Archive for the Organic Farming Category

Healthy Natural Beverage

Posted in Classic Sci-Fi, Lucerne Village, Organic Farming with tags , , , , , , , , , , , on October 3, 2012 by javedbabar

Bobby remembered starting work at the farm, but only vaguely. It was possibly a year ago. He used to live in the city; he had a brother there who was married, and parents who were old.

He also had somebody here… a sister, who had a daughter – that’s right! – Naomi, who he enjoyed spending time with. When was the last time he had seen her? He couldn’t recall. He should see her more often, and swore he would do that, but it was hard to find time; he was busy working “Farmtime Fulltime”, as the boss called it. He often snoozed in the forest at lunchtime, but other than that, he rarely left the farm.

He should know his fellow workers better, but he barely knew their names. Beyond “good morning,”, “good afternoon”, and “good night,” they exchanged few words. They worked alone in the fields, and then went to trailers to watch TV. It was a lonely life, but somehow pleasing. It must be, as Bobby had no desire to do anything else.

Beers in town? He had some in the fridge.

A restaurant meal? Why suffer the noise and expense?

Meeting girls? There were plenty on the internet, who were much less trouble than wining and dining a real girl just to get her into bed. Who could be bothered to expend energy on sex anyway? He wasn’t married and wanting kids. What was the point? Pleasure was readily available, if he could be bothered.

Bobby had come to the farm on the WWW programme, a Willing Waterer and Weeder. Though his official working day was twelve hours, he watered and weeded only for 4 hours in the morning and 4 hours at night. That was all he could manage. It was hot thirsty work.

The farmer encouraged them all to keep well hydrated, and there were vintage signs in many places saying Drink Tea. He’d told them that tea was better than water, as it was a healthy natural beverage with vital trace minerals. In the same way that we should eat food containing nutrients, not just empty calories, we should also consume nutritionally enhanced drinks. Their minerals ensured optimal physical functioning.

He didn’t tell them that the tea was Silva Sanguinarus, which had been given to soldiers in European wars. It was an anticonvulsant and sedative, and an anaphrodisiac.

The tea kept them working steadily but reduced their desire to do anything else. It was the perfect dietary supplement for the endless watering and weeding required for industrial organic production. After all, they were only one step away from machines. Right now people were more economical to use but that could change soon. The farmer would then switch from tea to oil.

Satellite Mushrooms

Posted in Classic Sci-Fi, Lucerne Village, Organic Farming with tags , , , , , , , , , , on October 1, 2012 by javedbabar

Bobby was surprised that tomatoes preferred listening to commercial stations rather than official state radio. Commercial stations were full of inane chatter and annoying jingles, rather than well-programmed classical music, but plants seemed to prefer them, probably for the same reason that humans did. They was more fun.

He tried a few different stations in the hothouse, and also began broadcasting in the fields. The results were consistent – always Munchies over Mozart, Burgers over Beethoven, and Wiggles over Wagner. It was sad but true. Crops preferred crap.

A forest of mushrooms grew beneath the satellite dish in the garden corner. Was this dish for television or internet access? There were no cables leading off from it; they must be buried. He called another worker over and said, “Hey dude, what’s this?”

“Duh! It’s a satellite dish. What do you think it is?”

“I know it’s a satellite dish. I mean, why is it here?”

“Who knows, my friend. I don’t get paid enough to answer technical questions. No one has asked me to do anything to it, so I don’t care.”

He pointed to the pink fungi growing beneath. “Maybe it’s there to protect the little mushrooms from the sun. They don’t like too much sunshine, you know. Why did you plant them there?”

People make strange jokes, thought Bobby. “I didn’t plant them there.”

“You did too! You planted them there! I saw you!”

Bobby could ignore him or play along. “Why did I do that? Please remind me.”

“Because you’re a fun guy. Get it? And there wasn’t mushroom under the dish, so you squeezed them in. Now when you pine for savoury flavour, you just pick one!”

Bobby said that’s enough.

“I’m not talking shitake, pal. Why should I button it?”

