Fleeing to the Hills

With my back to the snow in Grass Valley, I dream of spring and peruse the Seed Savers Exchange website for heirloom seeds with titles like, “Eva Purple Ball Tomato” and “Burgess Buttercup Squash.” It’s a little late in the season but I’m not worried. I’m a gardener by default because I’m an eater at heart. I love food and spring doesn’t seem to be arriving in a timely manner this year. The seasons have shifted a bit and, while the equinox has passed, winter is still upon us. We have had nothing but rain for days in Sacramento and the foothills have had a pummeling of snow uncharacteristically late and low. The one weekend where we saw no rainfall was too early to plant, and the brief episodes of sunlight since have been, for me, filled either with an office job or errands. So I’ll be picking the last of my tomatoes in October.

Tomorrow my partner and I are meeting with a couple who own an organic farm in Nevada County, California. They are looking for care-takers to live on the farm and help out in exchange for food and board. The farm is on 10 acres and the couple has experience keeping bees. It’s exactly what we had envisioned and we are hoping it will be a good fit. The possibility has me dreaming of food and hoping the cat will enjoy her new rural life.

I fear our friends see our choice to move to a farm in the foothills as rash, escapist or as a form of avoidance. We are very fortunate that it happens to make sense for our family situation because my partner works in the area and has commuted from Sacramento for too long now. But it is also the perverbial “fleeing to the hills.” For me, it is about communing with the earth and it just so happens that there is not a lot of earth in downtown Sacramento. Further, it is important to me to find a community that shares my values, sees this moment in time as urgent and is taking steps toward food production, community outreach and neighborhood safety.

Like Michael C. Ruppert of www.collapsenet.com, I see the current situation in urban areas as dire and about to get worse. Specifically for Sacramento and many other counties, July is looking bleak. With the budget cuts to social services that are set to take effect July 1, many people who have been relying on the system to get by will face a terrible reality. Some will have to choose between things like gas to get to work or food for their children. Unfortunately, those types of choices turn honest people into thieves.

My fear of civil unrest is secondary to my desire to remove myself from dependence on fossil fuel and the aspiration to align myself with the earth and its bounty. Farming, using biodynamic principles and the permaculture model can create a symbiotic relationship with the earth that mankind, modern agriculture and industrial society has destroyed. Morally and spiritually, I feel that we must repair our relationship with the earth and I am looking for a life that will serve that purpose. I don’t yet know if the farmers we are meeting with tomorrow hold such a progressive vision but we may be able to help each other in that way. All new experiences and connections teach. I am excited to learn.

I think we can all agree that the world seems to be changing at a must faster rate than any of us could have imagined. The days seem to spin faster as resources become scarcer and scarcer. We are doing more work for less money, if we can find work at all. Benefits, breaks and workplace safety are compromised if present. News of disaster, war and revolution take turns littering the front pages of newspaper and websites. Still, none of us have stopped hoping for the health and safety of our loved ones; we all want the same things. This ever-changing present moment on earth may very well be our opportunity to work towards a sustainable, livable future. But we have to make collective choices about what we want that future to look like. Maybe we don’t build any more nuclear power plants. Maybe we fund farms and classrooms instead of bombs. Maybe we turn in our 9-5 work day and start a fall-summer work-year.

Life changes are stressful and life on a farm is not a picnic. My small frame is unafraid of hard work but that’s exactly what it will be: hard. I may be a gardener but I’m new to farming. I’m not going to lie. I’m frankly nerve-wracked. This step is a transitional moment in a journey that lasts a lifetime. And many more transitional moments are promised. Taking time to slow down, to plant things and to live by the seasons couldn’t be a bad idea. So here goes.