Friday, February 25, 2011

So You Want To Grow Your Own Food, Huh?

It’s been a tough week. Continuing unemployment, breaking and then having to replace my phone ($268!), a hot and then a cold turn of the weather in a 24 hour period – needless to say in pondering how to get OUT of my current circumstances, I keep thinking about the things that got me here.
Namely, “I want to grow my own food”.
To be utterly fair and honest – and at the risk of pissing off my newly adopted home state of North Carolina in the process) - I had wanted to do this in California. “Homestead”, “Hobby Farm”,  Urban Farmer”, “Back to the Lander” – the labels are many. And they all carry slightly different connotations – that differ between user, but hey?! No one really knows what they mean anyway. Not in California where idealism runs rampant and everyone is just so sure that whatever scheme they’ve come up with with absolutely work out. Eco-engine lube out of snail slime? Industry changer!! (See my point?) And certainly not here where for the most part people have been trying to get by for as long as they can remember and honestly, who has the time to mess around with snail slime, anyway?
The decision to leave California was cinched as my parents had 40 acres of vacant property fortuitously in an agricultural area central North Carolina, that they were willing to let me run wild on. Granted this area has seen better days and the few farmers that are left are farming because that’s who they are, and if they stopped farming, life would stop for them. They certainly don’t love it, and they certainly don’t make a good living from it – it’s just their entire world. (“You want to farm?” **perplexed look**) California was great, but expensive and the whole place was starting to get to me just a wee bit. Even in the extremely laid-back and awesome northern California there seemed to be a bit of gilded on glamour that just didn’t quite fit, and it was irking me. Add to that the head-in-the-clouds tendencies, the fact that it was so damn expensive, and I was recently unemployed… a move just seemed like the right thing to do. So I came here.
And I love it here. Absolutely. The property, the region, the everything. I hate to sound condescending, but there’s an air of honesty to the place and the people that populate it that’s so refreshing. Even when the charming smiling man is blatantly lying through his teeth at you, or at the very least telling you what you want to hear – it’s hard to explain.
But I digress from the thought that prompted the title of this post. Right. Back on track now. The label thing. 
When people ask me what I’m doing, I have to do a fair amount of explaining around what it is that I want to do. “Hobby Farm” sounds like I’ve got a glamorous career somewhere and I happen to farm on the side because I thought it’d be a charming way to spend my weekend afternoons. “Homesteading” is closer to my goals here – I would very like to be able to live off of the farm 100% sustainably, but that’s really extremely unlikely. Power, water, etc, aside – I’m not going to grow wheat just so I can have bread and pasta. Nope. Not going to do it. There are people better suited for it, I am only one person, and I just don’t want to. And not going to stop eating bread and pasta, either. “Urban Farmer” – dude. I live on 40 acres of woods 10 miles out of town. People from town complain about having to drive out this far to go hunting. ‘Nuff said. “Back to the Lander” is not only totally and extremely awkward to say, but just doesn’t describe it. It sounds like I wandered off the property, got lost in the ways of chips and soda and boxed mac’n’cheese, and realized I was lost with a cute blonde ‘oops’ and then popped a U-turn. (OK – maybe that one IS closer than I thought).
So I say “I want to grow my own food”. To my credit I don’t often have to expand upon this. For one of two reasons, I think. 1) it’s pretty self-explanatory, and 2) having already established I most recently moved out here from California, it has been assumed that I’m insane and “growing my own food” are totally the words of a mad woman.
But it’s worth it. I have absolutely nothing to show for it (yet). I haven't even managed to get the raised beds built*, nor have I solved where I’m going to get the water from for the garden, where the grapes are going to go, where the fig tree is going to go, where the berries are going to go, where the money for food in the meantime is going to come from,  am I done cutting down trees for the year, or should I in fact cut down those other 6 I marked earlier…..but I can say this. Yesterday was possibly the worst day I have had in years, and I still want to be here. I forced myself out of bed this morning, and forced myself to start working outside. I had an epiphany relating to something VERY far in the future – and I caught myself dreaming about said future. And I realized that if I am dreaming about the future here, I can make something work.
My mom has told people that the one thing that you need to have with you when you homestead (and a much more appropriate phrase at that time – we were trying to get water and power and all we did ALL day was think about how to make this land habitable….) is a good cook. I would like to propose a revision to that list. You need: 
  • A good cook – mom was right about this one. If you have to physically and mentally work your ass off ALL DAY LONG, you deserve a good, tasty, meal. It does wonders for morale.
  • A good companion - I love my dog and she is amazing, but I miss my mother being out here to share the trials and the triumphs with. “I got that rock moved!” just doesn’t resonate with people who don’t know as well as you’d think.
  • A vice -  during a move into this lifestyle it is NOT the time to give up coffee/cigarettes/chocolate/whateveryourviceis. It just isn’t, and you will make yourself go crazy. Embrace it.
More importantly, though - you also need enough naivety that the daunting nature of your adventure doesn’t really sink in, but a solid enough base of knowledge to get over those hurdles when they pile on you.
All of this I have learned, and I haven't managed to grow anything yet. Just think how sanctimonious I’ll be once I pull something off!!

*I built 2 raised beds the day I wrote this post. Just after I wrote this post.


Little House in the not-so-big woods said...

You, my dear, are an amazing woman! :)

caitlinvb said...

Thank you thank you! Encouragement helps and is always appreciated :)

Anonymous said...

Amazing, amazing, amazing. So many things spoke to me in this post. (1) Sometimes, life just takes you places and where you go is surprisingly beautiful when you make the best of it. (2) "Homesteading." Finding the appropriate label/explanation makes a big difference for yourself and for others. (3) Your list of what you need for homesteading may be the very list that anyone needs when they're setting out on something, new, exciting and promising. (4) I also embrace my naivete as one of my greatest assets! =)

Thank you for expressing everything that I couldn't with such eloquence!

caitlinvb said...

Thank you! Sometimes when I write these posts (OK often), it's when the word vomit bug hits and I have to type furiously to get everything out before it slips my mind - and I have a tendency to write multiple posts at the same time. Often before coffee. Since I am NOT good at proof-reading, I sometimes wonder if anything I'm trying to convey gets across. So yay! Thanks!