Thursday, November 12, 2009

It’s not polite to talk about politics.

Politic. Anytime there is interaction within a group of adults, politics are involved. People have their own interests they hope to promote. Self-interest. I got into a discussion with a libertarian recently, and while I found it very frustrating, it enabled me to pin down what my disagreement with libertarians are. One: the idea that everything is motivated by self-interest. I say, let’s define self-interest, because on one level it’s true. I found a box of kittens in the park once, I don’t particularly like cats, but I felt bad for the kittens, so I took them with me and cleaned them up, fed them and found them homes. Self-interest? Those kittens cost me time and resources, but doing it made me feel good, so in that way, yes it was self-interested. But to the libertarians who banter about free-market principles and its Darwinian social repercussions and call it self-interest, what they are really talking about is greed. And a line from the upma-lumpa song goes through my head: if you’re not greedy you will go far. You will live in happiness too, like the upma-lumpas doop-a-de do.
Back to politics, and to follow, other taboo topics. I think I’m done censoring myself and plan to unleash my insanity. Maybe it is my thinking I’m crazy that makes me normal. More on that later. Can there be a good government? A government is only as good as the people who make it up. I’m worried about our government, for many of the same reasons that I am worried about the future of the human species. I’m about to narrow that down to corporatism. Corporations who only answer to their shareholders and next quarter’s profits and are so short-sighted that they do themselves long-term harm, e.g. the auto industries. But I’m not completely there yet.
So, I voted for Barack Obama. And all things considered, I think he is doing OKAY. Let me qualify that. First, I think our system is so corrupt that in order for a person to reach the level of president, they themselves must be corrupt. You can’t walk through fire without getting a little scorched. Second, a president is not a king with a scepter, or a magician with a wand. Our system of government was set up to be slow. Third, there are very minor differences between the two major parties. The same corporate interests are lining the pockets of both. (democrats tend to be more liberal socially, which I like). There are some minor parties that try. But can you take grassroots to a national level? Or does a national organization result in a loss of street-cred for the grassroots origins? Fourth, there is a LOT of CRAZY BAD STUFF going on. And really, there is only so much control over life. I have no answers for you.
So what to do? You see, there is no storming the castle. The powers that be will shoot their neighbors to maintain its structure. We saw that in 1970 in Ohio. Like Tiananmen Square to follow, and any other government crackdown. They have bigger weapons than we could ever imagine. I say, wait for it to collapse under its own weight. It might be slow and painful, but it’ll happen. And in the meantime attempt to do what you can to promote the causes you believe in. We have few options, we can vote, and we choose what businesses we patronize. I’ve started to follow up voting with writing letters to my senators and my congressman. I bookmarked their contact pages. I send quick messages of causes I think they, as my representative, should support. Like the Local Community Radio Act and a Public Option. But I don’t think they listen to me. When I sent a letter to Jon Kyl, I received a form letter back saying thankyou for your opinion, but here is why a public option is bad.
So I keep trying.

Friday, October 30, 2009

My ideas about the universe in a nutshell

I’ve been thinking about growing. What it means to grow, the act of growing. I just turned 29. I grew. I’ve been thinking about change. Growing and changing are similar in nature but have different connotations. A lot of change happened the past year, and as a result I grew.
I’m not really going anywhere with this.
I’m really rather radical. I think that where Humans need to go in order to continue to succeed is so far from where we are that I wonder if we are even cable of asking the questions, and questioning the institutions upon which we base our society. I’m an idealist, but I have been disappointed from time to time.
I do think that the human species can live in global peace and prosperity. I say global, which scares some people, and which might be odd from me, since I have stressed the local. Let me explain. I see a global local movement, meaning that everything that can be produced locally will be. EVERYTHING. I really think we need to bring production back to the people. Strip it down to what we need: we need to eat. What can be grown locally? What animals thrive there? We need a place to live. What are the local building materials? We need education and health care. Most things, even larger appliances and electronic goods can be produced locally, on a smaller scale. In order to do this, we will have to challenge the corporatist presumed point of life, i.e. the accumulation of wealth. Hoarding. What are we saving for? Now is all we have. Hell, there could be some crazy worldwide disaster that kills us all tomorrow. Children who have no idea of the value of a dollar will inherit wealth and most of it will be squandered. I see the point of life to be the enjoyment of it along with the happiness that hopefully accompanies it, while remembering that life by nature is suffering. All I am saying is give peace a chance.
I’ve been thinking of everything and about nothing at the same time. It’s an odd headspace. Sometimes I want to bury my head in the sand, other times I want to crusade and save the world. It’s like this jumbled up ball of twine, and you don’t even know where to begin trying to tease it apart. As you slowly work one string out of the knot, the whole becomes less tangled, until the strings fall loosely in your hands and you are able to braid them nicely.
It seems too big, and the forces on the other side too strong. Because I do believe that there are forces on the other side that profit from the confusing jumbled up ball of twine and want to keep it that way.
I used to say that I thought it was five monkeys in the mountains of Peru who really ran the world. Now I think it is probably a handful of international bankers who run the show.
The alterations that society needs to make on the whole require that we question the institutions that form it: the military-industrial complex, the insurance and pharmaceuticals industries, the sue-happy legal system, the embedded corporate interest in the government agencies.
To be continued…

Friday, October 9, 2009

Suffer the little children…

While we work to create an alternative economy we must still live in the real one. I feel like I’ve written that before. To that end I obtained employment. I got a job with a company that provides after-school programs. For a few hours every afternoon I get to hang out with about fifty running and screaming children.
I like kids. I have two siblings that are 10 and 12 years younger than me, and I changed their diapers and walked them to sleep. Played with them and babysat. When I left home they were 6 and 8 and I still think of them as that age sometimes, but now they are 17 and 19! That means I’m old. I look at them and say ‘how old are you again?’ Then there are the handful of nieces and nephews that I have lived with on occasion. The point being, I’ve always been around children. Just to further my credentials, I also worked with children with multiple disabilities at a school for the deaf and the blind.
As the subject of an anthropological study, children are fascinating. They are the continued evolution of the human race. Their little brains are designed to learn their culture. Every child will, without ever receiving formal training, learn to near perfection the spoken grammar of their dialect. Every individual will of course put their own idiolectical spin on that dialect, which is in part the cause of language evolution. I often argue nature vs. nurture to myself. I mean, infants have personalities, and two year olds are bursting with personality. But you can never completely judge by the child’s personality what the adult’s personality will be. Just as you can never imagine what a child will look like when they grow up. However, whenever I see pictures of my mom as a little girl, I think that she looks exactly the same; I can still see that little girl shining out of her eyes. Damn linear nature of time.
Well, the company that hired me serves one of the school districts here in Tucson. I have had a rather confusing time with it. In the first three weeks I have worked at four different sites. Just as I was beginning to learn the kids’ names in one place, the company would move me to another. And the children in the current place are the biggest group of hellions that I have ever seen. Many of them argue back with phrases like ‘whatever’ ‘who cares’ ‘no’ ‘you can’t make me’ and one kid told me when he grows up he wants to be in jail. I have been hit in the back twice in as many days, kicked and threatened by some six year old punk, who runs off and climbs up a tree.
There is little support form management; the philosophy behind the program is to explore the child’s interest and plan the curriculum around their interests. I really appreciate the theory; there just isn’t the structure to back it up. To this end, we are not allowed to organize activities we are just allowed to provide them with materials and let them explore. We are not allowed to discipline, we must re-direct them to a different activity. We are not really supposed to tell the parents of troubles with the children, if we must we should preface it with lavish praise. We are not supposed to project our voices to get the whole group’s attention; we must gather them one by one and request that they quietly sit on the rug.
I realize that I have a different approach to child rearing. As Cesar Millan advises, children and dogs need rules, boundaries and limitations. If a child misbehaves, they should be corrected. If a child at such young age is already lying, stealing, fighting and threatening to stab people, it’s time for some hard knocks, and some place putting. They should learn that such behavior is not tolerated by society. Mamby-pamby psycho-babble isn’t going to cut it.
Children have been successfully raised for millennia, without detriment to our species, but now I think we are doing harm to the human race with these coddling philosophies.
Look at me, I wasn’t given options, I was told to do things. I was spanked, and grounded and put in time out and made to apologize. And I turned out just fine. (some people might question this)

