster oven 3-5 minutes. kco081717

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Funding Deforestation

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Earth Island Journal  is a recent find in the world of periodicals.  It provides “News of the World Environment” and reports on a variety of assaults on the environment, from human intervention to natural disasters.  (www.earthislandjournal.org)

The Summer, 2017 issue’s cover story is about the “Toxic Footprint of America’s Prisons,” but the article that grabbed my interest, and my $5.00, was “Crisis Among the Palms,” by Jeff Conant.  The subtitle, “How Your Retirement Fund May be Fueling Rainforest Destruction,” supports my longstanding belief that people who have retirement accounts—especially accounts managed by large fund managers—often don’t know where their money is invested or how they are contributing to eco-rape and human rights abuses.

It stands to reason that fund managers, who control large pots of money, look for the most profitable investments.  They may not know or care how the individual companies or governments generate those profits, but even a superficial overview suggests that maximum profits come from squeezing labor and compromising the environment where the companies operate.  Compound this with the fiercely competitive market for the almighty dollar, and the fact that multi-national corporations have many levels of protective shells, as well as local government collusion, and it’s a set-up for disaster.  Foreign investment is notorious for bankrupting and/or corrupting third-world governments and devastating local environments.  (Rosaliene Bacchus’ most recent blog post,   “Guyana ties the knot with ExxonMobil” (https://rosalienebacchus.blog) reports on such a possibility with the June, 2017 deal between ExxonMobil and the government of Guyana.)

“Crisis Among the Palms” shows how this strategy works in the palm oil industry, but the same strategy is used in every commodity industry I’ve encountered.  The article gives specific examples in Liberia, Guatemala, and Indonesia, three tropical countries where the palm oil industry has grown up and thrived, consuming millions of acres a year over the past several decades.  Palm oil is now the most widely traded vegetable oil on the planet.

In May, 2015, in Butaw, Liberia, villagers who complained to the CEO of Golden Veroleum (subsidiary of Malaysian multinational Golden Agri Resources) about theft of family lands, grinding poverty, and bare subsistence level wages were brutally beaten and arrested by local police.  Homes were ransacked and looted.

A month later, in northern Guatemala, effluent from ponds on the property of a local palm oil company, REPSA, overflowed into the Pasion River, spilling enough malathion—an organophosphate pesticide–to kill hundreds of thousands of fish, an incident local courts would later call an “ecocide.”  The river has provided the lifeblood of the region that was until recently one of the world’s largest rainforests, now given over to plantations and cattle pasture.

Later that summer, Indonesia’s forests and peatlands burned out of control, forcing hundreds of thousands of people to evacuate to medical centers.  The fires were linked to the country’s expanding palm oil and pulpwood plantations.

Author Conant says “. . .the palm oil industry is a leading cause of rainforest destruction—and a source of both economic dispossession and wage labor for countless people—from the Congo basin to Malaysia to Peru . . .the industry has quickly grown to rely on global financing to fuel its expansion.”  Thus the companies that profit from the exploitation appear more and more on the world’s stock exchanges.

The financing of some of the world’s largest and most notorious palm oil companies comes from well known financial management companies, like Vanguard, Teachers Insurance and Annuity Associate (TIAA), BlackRock, CitiGroup, and California Public Employees’ Retirement System (CalPERS).  “What this means is that IRAs, pension funds, and 401Ks . . . are increasingly investing in an industry that is destroying the world’s last rain forests and impoverishing the people who live there.”

With the exception of Cargill, Archer Daniels Midland, and Unilever, the large palm oil juggernauts are mostly southeast Asian, says Conant.  He notes that the industry—almost unknown in the West ten years ago, is projected to be worth $88 billion by the year 2022.  Its growth was spurred in part by the US FDA ban on trans-fats, with 71 percent of production now going to the food industry, everything from Krispy Kreme donuts to Nestle’s chocolate to PepsiCo’s Frito-Lay snacks.  Sixteen percent of palm oil production goes to biofuels, and 12 percent to the chemicals industry.

Conant says the industry’s growth has coincided with two global trends in finance.  First is the massively increased investment in “emerging economies,” which grew by 30 percent just between 2011 and 2015.  Concurrently, there was a huge increase in “index funds” in which multiple companies are bundled into a fund that spreads risk and follows the fluctuations of the market as a whole. They are sold as low-risk funds. Between 2000 and 2014, money invested in index funds more than quintupled.

