The Soil’s Gifts   24 comments

There’s a bacteria in soil that has been shown to make humans happy by triggering serotonin production in the brain.

But there must be more to it.

— ∞ —

The garden has made me happy. I’ve spent a good number of hours working out there, on the days I’m not working as a farm hand elsewhere. I don’t work fast in my garden, but the leisure of digging in the soil is invigorating. I string out a bed and start raking it, removing clumps of sod, shaking out the dirt and tossing them aside. Occasionally I wear gloves, but mostly I don’t. The soil is good against my skin, caking itself into my hands’ tiny crevices, bits of the earth settling into my Life Line. As my hands turn black, my spirit becomes light, bolstered by the cultivation of life, the nourishment of future food.

Most of the garden to date has come from friends. Tomato starts and a multitude of seed from Ginger—from the farm I worked on last year—and a mixed tray of starts from Linda, who introduced me to farming. Appropriately, I use a mix of techniques from both farms—the 3-tooth cultivator Ginger relied on so heavily and the digging fork so prized by Linda. The Hori-Hori Linda gave me as a going away present is indispensable and always on my hip, ready for so many tasks.

— ∞ —

I can’t deny this took me partly by surprise. I’ve interned at vegetable CSAs for the last three years, yet every summer eventually brought me to the question of if I really would want this as my life. I loved being outside, the changing seasons and rhythm of the work, the soil, the incredible communities built, the care and love so evident day in and day out. I disliked the stress, the pace that could become so insane, the constant financial pressure obvious even to me, who wasn’t paying the bills.

Did I really want that constant sense of being on the verge? Did I want the stress of just barely getting by, day after day? And the work itself, or at least the pace of the work: it didn’t fit me, or the way I experienced the world when allowed to do so at my own natural rate and rhythm. It too often didn’t make me happy when happiness was the point of farming.

But by the time the season ended and winter rolled around, I always found myself ready to farm again, looking forward to the next season. An odd cycle.

— ∞ —

I wondered, too, if I would even be a successful farmer. Could I actually grow these vegetables if I were left to my own devices? I was relatively good at following direction—at being given tasks to carry out and accomplishing them. But I so often set myself on autopilot and allowed the rote process of finishing a task to take precedence over understanding what was actually being accomplished by that task. Even after three seasons of farming, the idea of being in charge of an operation of my own and successfully producing large amounts of food struck me as daunting, almost impossible. I doubted I had a green thumb and didn’t even trust in my ability to fake it, even after many cumulative months of assisting with the work of others with unquestionable green thumbs.

— ∞ —

The “garden” I tried to grow in 2010 didn’t help. I put in too little effort, in a poor gardening plot, and allowed budding philosophical beliefs to cloud an important truth in growing vegetables: that most cultivated vegetables are not nearly so hardy as weeds, and thus need some pampering.

I didn’t pamper them. I damn near abused them. And, worse, I at least partly took this as a condemnation of my abilities, when in reality it was just a lesson that I needed to provide more attention to the work I was doing—that I needed to actually take the steps I had learned needed to be taken.

I didn’t obsess over this garden and its failures, but it’s sad specter at times haunted my already-established self doubts.

— ∞ —

Then came this year’s garden plot. The beautiful soil, dark and rich and deep. The promise it held and its small whispers of the future.

It helped to get a small break from vegetable farming. Transitioning into animals and facing my first summer in three years devoid of the promise of the stress of vegetable farming, and all the doubts and insecurities that stress could inspire, left me better able to focus on the intense joys of growing food. The potential fulfillment offered by that plot came with almost no strings attached. It would be for me, no others dependent on this bit of earth (aside from the innumerable critters living in it, of course.) I could do it right, or at least to the best of my ability. And even if it yielded far less than hoped for, I would let it be learned wisdom rather than condemnation.

This was mine; I could do it as I wanted, at the pace I wanted. I owned this.