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Going local

As I have previously stated, one of the life conclusions Ed and I arrived upon in Oregon is that we need to operate as locally as possible. To that end we have sought out several local movements. We found a local rancher who grazes their cattle about 70 miles away. The beef is really good, but a tad on the fatty side. However, she also sells raw bones for dogs and a special high-fat ground beef that we cook up for Jackie. He loves it. Speaking of Jackie, he is getting used to living in the city. There are several dog parks we take him to, where he invariably gets rolled around by other dogs, but he loves that too. Ed is getting Jackie involved in dog competitions, Earthdog, which simulates hunting and agility. In October we will be going up to northern AZ for his first trial.
The first organization we contacted here is called Local First AZ, they are a non-profit that started in Phoenix to promote local business. It goes something like this: for every dollar spent at a national retailer 13 cents stays in the community, however for every dollar spent at a local business 48 cents stays in the community. For every two jobs a national company creates, three local business jobs are lost. Keep it in the community. Ed and I went to a mixer they had to introduce ourselves. It was really for business owners, and since we are not… but we have started using their website which has a directory of local businesses.
Then we heard from a friend about a local currency movement. Monetary structures have lately piqued our interest. Let’s briefly delve into the philosophical realm. What is money? Money is a standardized means of exchange whose value is based upon something. It used to be, a long long long time ago, that the value of currency was based on the production of food and goods. The US federal note that we use is based upon the word of our government. It used to be, a long long long time ago, that money was created every season with the various potatoes, grains, fruit, meats and cheeses that got to the marketplace. Now money is LOANED into existence by the Federal Reserve, which by the way is a private company, so that the second it touches a hand it has to be paid back WITH INTEREST. That fact, and in order for society to maintain it, depends on a continually expanding economy. And since the earth and the resources upon are a finite entity, an ever-expanding economy is impossible. My own humble opinion is that the human race is reaching critical mass. Money used to devalue over time, as the various potatoes, grains, fruit, meats and cheeses rotted over time if they were not used. This encouraged re-investment into the community. Now money increases over time (via interest), indeed it takes money to make money, or as my uncle always says “the money that money makes, makes more money.” This encourages hoarding, by those who can afford to hoard, and slowly the bulk of the wealth is in the hands of a few (international bankers) and the majority of the population are grinding it out in the wheels of the machine, getting more and more of their production value taken away. (Most of this information, though I have it from several sources, is found in the book LIFE, INC. by Douglass Rushkoff.) The laws laid in place hundreds of years ago and have been altered for the benefit of those in power (think large corporations and multi-millionares) to remain there.
What to do with all this information? One solution is to create a local currency, one that is not loaned into existence, but one that is based on the value of the labor of the members of the community. Which in theory would never inflate or deflate since the value of that labor never changes. All you have to do is get everyone to agree that this new currency has value and to accept it as a means of exchange. So Ed and I have been going to the group meetings helping to aid the cause. I have never really thrown myself into a community group of this nature. The few times I was involved in a collaborative effort was mainly in the context of school projects. So I am new to this forum, and I realize that even though we all have the same goal in mind, we see different ways of getting there. There are personalities and egos involved and the occasional irresponsibility of the volunteers. Usually the meetings are at the end of the day when we are tired and hungry, but we are trying. I’m excited to see where this goes, and being part of this movement. Some group members believe we should just launch the program (right now in the form of a on-line ledger account system, hopefully one day to incorporate magnetic strip card technology and maybe paper script) and start operating within it and figure it out as we go. My only worry would be if the program launches without figuring out some logistics it might fall flat in early stages. But here we go.
Ed is also volunteering at the local community radio station and the public access television station. It’s good here and I think things will just continue to get better.

Friday, September 11, 2009

Stop cooking and pour me a beer

One of my favorite things about this little house of ours, is that it has a big kitchen, with lots of counter space. I now have the basic necessities to do what I’ve been saying I want to do since I was 19, learn to cook. Not just any cooking, I want to walk into my kitchen, throw flour against the wall and come out 45 minutes later with a three-course meal. Slight exaggeration, however I do try and start with the simplest ingredients. No pre-packaged goods for us.
My true problem is I’m a picky eater. I don’t like food. In LA, Ed and I pretty much stopped going out to eat, because two times out of three, I ending up not liking what I ordered. So I stick to what I know.
A friend of mine invited me to a raw food party here in Tucson. Where everyone is to bring a raw food dish and I took chopped up melons. I took a little bite of everything and the only thing I liked was the melon I brought. Most of the dishes were shredded up carrots and cucumbers and tomatoes and sprouts, and usually marinated with spices like jalapeño, cayenne or some other pepper that I don’t care for. One of the things I never did understand about Raw-foodies,Vegans or any other extreme dietary lifestyle is when their foods try to imitate that which they will not eat. For example, at the raw food party there was a ‘chocolate’ pudding cake. But it wasn’t chocolate and it wasn’t pudding. What’s up with tofu burger? Why do they say it tastes like chicken? They don’t eat chicken or burgers! Why not just embrace the diet and advertise that it tastes like wheatgrass?
I like bread, so I’ve started making as much bread as I can. I stole some bread tins from my mama, and bought the biggest bag of flour I could find. I really enjoy making bread, so far I’ve made banana bread, Asiago bread and regular white bread. I’m going to attempt pumpkin and French bread next. Bread takes a while, and it’s messy, which I like. I feel that one should make a mess while they are cooking. I enjoy the process, mixing in ingredients, letting the dough rise, mixing in a few more, letting that rise. I take extra pleasure in kneading, with my hands covered in flour, as I slowly work the dough into that smooth spring consistency. And is there any smell greater than that of fresh baked bread? No, I don’t think so.
The other edible item that I think I have gotten really good at: fruit smoothies. And this helps with our desire to improve our diet. It’s a perfect way to get our daily fruit requirements. It’s so much fun to throw random fruits into my blender, a little yogurt, honey and orange juice. Everyday it’s different, and everyday I think it’s the best one yet.
Tonight I’m going to make bread pudding.
There is a great little locally owned Asian market three blocks away, so I need to learn how to cook Asian food. I have a little harder time stretching myself when it comes to main courses. But we did find a local beef company and have been making pot roasts that are quite delicious. The best part of me cooking is that Ed cleans.

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Tucson, Arizona

When I left Tucson about three years ago, I was never going to return. It’s a great little town, but I had some hard times growing up here. Every street was filled with negative associations. It’s an odd feeling being back here, because while here is still the same, I am not.
I know this place, I’ve cruised these streets since I was 14. Its smells and its people are familiar. There is also a re-birth for me coming back here, and for the town itself. Downtown is going through a much needed renovation, a gentrification without losing the Old Pueblo charm. Ed loves it here, he tells me that everyday. The desert speaks to him, the air is easier to breath, and then the monsoons roll in for the afternoon and cool everything down. My heart is here, too. The wisps of wind will dry the sweat from my shirt, and the sunsets over the jagged Tucson Mountains will shoot out waves of orange, pink and reds. I remember what I like about the desert.
The Universe has seen us move into a great little home, in a great location. And true to our charge, we have begun to seek out the various local movements we want to help advance. We have been going to community meetings and social mixers. There are several avenues worth exploring. LocalFirstAZ is an organization that seeks to promote local businesses while educating the consumer about the benefits of keeping your dollars local. We have looked up where all the farmers markets pop up around town, and met a few local ranchers that only sell their beef in Tucson. We live down the street from a community radio station that Ed is going to volunteer at.
Finally, a lot of my family is here. As I told Ed, after spending six months with his parents, my family doesn’t seem so bad. I have my differences with my family, but hopefully, I have learned how to bury the hatchet.
All in all, it’s good to be Home.

Saturday, August 15, 2009

Back by popular demand

So it’s been over a month. I have been feeling my fingers itch for the keyboard. But I’m not sure what I’m talking about yet. The Airstream is sold. There is nothing left on the farm to give away that we once lived there. As we drove away from there for the last time, Ed towing the U-haul, me following in the Prius, I felt the nightmare dissolve behind me, as I awoke and began to notice the beauty of sunlight scattered by the clouds.
We’ve been gone for a month and in a way I don’t even remember being there at all, maybe those six months never happened. But I have a few permanent scars that remind me of where I’ve been.
Ed’s daughter was with us for 3 weeks, and we eventually dropped her off in LA. We spent a few days in LA ourselves with some good friends. We walked past our old apartment, ate at my favorite bagel shop, re-stomped the old stomping grounds. The surreal feeling of familiarity, the roads and the shops, but LA is no longer home. I loved being there, but I’m glad we did not try to move back there.
We settled in Tucson, AZ. Back to my roots. It’s a great place, and I have friends and family here. Ed commented on how we can’t go anywhere without me running into someone I know. It’s nice to have a city around us. We live in a little guest house downtown, which puts us in walking distance of everything we could need. I plan on being a pedestrian as much as possible. Ed and I are determined to get involved in the local community and local economy. We will not let all the knowledge we acquired and the opinions we formed lay dormant. The local food movement and neighborhood connections will find great advocates in us.
I need to change the name of this blog, if I’m going to continue it, which I plan on doing. Beverly Hills to Hillbillies doesn’t apply any longer. I think it will be named ‘The Instant Local’ but that name still needs to make it through the committee. And I’m also working on expanding the BH to HB story, filling in the details and eventually publish it as a book. I have always felt I have a book or two in me.
In the meantime, here we are again, starting from scratch, hoping to get our lives in order. The task of a lifetime.