The article points out that deforestation causes up to 18 percent of global greenhouse gas emissions, and industrial agriculture drives an additional 13 percent.  A rather typical scenario is that “landowners who sold or otherwise gave up their land to agribusiness companies could be driven deeply into poverty.  In this sense, the palm oil boom has come to replace less environmentally damaging, subsistence livelihoods.  It has brought debt, wealth inequality, and, of course, ecological destruction on a vast scale.  In Indonesia, villagers frequently concede to relinquishing land to corporations because the plantation companies promise them roads, schools, and clinics.  But companies have by and large failed to fulfill the terms of community agreements  . . . .  Farmers often don’t know what they are getting into.  Lack of information and transparency are big problems.  ‘A company often collects the farmers’ land certificates, after which they become laborers on their own land.’”

 

 

July, 2007 Retrospective

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Ten years ago this month, I was working in a public mental health outpatient clinic, preparing to retire my medical and DEA licenses the following month.  These journal notes give a profile of my reasoning at the time.

GOSSIP AND SECRETS

Sunday, July 1, 2007 – I have been victimized by gossip more than once.  I tell patients therapy wouldn’t be necessary if not for gossip.

I remember excluding myself from cliques – the lunchroom crowd at Duke, composed of several girls in my dorm, and the group in medical school who gathered at lunch – because I didn’t like the mean-spirited gossip and chit-chat that characterized the gatherings.  I couldn’t sit with them without judging and seeing sides of them they couldn’t be proud of.

So I have been naive about gossip’s power.  In a culture built on hearsay, I am an odd duck, indeed.

Of course, my way is better, because it’s more practical.  I like forming my own opinions and always wonder what the gossiper’s agenda is.  I agree with Anne Scott, my history professor at Duke, who insisted on primary sources.  I believe in getting my information from the individual in question.  What he or she doesn’t tell or show me is none of my business.

In theory.  When people are plotting behind my back, it becomes my business, because I end up being the victim of their gossip.  I have been blindsided too often by those I trusted too much.

FREEDOM

Monday, July 2, 2007 – My unconventionality surprises me more than anyone.  Rather, I’m surprised to be growing so confident in it.   Perhaps I always knew it was there – that I was “different” – but it was unexpressed until revealed by the contrasts with the groupthink.  I live what others profess to believe, yet I am castigated for it by those who claim the beliefs most strongly.

No one attacks me directly, but they use triangulation, hurting things and people close to me, such that no one is safe.  I believe at some point the winds will shift, and I won’t stand so alone.  I will not actually lead, except in ideas and methods, as I feel I am already doing when opportunities arise.  After the fact, everyone wants to claim credit.  I don’t care who or how many people get credit, because everyone who takes a stand on her own behalf deserves credit for it.  I do for myself what I hope others will do for themselves, in commitment to self-reliance and freedom from bondage.

A PATIENT-CHURNING, PRESCRIPTION-WRITING MACHINE

Tuesday, July 3, 2007 – The more I work as a patient-churning, prescription writing machine, the more I hate it.  If they want to hire me to do staff development, groups, lectures, or anything that doesn’t involve writing prescriptions, we can spin it as education, and I won’t need a license.  I think these drugs are overrated and/or do more harm than good.  I spend all my time reducing meds and warning about side effects.

ON DRUG REPS

Wednesday, July 11, 2007 – Drug reps were lurking in the halls again today.

I’m reducing people’s meds, and they are grateful.  These folks seem healthier than the system.  Politically manufactured diseases justify churning tax dollars.

As psychiatrists like Dr. W (who plans to be a stay-at-home mom) and me (who plans to be a stay-at-home survivor) leave the system, the exploiters wring their hands in agony, wondering how they can perpetuate the illusions when the docs won’t cooperate.

ON THE HEALTH SNARE RACKET

Friday, July 13, 2007 – I undermine the system with every patient.  A hip replacement?  I ask.  Surgeons like to cut, and they have overhead to pay.  You need a hip replacement?  If you lost weight and restored some flexibility to your joints, your hip pain may not be so bad.  You’re thinking about replacing something living with something dead.  A living hip joint is infinitely more capable of regenerating itself than a plastic substitute.  Do you know how bacteria-infested hospitals are?  And bone surgery is the most invasive of all.  Microbes can hide and fester best in bones.

Your drug rep says you need to up your Cymbalta from 20 mg to 60 mg because that’s the standard starting dose?  But you feel better on 20 mg, and you’re super sensitive to meds?  Your drug rep wants to sell drugs.  Listen to your body.

Turn off the television to alleviate depression.  Dance for exercise.  Journal for self-discovery.  Reduce meds.  People treat side effects with more meds.

The whole world is crazy, so if you’re crazy, you’re normal.

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FOOD

Thursday, July 19, 2007 – In the check-out line at the grocery store, the man in front of me, an elderly black man, had several chicken pot pies and orange juice in a plastic container.  I think about the cost of all that packaging.

