Wednesday, May 02, 2012

The Launch of Second Chance Ranch

At 46, I’ve learned a few crucial things about myself. Evidently, I’m fond of thrusting my person into super scary scenarios, just to see if I can survive them, either physically or socially. And since I’m not yet dead or ostracized, this habit repeats itself.

Which brings us to the next Big Life Challenge - the creation of Second Chance Ranch, also known as SCRANCH.

After at least 15 years of dragging my heels and daring myself to take me seriously, I’m going to spend a summer living on my family’s land in North Dakota. (That’s North, not South. No, not the one with Mt. Rushmore, the one above it.) I will still be making my living online, as I do now, as a writer, editor and communications contractor. In late October, I will head to less wintry parts of the nation, get a well-earned massage and plot the 2013 crop.

The goal is to see if/how I can grow organic food while trying to understand the Big Ag all around me. I don’t expect to be wildly successful this first year, especially with such a late start, but I do expect to learn a lot while providing endless entertainment for the locals. I may try to sell food at the local Farmers Markets or in the western half of the state, which is going through a freakish population growth due to the oil boom. (Many hair-raising stories to come on that situation....)

Honestly, I’ll be happy if I can just feed myself this first year.

Truth is, there’s only so much you can learn from books, blogs and Michael Pollan articles, especially when reading them from the comfort of one’s urban couch. I want to understand the day-to-day, season-to-season challenges of the farmer, both organic and non. The only way to do that is be there in the thick of it and get really, really dirty. (On this recent trip, I learned the hands-on practice of automated cultivation and the windy politics of pesticide spraying - each one deserving of its own post.)

So, come June, I will pack up my worldly belongings (mostly photos, books, CDs and old concert t-shirts) and haul it all straight north. I’ll put everything in one of the many empty buildings we have and buy an affordable trailer in Grand Forks. There are a few houses on the property (including the house my mother grew up in) but they are quite unlivable, unless you are a raccoon.

To clarify my insanity, I’ll be leaving behind my wonderful best friend and partner, Kirk, our huge, luxurious home, my favorite animals - Boudreaux (cat) and Matisse (dog), numerous friends, our beloved Hearthstone cohousing community and the stunningly beautiful state of Colorado to live in a remote trailer to battle heat, dirt, bugs, pesticides and loneliness. It’s a no-brainer, right?

Lazy Apathetic Heather would not actively seek such discomforts but Crazy Impassioned Heather won the argument with a few key points:

Family: I’m related to gobs of people up there, all quite likable and supportive.
Food: I have deep concerns and need some real-world answers.
Land: Lookie here, I got some!
Animals: Horses would be back in my life, big time. Also, chickens, goats, dogs and barn cats.
Technology: This would be impossible without the Internet. Let us give thanks.
Mission: Everyone needs a legacy and this could be mine.
Creative Goals: I will blog the hell out of this, write a book, and ultimately build a recording studio and outdoor cinema spot.
Financial: Since I would not be paying for rent, storage spaces, street sweeping tickets, Wall Street Journal deliveries, massages or concert tickets, money might be saved.
Emotional: I have always felt a pull to this place for reasons I'm not yet able to articulate.

Fears? I have a massive, stinkin’ heap of those as well. And I’ll battle those bastards, one at a time.


Kath said...

You go, You go, You go!

You always follow your dreams, oftentimes before you know what they really mean!

Good for you, Girlie!

But please don't forget to come back. xoxo <3

Heather Clisby said...

Oh, I LOVE that you are the first comment! It brings it all full circle. I was just telling Kirk the whole story about how you were my first friend in Denver via blogging so THANK YOU!

maria said...

I'm so excited for you (though I selfishly hope you don't completely leave behind your other blog). I can't wait to follow your newest journey. I love how you always pave the way

Kath said...

I hear very much hear ya.

Part of me wanted to add to my first comment that you CANNOT leave in June cause June is when you arrived in Denver and in my life!! Yet in another way, it seems fitting that you leave in June cause that's a great time to start new adventures in Heatherland. Actually, anytime is a good time for adventures in Heather land.

Would love an opportunity to see you before you say adios. xoxo

Anonymous said...

Totally support your efforts and love the juxtaposition of you standing on a farm tractor that cost more than what most farmers made in lifetime 75 years ago.

I applaud your efforts sans chemicals and GMOs. The challenge at-hand, in our world of "good neighbor policies" and "pesticide and genetic drift" is the understanding that you cannot defend yourself against the forces of nature. GMOs and pesticides happily ride on Mother Nature's coattails. In the good neighbor context, at least around here, the implication is that is most people are using GMOs and chemicals, and if you're not using them too, you should be a good neighbor, suck it up and just accept that this is the way things will be done.

Friends of ours, organic farmers, were "good neighbored" to the tune of over $100K dollars in crop losses from pesticide trespass. I suppose if there's a good neighbor policy in-place then there's some mention of a crappy neighbor clause but such is not the case.

I think what you're doing it awesome and fully support your effort! Perhaps you can even convince some of your farm neighbors to change their ways!

SUEB0B said...

That is the craziest thing I have ever heard of, which is why it makes perfect sense for you to do. As my sis used to say "Sometimes you need stories to save up for when you are old and can't sleep and you just need something to remember."