Typically, I don't like to buy books or sit down to eat in airports because it's more expensive than it should be. But, I had a long layover and had already finished the murder mystery I'd lugged from the library on the way out.
I wandered back and forth between a few book shops on my concourse, annoying one book seller because I kept coming back and not buying anything.
When I'd just about given up finding anything I'd want to read that wasn't stupid expensive and/or hardback, I found The Dirty Life, by Kristin Kimball.
The back cover told me that Kristin was a big city writer before meeting a farmer, who's from a town near my grandparents in New York, and moving to the country to start their own farm in northern New York.
New book in hand, I wandered again for food that would fill me and not bankrupt me. I settled on the Rock Bottom Brewery with an appetizer and beer as my dinner while I dove into the book.
Just a few pages in, I read this: "There are still moments when I feel like I'm an actor in a play. The real me stays out until four, wears heels and carries a handbag, but this character I'm playing gets up at four, wears Carhartts, and carries a Leatherman, and the other day, doing laundry, a pair of .22 long shells fell out of her pocket and she was supposed to act like she wasn't surprised. Instead of the lights and sounds of the city, I'm surrounded by 500 acres that are blanketed tonight in mist and clouds, and this farm is a whole world darker and quieter, more beautiful and more brutal than I could have imagined the country to be."
I don't carry a Leatherman, but we have one, and I don't wear Carhartts year, but M does and there's a good chance I will soon. We don't have 500 acres, but we have 26, and there's nothing around us, but a wildlife refuge, state land, unoccupied private hillside and more farms. It's a world away from my previous life in D.C. and still hard for me to wrap my head around some days. Though there's still some city in me. Just the other day, I interviewed a general, wrote about nuclear weapons and defense budgets, then came home to water the chickens and work on our planting plans as it's warming up. I've talked about this life change before, but the shift is worth further discussion.
Last week, we made salad with greens we grew and fed the rest to the chickens, then dumped the remnants on the compost pile. We're finishing up the temporary outdoor chicken coop to get those birds outside and I've got trays of vegetables starting in all the windows. I went a bit overboard with the seeds, we might have a ton of tomatoes and peppers if they all make it and my pack of broccoli, kale, cucumber, cauliflower, lettuce and more tomatoes arrived in the mail the other day.
We've still got quite a ways to go and plenty of projects for the summer that exhaust me just listing them out, but the idea of making dinner with ingredients pulled from my land, breakfast with eggs from chickens that I raised and creating a little country oasis is exhilarating.
For me, it's a constant mental shift since I write about nuclear weapons and mission changes from fighter jets to cargo planes and city government by day, then come home and want to work on my blog, rink events or other projects, but I've also got to feed/water the chickens, tend to the plants, renovate a house, turn the compost and think about the garden layout, the kinds of trees I eventually want to plant, where to put bushes and sunflowers and how to protect the pretty flowers I want from wind and deer.
It's a cross between big ideas and big dreams with things like growing my own food and the simple life. My brain is almost always tired and I think this is why. We no longer have cable, we don't have central air, we use a pellet stove to heat the house in winter. We're close enough to town to get everything we need, but it's still a far cry from my D.C. life when I could walk 10 minutes to the metro, have cupcakes delivered to my office, get stuck behind a presidential motorcade and spend afternoons shopping my favorite outlets or eclectic boutiques few blocks off the Potomac River.
Kristin's story is different than mine and she and her now husband built a farm from nothing that now feeds their entire community, but there is so much in her story that resonates with me.
Only a few more pages in was this: "As much as you transform the land by farming, farming transforms you...Your acres become a world. And maybe you realize that it is beyond those acres or in your distant past, back in the realm of TiVo and cubicles, of take-out food and central heat and air, in the county where discomfort has nearly disappeared, that you were deprived. Deprived of the pleasure of desire, of effort and difficulty and meaningful accomplishment. A farm asks, and if you don't give enough, the primordial forces of death and wildness will overrun you. So naturally you give, and then you give some more, and then you give to the point of breaking, and then and only then it gives back, so bountifully it overfills not only your root cellar but also that parched and weedy little patch we call the soul."
I'm still only about a third of the way through the book, but picked it up again this week. It's good reading as we're prepping for the growing season.
Other good reads on food, land and agriculture:
Five links to read before heading to the farmer's market.
I already planned to create my own apple orchard, perhaps we'll have apples for cider-making since there's a shortage.
We're still thinking of having bees and this one's for Courtney. A look at life without honey bees.
Looking forward to watching this documentary about young farmers. I might be turning into my sister, who was very aware of these issues years ago.
Why Alicia started blogging, it involves lots of cooking and interesting recipes.