Archive for the Organic Farming Category

F@rm

Posted in Classic Sci-Fi, Organic Farming with tags , , , , , on April 14, 2012 by javedbabar

Robert wanted a lie-in this morning but his body wouldn’t let him. There was buzzing in his organs and all over his skin. This repeated after five minutes, then after four minutes, then three minutes, two minutes, one minute, then continuously. There was definitely a design flaw. Had they not realized that a generalized buzzing would affect his concentration? He knew that it was an Area One alarm, but which crop was hard to say. He couldn’t focus.

He hoped it was Manola, the easiest crop to manage. It didn’t need much tending, just checking  WaterTM and fertilizer levels. It could also be Pootato, spuds whose growth was accelerated by modified manure addition. The third possibility was Aqua, his most complex crop. He hoped it wasn’t that. Aqua’s eco-systematic, multi-level farming required a careful balancing of salts, algae, larvae, and so many other things. Get one wrong and the whole thing falls apart. He’d messed up last year and the consequences had been dire for him. The F@rm had implanted a second chip, meaning that he was now only 80% free-willed.

The buzzing stopped when he got out of bed. His head cleared quickly and an auto-analysis showed that the alarm was for Manola. Robert pulled the USB from his side socket as quietly as possible, but his movements awoke Roberta who said, “What time is it, love? Isn’t it still early?”

“Sorry baby, an Area One alarm was buzzing. It’s Manola. I’d better take a look.”

She flopped her arms towards him, but he was out of reach. “Do you have to go now? Can’t you ignore it? It’s only Manola. Even a MonkeyTM could grow it.”

Robert smirked. “My semi-simian sweetheart, that’s why we grow it.” They’d been told that if they didn’t consume ten-a-day, stem-identical materials, their human genes may deteriorate back to apes. “Would you feel differently if it was called Womanola?”

“Don’t be silly,” she said. “I just meant that it grows perfectly well by itself. We don’t need to do anything.” She waved him off and flopped her arms back under the covers.

He checked the Area One / Crop Control Panel and realized that Roberta was right. Nothing was the matter at all. It was a false alarm. He’d had no choice though, the buzzing wouldn’t let him sleep. Damn that second chip!

He returned home to bed. There was no need to re-plug himself as his electric components were fully charged already. Staying on wireless would be enough. Plugging in caused a light buzzing which was generally pleasurable but sometimes annoyed him. It felt like fine sugar in your blood – making life sweeter, but also causing decay. His electric components were 100% safe officially, but who knew really? All he knew was that he’d never heard of anyone having chips removed, only chips added. Some people said that the old ones disintegrated, and new ones were required to maintain functionality.

Robert slept for an hour before he was awoken by another buzzing. This time it was an Area Two alarm. “I hate this job,” said Robert. “It’s worse than being a peasant in the Middle Ages. At least they got a good night’s sleep.”

“What’s it this time?” she said. “The Beefs?”

“Probably. It usually is.” Robert hoped it was Temp, which like Manola was easy to grow. This valuable crop grew just about everywhere, and since climate change, even Antarctica. Temp could be eaten, juiced, woven into clothing, compressed into bricks, distilled into fuel, made into furniture, used as currency, its stalks formed into small boats and light planes, and – taking you even higher than that – its essence was an aphrodisiac, and hallucinatory. It had initially been banned by The Authority, but mass civil disobedience had caused them to relent, and it was now grown legally.

It wasn’t the Temp though. When his head cleared, he said, “You’re right again. It’s the Beefs. I’ll be back when I’m done with them. Don’t wait for me for breakfast.”

He entered the Meat Shed. Something had spooked the Beefs and there was a chorus of groaning. He patted the most shaky meat blocks and they settled quickly. That’s all they’d needed – some loving. He waited awhile to check all was well.

Robert was about to head home when an alarm buzzed in The Wilds. This was really annoying, as there was no Crop Control Panel for him to check there – it could be anything. Something must have damaged the fencing. He hoped he wouldn’t have to go in there physically. He’d never entered this self regulating part of the F@rm before. Regulations required 10% of farmland to be set aside for Wilding. People who lived there were not disturbed on condition that they produced a weekly supply of potent, natural food. They used no fertilizers, pesticides, or fungicides; no irrigation, electronic management, or additives of any kind. Their pure food was sent to labs for cloning – though everybody knew that a good proportion was sold illegally to traditional doctors.

“Oh my god!” said Robert. Standing near a hole in the fence was one of the unchipped, unplugged people. She was barefoot, naked, and dreadlocked. Apart from, yet part of, this world. Robert was scared, but gulped and waved at her. He said, “Hello, I’m Robert.”

Ten-A-Day

Posted in Classic Sci-Fi, Organic Farming, Unknown with tags , , , , , , on April 10, 2012 by javedbabar

“Buck a bowl!” the trader called out. “Buck a bowl! Buck a bowl!” He held up coloured plastic bowls. People stopped to examine their contents, and if pleasing, proffered a cloth bag in which to pour them. Bowls were refilled immediately. Trade was brisk.

Since the passing of the 2012 Local Food Laws, every Village in the Province, and every area in the City, had a dedicated Vegetable and Fruit Market (VFM). It operated daily and was always packed as people tried desperately to meet their ten-a-day requirement. The Authority was not severe on those who tried but didn’t make it, but was unforgiving of those who didn’t bother. The VFM operated year round. Its roof was rolled back in summer months, and in winter it provided vital cover. It also lived up to the impression created by its acronym VFM – Value For Money – with its prices being half those of the grocery store.

The market was a huge gazebo designed to optimize light and ventilation. Sunlight slipping in didn’t hit produce directly but made it glow. Customers walked around in the slanting sunshine, swinging their hemp bags in alternate bands of warmth and shade.

Shannon liked to shop daily to ensure the freshest produce possible. She may as well extract maximum benefit from her ten-a-day. “Same as usual, love?” said the flat-capped, thick spectacled guy from Jolly Good Farms. She didn’t know his name but referred to him as the Jolly Good Fellow.

“What’s my usual?” said Shannon, smiling. This guy was always flirting with her. She didn’t fancy him but didn’t mind. “Come on I’ll test you!”

“You’ll want one portion of red apples – preferring small ones, one portion of firm green pears, one portion plantains, two portions medium local bananas, two portions baby purple carrots, one portion sprouting broccoli, one portion German Butter potatoes, one portion Russian garlic. How did I do?”