Sunday, July 5, 2009

Leaving the farm

Ed and I are coming up on our one year anniversary. Time for reflection. It is bemusing to think that we are newlyweds, with all we have been through. Our marriage has aged here. It has been the best and the worst of times. I’ve aged here; I’ve lost some of my happy-go-lucky spirit. I hope I regain it, for I liked that part of me. I’ve learned a lot about myself and I’ve thought a lot about the world around me.
So it didn’t work, Ed and I becoming farmers. The Beverly Hills to Hillbillies experiment failed. But it is in failing that one learns. That’s how scientists continue to narrow their focus and reform their hypothesis. As my archaeology teacher would say, we learn just as much by what we don’t find.
Let’s first look at what we found. We have found a deep appreciation for farmers, for those people that love the land and produce the food that sustain us all. As well as those who work on a local and environmentally friendly level. We don’t need to destroy the land to live off of it. We don’t need to be patenting organic life, claming ownership over a certain vegetable strain, thereby obligating others to be dependent on one source to produce that vegetable. That seeds are created to commit genetic suicide is wrong. For the very basis of life is that it is able to reproduce itself. I have become aware that there are greedy corporate forces that try to manipulate the food supply for their own benefit. To this end, I will work where and how I can to counter these forces. Support your local farmer. Support your local community.
We have found a love of small time gardening. It is amazing that a tiny seed, just with sun and water, will turn itself into a wondrous plant that bears fruit that we eat for strength and sustenance. I watch as the apples and tomatoes get bigger everyday. When I visit the local grocery store and wander through the produce section; oranges, kiwis, avocados, they just grow, naturally. From now on, we will always grow some of our own food. I think it is important that humans experience that connection with their earth.
The farm gave us a perfect location to get a Jack Russell. We are endlessly grateful that we have had these months of bonding with Jackie.
I would like to thank all my dear readers. Ed and I were talking about how crazy the brief media frenzy was. I’m glad it happened. The writing process and the blog forum have been wonderfully therapeutic for me. I like writing, and I like my writing. Although some times I stare at my keyboard, wanting to throw it out the window. I’ll always be writing.
Ed’s daughter is flying in tomorrow. We haven’t seen her since April. We get to keep her for a month, and we’ll be driving around the northwest for a while. Then, Ed and I are heading south. We are children of the sun and feel that it is a good direction to go.
So this is the end, and once you’ve said that there’s nothing left to say.

Sunday, June 28, 2009

Don’t make decisions in the dark

There are a few funny things about living in this Airstream. Although it is level and stabilized, we can still feel it wobble a little as we move around in it. Especially when Ed walks down the hall. Sometimes I think the Airstream is haunted, I often feel someone move behind me, out the window. I always turn to look just to see the great outdoors. It’s all just metaphor I suppose.
In the evenings, Ed and I will take Jackie out into the newly cut hay field and let him run to his heart’s content. We stroll back and forth and try to process all that has transpired the last six months. I keep going back to our original decision, that starting over at Ed’s parents place was the best option at the time. I realize now that that decision was made while we were in panic mode. When Ed’s partners booted him and we lost 75% of our income we started to panic. Panic is not a good frame of mind from which to be thinking about options. We felt that we had no other realistic options, and we didn’t give ourselves enough brainstorming time to see if we could come up with any. So we jumped.
What goes into making a decision? I started thinking about algebra, (algebra almost kept me from graduating college) and a basic equation where you plug in variables and solve the problem. If there are too many variables the equation is unsolvable. So one might replace one of the variables with an assumption, which might allow the equation to be solved. We all know what assuming does. I’ve already been made an ass of, so what does it matter now?
Assumptions are made everyday. To generalize, people go to college on the assumption that the degree will wield them higher earning potential. Houses are bought on the assumption that the equity will increase. Wars are begun on the assumption that people want to be liberated from dictatorships and will welcome us as liberators. However, nowhere is it written that one’s actions will produce the intended results. What then goes into decision making?
There is only so long one can hold off doing anything for lack of decision making abilities. I’ve heard that length of time is three days or 72 hours. But I think the length of time allowed is relative to the choice being made. In our case, the question of what we want to do with our lives will need more time to figure out.
Am I still here, stuck on the LIFE question? But as long as one is living, I think they are stuck on that question. It’s one that you have to re-answer every day. Every day you wake up you re-decide how to focus your energies for that day. It can be in the direction you have been moving, or it could be a 180° turn. The interesting thing about angles is that even a 2° shift can greatly alter the destination.
Which brings me back to algebra…

Friday, June 26, 2009

What’s growing in our garden

I’m really proud of what we’ve accomplished. We went into this project as idealist young kids, without a clue, making it up as we went along. My original thoughts about how hard it might be to get plants to grow haven’t yet come to a conclusion. How hard is it? I don’t know, the broccoli and celery have yet to come up, and I’m wondering if some of the green leaves popping up are vegetables or weeds. If I’m not sure I don’t pull it up. Most weeds I’m sure about, but there a few things in the cucumber bed I’m not so sure of. I’m happiest about the sunflowers. My dad gave me a pack of sunflower seeds when we were down in Tucson, he said they were old and he wasn’t sure if they would grow, but they are getting taller and taller every day.
I think that we will keep a little vegetable garden wherever we go, but I don’t think we’ll have such a big one.

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

The Dirty Farmer

Ed and I watched a documentary called “The Real Dirt on Farmer John.” It was great. Farmer John was raised on a farm in Illinois, and inherited it when his father died young. He went to a nearby college, where he befriended artists and hippies, and invited them back to his farm to create a farming and artist commune. It all ended horribly wrong, with mounting debt and the local townspeople spreading rumors about violent drug induced orgies and murder. None of which were true. But farmer John threw up his hands, swore off farming, and went to Mexico. In agrarian Mexico he re-fell in love with farming, and the sacred relationship between farmer and soil. When he finally made it back to Illinois, to start all over, he decided that this time he would be an organic farmer. He found organic, done properly, required three times the amount of work, plus a LOT of knowledge he never had, and he was met by the town with the same skepticism and distrust that had met him previously. After a few years of breaking his back, getting nowhere, he once again swore off farming and returned to Mexico. When he came home the second time, he again started up his organic/artist farming community. With the help of his mom’s vegetable stand, and some restaurant owners in Chicago searching for local organic produce, he managed to sustain himself farming in a holistic manner.
It was a very good documentary and I recommend it. It illuminated a few things for Ed and I. First of all, here is this guy who was raised farming, all his family and neighbors farmed, who inherited a farm with all the equipment and animals, and he said organic was too much hard work! So how could Ed and I, without that background, really be expected to accomplish such a feat. Also, part of our dream for this place was to turn it into an artist retreat, where people could gather and garden and create in a relaxed environment. And we’ve been sad to have to let that dream go, but it was wonderful and cathartic to know that someone else out there had that same dream, and saw it come to fruition. Just knowing that there is an artist-friendly farming community out there really helps us to peacefully let that dream go for ourselves. And so we think we should drive to Illinois to shake hands with farmer John.

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Drastic Actions

They are what drastic times call for. As such we have decided to sell the Airstream. Yep, it’s listed on e-bay. We think that it’s the thing to do now. We feel liked we tried, we gave it our best effort, but the signs were early and obvious that it just wasn’t going to work. For reasons stated in earlier blog posts… It is strange in a way, the way we imagined the outcome when we started, we would have been caring for little chickens by now. My blog posts would have been about building their coops, bailing hay, and our further involvement in the farming community. About bailing hay…within the last week, the nearly 3 1/2 acre hay field got cut down, raked up, made into bales and put into the hay barn. I watched all of this while weeding the garden. The garden is our favorite thing about this place, the sun has finally been coming out all day, and daily I look to see how the little plants have changed. We’ve been eating radishes nearly everyday now, and there are a few little green tomatoes on the vine. The corn stalks never cease to amaze me, and the potato plants are flowering. However, we pulled off all the potato flowers, so the plant sends more of its energy to its root system. We also have little asparagus and herbs coming up, although they will take a few years to mature. It’s enjoyable to spend the mornings watering and weeding.
Back to selling the Airstream. We have Ed’s daughter flying up from L.A. in two weeks, and once she is gone back to her mom’s, we think we’ll hit the road. We’ll drive around aimlessly, seeing what we can see. Across America, across Canada, maybe into Mexico, I mean, really it’s possible to drive down the Pacific Coast to the tip of Chili! I had a cousin who did it on a motorcycle. And then you could drive up the eastern seaboard, through Brazil, skirt around Venezuela, all the way up to Québec. Then hell, by that time you may as well cut across Canada to Alaska where you started from! That’s right, in our Prius with our dog. If we are going to be homeless, we may as well be traveling. In fact, I’m thinking about changing the name of this blog to ‘Vagabond U.S.A.’
The Airstream has been good to us. It’s been our cocoon, but it’s time to shed the shell and let our wings spread. A lot of good mental work has been done here; it’s forced us to sit with our thoughts and our discomfort. There has been no running away, only constant reminders.
On a completely different note, I’ve been sick lately. It is no fun. Ed and I had this lovely Father’s day trip out to the coast planned, we went anyway, but we had to pull over about five times on the way there so I could puke. I’m just starting to get my strength back. The one up-side to being sick: I lost a few pounds. Not that I need to, but what woman doesn’t like to loose a few pounds? Aside from the physical unease, aching all over, alternating chills and sweats, not sleeping well and having a headache, aside from all that I have felt mentally up-beat. I’m not really worried about this next step, and for whatever reason, I think good things will come our way.

