Why, Detroit is Lovely



What’s all this talk about Detroit in decay? My daughter and son-in-law took me there for my birthday last year and it was lovely. First we went to an elegant restaurant, Mario’s. David drove right to the door and a nice young man parked our car for us. When it was time for the opera, a van transported us directly from the restaurant door to the Opera House entrance. The van met us at the conclusion of the opera and returned us to Mario’s where, after desert and dancing, the nice young man brought us our car.  No poverty, no abandoned neighborhoods, nothing dirty or distressing. Detroit was beautiful. Delicious food served elegantly. Good French wine. A delightful performance of Mozart’s The Magic Flute. Opera House with crystal chandeliers and gilded ceilings. Live Motown for dancing. So why are people concerned about Detroit conditions? All you need is valet parking, tickets to the opera, money for a fine restaurant—and blinders to wear as you drive in and out of the city.

th-12                               Fine Musicmario-s

th-10Fine Restaurants and Beautiful Parks






th-15Shining skyline












From goldenrod blossoms to political rage

I’m trying to learn how to send posts consisting of text and photo put together in an Evernote note to my blog in WordPress. Have attached a picture of goldenrod I took last summer on one of the rare days when the temperature wasn’t impossibly hot and I could enjoy a walk. The side of the two-rut road past the third limerock pit at my place was dense with blooms, probably in response to recent rain. The drought was supposedly past, but the water level in the pits was about as low as I’d ever seen it. Now, after six months more of decent rainfall, the water level has dropped even more.

The Southwest Florida Water Management District, fondly known as “Swiftmud,” does not publish aquifer levels on its website, but does provide information to the US Geological Survey for 2008, which publishes it. Since no other years are shown, residents in my part of Levy County can’t know what’s happening to the water under our feet without making calls to Tampa and being put on hold.

The Suwannee River Water Management District does give maps for three years, 2002, 2005, and 2009, that indicate no change in the waterflow region where I live. This limited data hardly shows historical trends and the most recent, 2009, is four and a half years old.

How can residents participate in any kind of democratic decision-making without information?

Damnation! This post was intended only as a test of a software function. Now I’m mad at the agencies that are supposed to be taking care of our water. Now I’m really determined to learn how to do this blogging business effectively so I can help get out the information. If you know of easily accessible information on aquifer levels, please leave a comment.

Sent from Evernote

Support local farmers

Only a thimblefull.
Only a thimblefull

I thought I could support local farmers by making myself a gin and tonic this evening. Then I read the tiny label on the lime. “Grown in Mexico.” Thanks, NAFTA. Guess I’ll have to return to Manhattans. My favorite Tennessee Sipping Whiskey might be bottled in Indiana, but it’s still brewed in Cascade Hollow, Tennessee. From Tennessee-grown corn?

Giant sweet potato, puny profits, at Williston Farmers Market

According to the most recent figures available from the state’s Department of Agriculture and Consumer services, Florida has 47,500 commercial farms. It ranks second in the value of vegetable production and first in cash receipts for oranges, grapefruit, fresh snap beans, sweet corn, watermelons, fresh cucumbers, squash and sugarcane. (Williston, Florida used to be first in cucumbers.) The Sunshine State is second in the production of greenhouse and nursery products. Florida accounts for 65 percent of total U.S. citrus production.

The motto is “Fresh From Florida.” But Floridians rarely buy it fresh.

In 2004, the Williston, Florida’s  development agency pushed the City Council to approve and partially fund a farmers market. Our dream was make fresh, affordable produce available to local residents of low income Levy County, to encourage small scale farming/market gardening, and to bring people to the center of town.

We failed. The City Council was less than enthusiastic. The idea, they thought, was weird. “It’s not the way we’ve always done it.” They forgot that most Americans once shopped in farmers markets

We have short memories. They’re limited to what is familiar. Anything else is historical, exotic, foreign. And what is familiar, normal, today is defined by the global corporate economy. Winn-Dixie’s produce bins are filled with cucumbers from Mexico, not Williston, although it was once our major market crop. Our grandparents might have thought farmers markets were the “way we always did it,” but  Winn-Dixie and Bi Lo, which bought W-D this spring, operate 690 stores in eight southeastern states and ship in products from around the world. They are our normal.

The farmers market failure was way back in 2004, but if you ask a Williston City Council member today what he (yes, they are all he) thinks about solar power, the answer will still be “that’s not the way we’ve always done it.” That means Progress Energy, and a nuclear power plant in Levy County. Never mind the plant right down the beach in Crystal River has been closed since 2009 because of fissures in its containment dome. Never mind the planned site is a tourist and fishing mecca. Never mind Progress Energy expects repairs at Crystal River to exceed $2.5 billion and customers are paying $500 million a year in fuel costs. Never mind this is the Sunshine State where, once we build the panels, storage and lines, the energy is free.

Of course City Council opposition wasn’t the only reason the Farmers’ Market failed. We couldn’t find a market manager. There weren’t enough vendors to satisfy the hopes of shoppers. There wasn’t the critical mass needed to sustain the market long enough to encourage local gardeners to plant an extra row to take to market.

But the big reason it failed, most likely, was that too many of us operate with a “It’s not the way we’ve always done it” way of thinking. Not just the men on City Council. If there had been a groundswell of enthusiasm for the project, it might have survived, maybe even prospered.

If only we were free to think outside the box built by corporations around our heads….

John Moran photography captures Florida magic

In order to get a head start on knowing my way around north central Florida, I subscribed to the Gainesville Sun about a year before I moved from Cambridge, Massachusetts to Williston, Florida. On the front page of one issue was a photograph that portrayed the threat of development to Florida better than than anything I’ve ever seen or read.

The photo was a close-up of a gopher tortoise, looking up, dismayed, at the overpowering blade of a bulldozer. It was by a Gainesville Sun photographer, John Moran. That was about 23 years ago. I’ve never been able to find that picture, but I’ve never forgotten it either. Maybe some day I’ll be bold enough to write him and ask for a copy.

Moran left the Sun several years ago to devote himself entirely to capturing the quickly disappearing Florida landscape on film. He is one of a number of photographers–albeit the most prominent–who spend their days and nights sloshing through swamps, diving springs and hiking through dense hammock to sit, watch, wait till the sun is just right or the heron moves just so. if Florida is saved from developers and the politicians who work for them, we can thank these photographers for their efforts at bringing the glories of the land and water to the public’s attention.

Please take a look at some of John Moran’s photographs. Sorry, I haven’t figured out how to insert links, but you can copy this URL to your browser.