Hello and welcome to Adventures in Growing!
We have just decided in the last 6 weeks to take a huge leap of faith a follow our dream of learning to grow our own food and live in harmony with nature. We’d love for you to join us for weekly updates of our adventures. We have no real plan, very few resources and ‘next-to-no-knowledge’ currently. So we are all in for a ride.
As is often the case when you take a giant leap, a lot can happen very quickly, and we haven’t had time to stop and blog until now. So there’s a little to catch you up on; a little background before we up to get into the ‘here and now’ of what’s happening with our adventure.
I mean, how exactly did we find ourselves wanting to be farmers?
Rachel says: As John Lennon sang “Life is what happens while you’re busy making other plans” and this is exactly what has happened to me. I’ve been busy making plans to be a lot of things – mainly either a Research Psychologist or a Clinical Psychologist. However, other career plans have included: doctor, professional surfer, financial planner or chef. If there’s a career path, I’ve probably considered it. Despite repeated attempts to commit to a safe and respectable career path, life has been niggling away at me and trying to show me that what brings me joy is getting my hands in the soil.
I suspect the seed of this dream was planted in my heart 3 years ago when I heard someone at work use the word Permaculture. Next thing I find myself going to a talk about Permaculture at the Woodford Folk Festival. Soon after this I moved to London to once again pursue a respectable and secure life plan. Before I had even landed a job I found myself taking off to Findhorn and, you guessed it, getting my hands in the soil and loving it.
After 9 months of living and working in London, I realised I didn’t belong there and quit my job and decided to return to Australia. It was curious to me at the time that I chose to spend my few remaining dollars on enrolling in the Permaculture Design Course (PDC) back home. Returning from London was a relief and by the completion of the PDC I knew that I wanted to have a property, grow food and share this with others, but I guess I still saw gardening as a hobby and interest, not a career path.
I still felt I needed a legitimate career or profession. I also saw this as a vehicle to earning enough money to make my dream of growing food a reality. Because of my interest in healing, I settled once again on the plan to become a Clinical Psychologist. This all went well for a few months, but as the date for enrollments drew closer, I could feel my energy receding. Around the same time my partner Michelle had a meltdown (more below) and this got me on a mission to find a way for us to get some real ‘farm’ experience.
Part of my weekly ritual for the past 12 months has been food shopping at the Lismore Organic Markets. That week following Michelle’s meltdown I asked the farmers if they were interested in exchanging some knowledge for some volunteer work. I was directed by a couple of stall-holders to contact a farm that had previously had a stall at the market. Ironically, I had almost approached these farmers 12 months prior with the same request, as I was keen to learn and blown away by the quality and diversity of their produce (check out Summit Organics). But the timing hadn’t been right… and now it seemed like it was!
We were desperate to have a tangible, hands in the dirt, connection to our dream and we heard that they could use some help as rains had devastated their farm in early 2011. So we called and they were excited to have us and to teach us. At that point we had turned a corner and made a significant step towards our goal… the safe and secure career pathways were beginning to crumble… the seed that had been planted many years ago had started to sprout, and I had no idea what exactly was going to emerge…
All I can hope is that the 2-wise women who I quote below, know what they’re on about and their advice is worth following….
“Life is either a daring adventure or nothing”.
– Helen Keller
“Everybody has a calling, and your real job in life is to figure out what that is and get about the business of doing it”….”That’s what a calling is, it lights you up and let’s you know, that you are exactly where you are supposed to be, doing exactly what you are supposed to be doing. You have to know what sparks the light in you, so in your own way you can illuminate the world”.
Michelle says: Its kinda been the same but different for me. In some ways the beginning was moving from Brisbane to Byron Bay and with that move there was a very conscious intent to change my life, to slow down, to be more in relationship with the land and with myself and to follow my heart wherever it took me. I was consciously walking away from a life that I had tried to construct out of notions of how I thought my life should be. While it was clear that my old life wasn’t working, I certainly had no conscious intent to work on a farm at that point. I just wanted to stop trying to construct life, and instead allow life to flow through me…
Upon moving to Byron and leaving the city behind I dropped into a kind of self imposed retreat. I withdrew into my own company a lot. I slowed down. I slept a lot. I walked daily, often twice daily, with Harry (my dog) on the beach. I worked less. And I started to grow my own herbs in the back yard. It’s certainly not the first time I have grown herbs at home. In fact, I have always loved gardening, and food, so it wasn’t even a surprise that I enjoyed growing stuff. But what was awakening in me at this time was the realisation that I wanted to have this as an integral part of my life. I was coming into contact with a deep yearning inside of me for growing food and living in harmony with nature.
Throughout this time, Rachel was in London, trying on the BIG city life to see if it fit and pursuing her dream career. After about 9 months, it all fell apart for her and she realised that home was with me and Harry in Byron Bay. When she came back from London we moved into a bigger place together and on leaving my old house, I pulled up every herb I had planted. They felt like my children and I couldn’t leave them behind. I felt so connected to them and to that process of growing and I didn’t want to leave it behind.
Our new life together started in Bangalow, and Rachel completed her PDC almost immediately and then started working at the training farm. Our mutual interest was sparked by each other, and we really started in earnest to try and grow our own vegies. Rache was working at the farm and learning some things, and we were reading and watching videos in our spare time. Before I knew it we were out in the backyard having power struggles over where to plant things, trying to understand companion planting and learning to work together as a team in all kinds of ways. It was hard on us as a couple, we fought heaps, but our shared passion held us together. Personally, I loved the gardening aspect and felt a total affinity with it.
Around this time, I also remember thinking: “how can anyone get to 40 and not know how to survive off the land, not know how to grow plants, what seeds look like, and how to harvest the produce?“. It seemed so wrong not to have this most fundamental knowledge and I felt a burning desire to get it. We had just planeted our first crops and I was feeling really stoked and then suddenly we were told the owners were selling and we had to move.
It was devastating to me and my morale took a huge dive. But we had no choice and quickly found a suitable place and moved to Byron. Our new house, while beautiful and serene, was set in the rainforest and growing things has been simply impossible due to serious lack of sunlight. We have been in this house just over a year now, and if anything, the loss of our ‘kitchen garden’ at Bangalow and the poor growing conditions here have only fueled our desire to have our very own North facing block where we can grow things to our hearts content.
So for the last year we have been trying to steadily work towards this goal. I have been working and supporting Rachel and she has taken on homemaker duties as well as some study in Arts for pleasure. Rachel was planning to attend Uni in 2012 and complete a Clinical Masters in Psychology and then take over the income earning while I started the farming. So we had sketched out a rough 5-10 year plan. It was something… but would it be enough?
Well, around about 6 weeks ago I had me a little meltdown. I blubbered away for hours telling Rachel that I was missing the earth and that I needed to feel like we were on a more direct route to living sustainably and growing our own food. Five+ years felt like too long and there was too much risk that we would just get drawn further into the same old system again. My guts were screaming at me, my yearning was pounding inside me, and on the outside my life looked just the same… and I simply couldn’t stand for it any longer.
I’m so glad for that meltdown. Rachel listened deeply to me (as she does so beautifully) and took it upon herself to find a way to immediately get my hands in some soil. Well, within 2 weeks we had made contact with an Organic farm that needed helpers and by the third week we were out there working, helping, learning, growing…
So this is where our story begins… we don’t know where it is taking us, but we are excited and have packed some sandwiches for the adventure… come join us!!