Sunday, June 14, 2009


Home, there is no place like it, and according to who you talk to it’s where the heart is, or wherever one lays their head. Not quite, and not any place can be one. Whether it be a castle, a shack or a 1974 Airstream Ambassador. It’s a person’s kingdom, their sanctuary. I’ve always prided myself on having a place where I can shut out the world, invite in whomever I choose, and relax and feel at peace. A place where I feel comfortable puking my brains out if I get sick, and a place where I like to walk around naked. What makes that homey feeling? It’s something that spans ages and cultures. Now I feel a little like Dorothy, all I want to do is to go home. But for as much as I click my heels, I’m not getting anywhere, and I’m definitely not in Kansas.
For the last decade, I have moved about once a year. Some places feel like home the very first night. Others take awhile. When I think of home, I also still think of my parents house. Although when I go there I don’t know where anything is anymore because I haven’t lived there in ten years.
I say that I have felt homeless for the past five months; Ed says he’s felt homeless for seven, ever since he lost his job and we knew we would have to move. L.A. didn’t feel quite the same after that. Not feeling like you have a home is a very unsettling feeling to have for any length of time.
I’ve got a Paul Simon song stuck in my head.
The Airstream is not home for us. It would be great for just one person who doesn’t cook very much. It would also be a great camping trailer, for a week or two at a time. But it is not home. It’s so small; Ed and I have to crawl over each other to move. I can’t stretch or put my shirt on without my elbows hitting a wall. I’m always hitting my head on the door jam stepping in and out of this place. It also amazes me, for how small this place is, how easy it is to loose and misplace things. I’m constantly tearing the trailer apart looking for my keys.
To end on a happier note, one of the good things about being homeless here: being able to eat from our garden. Our radishes are ready! It’s so exciting to see the little tops pushing out of the ground, so satisfying to pull it out of the dirt. They smell incredibly fresh and are so pretty. Ed can eat radishes whole, I normally can take a small bite before my eyes water.

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

Experiments in slowing down

This is what I tell myself: do a breathing exercise, breathe in all the good, positive energy; breathe out the bad negative energy. Focus on the breath: inhale warmth and relaxation, exhale out cold frustration. Sit up straight. Clear your mind.
Much easier to say than to practice.
Some of the activities of slowing down: baking bread, reading, having picnics, watching my dog breathe. It’s all very fun. The picnic was especially fun, there is a lovely riverfront park that we went to. We laid out our blanket, drank wine and had bread and cheese. Ed ran around with Jackie, who is learning not to bark at other dogs. It’s all very pleasant, and slightly boring. There is only so long one can really sit in the grass reading a book, no matter how good that book is.
I often wonder, because I am a student of history, and because I am a die-hard Pride and Prejudice fan, what do people do with all their time? And they had to wear those dresses and be all proper like. But there are 24 long hours in every day; 365 days in a year and how many years do we live? That’s a long time! I know Time is perception, however, I believe my mama said it best when she said, “the days are long, but the years are short!”
So while we are in the waiting mode, for the next shoe to drop, or the next stepping stone to be laid, we are having a series of very long days, with not a lot to fill them. We are trying not to be impatient throughout this waiting period. First, we don’t want to make the ‘next move’ out of a place of panic. Panic is never a good place to make a decision from. We would like to take our time and do it right.

Friday, June 5, 2009

Reinterpretation of the dream

When we first moved here, and once I stopped crying, we saw nothing but possibilities and trees, now we only see the trees and they are blocking our view of the forest. And I’ve started to cry again. Throughout daily life walking around the farm, tears well-up in the corner of my eyes. I am mourning the loss of a dream and possibly losing my dreamer’s quality. Maybe it’s just becoming more realistic, or refining my life goals.
One of the facts we have admitted to ourselves is that we have too much urbanite in us to live so far out in the country. We enjoy the hustle and bustle of a city. Being isolated on this farm for five months has slowed us down a little, so instead of speeding in the fast lane we’re cruising in the slow lane, but we still want to be on the freeway. I don’t want to go back to LA, but there are some things about LA that I miss. In the city we could get anything delivered at any time, here no one will even deliver a pizza. In the time it takes us to walk to the very small country store, which is about a mile, we could have walked to any number of stores, restaurants, cafés, boutiques, the post office and the police station. And country roads are scarier to walk on because there are no sidewalks, but on the other hand everyone waves to us as they pass in their vehicles. I don’t think I ever got waved to in Los Angeles. Flipped off, maybe.
What I’m saying is, we don’t need to be in an overwhelmingly large city, but we would like to be in a little more populated area. So we begin to ask ourselves, where to this time? There is another factor that we somehow failed to properly estimate. That is: we are still newlyweds. And we still want the ‘just us’ time, and adventure.
I’m not sure where I am going with this, so I’m going to go back to where I started. My dream. To live quite and comfortable with my husband and my dog, and I don’t think I’m asking too much. However, my idea of comfort has been scaled back after living in a 200 square foot Airstream for five months. To be continued…

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

Impolite Conversation

Ed and I are always discussing whether or not I should be careful with my politics, and religious views, i.e. my philosophies. Because I am extreme? No. Well maybe. Heaven forbid I should offend anyone with my views, even though I am constantly offended by what is said around me. I feel I should speak up. Not that I expect to change anyone’s mind, that’s why it’s theirs, to make up for themselves.
Now to the story: We had a very nice guy from down the street deliver some firewood. A cord for $100, which I guess is a good price, having never bought firewood before, I really don’t know. But Ed has bought firewood and he said it was a good price. 10 minutes into unloading the truck, the man stops what he is doing, turns towards us and in all seriousness asks us, “Do you know the Lord?” (and I was wearing my Buddha shirt) to which I replied “Jesus”, (no, that’s just what I thought), I actually replied, “How much time do you have?”
Ed and I recently watched the movie Religulous, by Bill Maher. Well, according to him about 16% of the American population are ’non-believers’, people who do not affiliate themselves with any religion or belief system. 16%, that is a sizable portion of the population. And we non-believers can’t sit quietly while all the believers run rampant yelling about their beliefs. On that note, I would like to proclaim that I am a Questioner. I do not know if there is a God or gods, and I am OKAY not knowing. I do not think such questions are answerable. What I do believe is that the Universe will take care of you if you just let it. Whatever that means.

Monday, June 1, 2009

Random updates

#1- I’ve got a green thumb! There are lots of little green things coming up in the garden, and some big green things. Our poor little tomatoes that suffered so much have come alive in the ground! They are getting bigger everyday and spreading out leaves. Ed is really happy about them. I’m the happiest about the potatoes. I’ve never seen a potato plant and I think they are beautiful. The corn grows the fastest for sure; I mean you could stand there and watch it grow. Sometimes I do stand there and watch it grow, it’s a great way to slow down. We’ve built a new fence around the garden; well Ed did most of the labor, and it seems as sturdy as any of the other fences on the property. Not bad for novices. Finally, we have little tiny apples on the trees! Two of the three trees have apples and they are so little, I’m going to watch them grow, and then I’m going to eat them.

#2- Mini road trip in Oregon. We’ve been taking to the road lately, more for driving around than trying to get anywhere. But still we’ve made it out to the coast and up into the Cascades. Oregon is a beautiful state; the greenness and lushness are a match for any landscape. There is nothing like driving on a shaded winding road that follows beside a river. We love giving Jackie the new experiences; his favorite was probably running on the beach.

#3- Jackie is the best dog ever, but I might be biased. Around 9pm we have our routine where Jackie walks himself into his crate and lays down. He says ‘leave me alone mom and dad, I’m tired.’ He’ll wake us up between 3-5am to go to the bathroom. Ed and I take turns taking him out. I actually enjoy taking him out so early in the morning when the stars are either popping or the dawn is breaking, both times are peaceful and amazingly inspirational; it is a silence I enjoy. When we come back in, I tell Jackie to sit so I can take off his leash. His little tail wags in excitement as soon as I say ‘okay’, then he bolts up onto the bed and licks Ed good morning. They roll around together as I climb back in and Jackie curls up at our knees. It’s my favorite time of night. Jackie hangs out with us all day, wherever we go. He follows most commands, at least he knows what he is supposed to do, but sometimes he just doesn’t feel like doing it. On the other hand, sometimes he does what we want without us even having to say anything. We just look at him and he’ll sit. Ed just got him to lay down on command, he was resisting it at first. He is super-curious and always wants to investigate. When I was pulling up roots in the garden area, he was right there with me digging as fast as he could, and being the cutest little puppy ever! In my own humble opinion. While watching him dig with such enthusiasm, we decided that we would like to teach him to go underground after prey, which is part of what Jack Russell’s were bred for. We just love him! The Vet said that for those of us who don’t have children, our animals are our family. And as my mama always says “Every mama crow thinks her baby crow’s the blackest.”

