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Define wealth: earth’s bounty or Gucci?

A book, a newspaper article and my garden gave me the idea for this column; what I have in mind is a series of observations, based upon life as I know it, juxtaposed against, well, lives so beyond my ken that they may as well belong to another species.

I just picked the last of our blueberries, no more than a large handful, and they’re done. Not as many as last year, but not bad. On the other hand, our raspberries were excellent. Tons of cherries, as usual, and the apples and plums are looking good. Our biggest grapevine – a Blue Seedless Glenora – is just loaded, and the transplanted Concord (grapevines don’t like to be dug up) is healthy again and starting to produce. The Canadice? Well, it’s not its fault that it has to grow out from under the shade.

OK, I’m back. Where was I? In the kitchen again, eating another tomato, as we’re finally into glorious too-many-tomatoes-time. I like to stand over the sink, sprinkle one with a little salt, and eat it whole. You need the sink because fresh garden tomatoes drip even more than a good peach. I’ll be doing batches of V-8-10-12 (depending on what I pick at the time), and dehydrating tons of Sungolds. Money in the bank.

Hmmm, what the #@*&*##? Looking at this morning’s Spokesman (Aug. 18), I see this headline: “Affluent lavishing fashions on toddlers.” Then, “Juliet Sandler dresses in the latest $650 dresses and $400 shoes from Parisian fashion house Lanvin. Juliet is 3.” Her mom spent 10 grand on her summer wardrobe and plans on spending a few thousand for fall. (So little? Won’t Juliet feel deprived?) I recently spent close to a hundred bucks on just half a dozen tighty-whities, two T-shirts and a pair of shorts. And it felt like a mugging.

Before checking the blueberries, I spent 45 minutes harvesting beans, cucumbers, squash and tomatoes from the veggie garden. After another lousy start for the hot weather crops, it’s going great guns and I can barely walk through my paths, what with draping bean trellises, wandering cucumbers and huge squash plants.

I picked almost 10 pounds of string beans, which may not sound like a great amount, but is. They filled my largest bowl and then some, and I had enough to dry a batch, blanch and freeze several quarts, and put up my first jars of dilled beans. Happily, the dill is at its prime at just the right time, and I’ll probably have enough cukes for pickling pretty soon.

But, meanwhile, the fashionistas out there are still shopping. While average American households are expected to spend $688 outfitting their children for school (the article doesn’t say how many kids per household), “Some will spend $795 on Gucci backpacks or $1,090 on leopard print puffy coats from Lanvin.”

Of course, it was ever thus. Until it is not. Bill Bryson reports, in his latest book, “At Home: A Short History of Private Life” on the excesses of the Gilded Age: “At one New York dinner party, guests found the table heaped with sand and at each place a little gold spade; they were invited to dig in and search for diamonds and other costly glitter buried within.” I guess we all know what brought that to a screeching halt. Something to do with the year 1929, as I recall.

Questions: What does it mean to be “rich”? And, if the bottom falls out again, what’s more valuable: A) A full freezer and pantry from the garden; or B) $200 Gucci sneakers for your 3-year-old?

Donald Clegg, a longtime Spokane resident, is an author and professional watercolor artist. Contact him via email at

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