Monday, August 23, 2010

city pickles

Some days I feel like nothing's changed and my sabbatical never happened. Other days I feel completely out of place here. I appreciate both sides of the coin, since I'm not looking to settle for either.

I couldn't ask for a more generous roommate, Marky Mark, for letting me crash at his place until I figure out where to go next. In fact, Mark's so generous that we had a third roommate...all of us sharing his one bedroom in a hi-rise. Tight quarters, but I'm so thankful to be able to spend time with him since I haven't for the past few months. And thankfully this weather's been great, so we spend the majority of our time outdoors anyway.

I was overly confident thinking that since I could run 3 miles in the mile-high city that I would be able to run twice as fast or twice as long in the second city, but the humidity soon stopped me about a mile in my tracks. Ick! After a few bike commutes to help me adjust to the weather, I'm back to running precisely 3 miles. Don't ask me my time though :)

This weekend I biked up to the Evanston farmer's market to find the infamous "Henry" of Henry's Farm in Congerville, IL...where my farm manager, Michael, apprenticed and learned everything he knows about gardening. I've been many of farmers markets around the city, but none quite of this size! Henry's farm stand was spilling out of 3 tents...and there were a dozen other farm vendors this size. Heavenly!

I thought back to my farming friends in Colorado, harvesting a plethora of these farm goodies...while I had to limit myself to a bookbag and walletful :)

I returned to Mark's and stacked the fridge with my purchases, while he wondered what he signed up for! I can't help but get super excited talking about fresh produce and the happy grassfed cows I once knew! For the rest of our meals I drag Mark to 'Whole Paycheck' or spend hours reading labels in Jewel and educating Mark about the importance pasture raised chicken. I even guilted him into buying a reusable bag and recycling at home. Sorry buddy! You'll thank me later :)

Needless to say, I'm overwhelmed being back outside the sunrise bubble, with the abundance of plastic bags and processed foods at restaurants and grocery stores, and the lack of composting and knowledge of our impacts. I'm still finding that happy balance between going out to dinner with friends and staying in to cook my own meals. One step at a time...

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

back to reality

Turns out waterproof mascara is perfect for more than just swimming and wakeboarding...also good for trips back to the midwest! I dilly-dallied packing the car... waiting til the very last moment to say goodbye to home...

Mountains gradually disappearing in my rearview mirror, kombucha spilling at every stop for gas, and me passing every car on the right (as Coloradans do)...I eventually made it to Omaha for the night. It wasn't until here when I was tossing the end of my eaten farm zucchini out the window (highway composting!) that I felt the thick air. Eek! Humidity! I forgot that even existed!

I spent an enjoyable night with family, then left the next morning for central Illinois. This drive through Iowa I actually noticed a few grassfed cow farms! I didn't use an entire hand to count them all, but I was impressed to see cows in the land of corn nonetheless.

Apparently I-80 was closed down after Des Moines for flooding, and within that hour and a half wait to get through the parking lot traffic, I decided that perhaps grassfed cows ARE the solution to everything. If these cornfields had a more stable root system, with perennial grasses vs. annual corn, the roots could soak up all that water. And of course, grassfed cows would help mow and fertilize the grasses in the meantime. hmmmm....

Here's a shot from the exciting drive in the midwest... :)

I made it back to central IL, repacked my car with the city life necessities (dress clothes, heels, mace, bike locks) and it was back to Chicago for me! My excitement to get back to my friends and coworkers and pizza and bike riding on flat land and the 'beach' was overcome with anxiety as I approached the traffic and the high rises. oi! But I appreciated the aggressive drivers...and especially appreciated all the welcome hugs :)

Turns out my entire first week has been an easy transition...full of welcome backs :) I stepped into my office building, seeing it in a whole new light. That place is so clean...and so sterile! Definitely not in Kansas anymore. I was greeted with a desk, completely wrapped in wrapping paper, even individual desk pens. LOL.

My coworkers' fantasy football party, also my boss's birthday, included a 'welcome back, Pickles' cake instead of birthday cake...

My car got welcomed back to the hood with some lovely key scratches :)

...but I soon remembered that there are thoughtful people in this world :)

Friday, August 6, 2010

end of chapter one

For as slow as farm life goes, those three months sure went fast! The last week of July marked my final week on the farm. Who knew it would be so emotional too! This entire internship has been like an extended trip to summer camp...building friendships, living with lots of dirt and bugs, and learning and growing as an individual. Like my momma's hard coming down from these mountain-high experiences...literally.

