Sorry for the absence of posts, gentle readers. Ross and I have been scurrying around the country looking at different farms and different opportunities. We just got back from a week-long trip to Eureka Springs, AR to visit Patrice Gros at Foundation Farm. What a terrific little farm. Really. Patrice runs an excellent no-till very successful and tightly organised vegetable production. He grows some of the happiest, most beautiful basil I’ve ever seen. We spent a morning with him mixing up granite dust he got from a local quarry to prep his beds. It was a lot of wet, cold, messy fun. Patrice and his family were really great. Patrice’s wife Karen is a francophile who runs a small catering business, so the food they fed us was a real treat (see recipe below). It is always wonderful to stay in someone else’s home and receive the same level of hospitality you would give to your own guests. And their two children are precocious, bright, and generally wonderful. We spent the rest of the afternoon at Little Portion, a Catholic-based monastery just outside Eureka Springs. It is a beautiful and peaceful place. The members there run a small farm complete with a meat-poultry operation. They work with Patrice and house some of his interns at the monastery in exchange for a bit of work on the farm.A year ago I would have cut off an arm to work here, but. . . something just didn’t feel right. I think the tension of self-reflection I was feeling was palpable to everyone around me. And it didn’t help that Eureka Springs is like a bigger, scarier Gatlinburg, TN. I’ve been in a kind of black-hole of unknowing for the past three or four weeks, a brief but strong dark-night-of-the-soul kind of experience. Every day I have changed my mind about what I want to do with my life about four times. I have taken to writing Ross little notes with the prevailing career path of the day written on it. We thought maybe after a few weeks we could count them up and see which thing I felt like doing more times than the others. Sometimes, instead of writing a sentence about what I wanted to do with my life I would write a quotation or a maxim that would express how I felt: things like, “the job never started takes longest to finish” when I felt stagnated by my possibilities and their possible successes and failures. The popular Nelson Mandela quotation came to mind many times, you know, the one about our greatest fear is not that we are inadequate, but that we are powerful beyond measure. I even took to reading my horoscope almost daily. I felt the overwhelming reality that I could go anywhere and do anything. Many people might consider this a good place to be, a “world of possibilities.” In reality, such a world is too much. It is pathless. I have come to understand that the closed doors are as are are as important, if not more so, than the open ones. The point is, I am in a very different place now than I was a year ago, or really have ever been in my life. For many years I believed that it was in my best interest to live a life separate from others. I believed that the world was somehow broken, full of stupid people with stupid ideas and misguided motivations that was constantly damning itself. I still believe that; the part about stupidity. What I no longer believe is that I have to somehow separate myself from it. I thought it would be great to have a farm somewhere out in the woods where I could be self-sufficient and left alone. But after being on a farm, not even that far away from a city, I see just how isolating that life can be. It is less fun and way less romantic than it sounds on paper. I mean, this is the dirty way, after all. It’s about getting down in with the nitty gritty, the unpleasant realities of being a person in this world, absorbing them and separating the ones that must be from the ones that don’t have to be at all (i.e. we will always eat meat, but there doesn’t have to be factory farms; there will always be death, but there doesn’t have to be murder; people will get hungry, but they don’t have to starve, etc.). Arkansas taught us something really important: a farm cannot be a island. You cannot be isolated out in the boonies, by yourself. You need other people for yourself for the success of your farm and for the awareness ad prosperity of agriculture as a whole. People need to know where their food comes from. They need to see it and be near it. Isn’t that what food is all about; bringing people together, getting them to talk, creating community?
So we are busy little bees, sitting in our lair, brooding, hatching some very big, very different plans. . .