The saner among you are probably wondering what we were thinking, leaving a perfectly good bungalow-style house in Albuquerque–not to mention a whole community of people we love–to work unpaid on a farm and squat in the basement apartment of a family we’d never met in a region completely unfamiliar to us. The truth is that, at least in part, it is a mystery to us as well.
It seemed like something we should do before we turn 40?
We missed our childhood summer camps?
It’s all an elaborate setup so we could make allusions to the Swiss Family Robinson in a context that (sort of) makes sense?
For a while now, Z and I have been seeking a more–for lack of better words–hand made life. Not exactly deerskin clothes and friction fires, now. We love our modern life, love to travel, love to be entertained, and are as entrenched in communications gadgetry as the next couple. But over time, we’ve become increasingly resistant to going through the motions and rhythms of professional life as we’ve known it.
Plus, knowing that we would always want to share our lives with our families, and having failed to convince anyone that New Mexico is where they should relocate, we started to hear and feel an unpleasant thrumming telling us that the timing was not right to buy a house and settle into New Mexico for a long time.
So when we started to look at where to situate ourselves, it made sense to pick an area within 3-5 hours of everyone. Asheville fit the bill in almost every way, except that it’s a terribly hard place to find a job in a generally limp economic era. I started to think about nontraditional arrangements that might allow us to immerse ourselves in someone else’s handmade life in order for us to learn a ton and get a serious education in what it might be like to economize and localize our lives. A glimpse of one possible future life for us. One morning in March, just a few short months ago, I joined a website called Farmbook (actually, growfood.org, the “farmbook” is a feature on the website) and started looking for farmsits, or internships, that would be amenable to a couple with a dog and a cat in North Carolina. I was just sure no one would be willing to accommodate the four of us, but lo and behold, I got a bite from a couple we’ll refer to from now on as H&M in an especially beautiful region of western North Carolina. A couple of phone calls and a move later, here we are.
We look forward to sharing a taste of our stay in the mountain community we’re living in. Today we brought a 2-3 day-old calf to the farm from another 15 miles away. Holding and moving her, as she wriggled and writhed in complete panic, cowshit running down my jacket, was, well…unforgettable.
Tomorrow we’ll kill and process the rooster that has been my nemesis since we got here. Seriously, nothing personal. In fact, he finally stopped being a complete bastard and starting moving away from me when I’m in the chicken pen, as opposed to flying straight at my legs or neck with extreme prejudice. It took ten kicks, several swats from a broom stick, and a firmly held trash can lid in the face.
Hi ya’ll – Suzanna here. (So you know who’s talking, my posts will be in italics, while Taylor’s will be standard font.) As many of our family and friends know already, the last few weeks have been a bittersweet rollercoaster. We arrived at H&M’s farm exhausted, grieving our friends and NM, disoriented, with colds and allergies, sore muscles, and two totally tweaked out furry children. I think we are finally starting to emerge from the haze and are settling in to our new space and routines, and beginning to experience some of the exciting things that will come from this move and from our time at the farm. Thus far, our time and energy has been focused simply on adapting to life here: taking in the new landscape (so green, and so much water! – but aesthetically speaking, strikingly, and comfortingly, very like the mountains of Northern NM – see header photo at top of page), adjusting our internal clocks to a new time zone and a new daily routine, working out the details of chore charts, meal plans, and navigating shared living space with our hosts H&M.
We’ve also been introducing our palates and bellies to new foods, and are learning how to plan meals around what we have, rather than what we can run to the grocery to get. H&M try to eat a significant proportion (up to 75%) of their diet from their own land. There is a lot to discuss about the whys and hows of doing this, so we’ll plan to write a bit more about this topic in the future. H&M warned us that at this time of year this approach to meals can be a little limiting, since we are subsisting mostly on what was preserved from last season, while we wait for the bounty of the summer. Still, they have managed to set aside a pretty impressive variety from last years yield, and with some early spring crops and a little supplementation from the grocery, we’ve had some delicious meals. I haven’t done much of the cooking so far, but it seems a very creative process that I am looking forward to.
We’ve already been elbow deep in chicken coops, cow milking, calf rearing, horse tending, and pasture culturing. We’ll be learning more about bee-keeping, chicken and beef slaughter, organic gardening, wild edible plant foraging, and food preservation. Taylor and I have pet projects we hope to accomplish this summer too. I want to learn more about seed collecting and saving. Taylor is interested in learning more about natural building techniques. We’re hoping to build a solar oven this spring, and perhaps and adobe or cob horno for breads and pizza. We’ll try to share specific stories about each of these aspects of our experience on this blog.
We’d love to read your comments about our posts and experiences. Please let us know if there is some aspect of this experience you’d like us to write more about, or if you have questions about what we are doing. We’re going to try to post something new every Monday and Thursday. Taylor’s posts will always be in standard text, and Suzanna’s in italics.
Thanks for showing up at our Joined the Farmy blog site, and we look forward to sharing more.