The Great Outdoor Soup Kitchen and A Pellet Gun Outburst

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September 18, 2022- The line at Courthouse Plaza snaked around to the south side of the Courthouse, and for nearly 3 1/2 hours, people came to purchase a fresh ceramic bowl, and fill it with one or two kinds of soup. The Empty Bowls Project is a worldwide effort to raise money for food security, at the local level. It began in 1990, with a ceramics teacher named John Hartom and his friend Lisa Blackburn, to provide a means to food security in their community in the Detroit area. The concept quickly spread across Michigan and Ohio, then spread across North America. It is now a yearly event in several countries. https://emptybowls.com/

I joined this year’s event, the first since 2019, as part of Slow Food-Prescott’s crew. About twenty people, including several Girl Scouts, prepared and served 10 gallons of piping hot Minestrone Soup, with potatoes instead of pasta. The crowd that attended seemed smaller than in 2018, when I last joined the effort, but there were more vendors this time, so maybe the line was just moving faster. I was one of three “ladlers”, along with a local naturalist and the chef herself. It was truly a joyful event, bringing all parts of the Prescott area community together.

We finished the cleanup, at the catering kitchen where the soup had been prepared and cooked, around 3 p.m. Chef was kind enough to give me a lift home, as I’d walked downtown to the event, but the kitchen was 2.5 miles from Home Base. As we approached the neighbourhood, we saw that my street was blocked off by several police cars. I got off at a parking lot near the neighbourhood and walked down the alley across from Home Base, passing four police cruisers, with several officers searching a connecting alley.

It turned out that they were seeking a disturbed individual who had been firing a pellet gun, at one point blowing the rear window out of a neighbour’s vehicle. He had taken off to the south end of the street, and it took the officers another hour or so to locate and subdue him. Fortunately, there were no human injuries.

It was surreal, to have found peace and camaraderie downtown, only to return to my normally sleepy neighbourhood and find such commotion. As I write this, the police and the perpetrator have left, with peace returning.

Gophers, Minestrone and Ubiquitous Welcomes

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March 23, 2021- I set out this morning, for what I thought would be a day of working in a Literacy Project. Arriving at the school, I was informed that I was to work with Eighth Grade Science students, and this was not a suggestion. The details are complex, but the situation is not the fault of the teenagers, so I put as much effort into helping them understand DNA and RNA, as my scientifically illiterate self could muster. It is not as hard as it is sometimes presented. The result was that the kids were hoping I would stay for the rest of the semester. That won’t happen, because of other commitments-but I know efforts are being made to secure the instructional program.

Another warm welcome, this time at a local soup, salad and sandwich establishment, at which I am a weekly visitor, featured both piping hot Minestrone and fresh-baked bread, along with a cheerful server, who never stopped working- bringing food, helping bag to-go orders, sweeping the floor or clearing tables. I always feel like my presence matters there, which is not always the case for a single older man. Actually, it seems as if my presence is wanted in more and more places, both in-person and online. I’ll take this state of affairs, and the rain-checks that come with it, any day of the week, over the occasional surliness and side-eyes that had started to pop up, as winter wore on.

This evening, I joined an online discussion on gardening, which featured, among other things, gopher extermination. Gophers are a competitor for any fruits, grains and vegetables grown in the Mountain Southwest. The veteran farmer who offered the program was quite matter-of-fact about the necessity of being not nice, in dealing with these competitors. There is, other than coexistence, which runs the risk of both dietary and financial ruin, no gentle way to deal with gophers, moles, prairie dogs-or javelinas, for that matter. He went through tunnel traps, toxic deterrents and electric fencing. I will go with construction cloth, below the planting area, and see how that works-though my neighbours had no issue with gophers last season.

Every day, as is said in the Sheryl Crow song, is a winding road.