“Pretty good,” said Shannon. “How did you know? Have you been spying on me again? I thought those bug-eyes staring through binoculars looked familiar.”

“The Authority helps us small farmers,” he said. “They know this is a challenging business. We attend special marketing classes. I chose to specialize in servicing pretty, young ladies.”

“You’re sounding a bit pervy now. I thought you were a Jolly Good Fellow. Don’t ruin the image. I may have to take my business elsewhere.”

“Oh, Miss Lululemon, please don’t do that.” Shannon wasn’t sure why but she became self-conscious. Her brand of clothing was obvious to anyone, but his comment felt intrusive. “I’ll give you an extra portion. How about some local pomegranate?”

Shannon nodded. “Ok Mr. Fellow.” As he filled up her bag, she decided to shop elsewhere in future. This guy usually had the best selection though, and her spiritual teacher, OM – short for Ozwald Melchizedek – recommended Jolly Good Farms. He said their produce held more prana. OM approved of The Authority’s ten-a-day requirement, and recommended eating five of the fruits and veggies before midday, and the other five between twelve and six. He said, “That is the way to be lean and mean. Lean because you consume food as you need it and nothing gets stored unnecessarily, and mean because you are always slightly undernourished and on edge. Lean and mean.”

Shannon looked around the market. It was true, everybody was looking leaner than ever. The VFM had made them health conscious, and was a real step forward in provincial wellbeing. But how did they sell things so cheaply? A buck a bowl was unbelievable. Even the tropical fruits grown in local hothouses were a dollar. She searched online and asked around but people were tight-lipped, only mentioning “efficient production models” and “modern technologies”. The Local Food Laws made it impossible to visit farms, which were deemed “Fundamental Framework” installations for Future Food Security. You couldn’t get anywhere near one and all workers signed confidentiality contracts.

The sun was especially bright today. It dazzled her momentarily and she lost her footing. She would have fallen if not for a fellow shopper who grabbed and held her up. “Thank you,” she said. “I’m not sure what happened to me.”

“I know exactly what happened to you,” said the woman, who wore strange golden glasses. “Do you want to know?”

Shannon found this woman intimidating, but was intrigued. “Go on then, tell me.”

“Come with me,” she said, leading Shannon to the edge of the VFM. “Try these.” She handed her the golden glasses. As soon as Shannon put them on, all the produce disappeared. The stalls were empty. There was nothing there.

“Oh my god!” she said. “What’s happened? Where are the fruit and veg?” She removed the glasses and saw the produce reappear.

The intimidating woman said, “These glasses perform nutritional screening. They screen out everything unnatural, showing only vitamins and minerals. This food is all junk. Ten-a-day is a fraud.”

“How can that be?” said Shannon.

“Yes it’s all produced locally – but it is structured using holographic, nature-identical, seedless, hydroponic, container-ripened, genetically modified, and other industrial methods. Everybody is eating nothing. Don’t you wonder why people are so lean? They are emaciated nutritionally.”

“Who are you?” Shannon said to the woman.

“I have given my life to the Slow Food Action Front. I believe in fighting for good food.” Then her eyes opened wide. “Shit! That guy over there is an agent.” She indicated the Jolly Good Fellow. “If he recognizes me, he’s sure to do something. Let’s get out of here.”

Shannon still wore the golden glasses. She saw that some of his fruits appeared again, glowing brightly. He had injected his apples and mangoes with a nightshade-derived neurological virus. He beckoned them both over, smiling in a jolly good way.

 

Space Spuds

Posted in Classic Sci-Fi, Lucerne Village, Organic Farming, Unknown with tags , , , , , on March 19, 2012 by javedbabar

“What’s in the safe?” said Dimpy (Dimples) to Mrs. Roseman. “I’ve meant to ask you for ages but never got around to it.”

“Oh, nothing much,” said Mrs. Roseman, her white curls bobbing as she shook her head. “You’ve got enough on your plate with the little baby. Don’t you worry about it.”

It annoyed Dimpy when people told her not to worry about stuff that she wasn’t worried about. It was the same when people said “You’ll be ok” or “You’ll think of something.” Yes she would! She was a single mother fending for herself. Dimpy would always think of something and be ok, and had no time to worry, and even less time to listen to people who told her not to!

This Director’s job was the worst-paid job she’d ever had, but beggars can’t be choosers. She’d needed a job, and this was the only provincial museum recruiting. The local potato industry was booming, driven by their patented Space Spuds: blue Saturn Spuds and golden Solar Spuds. Great product differentiation had saved this otherwise struggling industry, this town, and importantly, this museum. She said, “I’m not worried Mrs. Roseman, just curious.”

“Oh, it’s just some old potatoes,” said Mrs. Roseman. She became rigid, but her white curls continued to bounce. “I mean some old machinery from Peru, where potatoes come from.”

“Really, that’s fascinating. From Peru? May I see it?”

Mrs. Roseman was still rigid, but her eyes were moving rapidly, and her white curls ending their motions. “Or maybe it’s from Pakistan, where you come from. So you already know what it looks like.”

“Really, from Pakistan?” said Dimpy. “I had no idea.” Mrs. Roseman seemed very nervous. Dimpy wondered why. “Look I’m Museum Director, and should know the resources we have available. This could make a great exhibit, even anchor a show. We could get a feature in the City Sun.” Mrs. Roseman had moved between Dimpy and the safe. “Do you have the keys?”

“I’m not sure where they are right now,” said Mrs. Roseman.

“Well who would know where they are – another trustee?”

“Yes, yes, another trustee. I will ask them at the monthly meeting.”

The monthly meeting was scheduled for Tuesday, but nobody was there when Dimpy arrived. She called Mrs. Roseman. “Where is everybody? The meeting was planned for 7pm.”

“Oh, I’m so sorry. We moved the meeting to Monday. Didn’t Mr. Roseman call you?”

“No, your husband did not call me. Why did you move the meeting?”

“Oh, it was unavoidable. The trustees had clashes.” Dimpy wondered what clashes these dinosaurs had. Their average age must be a hundred. Maybe their hip-replacements were double-booked with prize bingo, or polishing their walking frames impacted a retelling of the Great Flood of ‘45. “But I asked about the safe for you. I was mistaken. It’s not machinery from Peru or Pakistan. Its private items held for the Old Families. It’s not things to show or feature.”

