My eyes shot open at 4:15am this morning… I was already working on being wide awake. My first thought was about onions. Leeks. Chives. Lavender. Rosemary. Are they all doing okay? Crap, did I remember to water them yesterday? Has the dang cat been sneaking in and napping on them again? My train of thought jumped to the next round of seedling trays that I needed to start today. Then as the fog of sleep cleared quickly, my brain caught up to yesterday’s events…. and the farm’s truck gas tank springing a leak. Right when we pulled into the parking lot to pick up the load of compost I’d need to mix the aforementioned seed start mix. After it had taken a full two weeks to get our schedules to align in a way that my wife was able to drive me to pick it up. (Still not being able to drive a stick shift in anything but first gear at almost 40 years old…. continues to bite me in the butt each year.) Oh nooooo, my next round of leeeekssss needed that stuff! Dang leak. My brain caught up to the sad look on my face when we had to pull away without what we needed, and drove the truck to the shop. It had actually been so romantic when my wife turned to me on Valentine’s Day afternoon and asked if I’d like to go pick it up since we both had taken the day off to hang out together. I sighed, climbed out of bed, tried not to get frustrated by the simple little things that happen sometimes to set us back and grabbed my iPad. When I checked my email, a woman I love to bits had sent me a message with this quote last night. And it meant simply everything to me this morning.
“Why do farmers farm, given their economic adversities on top of the many frustrations and difficulties normal to farming? And always the answer is: “Love. They must do it for love.” Farmers farm for the love of farming. They love to watch and nurture the growth of plants. They love to live in the presence of animals. They love to work outdoors. They love the weather, maybe even when it is making them miserable. They love to live where they work and to work where they live. If the scale of their farming is small enough, they like to work in the company of their children and with the help of their children. They love the measure of independence that farm life can still provide. I have an idea that a lot of farmers have gone to a lot of trouble merely to be self-employed to live at least a part of their lives without a boss.” – Wendell Berry, Bringing it to the Table
IT IS SO… STINKIN’… REAL.
I read it, over and over again…and I calmed down. And with that much needed calm, came the realization that the truck had needed to go to the shop for some upgrades anyway, we had been trying to get that on the schedule. And the leak forced us to stop and give it the attention it needs before the growing season truly starts. That leak was going to pop up sometime. And honestly, it’s so much better to have it happen now than in flipping March or April when it would really hurt us to not have the truck for a few days or a week. Right now, it’s just a little frustrating and that, I can handle. My next round of leeks… can wait for a different leak to be repaired. I breathed. And I stepped outside to make some tea and start my morning – which, of course, would now be about writing this story, and not about sowing leek seeds.
Wendell got it right. And my dear friend had been so right to send it to me at just the perfect moment. It’s ALL for the love of farming. The stress and setbacks, and the sunny days and soil and squash too. It’s all about love. It’s for the love of growing organic foods to eat and trying to heal my body. It’s for the love of homesteading. For the love of permaculture. For the love of independence. And good lord, it’s for the love of my health, my family and friend’s and customer’s health, and the health of our planet too. I mean, I’d still like to have a home that is a healthy environment, has natural spaces, forests, clean water, clean air, and clean food to eat! And a much healthier body to reside in while I enjoy it all, of course. This awesome quote above pretty much says it all for me. I grow food. And I love it like I never knew I could. It’s who I am, and it’s what I want to do with my life. It’s my passion… the reason I get up each day. Sometimes, it shocks the tarnation out of me that I never grew a thing or even gave much thought to where my food came from really until I was 31 years old. Sometimes, with the world being the way it is today… it doesn’t surprise me at all. Either way, eight years into this love affair of growing food, there’s so much to my relationship with it. For me, I’m finding that taking a totally devastated landscape and working on healing it can pair quite nicely with having started to work on my body and try to see if I can heal it too. It’s become the artwork I create with my life… shaping out swales along contour lines, building soil, and painting a picture with organic produce. It feeds me, as I continue to figure out what all I can actually tolerate eating. I think it can heal my gut and other health issues, slowly… and I know it heals my heart and spirit too. It gives me its patience as I learn to love what’s good for me (vegetables.), and not just what tastes really freaking good (cupcakes. 😉). It usually gives me 10,000 steps a day by early afternoon and it’s my personal trainer. It teaches me, and the women around me, every day we are out there in the garden. And oh lord, is nature rad. Being out there in it most days of the year is probably my favorite part….both in good weather and bad. Watching things grow, crazy looking bugs I’d never noticed before, all the amazing life under our feet in the soil, clouds rolling by, kettles of birds circling above, useful weeds planting themselves in the craziest places, harvesting salad to take to our customers, and the feeling of both sun and rain on your skin…. It sure gets under it, and in it. As for the love of farming forms deep taproots in your heart. For me… I do it for the love. And, just as a side note of homestead truth, it’s sure not because I’m making a bunch of money already or because I’ll be able to easily pay my student loans off with squash!
