Editor’s Note: This is the third in an occasional series of personal reflections by Jewell on the challenges and rewards of making a new life for herself and her family in Sierra County.
I spent many scattered moments pondering what to write about next. Continue writing about isolating with two small children? What’s going on in the garden? Plans for the studio? Yes, yes, yes. I’ll write what I know, and I don’t know much else right now besides those three subjects. I would write some about conversations with neighbors; but, though they’ve been good, they’ve been short and minimal. My van has logged an additional eight miles at most the past month.
We don’t really go anywhere or do much, but, I must say, Truth or Consequences has been a pretty good place to do that. There’s little-to-no judgment passed, and anything that I do with my kids is praised, even though it feels to me like I’m doing the bare minimum. The things I wish I would do with Calvin and Daisy fall to the wayside when I give myself grace.
As many parents before me, I am doing my best, given the current state of the world and my current mental state. I often remind myself that “play is the work of the child.” They play, they’re fed, they’re happy and, even without sitting them down with specific lessons, they’re learning so much. We go for walks, read stories, play and watch regrettable amounts of the “Transformers” sci-fi action TV show. The kids are how I spend the bulk of my day. Before I know it, it’s bedtime.
I am with them constantly, soaking in every moment. The repeated comment, “They grow up so fast,” by elders passing by us doesn’t fall on deaf ears. I am aware of the fleeting moments. I see it when my son’s haircut is already lengthening or when he is slightly braver than yesterday or when my daughter says new words or grasps new concepts.
They are the inspiration for my garden. The thought that they will, hopefully within the year, be able to pick food to eat that they’ve helped grow themselves is fun to imagine.
The garden is still mostly plans, at the moment, and compost in progress. This has been the closest I’ve ever monitored my compost. I bought a compost thermometer and have been keeping a spreadsheet. As of today, I’m on Day 10 of 130-plus temperatures on my second batch. The results from my first batch are nothing less than beautiful and provide motivation to keep going. The contents were kitchen scraps, spent brewing grains from the brewery, leaves from a few yards, wood chips (that I chipped myself) and manure from cows that ventured over the shallow part of the river in front of the dirt dam and into our front yard.
During that short, half-inch rain we had a few weeks ago, I was out digging trenches before the sun, excitedly watching the water flow into the fresh mini-reservoirs and sink into the sandy soil as opposed to evaporating in the street where it would otherwise collect.
I’m getting used to the inquiries asking what the heck I’m doing. I’m debating about creating a page on my website to record the progress of my food forest (the name of which is still in brainstorming stages), as well listing the permaculture and regenerative agriculture resources I’ve learned from. I am confident that this preparatory work will come to fruition, but I am also trying not to be too naive to believe I can feed my family without failures along the way. It doesn’t help that many others, who have actually grown food here, tell me about their own failures. I don’t let it bog me down; I must keep hope alive.
My garden dreams include continuing to enrich the soil, harvesting any rain and greywater I can, planting a food forest and at least one other forest dedicated to wildlife and inspiring others to think and eventually move beyond sustainable agriculture to regenerative. You know, small, attainable goals—like greening the desert.
That’s what I get excited about. Progress, precipitation and hopes of a desert oasis food forest.
And, of course, my art. Over the last month or so, I’ve also been working on a large-scale commission of a blue heron, as well as countless other custom digital portraits that many used as holiday presents. The studio is getting electricity soon. The exterior still needs the first coat of paint, but the studio and all other items on my lengthy to-do list are patient and, for that, I am grateful.
We have collectively put a lot of pressure on 2021 to be better than 2020. I am ready for a fresh start, but also trying to remember all the flowers that grew in the steaming, hot pile of manure of this past year.
I hope you’re well. Deep breaths, drink some water, get some rest. We’ve got a new year, full of possibilities, ahead of us.