Wednesday, January 27, 2016

An Army of Crops

Diamond, J. 1999. Guns, Germs, and Steel. New York: W. W. Norton & Company, Inc. p.-85-113; 131-156

When I first read the title of "Guns, Germs and Steel" I don't think I truly understood what the author Jared Diamond was referring too. However, after reading a good portion of the book I feel a little more enlightened as to what factors paved way for the rise of civilization. Now when I read the title I can see that it is a synonym for civilization.

In his book Diamond describes the transition between two lifestyles: the hunter-gatherer and the farmer. Furthermore, he shows that farming can produce a much higher caloric output per acre than hunting/gathering. This gave rise to larger population densities of humans and created an accelerating relationship, which cycled between plants and people. Farms would constantly become more plentiful in size and quantity to support a growing the populations.

Diamond argued that agriculture was also responsible for bureaucracy and kingdoms. That could out compete the hunter gatherers for resources and territories by means of creating large bands of professional soldiers and using new technologies. The domestication of animals also played a significant role in transport of goods and the militarization of nations.

So where did the advent of agriculture come from? Diamond suggests that agriculture arose independently around the world in at least five different locations. These first crops are referred to as founders crops and after their transition from wild to domesticate they were continuously introduced into new areas and stimulated the harvest of new types of crops by humans.

Wednesday, January 13, 2016

How to Plant Your Very Own Guacamole Tree

Hanson, T. 2015. The Triumph of Seeds. New York (NY): Basic Books. p. xix-18 & 55-80.

Was it just me or did anyone else find themselves wondering about the practicalities of growing their very own avocados after reading the first chapter of Thor Hansen's book, "The Triumph of the Seed." I personally think it would be a grand achievement and while I was the reading the first chapter of Hansen's book, I could feel the gears in my head turning. I have seen and held my fair share of avocado pits while making guacamole with my family; but I had never appreciated a pit as anything more than that "unappetizing brown thing," and never really saw it's true potential. I don't think I will be able to look at store bought fruit in the same way ever again.

As Thor Hansen explains in his book the avocado plant uses internal pressure to break through the hard casing of it's shell. This pressure ultimately comes from the water that has been absorbed from the soil/environment. When doing my own research I found one, do it yourself, method of growing an avocado tree; which involved sticking toothpicks into the seed and suspending it in a glass of water. "Sounds easy enough". Once the plant inside has matured enough and absorbed enough water it will then breakthrough the shell to expose its roots, at this point plant can then be transferred to a pot of soil.

This is the point where I reached my dilemma. Living in the interior of British Columbia I was pretty confident that an avocado tree wouldn't survive a winter in my backyard; which left me with only one perceivable option, I would have to have grow it in indoors. "Can you fit a tree fit in a pot?" I found myself wondering and it actually turns out you can. Although you can grow one from a seed, it appears that a healthy graft from a dwarf tree is your best bet if you want a plant that produces an avocado fruit. However I think that would remove the best part of the experiment, watching the seed the grow into a plant.

Friday, January 8, 2016

The 100-Mile Diet: The first half of the experiment.

Smith, A. D. and MacKinnon, J. B. 2007. The 100-mile Diet: A Year of Local Eating. Toronto: Random House Canada. Print.

After reading the reading the first chapter of the 100-mile diet, I found myself beginning to wonder about the practicality of this experiment. Is this something I could potentially accomplish or is it one those scenarios where the author, narrator or human guinea pig says, "don't try this at home folks". However, as I continued to read further into the book; I began to think about the different recipes and stories the authors have mentioned, and the theme of the book started to became more clear to me. I think the purpose of the novel was not so much a challenge for the reader to try complete the 100-mile diet after they read the book, but was in fact trying to give the reader a better understanding/appreciation for the food that they eat and how it came to be.

"When eating fruit, remember who planted the tree;

 when drinking clear water, remember who dug the well."

- Vietnamese Proverb

This was a quote I found in the book and I think it sums up the authors' message very nicely. Speaking from my own experience, I know it can become easy for a person to become completely self absorbed in the routines of every day life, and I find in these moments that I can easily become disengaged from the relationships I have with my food. Which makes it easy to forget that bacon comes from a pig, or bananas come from the tropics. However, I think the best way to solve any of the social justice issues related to agriculture or any other kind of food production, is to get the consumers to care about and to truly understand what it is that they are eating.