My life has done a one-eighty in exactly a weeks time. A week ago on Saturday I woke up, decided to get on a plane with two bags, and move to place I’d only heard about, to take a job I’d never done before.
That was exactly nine days ago.
Since then, I have stepped into a new universe, a new rhythm, a new way of seeing, being, and thinking. Welcome to Life’s grand adventures.
So, where do I begin? Well, I’ve become a farmer. I get up at 5:30, throw on pants and a sweatshirt, make my coffee, read the Lesson/meditate, make breakfast with Robin and Cebastien (beans, eggs, toast….), wait my turn for the bathroom, tug on my work boots, and drive with C to the farm in La Madera.
We arrive at about 7:45. It’s harvest season. I harvest beans, amaranth, potatoes, whatever needs to be done. I shell beans by hand for hours with Yessica, Paul, Marcela, and Cebastien. We talk about how to get the mineral deposits out of one of the wells: do we pound it deeper? Flush it with muriatic acid? We talk about their kids’ education– the charter school that just opened, how Yessica wants to get her middle daughter in– the drug problems in the schools in Española are too bad. Or we talk about Paul’s sheep, or how to raise money to buy Marcela’s neighbor a solar generator so he can cook beans, watch TV once in a while, and have light to read by for a few hours every night (he lives in an abandoned bus.)
We break for lunch at noon. Everyone pitches in. Yessica brings tortillas, and warms up champurrado (thick, chocolate-based atole; kind of like hot chocolate made with Mexican cinnamon and hominy flour) on the stove that she made for us last night; Cebastien puts out beans we made in the slow cooker and chops up a quick, chunky salsa made from vegetables we harvested that morning: a few onions, tomatoes, padrone chilis, and cilantro; Marcela offers rice; Paul’s always already eaten but sits with us and talks. Cristian and Roberto eat on the job. We all sit outside on the porch with our lunch and talk, and laugh.
At about one, we clean up. Cebastien always insists that I go rest while she cleans up absolutely everything. I disobey.
In the afternoon, I organize our seed library by plant family– brassicas, solanums, fabaceae; compare slides of compost and worm castings on a microscope with Yessica in search of microoranisms– indicators that the soil is healthy; harvest amaranth seed; water the kitchen garden; research honey bee species for our apiary.
Then at 3:30 (but usually closer to 4 or 4:30) Cebastien and I head out, lock up the farm, say goodbye, and head back to Vallecitos in the mountains. Home.
She tells me stories on the way back– which dogs along the road are friendly, and which aren’t. About the family with the red, hand-painted ‘fresh eggs’ sign in front of their house– how they sell eggs but won’t eat them themselves because the kids think the yolks are too yellow. They buy at Wal-Mart instead. About the same family’s 50 year old daughter– the quiet, mild-mannered librarian that Cebastien used to work with at the elementary school– who, on the side, earns money as a passionate baker of customized pornographic cakes. Need a penis cake? Call Marianne.
We get home.
We feed the dogs, bring the feral kittens under the wood pile a can of tuna, and change out of our work boots and pants. We start dinner: a kale, potatoe, and cheese casserole, a veggie stew with dumplings, and apple crisp; Turkish lentil soup, and bread; calabacitas, tortillas, beans, and rice. Sometimes the only ingredients that are not local are the butter, the salt, and the pepper. (By the way, those were three separate dinners)
We drink tea while dinner cooks and amazing smells waft through the house and make the dogs’ noses twitch. Robin gets home from teaching and we catch up, make her tea, insist that she sit down and relax. There is no TV, no hum of high way traffic, no white noise of media, busy sidewalks. There is only the kettle boiling, laughter, the dogs barking at the kittens at the side of the house.
There are also little things to do: pick up the glass from the window the wind gusts shattered, wash dishes, talk about chopping more wood for the winter, and about how short the days are getting.
We eat together at the little wooden kitchen table under strands of drying dill, chilis, and basil. We laugh raucously, eat thirds, and tell Cebastien (who has been a personal chef for Alice Walker, though she’s too humble to tell you that) that the food is delicious while she– without fail– always defends how she could have added more salt, more lemon, less garlic.
We clean up, love and feed the dogs, bring them in for the night, brush our teeth, taking turns in the bathroom, say goodnight, return to our respective rooms to read in bed, and turn off our lights around 10 or 10:30.
And there are the weekends: the almost 2 hour drive into Santa Fe for church; brunch with C’s family: her parents, niece and nephews, brother in-law, and older sister; long runs in the desert with out a soul in sight; dinner with the family and then a long, happy drive back to home in the mountains.
There’s more, too. Like how I am overcoming my childhood fear of agressive dogs:
Cebastien, on our walk around our neighborhood: “So this dog coming up is the scariest: he’s a blue heeler with blood shot eyes. But you don’t need to be afraid. He’ll run right at us but we’ll just speak very firmly. Sometimes it’s wise to pick up a rock, just in case. You don’t have to throw it but make a motion like you are. He’ll back down.”
Cue fiercest dog I’ve ever seen charging out of a dilapidated yard, barking, fangs bared. Cebastien the Fearless tells it to back off and throws a handful of dog kibble in front of it. Starving and abused, it doesn’t want to hurt us, but voraciously gobbles up the dry food as we quickly walk past.
We continue on, repeating the same tactic at another yard when three more dogs run out, barking and running at us.
Cebastien, as we pass a dog chained to a wall, thrashing hard enough that I am convinced it will pull the wall over: “That’s Bruno. Now, I don’t know Bruno….well, anyway. You can take it from here. Have a great run! Now you know how to deal with the dogs on the way back.”
Me, innards squirming, mentally plea-ing for her not to leave me defenseless except for a small fistful of dog crunchies: “Umm. Cebastien? I’m afraid of dogs. I really don’t want to do that again by myself.”
Cebastien: “Why didn’t you tell me!??”
Though shaken, the next day I run the nine miles from Vallecitos to the farm in La Madera with ample crunchies in hand, handling an entirely new set of dogs, and befriending one as a protector along the way, by myself. I’m making progress. Befriending the bloodshot-eyed blue heeler is next but I’ve decided to take it one step at a time.
Now that’s life on the farm, in Vallecitos, and in this new adventure. Never in my whole life could I have imagined that this would be my life. But then again, why should we ever place a limit on the good that is possible?
So much love from Vallecitos, NM.
(sorry they are out of order!)