It’s been a while since I’ve posted, but that’s mostly because there really hasn’t been anything new to post. Frankly, I’ve been waiting for the doctor’s appointment I had this morning in the hopes it would answer some questions about the lingering effects I’m experiencing.
No such luck.
It turns out that, all things considered, my test results came back great. My blood serum numbers are fine. My triglycerides and lipids are improving. My cholesterol is better than it’s been in years. My thyroid numbers are a-okay.
That seems like good news, and it is, but it doesn’t explain why I’m suffering such significant fatigue that I can’t even walk to the end of my driveway and back without being done for the rest of the day.
Frankly, I think doctor’s tend to ignore the fatigue complaint because everybody has it, but that doesn’t mean it’s not real and not affecting someone’s quality of life. I’m not complaining about my specific medical care so much as I am identifying something I think is endemic to modern medicine.
So, as things stand, I’m improving but also not. It’s all well and good for my numbers to have improved, but the fact is that, until I’m not so easily fatigued, I’m not better. How that improvement might come about remains to be seen.
I recently discovered that the building housing my coffee roastery is falling down. It’s an old brick garage, quite possibly converted from a carriage house at some point, that had the misfortune of taking a direct hit from a barn roof that blew off a decade ago. We’ve nursed it along to this point, making repairs along the way, but now the needed repairs are far more serious.
My first instinct was to seek out a professional to see how much it would cost to repair it, but then something odd happened.
I looked at the building.
If you could see it–I haven’t taken pictures, so you’ll have to take my word for this–you’d realize like I did that the people who put up that building in the first place weren’t professionals in the way we think of them today–that is, as specialists. The bricks aren’t always quite straight. The mortar work isn’t perfect.
In fact, most of our farm wasn’t built by professionals. It was built by the people who lived here. Ofttimes, they learned as they went, sometimes under the tutelage of someone who already knew, but just as often they just figured it out on their own. The did what they did out of necessity and need.
And the work they did has been good enough to last more than a century. We have a corn crib that could date back to the 1820s, built from hand-hewn beams. Our house was built in the 1840s, likely by the people who lived here from bricks fired right down the road . Our barn was built in the 1860s by the same people. And that garage probably dates to the 1880s.
What I saw when I looked at that garage was the labor of people who cared about this farm the way that I do. It’s not perfect. The years have taken their toll. But it was work they did that stood the test of time.
And it is work I can do too.
So, instead of hiring a professional or knocking it down to put up some ugly, sterile modern building, I’m going to teach myself masonry. I’m going to learn how to rebuild a garage they built 140 years ago. And maybe, somewhere along the line, I’ll have the chance to share what I know with others who want to know.
And that idea, I think, is what this farm is all about. I’m thankful I looked a that not quite straight wall with its not quite perfect mortar. It taught me something, and it’s a lesson I plan to learn.
Quite a few people have asked me over the past few years why it is that I decided to start farming. While there are a lot of reasons why I’ve decided to do this, I’ve discovered that many of them boil down to a simple idea:
I’m farming because you’re not.
Now, I know that answer suggests that if you were farming, I wouldn’t be, and maybe in a way that is true. But, I’m pretty confident that you’re not going to quit your job and buy some agriculture land or find a relative with a farm, and because you won’t do that, someone else has to.
The way I see things, far too many people expect someone else to provide for them. In the second decade of the 21st century, far too many people think that going to work to make money to buy things is equivalent to providing for themselves. Never mind the fact that almost everything everyone does anymore requires massive inputs of oil to happen at all.
From my point of view, the 21st century system of people working to make money to buy food produced by some of the most energy inefficient methods ever invented is the ultimate pyramid scheme just waiting to collapse. All it will take is price spikes, even deeper economic disturbances, or supply disruptions, and suddenly we have millions of middle class Americans starving because they have no way to produce their own food.
Hence the reason I’m farming: because you’re not.
Some people might think that my response means that I’m part of the problem, enabling people the way the rest of the modern system does, but I can assure you that’s not true. My philosophy differs from all but a handful of modern agriculture producers in that my goal is to feed myself and my family first, those I know second, and everyone else with whatever is left over after the first two things happen.
A lot of people recoil from my philosophy, including most farmers, and that reaction shows how far our attitudes about food have drifted from what worked for thousands of years of human history before the 20th century. Before the 1910s, when the idea of moving Americans off farms and into manufacturing and the suburbs began, almost everyone produced some amount of their own food, whether it was in a garden, as part of a local co-op, or as a farmer. As a result, even in the worst times, most people were well-fed, even if they couldn’t afford the other things that made life comfortable.
Now, virtually no one produces food. Less than 1 percent of Americans are actual farmers, and the number of people producing food through gardens or other means may be as low as 10 percent. That means as little as 31 million people feed 310 million people. What happens if they can’t?
And that’s why I’m farming: because you’re not.
Soon, I will be posting my 2011 10-10 challenge, and it’s as much a challenge as it is a test: plant a 10 foot by 10 foot plot of winter wheat this year to prove to yourself it can be done and to prove you’re not going to be one of the people starving if something goes wrong. Most of the people reading this post won’t do it, and I think that proves my point.
I’m farming because you’re not.