Dirt Eaters

Work, Food, and Communal Transformation

(from the frontlines of a hopeful revolution)

Sunset, Sunrise

 You know that moment when an abstract thought, a plan, a far-off decision, turns into reality?

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Oof, what a moment.

This past Sunday was one of those moments. I had quit my job. I had moved out of my apartment. I had put all of my things into boxes and bags. I had said goodbye to my friends. I had dropped off my cat at a neighbor’s house. I had watched my fiancee leave to live and work in India for nine months. I had volunteered at several farms, anxious to get going. I had committed to living, learning, and working at The Farm School for the year. I had committed to myself to pursue agriculture as a profession, to change my life.

And yet, I couldn’t leave. I didn’t want to. I just sat on my stoop in the DC neighborhood of Mt. Pleasant, watching the sun set across Rock Creek Park, again, as I’d done many times. I was sad. And I was scared.

Time keeps moving, and periods in your life end. Even though I’m still pretty young, I think I’ve learned that much so far. Moments never last forever, so better to appreciate them, then let them go, always creating new ones along the way.

But here I was about to leave a city that I had made my home. A city where I had become an adult, where I had built lasting and meaningful friendships. A city where I had fallen in love, where I had worked and fought like hell to protect and restore and deepen that love. A city where I had biked and danced and taught young people. A city where I had countless memories, where my life had happened.

So I was sad to turn the page on this chapter, to let this place go. I was on the verge of tears all day long.

And I was scared that I was making a silly decision, a naive and immature one, that I wouldn’t be able to cut it as a farmer, that this stress was all for naught. I was scared that I was leaving an actual good life in the present, for a fictitious one in the future. I was worried that I would fail.

The funny thing about abstract decisions, of course, is that they become real, whether or not you’re ready for them to do so. I had set in motion this life change for a million different reasons, even if those reasons weren’t readily apparent to me as I sat on that lovely DC stoop, and there was nothing left to do but take a deep breath, and start the next chapter.

So I went inside, set my alarm for super-early, and fell asleep. Then I woke up, shoved everything in my tiny two-door Civic, and drove through a silent city, heading north.

 

 

 

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This year will surely prove to be lots of things, but I’m already confident it’ll be an extended investigation into the hypothesis that sunrises are in fact as beautiful as sunsets. Not even one week in, and I already have several data points. And conclusions certainly can’t be made quite yet, but all signs are pointing toward: yes, sunrises are beautiful.

It turns out that, if you have a lot to do during daylight hours and not that much to do once the sun goes down, getting up early ain’t all that hard. And there’s a lot to do.

After finally leaving DC, I went to the Adirondacks in northeast New York where my friend Nate started Reber Rock Farm earlier this year. From there, I wound my way around Lake Champlain and through the Green Mountains in Vermont to see my friends Kara and Ryan and their incredible Evening Song Farm.

The nice thing about visiting your friends’ farms in early October is that there’s no time for emotion. No, there’s work to be done. There’s bacon to be smoked and sliced and packaged, braces to be put up on a new barn, there are cows and turkeys and goats to be moved, potatoes to be dug out, beets to be washed, and on and on and on.

Bone tired and semi-delirious at 9:30pm on Wednesday night, Kara and I ended up talking about going to summer camp as young people, a transformative experience for both of us. We were talking about having the realization while hiking up a mountain that we could do amazing things that felt impossible at the outset. Just keeping taking steps, one at a time, and you’d reach the top.

That realization had stuck with her, proving immensely valuable when starting her farm, and even more so when re-starting it two years later after a natural disaster wiped out everything.

And remembering that truth - that big accomplishments are but collections of thousands of tiny ones - gave me great peace. And I went to sleep, excited to wake up early again, to work hard and learn as much as possible, to enjoy every step along the way.

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There’s a lot of uncertainty in this world, but the sun does always come up the next day. That much we can all count on. It has been good to be reminded of that truth as well this week.

Since watching the sun set on that DC stoop one week ago, I’ve watched the sun rise several times over New England mountains, each time feeling hope about the future and all of its potential. I’ve also watched the sun rise over this experience, this year of living in community, of working and learning and changing myself alongside others doing the same.

On Thursday afternoon I finally met the teachers and fellow students with whom I’ll spend these next twelve months. The two-and-a-half days that have since followed contained all of the nervous anticipation you’d expect at the start of something like this. We’ve all given up a lot to be here, we’ve all come for different reasons, we’re all not quite sure what it’ll be or where it’ll take us. And we’re all feeling each other out, excited and cautious at the same time.

It’s fabulous. The amazing thing about beginnings is how quickly they fade away. The amazing thing about communities is how quickly they bond, how quickly barriers disappear.

Yesterday, the sixteen of us student farmers spent several hours in the kitchen, learning how to cook raw farm ingredients for large groups, since we’ll be cooking each other breakfast and lunch on rotation throughout the year. As we mashed cabbage and chopped garlic and trimmed pork jowls, we laughed and chatted and picked each others’ brains. It’s early still, but this disparate group of individuals is already on its way to becoming a group, a collective that’ll support and push and grow together.

Here at the start of new things, it’s nice to be reminded that ever more sunrises await.

 

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I know that I mixed metaphors all over the place in this post - chapters and mountains and sunrises, yeesh! - but I trust you’ll forgive my sloppy writing while I search for meaning within all this change and newness. Thanks for that! And thanks also for feedback, comments, ideas, conversations starters. Anything, really. I love hearing what you think!

If you want to see the rest of the pictures from this week, click here...

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