I don’t know if anyone else would have seen a blasted flat, rocky space at the top of a mountain and tried to turn it into a organic farm and food forest…. but we are giving it a go. This picture was from the first summer we had built soil deep enough to try growing more root veggies, and I was pretty dang proud of finally being able to squeak some small garlic out of it in 2017!
It feels like such big, crazy times out in the world… to me anyway. The last couple of years, I honestly haven’t even really known what to say in the face of it all. I know, I know, that’s not like me…. to not talk so much. To not share much. It’s certainly not because I’ve not been growing food, studying and practicing permaculture, continuing to set up a fledgling food forest, it’s not because I’ve not been thinking about it every day, and it’s not because I haven’t been writing about it on my own either. But what the heck can I even share in the face of it all? In the face of what we are all up against right now with our land, our food, and our health as a people? And how could I anyway…. since my personal crap has been hitting the fan health wise the last couple years? (Oh right, I ran into this online this morning too… so maybe these flipping awesome folks found the words to explain what the tip of the iceberg with the health of our planet and people/ looks like…since I’ve not been able to as of yet. Most intense 20 minutes of my day thus far, this was. Thanks farmers footprint folks, for connecting all these dots between our health, landscape, and how this country has been growing food in a convenient little 20 minute vid. Seeing a doctor with the thoughtfulness to go back to find the source of the problem sure is inspiring!)
For the love of all things farming…. NOW what the heck do we do?! IMO, and for us personally… we grow. And we grow slow. We breathe and try not to freak out about just how bad off the situation in our food system and environment is. We try to find a new and different way to dig ourselves out of this mess. We try to find more sustainable methods, even if it means less shortcuts to our spinach. We try not to let the setbacks in our learning curve slow us down so much. We try to not stress about the profitability of produce or making a living wage. I don’t find it simple or easy to grow organic food in what I consider to be the right ways, like my naive self had thought it would be when I got started…. there’s a ton to it and it compounds every year that we continue to learn better methods and gain experience… but, we try. We strive to be part of the generation that won’t give up or give in.
I won’t give up. I’ll keep growing, for the love of farming. For the love I’ve finally found for myself and my body over the course of this journey thus far. I’ll be grateful for every minute of time that I have out in the garden. I’ll be glad I’m not still stuck behind a desk somewhere quite so often. I simply cannot imagine trying to traverse all this health stuff without having something I love to do so much that it keeps me going. It means everything to me, and I’m so in love with it… I can barely stand it sometimes.
So, for the love of farming, I’ll give it everything I’ve got to give.
P.S. I know, I’ve all but disappeared from being online for awhile. I just needed a minute is all! Dealing with all these health issues the last couple of years has felt like a ton to handle and manage. I sure don’t think I’ve got all this health stuff figured out, it’s a journey — it may be a long one and I’m accepting that. As well as the fact that I know I’m just one human being that is dealing with all this – and I’ve certainly learned I’m not the only one. I’ve talked to a lot of folks…. friends, family, followers, folks in the waiting room of all the doctor’s offices…I sure don’t feel alone in it. Honestly, I had kind of wanted to wait to share my writing again until I was 100% better and all healed up. However, I don’t know how long that might find me waiting to reconnect with something else I love to do besides growing food. But, now that I seem to be making some progress with at least learning to live with a mess of health issues a bit better … I miss y’all! So, I want to try to get back to it as and when I can. And, of course, I think February is a great time to be talking about how much I love growing food – since spring is so close…Spring equinox countdown = 32 days!! <3