Several patients have gained significant weight, so I’ve begun to talk with them about diet.  They spend lots of money on food at restaurants like Applebee’s, but don’t get takeout boxes.  I’m watching what people buy in grocery stores.  People are using food stamps for things like bottled water and soft drinks.

One patient told me her food stamps go farther since she started eating more vegetables.  She weighs close to 300 pounds.

PFIZER REPS AND DRUG CULTURE

Wednesday, July 25, 2007 – The Pfizer reps were blocking the halls yesterday, flirting with the head nurse, who was laughing and flirting back. As I squeezed past her to collect my next patient, she loudly mentioned that the other doctor was late.  She couldn’t much stop me, could she, considering I was generating money.  And no, I will not sign my name for samples of those poisons.

Fortunately for me, my patients all showed up, and I had a blast with them while avoiding Pfizer at every turn.

They even brought lunch.  There must have been 20 boxes of pizza in the break room, and everyone but me gravitated to the food.  I heard the other doctor’s voice, so the Pfizer rep had his fish.

I was too busy seeing patients until 12:30 p.m., so they knew not to stop me

I have said over and over the drug reps shouldn’t be allowed to hang out in the back.  It’s unprofessional.  But this is the way business is conducted these days, in these “public-private partnerships.”

The drug culture?  Here’s what I think of the drug culture.  Grow it, just like you do food.  If you can’t grow it, you don’t need it.  Tobacco, corn for ethanol, marijuana.

Here’s an idea.  Individuals should be allowed to have private ethanol plants, formerly known as stills, to fuel their personal energy needs.  Whatever they sell, they can pay taxes on, if they must.

Same with tobacco.

Individuals could grow corn for their energy needs and sell designer corn liquor by the side of the road.  This would give farmers more value for their ethanol and save taxpayers from the middlemen.

Why, if investment bankers and oil companies can get government mandates and subsidies to force commercial ethanol plants, individuals should have equal status under the law.  Corporations don’t vote.  Individuals do.  Corporations vote behind the scenes, with money and favors, but the public pays the taxes and other costs for the fat cats’ deals.

THE TRUTH ABOUT THE DRUG COMPANIES, MARCIA ANGELL, MD, 2004, 2005

Friday, July 27, 2007 – I’m on the last chapter of The Truth about the Drug Companies:  How they deceive us and what to do about it, by Marcia Angell, MD.  I read about how the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) basically works for the pharmaceutical companies.  Far from protecting the public, the FDA protects snake oils, since approved drugs are not required to show superiority over current drugs, only over placebo.

Monday, July 30, 2007 – Dr. Angell castigates drug companies and FDA throughout the book but at the end, she recommends more legislation and more money for the FDA.  Of course she’s part of the establishment and can’t rock the boat too much and expect to be published.  A Boston Yankee, liberal Harvard elitist in an ivory tower, she depends on government for funding so is ultimately a GoverCorp slave.

And, she doesn’t mention insurance.  How does insurance, which costs more for giving less, get away with being so transparent?  Like with cellophane, you don’t recognize the costs until you’ve been shrink-wrapped and can’t breathe.

Tuesday, July 31, 2007 – So Dr. Angell is sadly naive about government and Medicare, either that or she chose to focus on one problem at a time.

Not I.  The FDA, for instance.  Waste of money.  Have the drug companies market directly to patients, starting with FDA employees, and pay them to participate in clinical trials. This could constitute true consumer marketing, drug company accountability, earning opportunities for all, and publicly supported large scale scientific research.  Capitalism in a nutshell.  They already do it in third world countries, under the pretext of giving free medications and vaccines to the poor.

Secrecy is the problem, and regulations make secrecy necessary to survive.  The more rules, the less anyone knows about cooperation.  Communication plummets, except by hearsay, and this further tangles networks.

Perhaps the FDA should focus only on safety and leave the efficacy to market-based consumer trials.  Abolishing drug laws would give taxpayers direct access to drugs of choice, and MDs could assume advisory and educational support but not have to play middleman in the government’s war on taxpayers.

 

 

 

 

 

GOD HELPS EVE BAKE APPLE PIE

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My back yard, Chatham County, Georgia.  Fig tree in winter.  Foggy day.  Live oak background.  Sago palm lower left.  Windmill palms lower center and right. Spanish moss on live oak, Georgia’s state tree. kco122716

From my journal, ten years ago today,Wednesday, December 27, 2006
(Why every would-be communicator should vent on paper)

            God:  I sure would love a piece of apple pie along about now.

            Eve:  What’s apple pie?

God:  Boy, are you dumb.  Apple pie is what you do if you want to earn your keep in the Garden of Eden.  This place requires upkeep, or haven’t you noticed?

