Sunday, December 23, 2007
This morning as I rolled around struggling to keep some of the duvet around me, I couldn't help but look over and watch Christopher sleeping. It is almost Christmas, so my mind raced back to last year at this time when I impatiently waited for a visit from him from England, not knowing where we would end up, if we would attempt the Continental Divide Trail or be finished with each other and ready to move on. Here we are, a year later reinventing a purpose or plan for ourselves after the tumult. We are a pretty great couple. I would say we are quite symbiotic. He opened his eyes and asked me if people grew dianthus here. I said yes. He is the head of flowers and orchards here (I appointed him such) and I can see that just like me, he is beginning to plan and dream. "Sunflowers," he said, "lots of sunflowers." I love him. For what his hands and feet have done and will do.
So, the purpose and the plan.....
My education at Union College focused around all great revolutionaries, activists, peacemakers, artists and great spirits. Even though I studied literature, what I was really drawn to was tendentious art, either literature or fine art or activism that tried to wake up the masses from their groggy sleep. I loved Gandhi, Martin Luther King, Emerson, Thoreau, Kathe Kollwitz, Kurt Vonnegut, Jack Kerouac, Aldous Huxley, William Blake and yes, even Karl Marx. I can't help but pick apart what I see happening now. That is what I learned to do, and I have been doing it since I was little. I see Christmas as a sort of groggy habit. It is amazing how much money people will spend on trifles for one another, grumpy about having to do it, when humanity is really going down the toilet. Imagine if a similar holiday could be invented where people's money could be spent on solar power or food for the starving or money to build infrastructure so we can transport eachother and food without burning fossil fuels, or taking care of all the sick and elderly in the world. Instead we feed the birds, feed our guzzling engines, feed our desires to adorn ourselves and our homes and have little machines at our beck and call. Wouldn't it be fun to buy gifts for the planet and preserve our right to be here a little longer? There will not be very many more crisis free holidays on this planet as we have yet to invent a replacement energy source for fossil fuels, are already at war over them, and estimations by experts give us about 30 more years at current levels of usage. As a race, we are running out of time. Energy from the sun is free, but too expensive for us to harvest because under the current system that guides our lives- if no one can make a fortune off it, it will not be sold. Studies are showing that because of the lack of alternatives in transportation, cheap food is a thing of the past.
Most of our food comes from 2,000 miles away if you shop at a grocery store here in New York. If what we need to live is water, food, and shelter I deduce that we need to all think a little bit harder about these resources. Communities used to be based upon the shared burden of providing these things for one another. Now we have lost the sense of community that would alert us to the inevitable, foreseeable coming losses of food, water, transportation and shelter. Not only will people begin losing access to these resources, but many of them may not be able to afford these luxuries. The food that America eats is making Americans obese and sick. Now that our organic food supply is owned by Pepsi, Coca Cola, Dean, Kellogg, Heinz, Unilever, M&M, Con Agra, Philip Morris and General Mills, I ask, even if you are eating well, who's pockets are you filling with your money when you buy food? The purpose and the plan for us at Wing Road Farm is not to fill our pockets while our community starves, but to keep money out of the wrong pockets. The purpose and the plan is the hope that we can make what Eliott Coleman calls "authentic" food affordable and convenient to the people in our community while making a living ourselves. I hope to harness the free energy of the sun in every way we can. I would like to attempt an off-the-grid farm someday, much like the one I apprenticed on. It will be a reminder to everyone what two sets of hands and feet can create in a short time with purpose. The purpose of feeding the people in our community is to remind them what a community does for the least of its members. The butcher, the baker and the candlestick maker are waiting for us to deliver their food and their flowers, because it is a skill we have learned and will be happy to share. I sure hope there is time for us to get the word out to the butcher, baker and the candlestick maker that we hope they are thinking of us this Christmas too.
Tuesday, December 18, 2007
Let it be known that the day after the great snowstorm when I would have loved to play or snowboard or hike or climb or build an igloo, I went back to work at Upside Over. I helped package over 150 little boxes full of cool gear and clothing for little kids all over the country, so they can play or snowboard or hike or climb or build igloos. It was the busiest day the company has seen in its two year history and I wish it even greater success, as it deserves it for getting kids out from behind tvs and outside into the air and the sun and the woods. After 8 months of withholding my income taxes from a government that would use it mostly to fund a war, I feel sad to say that I will be a party to an unjust war again at a time when most of America's citizens are overworked, in debt, don't have access to health care, don't have access to a living wage, don't have access to a great public education system or the arts, and don't have access to free time to even read or think about these sad facts.
