My Garden

So many things. Looking out across a haze and realizing it is me. My garden. The dust off the disc I’m pulling. And so many things. The only reason I can see is that I’m directly beneath giant crackling power lines drooped between towers every tenth of a mile. A direct channel cut the way a river dug, shaved the way a razor does. At one time, both creating and destroying this view. 

I think my grandpa felt brilliant when he decided to garden here. Four acres under a power company easement he’ll never get out from under. A sort of real-estate-recycling. Not normal power lines, mind, these are cables connecting two plants together. It’s nuclear and coal combined above my head, where papaw said a light bulb would light up if I held it up high enough. Got paid for the easement, can’t plant trees on it, but shoulder high corn and mound-sprawling peanuts and the juicy expectoration of squash plants up from the ground. Ground he can’t build on or develop. But a collaboration with sunlight eating, root-based life forms in a surface level nutrient mining endeavor, also known as, gardening, it is the perfect spot. Gentle south facing slope.

Four acre field, he called it, the sixty year old question mark shaped man who farmed it. And if he had worked any other part of the land, then we would not have this commanding view from the grinding bucket throne of a geriatric tractor seat. I can see a mile. I can see my great uncle’s old place a hill or two over. I can see a truck with evening piercing spotlights floating like an earth-satellite splitting a wide green field’s black night. But mostly, I see all this taupe dust in the late May, late day, dying light. 

It’s my father’s land, his father’s and his mother’s, and his grandfather’s father before him, floating, off, and we will never see it again. Only the most fertile stuff takes off on a whim like that. The best of the best will always be less beholden to the rest, that’s what we do to people when we tell them they’re the best. We take them off their team. Remove the heat, kill the steam. If I did this enough, I’d lose my garden’s bite, I’d dull its teeth, but once, in a time crunch, on the unguarded border of late spring, North Carolina drought, I could get away with it, and have to, if I want to get it planted by Sunday. Before the rain comes. If all my neighbors, and every farmer for miles did this, we’d create a sizable cloud, enough to squint the eyes of people in town, and if we did it enough, for months, for years, we’d fill up that old dusty bowl full with so many years ago, and the ground would shake from so many old heads shaking in their graves. 

So many things. So much to see. When the power company came through and cut the trees they buried them in long, not so shallow graves along the way. Since they have rotted and collapsed and take up not even a tenth of the space they did in life, there are just massive rectangular divots every acre or so along this regularly mowed river of hovering, frightening, electricity. Like graves who spat out their guests sit gaped, the dirt that once filled them long washed away. A half mile of haze. Churned up by rolling discs that sat for twenty years in the expanse between a grandparent and a grandchild.

If I could have done it any other day, if there was a way I could have waited for the rain, I would have. But there are so many things. So much to think. And then again, there really isn’t. 

To think my grandpa is somewhere buried beneath the same stuff in these clouds of dust, that his old set of garden discs has risen.

The Final Frontier

The future we imagine for ourselves in science fiction and culture in general, is probably two thousand years away. Our final frontier is still right here in front of us. Would you like to know how many times I’ve explained how chickens lay an egg every day to fully grown people who have eaten them their entire lives. Or the necessity of pollination to people more comfortable believing their plants aren’t producing because they read their Farmer’s Almanac the wrong way and not the product called insecticide they and their neighbors dumped all over their gardens. All vegetables and fruits are byproducts of a kinky inter-species three-way that’s been going down for the last one hundred and thirty million years. Our planet is a whole other sort of billionaire. We aren’t descended from monkeys. But we are clearly mammals. There’s no arguing that, we’re already trading milk with one another, dabbling in raising one another’s children. Clearly human beings are a part of a massive extended family. We’re all bound by the same rules and needs.

We’ve exhaustively answered the question of how a creature can know it all and understand nothing. We can’t do that another two thousand years. We’ll extinct ourselves long before that.

We don’t understand the earth we stand on. For example, you’re not sitting upright right now. Think about where you are on a globe. You’re jutted out sideways slightly down or some other absurd direction, depending on where you are. And you’re spinning and flying through space. And if you dig deep enough, you’re actually floating on a giant terraform raft bobbing up and down on the fat Santa belly of lava that gives our planet its rosy cheeks and cheery disposition, also our mind-boggling magnetic force-field that shields us from a constant bombardment of solar radiation that surrounds us, so much so one could describe a Solar System in terms of planets that exist within the outer atmosphere of their sun. Think about this, we’re being pulled and held by a gravity that extends outward from a central point within the earth. It pulls us, as it radiates out, and pulls and holds the moon, while still going out to tickle comets and asteroids into buzzing close by us. How the hell does gravity reach with a force that only attracts.