“Private items like what?” said Dimpy. “Do you mean valuable items?”

“Yes, very valuable things. That’s why we keep them locked up.”

“Well, I need to see those things, Mrs. Roseman.” The line went quiet. “Mrs. Roseman, are you there?”

“Yes, I’m here. Sorry, my hearing’s not what it was. They are private things. Why do you need to see them?”

“I’m legally responsible for their safety,” said Dimpy. “I must ensure that insurance documents are in order. If anything were to happen to those items, we would not be covered for their loss.” So irresponsible, thought Dimpy. This wasn’t the Guggenheim, she knew, but come on! Keeping personal stuff in the museum safe!

“Nothing will happen to them here,” said Mrs. Roseman. “Don’t you worry about it.”

“Mrs. Roseman, I am worried about it! We need to discuss this matter further. Will you be in tomorrow as usual? Ok, good. Please come and see me at 10 am.”

Mrs. Roseman did not appear the next morning. She also didn’t answer her phone. She appeared the day after, looking unsettled. She couldn’t look Dimpy in the eye when speaking with her. “I spoke with the Old Families about the situation,” she said. “It seems the private items were returned by the previous trustees, for the reasons you mentioned.”

“But haven’t you been a trustee for twenty years?”

Mrs. Roseman looked down. “Oh, I was in hospital last summer. It must have been then.”

“But I was here,” said Dimpy. “Nobody told me.”

“I think you were on holiday. Anyway, there’s only museum cash in there now. The Treasurer accounts for it. So don’t worry about it!”

Mrs. Roseman!” shouted Dimpy. “Please stop telling me what not to worry about! You have made me very worried indeed! I am the Museum Director – top of the food chain – and the buck stops with me. Please ensure that keys to this safe are on my desk tomorrow morning at ten.”

Dimpy had a rare date that night. Single mothers with young children had their work cut out. He was pretty hot, and said he’d like to see her again. She smiled as she drove home… Hang on! There were lights on at the museum. Who was in there at this time?

She quietly entered the back office. Mr and Mrs Roseman had the safe door open. Mr Roseman walked towards her with a hammer but Mrs Roseman called him back. She said, “No love, it’s time she knew.” Then she said to Dimpy, “A hundred years ago we had some very special visitors. Only the Old Families know. They sought permission to extract pumice – vital for their wellbeing – from Mt. Negra. In return they gave us their seed potatoes. The old timers were not trained marketers like you. They simply named the Space Spuds by their provenance – Saturn Spuds and Solar Spuds. The original seeds are kept in this safe. The Old Families take cuttings from them yearly, using each scraping to create a new culture. This is Lucerne Museum’s secret, and now it is also yours. Assuming of course that you love your daughter. Who’s her babysitter tonight? Joanne Millman? That sounds like an Old Family name to me.”

HOT Chicken

Posted in Classic Sci-Fi, Organic Farming, Unknown with tags , , , , on March 14, 2012 by javedbabar

It was embarrassing. Everyone had brought the same dish to the party – and because they had all brought the same dish, they knew two things. First, that they hadn’t made it themselves – they had brought it at the grocery store. Second, that it was on special offer – that’s why it had caught their eye.

There was a table full of steaming HOTTM chicken, which everyone knew was past its shelf life, and had been reduced from $9.99 to 99 cents. Was it legal to sell out-of-date food? People weren’t sure, but presumed that the grocery store wouldn’t have offered it otherwise. On the bright side, everybody loved HOTTM chicken. Its unique combination of Habaneros, Olives, and Truffles was unbelievably good. As its millionaire fitness instructor/chef inventor said in the ads, it was “Hot, healthy richness to die for.”

Nobody would dispute that the Habaneros – fire for your tongue; Olives – lubrication for your heart; and Truffles – joy for your mind, created pleasure divine indeed. But a table full of HOTTM chicken was too much to handle. For a start, HOTTM chicken was way too hot for children to eat. They were told not to touch it, but couldn’t resist. Little hands reached up and sneaked around. Others openly raided the table’s edges. Every few minutes a new wailing began, as tender pink tastebuds were slaughtered.

The HOTTM chicken had all been unwrapped (to remove evidence of its out of dateness) and heated (to provide evidence of its just having come out of someone’s oven) – so it couldn’t be returned to the store. Yet a tableful of it couldn’t be wasted either.

Shaun called his son. “Tain, what are you doing right now?”

“Uh, nothing.” He was looking down, bored. A little moody. “Just talking to Egan and Baird.”

“Ok, tell them you’ll be back in a minute. Go upstairs and use my computer. You know Level One of TimeworkTM.” Tain nodded. “Find an offer for the kids – something they’ll like.”

“I’m not sure, dad. Can you do it?”

Shaun snapped at him. “No – you do it! I’ve got to stay with our guests.” He hadn’t realized he was so stressed; guests are meant to be a pleasure but are usually a pain. Still, he shouldn’t have snapped. “Go on Son, please find something for them.”

Tain headed upstairs. “Where are you going?” said Nola. He told her. “Can I come too?” She didn’t wait for an answer, just tagged along.

TimeworkTM was a popular low-level programme. Serious time programs were reserved for government use. Hackers sometimes jumped across from TimeworkTM to restricted programs, but were caught and punished. In most cases their TimeworkTM access was curtailed – easily done with DNA and sensory digitization. They remained forever in the extant present – how dull!

Tain found a good offer on MMMTM Muffins. He dragged the Mango Maple Marshmallow muffins to their household account, and was about to close down, when Nola said, “Wait! Wait! Wait! Why don’t we make another change?”

“My dad only said about the offer,” said Tain. “Don’t you like MMMTM Muffins? They’re the best, even…”

“They’re great. I’ll eat six of…”

Tain said, “Looks like you already have!”

Nola smacked him. Being a tomboy she wasn’t scared of boys physically, and they couldn’t hurt her inside. Sticks and stones and all that stuff.

“Look, I like the muffins but I also like HOTTM chicken. Have you ever tried it? I bet you haven’t, you wimp! My dad let’s me try some. It’s so good. And they let you change the formula. That’s why it’s so popular.”

“How can you change the formula?” said Tain. “It’s Habanero, Olive, and Truffle. It’s famous.”

