In October of 2015, I went on a permaculture and primitive living immersion I organized for a group of ladies I just love to spend time with. We visited both an eco-village nearby and a well established homesteading school.
At the conclusion of the immersion at the homesteading school–the owner turned to me and said it was so awesome that I had put this together for the girls. Then shook her head and said, “Huh… you’re like…. a locust.” I was so starstruck over her back then that I think I said some nonsense like, “Yeah, I just like to connect dots… bring order to chaos and such.”
Of course, in the car on the way home–I started to flip out about it a little to the Forager. Oh. My. God. WAIT. Did she mean the tree? Or the crop leveling insect?!! The Forager, our resident locust (the tree) expert–let me know she definitely meant the tree. She patiently walked me back through it all. Through what being a permaculture student had already taught me about how beneficial this tree is to the plants around it.
Locusts are nitrogen fixing. How by getting coppiced, it feeds all the plants around it the nutrients they need. That if it doesn’t get cut back–it grows taller, stronger, and harder than any other wood around it.
She started talking a bit more to add in some details. About how if you cut it back before it has really grown, its heartwood is not strong enough for fence posts or foundations for houses. That it isn’t as beneficial of a wood as it could have been. Like it would be… if you would just let it grow.
She giggled and told me she’d never thought of it before but that I am totally am a locust. She added something too. Could I please stop cutting myself back so often for other folks? Find a better balance between doing so and growing tall and strong? Lord, the connections that can get made ’round here via farm life! The clever reference points!
Here’s hoping I’ve grown and raised the confidence and capability to do just that right here on this farm too.
In the fourteen months since this locust conversation happened–so much has changed for this organic farmer. I’ve now been a permaculture student for sixteen months. I’ve attended so many classes, workshops, conferences, online summits and courses, and read a ton of books. I’ve spent the last six months conceptualizing, implementing, experimenting, and adapting our farm’s new permaculture design.
We hosted less workshops, immersions, tours, WWOOFers, and guests on our farm in 2016 than we ever have. I gave myself a complete break from social media earlier in spring while we were taking our second permaculture design course and… <gasp> hired someone else to do posting for us for a couple months. I took a huge chunk of the year off from blogging even, in order to make sure I would still write a lot… even if I wasn’t sharing it. To get better at it on my own. To write the stories I don’t want to share, in order to get them our of my head. To refine my words. To finally find an editor I love, wahoo! (Who I’m not using today, hence my rambling and lack of proper sentence structure.)
Looking back now, I’m realizing exactly what I was doing. Even if I didn’t understand it at the time. I was lightening my load. I was establishing my root system. Because I was getting ready to grow.
Back in December of 2014, we started choosing a word for ourselves for the year ahead. A word to hold close to our hearts, something to aspire to or to let go of. A word to work towards. Choosing a word for the year has come to be one of my very favorite self-care practices. It is my teether to what I want to become in the coming year. It’s a talisman I can turn over in my mind as I’m working on getting raised on a farm. For me, it’s such a boon to becoming a better human.
My word for 2015 was balance. 2016 was listen. Like all things, it isn’t some magic trick. I’ll be stacking these words up in my heart and working on getting better at them for the rest of my days. But it was a great place to start that process, setting one for myself each year.
I’ve already chosen my word for 2017–and I do want to go ahead share it with you. Maybe it will inspire you to choose a word for yourself for next year too.
I think I’m finally ready–for a word as big as GROW. For choosing one that I know will be hard for me. I’ve kept the weight I lost farming and going gluten free off for over two years. I’m pretty sure I at least know how to not grow bigger around the middle again. I know I’ve designed a homestead life that has given me the ability to shift my whole lifestyle. I continue to stay pretty motivated to work at it. I think I can focus on growing now, and not just shrinking.
My brain about burst open in spring 2015 when one of our staffers loaned me a book and let me read about my north node. It felt like getting slapped over the head as I read. About my tendency towards service. To the extreme. The kind that has you bending over backwards so far, you break. That all I seem to want to do is help the weak, helpless, troubled, sick, or addicted. It let me know I have a hard time saying no to them, even if I don’t have anything left to give. However, if I would just begin to learn to say no sometimes, I’d have a much stronger foundation. And that once I establish that, I would actually be able to help many, many people. Until then, stopping to feel others’ pain would only drag me down with them.
In 2015, I found the balance to begin to see it. By 2016, I learned to talk at least a bit less… and began to truly listen. To myself, my body, my wife, family and friends.
And so, I think I am ready to grow. Into a big ol’ tall tree that is totally capable of being a fence post one day or strong enough to hold up a building. Or, perhaps even a tree that stays firmly rooted to the ground and never gets cut down. So it can support a huge nest, that holds a whole lot of owlets flying in and out of it.
Can I do it? Can I grow into the stronger better human I want to be? I feel so confident that I can. That I will give it my very best shot. I already feel like a shiny new permaculture farmer that got sprouted on this homestead. I so feel like I got raised on a farm, Eight Owls Farmstead. I’m so ready to grow some dense heartwood, get taller and stronger on it too.
“Don’t go through life, grow through life.” –Eric Butterworth