Bobby wasn’t paying attention, as he’d noticed something strange. Each mushroom looked like an upside down satellite dish. It was an exact replica in pink. Maybe he was reading too much into things, after all that was their natural shape – bell ends.

But there was something stranger. Each one looked the same but also seemed different. Each had a distinctive character, almost a personality. They seemed alive, more than a vegetable should be.  One mushroom was fat, one was thin, one was shiny, another, tough-skinned; one, wet; one, almost dead.

He hadn’t been smoking the good herb last night, so why was he seeing strange things?

The fat one seemed lazy; the thin one, active; the shiny one was happy; the tough one, angry; the quiet one, sad; the almost dead one, well dying, and in a way relieved.

The other worker said, “Look pal, no need to be so glum. I’ve got a trick I can show you.” He fiddled with the dish connections. “I studied electronic engineering,” – he looked up – “things didn’t work out, but I did learn a thing or two.” He hooked the satellite dish to his smartphone. “I can’t get a decent signal in this valley, but let’s see what we can get here.”

His smartphone had crystal clear reception. They flicked through food, health, beauty, action, romance, and crime channels. They forgot about the mushrooms, and any effects these channels may have on them. Lazy, active, happy, angry, sad and dying. They were now affected themselves.

Radio Tomatoes

Posted in Classic Sci-Fi, Lucerne Village, Organic Farming with tags , , , , , , , , , , on September 30, 2012 by javedbabar

Bobby liked his job on the farm. It was great to be out in the fresh air all day, even when it was raining or snowing; much better than being snowed under with paperwork. He recalled a time at year-end when his entire desk was filled with files, a foot deep or more. Now there was only rhubarb and squash to wade through.

“I’ll take care of the tomatoes!” he shouted to his fellow worker, pointing towards the eastern polytunnels. “You can do the peppers.” These were the two main hot house crops here, with two hundred metres of each in tidy rows.

The tomatoes had started the season really well, shooting up and flowering early, but they had slowed with balmy weather. Aphids were a bother too. The new batch of ladybugs had helped.

Bobby wondered why tomatoes in the corner were doing so well. The plants were taller and the fruits were bigger and brighter than elsewhere in the hothouse. He went to the western polytunnel to ask his colleague. “Did you use a special fertilizer in the corner? No? Any extra inputs? No? What? They were just the same as the others last week? Okay.”

Why were they so strong and healthy? So picture perfect, like the image on a seed packet. Yes, there was more light in that corner in the mornings, but when the sun crossed over there was more shade, so there was no real advantage. Maybe being near the door provided extra ventilation, the airflow helping to regulate temperature, and deterring pests. Or did they benefit from heat flowing past them?

There could be something special in the soil here, like a small rotting animal providing a sustained supply of nutrients. A microclimate? Other beneficial bugs?

The tomatoes looked like large coloured party bulbs. They were sunset red and fist-sized, with flesh like ripe mangoes and juices like nectar. Over a few days Bobby checked everything, but could find no explanation for why they grew better. He wasn’t a proud person, but would be pleased to get some credit for this. These were the healthiest, tastiest tomatoes he’d ever seen. The best ever. They would soon be ready to harvest.

He thought about the tomatoes on his day off, and found himself licking his lips.

When he returned to the hothouse the tomatoes had wilted, and some of the plants had collapsed. The fruits were looking sick and pinched, as if somebody had strangled them in the desert. He checked the drip irrigation. It was still working.

Bach provided a tender soundtrack to this sorry state of affairs. The combination of dying fruit and sad music could be a still life by a renaissance painter. Or maybe the bright colours were more Van Gogh. Tomatoes fell as he stood there; the ground was covered with dead bloody bombs.

Then he recalled something. Last week the radio in the corner of the hothouse had been tuned to a commercial station. It was another worker’s choice. There was inane banter and non-stop ads. Had this affected the plants somehow?

Maybe they didn’t like classical music as everyone supposed. Maybe they felt it was plain and boring. He re-tuned the radio to LVR. A chorus of jingles began immediately.

“Good climes with Arctic Vodka!”

“Generali Cigars – Get Smoky!”