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

My next passion

Since we’ve decided that it is impractical for us to bury ourselves trying to build a profitable farm so quickly, without real knowledge or skill to do so, I need a new focus. We’re completely committed to growing as much of our own food as possible. Now I want to learn how to cook. I’m not talking about making mac and cheese from a box, I’m talking from scratch. We are still completely into local food and sustainable eco-friendly production methods (how’s that for jargon!). But we don’t have to be the ones producing it. We just need to support those who do.
Last weekend we went up to Eugene’s farmer’s market, and one of the vendors there had a great little resource guide mapping out all the local farms in the area, what they produce and when and where they sell. Also it listed all the farmers markets in the county. There is a market happening every day of the week except for Mondays. This is how I’m going to start shopping, no more Safeway for me! Well, as much as possible at least. Ed and I figure we won’t be purists. For one thing, there is no local coffee, sugar or flour, all of which are essential to us. Hmm, there might be local flour, from eastern Oregon. We’ll buy everything that is available locally, but for that which is not, we are not going to go without. However, I would like to find a banana distributor that is not Dole.
So I want to cook, and I think cooking should be a messy process. I’ll throw it up against the wall, be covered in sugar and flour, and have vegetable shavings at my feet. I’ve always wanted to purchase my flour and rice in fifty pound bags. Part of this comes from my childhood, my mom had cans and cans of whole wheat, which she would grind and make bread with. And there is nothing like the smell of baking bread. There is a family dinner roll receipt that I am pretty good at making, but Ed and I are really looking forward to making all kinds of bread.
I have a problem when it comes to my desire to cook, I don’t really like food. That is, I’m a very picky eater. When we lived in LA, we would listen to NPR on the way to work (Ed and I worked six blocks from each other and had the luxury of commuting and eating lunch together everyday), and one day they had a segment on picky eaters. It’s a documented subject, where the appearance and texture matter almost more than smell and taste, although they matter too. It was describing me perfectly. Ed would always tease me when we would go out to dinner, I would take one bite of my meal, and say it tasted funny. And that was it, my way of saying I didn’t like it. I’m a basic steak and potatoes (medium rare of course), hashbrowns and eggs, bread and cheese, Mexican food (I grew up an hour north of the border) kind of girl. It’s not the most well-balanced diet. I might be slightly exaggerating, but not by much. Ed, on the other hand, is a garbage disposal, so even if I don’t like what I make, I know he’ll eat it.
I’m trying to stretch my limits. I tried mushrooms for the first time in 20 years, they were a little spongy, and I didn’t really like them, but I tried! I had asparagus, which I never liked, and it was okay, the real little ones were, depending on how they were cooked. The fresh ingredients help; I throw everything I can into the salads: cucumbers, strawberries, radishes, bell peppers, onions, carrots, avocado, cilantro, and maybe some lettuce. I’m making myself hungry. I want to start making stews and casseroles. I flip through my Betty Crocker cookbook and dream of all the wonderful things I will cook. It’s such an art: food preparation. I have a little desire to domesticate; it’s strange to admit because I was always the little anti-everything. But if I didn’t allow myself to grow due to prejudices from my past I would be rather stupid. Thus my reason for trying mushrooms. Although I’m still not going to try fish

Saturday, May 23, 2009

What we've done so far

Not the best picture, but this is the field before we started
and the transformation along the way

and we're still working

Friday, May 22, 2009

Energy from the sun

We have now planted eighteen beds and one very long row. We are still at it too, a few more rows, and I’m just throwing seeds all over the place. Our garden might not be picturesque and perfectly manicured, just as long as it is functional. Also, I’ve been thinking about it lately, man has been cultivating crops for at least the past 10,000 years, and up until about 100 years ago most people did. And way back then, they didn’t have near the tools or knowledge that we now have, and they made it work. So I think I can make it work. Although it is arrogant of me to claim we have more knowledge than they did. Who knows, maybe there was some great cosmic knowledge that they had access to, that we have since lost.
As an example, Ed and I watched the movie Rabbit Proof Fence the other night. There’s an aboriginal tracker in the movie, and the signs that he could follow, along with the knowledge of how to survive in the wild, that we as humans just don’t seem to know anymore. I’ve always loved the image of a tracker, being able to follow the signs that even the most careful walker leaves behind them.
But more than that, and about the garden, even before human intervention and cultivation of these plants, they grew naturally. I mean, how else would they have had the option to grow them? And things grow, everywhere. So we are not going to baby our garden, these plants have to be tough.
Okay, so I’ve heard the argument that since humans have been cultivating such plants that their genetic makeup has changed so that they could not survive in the wild without human intervention. I don’t know about this, I mean, are there still wild tomatoes? Maybe not, but still… well, I better get weeding. Have a nice day.

Thursday, May 21, 2009

Trouble in paradise

Riding lawnmowers must be the county’s favorite pastime, it’s a way to get to spend time in their yard without having to walk around the place. Yep, lawn-mowing, it’s what we do for fun around here, and the grass grows so very fast.
There is a lot going on behind the scenes, and I haven’t had the desire to write much, but not writing does leave something lacking within myself. So in a way my current funk is like my common phrase, “You do it to yourself”.
So here is the question, knowing as I do that a certain person may read my blog, is it wise to air my grievances against them? When the two options are appeasement or blow out, which is the better option? It’s all in the details I suppose. Ah details, details… and without going into further details, let me just say that we understand how Harry felt, living at the Dursley’s, under the staircase. It’s not good.
We also have come to the conclusion that we have been taking on too much, and just stressing ourselves out in the process. Jumping off the high-dive platform into the deep end without knowing how to swim, while a bunch of people standing around the edge of the pool, who also don’t know how to swim, are yelling instructions at you on how to do it. We are going to slow down and choose the next step on our path carefully. We cancelled our chicken order. It’s not the right time. We are going to be focusing solely on the garden, and getting to know, if we can, the state of Oregon and its people. We have come to realize that there are certain aspects of our living situation here that we don’t think we can handle long-term. We would like a shower of our own one day, a workable kitchen, space and autonomy. And we also don’t think that we are ready to be tied to a specific piece of land, in the way that livestock ties one to the land. Ed and I have just a little too much gypsy in us for that, and when we think about it, our little home is on wheels. There is too much we haven’t seen in our country, let alone the world, to landlock ourselves so. The one thing we must always remember is there are always options. This is both frightening and liberating. So we are back to the drawing board, considering options.

Sunday, May 17, 2009

While the cats are away…

Carol and Grant have left the farm! They are gone for three days down to San Francisco for a granddaughter’s college graduation. It’s been very nice and peaceful with them gone, except we have to take care of their dogs. Their three little Shi-Tzus do not like Jackie at all. They growl and snap at him, and Jackie, who just wants to play, is already jumping circles around them. It’s rather amusing to watch. We are trying to teach Jackie to behave, even though the three other dogs don’t. In fact, none of my in-laws animals are trained. The miniature horses sure aren’t trained, and sometimes Weldon really freaks me out giving me an evil eye look and baring his teeth at me.
We’ve still been breaking our backs trying to pull up sod, put down beds and start planting. The past few days we have started the day off in pain, while attempting hard labor, ending up in more pain, only to try it again tomorrow. It really does not matter what position my body is in, standing, sitting or laying, every one of my joints and muscles ache. We know it will not be such hard labor every year. Once the beds are made, they will stay that way. We’ve planted our tomatoes (finally!) and I’ve thrown some seeds into the ground: corn, bell peppers, pumpkin, cucumbers, and am hoping for the best.
Also there is a crazy root system in the next field we plan to expand our garden into, that I have been pulling up. I think it is a blackberry plant. I’ve had fun trying to pull it up, it criss-crosses all over the field, but every so often I get a root that will peel up for a good long while. It’s very satisfying.
I haven’t felt like writing much, I haven’t felt like anything much. I keep on thinking that this will get easier, but it doesn’t get easier.

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Explorations in Self-Identity

I haven’t been feeling like myself lately, I wonder who I’ve been feeling like. I haven’t been recognizing myself either; maybe I haven’t been looking at myself enough. But I’ve been so busy! The farm, my relationship with my husband, and the new dog have been demanding all my attention, so I haven’t had much time to look at myself and what I’m becoming, and to think about that. Adulthood-ness, or as Ed would say ‘You’re not a spring chicken anymore.’ I’m not lamenting my youth, or youth in general. Indeed, I think that our current youth-driven culture gives up a lot of aged wisdom. (I also believe the cultural tide is turning, hopefully to a place where both youth and age are seen for their contribution to society.) It’s more of a ‘what I thought I would be, compared to what I am’ crisis. But the funny thing is I never really had an image of what I wanted to be as an adult. I was rebellious for many of my formative years (not that I’ve completed my formation) and never gave the matter much thought, the big ‘when I grow up’ question. I don’t want to grow up! But want to or not, due to the linear nature of time we experience on this planet, growing up happens. So here I am, sitting in front of the Airstream trailer that I call home, on a farm in Oregon. I think that so far I’ve done just fine navigating my life, but that’s my own humble opinion.

Monday, May 11, 2009

Digging in the dirt

Every night, out our bedroom window, we have been looking over a beautiful grass yard, and have been dreaming of a garden. And now is the time that the transformation begins. For the past four days we’ve been pulling up sod. It’s breaking our backs and covering us with dirt. At the end of the day, when we look over the ground, more brown than green now, we feel a little sore, completely exhausted, and blissfully proud. Our baby steps are adding up, and we keep having to tell ourselves that we are not behind. The ground is just warming up, and we’ll be planting by the weekend, we are exactly where we should be. It’s paradise here, at least I believe it to be so, when I stand up to catch my breath and I look out over the green hills and feel the breeze toss my hair, drying the sweat off my neck. My fingernails are crusted with dirt, and my hands covered in blisters. I look at them and think ‘I need a manicure’ and then I think ‘I’m a long way from Beverly Hills now’. I’m starting to see the age in my face. Hey, I’m not 22 anymore, I’m not even 25 anymore. I’m looking in on 29. Okay, so my birthday is a few months away, but I think about it sometimes, and every year I come to the same conclusion. I feel I have enough life experience to be 29, and I don’t feel as old as I thought 29 would feel. I ran this by my mom one time, and she said ‘I don’t feel as old as I thought 55 would feel’. It’s good to know.
So I commented on how there is no greener grass, but there is browner dirt! And I think we have some good soil. The grass roots are deep, and I fight with them to come up, it’ll be an on-going battle. There are lots of worms in the ground, and lots of mushrooms. We don’t know much about mushrooms, but Ed has become very interested in them. We can’t wait to learn all about them and go hunting for them.