“That’s what made it famous.” She manoeuvred herself before the computer. “But people change it all the time. It’s a Level Two program. Let me show you. What’s your password?” Tain told her without thinking. “Ok – look at this. You can change the ingredients according to letter. H can be Haddock, Halloumi, Ham, Hare, Haricots, Hazelnuts, Herbs, Hickory, Honey, or Hummus. O can be Onions, Okra, Oranges, Oxtail, Omelette, Oatmeal, or Oregano. T can be Tomato, Turkey, Tofu, Tuna, Turnip, Tortilla, Toast, Tarragon, Tamales, or Toblerone. Why don’t’ we try Hazelnut, Orange, Turnip? Or Ham, Omelette, Toast – just like my best breakfast?”

“We can’t change the HOTTM chicken,” said Tain. “They’re eating it already. We don’t know what will happen.”

“Well, we’ve got to change something,” said Nola. “It’s just too boring. Ok, I’ll just change the T. Eating Truffles is disgusting anyway. They make poor pigs find them in the forest and then kill them and mix them to make truffle sausages. People in Europe are very cruel. So let’s change the T to Toblerone.”

“Isn’t that European too, from Switzerland?”

“Yes, but it isn’t cruel. They just use honeycombs.” Nola confirmed the change to Habanero, Olive, Toblerone Chicken. Almost immediately there was a commotion downstairs. They rushed to see. There was Shaun with his face puffed, writhing on the ground. Dr. Bungawalla was attending to him.

Tain knew that his father was allergic to peanuts, but Toblerone contained almonds, so it couldn’t be that. And TimeworkTM had filters to prevent such accidents. However special offers to consumers require cost cutting by producers. How else could they make a buck? In this batch almonds had been replaced by peanuts. Tain had two minutes to reverse the ingredients. This was a more advanced operation. “Nola! Do you know Level Three?”

Apple Express

Posted in Alternative Energy, Infinite City, Lucerne Village, Organic Farming with tags , , , , , on March 7, 2012 by javedbabar

“Bloody apples!” shouted Farmer John. “Falling everywhere! There must be an orchard in the sky.” He was standing in the middle of a field. Where had they come from? He stamped his right foot and held the top of his head with both hands, as blood seeped from a gash beneath his fingers. They really were bloody apples.

Apples had been falling for almost a month now. They were infrequent to begin with, and quite unripe; small, green sour balls. They had become a daily occurrence of late, now bigger and riper, almost ready to eat.

There was a daily hot wind coming up the Valley, ten degrees warmer than the air in Lucerne. It was a strange, localized occurrence. No one minded the temperature, but its power was a problem: it had blown away old barn roofs, caused tall trees to topple, and excessive wear on Lucerne’s wind turbines. It blew hot up the Valley at noon, and returned cold from the glaciers at dusk – and it seemed to be carrying apples.

Farmer John said in the pub one day, “That fruity wind, it should be called the Apple Express, like the one from Hawaii is called the Pineapple Express.” Other people had thought the same, but he was the first person to say it. He was acknowledged to have coined the term. “It’s causing problems. Those apples are landing square on my spuds; almost like they’re aiming for them. Potato plants are bearing apples – or that’s what it looks like when I walk down the rows.”

“How will you harvest them?” said Farmer Tom. “Apples will be mixed in with your spuds.”

“They will be,” said Farmer John. “They will be. What can we do?” No one wanted to think of the extra labour needed to remove the apples. They considered letting them all rot there, fertilizing the ground. But there was no way to avoid some slipping in with spuds. The apples’ moisture would rot the spuds. They’d have to pick the apples out, before or after harvesting – either way it was a massive task.

Walking along the rows one day, Farmer John picked up an apple and examined it closely. It had been transformed by its warm, windy journey. The apple’s skin was gleaming as if it had spent an hour in a bowling ball polisher, and its cheeks were as rosy as a ruddy farmer’s. He took a big bite. “By God!” he exclaimed, syrup pouring out of the corners of his mouth and over his chin. “That’s the juiciest apple I’ve ever eaten.” He felt a warm tingling in his belly like the fire of a light rum shot. “And it’s full of cider!” He ate many more apples, and went to the pub merry already.

Lucerne Valley farmers were happy, they had an extra crop. Gorgeous apples fell on their fields daily. Farmer John called them Mt. Alba Apples, as they seemed somehow linked to Lucerne’s mountain guardian. Holding an apple high in his hand, it seemed a new sun above the mountain, shining blessings down. They sold really well at grocery stores and farmers markets, and were popular with local kids not yet nineteen.

Beyond the City, the 4,800 acre Glaser Valley Farm’s (GVF) owners were not impressed. The Apple Express had become fierce of late, tearing along the Glaser Valley, over mountain passes and across lakes, through to the Lucerne Valley – carrying their best apples. These delicate apples – grown for export to Japan – had very weak stems. Just before they fell, many were picked up by the Apple Express and carried off to Lucerne. GVF was losing a quarter of its crop this way. They initiated legal proceedings against Lucerne Valley farmers, claiming financial compensation for lost revenues, and punitive damages for theft. It was a very short hearing though.

“This case is unprecedented,” said the judge. “And frankly inexplicable. So we will need to discuss it from first principles. I will consult my most learned friends and establish a philosophical framework, based on agricultural ethics and tort law. Please explain the essence of your case in simple terms. Our sponsors require this for our television audience.”

GVF’s attorney said, “My clients are hard working toilers of the earth. They have a decade of agricultural achievement behind them…”

“Objection!” shouted the Lucerne Valley farmer’s attorney. “Seven years is not a decade.” The judge agreed and changed the record to say “many years”.

GVF’s attorney continued, “They invest much time, effort, and money in growing the best apples for export across the world, to improve our nation’s trading balance. The fruits of their labours are being stolen by others. We demand fair-minded justice.”

The Lucerne Valley farmers’ attorney had a bright idea. He suggested that Farmer John make their statement. “My family’s been growing potatoes for a hundred years,” he said, “and it’s…”

“Objection!” shouted GVF’s attorney. “He’s making that up.”

Farmer John provided the names of his father, grandfather, and great-grandfather, all farmers in the Lucerne Valley. The judge overruled the objection. Farmer John continued. “And now we’ve got fields full of apples. We never asked for them to drop out of the sky. But we know the earth’s cycles. We believe that our brother farmer’s jumbo jet-fuls of exports are directly related to their problem. Climate change is controversial, but here we see it in action. And we are wondering whether to include the two deaths in our community caused by falling apples within the scope of this case, or to file a separate one.”