— ∞ —

It’s amazing the difference ownership makes. Of course, I don’t actually own the land. But I own what’s going to happen in that plot for the foreseeable future. I own whatever successes come of it, whatever failures, whatever lessons learned and joys experienced. I own the surprises and revelations. And my involvement will be intimate and complete.

It’s incredible how often during my three seasons vegetable farming that I would walk by a bed and not know what was planted in it, often times even when it was already up. Now, I know. Everything went in by my hands. I own it. I planned it. I guided and built it, then handed it off to all the creatures and natural processes that will ultimately do the vast majority of work. But I’m the instigator, and thus I know what’s intended to happen.

I’ve already realized how big a piece this is. I always suspected, when I questioned whether I would really want to have my own farm, that actual ownership would change the equation. The early results suggest just that. Doing this on my own—it changes so much.

— ∞ —

But what am I actually talking about here? What have I done on my own? Much of what’s in the ground and growing are starts from two of the farms I interned for. I’ve direct seeded, as well, and some of that is coming up. Some of it remains to be seen.

Also, though, what I’ve done so far is so small, and the pace so slow and leisurely. How could I not be enjoying it? How could I not be invigorated by it? Sure, it’s easy to enjoy it at such a simple pace, when the pressures of feeding other people and making a living aren’t bearing down on me.

Yet, I can’t help but think my happiness is the most important point so far. I find this joyful. I find this invigorating. Digging in the soil has proved a renewal for me, a source of life. Despite three seasons of prior farming and plenty of happiness in it, I didn’t trust that gardening would make me as happy as it’s proving to make me. I didn’t trust that it was the love I hoped it was.

But it is. And that opens up the future.

— ∞ —

The question now is one of possibility. It’s one of pace and scale. It’s whether or not this love can be a bigger part of my life. It’s what it would take, what work would need to be done.

I’ve been scheming the last week. Thinking about possibilities and wondering what kind of situation I might be able to devise. Thinking of how I could make this more of my life, of who I am and what I do. How can I expand this joy without losing it?

I think small, intimate, reasonable—yet even those thoughts are big. What could I do with a small bit of earth, my hands, perhaps one other helper, a steady pace, and little cash? How could I make it a bigger part of my life yet but not depend on it? Not force it to make my entire living? Not morph it into the disquiet of stress and constant worry?

I don’t have the answers to these question, but I have the tentative thoughts of possibilities. Possibilities that may be gone by next week or next month, granted, but possibilities nonetheless. What’s truly amazing to me is that it seems possible at all. It never felt like something potentially imminent before, in the last three years. It always felt necessarily farther away. Yet now it does seem possible, perhaps in the near future, even with the realization that this potential future could disappear at any time.

There’s something shocking and heartening about that.

— ∞ —

The soil gives life and possibility. It invigorates. It’s magic, what it can do.

What it can inspire.


24 responses to “The Soil’s Gifts

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  1. My guess is that they also live in compost that is still ‘working’ in the bins – since I’ve undertaken my recent volunteer ‘compost guy’ gig I’ve been extremely happy. ‘Stoked’ is more like it.

    • I wouldn’t be surprised, though that would actually be interesting to see if the bacteria is in compost. But, bacteria or no, I can’t help but think something about working with the earth just triggers all kinds of deep-seated (deep-seeded seems more appropriate here) responses. At the very least, it’s another connection to the natural world, and those connections seem bound to make one happy.

  2. I guess that I have a different view of the matter.

    I grew up in Northern Utah and spent my summers on at my Grandmother’s truck farm with either a hoe in my hand weeding or pitching bales of hay onto a slow moving truck. My time between those tasks was usually up in an orchard, thinning peaches and apricots, and picking cherries. It was constant, damn hard work and whenever I got back to school, I buckled down to make sure that I could make my escape.

    I always have a garden now, Usually just a salad garden in the front, maybe some potato hills in the back. I keep them to keep the idea in my head that I may just have to go back to the world of sore backs and exhaustion.

    Doesn’t mean that I look forward to the prospect.

