Friday, July 20, 2007

You can't take the country out of the city boy. - From There to Here

I've been around a while. Longer than some, not as long as others. I love dirt, and land and nature. I love planting and gardening. Maybe more the dreaming of it than the doing as my wife observes sometimes, but love nonetheless. That's my shtick, well at least one of them. I wonder what makes a person excited by the thought of planting a fruit tree or mulching a perky block of lettuce? It seems to me that everyone would love to talk about it and spend their free time commuting to work dreaming about making raised garden beds. But I have found they don't. Perhaps I’m a bit weird - the odd one.

I admit I'm green, or least a pale chartreuse color. I feel guilty if I don't recycle. I want solar electricity running my computer, my lights and even my air conditioner. And yes, I love air conditioning, so I guess I'm not militant green. I've replaced my regular burning lights with low watt energy saving bulbs. We keep the doors closed and windows shaded to reduce cool air loss. I do these things because it seems right, prudent and wise to do so. Not because I believe I owe Mother Earth. I don't believe in Mother Earth. I believe in God, and I don't think He likes us trashing the place.

So, how did I get to the mostly green, homestead loving, plant planting, semi-farmer that I am? Well, here's the story.

I'm originally from outside of Atlanta. We lived in a subdivision. (For those of you who have never lived in Atlanta, there is no letter "t" in that name. It's pronounced A-lan-a.) Our house backed up to a nice wood, and I have vague memories of leafy walks on winding red clay paths through large trees. At age six, we moved to pretty deep South Georgia. It was hot, sunny and a lot of fun. Our old wooden house held off the ground by brick pilings to keep cool, sported two wrap around porches and a tin roof. You've never slept a snugger sleep until you drift off beneath four inches of quilts and comforters to the wonderful roar of a winter rain on a tin roof! We had a grassy meadow for a back yard, a tire swing hanging from a pecan tree limb, an old wooden barn and an unused smoke house. A neighbor in the church planted us a nice garden of field peas on the other side of the barn, and Mom would send us out with instructions not to come back in until we had picked a bucket of peas. It was a small, bucket, but we whined anyway.

We lived there for about two years in the mid 1970's, and then moved outside of Washington DC. Our house sat squeezed up next to other houses in a subdivision with long skinny lots. It was very suburbia, but again, our lot backed up to a nice stream, and behind it, woods again. We played and skinny dipped and caught crayfish in that stream. I shudder now to think how clean it was. If you were careful of the hoodlum motorcycle teens that occasionally terrorized the walking trails, there was fun hiking to do in those woods. And against our parent's instructions, we discovered that the trail leading out the other side of the wood spilled out into the back lot of a convenience store, which sold candy, of course.

Then again in two years, we moved back to the deep south Georgia. A different house in a different part of the state, and there we stayed for the next five years. I didn't know it then, but those were some of the best years of my life. Yes, with three fuzzy broadcast television stations, we were sometimes bored out of our young minds, but if boredom isn't the mother of necessity, it's got to be an aunt or maybe a kissing cousin. Older now, we ranged far and wide through the woods. We hiked wherever our interest took us. I helped my older brother hunt and skin squirrels. We fished and swam in the field pond in the woods behind our house. We built a fort, climbed trees, and dug up raw peanuts and ate them right in the field. In the summer, it was worth the heat and stickers to gather pounds of blackberries. There were some alarming moments, like when my city cousin kept walking unknowingly past a rattlesnake with 16 rattles (That’s a monster big snake for those of you who haven’t seen one.) Then another time a fat and mean water moccasin crossed our yard during supper time. It took some time getting used sleeping with the whippoorwill calling so loud it seemed they were perched right outside the window screen at night. Still, it was a wonderful time. I think that's where the country got into me, one of two experiences that make me want to leave suburbia and return to a more basic life. I can truly say I'm country, too. There were many good (and painful memories) there, like working in the fields, picking tobacco, corn shucking, hog butchering, and blackberry picking. Sometimes, there was a lot of work, but I never ate better than I did those years.

Eventually we ended up back in the big city where I found a job that helped put me through college and cement my love of plants and nature; working in a large retail nursery. (And I do mean large.) This was not a mom and pop store. It had a huge retail shade house with whole parking lots filled with container and burlap wrapped plants, all in neat rows. An even larger warehouse full of wholesale houseplants resided down the hill, and a large landscape wholesale group did business in the back. In the retail section aloan, we ran six cash register lanes in the spring, with waiting lines. Why was this good? I was exposed to a mammoth amount of plant materials: trees, shrubs, perennials, annuals, vegetables, ornamentals, vines, houseplants, fruits, succulents, grasses, epiphytes, water plants, and more. It was there I was certified as a nurseryman. In many ways, it was the best job I ever had.

But, now here I am back in Suburbia. I have a fantastic wife, Nancy and a great son, Sam, both of them very imaginative and a party to be around. But after ten years of sitting behind a computer writing training materials for corporate America, I'm older, balder, fatter, in debt, and addicted to a high paying job. I'm ready for change. When I look back, the most fulfilling parts of my life was running around those country woods and later, helping customers with a plant in my hand. Think about it. Training documents in large corporations are ephemeral, here today, maybe used - maybe not, quickly outdated and soon forgotten. Better to plant a living thing that can be nurtured up to provide beauty or privacy or protection or sustenance for years or even decades to come. Now, that’s cool. I have a closet full of the former, printed out and organized in binders, and even I don't look at them anymore (although they do make excellent tinder.) When I look back, I don't want to say; Boy, did I create some great training material. I'd rather say I made a great home for my family and friends, we ate a lot of healthy meals made from food grown on our own land, and we learned a lot about doing for ourselves and others while taking care of what we've been given. But how do I get from here to there? Now, that's a good question.

We need a PLAN.

Welcome - The Story

My wife and I made the decision to move out of the suburbs and seek a more down to earth lifestyle. The Search for ONE ACRE FARM is the story of that journey to change, leaving suburbia and finding a new place to live and farm and get closer to basic living.

I'm starting this blog before we have even begun. We have no new home; we haven't even sold the suburb house yet. Being a researching fool, as I dream about the lifestyle I'd like to have one day, I ferret out good books and magazines and websites and blogs of others who have done something similar to what I hope to do. (The next best thing to living your own dream is sharing in someone else's, and sometimes even better, because you vicariously enjoy the rewards with none of the painful labor.) Perhaps this blog will do the same for you.

Right now, I'm still dreaming and planning. Putting the house on the market was a big first step, but I hope in the months, or year, or years to come to have found a new home with enough land in which we can invest our time and labor and dreams. And as I go along, I'll try to chronicle as much of our experiences as possible.

Welcome along on the ride.