Glaser Valley Farmers withdrew their case. Despite their 25% annual attrition, they continued to make big profits selling the remainder to Japan. Farmer John continued to have his annual crop of apples for twelve years, but less fell each year. By the time the Apple Express stopped blowing, apple seeds were well established in Lucerne. Mt. Alba Apples became an invaluable companion crop to spuds.

Fresh Foods

Posted in Classic Sci-Fi, Lucerne Village, Organic Farming with tags , , , , on February 22, 2012 by javedbabar

“Darling will you get me some mint?” said Claire.

“Sure, how much do you want?” said Daved to his wife, cheerful despite nursing a hangover. “Just a handful?”

“One of my handfuls, honey – not one of yours.” Daved clipped young stalks from the container using chained-up-scissors. The rush of freshness cleared his head, but the dullness returned. “Oh, and while you’re there, can you get some cilantro?”

“Sure honey,” he said, and moved to other containers.

“Is my hunky husband in the mood for some heavy digging” said Claire, her trailing arm circling his waist. “Some spuds and carrots please. Not too many. Just what we need for the weekend.” Daved pushed his hands into the soil and rooted around. He yanked up ten medium-sized russets, and a dozen purple carrots. The freshness of food these days was astonishing. Since the implementation of Local Food Laws, supermarkets grew produce right on their shelves. It was all fresh, local, healthy food. What could be better for you?

“Perfect,” she said. “Let’s get some tomatoes. Where’s the hothouse section? Why do they keep moving it around? Oh, there it is, I think. Or is that exotics?” She ambled over and pulled open a flap. “No, it’s tomatoes.” Claire snipped off a pound each of Black Princes and Green Zebras. The peppers looked good, and she decided to get some of those, selecting ripe Hungarian Wax, Jalapeno, Cayenne, and – what the hell! – Habanero peppers; all conveniently growing on the same bush.

“What else do we need, love?” she called out of the hothouse.

“I fancy fish today,” said Daved. “What about you?”

“Ok, go catch something Ahab. I’ll be in the dairy.” Claire was still pulling the Gau MataTM  udders – invented by the great Indian scientist Dr. A.W. Cooraswamy-Muchilinda-Moghlai – when Daved appeared with his catch.

“He had some spirit, this one,” he said. “Zipping around the tank like crazy. I couldn’t get him with the line so zapped him. Anyway, we have grilled wild salmon with coriander potatoes and minted carrots on the menu for tonight.”

Claire finished her milking. She loved the feeling of pulling these udders, it was so authentic; just like the rosy-cheeked farm girl in the ads. She wiped her hands and said, “Ok, just some beef now. I think we’ve got everything else.”

The meat section was always quieter in the afternoons. People liked “fresh” beef grown overnight – they said it was more tender – but Claire had never noticed the difference. She felt that they were kidding themselves; they just didn’t want to pay the extra for Veal. Daved carved thick strips of soft red flesh from the block, each piece well textured. That Indian Doctor was a genius, he thought– it’s a shame he was assassinated; think what else he could have invented. The meat block shook and made a squealing sound. The Butcher rushed over and said, “I’m so sorry Sir. Some of these meats are restless this morning. I’m not sure why.”

“The fish are pretty spirited too,” said Daved. “I felt like I was chasing Moby Dick.”

The Butcher smiled and said, “Well Buster here’s not going anywhere. Would you like me to finish carving? How much do you need?” He wrapped up their bloody meat and said, “Enjoy your meal. By the way, have you visited our new Fair Trade Department? It’s across the other side of the store.”

“No, we haven’t heard about it,” said Claire.

“We’ve kept it quiet deliberately; we don’t want any trouble. Look what happened to Dr. Cooraswamy-Muchilinda-Moghlai. That SFPF is dangerous; they say that they don’t condone violence but every terrorist incident seems to involve one of their members. Anyway, good folk like you won’t cause any trouble, I’m sure. Why don’t you take a look?”

A uniformed security guard allowed them entry to what must have been a previously unused warehouse at the back of the store. Daved and Claire gasped in amazement. It was ten degrees hotter than outside, and pretty humid; the lush green area was divided into continents. In “South America” they saw tattooed Amazon tribesmen picking Brazil Nuts. In “Africa”, red-blanketed Maasai warriors tended coffee bushes. In “Asia” Saffron-robed Sadhus picked orange pekoe tea. “Australia” had ochre-smeared Aborigines tending mangoes. “North America” featured Navajo squaws growing corn, beans, and squash. “Europe” had men in black berets and women in bright dresses treading barrels of grapes.

“What do you think?” said the Manager, catching up with them. “We need to fine-tune the costumes, I know, but not bad, eh? Sorry I didn’t welcome you earlier, but I was keeping my eye on the protest outside. It’s those Slow Food People’s Front extremists. Some people just don’t see progress when it slaps them in the face. Whatever we do is never enough for them. I mean, ten years ago who would have thought that our entire food chain would be fresh, local, and organic?”

He chatted with Claire and Daved for a while, and then asked if he could show them something special. “We always like to run things by our customers first.” He showed them a device that the grocery store was testing, called MORE (Modern Organism Replicator Engine). “Wait till we get this going next month. You’ve never tasted food so fresh!”

Divine

Posted in Organic Farming, World Myths with tags , , on February 8, 2012 by javedbabar

“I’m going to make you look divine,” said the beautician. “Just you wait and see. I’m not saying that you’re not a looker already; you are, babe. But today is your special day. Don’t you worry about a thing, girl. You just relax and enjoy yourself. Leave all the work to Aunty Marge.”

Simone sat in the purple-padded salon chair quietly. She had no choice; this woman never stopped talking. “Now just lean back a little, sweetheart; a little more; that’s it. Relax your neck. There’s no need to get stiff now is there, on your special day? Close your eyes if you want. Dream of beautiful things.”

Marge turned the cold knob, then the hot knob, testing the water. “Ooh! Aah! Ooh! Aah!” she said, and pulled her hand back. “Excuse the monkey noises, dear.” She turned the cold a little more, and tested again. “Just right now.” She pulled Simone’s hair together and ran it through the water. There was a citrus scent; lemony-grapefruity.

