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.

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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.

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

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

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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.

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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.

 

 

 

Pulling

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.

At the End of August

Eggplant, tomatoes, okra, purple hull peas, apples, cantaloupes and watermelons are still coming in. It’s a great time of year for seasonal eating.

The temperature plummeted this week. From steamy days in the 90’s (“feels like 118” my weather page said), this morning I awoke to 59. And it finally rained, settling the sun-baked dust.

Our fall garden loves the cool weather, and the nice drink of water.

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I planted collards, kale, turnip greens, Swiss chard, spinach, turnips, mustard greens, Brussels sprouts, beets, Tokyo Bekana, mizuna, bok choy, komatsuna, tatsoi, Chinese cabbage, cabbage, broccoli, cauliflower and arugula.

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Yesterday I dug under a couple of the sweet potato vines and was pleased to discover nice fat tubers. I’ll probably start digging them in a couple of weeks.

And here comes fall.

A Psalm of Life

A Psalm of Life

BY HENRY WADSWORTH LONGFELLOW

What the Heart of the Young Man Said to the Psalmist

Tell me not, in mournful numbers,
“Life is but an empty dream!”
For the soul is dead that slumbers,
And things are not what they seem.

Life is real! Life is earnest!
And the grave is not its goal;
“Dust thou art, to dust returnest,”
Was not spoken of the soul.

Not enjoyment, and not sorrow,
Is our destined end or way;
But to act, that each to-morrow
Finds us farther than to-day.

Art is long, and Time is fleeting,
And our hearts, though stout and brave,
Still, like muffled drums, are beating
Funeral marches to the grave.

In the world’s broad field of battle,
In the bivouac of Life,
Be not like dumb, driven cattle!
Be a hero in the strife!

Trust no Future, howe’er pleasant!
Let the dead Past bury its dead!
Act,–act in the living Present!
Heart within, and God o’erhead!

Lives of great men all remind us
We can make our lives sublime,
And, departing, leave behind us
Footprints on the sands of time;

Footprints, that perhaps another,
Sailing o’er life’s solemn main,
A forlorn and shipwrecked brother,
Seeing, shall take heart again.

Let us, then, be up and doing,
With a heart for any fate;
Still achieving, still pursuing
Learn to labor and to wait.