New Year, Same Me, Same Goals

Happy 2017!  Here we are on the other side of a divide with a year many of my generation have dubbed a dumpster fire.  But time slides on no matter what, doubly so when you lay in your bed most of the day reading Buzzfeed articles about the term “dumpster fire,” and you know what?  This week is no different from two weeks ago.  There is no great precipice, no page break, no separation at all in fact from the reality of last year and the reality of now.  One of these artificial barriers we erect for ourselves to make things seem like they end.  So in conclusion, I have decided that this new year means nothing but a few months of turning 6’s into 7’s at the back end of miswritten dates.

But this should not be taken as pessimism.  In fact I think my outlook is extraordinarily rosy.  With this disregard for flipping the calendar page, each day is as valuable as the next and the end of a year does not make unaccomplished goals into failures, but keeps them in the “in progress” basket, so to speak.  So now I am looking back on my year, not seeing the devastation of my professional and financial life that some could see (right? RIGHT?), but rather seeing a year of brave choices and idealistic leaps of faith that are still on their way to paying off.

One year ago, I was working a nine to five job in the luxury beauty industry.  I woke up everyday, did pilates in my basement, biked from my rented home in SE Portland to my office in the SW hills, and sat at my pretty little minimalist desk in my open office for 8 (sometimes 9) hours. Then I would bike home, pick out some food at the Trader Joe’s across the street, drink a little too much wine, watch Jeopardy, and fall asleep around 10.  It was not a bad life.  It was a life that I could have enacted everyday for years, seen my friends for dinner parties, gone on vacation twice a year, built my nest egg, gone to happy hour, dogsat, catsat, parrotsat, eventually babysat, and lived a full, decent life.  I was confronted with that possibility.  A full, decent life.  Maybe it is my age, maybe it is my arrogance, maybe it is my idealistic, millennial attitude but that just didn’t sound like something I wanted anymore.

Since April when I left my job and Joey and I left Portland, our world has grown.  Most obviously it grew by one member.  Our Ru!  Little baby ru has become big, bad, Ruba and my cliched pseudo-maternal dog mom persona has grown from the nervous anxiety of crying and screaming that I had killed him when he got a cold at 10 weeks old to the non-chalant self assurance of seeing that he ran off into the woods and turning back to finish cleaning the chicken coop. The latter turned out to be a bad idea, it took me a good half hour to find him 3 properties over when I was done, don’t tell my neighbors.  But the take away here is that it only takes ~9 months of dog ownership to be a whole new gal when it comes to the life entrusted to you to protect.  In my eyes now, Ru is still a snuggly fluff ball baby when he is in the cabin, but a sneaky conniving agent outside it.  One you look on warily but not without the tinge of respect that comes from knowing he could survive the night without me.  Actually this might not be personal growth, it might just have to do with the fact that Ru is now the size of a petite adult woman, but with a body more like a wolf than a dog and therefore could probably hack it against most pacific northwest predator should he run into them.  But his favorite new toy is ice chunks from the pond so maybe I shouldn’t speculate on his strategic capabilities.

Our dreams have grown but more importantly they have come into focus.  Joey and I have been talking about the farm (and a sometime roadside restaurant named the Beer and Bear but pronounced the “Burr n’ Burr”) since we were at school, but since we took steps away from what I am calling “filler careers” and toward the goal, it has never seemed more attainable.  It also seems a lot more useful.  The way we planned before made the farm seem like an early retirement.  We would buy it in our mid-thirties, I’d keep my off-farm job while Joey readied the fields for planting, pruned the trees, planted the hops root stock, and fenced off the berry patches and I would somehow swoop in when it was profitable and we didn’t need our other income.  Now our plan is more streamlined.  Devote our whole selves to learning this for real.  After 2-3 years of growing seasons on someone else’s land we would draw up a business plan and find a land trust, farm incubator, or group of investors to make this dream a working farm reality.  We have been sending out our applications to the farms near Veneta and are crossing our fingers for a favorable situation.  But remember what I said about “in progress”?  Hope springs eternal ’round here.

But there are always those exceptions to the rule.  Our living space has shrunk significantly in the last year.  One year ago we lived in a spacious three bedroom house with a covered patio, fenced yard, and off-street parking.  Now we live in a one room cabin smaller than our previous living room.  This, it turns out, was not a bad trade.  I have been asked innumerable times since we moved out here in September how we manage?  These are the simple answers: We eat out of the cooking pot, I clean the “house” three times a week (it takes 10 minutes), I pee in the woods…a lot, there is a certain level of dirt in my bed that has become normal, I get up with the sun because I should and also we have no curtains, we mostly leave our shoes by the door (especially after cleaning the coop), you get ok with the pizza smell that fills the cabin for days because the only herb we have left is oregano, we plug the warming strip in on cold nights so our pipes don’t freeze, I wear a parka and boots and nothing else to run to the woodshed in the middle of the night, cooking exclusively on the wood stove takes 4x longer but has become a matter of pride, I shower less because its up the hill, we have wifi, breaking up dog fights is easy when the instigator is the size of a very angry loaf of bread, when storms come we stockpile water in every available vessel because when the power goes, so does the well pump, I mix my rice and lentils together in the storage jar (#anarchy), and I never get tired of the sound of the rain on the roof.  We did choose the tiny house living but it also chose us right back and it is going pretty well so far.  Living simply makes things a little harder, but all these little things make my choices simple.

Thinking about how my life has changed in the last year can come down to my new daily routine.  Now, I wake up everyday with the sun.  If its Tuesday, Wednesday, or Thursday I feed, water and release the chickens and ducks.  I walk down the field with my dog.  I still do my pilates, but now in a garage not a basement, I work on my internship for Agrarian Trust from 9 to noon, I make a leisurely woodstove lunch (quesadillas taste better off the cast iron), take my dog boy for another walk, I clean the house, I write for myself, I build something with my hands, I apply to farms for the season, I run errands, and I watch the sun go down over the two largest Douglas Firs I have ever had the pleasure to meet, I lock the chickens away safe in their coop, I stoke the fire for dinner and I put on the Netflix.

So there it is folks, my obligatory year in review.  We gave up a lot but we also put ourselves in motion, literally and figuratively.  The biggest thing I learned is that time marches on.  No matter what you are doing, be it riding a bike over the Sawtooth Mountains, sitting on your parents’ couch, or chasing a chicken out of the woods, the days will end, the Earth will turn and each day matters as much as what you do with it.


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