“Double-double burgers – only at Quenchers!”

“It’s party night at Dirty’s Bar!”

“Half-price cars this month at Valley Cars!”

Bobby started humming along. The words and music were designed to please. The wilting tomatoes raised their heads.

Meaty Plants

Posted in Classic Sci-Fi, Lucerne Village, Organic Farming with tags , , , , , , , , , , on September 27, 2012 by javedbabar

As Lucerne’s Building Control Officer, Shama’s remit was residential, commercial and industrial building. He was not responsible for agricultural building. Bona fide farmers could build whatever they wanted to provided it served a purpose.

He did however have a watching brief. So when he wasn’t busy he would drive around, looking, to keep his new empire in check. This was his second week in the job, and he wanted to stay on top of things.

At first he thought it was a trick of the light. Bright fragments shone around the valley at dawn, illuminating bluffs and gleaming across forests. The sun was catching something large – what was it?  The source seemed to be away from the road – where was it?

More driving around indicated that it was likely the Old Percy Farm. He’d heard that the old fella had passed it on to his son, who had returned from Africa to live here. He’d also heard that the son was sci-fi author Balthazar O. Percy, one of whose books Shama had read in his teens. He recalled it being very strange, barely comprehensible stuff.

There was a gate and buzzer, newly installed. He was about to press the button when the gate opened itself. Was it an automatic gate? Then he saw the discreet camera built into the gate post. Somebody had let him in.

Shama followed the driveway, winding around a slough, and through a patch of forest. Why people built their homes so far from the road, he had no idea. What a waste of time and energy every time you went to town. Anyway, that was their choice, to hide.

A shaven-headed man stood on the road ahead of him, clapping. He increased his speed of clapping as Shama approached, and then moved and stood to the side.

Shama pulled up beside him. “Hello, I’m Shama, the new BCO. I’m familiarizing myself with the area. I hope you don’t mid me paying you a visit.”

The man was wearing grey overalls, and seemed like a prisoner or factory worker. “Not at all. Welcome to the ranch. I am the owner, Balthazar O. Percy. Would you like to look around?”

Shama spotted a vast greenhouse on the edge of a far field. At first glance he’d say the greenhouse covered an acre. It could be even more than that.

“Ah! I see the greenhouse has caught your eye. Let’s start with that. This is my personal project. I’ve wanted to do it for years. Now that Dad has passed the farm over to me, I am…”

Shama saw something moving inside. It didn’t seem like a person.

“… trying some new ideas. This valley has plenty of nutrients which could provide the ideal human diet, if only humans could absorb them. Animal production is very wasteful, they eat more then they produce. Plants are somewhat fickle, one flood or frost and they’re gone. I’m developing a new green food source, meaty plants.”

Shama could swear that one of the plants was looking at him.

“If the valley floods, they’ll swim. If it’s frosty, they’ll huddle. If there’s a fire, they’ll escape. They are independent and will ultimately create their own ecosystems. When nuclear war comes – we all know it is inevitable – they may even outlive us, and begin a new evolution stream, but right now they are fragile and need protection. That’s what the green house is for.”

Shama thought, I wonder how soon before we’ll need protection from them?

Pet Project

Posted in Alternative Energy, Classic Sci-Fi, Organic Farming with tags , , , , , , , , , , on September 11, 2012 by javedbabar

Sami wasn’t sure if he was ready to create life – or at least not human life. Maybe he could start with something smaller, like a pet, or even smaller than that.

Having a 3D printer to play with was fun but was also daunting. Was it really true, that with the right materials he could create anything? Meeting Alfred was a stroke of luck. The young entrepreneur had invited Sami into the experimental shop where he was testing his new integrated technology.

“So what did you decide?” said Alfred. “Still interested in using organic materials?”

“Well yes, but nothing ambitious. We could start with amoeba or bacteria.”

“I’m not sure that would work,” said Alfred. “They are simple organisms that are easy to make in theory, but they are fragile. I don’t think they would survive the process. Also, it would be better to make something more tangible; it’s easier than making things we can’t see. We could try making an insect.”

