I planted seeds for cabbage, broccoli and cauliflower two weeks ago. I ran across the seed in a drawer and was disinclined to ‘do’ something with them. I considered throwing them out and skipping the fall garden; or, I thought I could just buy plants this year. I had some potting soil and tossed it into two old pans, sprinkled the seed on top. I didn’t put a clear lid on for humidity or fuss over them at all. I just kept them watered. Weirdly, I got better germination than usual and the little plants have thrived. On a morning when I had chore I wanted to avoid, I put the teeny seedlings in 4-inch pots; they are all two or more inches tall now. They will be ready to plant in another week or two, but will I be? My 2017 hot weather indolence may lift when it begins to cool off. I hope so.
Our culture is one where food is bountiful and there is no fear of the Grim Reaper if I do not manage my garden well. I am grateful indeed that the food insecurity, reported in the overseas news almost daily, is not a part of my life. Ten, maybe fifteen minutes daily in the garden would provide me with all the vegetables, flowers and herbs I could find a use for over the coming winter. Human resistance to this kind of boring, repetitive work is apparently hard-wired into us. We have only been farmers for thousands of years. Our hunter/gatherer genetics go back millions of years and current research posits that our ancient and not-so-ancient relations were healthy and happy. Historians, Frank Hole and Kevin Flannery (along with many others) believe that “No group on earth has more leisure time than hunters and gatherers, who spend it primarily on games, conversation and relaxing.” link
It is now fashionable to consider farming, well, agriculture, a ‘great mistake.’ It is certainly bad for the soil, probably bad for human health and arguably bad for leisure time. John Zerzan is particularly grumpy about the decline suffered by humans with the onset of farming. link , He quotes Lewis Mumford on the culture of farming: “Conformity, repetition, patience were the keys…the patient capacity for work.” Scholars, who may never have farmed a day in their lives, pontificate about latent resentments, heaviness and lack of humor in farmers.
I love my garden and my farm and I will write at some point about writer Gene Logsdon’s critique of all these farm critics. Meanwhile I will enjoy procrastinating; wait another week or so to get my fall garden in shape and imagine living off the land –hunting and gathering. Lucy, pictured above, undoubtedly lived this “free” life of a hunter/gatherer.
Lucy was a hominid from the Australopithecus afarensis species who resided in Ethiopia 3.2 million years ago.The beautiful sculpture of her, in the picture above, can be viewed at the Houston Museum of Natural Science. Was her life easier than mine? Probably not. What would she think about all the new concrete construction popping up all around me. Would she hate it like I do? What would she think of the hundreds of deer in my neighborhood, who live a life free of predators, but who keep the ground stripped of all edible plants. Would she be able to solve this problem?
Lucy does not look like she is prone to whining or procrastinating. I see the patient capacity for work in her marvelous face. I imagine she got her work behind her before she indulged herself with play or rest. Millions of years divide us but I like to imagine we both have the patient capacity for work. I’ll be glad about that when the carrots and leeks are fat and the beautiful gray-green leaves of the cauliflower, broccoli and cabbage rise three feet or more–lots for me and lots to share with my friends. Lucy probably gathered some ancient version of cabbage to share with her friends.