Cracking wheat

Bakers love to write about their bread singing as the loaf cools. Steam whistles through the crust, the crust crackles as it shifts. It sounds poetic. It is poetic.

I was born reasonably deaf. I cannot hear my bread sing, but I do not miss what I never knew, no more than you miss the colors a honeybee sees that humans cannot.

A loaf just out of the oven is dead. The yeast have been cooked after doing the work, reason enough to pray as you slide your dough into the oven.

Wheat berries are alive. If you plant one, it will grow into a wheat plant.

If you split one open (easier said than done) you can see a tiny wheat embryo waiting to be bathed in water, to activate its enzymes, to awaken from its slumber and become a thriving, multicellular organism.

When I grind the wheat berries to make fresh flour, I can hear the cracking of the hulls. I doubt (but do not know for sure) that wheat berries are unaware of their end, but still remind myself that the grains going into the hopper are alive, and the dust we collect and call flour is not.

We know something, but not a lot, about life, but we know this much—everything alive here and now comes from countless generations of life over billions of years, life begetting life begetting life, a connected strand that once broken cannot be put back together again.

We are not so different from plants as we might believe—we share DNA, we share mitochondria, we share critical enzymes, we share a thread of life drawn from a common ancestor.

If a cooling loaf of bread sings, the cracking bodies of wheat berries reflects the cracking of bones, of life. The wheat is not aware, of course, but it is dead just the same, as unaware as I will be when I am dead.

Apple vs. wheat: an economic parable

(Photo of wheat grown by a student in my classroom.)

The market rate for wheat today is $9.08 per bushel. A bushel of wheat weighs 60 pounds. That’s just over 15 cents a pound.

Where did the “stuff” of the wheat come from? Water, mostly rainfall, and carbon dioxide, which well, we have more than plenty to spare. Water molecules are split, the oxygen drifts off, and the remaining pieces are knit with carbon dioxide to form the stuff that keeps all of us alive.

Truly miraculous.

A pair of AirPod Pros weighs 0.19 ounces, and checks in at $249, a bit over $20,000 per pound, and it won’t do any good to water it. 

For the price  of a pair of earbuds, you can get 3/4 tons of wheat.

The “miracle of the five loaves and two fish” is, of course, a parable, the only miracle story found in all four Gospels, and most folks in these parts know more about the story of Apple than the story of wheat. Farmers do the work of Jesus every fookin’ day.

I get about 50 loaves of bread for every bushel of wheat I buy. One AirPod Pro gets you enough wheat for 80,000 loaves of bread.

There’s a parable there somewhere.

Lichen and the local economy

A few summers ago I watched a wasp attack a patch of lichen on our Adirondack chair.

Wasps are fascinatingly creepy as they stalk prey among the flowers, but this one got fooled. It stalked the lichen, then made its attack.

After a moment or two of trying to do something with the lichen, it flew a couple of feet away and then cleaned its legs, classic displacement behavior.

(It was embarrassed.)

The chair was made by a local man. We bought two, the price not cheap, but was more than fair, and he was surprised we opted not to oil them. We like to see things age as much as we do, and, in the local way of acceptance that is under-rated, he nodded and went on his way.

Because we chose not to oil our chairs, they have turned grey and are covered by lichen. They are now over a decade old, and will likely last another 5. With oil, they may have outlived us.

Wheat grown in our backyard by my toddler grand-daughter on an aging cedar chair made by a local craftsmen.

When we need new ones, we’ll seek the same man. We do not need chairs to outlive us. That’s what plastic is for.

Because we chose not to oil them a decade ago, I got to see a wasp explore the lichen, which might not seem like much, but I enjoyed seeing that a wasp could be as easily fooled as a human.

We are all easily fooled–life is foolish, in the best sense of the word.