I have had a few blogs in the past. I always found it hard to keep up with them, I think largely because they were generally narcissistic, and had no real purpose beyond journaling in the public view…which is an awkward thing to manage no matter how you take it. Now I’m much more aware of what it means to write for others’ eyes, and also more aware of why the world needs good blogs.
For the past few months I have known that I needed to start again. In September I embarked on what I think will be a very long mission, of the many my life is bound to include: farming. I moved to Down to Earth Farm on the western side of Jacksonville, Florida, my hometown. It is common in other regions, where small organic farms are abundant, for the sort of relationship I have with this family to exist. I am a live-in intern. I work every day (five days a week), growing vegetables and building infrastructure for this brand new, tiny, intentional farm. We have an 8-member CSA, and we sell at a small green market (LINK TO MARKET) out at the beach. I get paid a stipend, as well as room and board, and I’m basically an additional family member here. I think of myself as the big sister to baby Olivia (although I’m only a few years younger than Brian and Kristin).
I wanted to start blogging again to share what I’m learning here. I also wanted to establish for myself the habit of doing so, with the hope that I will compile a good set of words over the years of this journey. The act of writing is a way to think, and the fact of writing for the public eye turns those thoughts into communications. The easily customizable, incredibly simple technology offered by tumblr and other blog sites makes the gesture of publishing accessible to nearly everyone who wants to try. It is the effect of making that gesture upon the thoughts themselves that I wanted. I just needed a title.
I recently watched Labyrinth again (and again…it’s so good). A few days later, as I harvested turnips and weeded kale, I kept humming a particular song from the handful that David Bowie wrote for the film.
Sometime later, this time as I was planting beets in compost, and tried to avoid the glassy needles of stinging nettles, I realized I had decided upon this name: the underground.
Not only does it give me an excuse to hum the title track from Labyrinth, and keep thoughts of totally sweet goblin-muppets dancing in my head, it is a rich and clear word.
Obviously, a vegetable farmer thinks a good deal about the soil. If you’re growing root vegetables you think about it even more. With a crop like purple top turnips you can’t avoid thinking of the interface between the soil and the surface.
We plant seeds at that interface, and we witness most clearly the action on the topside. What we don’t get to see is the incredible living net the plants stitch to keep themselves upright and absorb water from the soil. That happpens underground.
Perhaps not so obviously, I see myself, the farmers I live with, the activists I worked with here in Jacksonville, and others I plan to work with in the future, as part of a quiet but insistent revolution. Who planted the seeds? Was it Vandana Shiva, or Michael Pollan? Somewhere along the past several years a fertile idea was released into the culture: grow your own. A few of us heard the call. We turned around in the grocery store one day, surrounded by boxes, and saw the fallacy of the whole system. How on earth can we eat this stuff? Where on earth does it come from? As we began to answer those questions for ourselves we started, gradually but irrevocably, to walk back towards the land.
Now we are busily learning the ways of plants and animals, the ways of food. The science of fertility, of soil and roots and leaves. Our eyes and hands are fixed on that interface, the field.