How does gravity extend outward while pulling inward, how long can intelligent life forms live on a planet before they committedly seek to understand it, before they break the hypnotic lifeless species-wide stare into the dingy fun-house mirror of our own incestual, violent, derisive and divisive cultural memory, our naval gazing religions, our self-obsessed youth worshiping. I’m fine with all of it as long as we understand, really know the story behind where chickens come from, how eggs are formed, long before we develop species-wide nutritional dependency on them. Water tables and topsoil. Constellations and art. Anyone who has really known a single acre of land has dabbled in this pursuit we call the future.

The final frontier. Only it isn’t out there. It’s the next two thousand years.
We need to learn how to really live here.
We need to understand our current way of life was shaped out of fear.
We need the sort of breakaway only a quiet life in the country can afford.
Go back to the very first drawing board.
The wilderness you’re at war with otherwise called your backyard.
I’m here to tell you, what you’re really fighting is a farm.

Comfort Squash

The mask is off the sun and that hot damp breath summertime is full of wickedness and germs. Dainty powdery white moths sew caterpillar seeds all over tomato plants hairy as spider legs. Tiny tinny metallic beetles have snipped the tassels off corn like old men plucking hair from their ears. So they can hear. The raspy phlegm crackling off powerlines. The pop pop pop of someone’s hair triggered insecurity across the countryside. The silent stuffiness hooked like fish on a trotline of trees. Clouds look like milk poured in water. Milk looks like clouds squeezed into stainless steel. The grass is dying. Trees are thriving. 

It takes over eight minutes for the sun to close the distance between us. That breakneck pace, that lonely brimming emptiness, for eight whole minutes, like a bullet from a gun in a vacuum with nothing like air to impede it. Strikes skin and stops still hot. A planetary tanning bed basked in the affordable glow off nuclear fusion. 

Earth. Where infinity finally meets its Zucchini.

Robin Neighborhood (The Knowns – Part 4 – Final)

A thousand wrongs would be thwarted if food were a right. If we had some kind of great American dinner every night, everyone invited, working with food producers and land owners and each area making their own particular regional flavors. Doesn’t matter what is served, just that it is for everyone. An invitation into the slower moving, brick and mortar economy of agriculture, which, if we paid people not to buy combines, could employ all of us endlessly, even if base pay was just a roof and food for the next foreseeable forever. Two hundred years, maybe they’ll cure cancer. In two hundred years, maybe they’ll make that better battery. I think even a goal as simple as this could occupy a nation as great and far reaching as America: buying time.

Let’s make our goal getting our country to the end of that next two hundred with a stabilized economy, with basic necessities and vital products and services like healthcare and potable water not only treated as rights, but organized with concrete, regional, local infrastructure with manageable figures, so homelessness and unemployment are jokes in two hundred years. If we plant trees we’ll never sit in the shade of. If we take this money obsession of ours and buy our kids and their kids some time, that would be something. That’s my angle. Stop letting what I don’t know get in the way of what I do. As long as I, and everyone I know, is alive, we are going to need food, water, and shelter. Those are forever-needs. It’s listed at least three times invisibly on every block of every calendar.

Agriculture is real estate. Agriculture is neighborhoods. Downtown. Agriculture lines highways and fills otherwise empty ditches. Agriculture is Revolution. The Revolution must be an economic shadow. Funded by nature, housed in sprawling farms all across the countryside. It is no longer enough to steal from the rich to supplement the poor.

We must now steal the poor from the rich,
and give them back their selves.

The Knowns (part 1)

All concentration of power is corrupt. Like how you can’t take a footstep without crushing something. So all footsteps are corrupt, says the ant. Intentions be damned. When deciding whether or not to trust someone, don’t take their promises for proof. Do they have the right to say sorry to you. Do you trust them to fail, knowing their failure is the progenitor of more than a thousand successes. We all make mistakes. Kings. Governments. Corporations. Gods have apologized before. The more power you give a person, an office, a title, only increases the consequences of their carelessness.

Who knows if we’ll cure cancer, or learn how to postpone old age, or master nuclear energy or muster a flying car in our lifetime, we’re still struggling to build better batteries but the propaganda of our society would have us believe we’re on the precipice of answering the mystery of the universe like it was a multiple choice question. See. Progress. I don’t know. Some things aren’t happening because they just plain won’t. Cancer is harmful mutation, life is what, positive mutation? How do you cure your source?

I say we put it on hold, because we are like children in the knife drawer, we aren’t ready, as a people, for the technology we’ve begun to explore. I say we focus on the knowns. In two hundred years we’ll be as hungry for fresh air as we are now for food. Clean water will entail a chemical equation. We’ll exclusively have picnics on rainy days. The sun will eventually become the bright cloud looming over all our nightmares. There will be no new magical source of food. It will be the same as it ever was. Alongside iron, steel, plastic zip ties, sustenance will be reshaped into shackles.