    BTW: I have moved my place over to

    Monday morning are new posts

    • Yeah, I went through the same thing when I was a kid/teenager way back in the Pleistocene. We had a huge family garden that we all worked. I was responsible for the care, feeding and cleanliness of the chickens and rabbits – though I was allowed/encouraged to sell the surplus eggs for pocket $$. When I was old enough I was outsourced to pick fruit and other produce during the summer to provide more $$ for my school clothes, etc., etc. Then, during my high-school years I worked in the canneries during the summer. It was a required deal back then, all of it was hard work and I more or less resented being so put upon, but it was also a great learning experience.

      In later years I further developed my gardening/composting skills in my own gardens and began to appreciate what I had learned as a kid – even though it was still hard work. Now, however, since I no longer have ground of my own, I’m pleased to be able to volunteer my time and my anciently-acquired skills for a couple of hours (+/-) a couple of times per week and since I pretty much have control over what I do and when, I can work at my own pace to offset any aches/pains and/or exhaustion that might otherwise appear. Best of all worlds….

      • The control over your work seems like such a huge key. Being able to work at one’s own natural pace and ease back on the pace when it starts to create stress, pain or exhaustion makes a huge difference.

        Of course, such control means having a good amount of resilience and flexibility in making one’s living, which the future might not be as willing to provide as it has been in the recent past. I’m hoping it doesn’t end up being that harsh, though.

        I remember going door to door in the cul-de-sac we lived in when I was young and trying to sell eggs to the neighbors from our backyard chickens. We also would try to give away the ridiculously excessive tomato harvest, after doing tons of canning and still having plenty left over. If I’m remembering right, we sold a dozen eggs for $1, which seems amazing to me now. I wonder what my parents paid for chicken feed back then?

    • I remember working in the garden my dad grew when I was a kid. I watered and harvested primarily, from what I remember, and while I mostly have fond memories of it, I do remember being annoyed with having to do the work at times. Sometimes I just didn’t want to pick any more green beans. I think I did a bit of weeding, too, but nothing too terrible and I don’t remember too much hoe work.

      The last few years of farm internships, however, have featured plenty of days of annoyingly repetitive labor—or of days that just seemed they would never end, when all I really wanted to do was get back to my book, or crack a beer, or go to town, or do anything other than weed the carrots or work up a bed or pick more damn green beans.

      Luckily, my experiences have mostly been good. I imagine if I had to do the level of work that you had to do when I was a child, I would have developed some poor outlooks on the activity, as well. But I think avoiding that feeling is what I was getting at with the question of how could I make this more of my life, but without introducing some of the stress and frustration that would arise during the height of the summer in my internship. Perhaps that’s somewhat inevitable, and helps to cultivate the appreciate of the slow seasons and off seasons, or perhaps there’s a way to find a better balance. I don’t know.

      And, of course, farming isn’t for everyone—though I do suspect it’s for more people than realize it.

      Thanks for the link to the new blog. I’ll wander my way over there and get you over on the blog roll.

  3. Hi Joel,

    Nice post, you’re a soil poet! You have done the subject justice.

    Your mention of rote learning reminded me of the whole “wax on, wax off” Karate Kid movie analogy as you are learning even when you don’t think that you are. It’s amazing what you observe and learn by working with others. I’m particularly grateful for a neighbour that spent two days giving me tree felling lessons, even still a 25m (75-80ft) monster still gives me a bit of fear.

    Your vege patch is actually pretty massive and should be able to easily feed you, depending on your pest problems. Still pest problems for you are feed for another species (particularly the small birds and predator insects). If you get a chance give kohl rabi a go as it tastes like radish, but looks really freaky – almost like a plastic toy.

    I haven’t got my head around the whole seed versus seedling thing yet either. Some things i start in the house over winter by seed, others I just chuck the seed around, sometimes I buy seedlings from my local hippy supplier and still others I let self seed. It is hard to tell and I reckon it’s one of those things that take up to a decade to learn by trial and error for your site and climate.

