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.


The Prodigal Daughter returns to the homestead

9 Oct

After visiting the farm for the first time in years, I am in awe at Eastern Colorado’s landscape. When I was young, it seemed barren, dry, and miserably hot compared to my beloved camping trips to the Western Slopes. It is nothing like that to me now. The Rocky Mountains are visible all the way out in Keenesburg, CO, and the plains are nothing like the flat, deserted areas of Nebraska I remember driving through on our way to visit my grandparents in Illinois. In fact, Eastern Colorado is full of beautiful rolling hills, dried creek beds with natural grasses and trees peeking up through the center, barns that seem plucked from a postcard, and a silence that is occasionally blessed with the whisper of wind through corn ready for harvest.

The pleasantness of the view on the way there was disturbed once we arrived on my family’s own 180 acres to assess its current state, talk about plans, and drive around the property lines. My parents have always had the farming done by hiring local farmers and paying them a share of the profits after harvest. This seems like a lovely setup for city folk who own land and water rights but aren’t set up to move an hour out of town, give up their lives, and start farming. In reality, it isn’t proving well for them. They have never made a profit from the farm in its 15 years under their care, and seeing its state myself, I see that the land has not been loved

I understand why, too. I don’t want to seem like I am not compassionate. Farmers have it hard enough on their own these days, and in their mind, adding the care of some city couple’s farm (who only visit on occasion) for what is likely to be a measly pay wouldn’t be my cup of tea. On the other hand, these are men my parents pay and trust to care for land they have poured thousands of dollars into maintaining. My parents are not rich people. To see it the way it was made me sad and more than a little bit angry. It is obvious that not only have the farmers put in a lackluster performance for the last however many years, but that also word has gotten around that the farm is unoccupied and is a perfect place to dump things that no one wants anymore. It isn’t as bad as it could be, but we drove by at least one refrigerator and three giant dead trees accompanied by tracks made by a truck dragging them in.

We also drove to the well. My parents own a full acre around it, and we pulled up to find someone else’s corn occupying the acre. I doubt my parents were ever asked for use of this, and I doubt even more that they will receive any payment for the crops grown there. On top of that, nearly all the dirt roads in the area are fully on their property (typically, farms split roads between the lines so that nobody gets screwed on any land). I almost can’t write any more about the problems because it makes me feel weird and angry/sad/nostalgic. It gives me insight into how I am in business and in love, however. No one is unjust with me or anything/anyone around me without having to pay.

The only thing that brightens up my outlook is the hope of taking over at least 6 to 7 acres in the upcoming year. I love, adore, and admire my parents. I also have this hokey love connection with the land, with excruciatingly hard work, with soil, and with my family. I feel like this is the best light at the end of any darkness that my parents and this farm could ask for. I don’t blame anyone for any of this. I just wish it didn’t have to happen. I could feel my mother tensing as soon as we stepped on the property, and I still can’t distinguish if it was shame, disgust, or just old-fashioned disappointment. It is probably a mixture of all of those and a lot of lost dollars.

We did talk about a lot of exciting ideas. So far, it seems like the winners are setting up a small CSA, attending farmer’s markets with produce, and using 3 of the acres to plant an orchard of apples and peaches to start. They may decide to keep the current farmer for the rest of the areas with alfalfa and hay, as it requires machinery that we don’t have at the moment. It is pretty early in the planning stages, though, so you never know what will happen.

I guess that makes it even more exciting.


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.

The Neat List, part 1

4 Dec

Camping is neat because it’s how life should be (minus electricity and social castes)!

Rosettas are neat because not everyone can do them and they make your daily latte feel special even though its probably just another latte.

Puppies are neat because they're smart and they don't always lick you because you taste good. Sometimes it's because they love you.

The DMV mostly sucks.

There is definitely a connection between why you breathe and trees. SO neat.