Jack-in-the-Pulpit

A creekbed drops ten feet and I can see bright green tops of adolescent trees, shaking. I just fenced a solid quarter acre of late April and let eighteen goats on it. Soaking wet morning after full rain, they’re up first thing realizing the boundaries have changed. They seem so predatory, considering they’re plant-eaters. I suppose if something can’t scream we don’t attribute it to the same value system. These bony, thick bodied and thin legged vultures rip and bark-strip their immobilized, submissive prey. Fleshy unfurled ferns and green razor wire and so much poison ivy my eyes itched. 

My heart now light and airy as jack-in-the-pulpit down low in a morning breeze. 

I feel vindication for the work I’ve done over the last two days. 

I’m looking twice everywhere I scratch and watching new life devoured incrementally by many goats. And if I stretch my awareness a touch, I think how I’m going to drink that treeline in my coffee tomorrow morning. I feel like if the world were a perfect circle, it would have ended where it began. It didn’t. And though the earth is round, I feel nature is spiral like a sprig of DNA. It does come back around but not to the same place,
or ever the same way. 

A herd of goats annihilates a creekbed
and old notions of predator and prey.

Chickeninity

I forgot how much this work likes to graffiti your hands and wrists, and, even in the off season, we all started getting poison ivy again. I figured it out. It’s coming in with the firewood. I’ve spent hours at a time just working and lingering in my pasture, one among the herd of eleven goats, and I discovered hoof issues, an abscess, and two, at my best estimate, a week from giving birth. Five more to kid after them, fingers crossed.

I built a new chicken coop in that time. Spent eight hours cutting midsized White Oaks and tracing them with a draw-blade until they were nude and pink. Night before last, around eight fifteen, Roan was in bed, my wife and I went out and carried every one of twenty five chickens to the new coop. After having helped me with this chore, she no longer eats chicken. For now. It is an ever-intimate experience holding a helpless animal in your arms that fully believes you are about to end it. I’ve been in this game a while though. I tuck one like a football between my belly and elbow and grab the other one by its feet dangling upside down so that I can carry two at a time. I care for the animals, I do, enough to separate my humanity from their chickeninity. It’s an awkward situation. I believe until that terrible day comes, the birds really just want their basic needs met and enough space to be left alone to chicken. I built that for them. It’s the best coop I’ve ever made.

Every chore was a domino in succession. Knocking that one out freed up the next old, disgusting, decade worth of shit filled domino to fall. A half an old tractor shed sequestered off a decade ago to put chickens in. It was hard, I’m still coughing up dust that probably has particles of my grandfather in it, but at the end of the day, the goats essentially lost a disgusting neighbor, annexed and upgraded their condominium and now have a whole building to themselves, to hopefully fill it up with healthy babies.

Having land is one thing, but going out and spending time there is the only way to keep it.

Simply Put

It’s about renovated bathrooms and kitchens and putting new floorboards down on corrupt foundations. We need a more solid base. Government hit the track running, declaring for us, by us, a bill of rights more for us than by us. I believe in balance. Two way streets. Other than signs and painted lines and flashing lights, every road goes both ways. No matter who or what says otherwise. Remember that. We need a Bill of Rights, over authority, for government, because without it, they’re keeping us arguing over simplistic basic functions of human society established outside of time. Beyond constitution and revolution and justice systems. Food. Water. Shelter.

We’re launching missions into outer space, subsidizing single crops and mandating the price points of others. We are arguing decisions that are only to be made by trained, certified doctors. With no other natural resource for them, we’re policing medicine, as if people seeking health were criminals.

I don’t care the color of tile we choose for an upstairs bathroom if the concrete left corner of all of this is sinking into ever-softening earth. When there are termites enjoying the joists for breakfast, we should not discuss building new nooks to take meals in watching the sun rise. While gravity takes bites out of the high rise and everything metal gets dressed up in rust.

We, the people, need to write rights for our government to operate by, and before we’re all provided the resources to reasonably feed, house, and water ourselves, there is no higher priority on the agenda.

The founders knew a bureaucracy would be so confounding to the common people we’d fall under it obediently confused and subservient as if legalism was a new kind of steeple, for what is an altar without a gavel to bang it and summon up unsettled verdicts like they were lingering spirits. I don’t want to argue the way things things have been done. The founders invested the lives of our ancestors in the pursuit of freedom and left slavery in the system. Their ideas, their version of quality, is moot. We need to take our way of life down to the root, and start again.