    I’ve been a bit slack here and have an outbreak of sooty black mould on some of my citrus caused by ants harvesting aphids (or scale I think – not too sure as I haven’t identified the culprit yet). Oh well. Still being winter it’s pretty quiet and I had a big win by finding a missing Gooseberry Captivator this afternoon. A food forest gets a bit messy and I’m contemplating mapping all the species out so I know whats what. It’s all labelled with aluminium tags, but if a label blew off in the wind…. Oh well, more work.

    Had PC troubles this week so I’m refurbishing an old PC with some new bits tonight.

    Regards. Chris

    • Back in the 70’s I ‘owned’ (along with the bank) a steep 20-acre parcel that had been brutally logged that I set about trying to clean up. Along with a massive amount of downed and tangled material that the loggers didn’t take, It had a fair amount of unwanted (by the loggers) standing timber left but also a lot of “loners” and “leaners” that I decided to add to the pile of stuff already on the ground. So I became a firewood cutter and spent many a day attacking all this stuff with my ‘customized’ long-bar chainsaw. I soon learned that felling trees – even the ‘leaners’ – is no joke and not always as easy as it may look. They are easy to misread and they can kill you – I came close more often than I care to think about.

      Anyway, the moral of the story is that you’re right to have “…a bit of fear.” about attempting to fell an 80 foot tree. Until you’ve had a fair amount of practice with smaller ones I’d advise to just let it be. A tree that size carries a lot of weight – especially in its top – and can go any which a way no matter how careful you are and no matter how many wedges, etc., you use. Also, always be sure you have at least two – divergent – escape routes in mind.

      Good Luck!

    • Hi Chris,

      The garden is indeed big and will feed me and others plenty, assuming I’m successful in getting things to grow. It’s been slow going getting it all filled—and, well, it’s nowhere near filled yet, which is fine—but I’m slowly chugging along. I planted another couple beds in the hoop house of tomatoes, peppers and eggplants, and need to put in two more beds which will be filled out with more peppers, cucumbers, and probably some more basil. Outside, I seeded down some salad mix, arugula, mustards and lettuce mix. We’ll see how all that does in the heat of summer, but we’re talking about the north Oregon coast “heat” of summer, so it may be just fine. The small direct seeding of carrots I did awhile back are all up and looking good, but I think most of the beets were eaten by slugs. I’ll have to reseed those and I’ll probably put in another patch of roots. The potatoes seem about as happy as can be and I hilled those the other day. Squash is chugging along and I have a bunch more squash plants—summer and winter—that’ll soon be ready for transplant. Hopefully the winter will have enough time to ripen up.

      Anyway, so the garden continues on. I have help with it now—a couple WWOOFers who were up at the farm I interned on last year have moved down here and are living with me, helping on the farm and helping me with the garden. It’s been great. More on that soon.

      I’ve grown kohlrabi during my internships and need to get some seed for that to put in the garden, as well. I do like that weird little plant.

      One of these days I hope to have myself something of a food forest, as well. But I can see it becoming a bit of a jungle, so to speak, with plants getting lost or misplaced. Tags never seem to stay where they’re supposed to. Congratulations on finding the Gooseberry Captivator.

  4. Hi Martin and Degringolade,

    The work can be pretty hard sometimes. The hardest part I find is setting up the infrastructure and systems in the first place – especially given the majority of the food producing plants here are perennials plus I have no access to any infrastructure other than the road network. For example, if you need to burn timber to heat the place, you have to drop the trees, burn the heads, cut the firewood and season it for 1 to 2 years (in addition to the systems that capture the heat which themselves have to be maintained). I’m constantly thinking of the future and don’t really know enough yet to know whether I’m missing anything. Oh well.

    Regards. Chris

    • The 20-acre parcel referred to above was to be the basis for a ‘Back To The Land Escape’ for myself, my then-wife and our daughter. We bought it raw (post-logging), had a well drilled and an access drive put in and power brought to the well-head to power the pump and moved into an 8 x 35-foot travel trailer that we bought second hand. Our intent was to build a house and create our own personal paradise.

