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Updates from Purgatory

19 Jan

Time is such a weird thing- how it is so fast and so slow and it is sometimes both. Occasionally it seems like you are trying to shove a minute that feels like an hour into a day that flies by in a second… if that makes any sense.

Either way, after the initial buzz and excitement of the launch of our indiegogo fundraiser (which is working tremendously, mostly because I didn’t realize what a wonderful support system we have), Victoria and I find ourselves back at our day jobs. It’s a tough thing. I spend almost all of my days off working on farm business, and my days at work have felt out-of-body. I am still the same woman who works there, but  part of me feels like I am already in my boots knee-deep in manure with a stirrup hoe in hand. For a week or so, I self-created the scenario that everyone at work was mad at me for my pending exodus. For a couple days, I screwed up a ton of stuff at work that I would never normally let slip, which just compounded the story in my head that everyone hated me. Sometimes I am such a silly girl.

What I’m trying to say is that I am learning patience and the virtue of being where I truly am. Soon, I will no longer see my very best friends (that happen to be my coworkers) every day, I won’t know or be a part of the ins and outs of a business that I have dedicated my life to for 3 1/2 years, and I am having to face up to the fact that I will no longer be integral in its strong culture that has become very much like a family. These are hard realizations. I am truly taking a leap of faith, a gamble, a large jump into a canyon of which I do not know its depth, and when I really think of those things, I want to savor and enjoy this part of my life that is going to be over soon. I am going to be a business owner. There will be no “days off” for many, many years. My only “coworkers” will be Victoria, my rat terrier Poppy, and our (kind of dumb, but adorable) Newfoundland Jasmine. There will be no going to see my friend’s band last minute at Herman’s Hideaway, no after-work beers at Illegal Pete’s, no traffic (not so bad), and no hustle and bustle of Denver city life. I’m okay with that, but I know I will be mad at myself someday if I don’t take these last few months of my young life and simmer in them.

On the business side of things, I am surprised at how, with time, things get less jumbly (technical term) in my head. For awhile, I was like “Ah!” and then I was like “Ugh!” and then like, “Noo!” at all of the things I had to do, had to know, had to prepare for the farm. But really, I was getting ahead of myself. The lists thin out, they tend to prioritize themselves every day, and I can always trust myself to do what I think is right and never to slack off. I just know myself– I don’t do that.

And about the fun- we did go to the National Western Stock Show. We realized it’s really not our thing (although the animals were  a lovely sight!) and that we are glad there’s a large faction of farmers that are more along the line of laid-back hippie-types than the rhinestones-on-the-back-pockets-of-your-Levi’s type. Not like there’s anything wrong with either one of those, but there is definitely one group we fit in more with than the other. We felt quite like black sheep at the Stock Show (and were occasionally stared at like we may, in fact, be black sheep and up for auction), but we know from the other wonderful organic farms that we’ve visited that we aren’t total weirdos and we will be fine.

So I’m going to post our indiegogo fundraiser on this blog (in case anyone who reads it isn’t my facebook friend) so you can see our sweet faces and maybe share it with a friend or two. We have 29 days left of our fundraiser and only $400 some dollars left to go! It is a pretty exciting venture. It has been humbling to the point where there are no words to see my friends, family, acquaintances, and sometimes complete strangers supporting us. Here is the link:
http://www.indiegogo.com/connollyanddaughtersfarm

And that’s all for today! Until next time,

Claire

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Our visit to Stonebridge Farm near Lyons, CO

18 Nov

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Well, if there were ever a more pristine farm in the world, I would have to see it to believe it. Stonebridge is nestled comfortably in the foothills about 30 minutes outside of Boulder, CO, and their operation is 20-some years in the making. I didn’t know how important it was for us to go and meet them (although I was well aware how generous it was of them to invite us), but it turns out that it was essential.

