Thursday, September 18, 2008

Shh...did somebody say "Great Depression?"

Next year, we'll have a huge vegetable garden. I can feel my immigrant grandmother's instincts in my bones. Use what resources you have. We have some land. Get the ground ready for spring. Clean out the weeds. Amend the soil. Let manure work itself in over the winter. Tidy up the cold frame so it's ready to go.

Grandmother didn't garden because she needed to clear her mind or because it was chic. She gardened to feed her family during the Great Depression. My mother recounted feasts -- borscht, fresh baked chicken, cucumber onion salad, fresh eggs from the chickens -- in the midst of the Great Depression. Her hunger was satisfied with home grown goodness, the best her mother could provide. But my mother also remembered begging for new shoes and being told she'd have to wait. Grandmother couldn't grow shoes in the garden any more than Grandfather could find work on the streets of Chicago.

Mother's family knew abundance and lack.

With the current financial meltdown of the shadow banking world, movers in the know are uttering bleak words. Mark Patterson, co-founder and chairman of distressed investor MatlinPatterson Global Advisor said Tuesday that the odds of a Great Depression this year are between 20 and 25 percent .

But, if you are already unemployed and hungry the odds of a Great Depression are irrelevant. You are already experiencing need. Michigan has been in a so-called "one-state recession" for about two years. You say tomato; I say tomahto.

According to recent reports, even once booming West Michigan is hitting bottom as thousands enter extreme poverty. And the Salvation Army in Farmington Hills is giving out over 250 free loaves of bread in a day. Median family income in Farmington Hills in 2006 was over $85,000, well above U.S. median income, yet these people are lining up for free bread.

Yet, some movers and shakers persist in saying there are investment opportunities in this meltdown. Tell that to the children in poverty. "Buck up, little kids, you might be hungry, but there are some terrific deals in the banking sector and they're giving out bread in Farmington Hills."

Too bad the manure on Wall Street isn't good for the garden. There is so much of it these days.