Raising Some Roots

NOTE: This post will be much longer than the posts thus far, for there exists much to share.

NOTE 2: I have attempted to write this post several times now, and each time, I have felt completely overwhelmed by the amount of information and new experiences I feel responsible to convey. I would say that’s a good problem to have. I have come to recognize there is just no way I can possibly explain all that is happening around me and to me right now. These “Journal” posts of this blog must not be mere play-by-plays. First of all, that would likely bore you. Secondly, that would make each post about eight thousand words. My words will not capture my experiences; however, they might honor them. While I cannot promise consistent chronology, I can promise my greatest effort to share with you all the amazing things happening here at Raisin’ Roots Farm and beyond in Fort Collins, Colorado.

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I am now living on a farm.

I’m living in the RV pictured below. Younger folks than myself might describe it as ‘dope.’ I would describe it as a perfect situation.

I sleep on a plush foam mattress that receives me each night with compassion. I’ve got my own little curtain-contained nook that feels like a personal meditation sanctuary. The windows hang open through the night, and I fall asleep to the faint chirping of crickets, the water trickling softly into the nearby pond—though, if I’m being honest, these Zen vibes are sometimes infiltrated with the sudden burst of howling from the three dogs living on the property, all of whom have bared their fangs at me at least one time. Regardless, each night, I have slept peacefully, and each morning, I have awoken at sunrise.

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My home until October 31st

It is not my custom to awaken at sunrise. I like to sleep. But I’ve been popping out of bed at 5:30 with no problem. I put on warm clothes (it’s been about 55 degrees in the morning), slide on my sandals, and take a stroll around the farm. The lone rooster crows. Otherwise, I hear only the birds and the wind.

I greet the day with a ritual of gratitude. A wonderful woman in my life taught me to offer tobacco, a sacred herb, to the earth. I lay down the tobacco, stretch, and do a few Sun Salutations. As I pause and breathe, hands to the ground, I thank the earth for all it gives me, for all the nutrients it offers my body without asking anything in return. Then I think of the people in my life, my family, my friends, who so support this strange journey of mine, and I let my gratitude for them fill my body. Finally, I thank the Universe for the new day.

Then, at 6:30AM, we get to work.

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Those plants are growing food! Wow!

I underestimated how challenging the work would be. Anyone who works regularly on a farm would laugh at my ignorance. Of course it’s hard work! And it’s work that is so under appreciated.

I work until 2:30PM, which is hours before Ben–head honcho farmer extraordinaire–and Sam–Ben’s apprentice and fellow lover of the written word–retire for the day. Over the course of three days, I have done numerous things that four days ago I had never come close to doing. I have now:

  • Harvested arugula, potatoes, tomatoes, mixed greens, zucchini, squash, cucumber, kale, collared greens, swiss chard, grapes, and potatoes (the latter of which involved repeatedly jamming a spade shovel deep into the earth and pulling up the plant from beneath to reveal a treasure trove of red and yellow and purple delights)
  • Detail cleaned a large chicken coop due to mite infestation
  • Scattered bails of hay on that chicken coop floor
  • Piled mite-infested hay into a tractor while wearing a mask
  • Drilled wooden beams into walls and poles to provide roosting locations for chickens
  • Tied drooping tomato plants to twine lines (while imbibing a few scrumptious tomatoes straight off the plant along the way)
  • Filled an RV water tank multiple times
  • Cooked scrumptious, farm-fresh meals in an RV kitchen
  • Fed pigs while trying to prevent them from eating my leg¹

This list of new experiences goes on and on and on, a trend certain to continue.

I came here thinking I would work at Raisin’ Roots for two months and then move to Boulder, the place I had decided to live when I visited Colorado last April. After three days in Fort Collins, that desire is coming into question. I realize it is one of many expectations I have carried into this experience.

These expectations, like all expectations, do not dictate any absolute reality.

Reality may be inviting an entirely different story to be written.

Basically, that’s a way of saying I love Fort Collins way more than I thought I would love Fort Collins. Each day, I meet awesome, healthy, down-to-earth people who love the outdoors, the earth, culture, and their fellow wanderers of this planet. At my admission of my desire to move to Boulder, everyone I have met (including people who live or have lived in Boulder) has responded the same: “Stay in Fort Collins.” Many express much distaste for Boulder, in fact, as do folks from Denver, I’ve noticed.