Representation is the curse that has beleaguered this nation. Representative currency. Representative government. Representative freedom. And since its establishment, it has kept farmers, landowners, food producers, too tired and too busy to build any kind of revolution comparable to the first one. We need an agricultural economy, built locally into the infrastructure of every corner of our country. Barter based. Community supported. Democratically governed.

Everything else can remain the same, but the economy that dictates the prices of new Mustang convertibles or used iPhones or shiny logos on tennis shoes should not be the same one that determines the price of food, medicine, life giving water, or me and you. That economy already existed long before America, before Europe, before anyone conceived of something so big as a continent enough to name it. A farming, agricultural, basic, solid, slow changing and frustratingly consistent system at the bottom of our big, grand, shiny, plastic, expensive, current one.

A food, water, and shelter economy. One that recognizes the inarguable fact that poverty is, simply put, just another word for death.

Project Local Inc

We have a lot of projects underway, mostly in the planning stages, but a few are in the resource-gathering phase. We’re building a farm unlike any other agro-business I’ve ever experienced, but still, at its core, a farm. With the weather being what it is, all or nothing for the past little bit, crop farming has been a precarious endeavor. Yes, I am working on gardens, and we will be doing quite a lot of crops, but I’ve decided to not depend on it as the initial endeavor for Project Local’s food production aims.

The first two major items we’ll be focusing on are eggs and goat dairy. I recently raised up over twenty Ameraucana pullets that were just moved to the outdoor coop last week, and about two months ago, we added seven new goats to the herd, five of which are high quality Nubian breed milkers, which have (as far as I can tell) been bred successfully. Meaning in a matter of months, we’ll be basically covered up in milk and eggs and bleating little baby goats that sound exactly like the wrong answer on a gameshow.

I’m looking for people who are interested in participating in these processes in whatever capacity they can manage.

We need milkers, bottle feeders, egg collector and cleaners, and general help repairing barn structures, and building a brand spanking new chicken coop from the ground up. I’ve been doing farm and labor work for a good while now, and I can assure you, no one who helps will walk away empty handed. Each work opportunity will be handled on an individual basis, consistent with the needs and offerings of whomsoever is doing the helping.

I’ve done the paperwork, we’re a certified public charity, so monetary and asset contributions will receive a receipt, and will be counted as a donation to a certified 501(c)(3), and qualify for tax deduction. Money is always helpful, but items and equipment are just as good, here’s a list of what we need ASAP:

Lumber
Chicken Wire
Building materials: Nails, screws, hinges, etc.
Bags of concrete
Electric Fencing Materials: wire, insulators, grounding rods, etc
Tractor attachments (if you can find or have them) mostly for an IH Farmall Cub tractor, primarily a Box/Scrape Blade
Wood Splitter
Wood Splitting Tools: Wedges, Axes, Mauls.

Also, time and labor is always needed, and will be paid in produce, eggs, milk, as well as wages.

I’m happy to teach anyone interested how to milk dairy goats, how to take care of laying hens, how to build simple lean to shelters, run farm equipment, and till and plant gardens.
For the past decade, I’ve been doing about a thousand things at once that all seem separate and unrelated, and I can guarantee you, they are not. If you’re an artist, an office worker, retailer, factory worker, landscaper, teacher, student, the ways are almost infinite and innumerable how the skills and talents and patience and strength developed on a farm will overlap with the rest of your life.

The purpose of Project Local is not contained purely within food production, but in the experience of working with the land, growing a vocational base of experience and skills, to proliferate back out into the, for lack of a better word, secular world. We start where we are, and project outward, like a vine, always knowing at any time we can return to that radicle, that base, of what all it takes to wrest a life nourishing resource from the land.

I guess you could say Project Local is an insurance provider of sorts. The parachute of food production is worthless if you don’t know how, and when, and where to pull the cord. That’s why I started Project Local, that’s why I am building my farm as a non profit. The aim is education, and there is only pass, no fail.

The greatest mistake you make on a farm will still end up feeding the chickens.

Let me know if you’re interested, we’ll work out a time for you to tour the farm, and we’ll go ahead and start building a team so that when the milk and eggs all hit in a few months, we’re ready.

I get to choose

My grandpa only ever knew me as a little boy. I only knew him as an old man. But every day I work on his land, I stand under his trees, hold his soil in my hand and watch it drift away in the breeze, he knows. He sees.

I’m no longer a little boy.

The old man is buried beside a church in town.

But when we pick up antiques and put them to work, when we give our backs to what we’ll never get back, we can no longer call it memory.

Eternal life might be secondary to eternal use.

That’s why I prefer stories to memories.

Anytime I get to choose.