“They’re looking over at you. Ooh, they are – the other girls and the customers. Everyone knows, at least around here they do. They’re proud that one of our local girls was chosen. You did real good, darling.” Simone opened her mouth to say something, but before she could, Marge continued. “Now don’t speak, honey. Don’t you say anything at all. You save your breath for later. You’ll need it to climb all those steps – how many are there, 108? – so people can see you properly.”

Marge washed and conditioned Simone’s hair. Then she asked her to sit in another chair which was also purple-padded. “Ooh, you’re sitting rather high in this one, aren’t you, love? I didn’t realize you were so tall. I mean, I knew that you were a tall girl; they always are; but not that tall. What are you, six-feet?”

Simone opened her mouth to tell her, but was again interrupted. “Ok, I’ll do your hair real nice, now. You’ve got beautiful hair; I hardly need to touch it. I’ll just give it a little brush up. Some spot relaxer, and a bit of fire. Maybe a touch of hydrogel. And protein coating. And my secret ingredient; I’m sure you won’t tell anyone – black olive oil. How does that sound?” Simone nodded. “Perfect. You just relax there, honey. Aunty Marge is looking after you.”

There was almost a minute of silence, and then Marge said, “I don’t really know your mother, but I see her in town shopping sometimes. What a beautiful lady. I can see where you get your looks from. I’m surprised she didn’t get chosen herself when she was your age. Good job she didn’t, eh?” Marge winked and laughed.

“Ok, your hair’s all done; let’s start on that lovely face of yours. I hardly need to touch it. Let’s start with some cleanser and foundation. Some shading here and there. Maybe a bit more here. And here. And here. And there. Some blush – I’ll just brush it over – there you go. How’s it looking so far?”

Marge continued. “Business is bad this year. We’re barely getting half the customers. These days you need to look better than ever to even stand a chance of getting a job. These women don’t understand the value of investing in themselves. But you do, don’t you love? You’re making the ultimate investment.”

Simone didn’t get the chance to agree with Marge. “I’ll finish up your face now, babe. We’ll go with something classy. How about purple? That’s a regal colour, seems appropriate, doesn’t it? Oh, that looks so good on your eyes! I knew it! I knew it! It looks fabulous! Just hold them still while I do your eyeliner. I’ll bring it out a little at the sides, like Cleopatra, it’ll look dramatic. Oh, the purple looks good on your lips too! So good! Don’t you look beautiful?

“If only our brave boys could see you now. Wouldn’t they march into battle with a spring in their step? Thank God for this holy war, I say. How bad would the recession be otherwise? Providing no tribute – who do they think they are! Our economy is sinking, and theirs is booming, and they say we couldn’t have any! Where’s the sense in that?

Simone wasn’t in the mood for this discussion, and was about to change the topic, when Marge said, “I’ll touch up your fingers and toes, my love, and you’ll be ready. What do you say, purple varnish? With some silver sparkles?” Simone nodded. “The moment I heard the news I knew what to do with you. Make you into a proper princess. Sorry, should I say goddess? You know what I mean, love. The girls here are so jealous. They wanted to help me, but I said no; you’re not a doll being made in a factory by dollar-a-piece workers. You need the hand of a master craftswoman. And who better than your Aunty Marge?” She held up a mirror at various angles for Simone to peer into.

“I’m all for the war, darling. It brings more prisoners for sacrifice, it expands our influence, and brings in wealth. But killing people always makes me sad. That’s why events like this are so important to cheer us all up. I mean, seeing you tonight climbing up to the top of the temple, wearing your golden jewellery and crown, the Goddess Incarnate! And the knowledge that you will happily give your life for us, as part of the ongoing sacrifice that sustains our world. Your body will nourish the soils, and plants, and animals, and birds; and your beating heart will liberate all of our spirits, and reunite them with the sun.

“Oh, I hope I get to consume even a tiny shred of your holy body tonight. But even if I don’t, at least I know I’ve played my humble part.” She stopped and cleared her throat. “Forgive me love, I’m getting emotional. Do you want a final blow-dry?”

Freezer

Posted in Organic Farming, Uncategorized, World Myths with tags , , on February 4, 2012 by javedbabar

Frank had always wanted to be a butcher. He was an embarrassment to his parents at parties during the inevitable round of, “And what do you want to be when you grow up?” Good children said doctor, lawyer or banker, and there was always a nerd wanting to be Prime Minister. Frank was honest and always said, “A butcher”. When asked why, he replied, “Because I want to kill and eat animals”. His parents tried to train him to say something else, but he wouldn’t lie. That’s what he wanted to do, truly.

Franks inspiration was the local butcher’s shop. His visits there with his father were highlights of his childhood. The tinny smell and glistening haunches; the sounds of sharpening, chopping and grinding; slabs of meat slapped onto blocks; paper rustling and wrapping up; the grass – fake he knew – but making it seem like a natural place, where animals were born and died; pink tongues poking out; red livers slipping; trails of white intestines, and black-tipped hooves. The Master Butcher was pleased when little Frank said he would like to join their trade. He wiped his hands, removed his apron, and said, “Would you like to see the freezer?”

He led Frank to a room at the back with a big steel door. Inside was really chilly. Frank shuddered as he entered, and his breath created a small cloud. There was strong humming and whirring. The room was filled with slabs of red flesh hung from steel hooks – fat strips dangling, thick legs, and whole sides; white ribs shone within red bodies, like long teeth smiling. There were trays of round chickens, bowling-ball turkeys, and curled strings of sausages. The Master Butcher held up a huge ox heart, and said, “This is what you need for this job.”

A lot had happened since then. Frank was now dating a Vegan; Linda was a beautiful girl with dark glossy hair. Despite their differences, they got on well. Their ethical disputes sometimes got out of hand, but were mostly good-natured. He played up his carnivorous credentials, and she called him a “depraved killer by proxy with ambitions to descend lower”. He didn’t often remind Linda that her father owned the grocery store, and that she had at least partly been raised on blood-money. He only did that during serious arguments, like the one they were about to have.

“Linda, what on earth are you doing?” he said.

“Teaching you a lesson, my love.”

“Come on, don’t be silly. It’s late. Let’s get out of here.” As much as he’d loved the butcher’s freezer as a child, he had no wish to spend the night in this one.

“We can’t, my love.” Her eyes shone strangely.

“Yes we can, watch this,” Frank walked over to the door and pushed the safety latch. Nothing happened. He looked at her, confused.

“I disabled it this morning. I’m sorry, my love, but this is necessary.”

“How long must we spend in here?” He was getting annoyed now.