I hate to sound repetitive about people in the organic farming community, but John and Kayann were extremely helpful, kind, and welcoming. If they were cautious or judgmental with us at all, I didn’t sense it. We invited our parents along to see their CSA (since my parents didn’t have a whole grasp on exactly what Community Supported Agriculture was) and, even though it shouldn’t have, it made me a little nervous. I was afraid that the dynamic would shift- that Victoria and I would be seen as extremely young and treated like children. I also had the fear that every teenager knows all to well; I didn’t want my parents to say anything embarrassing. In case you didn’t already know, they didn’t.

We headed out to Stonebridge quite late. I got off work at 1pm and forgot to bring home any coffee for us, my parents, or Stonebridge. Anyone who roasts good coffee for a living knows that this is a CARDINAL sin. Typically nice family members and friends turn into violent, raging animals spiraling out of control if they wake up one day and you forgot to bring them their coffee. So, on top of normal things you do when you get off work, I had to go back to work to get coffee that I had roasted thirty minutes earlier. I was pissed at myself.

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I only tell you that we were late because, when I called Kayann to let her know, she seemed disappointed that we wouldn’t have as much time to talk! I mean, if this isn’t a switch from the city to farming life, I don’t know what is. I made the presumption that we were probably a huge burden on any farmers that gave us a tour. They made us feel like welcome guests.

One of the biggest things I learned from them is to start small. I’ve been slowly learning this on my own when I wanted to start with 7 acres (go ahead and laugh, I can’t beat you up through the internet), then it went down to 2, now I’m pretty sure we’re starting with ½ to 1 acre. Us city folk have no idea what an acre means, but now that I am transitioning, I understand that it is A LOT. Like, a lot a lot (to help my city friends with translation). They have slowly but surely grown to 4 acres over their 20 years, and their operation is much more in-depth, organized, and essentially bigger than we can be in our first years. I was extremely impressed that they had built a community rather than customers, and even then, those are one and the same. I love that they have parties for their shareholders and how intricately they involve them with the produce- their shareholders come to the farm and pick out their own baskets, wash their produce, etc. It saves them money and brings in the type of people they want to be around. So. Cool.

Also, there is no way I could’ve understood sowing green manure or the equipment needs without seeing it. I’ve read (and re-read) The New Organic Grower where these things are outlined, but squiggly drawings and lists don’t always cut it for real learning. I saw a walking hoe, and a rototiller, and I saw oats growing over as a winter crop.

There is way too much for me to completely include here, and I am still mulling all of it over in my head as I write. I think, however, the lesson in this blog post is not to relay all of the information I learned from the lovely people at Stonebridge directly to you, but rather, to impart that visiting other farms is absolutely essential. There is only so much your brain can read and truly, truly understand. But talking to people doing what you dream to do is an unbelievable resource. Tour other farms, talk about successes and failures, laugh about accepting an organic grower’s relationship to weeds, and smile over coffee. There is no replacement for this.

I also wanted to include Stonebridge Farm’s contact information here. I would encourage anyone in the Denver/Boulder area looking for a quality CSA to inquire about their shares and support a wonderful, local organic grower that has been thriving for over 20 years. If you want to know how it’s done, they’re doing it! They also offer classes for writing, farming, anything. Check it out.

http://www.stonebridgefarmcsa.com/
And their blog:

pearlmoonplenty.wordpress.com

Unicorns and Fairy Dust and Loan Applications

16 Oct

Today, we visited the most magical universe in the whole galaxy. Okay, so maybe not for everyone, but I swear the flourescent-lit, retro-carpeted FSA building full of women with big hairstyles and men in overalls is a farmer‘s/information whore’s wet dream. There are booklets, and packets, and worksheets, and CLASSES, AND LOANS, AND GRANTS, AND SOIL SAMPLING KITS AND AND AND!!!!

