I envision this series might be a long lived one. I am embarking on a project that to some people on this planet might seem ridiculous (because they are already doing it and they grew up doing it), to some absurd (because they would rather not be doing it), and to some dirty (because, well, there will be dirt). We are starting a farm.
Chronological seems like the best way to start this story. I grew up in a city. Not just any city. I grew up six blocks from the Capitol (OL) Building in Washington DC. My father loved, and still loves, the ability to walk to the corner store for last minute ingredients – so do I. I started taking public transportation home from school, seven miles away, when I was nine years old: bus, metro, bus, walk. School finished by 3:15 and if I was able to time it correctly I would be home by 4:05 (Unless I took the bus all the way home to do my math homework, struggling to hold the pencil still over bouncing potholes. In that case, I would be home by 4:30.)
In other words, I am a city girl. I love cities, I love walking around cities, I love the energy of the cities and the beauty and the smells and the humanity all piled on top of each other, jostling, stretching, striving.
The short answer I am going to borrow from Shannon Brines, of Brines Farm in Ann Arbor. I asked him in December 2009 about his decision to start a farm and my memory tells me his answer was along the line of “time to put my money where my mouth is.”
The long answer is this. I have always been an eater: good food, cooking, being around kitchens, fun ingredients, etc – bring it on. My grandparents had a wonderful home in Massachusetts with lots of plants, grubs, bare feet days, and summer warmth. In 2006, I started rethinking career – do I want to be in charge, do I want to sit at a desk all day, do I want to live and contribute according to what makes my heart sing and my soul flutter, do I want to feel creative and useful? Yes. Do I want to know where my food comes from? Yes.
We started off in Ann Arbor, MI with chickens and a vegetable garden. I love keeping chickens, they smell good (I am not kidding, I like to bury my nose in their warm down – they smell like life), the eggs are amazing, killing them is not too horrible, and they are fun to spy on while dust bathing. Vegetable gardens are an exercise in hope and miracles every year – a connection with the seasons and the adamah (humus) that makes up our adam-ness (human-ness). (Thank you Fred Bahnson at TEDxManhattan 2013).
But there never seemed to be enough room in our tidy back garden. And wouldn’t it be fun to try our hand at goats, or pigs, or growing nut trees, or an orchard?
It was also appealing to be self-sufficient and hone our useful skills, not just continue practicing my consuming skills, but to dive into the nitty gritty homo sapiens survival skills. Finally, there are the niggling doomsday reasons: what if oil goes to $200/barrel and the price of bread goes to $20, etc? When we moved back to the East Coast – this was our chance.
Step #1 – find land. I feel very privileged and lucky to have access to resources that made this a very painless process – some of our land was used for hay, some for a woodlot, and some was just overgrown with poison ivy and pin oaks.
Step #2 – live on the land.
That is where we catch up to the present day. We are in the process of navigating the living part. In order to build a house – we need to clear some trees from the overgrown area. However, I feel a bit like the Lorax – which is what I will address next time.
(Here is a little snippet of who I am – from a few summers ago when I was managing the Westside Farmers Market in Ann Arbor. Hopefully it will make you giggle too.)