We’ve been helping out on a local farm here in Fredericksburg that specializes in native trees and jams. My dad does all the maintenance, repair work, and custom fabrication on the owner’s equipment so that’s how we came to know about the farm. They had a small chunk of land in their tree field that needed either a cover crop or some fall crops planted, and so we volunteered to help get things going. We offered our help with a blunt disclaimer: along with being unfamiliar about the climate here, the composition of the soil and local pests, we are still novices when it comes to farming, and we couldn’t guarantee how long we’d be in Texas. It felt like somewhat of an anti-resume, but honesty is the best policy and we still got the job.
Despite all that, we did contact some established farms nearby to see what they’re planting this time of year as well as the local agricultural extension office and some local nursery stock and seed suppliers to get a feel for the area. While E has been doing most of the day-to-day maintenance and watering of the plot, T and I helped get the plants in and the water set up.
We planted about 800 seedlings (spinach, broccoli, cabbage and cauliflower) as well as about 400 onions and some garlic. The night after we got the majority of the seedlings in, a giant storm came through, dropping over 3″ of rain. We were both up all night wondering if everything had been washed away, but the little babies held up pretty well.
It feels good to be back in the dirt again!
We stayed with my parents for the first few weeks after arriving back in the States, and their patience was truly remarkable. Along with us, we brought baggage. And I don’t just mean our backpacks. We brought our wild child in the midst of asserting some serious independence while also trying to adjust to all the recent traveling, jet lag, irregular naps, mealtimes, etc. It was a wake up call to me that it was important for us to establish some normalcy for him and start setting more clear boundaries. I also brought with me a certain amount of anxiety about what our next step would be, since I’m type A enough that not having a plan tends to freak me out. E probably had some baggage too, but he plays it so cool that I have yet to discover what it might have been.
We decided to rent a small apartment here in Fredericksburg until we decide on the next phase of our lives. We found a cheap, little apartment that would do a month-to-month lease for us. While we don’t have any of our furniture here, we thought it best to get through these hurdles with T in the privacy of our own space. With some borrowed furniture and dishes from family, we’ve set up shop and are open for business. Upon moving in, however, we’ve discovered less-than-awesome perks and this morning I found myself googling ‘nontoxic ways to get rid of cockroaches’… not cool. The previous tenants also smoked, but the landlord tried to pass it off as ‘new carpet smell.’ I picked up a part-time job since we’ll likely be here through the holidays and we’ve also picked up some farming work nearby.
We feel a little hippie for Texas, but we’ve been getting involved and everyone has been really welcoming. It’s been a lot of fun to be near my parents and grandparents. T runs excitedly to them when we see them, gives them hugs and kisses when we leave, and gathers his toys to show ‘Gamma’ and ‘Gampa’ when we’re getting ready to head over there for a visit. Having always lived so far away from family since having T, it brings me such joy to see him develop relationships with them in this way.
Okay, off to mix up some baking soda and sugar in an attempt to explode some cucarachas.
T turned two years old a few weeks ago. Since all our friends with kids are in other states (or in France) we decided to take him to the San Antonio zoo. He’s seen his share of farm animals, so we thought it would be fun to see some animals of the more exotic genre. My parents went with us, and it was a fun day. The monkeys were in full action, swinging wildly all over the place and putting on quite a show. Now whenever T is at the park he hangs from stuff yelling, “monkey!!”(am I supposed to put a . here? I never know about that one…) The big cats and bears were lazily snoozing in the shade (as expected) but we had fun seeing the elephants, snakes, giraffes and the swimming hippos where you could watch them underwater.
We followed up with a spaghetti dinner with his great-grandparents, carrot cake and then opening presents. He played way past his bedtime high on carrot cake, but it was a really nice day and we feel so lucky to have this funny little man in our lives. We reflected on the day he was born, and how it feels like he’s almost a different person now. Once a completely dependent love-lump, now a feisty independent (no political affiliation intended).
Much to our surprise, he counted to 5 the other day while playing hide-and-seek with E and simultaneously peed on E’s side of the bed. Frankly, I was pretty excited about the whole thing – he’s learning numbers and he didn’t pee on my pillow. I love this kid!
We’ve now been back in the States for about a month, and somehow our six months of traveling feels like it happened eons ago. I’ve had some time to reflect on our journey and discovered that while my hindsight is only about 20/40, I still find value in retrospection. While the last month of our time abroad was intended to be spent off-farm and somewhat nomadic, visiting friends and taking a ‘vacation’, we found ourselves losing focus on our mission to learn about farming and spending money at an alarming rate. Despite living in a campground and eating out of grocery sacks for all but less than a handful of meals over the course of two weeks, we found ourselves getting worn down trying to save money. It’s one thing to travel for a brief vacation and live it up, it’s quite another to try and live sustainably on the road for a long period of time. A load of laundry would run us about $15 and a muddy patch of ground to camp costs $35/night plus the cost of electricity and bus tickets to town. I found it difficult to maintain enthusiasm for such a strenuous trip when we had no opportunity to fully recharge, no place to temporarily retreat from travel mode.
And so, I still feel like coming home pre-New Zealand was the right decision for all of us. T is now completely weaned and sleeping through the night in his own bed in his own room. It’s funny to think that I’ve probably had less than one month’s worth of full nights of sleep in the past two years, and I’ve taken that back up with gusto. We are also making great headway with potty training, and I don’t think these developments could have happened as easily on the road.
We value our time on Green Fire Farm and Deck Family Farm immensely. The exposure that we had to farming there and the good people we’ve crossed paths with left us with a sense of belonging and pride and hope about the future of humanity. If they were only the majority… Our time in Ireland was a mixed bag, but our last farm stay proved to be a lot of fun and we learned a lot there too.
Sometimes I think, should we have just worked on domestic farms? Should we have skipped going overseas? But I know that the answer is no. I think we needed to rattle our cages a bit and toss ourselves onto the rollercoaster of freedom to appreciate being grounded when we land again. I think we also needed to prove to ourselves that we were in fact free to move about this world and change our existence in it, even with T. It was important for us to trust that things work out, and to open ourselves to new experiences as crazy as they were.
So ‘hindsight’ may be a bit premature since we’re still in the midst of this transition, but this trip hasn’t really turn out like either of us expected it to. But I have to ask, whose does?