I’m not letting these responses dictate my story. Rather, I am taking them as an invitation to open my eyes and ears more to what is around me. In doing so, I have come to observe people from diverse demographics wandering the grid-like streets with a curious spirit. I have seen countless small businesses lining many intersecting roads. I feel the vibe of a college town mixed with the feel of a peaceful, open-minded, liberal community. I see more bikers than I have ever seen in another city. I observe the foothills in the West, towering high, inviting exploration. Later today, I will drive into them and hike Greyrock Trail, a 7-mile loop I am told is both difficult and stunning. Ah, the bliss of an open day before me!

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What a great gift, these farm-fresh meals!

 

So things are going well, but it is not all coming easily. I am learning many lessons, challenged to grow each moment. Something that shocked me was that the night I arrived, I did not instantly feel the vision of bliss, confidence, and security I had anticipated. What I felt was fear. A lot of fear. Suddenly everything was real—the new living space, the new state, the lack of job or established future. The prospect of pulling it all together felt completely overwhelming.

But wait! Hadn’t I gotten past my fear? Hadn’t I shed them in my meditations and contemplations of this journey? Oh no, silly Sean! Fear is tricky. Fear finds a way to reenter the fold.

That first night, the fears streamed through my mind: What are you doing out here? Did you delude yourself into thinking you have a plan? How foolish you were to make this so public! Now everyone is expecting something amazing! You won’t be able to pull it off. You’re all alone out here. Your vision is an illusion that will crash and burn and you will have to return in shame from where you came!

Whew. The fears pummeled my mind, yielding quite the unpleasant state. With them came a strange sadness. It was a sadness for all I left behind, a sadness for the fact that all my visions and expectations were being revealed as just that, expectations, and not the reality.

But fear, I realize, is a crucial part of all transitions. Fear grows alongside our spirits. Yet what also grows, with mindfulness and intentionality, is our ability to recognize our fears and separate them from reality.

And that separation is what I feel myself now discovering. What helps me is another lesson I am learning: to focus on presence. This is something I have worked on for years, but it’s put to the test when straining under a bail of hay, when inhaling dust from a mite-infested coop. How do I remain present when this voice in my mind is yelling, This is uncomfortable! This stinks! When will this day be over?

By entering a spirit of service, that’s how!

Instead of letting these silly little woes get to me, I tune more into the physical motion, watching my hands move, consciously using which muscles I need. I perceive myself as giving, not receiving. I am offering my labor to this place that has so willingly taken me in, because I wish to help them in any way I can.

I’ve never really thought like this before. I default toward selfishness. So often I become wrapped in what I can get from a situation, how I can grow. Service is such a healthier mindset. Service is the doorway outside of the echoing cavern of my own perceptions.

So it’s safe to say that those fears that arose my first night have dwindled. I am so grateful and happy to be here. I feel opportunities and possibilities opening around me. I realize much of the pressure I felt upon arriving was self-imposed. I had created this pressure on myself to do something soon, something that will impress people. The task of it was overwhelming! How can I better the world so quickly while simultaneously fostering a salary that will support living in this more-expensive-than-average place?

I have loosened those expectations. I realized those expectations were ego-based. Now, I am open to any kind of work that will benefit my growth and those whom the work serves. All the while, I will work patiently on building my writing profile. Ah, such comfort in gentleness!

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It appears I have dirt on my face!

 

I am beyond grateful for the kind folks at Raisin’ Roots, who are so willingly initiating me into this land, providing me such a firm and loving foundation from which to explore. It’s thanks to them that this experience has so rapidly crushed my illusory expectations.

I am not sure it is possible to travel into a new experience without expectations. Maybe expectations are not the problem. Maybe the bigger issue is fixation upon expectations, attachment to their becoming. For always, those expectations will be based on experiences past, and if we insist on bringing them to be, then we are once again living our future as defined by our previously established comfort zone. That comfort zone is precisely what I seek to move beyond.

Many amazing opportunities on the horizon! I intend to update this blog at least once a week. I will experiment with different styles and diverse content–it won’t all be about me. As always, I thank you so very much for following this journey. All the best to you as you travel your unfolding pathway!

 

FOOTNOTES

  1. There are three pigs on the farm—Choulder, Vigoro, and Pastrami—who are being raised to be slaughtered in mid-October. We will do the slaughtering on the farm, and I will take part. At the moment, they are about 130 pounds, and we hope to raise them to 250. My very first task was to join Ben, head honcho of Raisin’ Roots, and my fellow WWOOFer Lindsey in the pen to spread out food. I thought, Can I really play a role in killing these guys? Then the little one, Choulder, started aggressively chomping at my calf. If he keeps doing that, it’ll certainly make my task easier.)

2 Comments on “Raising Some Roots

  1. Let me know when the hogs are ready for slaughter. I’ve got a nice smoker that’s dying to “meat” them.

    Like

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