Friday, March 28, 2014

April is almost here again

It's the end of March, and you know what that means.

Last night, the winds were fierce. In fact, they literally blew the door off the newly built greenhouse and tore down the super-mini-greenhouse (it was empty) we purchased for the very early season crops (to give the snow a chance to melt and the ground to unfreeze before building). It was crazy. That greenhouse door, after separating itself from the main structure, was caught haphazardly by a randomly placed full propane tank, plastic torn in a small jagged cut only. One hinge still hung from the door jamb; the other two were torn off and went with the door. One tray of newly started eggplant seeds was tossed to the floor of the greenhouse. All in all, it could've been worse. Fuck the mini-greenhouse. I'm pretty thankful for how it all worked out.

It has been the craziest winter of my life, if you don't count my birth year--which I can't remember anyway, so let's not count it. Snow upon snow, upon cold, upon cold. And it doesn't want to let go. We've got new land again this year, and had to build a new greenhouse (obviously) and some seedlings got started late due to all the craziness. But aside from the door being torn off, things are off to a good start. Hoping warmth and dryness start to dominate so we can direct-seed some crops in the near future.

This year feels crucial. Sort of a crossroads. The farm is progressing toward success, but my personal life feels more and more chaotic. Entirely my fault. I'm not seizing the day these days.

I still really miss traveling. And though year after year I experience a rougher life in terms of my living conditions, I yearn for the even rougher life of the backcountry, for one. I'm living like a pauper, but in a bullshit sort of way, attached to the dominant American cultural landscape while trying to foster a business that relies almost exclusively on the successful folks in that culture. I think selling vegetables to rich and middle-class suburban and urban dwellers is not where I want to be. It's great being your own boss and making a living from your own labor, but I'm not sure I like capitalism at all. In fact, I think I hate it more than ever. I'm not very fond of my customers as a group. There, I said it. It feels good.

I try to make a living off the land. That's really all I want to do. Maybe read some good books. Write a thing here and there. Play some music. We decided to move our farm to the suburbs of Chicago for a better business opportunity, and it has all come true: it is a better opportunity. Our CSA is going to sell out this year. We will make more money than our first two years combined. It's everything we wanted as a farm business in year three.

But I think income is overrated for me. And I always have daydreams about finding some land and doing it off the grid, minimalisticly--not in an intentionally ecological sort of way (though that will be a side effect), but in a regular, traditionally human sort of way. Raising plants, saving seed, slaughtering animals, building shit from leftover scraps from another project, bartering, partnering with neighbors, and making just enough money to pay my taxes or rent and whatever bills are required of me: these need to be the real goals.

There was a time when I was 19 and had all sort of altruistic feelings about changing the world. And then I found my way to a different thought process, where I just wanted to connect with the land that I loved so much and find likeminded folks who didn't mind working like the humans they are and spending the rest of their time just being human, not consumers. And sometime after that I convinced myself that I had to find a way to make a living. But I think I left the good path somewhere between here and there.

I don't want to make a living. I just want to live like a human. It feels weird saying that as an American and thinking about people on the other side of the world who daily deal with terrible diseases and constant threats of violence. I feel like an asshole saying that my culture is shit and I don't want all the protections that it brings. But I don't. I don't want to be hunted either, but what can I say: there's something in the middle, and humans suck at moderation. America has a rich history, but we took an unfortunate turn.

I sit here in the middle of suburbia and it all feels the same. I removed myself from this place nearly 14 years ago, and now I'm back. It's a land of convenience. It's where my friends and family are. But I don't think it's for me. Maybe it's another stepping stone.

The greenhouse sits at 44 degrees Fahrenheit. Doors are on securely. Propane heater is running. Maybe in a couple years I'll put gutters on the greenhouse. And rainwater will collect in black barrels, which will radiate heat at night. And maybe that greenhouse will be dug six feet into the earth, and no fossil fuels will be necessary to grow food in it year round. Compost piles might provide extra heat.

These are the basic steps. We'll save seeds and plant them. Things will grow and reach for something.

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  1. There is a great (I believe it is) John Seymoure quote. He is talking (I believe -- obviously it has been awhile since I read this . . . but the husband and I were discussing it just today actually) about being in Africa and how there was no unemployment there. "Unemployment was unheard of. Of course, there was no employment." We are only poor where ever our lives touch the dominant paradigm. To the extent that we can see our way to live entirely externally from that, we are rich.

  2. Thanks, CG. I truly value your perspective. Definitely a good quote, and I'm with you on all that. Having a business that's not solely my own has introduced all kinds of variables that I never really anticipated. The adventure is never dull.