“I’m a homesteader, not so much a farmer.”
It was late in the summer of 2013, right in the middle of that year of adventure we had. We were cohousing and our house was brimming with life. We shared a farm business with them, attended 3 markets a week, ran microgreen deliveries twice a week, had our first CSA, juggling day jobs and little kids and animals and housework all the while. I was also dealing with my post-concussive symptoms and struggling to keep my head above water. Anyway, right in the middle of that summer we had some new friends over for dinner, a couple we met at market. One of them spoke passionately about farming and all their plans, but the other had a bit of a reserved look on his face and he casually said “I’m a homesteader, not so much a farmer.”
I remember cocking my head to the side and feeling that internal quieting that happens when I feel I’m meant to pay attention to something. I don’t even know if I thought much about it at the time- it was more like I stuck a post-it on that moment, a tab to come back to. And come back to it, I have. I mean, I guess I knew these varied categories existed, but I was young and so swept up in it all. It’s as if I hadn’t fully realized you could make that distinction, and I hadn’t thought about why you would. We were trying to make a big change here and save our crumbling food ways and communities. We had to feed people, work hard, reclaim the land for people and animals and resist those who seek to exploit them! And so “farmer” seemed to me to be the obvious next step beyond “gardener” if you wanted to make a life out of such work.
That year was amazing and enriching but energetically and emotionally unsustainable. Just because you can vision and pull something off doesn’t mean it serves. We were so busy we didn’t have much time to evaluate. We would laugh on days we had no energy left to cook the food we’d grown, and we’d pile our fresh microgreens on top of delivery pizza. It was a sweet time, one I look back on with a lot of fondness and gratitude.
As time has gone by, my perspectives on this work and the problems we face have become more complicated and yet simultaneously simpler. It’s my theory, summed up, that if we don’t heal our own personal relationship with the land, we won’t have the insight needed to heal the larger systems. I think we are deliciously personal and intimate and short-sighted creatures, and this is our great strength as well as our downfall. The proof is right in front of us. We mostly care but we can’t figure out how to fix it. How can we make amends to something we don’t even know or have never talked to? How can we learn to respect a living system that we still insist on objectifying? Organic farming was so sexy on paper- swooping in with our notepads and our seed packets and best plans, our sun-kissed skin and the perpetual dirt under our fingernails. Feeding people! Reclaiming the land! It was a start at connecting, surely. But it was still a divide and conquer kind of gig. And I’m done with that. It’s not the right relationship for me.
I have more to say but am short on time. I’ll leave it mostly there, though. I keep getting hit with the realization that so much of my work/play/life now is all about showing up, doing the work that needs doing, and intentionally finding the warmth and nourishment inside of it. That ends up meaning I still have that dirt under my fingernails, although less conventionally defined “achievements” to show for it all. Sometimes I feel like I never stop cooking, I’m thinking about my kids and animals and everything I am loving most hours of the days, and I can never seem to keep the floors clean. I’m loving it, truly, but it also plunges me into existential crises every now and then. Sometimes I get scared I’m missing out, but then when I opt back into “the world” it feels frenetic and distracted and disconnected. I do wish for more ways to solidify community in these efforts, that has been something hard to tap into with the kind of consistency and familiarity that I crave in relationships. But the relationships I do have feel good and call me into them, I’m never bored and never stop learning. I’m always plunging into projects and flipping through books. My daily life is so good right now, when I’m not succumbing to self-pity! Ha. But seriously.
Vera just turned 10. TEN. Talk about existential crises. She’s amazing, though. The other day Jeff and I were talking about how paycheck to paycheck we are and how to use the few dollars left before payday, and Vera overheard and said “I have 37 dollars. Take that.” I chuckled and thanked her but declined, telling her that money is for her to use, we can get by. She looked at me with furrowed brows and said “But mom, you can really take it. I want you to if you need it. What is money for, anyway?”
She’s just really great, and it’s strange to see my baby so grown up, but simultaneously really gratifying to see how whole she is, how kind and wise and creative. We watch movies together now that we *both* like. We talk about life, she asks me big questions and I answer them honestly. She still snuggles me but she comes up to my chin and her bony elbows are danger. It’s a sweet time between us, and I’m cherishing it.