Monday, May 4, 2009

There is no greener grass.

Just different shades of green and they all need dirt to grow in. It’s been a week since I’ve been back home full-time on the farm. And while I was consumed with all the agony that a horrible job can produce, it was easy to forget that there were also anxieties on the farm as well. It’s not all sunshine and lollipops; in fact there is little sunshine and no lollipops.
The farm is not easy, but we haven’t had much time for farming, as most of the last week was dedicated to organizing a garage/barn sale, trying to sell off stuff and make some room in the barn. Carol was a professional doll maker for 20 years, and she collected dolls and stuffed animals during that time, so there were crates and crates of stuffed animals and beanie babies and dolls. Crates and crates! And my mother-in-law is particular in ways that my logic and reasoning fail to comprehend, and this made collaborating with her on such an undertaking at times frustrating and tedious. But as an anthropological study, it is interesting to see who comes to yard sales and what they buy there. Carol kept on commenting on how people buy the weirdest stuff at yard sales, and I said, but you bought it first. Not everything sold, I’d say maybe half of it sold, the rest will go to the Salvation Army and Goodwill. Then there is the other side of the doll making business which involves the molds, and Carol has hundreds of them. Since these are a specialty item, we’re going to try to sell them on e-bay.
Even though farming is not easy, and it’s hard labor, we enjoy it. Right now it’s still raining and cold. I mean, we still can’t plant outside yet anyway! We have been reading up on the subject, and the Pacific Northwest has a peculiar growing season, and this year, according to local folk, winter is dragging its heels a little harder than usual. I mean, we don’t mind the rain, but we don’t want to be out pulling up sod in it. And it’s May, come on, does it still have to be grey and rainy all the time? Maybe I’m spoiled too much from the desert, and Ed’s from SoCal, but really, does it still have to be so cold? I want to wear my flip-flops! I don’t want to have to put on five layers! I understand that the growing season extends late into the fall, but we have been worried about our crops having enough time to mature.
To throw another monkey wrench into the works, we got a puppy. Little Jackie, and we love him! He is time consuming right now, and we have to house train him. Which he’s been doing really good at, but no little puppy is perfect, and he further crowds an already crowded living space. Jackie is very smart, and within a week he is following basic commands, without us really trying to train him. He is also a precious little love muffin, who curls up with us, and he’s a fearless tiger, keeping all the goats in line. What a dynamic dog.

Monday, April 27, 2009

my photo essay

Our Boy Jackie

the proud parents

Hail, in the middle of April!
The misty morning
and the golden afternoon
The plum tree coming to life, after we pruned it way back.
So all in all, it's a good spring!

Thursday, April 23, 2009

Ba Ba Black Sheep

The sheep were sheared. It was a very interesting process to watch. The shearer, Steve, who we found via Craigslist, was good folk. He put himself through college shearing sheep. As we were watching him I was amazed at how much work it is. The sheep do not want to be sheared, so one must dominate the sheep. Not in a mean way, just in a controlling way. So first you have to hold it down, then you have to shave it. He started under the front legs, moved down the belly and the rear legs, then he swept up to the head and back, the whole time these thick clumps of wool were falling to the ground.
I think I could shear a sheep, but I don’t think I could fight to hold it down the whole time, animals are strong.
I picked up the wool, after Steve was done, and put it in a bag. There was a subtle oil quality, a silky fluffiness. So now we have two bags (I was hoping to get three bags) of wool; one white, one black, and we don’t know what to do with them. I was considering trying to make wool socks, but I can neither spin wool nor knit.
Also the sheep are a lot smaller than I thought they were, they don’t look all big and bad now, just scared little sheep.

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

The view from my office window

It's way too beautiful of a day outside. Humans aren’t meant to spend such pleasant days inside; it’s time to frolic, play and go for a picnic. Or put in some hard hours behind the plow, satisfying and sunburnt.
We turned the compost again Saturday, it’s amazing how fast the time goes while we work, and before I know it we’ve been at it for three hours. Ed and I take turns at pitch forking all the compost out of the bin, and rearranging the piles back again. Three piles condensed down to two, and we think the oldest pile is completely done, because it’s not heating up past 85°. We had thrown three dead Koi from Grant’s koi pond, into the pile, and we were both very excited to see how much they had decomposed. They were 99% gone, we came across a little bit of the fish skin, but nothing close to a half-rotten fish head I was expecting to find. The compost is still Ed’s baby. (Until we get our Jack Russell, of course, which Ed said we can once I’m back home full time, (one week to go, one week to go…) We are amazed at how much waste we can recycle in this manner. To join the earth in creating the perfect circle of death, which begets life, which will inevitably result in death. For everything that is living must die. I hope when I die, that they throw me into a big compost pile. Or into the ocean.
I was thinking about modern burial practices, that the plot is lined with cement and the body is laid in a steal box that’s not going to decompose any time soon. Is that how far human’s have tried to remove themselves from the natural cycle? We don’t even want our bodies, after our soul has left them, to return to the earth? We want to preserve them, but we’ll never do as good a job as the ancient Egyptians did. And I was thinking about the archaeologist who might be excavating some graveyards hundreds of years from now, and what sort of explanation they will come up with on why humans buried each other this way. I was also thinking that if all people, from all time and space had buried their dead in this fashion, there would be no usable land left, as it would all be used up for graves.
But for now, sitting at my desk, contemplating the future, I am just waiting, till the end of the day, when I can run out of the office and through the fields. That’s where I’m supposed to be. Running through the fields.

Monday, April 20, 2009

Two weeks notice

We were driving back from Tucson and as soon as we hit the Oregon border I realized that I was already dreading going back to work. As nerve-racking as it is, I’d rather be broke than become suicidal going to a job I hate.
So I walked into the office, first thing Tuesday morning and said. “I’m giving my two weeks notice, I thank you for the opportunity but I came to the conclusion that I am neither doing myself or the corporation any good by remaining in your employment.” I had my hand shaken and was on my way. I didn’t say this to them, but I understand part of this decision was based on my philosophical disagreement with the financial institutions and the monetary based society that we operate in. I was a receptionist at a Brokerage firm and I realized I can’t work to support a system I disagree with. I can say no thank you in good conscience.
The probationary period of any employment is not only a time for the company to decide if they like the person, but also for the person to decide if they like the company. We somehow overlook the last half of that equation, bogged down in the thought that we ‘need’ a company to employ us. But it is not only about looking to someone else to give you opportunity, it is also about looking to create your own opportunity. Not to deny the instability of the current economic crisis, but where there is great risk, there is also great room for growth and reward. So, I don’t feel I need the stability of a bi-monthly paycheck. I think what Ed and I want to accomplish on the farm is worth it, worth the hard work, worth the instability. It is much more personally satisfying than sitting at a desk, waiting for the phone to ring. It felt like a bad Friday night in High School all over again.

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

The 5 to the 10, and back again

It was a lot of hours in the car, probably more time in the car than not. But that’s okay, and at the road weary end of the day, it was well worth it. Number one reason: It was the first time we had seen Hannah (Ed’s 16 year old daughter) since we left LA. Number two reason: My mom was hosting the family reunion and we had promised months ago, before the job loss and consequential chaos, that we would be there. So we headed to the homestead in Tucson, Arizona. It was a trip down memory lane, at times soul-searching, nostalgic and pensive, it took me to a lot of places. And most of them were good.
The first driving stint from here to Stockton, CA where we crashed for a few hours in a Motel 6, had me staring out the window looking at the giant metal women stoically carrying the wires that connect all of us. All of a sudden I was a little girl again, and my folks had thrown us in the car for some 14 hour drive to grandma’s house. Being a child, with limitless dreams and potential, and an imagination as varied as the landscapes we would drive past. Being a child, just riding in a car, wondering where you will go when it is your turn to drive. And I say to that child, that neither in your wildest dreams or worst nightmares, can you ever truly imagine what lies in store for you down the road of life. The only thing you can control is your reaction to life.
I had a good childhood, some turbulence in my teens, as well as when I walked away from certain beliefs, but I think I’ve made peace with my past, at least momentarily.
It was really good to see my family, both nuclear and extended. My dad showed us around his garden, pointing out his new almond tree. He gave us some watermelon and sunflower seeds. My mama gave us a painting of a mama bird and her seven little birds sitting in a tree. We talked up our family farm, and everyone loved the name, and had advice about chicken keeping and gardening. Family are good people.
We are putting Hannah in charge of creating our logo, she wants to go into graphic design so we said get to work. I was pleasantly surprised at how agreeable Hannah was during the event, and how she took to participating with my family. She just turned 16 so we took her out driving around my old neighborhood. It’s nerve-wracking and wonderful to see her coming into adulthood with the milestones along the way. And she almost totalled the car only once or twice.
Much of the trip was spent in discussions of the farm, and my job that I’m still not liking. Weighing the Pros and Cons of being miserable to earn money. The Cons won, so I came in today and gave my two weeks notice. It would be too hard for Ed to try to get the farm business running all by himself, and we figured that now is the time to follow our dreams.
Make it work, people. Ed says I’m a silly girl. And I say, I am a silly girl. But I want to hold your hand and play in the dirt. And once you’ve said that, there is nothing left to say.

