Life in the Slow Lane: Happy New Year

Well, it's happened again. Somehow an entire year--a full 365 days--has slipped past me at light speed. Where does my time go? Into writing books and farming, of course.

Which brings me to my big news for 2018, which, unfortunately, is not that I've completed The Final Toll. (My apologies to all of my readers waiting for the next mystery in my Servant of the Crown series. Silly me, thinking I could write during the harvest season.)

The Farm on Oak Creek is going on the market.

This is not because I've decided to stop farming and retire to a condo in some metropolis, no matter how sensible that seems to most folk. Rather this is because circumstances conspired in 2017 to force me to reconsider the amount of work that this particular piece of land requires. This place is all slopes and angles and drop offs. It was that foot injury that started it. There was no way I could climb the hill to pick beautiful, lush, red raspberries. Instead, the birds gorged themselves while I contemplated the possibility of sliding toward an eight foot drop with no certainty that I'd catch myself in time.

Then there was that incident with Cinco and the head butting, all because I had no way that I considered humane to confine him. Ultimately, it's only me out here. If something happens to me, say I fall and, God forbid, hit my head and end up the three-foot-deep, water-filled ditch, who's going to show up to care for the animals? Somewhere around mid-October, I realized it was time. I need a flat farm.

Let me say that the thought of leaving this place was a crushing disappointment for all of three minutes. That's likely because this will be the twenty-fourth time in my life that I've made a major move. That's major as in crossing oceans, states, or city lines, not just moving from apartment to house to apartment. I had gotten accustomed to thinking of this place as my final spot.

Yes, this mean walking away from two streams coursing through ancient tree-studded pastures. Yes, I'm leaving behind 20 new apple trees, plus six new jujubes and a persimmon that I was eagerly waiting to see. Yes, I'm leaving raspberries, apricots, peaches, a pluot, and new plums. And don't forget the elderberries, mulberries and artichokes. What about the three pastures that I took from baked red earth into lush water-absorbing soil that easily supports my sheep and pigs?

At minute four my shoulders relaxed. What I've done here, I can do anywhere. The women in my family live forever, so I've likely got another twenty-five or thirty good years. That's plenty of time to create the agro-forest I was beginning to implement here.

More importantly, it was clear in moment four that leaving this place meant finally closing the door on the still-raw memories of a spectacularly failed marriage. (I never do anything by half-measures. If I'm going down with ship, I can guarantee that the ship is the Titanic.)

The time has come for me to find the right property for me, one that I and I alone choose. This mythical property needs to have cool summers and not-too-cold winters. I need plenty of grazing acreage, because I will raise sheep and pastured hogs and possibly Jersey cows. It needs to be fenced for animal retention. It must have a barn that was always intended to house animals, not some makeshift construct that kinda, sorta works. It will already have pens big enough to hold rams in comfort, keeping them well away from me and the ewes I don't want to be pregnant.

I'm pretty certain I won't be finding a place with a stream running through it, at least not as long as I want to stay in the West. And, being a Westerner born and raised, I do want to stay in the West. If I can't see a mountain out of at least one of my windows, I don't feel like I'm home.

But being in the West means scarce water--that is, at least everywhere except The Farm on Oak Creek, which always seems to be springing a leak here or there. I'm ready for that possibility as well. Not only has the past seven years here confirmed what I've known since I was eighteen--that I want to farm--it's been an amazing apprenticeship. From water rights to raising fowl to milking cows to slaughtering pigs and sheep, everything I've done here has pushed me forward so that for the first time in my life I not only know what I want, I know what questions to ask so I get what I want.

Now isn't that just the way life is? It turns out that all the pain and difficulty was actually just what I needed. It's prepared me to take that next logical step into a future I never thought I'd have a chance to experience. I am woman, look at me farm!

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suemrotek 4 months, 2 weeks ago

OhNo! Just . . . NO. I've enjoyed your articles for so long, you can't just leave! Where will I, as a mid-west-farm-girl-at-heart, go for my "grounding" fix?

While I feel betrayed -- yah; that might be a bit strong : ), I understand your safety and peace of mind concerns, and sincerely wish you all the best in your search as you embark on another new (ad)venture. Sue Mrotek, Cottonwood

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