Moving!

It’s almost one year later and everything has changed.

This blog is closed until further notice – check out the First Root Farm blog for more on access & my next year of farming. I promise more updates, pictures and recipes.
xoxo

something like it

It’s June. I’ve been actively working on my independent project for a month now. It is one of two shining lights in my life – the other is the growth and green that surrounds me in this place that is truly not mine. But these fields, I do feel like I belong in them.

Let me start there, with the land. I’ve been reading bell hook’s new book Belonging: A Culture of Place where every other word feels revelatory and every other word insists the familiar. hooks’ commentary and history on/of land, agriculture, race, and ownership is serious, developed and a strongly suggested read for pretty much anyone who reads this blog. In addition to what the book teaches me, it also pushes me in a direction I have tried to resist. Belonging encourages me to re-feel the feelings lodged here, in my Jewish body, for as long as I can remember.

There was a farm in my family before the war killed most of us, scattered the rest like seed. One way or another, genocide seems always to throw the remaining few, broadcast, across the world, far from the soils they knew and tilled and loved before. They were farmers and foresters, people who remembered how to plant and grow and harvest. They were people who knew how to hitch animal power to carts and tools, who knew how to make hay, how to store it, how to can and preserve food for themselves, how to milk a cow enough to feed your family but not so much to stretch her. Most of these people, my family, died nearly half a century before I was born. The ones who remained I have been blessed to know. The others are names and photographs and longing in the voices of those who sustained me as a child, and whose memories sustain and guide me as an adult.

Growing up the grandchild of a Holocaust survivor who wanted to be reincarnated as a dairy cow in the Alps, a woman in whom I saw both the strength and burden of holding the world, I wanted to know everything I could from her about that “before” place. She grew up in Paris, loved her city, and returned to the Polish shtetl regularly, visited her cousins, her grandparents there. She was a teenager when the occupation reached France, family fled to hide in the countryside, urbanites in the farmhouse, big city Jews in the small rural Catholic town. When she joined the resistance they gave her a gun to kill herself with should she fall into enemy hands. Her mother buried the pistol in the garden. When I part the soil to accept the cucumbers, I remember this, too, wonder, do you plant a gun twice as deep as it is wide?

As a teenager I chose to learn Yiddish. One set of great-grandparents lived until I was four; spoke nothing else in their home. My Yiddish is often the speech of a toddler. But I find comfort in the language itself, in what it says about me as a Jew. Culture and language dictate Jews as a people in constant motion, without home, always learning, inconclusive, contradictory, in a natural opposition to assimilation. And Yiddish reflects these things all by itself, too, as it picks up words, grammar, tweaks pronunciation before it moves on. It is at once gendered (klal-shprach, the standardized Yiddish I learned in college) and genderless (the Poilish Yiddish of my cousins), a language of resistance, argument, misunderstanding; it is a language without place, many rooted, diasporic, and it feels like home to me. More than that, it feels like me, to me.

Perhaps I simply long for place. Is it that I ache for the embracing arms of community, furrows to call my own, to slip into at sunset, soils to cradle me through the night? Perhaps longing for land replaces my longing for people. Or, perhaps, it is a distraction.

The June 9th post on Ariel’s blog reminds me of a constant, a thing that I pretty much always want out of my life – people to share it with. I really like sharing. Really, really, a lot. I want to share food, to share stories, and I want people who leave their shirts on my floor so that I can sleep with them under my pillow because they know that I don’t sleep well, and that it helps to be able to smell people who I love at night… except I haven’t had a ‘you’ in that way in some time. When I think about my last ‘you’, I think about all the things I could offer them now that I didn’t know how to do then. First I think about baking, and then cooking, about growing a garden, sticking to a schedule. I have taken the time to learn how to take care of myself. I know now that I like to crawl into a made bed at night, that I work better when my room is not a mess, and that sugar effects me a lot. I know how to nourish myself and get chocolate when I need it, heck, I even allow myself needs now and then. Still, I do not feel totally content in this particular type of alone. Don’t get me wrong, I have wonderful incredible amazing friends who have been my support and who have lent me strength over the past few years and for whom I am grateful every day. And I know that I could live a life without ‘you’s, even a good life among friends and big dogs, and I would okay. It’s just not really what I want.

The questions of home and place and rootedness are not new to me, nor this blog. When I write, I write about belonging and perhaps about little else. I tend to cast the shallowest roots possible in place, if not in community, I am unwilling (though I often say unable) to commit to a living space and yet here I am wanting to farm. How much more of a commitment could I ask for?

for bell hook’s new book Belonging, check it out
for a fantastic post on family, women and body that spurred me on

More about body, access and my independent project next time, when I have more words. I’m working on it.

Plotzn

Everything is exploding – the trees, the grass, yes, even the flowers.

I don’t know if it’s that I’ve never lived somewhere so lush in springtime or if I just never really noticed before. A month or so ago, we could hear the cracking of water moving under the earth, but everything still looked frozen.

The forsythia came first, green and then golden and now suddenly the lilacs, cherry and apple trees have erupted. The shad tree bloomed white blossoms a couple of weeks ago, alerting us that the ground has warmed enough to plant corn, here, on our little ridge top.

Thunderstorms have begun. Sheep and cows are out to pasture. Dairy animals are starting to be milked. Everything, everyone, is bursting into existence, some for the first time, some like it’s the first time again.

April

This month has been beautiful. Yesterday I spent my afternoon on my knees in the sun transplanting our first onions into long dusty beds. I was amazed at how dry the dirt was, how it’s texture changed as we went forward and then back to begin on the next bed.

