Saturday, August 11, 2007

the alligators are winning.

Mostly I do not envy Colinakanim. He lives in a big city; I live in a big country. We both have spectacular toddling daughters, and wives that mostly put up with us.

Ok, I don't really envy him at all. But. One thing he does have, in his urban life, is a little more time to write. And I do wish I had it. The rural reality here is- my harvest has started. And my life depends on it, pretty much literally.

Our entire year's income is tied up in the harvest. We haven't gotten into WHAT we grow; and I'm not going to, here. The entire rest of my life is spent explaining that, and I'd like one place where it's not a topic. But our income is based on plants we sell- that we grow from seed we select here. No seed harvested= no income. And the critters like to eat it too- so harvest is genuinely URGENT. As in; we've got to work all day, and all night if necessary, to get things done, because it cannot be done tomorrow. Only right this second.

That's where we are right now; up over our ears in harvest alligators, and it's exhausting. Which is why I'm short on posts. I'll continue to squeeze some in, and there will be more time later, after harvest; so please stick with me.

Urbanites just don't have this kind of urgent need. Well, unless you count tornadoes, and floods; but they're rare and unpredictable. :-) Harvest is predictable; we know it's coming, barring - uh, toradoes and floods... and drought.

It occurs to me.. (ok, that's a hint; gonna wax philosphical here...) that our pre-modern ancestors lived in worlds that mostly had regular periods of urgency and ease. Times when abilities were consistently pushed to their limits; times of testing.

The modern world has worked hard to remove such things as hunger, cold. And here we are, perhaps; with bodies and minds that have evolved to run like race-cars; some of the time. But no races to run.

I truly think this could be the basis of some of our ills. Too little to do; of course; but also too much energy; too much drive; and nothing to focus it on. So it winds up focused on anything handy - too often dangerous, stupid, enticing pathways like drugs, jumping out of airplanes... - etc.

I have a favorite book to recommend - "The Land Remembers", by Ben Logan. It's "the story of a farm and its people"; the brilliant images from the mind of a boy growing up on an isolated farm in Wisconsin. Not at all far from me, in the same kind of landscape.

Logan is stunning in the clarity of his recollections, and the pure humanity of them. I re-read it often.

If you want to really know what it's like to be part of a harvest crew; working after dark or before a storm- here's your best chance. Be prepared to sweat.

What comes to you is that yes, here's a small boy being asked to give everything he's got; for his family- stretch his muscles and stomach and head to the breaking point- and he does it. Grumping, as we all do. And very very proud of it.

Harvest IS that way. Cruelly demanding. It hurts. When you're in the middle of it, you wonder how you ever were so stupid as to get into this, and you want OUT. But it's satisfying in a way that's nearly impossible to convey. We can cut it. We're going to make. And- it's the family.

But it does leave you exhausted; spent - wiped out; at the end of the day. Tricky to write.

Read the book, please- I'll be astonished if you don't like it. Let me know. Hang in here.


Anonymous said...

I just put the book on hold at our library - can't wait to read it.

I know that feeling only from small things, like the kitchen full of peaches that need canning NOW because you can see them preparing to rot before your eyes, and the smell, and your legs ...

Good luck, and I hope you enjoy calm winters (the reward for hectic natural-driven summers).

Christy said...

I wish you all the best with your harvest and look forward to hearing from you when you have time. I enjoy the conversations.

Anonymous said...

Good luck with your harvest, Greenpa. Don't worry, I don't think any of us is going anywhere - especially with that enticing list of subjects to discuss in the sidebar. I'm going to check my library for that book. I started teaching my daughter to fold and hang up her clothes this weekend - at first a little grumbly, but at the end, she was so pleased with herself and told me, "I like doing that with you, Mama. I feel like I'm a big girl" - I think all of our children need that feeling desperately and all that need for accomplishment is driven into video games and I don't know what all.

Anonymous said...

Thanks for the book recommendation! It sounds great and I was surprised to find it "in stock" on the German Amazon so I snatched it up :)

Happy harvesting to you!

Crunchy Chicken said...

Hey Greenpa! Hang in there and pick a few for me, will ya?

Your philosophical waxings have unearthed my anthropological wanings and I would argue that a hunter-gatherer lifestyle is not a bad option. On average, they spent about 15 hours a week in obtaining food. If we could couple modern medicine and some engineering with that lifestyle, I wouldn't mind the downtime.

If you want to read more on the "Malthusian" trap that agriculture creates, check out the article, The Worst Mistake in the History of the Human Race, by Jared Diamond.

Greenpa said...

