On “Are the Desert People Winning?”

Is there such a thing as desert culture? Does living in an arid ecosystem beget monotheism? According to this article, there is, and it does, and it doesn’t look pretty:

Which kind of culture would you prefer to get traded to? When it comes to the theistic part, it’s six of one, half a dozen of the other to me. As for the other correlates, desert cultures, with their militarism, stratification, mistreatment of women, uptightness about child rearing and sexuality, seem unappealing. And yet ours happens to be a planet dominated by the cultural descendants of the desert dwellers. At various points, the desert dwellers have poured out of the Middle East, defining large parts of Eurasia. Such cultures, in turn, have passed the last 500 years subjugating the native populations of the Americas, Africa, and Australia. As a result, ours is a Judeo-Christian/Muslim world, not a Mbuti-Carib/Trobriand one.

And it gets worse:

Unfortunately, the rain forest mind-set appears not only less likely to spread than its desert counterpart but also less hardy when uprooted, more of a hothouse attribute. Logging, farming, and livestock grazing are rapidly defoliating Earth. Our age witnesses not only an unprecedented extinction of species but of cultures and languages as well. William Sutherland, a population biologist at the University of East Anglia, has shown that the places on Earth with the most biodiversity are the most linguistically diverse as well and that languages are even more at risk for extinction than are birds or mammals. And so the rain forest cultures, with their fragile pluralism born of a lush world of plenty, deliquesce into the raw sewage of the slums of Rio and Lagos and Jakarta.

I’m not so sure I buy the premise (the author even has an “X culture has 200 words for snow” argument, which is eye-roll-inducing), but it is striking that Mesopotamia used to be a “fertile crescent” not so long ago, geologically speaking. Or, as it was supposedly said of the Roman legions by Tacitus: “where they make a desert they call it peace.”

On Dream Jobs

I think it’s hard to do what you love for a living—not because getting paid to do something enjoyable kills the fun or authenticity of the activity, nor because it’s hard to find little moments of enjoyment in almost any job someone of my background and with my education would typically get in our rigid class hierarchy, but because, at least for me anyway, what I love changes so often—and so drastically—that I can’t imagine doing anything for a very long period of time without it getting stale. I mean, I love to visit my garden, but would I want to garden day in and day out, as if my livelihood depended on it? Would I want to teach others how to garden, or travel around the state or country talking about gardens? Not for very long, no.

The goal, then, for a “dream job” would be one that has a lot of variation, or that fluctuates in intensity. Being busy all the time blows, but a sinecure would be ten times worse.

It’d be great if we didn’t have to have jobs that lasted all day; I’m sure the people below me in our caste system (er, freedom and democracy system) would agree.

Pumpkin Surgery

I had to take drastic measures to evict vine borers from the pumpkins I planted last month, so I made incisions in the stems and, shall we say, used my knife to remove the interlopers.

Hopefully by covering up the incision and mulching around the base of the stems, enough watering will allow the plants to repair the damage and produce pumpkins in time to make a Fall-themed beer for Thanksgiving.

Fingers crossed.



Turk’s Cap Tea


I decided to kick off my Fall Foraging Extravaganza with something easy: Turk’s Cap. For one, it’s everywhere—everywhere—here in Austin. And secondly, all parts of the plant except the bark (at least above ground, that I know of) are edible. This combination makes for some low-risk and low-work foraging, without even mentioning that tea is about the easiest thing one can make.

I added some fresh mint from the garden to give it some aroma and, well, minty flavor, so it’s not 100% foraged—but like I said, I’m easing in to this. Here goes:


About 3 big handfuls of Turk’s Cap flowers*

About 1 small handful of fresh spearmint

Honey, if you like it sweet

* I only used the flowers for this recipe, since I wanted to see what this “pink lemonade drink,” as the Foraging Texas site (linked above) was talking about.

Instructions: Making tea is elementary. Boil the Turk’s Cap flowers in water until they turn purple and start to appear slimy. Drain the water into a large vessel. Steep the mint in a small tea pot for about 20 minutes and add the mint-water to the same vessel. Let the combined tea cool. Serve with ice and a lemon or lime slice, as per preference. You can also add as much honey as you want, pouring it into the cooling vessel and stirring occasionally. Enjoy!

turkscap1    turkscap2A