We walked in and I was immediately terribly shy. But my mother has 40 years of being a strong, independent woman on me, so I forgive myself for letting her do most of the talking at first. We were there to ask about loans for small growers, and after Janice (the woman who helped us) sized me up and got a good look at my tattoos, she seemed surprisingly okay with what she saw and kindly escorted us back to a meeting area.

Side note: I don’t care when Janice in the FSA office in Brighton, CO looks at me like I may or may not be a dangerous weirdo at first glance of my urban look. Janice probably never has had a young twenty-something with tattoos and short bangs walk into her office asking about green much. What really gets me are people in downtown Denver who stare at me for 5 minutes and look like they’ve already seen my future where I am nothing but an old, saggy, wrinkly lady that does nothing but sit in a rocking chair regretting the pretty pictures I put on my skin. Anyways.

She went over all types of loans, we asked her a bunch of questions, and my parents, Victoria, and I left with a huge loan application and a little more excited (if that’s even possible!). Janice appeared to love us and our ideas. She seemed to genuinely love helping people and I really think she liked to see young women looking to be organic growers. I felt oddly surprised at her reaction. Having been into music recently, I expected it to be like walking into a Folklore shop knowing nothing about acoustic guitars: you are demeaned if not ignored and it is generally an unpleasant experience. Maybe farming is the heart of America. Based on my family members that are farmers and the people I’ve met so far in agriculture, it seems like there are many, many good hearts.

We had a good talk with my parents on the way back home. We talked about living arrangements, Victoria and I settling our debts and taking tons of classes before turning in our application, and got some ice cream. My parents are really wonderful people. It’s amazing how you don’t know this until you’re old and have really screwed up and treated them like trolls for years, but I guess that is the human condition. I just feel blessed to know this and have them now. I plan on being the best daughter forever and as possible. It’s the very least they deserve.

So, after all this mushy-talk, there is much business to do. I mean, this loan application is BIZNIZ. We need to calculate crop yeilds before we have even farmed a piece of land, meet with several other CSA/Farmer’s Market growers, gain some sort of experience and education, take 20 some odd soil samples to CSU Extension, and come up with a complete financial evaluation of our first year. All that and we still may not get the loan. But that just takes me right to what my mom said to us as we were sitting watching the Bronco’s game tonight,

“If you really have a dream, and it burns you to not have it yet, you have to keep going. There are no setbacks if it is something you really want. This is coming from someone who was once a single mother. There are no setbacks. You just keep going. You find a way.”

Meaningful Menial

16 Oct

My latest big observation from the journey to the farm: You never notice the community you have built in your life until you undertake a new adventure.

I kept the news of the farm quiet for quite some time. There are a lot of reasons for this, the main one being that I was afraid it was going to be passed off as yet another of my many whims destined to fall on the wrong end of the filter called “reality.” They did a study somewhere (this is why I’m not a scientific writer) that came to the conclusion that, when people state their dreams out loud, it is occasionally detrimental. This is because simply saying an idea can bring on an often undeserved sense of accomplishment before anything is done towards achieving the goal. I have to admit that sometimes, for some people, stating a dream is an accomplishment. In my case, however, it has always come back to bite me in the butt because, for the most part, my “dreams” involve having copious amounts of time, money, no debt, and being stunningly beautiful and talented.

As time progressed, however, I began to realize that this may be really happening. I may be helping my parents farm 5-7 acres of their land. I told a couple of close friends and shut my eyes, expecting for everything to fall apart because I opened my big mouth about one of my grand ideas again. But it kept happening. Then I let it slip to a few of my favorite customers at work and shut my eyes. And there it was: still happening.

Then, something even more amazing began to unfold.

People. People I see every day and generally take for granted, people who are generally customers/acquaintances, occasional irritants, and that I have served for more than three years suddenly came to me out of their own volition to offer themselves. I didn’t know that the guy who may or may not get highlights in his hair, drives a really fast BMW, and refuses to drink out of anything but a to-go cup is actually a high-acreage farmer with an old tractor he doesn’t use for sale at an unbelievable price. And the woman who shows up 5 minutes before opening every day has been an Urban Homesteader for 25 years and wants to help us at harvest time and offer any advice on what grows well in Colorado for free. And then there’s my coworker who, unbeknownst to me, has a Master’s in Geology from DU and spent three of her years prior to working at Kaladi helping run a CSA near Chatfield.

