Well, things are certainly looking bleak down here…
My home country is falling apart; with a yearly inflation rate that nears 200 % and almost everyone unemployed the economy is in total shambles. This has led to a situation where foodstuff is rather scarce and expensive, in some cases developing a Food Black Market. You want milk and eggs? Be prepared to pay through the nose.
This has become so extreme that you have to stand in line three or four hours just to enter the supermarket, generating a whole new way of earning a living, where people spend most of the day waiting like buzzards around the foodstores and see what’s available to purchase. If they see an approaching truck ready to bring stock in, they swarm all over it to find what’s inside. The most desirable ítems in this brave, new economy are rice, sugar, coffee, specially prepared corn flour, cooking oil, margerine, laundry soap and disposable diapers.
On a personal level, I’m hurting: I live on a steady diet of tomato, bell peppers and onions, mainly because they’re rather unexpensive. No potatoes, as the price is prohibitively onerous; I had to replace them with manioc, which I’m able to dig up in one of my neighbors’ lots. No meat or poultry either, as they’re only available at Black Market prices, at least three or four times the state-approved prices. This week, I’ve been able to stretch things a bit with some corn-on-the-cob that I’ve harvested from the same plot, but they’re a bit past their prime as they’re a bit hard and unedible. Occasionaly, I can suplement my boring diet with bananas and twice a year I can enjoy some mangoes, if I’m lucky. But that’s it (I’m about twenty pounds below my ideal weight if you need to know).
As you can see, the name of the game now is survival. In the past I made ends meet with my book sales, specially when it was possible to sell a dozen books or so each months. This gave me an extra $20 to which I could cling to when things were particularly bad, but that’s no longer the case. You see, there’s no market interest in the books that I write, which cover a great variety of genres and are very funny and creepy and earn 4 and 5-star reviews… but no one seems to be willing to part from their $2.99, even if that means that I could eat that month.
So now, instead of writing, I’m doing experiments in my land and trying to grow things to eat. A few months back, I was able to raise some tomatoes successfully. It was very encouraging when the teensy, weensy frail tomato seedling I had planted a couple months earlier were capable of bearing two healthy and nice looking tomatoes, one weightng about 7 ounces and the other about three. The large one I let ripen until it turned into a bright, fiery red… and I ate it in thin slices on buttered bread with a pinch of salt and ground pepper. The other tomato was delicious when I prepared it as a fried green tomato, with some leftover mozzarella cheese on top.
However, those two were my only two successes. The plant was about ready to bear another three or four tomatoes when it was attacked by affids, grasshoppers and stinkbugs in rapid succession. The fruits were devoured in mid-growth almost overnight, so there was very little that could be done to sabe them.
This was far from discouraging, though. I managed to build a hanging garden with two discarded wáter gutters that I had filled with some compost soil I made myself and I keep experimenting. Unfortunately, the local soil, even though it’s nitrogen-rich, is very lacking in potassium and magnessium, which certainly affects how well the plants bloom. So far, my bell peppers fail to bear; they just bud and then the potential flower just dries up and falls off. I hope to have better luck with my tomatoes. They look so thin and frail now… will I be able to harvest the result?