“What about a worm?” said Sami. “I’ve always liked them, and they’re resilient. I hope worms have forgiven me for the experiments I performed on them as a child, cutting them into two, three, four or more pieces, and seeing which parts survived. We could make a worm. Bring one to life. That would improve my karma!”

“Okay, let’s make a worm.” Alfred tapped away at his computer, and printouts appeared on a small desktop printer.

Sami said, “Why don’t you use the 3D printer?”

Alfred looked sheepish. “It’s not very good with paper.” He gave Sami the printouts, which showed worm dissections along various axes.

“What about its biological systems? Will they work properly?”

“Yes, if there is enough detail. I’m going to set up the 3D printer. Can you find some more information on worms? Photos, videos, textbook pages, anything else you find interesting, and we’ll feed it into the printer, and use the integration tool. It combines all of the data to create a holistic model for production.”

Sami collated details of worms’ long, legless, tube-like bodies, their range of sizes from microscopic to over fifty metre long marine worms, their variety of parasitic niches or living freely on land, in marine or freshwater environments, their hermaphroditism and asexual reproduction, their ability to sense light, their muscular hydrostatic structure, the transmission of parasitic worms by mosquitos, their need for food, moisture, oxygen and favorable temperatures, their hatching from cocoons, their ability to replace or replicate lost segments, their valuable role in food chains, and their sticky slime that holds soil particles together.

Alfred reviewed the information before processing. “They are small but quite complex,” he said. “It will take two days to produce the worm.”

After 48 hours they examined the machine. There was nothing there.

“Damn!” said Alfred. “I don’t know what happened. Everything seemed to be working fine. All the key indicators were…”

“Uh-oh,” said Sami as he squashed something on the floor.

Tingling Bells

Posted in Lucerne Village, Mystical Experience, Organic Farming, Sacred Geometry with tags , , , , , , , , , , , on August 30, 2012 by javedbabar

Sami touched his own face with fear, and shouted, “Guru Baba! What has happened to me?”

His cheeks were now hairy, his eyebrows met in the middle, and his teeth were sharp. Even his fingernails were curved and pointed. He scratched his own skin and shouted again, “What has happened to me?”

Guru Baba was also different. He was sharp and hairy too.

One night each year the citizens of Lucerne shape-shifted and became Hounds of God. Known commonly as werewolves, they were thought to be evil and feared.

In truth there was nothing to fear. The spring moon caused this transformation, bringing people back into tune with nature. It reminded them of their reliance upon the holy land.

“Look at the cherry trees,” said Guru Baba. “Look how they bow down. It is also their night of humility. It shows the great debt they carry to Mother Earth, which can never be repaid.”

Sami was panicking. “But why is it happening? Is this why you brought me here – to change me into a monster?”

Guru Baba reached out with a furry hand, and Sami drew back his claws. “It’s precisely the opposite of that, Sami. We do this to avoid becoming monsters. We reconnect with nature. We become whole and true.”

Sami was shouting without meaning to; he couldn’t control his thoughts. “Then why all the robes and mumbo-jumbo? You tell people to repeat mantras, to meditate, to pray. Why do they need all that? What good does that do?”

He wanted to stay far away from Guru Baba, but dark shapes emerging from the forest caused him to draw closer to the sage. Guru Baba put his arm around Sami and said, “It gives you peace of mind. Tonight is what gives you peace of heart.”

The full moon bathed the field in brightness. All around them dark beings advanced, heading towards the circle of cherry trees. The Headman of the village, the seventh generation of a pioneer family mixed with native blood, came towards Guru Baba. He bowed and said, “Master of the Holy Ceremony, shall we begin?”

Guru Baba said, “Yes, let us begin.”

The dark beings adjusted items on their bodies and came forward together. Their tingling bells frightened evil spirits away. Their clashing sticks announced the fight between good and evil.