“Let’s put it this way, my love; our last moments will be spent together.”

“Don’t be ridiculous. We could survive all night here if we cuddled up…” He stopped as he sensed something. “What’s the temperature in here? It seems colder than usual.”

“Yes it is, my love. I turned it down to minus forty.”

“Centigrade or Fahrenheit?” Now he started to panic.

“They’re both the same, my love. Minus forty is the same on both scales.”

He had a rush of thoughts. They’d had some colourful arguments, and Linda was the queen of dramatic gestures. She’d worn a meat dress to a fancy ball as a way to promote her views and shock his friends. She’d somehow sourced a piece of in vitro meat, grown in a lab from animal cells, but “without consciousness or the need for murder”. After serving him dinner one day she’d revealed a bandage beneath her blouse and asked how she tasted, for the stir-fry contained a little piece of her flesh. When her mother’s dog had died, Linda used its meat to make him a curry. She said it was a guilt free offering from Scruffy. One morning he awoke to find the bedroom transformed; it held a terrible installation of animal skulls. How she hadn’t woken him, he didn’t know. It had to be Rohypnol. All of these things he’d found exciting; and the sex that resulted was awesome. It was animalistic, complete with roaring sounds. But he should have seen these as warnings, and now she was trying to kill him. But wait a minute; wouldn’t she also be killing herself?

“Yes, I will, my love. You are a murderer by proxy and deserve to die. But I am killing you directly, so deserve at least the same fate.”

What should he do? He tried the door a few more times, but found it was locked firmly. He bashed the insulated steel walls, which didn’t budge. He tried the many controls in the freezer but none were operational. The only thing left was to force Linda to release him somehow. But it seemed that she was very serious, and had thought things through. He would only be hurting a person he loved, and really achieve nothing. He said, “Let’s talk, my love.”

He told her about his childhood dreams of being a butcher. How he had the greatest love and respect for animals which had given their bodies to nourish him. The more he learnt about butchery, the more he saw it as a spiritual exercise. Like native cultures, he honoured his brother cow and sister sheep. He said prayers before each meal, ate consciously, and never wasted meat knowingly. Butchery was a noble profession, he said, a metaphor for the disassembly of self, and a giving of that self to others. The primal cut at the slaughterhouse separated the ego from the self, and secondary butchery destroyed it. He was really angry at her for wasting his life like this, but he wouldn’t hurt her. She was his love. These were the things he said as he became tired and confused. His breathing and speech slowed. He saw her lying beside him senseless. He lost movement in his arms and feet. He dreamt that he fell and shattered.

Egg Cetera

Posted in Organic Farming, World Myths with tags , , on January 25, 2012 by javedbabar

Freya loved eggs. She ate as many each day as her age, and by the time she was seven, this was significantly denting the household budget. People told her that she shouldn’t eat so many – think of all the calories, and the cholesterol, and all that fat. But she ran around and played all day, and seemed to be healthy. Besides the grocery bill, her mother wasn’t concerned. As Freya’s birthday approached, however, her mother decided to broach the subject. “Freya, would you like to have a hen house?” she said. “Where you could raise your own eggs? That could be fun.”

Freya didn’t need to be asked twice. For her eighth birthday, her father built her a henhouse and painted it red. He fenced off part of their yard as a run. There was no doubt – this was the best thing that had ever happened in her life. A box of eighteen chicks was on special offer online. Freya ordered them immediately from Celestial Chicks, despite their spelling mistake saying “Free Rune” rather than “Free run”. Freya didn’t sleep until they arrived.

The chicks grew quickly, and before she knew it, they were ready to lay. They all laid their first eggs together on the same day, which was even more thrilling. After this they laid one egg, each and every day, like clockwork. Freya only needed eight eggs daily, so gave the rest to her friends and neighbours, who said the eggs tasted really good. She had a mind to go into the egg business, but needed time to develop her business plan. You can’t rush these things.

After a few days the eggs changed shape; they became more pointed. Her mother said this was due to the hen’s oviduct becoming stronger; its pressure caused the egg to distort. And the eggs became speckled. Her mother said it was due to the soil here lacking calcium; the spotting reduced brittleness. But her mother had no explanation for the patterns that began to appear on the eggs. Every day that week, each hen’s eggs had a particular pattern of speckles. “Quite unusual,” agreed her mother.

This was what could be called a USP, thought Freya: Unique Selling Proposition; something that differentiated you from the herd – or in this case, brood. She had already thought of her brand name: Egg Cetera; but she had a problem – people bought eggs in dozens, and she only had ten to spare daily. She decided to sacrifice two eggs a day to please her customers. She made a sacrifice to herself.

She tried the local restaurants first. They thought she was cute and agreed to try three eggs each. But when she went back the next day, they all said the same thing.

“They are too inconsistent in appearance and taste. Our customers won’t like them.”

“Why don’t you try some more?” she said.

“If the three you gave us are a good sample,” they said. “More eggs will only mean more difference.”

She showed them the patterns. “Look!” They couldn’t see them. “I’ll give you a discount – only 40 cents each instead of fifty.”

“Sorry kid. Try the store.” But the store said that they weren’t approved by the Food Police, so they couldn’t take them.

Freya noticed a strange thing. Whereas before, each hens’ eggs had carried a particular pattern, now they changed daily, with a random mix of designs.

An eagle began circling near the house. Her mother said, “You better watch your hens.” Her father fitted mesh along the top of the run. It made her feel sad, reminding her of battery hens. But she had to protect them.

Freya decided to sell the eggs privately. She would build up a local customer base. She decided her goal was seven customers: a box a week each. But before she began her marketing campaign, her mother said to her, “Someone’s here to see you. I think it’s your first customer.”

“May I help you, Sir?” she said to the bearded, one-eyed man.

“Yes you may. I hear this is the sales office of Egg Cetera.”

“You are correct.” She thought, boy word travels fast in the corporate world.

“I would like to purchase all the eggs you have,” said the man.

“Ok, we have twelve available.”

“Actually I need eighteen,” he said, winking at her. This was unnerving from a man with one eye. It made him seem both sleeping and hurt.

“Well, I am afraid we only have twelve available.” Freya repeated.

“I know that you have eighteen hens,” said the man. “I will pay you well for all of their eggs.”

In a moment of inspiration Freya said, “Ok, we can give you eighteen eggs, but they will be $1 each.” She could buy her personal eggs for 50 cents from the store.