It was fantastic being around these farmers...such real, genuine people. I was able to put away the outfits, hair-dryer, make-up, and yes, even showers and deodorant, for a few days at a time. The only judgement I got was for not wearing enough sunscreen...and I see that as a life-saving suggestion :)

As Julie did in her blog, here's a little blurb on these fine folks:

Kate. As one of my roommates, she was the first intern I met. My first impression was her plopping down on our couch with the lovely large college-style pillow in her lap, ready to chat with me about my story coming to the farm....because of this I bonded with her the most...and I knew then that this was going to be a fun summer with her :) When our managers asked one of us to step up to a task, she was first to volunteer (until Dave came!) regardless of whether she knew what the project was, or if she could handle it. She's a girly girl of much strength, inside and out. Real. To the point. No BS. And always asked me if it looked like something was bothering me. And my partner in crime for Starbucks, roadtrips, and an occasional drink to give us an excuse to enjoy some time off the farm. IMUNNAMISSCHOOO! :)

Sandy. She was my 2nd roommate, brave enough to ditch the only place she knew, warm and sunny LA, for exploring another garden path in life. My first impression was her lugging my 2 ton bag of shoes out of my car and to my room, regardless of my pleas for her to not worry about it. Firecracker indeed! She was initially skeptical of nice people, especially those drivers on the country roads that would always wave at her when she ran, but she eventually warmed up to them :) I was a terrible and messy roommate, but Sandy was very motherly in keeping the apartment tidy and homely, even by cooking for me and Kate. And she loved weeding :)

Avana. She came to the farm a few weeks after me, and I first thought she was the most innocent of everyone, so wasn't sure what to say or not say around her. Turns out that she craves a good debate, but I'm still not sure she approved of my jokes when she gave me the shocked 'look'. Each of us interns took a couple days to get adjusted to farm life, but not Avana. She started on day one...and started with digging potato mounds. Now that is hard core! I told her to take a break, but she just winked and smiled...Avana style ;) She invented the Rototill dance, always made sure I was wearing sun protection, and I opened her eyes to going out for drinks with friends :)

Julie. This girl does not stop laughing, I love it! At first I couldn't believe that someone could laugh this much without giving themselves side stitches, but Julie disproved this theory right away. Most of us interns secluded ourselves from the rest of the community, and Julie miraculously bridged the gap with her compassion for everyone. She is not intimidated by creepers or new adventures with random people. Julie's also great at sharing: music, birthday breakfasts, kombucha...and the coolest present ever: my handmade Ree-may shirt! So creative and thoughtful!

Dave. This guy would not stop volunteering...more noted, he was always the first to volunteer. I first thought as the only male intern that he was attempting to prove his manhood to us established lady interns, but Dave was just naturally eager to get the most out of his experience here on the farm. His enthusiasm for organic farming is so strong that he actually practices what he preaches. While most of us compromise with what's available in this non-organic society, Dave has set a standard for what he eats, even if it's the more difficult thing to making most of his food from scratch, and not being afraid to tell his mom he won't eat her food. Thank goodness for the college situation that brought him here! :)

Alisha. When I think of strength and determination, I think of Alisha. Specially, I think of how she snugs those irrigation pipes with such emphasis! :) If she's going to do something, she's going to do it well! Alisha did not hesitate to ask questions, and I don't know how she could come up with one after another, but that's how she knows so much. I especially admire how she's applying what she's learning about preserving to her personal life, moving from city to city via train...and on a budget. We'll all learn best by making acquired knowledge relevant to our situations. And she was always great at shining a new light on situations or opinions..."Well yes, I see your point, however..."

Sylvan. Slave driver. Ok, not quite, but close :) She has a real personal relationship with the garden and took garden work very seriously, as managers should to keep business going. This was Sylvan's first year as garden manager, so kudos for managing all 7 of us! (8 including Patrick :) We bombarded her with questions, and she answered each thoughtfully...digging deep into her wealthy memory database. She was always in touch with the land, seeing things that us innocent interns overlooked. I could see the real passion come out when we enjoyed her delicious recipes at her hip potlucks.

Patrick. Dreamer, storyteller, teacher, jokester, poet. He was the other garden manager, telling us many stories of his past travels and experiences that brought him to where he is today. What we first thought would be short stories became hours of detailed tangeants to a story, complete with jokes and life lessons. And suddenly it was lunch time! Us interns had Patrick all to ourselves on Mondays, so we soon learned that although Mondays included smelly compost and trench digging, it was also a day to ask lots of questions, and sit, reflect, and enjoy.

We all have a passion for the fields. We are proud of our hard work. All of us are strong, eager to learn, and even more eager to help. We all realize that there's more to life than money and reality TV shows and who won the super bowl. And we all want to educate the rest of the world with what we learned on the farm, so that we can together improve the world.

This crew has opened my eyes to farming, lifestyles, and myself. I am so appreciatives of this has really been more fulfilling than I ever could have imagined :)