I think I was just a natural dreamer and I believed that I could magically earn a very sufficient income by freelance writing and teaching, so this period of squatting gave me the luxuries to choose my life’s activities.
I continued to write newspaper columns, though I never earned much from them. I began to work more actively on my first book about the uses of local wild plants. I continued to engage in metaphysical studies, and gardening, and conducting occasional wild food outings.
My garden never seemed highly productive but I had a few of the tall red amaranth plants, some squash, a corn patch, some greens, and wild foods. It was probably my first successful corn patch. I didn’t plant the rows of corn that you see so often in gardens and on farms. Rather, in my approximately 10 by 20 foot corn patch, I had corn more of less evenly spaced. I had wanted to try the so-called Three Sisters of the native Southwest, of corn, beans, and squash.
In the arid soil of the Southwest, the corn was planted first, and once it arose, beans were planted at the base of the each corn. The beans’ roots fix nitrogen and this acts as a fertilizer to the corn. Squash was then planted as a sprawling ground cover to retain the valuable scant moisture of the desert.
I planted my corn in my wood chip patch, three seeds per hole about two feet apart. Corn came up, and then I planted bean seeds. Beans are usually an easy crop to grow, but not that many came up. Who knows, maybe the ducks ate them. I planted squash too. Not a desert squash but ordinary zucchini which did a good job as a ground cover and food producer. I loved the little garden, and at night when I sat at my plywood desk with my typewriter, I’d look out my window through the several feet tall corn patch to see the lights of the city below. During the day, little birds would flock to the corn patch and eat bugs. I enjoyed the fact that this little garden that I created with my simple efforts was now teeming with wildlife. It felt good just to look at it. It provided food for my body, food for wildlife, and food for my soul.
Not long after I started this patch – it was near Thanksgiving – David Ashley came by for a visit. David had already moved into the neighborhood from wherever else he’d been living. He came up to the top of the hill where I was an illegal squatter. My housing status didn’t cause David to lower his regard for me.
I took David out into my garden, and we stood there talking about life. I pulled off a ripe ear of corn and handed it to him and picked one for myself.
“What’s this?” asked David.
“To eat,” I responded as I began to peel off the leaves and hairs on my average size ear of corn. He took a bite of the sweet kernels.
“I didn’t know you could eat corn raw,” said David in a surprised voice.
“Yep, you can,” I told him as I chewed on my sweet cob. David began to peel his and take some bites.
“Wow, that’s really good!” said David, chewing on more kernels. We stood there for a few moments, eating our corn, looking at the outside world through the stalks of corn that were taller than us. It was a quiet, special moment.
Eventually, David left, and over the ensuing months, I would occasionally hear David telling someone about his surreal experience eating raw corn in Christopher’s little corn patch, our own little “field of dreams.”