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

Bird’s Nest Family Farm

It’s been growing, gradually, in thought and in the ground. Shall we say ‘called’? Maybe, but the answer has been right in front of us, it is disturbing that it took us so long to say it. We’ve been talking around the subject for months, years really, and are now realizing both our histories have brought us here. Ed said, “Once you figure out what you want to do, not doing it is a waste of your time.” I’ve been denying what I want to do, although I’ve been saying it all along, which is write. Well, not denying, but not focusing on it. Farming will be an extension of writing, or more precisely, what I write about.
Ed, more so than I, has been taking this time to ask the question: what do I do with my life? I’m in a different position than him; I can take an entry level job. While it’s a slight step down, it’s appropriate for me to be a receptionist. Ed is at the other end of the scale, he has been a partner in his last two companies. He’s not going to get a job at a front desk making $25k, and that’s not the point. Where is the heart?
So, we are going to incorporate, market the family farm. There’s a lot of work to be done here, the place has been falling apart, and there is five years of dust in parts of the barn. But we are cleaning up, taking inventory and being imaginative.
It’s just the more we read, and the more we listen to the undercurrent of society, that there has been a whisper that has been growing louder these past 40 years, and it has filled our little valley here and lifted our spirits. Where does our food come from? What is this process, of living and growing and dying, transferring life from one form to the next? We have attempted to remove ourselves from the cycle, to our own detriment. Just another organism crawling around the surface. We need to re-immerse ourselves in nature, to work harmoniously with it, not in our arrogance, fight against it, or try to control it. All animal life lives by eating other life forms. I want to live, therefore I must eat. Okay. What we choose to eat, and how we choose to eat it, are the next questions. Questions questions, or really, options options. When I was a little girl, we ate dinner every night around the table, the whole lot of us. And I liked it, the kitchen table. A kitchen table was one of the things I insisted upon when Ed and I were establishing our home in Los Angeles. He, in his adult life never had a kitchen table, and I said ‘Where do you eat breakfast?’ and he said, ‘I don’t eat breakfast’. I’m filing this one under: What’s wrong with the world today? Unfortunately, our dinner table doesn’t fit in the Airstream.
Eating, especially around camp fires and dinner tables, are things our ancestors had been doing for ages. We’re out of touch and out of balance, time to go back to what we know and trust, the ground. But we need to act fast, because we are losing knowledge, along with cultivation traditions. But not too fast, because things need time to grow. Like our garden, our family farm.
As we learn more, about eating locally and seasonally and ethically, the more sense it all makes, and the more peaceful we feel. It’s an excited peace, excited about making this, our dream and our goals, reality. Plans have been laid, now they must be set into motion. Full-steam ahead.

Sunday, April 5, 2009

Curmudgeon Philosophies 101

Okay. So that’s what I’m going to be doing here, I better just resign myself. What is life all about, you know? Why do we spend our time and our days chasing someone else’s dream? Why did I turn myself in? And who are the authorities anyway? We agree to such laws and by-laws, even if it’s just a tacit agreement: being born into it. Can you help but be obliged by the society you are born into? The one we inhabit is a monetary-based system, and I don’t know if I agree with that. But how do you opt out? I mean what are the opting out options? First, you have to live somewhere; if you’re breathing your physical body exists in space somewhere. And to carve a living off the land you must have some claim to land which you can cultivate. Well, if all the land that is possible to live on, is owned by someone else, then one must have enough resources and enough participation in the system in order to purchase it. That means money. The thing that gets me is that there is no new land just to be had. I can’t go exploring and set up a homestead somewhere. Any land there is to be had, is already held by private individuals or the government. So as much as I would like to go set up camp somewhere in Yosemite, or Yellowstone, well I can’t, it’s illegal. And if I squat on someone’s private land and they find me doing this, I could be evicted or shot. So where is a person to go? The family homestead passed down from one generation to the next, passed me up, or has been divided so many ways that there is not a big enough plot for me to sleep on.
Something’s got to give: the current system, culture and/or society. People have it figured all wrong. We have, as a species, slowly moved away from the earth and the environment which we inhabit and which provides us life. And it’s the only earth we have. The funny thing to me, is that even if we kill ourselves off, which is what we are doing, the earth will still be here, spinning in space, and life will still be growing on it. It just won’t be human life. Well, maybe some humans, in far off corners of the globe who live off the grid and off the beaten path, might survive. I don’t care if I’m one of them to be honest. I’d just as soon keel over, really. I mean, what is so great about living? It is neither honorable nor noble; in fact, humans can be the lowest of the low when it comes to how we treat each other. What happened to live and let live? Instead we lie, cheat and steal from each other, our own community, and our neighbors just to feel a little better about ourselves for having more possessions, or a bigger house. But you know what? Our kids will still grow up to be drug addicts, your spouse will cheat on you, and no-one will come to your funeral. So what was it worth? Did you enjoy your time? Or were you too busy to notice if you enjoyed it or not? Think your thoughts for yourself. Well, here is where I’m going to stop. I’ll think some more about some different things.

With a spring in my step

I survived my second week of work; it’ll probably end up being okay. Some of my friends were teasing me for complaining that I’m getting paid to sit there and answer the phone when it rings. Actually, I was told that I can read a book, as long as I am getting all the work done. So Ed and I decided that I should use the time to research sustainable living.
I finished reading Animal, Vegetable… and it changed my life. Well, it might, if I can implement some of the ideas. I’ve come to this many times before, but it breaks down: the more we can produce for our own consumption, the less we have to obtain to sustain ourselves. And in the book, Barbra breaks down the act, baking bread and making cheese and canning enough tomatoes to last all winter. Ed and I are getting excited and thinking more and more precisely about how to utilize this land. At the same time we are looking into the local food movement and decided that the ultimate would be for both of us to be full-time farmers. To be able to offer a little bit of everything, veggies and eggs for sale, compost and goat cheese, soap and pork tenderloin. We think we’ll name our farm ‘The Bird’s Nest’, and I’ll continue to work away from the farm, until we feel we can compensate for that loss of income. That’s when we agreed to get my dog, a Jack Russell terrier. At least that’s what Ed said.
I was trying to hit up my mom for her book on canning and some canning equipment, but she told me to scram. Actually, we are driving down to Arizona on Wednesday for my family reunion. We’ll want to check out my dad’s garden, pick his brain.
We ordered our chicks. They will be arriving around April 20th. We chose 2 breeds, Dominique and New Hampshire Reds. They are dual purpose, for eggs and meat, and we plan to use them for both purposes, as well as breed them.
The grass is growing, the days are getting warmer, and the plans are falling into place. Ed and I walk around the property, and feel that we are where we should be.

Monday, March 30, 2009

Even in the rain, you got to do your chores

Okay, so it wasn’t raining while we were doing our chores but it did start raining right after.
I haven’t done the chores with Ed for a week. And man, five minutes into it I was getting sore. Farming is hard work. And I kept forgetting the cleaning routine. But it was good. We are starting to think that we like the goats the best. The little pygmy’s are really cute. We’ve started using the goats and sheep as lawn mowers by moving them to different areas of the pasture everyday. We are going to tie them up by the blackberry bushes soon, let them eat their way through that. Back in the barn, Ed and I cleaned up the stalls, throwing all the manure and used hay into the wheel barrel.
We decided that it was time to turn the compost again. We have been throwing daily barn waste on top of the two piles for three weeks, but the piles never seemed to get any larger. Both piles had heated up to about 130° over the past couple weeks, but were beginning to decrease in temperature, so we figured we’d turn them.
It’s hard work! A square yard of finished compost weighs about a thousand pounds. We have probably 2 or 2 1/2 square yards, but it’s not finished breaking down. It took us about three hours to move all the compost out of the bins and rearrange them. But within a few hours of turning the compost the second pile was up to 140°! Ed is very excited about this. The compost is his baby, he goes over to look at it a few times everyday, just wondering what microbial bacteria activity is going on in there.
Second and third minor farming activities that we accomplished this weekend: We transplanted the starter tomatoes from egg cartons to Dixie cups. It was fun and dirty, and Ed and I kept claiming that we each had the better way of transplanting the tomato seedlings. And we built deer nets around our apple trees, so they don’t eat the little buds, that are growing bigger and bigger everyday.
By the end of all this, we were both brain dead and body tired. It was really good to be doing the chores with Ed.

