And so ends a year of surprises. Certainly, I would never have guessed in January '08 that January '09 would find me working a farm, blanching broccoli and butchering chickens.
Here at ECHO, vegetable season is in full swing. While the rest of the nation shovels snow, we who straddle the border of temperate and tropic are harvesting bright red strawberries, filling buckets with sugar snap peas, and hand-pollinating pumpkins. I must confess that the tropical abnegation of seasons still strikes me as bizarre, but who can complain in the face of vine-ripe tomatoes? Though temperature highs never broached 60 on Thursday (the southwest Florida equivalent of a blizzard), most days hover around the upper 70's to lower 80's. Don't be jealous... I'll have to pay off my climatological debt when the summer hits!
What has happened since the last update (November!)...
- ECHO Agricultural Conference - Missionaries, development workers and nationals from developing countries converged on Fort Myers for a week long conference in December. Speakers discussed a number of issues: the global food crisis; underutilized food crops; cultural land tenure problems in Indonesia. Perhaps more importantly, opportunities were given for people to network together, sharing struggles and solutions they've faced while working overseas.
- Responsibility overload - As of December I completely took over stewardship of the Monsoon garden from Heidi, my predecessor. The agricultural complexity of managing crops, animals, and trees is still a little overwhelming for this city boy. When is the proper stage for harvesting broccoli? Who knew that Okra becomes unedible if not picked young (aka near-daily)? What is Jicama?
I think I'm coming to enjoy the labor of seed, transplant, cultivate, harvest, weed, weed, weed, weed, weed. The cultivation of food is a lifestyle that transforms daily patterns, as you slowly become tied to the land on which you live. Chickens need daily care, plants need water, crops must be harvested or else lost. It reminds me that every piece of food that passes my lips was once alive in one form or another, and that 99.9% of it was intentionally cultivated by someone, somewhere.
I inspect my thumb periodically for any green pigmentation. So far I haven't noticed any, but I take comfort in the surprising resilience of young plants, and the vigorous abundance of God's creation in general. Perhaps the green thumb will come one day.
- Christmas - The Christmas season was made brilliant by my family's week-long visit to the ECHO farm. It was strange not being in Atlanta; strange to not see friends; strange to miss the flickering candles at ECPC's Eve service; strange to step outside from Christmas dinner into 80 degree sun. But there was still family, food, and singing. And those alone are luxuries beyond belief. And we reflected on Glory, incarnated in weakness. On Love, submitting to persecution in order to redeem the persecutors.
With the rest of my time I've read a lot, and spent time with the community here on the farm. I've been thinking a lot about the future, wondering what God has planned. It would be nice to be given a glimpse of one's future, but He knows best.
I miss all of you from Marietta and Chattanooga. I'm a terrible distance communicator, but please feel free to call or email.