      The well turned out to be marginal, but I figured we could add some depth to it later and meanwhile pump and store what there was. So we acquired a used 1000-gallon tank and installed it next to the well and added a second pump and pressure tank to provide a viable system. After that I ran water lines to the trailer and garden location, built an enclosed shed next to the trailer with a roof that also sheltered the trailer (cooler that way in the summer) added a homemade compost privy next to the shed and a woodstove inside the trailer and we cozied in. Up to this point we had spent about $15,000.00 with a monthly land payment of about $175.00 and about a quarter of that for electrical power.

      We lasted about seven years (the marriage came apart many years later).

      Was it the hard work that did us in? I’d have to say yes, but only partly. Another part was the 40-mile round-trip commute into town to go to work (this was during the so-called ‘gas-crisis’ when you almost couldn’t find fuel, let alone pay for it). But another factor was that sometime during our third or fourth year someone drilled a new well downslope from our property and tapped into our aquifer big time; the yield from the well dropped by about two-thirds and there was as yet no $$ to go deeper. So I figured out a way to haul supplemental water a hundred gallons at a time from a nearby friend’s well (their’s produced something like 60 gpm) and pumped it into the storage tank. I also built a honking big roof over the wellhead and tank, adding a storage shed to the mix, and piped the runoff from the roof through some gravel and sand filtration into the tank, all of which provided us with enough H2O, but just enough.

      Our seventh winter on the land brought a big snowfall – about 3 feet, which is lot for the area where we lived – followed by a drop in temperature into the low 20’s F. that did in the power supply for about a week and thereby the entire water system – except for the now-measly well. That finally ‘did it’.

      We moved into a rental in town (about 20 miles from our property) and put the place up for sale. We never got the house started and we never did get a viable garden going. The guy that bought it was happy to get it for our listed $75,000. We bought a place in town and started an ‘urban homestead’.

      • Hi Martin,

        That’s a fascinating run down of your experience. Reading this and thinking about the Archdruid’s many times of rebutting the back to the land theory of going about things (or rebutting the fantasy of it, anyway) makes me happy to have stumbled my way into this feedback. I’ll admit to having engaged something along the lines of the back to the land fantasy at times in my life and these stories, along with my own experiences, have steered me more toward the idea of figuring out a microfarm/homestead situation a bit more integrated into a community. Not necessarily urban homesteading—as I think I’ve realized I don’t really want to live in the city—but at least in a community something along the lines of where I’m at now.

        Which is the possibility I’ve been mulling of late. Though that’s still very theoretical and dependent on many factors.

        Anyway, thanks for sharing that story. It’s good to get these little reality checks about how hard it is to go out and just tackle a blank piece of land and try to make a life out of it. Especially if you’re hoping for anything approximating a comfortable—even if very basic—lifestyle, in terms of what has become the norm. Pioneer life ain’t easy.

  5. Hi Martin,

    Thanks for your reply. Yeah, I’ve had some close calls too, that’s why I’ve got the fear. A couple of weeks back I almost dropped one onto the neighbours powerline – it missed by only a few inches (I can’t imagine the bill for the repair). When things go wrong with trees, it happens so quickly. Since then, I’ve started using a 8 tonne vehicle recovery strap and dog chain (about 30m in total length) hooked up to the Suzuki in low range to pull the trees in the right direction. Unfortunately I have the unpleasant task of the chainsaw operator. Around here every year or so someone gets killed by a tree. I speak with the old timers around here and in relation to trees I’ve received two great bits of advice:

    – “they never get smaller” – the eucalyptus species (eucalyptus obliqua) here can grow to a potential height of 90m under the right conditions which isn’t here, but further up the mountain range. The tallest here are about 50m and they are regrowth after the clearing in 1860 (by people from Oregon of all places – hence the name of this area).