I am sad today. I feel like I am not sure how far to go with this venture. Already we are preparing to spend lots of time and money to try to make this farm viable, while still trying not to spend too much money or time thus making this farm impossible to run. We are in a pickle. I am trying to imagine myself in the fields with my headphones on diggin and weeding and planting and seeding and watering and harvesting and washing. I am trying to form a plan that is realistic for a first year farmer. For many reasons, I am not able to process the year we have been through as the year is about to come to a close. We walked for half of the year. Every day we would rise, pack up, eat and walk, eat and walk and eat and walk and set up camp and sleep. Now we toil in a different way toward a different end. We are half in one reality and half in another very different reality. The snow is blanketing the ground and hiding what lies underneath. What is underneath is overwhelming me, as I have the knowledge and desire to care for it, but don't have the resources yet. We are searching for the top priorities... a riding lawn mower, a rototiller, a cement mixer to make potting mix, a pop up tent, a scale, wicker baskets, a ten foot table or two, a truck to deliver all the fruits of our labor to market. Chris still has to get his social security card and take a driver's test or else he can't get a license, so for now, I am driving Miss Daisy. Chris misses his parents in England and rightfully so. He misses England itself and knowing he had health insurance and was safe from handguns. Our friends from the woods are all over the country missing their nomadic friends too. We are lonely, each in our own way. It has been a long time since I have been around any women. It is the nature of being a wanderer and a traveler. We have seen most of the mountains in the country with our own eyes. Now we have settled into a giant permanent tent for at least the year and we can't just leave when we tire of the spot. Nor can we forget what we have just lived without. We are trying to find a way to make this work and find a balance between the two lifestyles we respect despite how complicated the arrangements are turning out to be. Everything might be simpler if we were wealthy, but alas we are not. For many years now I have chosen not to be. Now I sort of wish that I had thought beyond my twenties and my socialist tendencies and prepared a safety net or a plan for my thirties.
For now I plan to play outside in the snow to make myself feel better. In the dusk light, there might be a place I can sit in the woods and see the warm glow of the lights in the house to remind me of how nice it is to have a place to live, someone to love, a cat with worms, a fish, a little red kayak, a plastic car with good gas mileage and the knowledge of how to grow my own food. If this experiment ends up costing us more money than we make, at least we will eat well.
Sunday, December 16, 2007
Today was Sunday. A day of rest. Neither Chris nor I had to work, now that I am back at the kiddie outfitter in Saratoga, Upsideover.com, and we decided that since this was to be Chris' first "Noreaster", that we should do Sunday snowstorm kind of things. We baked Italian bread, our first in the farmhouse kitchen and the real kind, the kind that takes 16 hours start to finish. The kind with crust so crusty you have to be careful not to cut your mouth. The kind that is really best right out of the oven with some olive oil and balsamic vinegar. Even though I had to call my mother, a chef and baker by trade 3 times to make sure I was doing it right, and even though I doubted myself all along, it came out great. Thank goodness for Chris, since I couldn't have kneaded it for 10 minutes straight without him and his leverage.
All day it snowed and snowed and snowed. Mostly powder, but also some sleet for a while. At one point, the snow was pristine everywhere and the plows had not even made an attempt to come through. I was busy making batter for the famous Christmas favorite, The Chocolate Crinkle. This is the cookie of your dreams. It is chocolate, but it is sophisticated. It is crinkled, but in a random way. They also filled the house with a lovely smell. Andy, our neighbor, helped to dig us and the ducks out, so I invited him for some bread as well. I knitted in between cooking. We had veggie chili and brown rice with goat cheese and crusty bread for dinner and then put all our snow clothes on to go out with headlamps on for an evening snowshoe around the farm.
The snow was deeper than we thought. It was still coming down and we think we will see a total of 18 inches or so by morning. We could still see the half moon through the haze of the snow clouds and falling flakes. We hid in a white pine tree and flushed out a little bird taking refuge there. We tried to build a snowman but it is not packable snow. We decided that when Chris' new skis get here we will build a jump and practice on the back field.... though something about this idea worries me. We packed little trails to the compost pile, the polytunnel, the shed, the driveway and the woods. I was sweating breaking trail and it felt good to be outside in the air. I made an angel and we came in to watch a gardening program from illegally downloaded BBC TV! Watch out BBC TV, we are on to you! Even in a far off land without cable, there is hope for a Brit expat.
