Did you know that anthropologists estimate the typical hunter-gatherers worked at feeding themselves no more than 17 hours a week?  I find that fascinating.  First of all, because at least from our few eating-off-the-land attempts so far, I can see how that’s totally doable.  But mostly because it makes me wonder once again, for what reasons then, are we all expected to work so damn hard?

Last year a kind reader commented that it seemed I had found my vocation out here.  As a vocation, it is implied there must be attached to it something greater than the self.  It evokes religion, no doubt, which has me thinking a lot about faith lately.  No doubt there’s a lot of down here, actually I’m seeped in it-Mormon, Baptist, Evangelical, Protestant, born-again, non-denominational–when it comes to Christianity made your way, Texas has the market cornered.

For me, this is doubtless the most unpleasant thing about living here.  You never know who is going to start talking to you about Jesus.  He’s considered small talk as appropriate as the weather, so much so that I’ve become more hesitant to start up a conversation about anything to anyone.  I’ve always been of the mindset that religion is like sex, best practiced behind closed doors.  These are some of the deepest universal and interpersonal connections we make on this planet, and frankly, I find there’s something a bit off about so many folks wanting to do it with a room full of strangers.

Still I am set on this mission thing, and with a zeal that could only be called religious.  I can’t seem to help it or control it at all and around me life just seems to underscore it further.  I pick another pea pod off the vine, another and another, off of vine after vine, and I feel:  This is my life.  That’s a great feeling.  But then another section of the mind chimes in:  so then, live it better.  Take it up a notch.  You know you want to.

And it’s not just ruminating over peas either, but seeing the corn, tomatoes, summer squashes, cucumbers, onions, herbs galore. There are a dozen winter squashes in the cupboard, and so many beans and melons maturing I’m starting to get truly frightened.  NOW What?!  Surplus, yes, just what I was going for, it’s in our nature.  Followed by, now what.  Not just what to do with the surplus crops, but with the surplus time, and energy, that comes with feeling you are at some level succeeding, and at another, being called.

Like the adage says, when you are ready the teacher appears.  It is serendipitous sometimes how as I ask the question, some insight appears in what would seem a random way.  I dead distant relative, a teacher and writer, takes me one baby step closer to understanding my mission.  He writes in one book, Coming Home to the Pleistocene, “The health of a society is a measure of its freedom from stress, individual suffering, psychopathology, tyranny, and ecological dysfunction as a result of straying from that basic ancestral form.”  There is no doubt in my mind, we cannot consider ourselves healthy.  We have strayed.

As always the case with me, the esoteric is manifested in the quotidian:  I have been cooking up a storm.  Some folks in the know have actually thought I have a natural aptitude for cooking.  I think when something is an interest for decades you eventually become good at it, or you quit doing it.  The hugest thing I have learned about gardening and cooking this year I have expected all along, but now have absolute proof:  Everything home grown taste better.  I really mean it-I expected that to be true for the tomatoes and cucumbers and strawberries, but not the potatoes and onions and beans-I figured all those taste the same.  I was totally wrong, everything has more flavor, better texture, more depth, and I know that is not just my satisfaction at having grown it.

I have worked as a teacher, a writer, and I know, I am these professions in a way.   But a calling, that’s on an entirely different level.  But what now?  A farmer?  A chef?  Some sexy new combination of all the above?  Maybe there’s a calling in there somewhere.   I have found something meaningful to me here yes, I know I have, but I still can’t define what that is exactly, or how it might develop into something significant.  Or, let’s face it also, something marketable.  And I need to accomplish it in 17 hours a week or less.  Why?  Well, come on now, that’s the whole mission!

The jungle garden experiment:  the ultimate in companion planting--some of it reseeded, some planted.  Corn to support the beans, squash between rows worked as "living mulch", tomatoes just because they landed there and started thriving

The jungle garden experiment: the ultimate in companion planting--some of it reseeded, some planted. Corn to support the beans, squash between rows worked as "living mulch", tomatoes just because they landed there and started thriving

Surplus, a fraction of it, some of ours: squashes, peas, cucumbers, onions, potatoes; and some of the neighbors: eggplant, basil, zucchini.  Now what?

Surplus, a fraction of it, some of ours: squashes, peas, cucumbers, onions, potatoes; and some of the neighbors: eggplant, basil, zucchini. Now what?

A recent success, but this is how I cook for one?  Was delicious, but there was definitely something missing.

A recent success, but this is how I cook for one? Was delicious, but there was definitely something missing.