Eve:  Okay.  I’m game.  Tell me what to do, and I’ll try to do it.

God:  Attagirl.  Now, go pick a bunch of apples.

Eve:  Oh, no you don’t.  I’m not falling for that trick again.  Picking those apples got Adam and me in a heap of trouble, remember?

God:  That was because I told you not to pick the apples.  Now, I’m telling you to pick some apples.  Times have changed.  Trust me.  I know what I’m doing.

Eve:  Well, OK, if you say so.

Eve picks some apples and follows directions for making apple pie.  First, she has to invent knives, baking pans, flour, sugar, an oven, and the other tools of apple pie construction. God looks on, giving helpful advice.  Adam has invented television and is busy watching sports.

Eve:  What spices should I use?

God cogitates.   God:  I like sage.

Eve:  OK.  Which one of these plants is sage?

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*

God:  It’s over there.  No, not there.  Over there.  Another step.  OK. Now lean over. Now touch it.  No! Not that one.  That’s the poison ivy.

Eve:  What’s poison ivy?

God:  You’ll see.  Just don’t scratch your hand.

Eve starts to itch.  She tries not to scratch.  The itch gets worse.

Eve:  Why not?

God:  Just don’t.

Eve:  I thought I was supposed to have free will.

God:  Fine.  Disobey me and see what happens.

Eve:  Got a better idea?

God:  Wash it off.

Eve:  With what?

God:  Soap.  Calamine lotion.

Eve:  What are they?

God:  You have to invent them.

Eve:  But my hand is itching now.
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*Sage, a perennial, by itself and with other herbs, here  monitored by the Squire-wire, aka S. Squire Rooster, Attorney for the Law of the Land .  Herbs pictured here, clockwise from lower left:  chives (perennial), sage, parsley (biennial), basil and purple basil (annual). Stevia, a perennial, is on edge of deck, flanked by milo plants (look like corn), grown wild from spilled chicken food.  Chickens love the green milo seeds.  Stevia, the natural sweetener now approved by the FDA for inclusion in soft drinks like Coca-cola and Pepsi, is easy easy easy to grow.  I combine stevia with chocolate mint and dry them together for great winter tea.  In the summer they make delicious iced tea, with no calories or caffeine.  kco122716

 

Bananas!

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Thursday, October 20, 2016

In a previous blog, I lamented the loss of a banana tree in the storm Hermine.  I was ready to cut the remains of the banana stalk but decided on impulse to let it remain, hoping the broken stalk would still have the uumph to ripen the bananas.

And so it has.  Bananas are ripening daily, with ten cut so far and those pictured awaiting breakfast cereal.  The chickens love them.

This experience reminds me not to give up too soon.  When all seems lost, and years of effort wasted, nature can provide some sweet surprises, generating hope for another season of fruitfulness.

 

Fat, sickly and broke

May, 2016 Update on Ethanol:

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Not only is ethanol–otherwise known as corn liquor–corrosive for engines, corn liquor is less fuel efficient than gasoline, raises the price of food, and unfairly squeezes small and independent farmers.  Archer Daniels Midland, which is involved in every step of the growth to international insurance aspect of the corn chain, was the major benefactor from the ethanol mandate.  It distributes many highly advertised, processed, packaged, and nutritionally depleted food products.  Factory food stocks do well in today’s market, too.

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Which isles do you shop?  The most nutritious and healthiest foods are also the least expensive.

“The only good thing about ethanol is you can drink it.” –A wise person
STOP ETHANOL, 2016

 

 

 

GRITS WISDOM

Krogers' grits shelves

Krogers’ grits shelves

I met Jamal at the grits counter. Jamal was a well fed black man around 30 wearing a white chef’s uniform. I went for the on-sale yellow grits in a flexible plastic bag, while he grabbed a larger quick-grits package. I started telling him about how processing and packaging depletes food value. He said he makes yellow grits at home, but when cooking for other people, he has to adapt to their tastes.

So I asked where he works, and he said here at Kroger’s. I said we need to talk more about educating people regarding nutrition. He kept right up with me regarding packaging and processing and the nutritional benefits of soul food, like grits and collards, but “people are set in their ways.”

I understand you’re not going to change their habits overnight, I said. The process is the goal. He nodded when I said people have forgotten how to cook.

Krogers' dried beans

Krogers’ dried beans

So then I mentioned dried beans and grains for protein complementarity, adding Kroger is weak in the dried beans department. He agreed. “Publix is better,” says he.

“You’re right,” I said, but even Publix doesn’t carry my field peas. I have to go to Bi-Lo for them, and they are expensive, $2.84 for a 16-ounce bag.

He seemed interested in this little tip, so I told him to tell his bosses, and he said he would.