Every now and then one of our goats will stick her head through the woven wire fence, and not be able to get it back out.


A few days ago I found Carrie in that condition. Bless her heart. There’s no telling how long she’d been stuck there.

I carefully maneuvered her head through the fence, freeing her. Once free she ran toward the barn where her unconcerned friends and family were lounging, without the slightest indication of gratitude to her rescuer.

The novel I finished last winter is still a mere manuscript. I had hoped to announce its publication by now. But, alas, I have discovered that publishing a book is in many ways more difficult than writing one. My self-imposed September deadline will pass sans novel. And that’s OK.

Because my head is not stuck in a fence (even though I spent a decade behaving as if it was), we’re leaving for vacation today. Gardens, goats, writing projects and the like will have to wait a while.



I read this yesterday:

No matter how much you earn, getting by is still a struggle for most people these days.

Seventy-eight percent of full-time workers said they live paycheck to paycheck, up from 75 percent last year, according to a recent report from CareerBuilder.

Overall, 71 percent of all U.S. workers said they’re now in debt, up from 68 percent a year ago, CareerBuilder said.

While 46 percent said their debt is manageable, 56 percent said they were in over their heads. About 56 percent also save $100 or less each month, according to CareerBuilder. The job-hunting site polled over 2,000 hiring and human resource managers and more than 3,000 full-time employees between May and June.

Most financial experts recommend stashing at least a six-month cushion in an emergency fund to cover anything from a dental bill to a car repair — and more if you are the sole breadwinner in your family or in business for yourself.

While household income has grown over the past decade, it has failed to keep up with the increased cost-of-living over the same period.

Even those making over six figures said they struggle to make ends meet, the report said. Nearly 1 in 10 of those making $100,000 or more said they usually or always live paycheck to paycheck, and 59 percent of those in that salary range said they were in the red.

There’s a lot I could say about this, but I’m just going to leave it there.

September Harvest

For supper last night we had a tomato salad, roasted okra, roasted potatoes and fresh cantaloupe.

We’re still getting a few watermelons and eggplant. The late planting of green beans are now ready to start picking, and the October beans aren’t far behind.

And we’re already harvesting the thinnings in the fall garden. We’ll probably have our first stir fry of the season tonight.

Even between seasons, it’s a great time of year for seasonal eating.

Hello September

We still have okra and eggplant coming in. So much okra that I can’t even give it away now. And I don’t even bother picking the eggplant any more.

I have an easier time giving away the purple hull peas. What a great and essential taste of summer. We’ve put away all we need and they’re still coming in, now for the benefit of neighbors.


But we’re in transition. The fall garden is loving the cool wet weather we’ve been having.



I thinned the Asian greens and I’m looking forward to the first stir fry of the season.


A few days ago I caught several brim. (Some of you may know them as bream, sunfish, or various other names.) Usually I throw them back. I haven’t eaten any since I was a kid. But having caught no bass I decided to keep them. Oh my goodness. Absolutely delicious. They’re too small to filet, so you just cut off the head, gut them (very easy) and pan fry them bone-in. They were so good I went back to the pond yesterday to get some more. But, alas, the fish weren’t cooperating. No fish supper for me last night, but I did get a nice shot of this guy.



I think, therefore I am confused.

The subject of human consciousness has long fascinated me. I’m not conscious of a reason for that.

Descartes famously said that our consciousness is the only fact about which we can be certain. Although the claim in increasingly controversial, many believe that consciousness is uniquely human.

Philosophers of the mind grapple with the so-called “Hard Problem of Consciousness.” How does a physical object responding to stimuli (a blob of tissue we call a brain) seemingly produce consciousness and subjectivity?

In John Locke’s cosmological argument for the existence of God, he argued that all effects have causes–therefore there had to be a first cause. And, he further reasoned, since matter cannot give rise to thought, there had to be a thinking first cause.

But leaving aside theological speculation, if consciousness emerged during human evolution, rather than as some divine gift, then matter did somehow give rise to thought. How might that have happened? And why?

Consciousness must have conferred some evolutionary advantage or it wouldn’t have evolved, most scientists and philosophers would argue. But what might that benefit be? Does consciousness serve any utilitarian function? Couldn’t humans exist and behave exactly as we do now, but without subjective consciousness?

One interesting hypothesis is that the ability to reflect/consider before acting, and to feel regret after acting, confers some evolutionary advantage favoring self consciousness members of the species over others, by improving decision-making. This advantage, the argument goes, explains why conscious humans prevailed in our evolutionary competition.

Another interesting argument is that consciousness confers the evolutionary benefit of a more ordered and manageable society, by giving us the illusion of free will. Tests have shown that after being shown evidence against the existence of free will, test subjects are more likely to behave selfishly and immorally. Social cohesion depends upon our belief that we have free will, and that people are morally accountable for their conduct. So, the argument goes, conscious early humans and their communities had an evolutionary advantage over those without consciousness.

The simplest explanation seems to me the most elegant–perhaps consciousness is simply a natural outgrowth of the development of language. After all, consciousness is in some sense just us talking to ourselves.

And maybe I’ve done enough of that this morning. Time to leave the keyboard and go to the garden.

Happy Labor Day to all.





The smell of tobacco curing in my neighbor’s barns brings back a lot of good memories from my childhood. I think back on the days when my siblings, my cousins and I spent our summers working on my grandparents’ farm.

My first jobs were at the barn (for which I was paid 35 cents per hour). By the time I was eight years old, I was working in the field. Our pay rose with our skill. I was making $2/hour when I finally was old enough to get a drivers license and the ability to take a fast food job in town. The minimum wage was $3.60/hour then–so along with my city job came a very nice raise. In the summer I worked both jobs. We were expected to pay for our own school books and clothes. That had been true for as long as I can remember.

Pulling tobacco (Steve Walton)

This isn’t me, but it could have been. It’s a friend of mine who lived on the farm next to ours. That’s his brother driving the tractor. Nowadays tractors have safety shutoffs that prevent the tractor from operating if there is no one sitting in the seat. But we couldn’t reach the pedals or see over the steering wheel if we sat down. Those shut offs aren’t designed for the way we worked back then.

A few days ago I posted my nostalgic comment about the curing barn smell on Facebook. I expected my childhood friends to agree with me. I was surprised at the reaction. Several were like this: “When I turned 16 I swore that I’d never work in a tobacco field again. I’ve kept that promise.” My friend in the photo is a high school teacher now. His comment on his photo was something like, “This is the reason I went to college.”

Well, I still look back fondly on those days. We worked hard, but we worked together as family. We learned a work ethic. I wouldn’t trade those memories for anything.

If our aging backs could stand it, I wouldn’t mind putting the old crew back together and trying to see if we could still do it.