And believe it or not, these are just 3 of many examples of the people in my community coming forward with free advice, information, and contacts to help me on this path. I didn’t even know that I had a community. I often feel very alone outside of my partner and my close coworker friends. I have felt tired, unappreciated, and unfulfilled in my job. I often wondered if I was a complete waste of a life. It is easy to feel that way in the service industry- it becomes all about money and very little about people. I mean, I serve around 200-500 of them every morning. It is easy to lose track of individual meaning in 2-6 minute interactions.

But today, I am looking at it very differently. I have learned loyalty from this job; I would do anything for the owners of Kaladi because I believe in their business practices and honestly, they have helped me out when my power was shut off and it seemed all was lost. I work hard and as perfectly as I can not just because if they fail I lose my job, but because if they fail, I fail. I have learned how to treat employees if I ever have them. I have learned the ins and out of a complex wholesale business. I have learned to show up on time and work when I don’t want to. I have learned to be nice to people when I am two weeks into the flu, haven’t had a day off in 14 days, and could curl up on a bag of green beans in the back and sleep for hours if I wanted to. And now because of all of this, I have earned a huge, caring community.

It makes me feel like the luckiest girl in the world.

Surprise!!!&()^%()&^%(!!!

9 Oct

Six months ago, maybe less, I wrote furiously in my journal that typically remains untouched unless I am super upset or confused. This day, I happened to be both. The writing is (I like to think) unbecoming of me. I think I can write myself a pretty verse once in awhile- this page is a mess of the same questions over and over.

What do you want? Who are you? What is it that you want? Why do you not know what you want? What is it you feel you are supposed to do?

Blah blah blah, etc. etc.

It wasn’t pretty, but I really meant it. It is something I have felt my whole life. I hate to sound so egotistical, but that’s probably because I always have been egotistical in one way or another. I like to feel important, unique, special. I have felt these things since I was young. I wish I could blame it on my upbringing or a teacher I had in school, but really, I think these feelings are innate in me. Instead, I’ll blame it on being a Sagittarius with an Aquarius rising and a Hippie Moon.

It’s true, though. My whole life has been in specific pursuit of being the ultimate revelation of my uniqueness or important-ness to the world, and nothing has ever made me feel like I am meeting this purpose. I never know what I want, except that I want to be the best or the most original at something. When I discover whatever that “thing” is, if I’m not the original-est or absolute best-est after a certain amount of time, I quit. I mean, think about it. Melancholy poet with deep-seeded emotional issues? Check. Rock n’ roll singer with a string of wild girlfriends? Unfortunately, check. Near-enlightenment 200-hour registered yoga instructor, college soccer player, straight-A student chosen for a coveted internship, broke tattoo-ed struggling artist working at a coffee shop- You name it. I’ve tried every way to be original and have fit exactly into those molds, making me absolutely and troublingly normal. None of these things have made me happy, and let’s face it, the real way to be extraordinary in today’s world is to be happy.

So imagine my amazement when suddenly something absolutely simple gets thrown in my life, the missing puzzle piece, and is the least lit by lime thing you could possibly think of. Imagine a camping trip, my parents and I sitting by a fire, and them mentioning that they really wish they had someone they could trust who would run their farm an hour outside of Denver.

“I’ll do it,” I say.

And boom. There is who I am telling me what I want.

Why does it sometimes feel like periods in your life are waiting rooms? Or are they preparatory schools? Or is nothing in life really serendipitous?

Either way, in the next two years, I will be a farmer by trade, and my ancestors in the sky will all have lost their bets.