Semper Ubi Sub-Ubi April 9, 2007

We all wore togas to our Latin Club party my senior year in high school. I wasn’t a great Latin student, but I lived by the motto developed by our Latin club members – semper ubi sub-ubi, “Always wear underwear.” (Ubi means “where,” but you get the idea, this was high school.) My Latin teacher drove a two-door Honda Civic. He used to say, in Latin, of course, that “On the path to Mt. Olympus, the chariot of Zeus would strike any rabbit that ran across its path.” If you mistranslated a passage during class, Mr. Ferry–or Zeus as he preferred to be called–would walk to the wall and grab the pounded metal lightning bolt made by a shop student in the 1960s. “Don’t look up to Mt. Olympus if you are not worthy,” he would say while making jabbing motions with his lightning bolt in the direction of the poor red-faced student of Latin (usually me). Regardless of the psychological damage inflicted by Zeus on a plebe such as myself, I still remember the translated descriptions of agricultural life outside of Rome; the banished generals and politicians who took refuge in the countryside of the empire, living out their old age growing grapes and wheat and generally having a patrician existence.

One day, I was out and about in central California looking at the spring-green, serrated leaves just now blooming across the tops of the twisted arms of table-grape vines still in their seasonal infancy and I wondered if California agriculture will someday be discussed in the same way that the lush soils outside of Rome were. In our modern time, California is the Mt. Olympus of the agriculture world. Apples, pears, and grapes grow from the nooked and fog-touched hills of Sebastopol, through the stone fruit-laden central valley and up into the foothills of the Sierra Nevada. Citrus is sprinkled within the state as well, marching in green-step from the dusty flatlands to scatter up into the terraced hills of places like Ojai. California geography–that shaken-rug of earth plates that roll our hills and flatten our valleys–create the perfect growing conditions for fruit.

Enjoy and be fruitful!- Chris Mittelstaedt

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