8/3 Today we picked the white apples. They have skins the color of old yellowed bones, and translucent flesh so that when you slice them open you can see the seeds through the flesh. Bone-and-glass apples, parchment apples, ghost apples.

They bruise easily, a purplish brown rather too similar to a bruise on human skin. If you pick one up, there’s a good chance the shapes of your fingertips will be marked on it the next day. I want to try writing words on them by pressing on them with a pencil eraser sometime.

They smell very faintly of perfume, maybe roses. They do not smell like apples. Apple maggots never infest them.

They’re lovely. They are also disgusting. Mealy and soft, with no flavor whatsoever. They’re not sweet. They’re not even sour. It’s like a mouth full of wet cotton ball. I’m pretty sure I spit it out the first time I tried one.

I hope you all understand how weird this is: even the goats are reluctant to eat them. They’ll eat an apple or two, but then they lose interest (except in keeping the sheep from eating any, of course).

I have no idea why a previous resident planted the ghost-apple tree. If they have any flavor at all, only the restless dead can taste it.

pinkrangerv can have them all. 🙂 We’ve tried making applesauce, though. Not even that helped.

( PS I’m trying to act all mysterious about it, but the actual reason they don’t get infested by apple maggots is probably that their growing time is too short to support the apple maggot fly life cycle. It’ll probably be another month or two before the rest of our apples are ripe. )

The disquieting story of the ghost apples.


$300 Underground Greenhouse Grows Food Year Round; An Extraordinary Walipini 

From vertical farms to solar-powered “farms from a box,” we’ve seen how farming technology has grown leaps and bounds in recent years. But for those who prefer something a little more rustic, growing food from a hole in the ground is as low-tech as you can get.

A walipini, meaning “place of warmth” from the Amaraya Indian language, is an underground greenhouse with a transparent (usually plastic) covering that stays warm by passively soaking up the sun’s heat and absorbing the earth’s thermal energy.

This underground greenhouse collects the sun’s rays and earth’s heat to grow food Photo credit:

Fruits and vegetables can be grown year-round, making it ideal for communities in colder locations that can’t usually grow their own fresh and local produce during certain parts of the year.

The farming method isn’t exactly new. Walipinis have been used in South and Central America for decades, including one that can grow bananas at 14,000 feet in the Andes.

The technique was notably adopted by The Benson Institute, a worldwide food security program of the Mormon church. According to The Plaid Zebra, the Benson Institute and its team of volunteers built a community-sized 74-feet-by-20-feet walipini in La Paz, Bolivia for around a mere $300.

Read more here: $300 Underground Greenhouse Grows Food Year Round; An Extraordinary Walipini 


The Sack Farmers of Kibera

Kibera is a poor neighbourhood in Nairobi, Kenya, and one of the largest slums in Africa. Food insecurity is a concern for many of its residents, and a perpetual struggle for around 38% of people there. 

Sack farming may look unglamorous, but it’s a cheap and convenient way to provide both income and nutrition for the people of Kibera. Jokingly referred to as multi-storey gardens, the sack farms can grow many crops including kale, onions, spinach, tomatoes, and arrowroot.

“I used to struggle to feed my family. However, these days I not only have vegetables readily available, but also earn some little money from selling them.”
– Joyce Anyango, Independent Sack Farmer


Growing North is a project designed to bring fresh, sustainable food to people living in the Arctic Circle. 68% of families in Northern Canada live without a reliable source of affordable, nutritious food. Arctic greenhouses like this one can grow food for communities. Using vertical growing constructs, the techology they’re using cuts water requirements and increases yield.

This greenhouse can maintain growing conditions for 7 months each year, by collecting and storing warmth from sunlight, with plans to install lighting and heating to provide all year long. This greenhouse grows food for a community of around 1000 people in the village of Naujaat, Nunavut.

Aside from locally caught fish and game, fresh food usually needs to be shipped from further South to provide for communities like this, dramatically raising the prices. Nunavummiut have to pay, on average, twice the price of other Canadians for the same food. Carrots cost 3.1 times as much in a place like Naujaat as they would in Toronto. Growing North aims to cut these costs drastically.

Hello! I read (and enjoyed!) the story you posted of your grandpa and his tree disposal methods, and so was looking for the story you mentioned of your other grandpa menacing a peach tree with a baseball bat, but can’t seem to find it. Halp?