Guru Baba crowned Sami with a wreath woven of cherry branches. Sami’s body then seemed to move of its own accord. He weaved in and out of the thousand dark beings converging, and led them to a tall fir tree. They decorated the tree by hanging bread soaked in beer from its low branches, and poured more beer on its roots. They lit and stamped out small fires around it. They passed around a bowl of herb liquor, all taking sips. They sang bits of nursery rhymes together, and then Guru Baba produced a shotgun from beneath his robes.

Sami’s heart fell. So this was it.

Guru Baba smiled as he shot the gun in the air to wake up the tree for the coming season. He was greatly honoured that Lucerne’s citizens had asked him to oversee their yearly fertility ritual. Yes, he was a famous holy man, but he was also quite new in town.

They tied bright ribbons around the tree and danced in rotation.

The ribbons all wrapped around the trunk, creating a colourful, spiralling pattern.

The code of life was cracked for another season.

Sustainable Sandwich Specials

Posted in Lucerne Village, Organic Farming with tags , , , , , , , , on June 10, 2012 by javedbabar

Danny was hungry. He wouldn’t normally have considered going to the Lucerne Valley Hotel, but had heard that their diner was under new management by some kids from the City. Maybe their service had improved since his last visit, and their ingredients, and their cooking. He recalled a spongy patty with plastic cheese and cardboard bun, served with slimy greens and oily chips. Where had they got them from, the transfer station?

Things were better the moment he entered. The walls were painted dark grey, and stained carpet had been ripped out to reveal original floorboards which were sanded clean. There was a smart new glass counter manned by hip staff. He tried not to stare at their piercings and tattoos, which featured Greek letters and Celtic patterns entwined. There was a large blackboard saying SSS, but with no further details.

“Hi, I’m Joho,” said a cheerful twenty-something with a ring through the centre of his nose, and blonde dreadlocks bearing beads and shells. “Welcome to Sustainable Planet. Have you been here before?”

“I have when the hotel guys ran the joint.” Danny raised one eyebrow, and they shared a smile. “This place is looking great now. I can’t wait to try the food.”

“Shall I run through the menu with you? Okay, SSS stands for Sustainable Sandwich Specials. That’s all we’ve got right now – the full menu’s coming next month. We have meat, fish, veg, and fruit options; that seems to cover most people’s needs.”

“Well, what’s on the menu for today?” Danny felt good about this place. It was just what the village needed; a progressive, friendly place where you know your money is supporting the environment rather than its destruction.”

“The meat option today is CAFO beef. Do you know what that stands for? It means Concentrated Animal Feeding Operation, a place where hundreds of thousands of cattle are crowded together, often up to their knees in their own excrement. They are disgusting places that lead to much distress and disease.”

Danny’s mouth fell open. “How is that a sustainable option?” Was the dreadlocked kid taking the Mickey?

“I thought you may ask that question. You see, we rescue as many cattle as we can from the feeding lots; this removes them from the industrial food chain plus highlights their plight to our customers. It’s served rare, on rye, with wholegrain mustard.”

Danny felt he was missing something but didn’t want to be difficult. These kids were trying their best to promote an earth-friendly philosophy. He asked, “What’s today’s fish option?”

“It’s dolphin,” said Joho.

“I’m sorry, do you mean dolphin-friendly tuna?”

“No, it’s Pacific White-Sided Dolphin, Lagenorhynchus Obliquidens. Japanese trawlers kill them accidentally and it would be a terrible thing to waste them, so we buy them up wholesale. We choose our ingredients very carefully to make customers think.”

This guy’s logic is pretty messed up, thought Danny. Maybe non-carnivorous options would be more palatable. “What about the veg and fruit choices?”

“Today’s veg option is High Fructose Corn Syrup reconstituted into corn chunks, and the fruit choice is oranges sprayed with Agent Orange; nice irony don’t you think? They’re salvaged from chemical field trials.”

Danny got up to leave. “I’m sorry pal, I can’t eat anything here. Everything you’ve offered me sounds disgusting. How is any of it sustainable?”

“Now we’re getting somewhere, my friend. Nothing we do on earth is sustainable. Sustainable development is an oxymoron; all human activity leads to environmental degradation. That’s what we want to tell you. This joint is a public interface for our policy; what we are really providing is food for your mind.”