Sunday, March 29, 2009

The 40-hour work week

I haven’t pulled a 40-hour work week in three months. What a shock to the system!
Like any 40-hour work week at a new job, this entry will be long, unfocused, slightly overwhelming, and occasionally boring.
First, a morning routine: Wake up, get out of bed, oh that’s the hard part, it’s still dark outside, and the bed is so soft and Ed is warm. There is no shower in the Ellie Mae, so we have to sneak into the house, all quiet-like because Grant and Carol are still asleep, get ready and cook breakfast. Juggling all the way.
Depending on the item, we either keep our possessions in the Airstream, the house, or boxed up in the barn. Our farm clothes, kitchen items and books are in the trailer, our business clothes and tomato seedlings are in the house, everything else is in the barn. So we have a little wicker basket to carry everything into the house, which we pile up with our toothbrushes and our eggs, and it’s cold in the morning, but we’re getting used to it. Ed makes coffee while I shower.
Business clothes are different than farm clothes, but I like wearing them. Although by the end of the day, I’m glad to take them off. Farm clothes are the same two pair of jeans that are covered in mud, but business clothes are lined trousers and pressed cotton button-ups. Different costumes for my different lives, but both me.
I didn’t have a good business wardrobe. My company in Beverly Hills was small, and we did not have heavy walk-in traffic, the dress was “business casual”. My clothes were okay, but they would not be acceptable at my new office, which is “business professional”. There is a lot of client interaction at my new job and I’m the receptionist. So we bowed to the inevitable and went shopping. I’m not a big shopper, I say it’s because I was never taught how to shop, it is an art. Well, with the assistance of Robbin, the Outlets, and a killer one day sale, I was able to get a very solid foundation of business attire which I can build on.
Ed is so funny, he’s the dreamer in our marriage, I’m the practical one, one minute I’m hearing him whisk my career off, moving rapidly up the rungs of the corporation, till I’m running the show and rolling in the dough. The next breath he’s painting the picture of us walking our goats out to the pasture, weeding our garden, carving our living out of the jam and salsa we will sell. We decided that our ultimate goal is to have a lot of small streams of revenue. That way if you lose one, which we learned first hand can happen, it will not be as detrimental. The other sources of income we’ve discussed, would be me providing personal bookkeeping services to individuals, and eventually me publishing a book.
The flaws in the current monetary based system we as a society operate on, and the excitement of seeing how much food we can produce for ourselves, which will decrease our need for money, are ideas that are always in our conversations, I think I’ve touched on those subjects before, which doesn’t mean that I won’t again. In the end, the existentialist in me say’s, “thems’ are the policies and procedures of our society, and all of the philosophy doesn’t change the reality”. Reality being that while this property has a lot of potential and infrastructure, it also has a mortgage.

Where was I? Getting ready for work. I kiss my husband goodbye and jump into the car. Ed has to open the gate for me so I can exit the property. The drive into town is amazing, I have a seven mile drive over half forest, half pasture and hills on county lanes. And the sun is just coming up, heating the low clouds and fog out of the little valleys. And then I walk into the office.
Completely different story real quick, I drove around the country by myself after graduating U of A, (2 months, 11,000 miles). When I was driving through South Dakota, this place called Wall Drug was recommended to me as the oldest most interesting road side drug store in the state. So I marked it on my map, and I spent the first part of the day driving out of the Black Hills, taking the back way to the Badlands, where I wandered around as the only soul in sight. Only to leave the serenity of nature for an over-crowded, cluttered, noisy, campy souvenir shop and café, with screaming children and overweight adults pushing their way down the aisles. Well, this is similar to the loss of tranquility I experience when I leave the solitude of my car and walk into an office, where I don’t know where anything is, or how to do anything. But more on that point later. (the story of my travels is the premise of another book I hope to one day write).
How long does it take to become accustomed? Can we create an equation, where the variable is what one is being accustomed to? Although I resisted it at first, and I didn’t really notice the transformation, I’ve become accustomed to our routine around here. Taking care of the animals, being with my husband, playing in the compost, planting trees, and planning ahead, and spending time with Ed. We’d been spoiled, and now I’m going through withdrawls. From my desk at work I can see the sun breaking upon a rugged green slope and I wonder how the tomatoes and Ed are doing. How long will it take for me to become accustomed to my new environment in the office?
First I have to learn the routine, become familiar with the company and the office dynamics. My new company, which we will call ‘The Corp’, was a large entity bought by a big national corporation, which was then bought by an even larger national corporation. So all of the office protocol and computer applications, and paperwork policies had just changed about a month before I started, and ‘The Corp” has received notice that in about a year the merger with the bigger national corporation will start, and everything will change again. Because the poor co-worker trying to train me just had everything changed on her a month ago, half the time she’s not sure what the correct procedures are.
I began to ponder about the merging of companies and assets, and it’s a lot more work than just simply proclaiming, “hey, we are one big company now”, or “hey, we own you now.” There is redundancy and wrinkles that need to be ironed out. There is also computer systems and databases that need to be combined or eliminated, new training for employees, or the termination of other team members. It takes a long time.
I’ve never worked for a large corporation before. I’ve worked for the state government, (Arizona State Schools for the Deaf and the Blind) and I’ve worked for small business owners. The company I worked for in Beverly Hills was a 3 person operation. We weren’t bogged down in policy and procedure. We called the shots and rolled with the punches. In fact, I was alone in the office 40% of the time, on my toes, bouncing around, getting shit done. And I liked it! I like having so much work to do that you think there is no way you will ever be able to finish it all. I like being challenged and facing each new problem head on. Except when it comes to filing, I don’t care for filing that much.
Well, at ‘The Corp’ we have to fax every decision we make, before we make it to corporate headquarters somewhere in Iowa, so the person at the other end of the fax machine can stamp approval on it and fax it back. This wastes a lot of time and a lot of paper. Much of the work that I will be doing requires me to navigate their computer programs, so I must sit through hours of computer training. Because of the corporate system I must take all this training under my login ID, which for the first half of the week was not being recognized by the system. So I was shipped a new computer which I could log onto, but once logged on I did not have access to half of the needed applications, and none of the training programs. The few applications I do have access to have a different ID code, that you have to enter to complete an order, and of course I have not received this ID code. Finally, my computer is not on the printer network, so I can’t even print out address labels.
So I stare at a computer screen that won’t allow me to do anything, or I stare out the window, thinking what a nice day outside, and thinking about what needs to be done around the farm. It’s my first week of work, and I’m bored. That’s bad, it’s bad for my mental health and it’s bad for my work performance. I’m going to grin and bare it, and I hope it gets better and the pace picks up, because I need to earn $$, But what is the trade off? We are always trading one thing for something else, and usually it is our time, or our own better judgment.

Thursday, March 19, 2009

Got a job

I am now officially no longer unemployed. After ten weeks of looking and hoping, I finally received an offer of employment. I start Monday.
Hmmm, these past few weeks and all the time being on the farm with Ed are starting to look a little idyllic. And I’m kind of jealous that he will be doing the bulk of the farm work. I mean, we love our compost piles and we check the temperature everyday, (we got a thermometer) and the piles are sitting at about 110°. We have a system now where we take the animal water buckets (we have to change their water every other day or so) to use for watering the apple trees, (they are looking great and are starting to bud) and the grapes, (four out of the six transplants look like they survived) and once we get it going, the garden. But now Ed is going to have to do the work all on his own. Except for the weekends, when I’ll help. There will be plenty of daylight hours once I get home to work on the garden. But Ed is going to have more time with it, and that makes me jealous.
At least until Ed gets a job, which he is still looking for.

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Thoughts on the matter

After a few days of rain we are able to sit outside and build a fire. Which Ed is now poking. He won’t let me have the poker, because he says I poke the fire too much, let too much heat out. And I say, it’s a fire, it’s already hot.
My friend, Alicia, recommended a book for me, and I’m always up for good book recommendations. Animal, Vegetable, Miracle by Barbara Kingsolver. I’m only twenty pages into the book but I’m loving it. First, she comes from Tuscon, Az., just like me! And her family’s goal was to live for one year on their farm in southwest Virginia on what they could grow and produce themselves, or obtain locally.
There is an entire thought process organically growing (pardon the pun) amongst the population, that global agri-business is not the way we should be getting our nourishment. Buying packaged goods that in no way resemble the calories that make them up. I was walking through the grocery store the other day, and was looking at all the canned tomato products, sliced and diced and sauced and pasted. I’m going to grow tomatoes this year, I hope, if my seeds ever germinate, and I’m worried about them. Why couldn’t I make all these products for myself? My mom always cans every summer when my dad’s garden is pumping out 40 pounds of tomatoes every day. She makes wonderful salsa. Alicia cans, and she said she would help me. Tomatoes, that could be all my sauces for the year. Tomatoes. Then I walked past the tortillas, I eat a lot of tortillas. I bet I could make them myself, right? I’ll let my corn dry on the cob, then grind it and fry it up. Pastas and breads, well I can’t grow wheat here, but I could still try to make my own. And I’m starting to think I could grow rice here, if I made a rice paddy and kept it covered with water. The more I can grow and make myself the less I have to buy, and I’d like to walk out of the grocery store without dropping $150.
I’ve always had this dream of cooking out of a fifty pound bag of flour and rice. And walking into the kitchen and throwing the flour up against the wall, and coming out with a four course meal.
Why not?
All I really lack is the know-how and the elbow room, but I want to learn, so I think I will.

On a different note, Ed and I enjoyed the last of the national media attention in the form of a “News To Me” segment that aired on Headline News this past weekend. Unfortunately, the show has been cancelled and I think we were the last broadcast.
Ed and I debated for a while about whether I should post the link, or whether that was too much self-promotion. But then again, what is self-promotion and is it a bad thing? Well we came to the conclusion that for the sake of the blog, and archiving reasons, that I would post the link. Also, this is our favorite interview, we think that it’s well rounded and an honest depiction of our living situation.