I went out to my car to grab my knitting - I know, I know, but the quilt in progress was too big to haul down there - and heard some boys screaming "Starling! Starling! Kill the starling!"
They were chasing and running and then converging upon a nest that had been built high above the entry door of the school. I stopped and in my best retired teacher voice inquired, "What the heck are you doing?"
"It's a starling! They're bad!" one of the about 10 year old boys informed me, eyeing the nest with 5 babies perched on the rim.
Seizing the teachable moment, I explained, "Those are swallows. They eat mosquitoes. Do you like mosquito bites?"
"I thought they ate worms," the young ringleader replied.
"No," I repeated. Mosquitoes. And each of those baby swallows, when it grows up, will eat nearly 3,000 mosquitoes a day. " I finished up this mini-lecture with, "Leave them alone."
At this point, a young mother walked up to see what was going on. She said nothing. I waited until the gang of four had wheeled off in search of other trouble to get into and then smiled at her. She looked confused. She most likely didn't know the difference herself. More disturbingly, she probably didn't care.
The point here, and it's a long way around the barn, is that ignorance is the big problem and it manifests in many different guises. We can't just assume that people know what we know. Children need to be taught right from wrong, good from evil, good decisions from ones that will bring them painful consequences, and sometimes - the simple difference between a starling and a swallow. A brief aside here - starlings also have their place in the greater scheme of things.
The Arrogance of Ignorance is a far more serious problem than the fuel crisis or the crippled economy. Some people are certain of what they know, even when what they know is actually incorrect. So, what's the connection to food preservation?
You'll encounter many well-intentioned people who will all too willingly give you advice on how to put up your food, using shortcuts their great-aunt Tillie or their hairdresser gave them. They'll treat these orts of info as gospel. Be careful. Always check with a reliable source before setting out on a shortcut that seems too good to be true. The Extension Service is always available for you, to give you the right answers. You'll find their number in your phone book.
With the right information you'll learn to distinguish a starling from a swallow, dill from hemlock, and morels from their poisonous cousins. And you'll be able to pass on this knowledge to others.