Everybody- many thanks for your very kind words; they do matter. We got 3" of downpour rain last night, which didn't really help.

Crunchy- thanks for the link. In fact I totally agree. I'm actually working on a book, or something, on this topic. It's even worse than he says there. Problem with Hunter Gatherer is- what about Colin? and Jen from Brooklyn? Pretty hard to really feed the cities this way; and I'm afraid we need to.

What I work on is a compromise. Ultimately, it should be less of a problem - but during development, it's a big pain.

Crunchy Chicken said...

Yeah, we kinda missed the boat on the hunter-gatherer lifestyle. Our population is too high to support it. And, inevitably, humans would revert again to agriculture.

As Jared mentions, an agricultural lifestyle includes increased breeding (less infanticide) and you can't fight a larger population regardless of their semi-malnourishment. Unless you have guns or disease and they don't have the resistance (the ole New World vs. Old conundrum). Hmm. Another Jared Diamond topic, eh? [Guns, Germs and Steel]

Oh well, I'd be interested to read your thoughts as well. That article is 20 years old, so I'm sure (maybe?) there's more recent work done on it, but you never know. It's a pretty remote topic. But apparently not so remote that both of us are on the same page, no?

And who cares about these things, when there's Britney Spears to ponder on? Damn, I better start watching TV again and stop worrying myself with these things.

Oh, by the way, have you seen the book recently published, The World Without Us? It's a somewhat entertaining look at how the world would "survive" human's demise.

etbnc said...

Crunchy, I think I understand why you might describe this as a remote topic. But I've been pleasantly surprised lately by the number of folks who are on the same page (or at least the same chapter of the same book).

Since we're writing of books, one that might address the remoteness of the topic is Paul Hawken's latest, Blessed Unrest. The subtitle struck me: "How the Largest Movement In the World Came Into Being and Why No One Saw it Coming". It reminds me of a tidbit from Cultural Creatives, that the tens of millions of people the authors identify all feel totally alone.

The severe backlash many people display at mere mention of a few aspects of this topic contributes to its remoteness, I think. That's been my experience.

Since we're in the big woods, is it safe to creep up on one those aspects? One of the important things I've taken away from reading about hunter-gatherers isn't their diet, but their social structure. Their social structure was way different from ours, and I think that's an important element that our culture dismisses.

Have you read about about the average size of those hunter-gatherer groups? Or have you encountered Dunbar's number, what Malcolm Gladwell describes as the magic number, 150, in The Tipping Point?

The implications of that social structure can be put to use whenever we become willing, I think. We just haven't yet reached a tipping point of willing people.

Greenpa, I hope your harvest is proceeding well despite the rain.



Anonymous said...

Most urban jobs have a cycle of urgency and ease too.

When I was a cashier at Wal-mart it was all about the yearly Christmas rush, with occasional other pops like Memorial Day or Back to School.

As a University Professor its grading all the term papers and finals in the week and a half at the end of each semester.

For other professions its based on tax day, or the fiscal year, or summer vs winter or other things. As Scrooge says Christmas is "harvest time for the moneylenders" but I suspect that most jobs have some rough equivalent of harvest time.
BTW good luck with it, (or does one say break a leg to farmers?)
-Brian M

Greenpa said...

Brian- many thanks for the good wishes. :-)

I think we avoid any mention of possible broken limbs- Garrison Keillor has got it pretty close with "Eh. Things could be worse."

Now you've got me wondering. Local farmers in my experience seem to shy away from "luck" as a topic- I wonder how that plays out with farmers elsewhere and in other cultures?

etbnc said...

"Not bad. Could be worse." I'm also partial to GK's observation, "Life is what happens while we're making other plans."

Just in case any avid readers or rogue reference librarians surf by, I thought I'd mention that I compiled a somewhat better list of a few books I find helpful here at blogspot.

Greenpa, have you read about Gaviotas? (link in the list above) I have a feeling you would enjoy reading about it.


Anonymous said...

I'm definitely going to try to read that book, Greenpa! I just spent a couple hours weeding and harvesting wheat at an organic farm in Corvalis, Oregon, and it was great work but I can't imagine having to do it all day every day. Make sure you post some pictures of all the food you get!

Marcie said...

I just put the title "The Land Remembers" in a search engine, to see if anyone else besides me has ever read it! *grin* It is one of my very favorite books. I have stumbled across your blog before, and must say, I'm not entirely surprised to see you mention Logan's memoir. It fits. :)

Marianne Elixir said...

I am new to your blog, but I quite like what I have read. I am on the grid working towards getting off.
I am curious if you are familiar with the Weston A Price Foundation? It would seem to fit you.