It’s been a difficult month, too, though. A lot about farming is hard for me. There’s so much that goes on here that does not fit into my world view. It’s hard for me to honestly get excited about lambing, or calving, or kidding when I know that the beautiful life that I’m watching come into the world is going to either be cut short or let live to pop out other babies to kill and put on people’s plates. We’ve had a number of deaths this lambing season, a ewe and a couple of lambs. I haven’t felt their effects immediately, but my whole being is slow, depressed, wondering what I’m doing here.

I became a vegetarian when I was nine. There are things I’ve eaten over the years that were living animals, and it always made me feel terrible. Now at twenty-four after seeing what the best circumstances are for animals that get killed and fed to people, I cannot bring myself to it. There is so much cruelty that goes into animal husbandry, so much that shakes my feminist core, the multitude of axes of oppression that crash into each other when it comes to raising a living being to kill it makes me sick. Or depressed. Or triggered. All of the above.

After castrating that calf, I realize how unnecessary that pain is. I have refused to castrate or hold any of the lambs for castration, but hearing their cries, knowing how unnecessary that cruelty is, how easy it is for people, including myself, to take something on as necessary when it’s not… it’s been extremely painful. I don’t know how people shut these feelings out or off & I don’t know how some people don’t have them.

We’ve been pruning blueberries about twice a week for the past three weeks. In pruning blueberries you take out canes based on a few different things. 1) what is weak 2) quantity of old wood vs. new wood 3) aesthetics. When I prune blueberries I try to reframe it in my head: “taking ‘weak’ wood out doesn’t make this community of plants stronger, think of it as a single plant that you’re helping”… it doesn’t work so well.

I can’t not eat food. I am learning things that are important to me. And I’m hurting a lot. I feel really raw about this all right now,  raw about how angry and stupid I feel for feeling like the ableist ageist nazi pruner, how overwhelmed and unsure of myself I am by being a part of a group of people who hurt living creatures genitals (castration),  and how new life really doesn’t feel that awesome to me when I know it’s part of a cycle fueled by misogyny, greed, racism and a concept of life hierarchy I don’t buy into.

Nothing feels good right now. I’m hoping that the summer will feel better and get here quick.

Babies babies and more babies. Hello, spring.

What just came out of me?

What just came out of me?

It is I! Your baby! I am cold and wet. Watch me try to stand up! !!!

It is I! Your baby! I am cold and wet. Watch me try to stand up! !!!

Are you my mama?

Are you my mama?

Oh I got it I got it!

Oh I got it I got it!

I have a sibling!

I have a sibling...

... and a mama who loves me! Hi, Mama!

... and a mama who loves me! Hi, Mama!

ALSO

newborn Jersey calf from down the road.

newborn Jersey calf from down the road.

Thrive More

There’s been a lot going on. In my head & on the farm.

Yesterday morning we woke to see that one of our ewe’s was having a vaginal prolapse – something not uncommon in a ewe about to lamb – but the prolapse looked odd, it was too big and very hard to push back in. We spent most of the day yesterday trying to keep her calm and clean and waiting for the vet. She was clearly in a lot of pain and was having a hard time getting up. It is a farmer’s fault that this is happening to her – she prolapsed last year, and it was a bad call to breed her again. Her body just doesn’t have the constitution to handle another labor.

I haven’t finished my lambing class because I was in CA last week, so I spent most of my time at her head, trying to keep her calm and standing her up when the vet needed. I spent some time last night after chores hanging out with her, too. She’s looking a lot better this morning.

There’s something really basically sustaining to me about farming. When I think about going back to (academic) school, I cannot find too many quality-of-life points. My positives don’t come in studying or reading texts. I have enormous anxiety around school. What I would learn there may lead me to life’s work that is fulfilling, but I’m going to need something else, too. It’s a lot of change to think about.

On a lighter note, yesterday I finished my second farm school book:

farm notes

farm notes

closer

closer

When I was trying to figure out why go to grad school vs. farming right away, here was my farm Pros list (by far the heaviest column with the most important positives)

– I love it

– Fulfilling

– Sustaining

– Feels good to my body

– Can be a part of/find small community

– Could be rooted or move around a bunch

– I know people I want to farm with

– Farmers can be independent in many ways

– It makes me happy

I may have said this here before, but I’ll say it again: I think a lot about surviving vs. thriving. I feel like I have spent most of my life simply surviving, not taking the best care of myself, not knowing how, and/or not being able to. I’ve spent a lot of time in crisis mode, running from my own self-care because it meant dealing with my shit. Despite being in a less than ideal location, and with many people who are not great for me to live with – here I still get to thrive more because I’m moving my body every day. I thrive more because I’m breathing fresh air and harvesting real food and touching living beings. I thrive because I wake up and go to bed with the sun. I thrive more because I am surrounded by growth and farm smells and farm sights and farm feels. What I can learn at grad school is important to me too, but the learning will not be like this – it won’t be fun, it won’t be fulfilling. The learning I will do in the years that follow will most likely be fulfilling & sustaining, but the immediate future looks kinda crappy. I gotta figure out how to live with that. And thrive in it too, I guess.

I live in a beautiful place

Since my last post I:

– spent a week in San Francisco

– was accepted into graduate school

– finally was allowed to  use the circular saw

I am sure I am  full of emotions I just don’t know what they are at the moment. Instead, I’ll give you more pictures.

Really big egg

Really big egg


Barn

Barn


Chickens

Chickens


These rungs are too close together and I climb this ladder a lot.

These rungs are too close together but I like where I get when I climb up it.Hauling hay for sheep