Dirt Eaters

Work, Food, and Communal Transformation

(from the frontlines of a hopeful revolution)


Life comes at you fast sometimes, no?

Oh, past selves... we had no idea what the next nine months would hold.

Oh, past selves... we had no idea what the next nine months would hold.

I ain’t gonna turn this into a pity party, because I truly believe myself to be one of the luckiest humans on this here planet. But if this isn’t your first time to Dirt Eaters, you know that despite much larger stated ambitions, this website has mostly been a deeply personal chronicling of my attempts to become a farmer, to change my life, to change my way of relating to the world around me. You know that a transformative year of living and learning at The Farm School in Massachusetts ended in mid-September, and you know that I’ve basically written bupkis since. I’ve wanted to, sure, but writing (admittedly navel-gazing) blog posts for a readership that (maybe) tops out at several dozen has a way of getting bumped down the to-do list.

Life came fast these past 4-5 months, time got crunched, projects and energy had to be prioritized. With Ellie’s belly getting bigger everyday, with our first kid due to show up in early April (?!?!), finding and building some sort of stability became my primary job.

I remembered - no matter my beliefs or ideological predispositions - that money matters in this world of ours. I learned that you can’t force someone to make sacrifices, you can’t persuade them to want a certain life, and that the quicker you accept that fact the better. I realized that obligations and commitments are what define us, they deepen our joy and sense of meaning, and they’re worth whatever trade-offs they require. I discovered that debt can be a good thing, that to take ownership of something, you have to accept help, you have to take a risk.

I absorbed and accepted the fact that if you want to build something worth building, you have to first focus on the unglamorous work of establishing a solid foundation.

So writing got bumped.

I continue to have dreams and ideas and ambitions for Dirt Eaters, to move it beyond my little story. I’ll keep working on that, promise. But something dawned on me recently, and it’s that what I’m going through, this is real shit, and maybe it has relevance for other folks’ lives as well.

Here are some of the questions I’ve been grappling with. You tell me if you can relate.

  • When life gets busy, when life gets full, how do you balance it all?

  • When needing to make money is a reality, how do you hold onto the creative projects that you care about? Especially considering that they might never contribute to - and might actually negatively impact - your bottom line?

  • When you have responsibilities and duties to those around you, to those about whom you care deeply, how do you hold onto your selfish priorities? How do you properly value your personal dreams and ambitions?

  • When you believe in something - like truly, deeply, annoyingly believe in something - how do you work and fight for that while not losing sight of everything else you hold dear?

I imagine that these kinds of questions speak to all sorts of folks, with all sorts of lives, and all sorts of beliefs and dreams and day jobs. This balancing act seems one of the fundamental tasks of adulthood.

Katahdin's Knife Edge sure does continue to feel like a big ol' metaphor.

Katahdin's Knife Edge sure does continue to feel like a big ol' metaphor.

And yet, it feels even more relevant to me when thinking about the Food Movement, or the Food Revolution, or whatever you want to call it. Because any change in our imperfect world - in our politics, in our food system, in our daily habits, in ourselves - will only come from imperfect people, living in imperfect situations, making choices and trade-offs. It’ll only come imperfectly.

It’ll come by cooking just a bit more often. It’ll come by planting a slightly larger garden. It’ll come by shifting another small portion of our food budget to the farmers market, or to a CSA. It’ll come by eating just a bit more seasonally, by refusing a few of the conveniences of the supermarket in service of knowing and being connected to your food. It’ll come by trying to share that food with our partners and kids most days, by maybe even having a dinner party to celebrate good food with our closest friends and community. It’ll come by remembering to soak those beans the night before. It’ll come by paying more for less cheese because cheese is a damn miracle food and there’s at least a chance that seemingly-expensive cheese with the lofty packaging claims is made with milk from ethically-treated cows with access to pasture, made by humans with decent pay and a fulfilling job, because you’ve seen a massive dairy operation and you’ll never forget that smell. It’ll come by finally making time and budgetary space for that pickling and canning workshop you’ve been wanting to do, or that bread baking workshop, or that woodworking workshop. It’ll come by taking just a bit more control of your personal food system, by sharing with those around you the miracles of transformation that lie therein. It’ll come by taking a day once a year to visit a nearby farm, to make sure your kid knows, and you remember, how food is grown and who grows it.

And it’ll come by forgiving ourselves, and forgiving each other, when we ain’t quite perfect, even in those imperfect and incomplete aims.

Life comes at you fast sometimes, no? We do our best, forgive, then wake up and try again.

All of which is to say, I’m back at this writing thing.