    – “clear every tree within dropping distance of your house” – some of the deaths are from people being inside their houses when the trees fall over – and it can be a calm day – you just never know. The trees are hardwood and have a density of 650kg/m3 (I’m not sure what that is in imperial measurements but it’s heavy).

    Are you up in Oregon? I reckon the big trees grow in areas with well drained soil, so wells can be a bit of a problem. The neighbour who is a little bit higher up on the ridge than me has what we call a water bore (same as a well, I think but I’m not sure) so he can tap into the aquifier to water his garden over summer.

    I collect all of the water from my roof, but there are no filters or anything fancy like that. Why would you use a filter for rainwater? Does it make a difference over your way? I haven’t heard of people doing that here. The water drains into about 24,000 gallons of above ground water tanks. The bores here run dry during a drought year which is about once every ten years though so tank water is the way to go – which is when you need the water.

    The lack of infrastructure here, like with your experience, has been a nightmare. In a town or city, it works so well, that people never see it. The solar PV here is a bit touch and go for 3 weeks either side of the winter solstice (21st June), but otherwise runs OK. Things just go wrong without notice though, like drainage during a major storm. I’m finding that everything has to be setup so that it can survive the worst conditions, not the average…

    Sorry to hear about how your patch of paradise went. I work from my home office mostly so I can avoid the commute which would drive me bananas, so I can empathise with all of your difficulties and experiences (other than the heavy snow as I have no idea what living with that means).

    On another note, I thought maybe the experiences of yours and Degringolade’s of hard labour on a farm was probably indicative of a farm that has a small number of crops grown for sale. If on the other hand, you were working on a poly culture, there is less intensive work as the fruit requires picking from November (mid Spring here) to May (mid Autumn here). The difficulty with a poly culture is that sale of the produce is very difficult. Here there are about 300 different species of fruit tree in the ground so the picking (and hence work load), pruning and feeding is spread over the entire season so you don’t end up noticing the effort too much. Vegies and herbs grow all year here too so there really is never a major glut – except for tomatoes which ripen on the vine within a few weeks (50kg this year). Is it a commercial farm though – no. The best I could hope for is the local farmers markets.

    Regards. Chris

  6. Hi Chris –

    I expect that if we keep up this kind of correspondence on Joel’s blogsite much longer he’ll soon be censoring us – but, with that in mind, I feel compelled to answer.

    Yes, I live in Oregon (I was born here), and have for about 3/4 of a century. I’ve lived mostly in the Northwesterly quadrant of the state for most of that time, but spent a few years further south in a town named Roseburg, which, at the time (the 50’s) was one of the logging capitols of the Western World. However, since the Federal government closed the National Forests to logging some years ago, professional logging has all but disappeared in this part of the world. I currently live in the southwestern part of the state, about ten miles from the border with California.

    The problem with our water supply on the ‘homestead’ was a problem of the local clay soil, which was very deep, with an underlayment of hard, unfractured, volcanic basalt; a combination which disallowed local rainfall (of which we had about 48 -inches/year) to ‘perc’ into the water table very well – it just ran off instead. Our well water probably slowly worked its way into our little aquifer from many miles away.

    The filter I constructed was made of a long piece of 8″ plastic pipe that sloped from the roof drain to the tank inlet. it was filled with clean course sand from the lower end up to about the halfway point and from there to the top with clean 1/2-inch to 3/4-inch crushed rock with a removable screen on top of that. The purpose was to filter out any crud that landed on the roof before it got to the tank. Worked pretty well. There was also a standard household water filter at the delivery end of things. We felt this was necessary since we used the water for cooking, washing dishes, bathing and washing clothes, though we didn’t drink it.

    Although the failure of our back-to-the-land experiment was somewhat heartbreaking at the time, it all worked out for the best in the end. We learned a lot. We learned where our ‘edges’ were, and, most importantly I think, we learned that it’s o.k. to ‘fold’ when the cards aren’t right – you’ll get another chance another day.