Friday, December 14, 2007
Every farmer needs reference books, which is why I have purchased for myself 5 of the best, I think, to help us on our way. And not a moment too soon, as I have just committed one of the classic blunders. We had our first snowstorm and we were quite content to sit and watch and drink tea and putz. I was knitting as fast as I can to prepare gifts for the holiday and Chris was working up in his office, writing code and researching a bit on his own. Around late afternoon, in the last light of the day, I decided to bring some water out to the ducks to bathe in and check on them, bring the compost out and take a walk in the freshly fallen snow. While in the covered up hoophouse, in the dark gray light, I thought it wise to begin to tap on the plastic to get the snow built up on the top to slide and tumble down, thus bringing in more light and removing the weight of snow on the top. I was just too small to reach the tippy top, and saw the perfect tool, a very smooth, blunt, wooden rake handle. I began tap tap tapping on the snow until I noticed the sound changing from tapping to popping or poking. NOOOOOOOOOOO!!!!!!!
I looked up and it looked like Yosemite Sam had shot the place up. I went back into the kitchen dragging my feet deflated, feeling stupid and ignorant and humbled and ashamed. The blunt end of the rake had turned into a dagger as the ice on the inside skin shaped its way around the end. I worried that I peppered the whole front with small dents or holes. Chris told me not to worry, that was what greenhouse plastic repair tape was for and that was that. In the end it wasn't that many holes and since it is double skinned, it didn't go through both layers.
The other day I tried to make a little greenhouse within a greenhouse to plant some cold hardy crops like radishes, beets and greens. At least they will germinate in the spring if not now. Out of the books I think I will value most were 3 Elliot Coleman books and one specifically on Winter Harvesting in unheated tunnels, one on cover crops for the Northeast and one on preserving the harvest. Not that we have anything to preserve...... yet, except our greenhouse plastic.
Thursday, December 6, 2007
Just thought I would write to tell the few people reading this that we are doing well. We have set up house and just about everything is in its place. What we don't have we know we can live without and what we do have money can't buy. We are very lucky and we know it. The sun was shining on the crusty, hard snow this morning and making it sparkle. I set up my little fake Christmas tree with all the ornaments I have... strange little remembrances that you don't find on many people's trees like a little canoe, a little kayak, a little backpack, some birds in a nest, an outhouse with a crescent moon on the door, a handblown teardrop my friend made for me. I put the gifts we took with us from England underneath, despite them being torn apart by TSA. I didn't peak, I promise! Chris is upstairs plugging away in his little office writing his code. He told me yesterday that he is really enjoying working for himself. He is being very honest. He is only charging our friend Star for hours spent directly writing code or researching.... which amounts to about 5 or 6 hours a day. He loves his little desk companion- Bernard the betta fish. Our foster cat Mazoo sometimes climbs on his lap for a snuggle. The ducks still haven't laid an egg. I am waiting to hear back from Upside Over, the kids' online gear shop I worked at last year, to see when and if they want me back. We are settling in well. Wing Road Farm sparkles from within and without.
I drank a cup of strong coffee, watered our plants and am waiting for a visit from my gram and auntie. My gram can't remember what ketchup is and marvelled the other day about what a good idea it was to put tuna fish on bread. She is losing her mind to dimentia and food seems to be going first. It is a strange twist, since she has owned 3 restaurants in her lifetime. She practically raised me, since my mother was always working at the restaurant until I was 12. Now I get to mother her a
little. It is strange, but I play along. I try not to point out anything that will upset her. I try to appreciate the time I did have with her. She is my only living grandparent.
We miss Chris' family a lot. I told them that I would tell them when I thought Chris needed a visit. I think that no matter how old you get, when you have done something well or found something amazing to you, you just want to drag your parents by the hand to come see what it is. I think that is the feeling he is feeling. It is lovely here and we want to show it off now to everyone we know.
We have booked flights to Colorado to visit my sister from February 6th to the 14th or so to have a taste of the life we gave up for the farm. We are all pitching in to get Chris a pair of skis with bindings for Christmas. I know he says he doesn't want anything, but I know he would like skis and boots. I am looking for a used pair with bindings and then he would have to get a proper fitting for boots. We may go skiing Friday to try out demo skis at Gore Mountain to see what he likes. We are also going to a Warren Miller film on Sunday with my dad where you get 5 free lift tickets as a bonus. We have invitations
to Sunday River in Maine and we will be going to see Chris' auntie and uncle after Christmas in the Catskills. Hopefully it will snow this year and our choice to stay in New York won't mean we never get to glide and shush down the slopes. My snowboard is waxed and ready!
We are quite blessed and lucky even though our new neighbor Andy backed into my car. The door he hit was the door that was fused shut and now after all this time, I have a reason to get it fixed. Cool! I think that everything will be ok. After a year of complete and total turmoil, there is a nap around the corner.