“It’s a deal,” he said. “I will need eighteen eggs every day.”

“Now wait a minute, I only said today.” A quick calculation told her that $18 x 7 days was $126 weekly. “But ok, we will supply you.”

The man came daily for his eighteen eggs, and paid her cash on the spot. It was a sweet arrangement. This continued for a month. In that time the hens got older, and the patterns of the eggs more defined. They began to seem like letters, but no alphabet she knew (she knew Roman letters, and her friends had shown her how to write her name in Cantonese, Japanese, and Punjabi). She thought she’d better apologize to the man for the strange letters.

He said, “There’s no need to apologize, Freya. That’s why I buy them. I’m learning to read them.” Then he winked and walked away laughing.

One day he didn’t come for his eggs. Freya thought there must have been an emergency, and kept them to one side. He didn’t come the next day either, or that whole week. Seven day’s production was impacted. She managed to find other customers, but she was really angry with him.

One day while she was out on her bike, two ravens came hurtling towards her. She put up her arms in defence, but they flew around and landed on her shoulders. They whispered magical sounds into her ears and flew ahead to guide her. She reached a farmhouse in the Meadows. No one was there so she looked inside the barn.

One huge wall was filled with her eggs. They were arranged by the day, with patterns facing front. Beside them was a vast chart filled with cross referenced symbols. An old book lay open, titled, “The Secrets of the Runes”. Freya heard a scream and crash in the forest. She went to see. The bearded, one-eyed man lay bleeding beneath a giant tree, but was laughing. “Thank you, sweet child,” he said. “I have it! I have it! I have it! The Cosmic Egg revealed the mystery, and the Cosmic Tree confirmed it. I know their secret; I am Master of the Free Runes! Now let’s talk business. How big do you want to get?”

Ajar

Posted in Classic Sci-Fi, Organic Farming with tags , , on January 22, 2012 by javedbabar

Iy hid among the produce; it was the nicest spot. Iy loved the beautiful colours, textures, and smells. Some of the round red objects were a little squashy, and Iy managed to squeeze out some salty juice. However the long orange things were hard; Iy scraped his gums along one of them, but the surface was bitter and impenetrable. The long yellow objects were also hard, but he found one whose tip was a little soft. When he sat on it, brown mush squeezed out. It was the sweetest, most delicious thing he had ever eaten. He squeezed out as much as he could.

Iy reached up for an orange ball, but as soon as he grasped it, countless others fell and scattered. Some of them hit him on the head, but they weren’t too hard. They bounced away, leaving a fresh, tangy smell in the air. Iy squashed one between his hands, and more smell emanated from within. He felt intoxicated, almost like… when? He rested a while among green bushes.

Iy wandered into a cooler area. The closer he got, the colder it became. He saw round tubs of something, and also cartons. Most of them were white, with colourful letters and signs, and pictures of a thing with black and white patches. This thing was somehow familiar. Iy found himself saying “Oom!” He reached for a carton but it was too cold to hold for long.

Iy ended up in a horrible area. It smelled of death. He left it and returned to his most reliable source of nutrition – the long tubes that you pushed and out came food. He was still amazed by the variety of things within them. How did you remember? How did you choose? There were hard, oily things the size of his toes. And salty, crisp things like his fingers. Plump things that for some reason reminded him of “Oom!” And sweet, bright mixes that made his head spin.

Iy had been here for a week now. Where he came from, he didn’t know. Why he was here, he didn’t know either. But he knew that he must keep himself hidden, and keep moving around. This all seemed wrong somehow. He felt this wasn’t the right place for him at all. Iy wondered if one day he would find that place, and maybe there would find others Iy’s.

There were alternating seasons. The first one was when beings with trolleys came with boxes and put things on shelves. Then many beings came and took those things off the shelves. Then beings with loud machines went up and down the rows. Then the quiet time, when lights were dimmed, and everyone left, and Iy could emerge for adventures.

Sometimes Iy wondered whether to show himself, but a voice inside said that he should never do that; these beings were not his friends; they were nasty beings. And this was confirmed when he saw the situation of other beings resembling himself. These tiny creatures were imprisoned by the giant beings. They were strapped to the giant’s bodies, or pushed around in mobile prisons. He knew about those somehow… Some of the tiny beings were allowed to move independently but only on a leash. They were made to repeat whatever the giants said, and often made to cry.

Some of the tiny creatures sensed his presence. They communicated enthusiasm and goodwill, and tried to alert the giant beings. Were they traitors, he wondered? Or maybe jealous of his liberty? Luckily their communication skills were undeveloped, and they were unable to give him away.

The scariest moment was when a new kind of being caught his scent. It came right up to his hiding place behind the long tubes, and sniffed and woofed. This being was familiar. He said to himself, “God”. This being was kind, and realized that Iy should be left alone. The god retreated, pulling one of the giant beings behind him, who had big black eyes, and a long white finger that tapped the ground. Despite his being guided by the god, the giant was clumsy and collided with a trolley, causing a box to fall off.

Iy felt a surge of awareness. Something inside that box made him feel angry and happy and sad. These were the strangest feelings that he had ever experienced. He needed to know what was in that box. Iy considered crawling over immediately, but a giant being appeared, so he hid himself away.

When the being was gone, Iy couldn’t restrain himself. He crawled over to the box. He lifted himself high and peered over its edge. But the box was empty. The being had already put its contents up on the shelves.

When the quiet time came, and lights dimmed, Iy attempted an audacious adventure. He found a stack of blue cans on a row end, and climbed upon them, one at a time. He made it to a shelf near the top. But there was no easy way from there. Iy hauled himself up as best as he could, grasping plum sauce jars, and catching footholds on pickles. He peered over the edge of the next shelf up.

There were jars filled with tiny beings like himself, all sleeping, with smiling faces. Their labels said, “Happy Baby Brand – Genetically Modified Meat – Too Cute To Eat!” He had a brief moment of elation, when “Iy” became “Iy’s”, followed by horrific despair. Iy grasped two jars – he wasn’t really sure if for support, or to pull them off – and fell with them to the ground.

Next morning, workers cursed the mess. “Oh shit!” said one. “I was rushing yesterday. I had to play hockey. Maybe I didn’t stack them well. What’s the worst they’ll do? Take some jars off my wages? I’ve never been able to eat them myself. It almost seems like they’re alive.”