    As a matter of fact, our follow-up ‘urban homestead’ worked very well for a good dozen years – until my ex and I split up. We put much of what we had learned (mostly about ourselves) to work, but at a much smaller scale. We had a really good organic garden, lots of cane berries, a few chickens (who not only provided eggs and an occasional bit of meat, but were also an integral part of the composting system), a small orchard (apples, pears, Italian plums and peaches), a much more manageable piece of ground (about 1/4-acre), bus service almost at the door for a 3-mile ride to work (neither of us were into bikes at the time) and, perhaps best of all, we had community in the form of an older village center only a short walk away. Compared to ‘the experiment’ it was heaven. By the way, not long after we moved into the place, I quit my job and operated my own consulting business out of my home office for many years, so my commute went away.

    On your ‘other note’: my early ‘farm’ labor was just in the family garden, which was pretty big, as such gardens go, but it wasn’t a farm as such since we didn’t sell any of the produce – we ate it. My later farm labor was as a hired picker on commercial farms, so it was a bit more intense than working at home.

    • Good lord, I would never censor this conversation. It’s way too fascinating. And I haven’t been posting anything, so I’m glad somebody’s putting up new content on the blog. Luckily, that lack of posting is due to lots of productive work rather than distractions. I might get a post up later today about that, or I might not. We’ll see. I hope so.

      Anyway, feel free to continue the conversation. I love it.

    • Oh, and your urban homestead sounds right along the lines of what I would like to do. I keep looking at this little manufactured home here on the farm and the land immediately surrounding it and imagining what I might be able to do with that . . .

      • I know you’re ‘city-shy’ (most likely due to your self-avowed attraction-to-distraction, I suspect), but don’t discount the possibility. Our urban homestead was in the Multnomah district of Portland and was more like living in a village than in the heart of an urban metropolis. Of course, we purchased the place in the late 70’s when prices for such property were pretty low although interest rates were in the high teens – which almost killed us, economically, until we refinanced. Anyway, food for thought.

        • I actually don’t discount it entirely. I love Portland, and I’ve often thought of having a little urban homestead in the past. These days, I’m more a fan of rural areas, though I like that I’m still within accessible distance of the city (for now, while transportation remains relatively cheap.) But you’re right, I do worry about my attraction-to-distraction. It’s much harder for me to stay focused on the work at hand in the city and much easier to spend money and go out. Though I think these days I have a much better handle on some of that, so it would likely be easier now than it has been in the past.

          The right opportunity would have to come along, though. I obviously couldn’t afford to buy land anywhere near the city these days. But I would consider it if somehow an opportunity did present itself. Having all that social access would certainly be nice.

  7. Hi Martin,

    You’re probably correct, although I suspect Joel enjoys the discussion too. Just in case, this’ll be brief.

    Interesting, the soil description is of deep clay over a volcanic basalt which = tall trees. 48 inches is a very wet year here and I’m as far south here as San Francisco is north (which is still south of you). The clear fell logging during the 1860’s/1870’s washed away part of the top soil here which causes more run off and less percolation, as the understorey and herbage has improved, it has improved. Maybe this is also the case out your way? Pasture and herbage can absorb a huge volume of water – I’ve seen a 57 inch rainfall year here last year.

    Ah, the filter, I see. We use a stainless steel metal mesh, which unfortunately can block up – usually during a summer storm if the roof and gutters aren’t kept clean – like the Tornado on Christmas day.

    Sorry to hear about the split, although your urban homestead sounds idyllic.

    Commercial picking can be hard work, but I find hard work very meditative.



    • Re: ‘hard work’ – I agree about it being meditative, but usually I find it’s only as ‘hard’ as I make it out to be. I even enjoy doing the dishes and mopping the floor as meditation.

      As for the ‘split’ – no worries, it was a long time ago and we’re on friendly terms. It was essential for our individual and mutual sanity.

      • I’m a big fan of washing the dishes, though I tend to be a bit water wasteful when I do it. But that’s a job I often volunteer for. I find it calming and meditative, as well.

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