That would be because I haven’t posted it yet!  Many people have requested the story mentioned in the tags “Grandpa Menaces a Peach Tree With A Baseball Bat”, So here it is, with a side of “Grandpa Menaces The Iowa Relatives With Giant Corn”


For the Full Context of this tale, you have to understand how my dad’s side of the family got to America in the first place.  Prior to 1917, they were all farmers of limited success that migrated from county to county, trying not to starve, until a covey of the Fitzpatricks heard that they could be shoveling shit in Grand Americay, far away from the people they owed money to, so they all fucked off to Iowa and somehow made a fortune in the real-estate business in the middle of the depression.  Despite now being comfortably middle-class, they never actually gave up farming, and having a pair of glowing green thumbs was a point of pride in the family.

So, when Grandpa moved out to California, specifically to the Salinas Valley, which is where an absurd percentage of the country’s food is grown because it’s full of probably the world’s most stupidly good soil,  Grandpa had to continue the tradition and set up a garden in the backyard, planted various crops and flowers in January because fuck you this is coastal California, I can start stuff in the middle of winter, and invited his sister Leone and her growing brood of (at the time, 5, later 9 children) out to visit.

They came out in July, to escape the Midwest humidity and Butter fetish for a time, when the corn is typically getting to be around knee-height if things are going well.  Grandpa spent a long time asking how things were back on the farm, plying them with ice tea and grandma’s lethal Angel Food cake, before politely inviting Leone and her Husband Scotty out back to see how his patch was doing, oh its not much really, just a bit of fun for me and the children-

Scotty and Leone stared at the nine-foot-tall goddamn corn which was already setting fruit because it had been going since January.  At the watermelon plant that had taken over the side-yard, and at the other oversize and thriving crops that had taken over grandpa’s yard.  There was a few moments of awed silence.

“Well fuck you Edwin.” Scotty eventually said, before Leone whopped him over the head and the rest of the visit was a pleasant diversion.

the following spring though, Grandpa received a package from Iowa, specifically a small peach tree with a note saying “With Love, Scotty.”

Leone knew better than to engage in such shenanigans, because this is irish-agrarian passive-aggressive Bullshittery at its absolute finest.  “Sure, yeah, you can do corn.  Any asshole can do corn.  TRY THIS FUSSY-ASS PEACH VARIETAL INSTEAD, YOU ASS”  is perhaps a more accurate translation.

Grandpa, not about to be intimidated by a mere tree, planted that sucker in the front yard and proceeded to pamper it- bone meal fertilizer, a brand-new irrigation system, the works.  Hell, he would go out some times and talk to the darn thing.  It flowered, and he borrowed a behive from one of the local farmers to make DARN SURE that it got pollinated, because he was going to mail peaches to Scotty for Christmas, that asshole.

The tree. Did not. fruit.

That fall, grandpa reccived a letter from Scotty, asking after a couple paragraphs of circumlocutions, how that tree he sent was doing?

Grandpa got up, made himself a martini, picked up Dad’s baseball bat, and walked out to the front yard to have a discussion with the Peach tree.  

“I’ve just received a letter.”  he explained, waving the paper at the tree. “Asking when you’re going to fruit.  Now, I think I’ve held up my responsibilities to you as your caretaker, so it’s time for you to start providing.  Do you understand?  This spring, you better start fruiting or I will personally take this bat to you and turn you to into kindling.”

He stepped close to the tree, sticking his face in the branches as though whispering into it’s hypothetical ear. “Do not test me, you little shit.”

The next week, the tree bloomed out of season, and by February, it had set an obscene amount of fruit, which grandpa gleefully turned into preserves and mailed back to Iowa.


I e-mailed dad to tell him that that peach tree story is much popular on this site, and he mailed me back with:

“You realize Scotty mailed Grandpa an ornamental tree right?  It wasn’t supposed to fruit at all. 

He was gonna tell Grandpa it was sterile on his deathbed, because Scotty was an ass like that.  He was so mad when Grandpa mailed the peaches that he wrote a fairly nasty letter back accusing him of being a charlatan and that his corn was skinny and probably fake too.  Grandpa was furious and mailed them polaroids of the tree to show that HE WAS NOT FAKING IT, THANK YOU, and Scotty accused him of taping store peaches to the tree, ad so on.

This went on for several years and got rather bitter, until the Iowans came out to California again, and Grandpa drove Scotty from the airport at ten at night to show him the goddamn tree, with the real fruit it was actually growing, thank you.

Scotty was about to argue with him when Leone whopped him over the head with her purse and said “If I hear one more goddamn word about this tree, they’ll never find your corpse.  Now lets go in, I want a martini.”

Things got much better with the Iowans after that.

You should’ve heard Leone cackle when your grandmother showed up at Scotty’s funeral with a peach cobbler though.”