Tuesday, November 12, 2013


'I've been robbed,' I thought to myself, with a whimper. Staring at the empty spaces in my pick-up's cab last Saturday morning where my stuff was last seen crammed together tightly, it was the only logical conclusion.

But before I can admit this fact, there were those first few moments of disbelief when my eyes and brain tussled a bit; logic tapped its foot impatiently while I danced with denial. 'I must have moved everything somewhere else and forgotten about it,' and so on. So often, before we admit that our precious items are gone forever, we first apply a generous layer of outrageous explanation.

Guitar on left, gone
But the denial never lasts. Mine certainly didn't extend more than a few seconds - I have few things and very little space for said things. The beautiful black guitar given to me by Kirk and his daughter, M? Gone. The ukulele gifted to me by my mother? Also, gone. A pile of effective, and therefore, pricy coats, including a sentimental favorite - big, black down vest with shockwave.com stitched on the back? (I was a member of the Launch Team.) Vanished.

A particularly painful loss was a massive black CD holder than held so much precious music, most of it personal mixes, including several burned for me last week by Miss Bliss in Crestone, CO. If you know me at all, then you know how seriously I take my music so this loss feels like a blow to my soul. If there is any good news here, it's that the great majority of the CD content exists on my iTunes. Also, I've had more than a few offers of CD burnings to replace my collection but a number of covers made long ago will likely be lost forever. 

Worst of all, an open box that was obviously grabbed in a hurry contained pricey organic road snacks, several containers of smokey treats and seeds for next season - those I had purchased, acquired and harvested - painful. Just this morning, I started to grasp the great variety of seeds I had in that box - so much spinach, cilantro, lettuce, watermelon, green beans and so on. Ooof. That hurts.

Harvested bulbs
But no loss could compare to nearly 50 garlic bulbs that were taken. My babies, that I had carefully planted in 2012, cultivated, weeded, watered, fussed over, harvested and painstakingly kept in a friend's cellar, all gone. Likely, they were trashed for they won't get a junkie much at the local pawn shop. There were even four perfect white specimens that I'd planned on gifting to family members this Christmas. I was going to hunt down small boxes in Robin's Egg blue (aka Tiffany boxes) and present them like they were the Hope frickin' Diamond.

Realizing that the garlic was gone brought real tears of sadness. It wasn't so much that things were stolen, it was the theft of my time and hard work. The unfairness of it all was overwhelming and the violation left a sick feeling in my stomach. I sat in my pick-up for nearly an hour, just weeping and feeling sorry for myself, reviewing my losses.

I'd lived all summer in a place where nobody locks anything and I'd gotten out of the habit. This was likely what happened; there was no sign of forced entry, no broken windows. I'd slipped up even though Laurianna had warned me about the risks. Some loser had come along and jiggled the handle, found it open and helped themselves. Bastards.

I can only console myself with the knowledge that farming is all about starting over, season after season, and I would begin next spring with a cleaner plate than I'd planned. Also, when I sought out the collective sympathies of my Facebook community, I received an overwhelming response - offers of guitars, seeds and CDs, not to mention genuine rage. It was the best reminder that my life is rich with friendship, love and support, something that poor soul is so obviously lacking. And not only that but they've got an expensive drug habit to support - an unfriendly monkey on their back.

I leave Albuquerque today, my load quite a bit lighter than I'd prefer, but there's got to be some lesson I can glean from this crime. Ironically, my stroke of bad luck might be the perfect reminder of just how lucky I am. 

Monday, November 04, 2013

Gone for the Season

On October 24th, Grandpa Wilbur's birthday, I left the farm for the season. Brent disconnected the Mae Flower, closed up the sewer pipes, pumped out all the water and we filled 'er up with that bright pink party punch known as RV anti-freeze. The color always seemed oddly celebratory to me, usually in contrast to my mood. No matter when I leave SCRANCH, it always feels too soon.

Brent, ponders a Mae-Flower-less yard
Leaving North Dakota is always bittersweet. Mostly, I am sad to leave behind this piece of earth that has been in our family for over 90 years. I'd never really understood the pull of that connection until now. When seeing people on the news refusing to leave their homes despite an impending natural disaster, I would be baffled by their geographic loyalty. 'Fools', I'd think to myself.

Well, now I understand, though admittedly, the pull is not strong enough to keep me there for 6-7 months of serious winter. Growing up in Southern California does not prepare one for 30 below zero, it's that simple. Bullets, Botox and smog? Sure. Water freezing in mid-air? Um, NO.

Another emotion is worry. Did I do enough? Did i learn everything I could? Talk to everyone I should have? Did I listen hard enough? I may have to accept on faith that just being here with eyes and ears open was satisfactory, that I absorbed plenty.

Still, there is much fretting over 'my babies' - the resulting produce harvested with great effort and satisfaction. I write this now from a cozy spot in Albuquerque, New Mexico where I am still carrying around winter squash, watermelon, eggplant, peppers, shallots, Lakota squash, chilies, parsnips, carrots, heaps o' garlic and a few hearty well-traveled tomatoes. When packing my pick-up, Brent was impressed that the majority of my load consisted of crops I couldn't bear to leave behind, rather than the clothes, make-up and fancy shoes I'd lugged to LA the previous year. "Guess you are getting to be a real farmer now," he said.

Big open fields - another thing I'll miss
At this point, it would almost be a lie-by-omission not to mention that I fell deeply in love over the summer. We are very different people, this man and I, and our differences only sharpened the intensity of our coupling. With a two-decade age difference, we are geographical, cultural and political opposites - one, a strict German banker from small town North Dakota, and the other, a cultural liberal from Southern California. One, a fan of Bill O'Reilly, Rush Limbaugh and all things Fox News, and the other, an ardent fan of Jon Stewart, Stephen Colbert and Louis CK. One attends a very traditional Lutheran church (Missouri Synod) and the other is primarily pagan; guess which one I am?

Big ass machinery - another thing I'll miss
But meeting up in the middle? Oh my, that's a sweet spot. Of course, this new development made the moment of leaving feel strangely cinematic and four times as hard. I am not one to share my personal life on the internet but I cannot help but openly marvel at how love has a tendency to color daily life in glowing, rich hues while anchoring these place-and-time memories deeper than otherwise imagined. Now there is a whole new unexpected layer to my North Dakota experience, one I will not forget. Logic be damned, the heart wants what it wants.
Tomatoes and squash

Nonetheless, the call of family, holidays and the aforementioned push of the notorious NoDak winter means I had to pack up and leave for the season. The chances I will return next spring for one more solid SCRANCH summer are about 70% right now - 30% being reserved for whatever Amazing Opportunity the Universe might decide to throw my way. Otherwise, I feel that a third and final year would complete the original intention of this project. And let's face it, I'd miss my beautiful black dirt, which is also now entrenched in my heart.

Garlic varieties for 2014: Lahonton, Music and Siberian
In a gesture of 'place holding', I even planted some garlic and shallots for next season. On a day of snow flurries, I broke up the bulbs, soaked them in kelp juice (picture Brent rolling his eyes) and popped those babies in that gorgeous Red River Valley soil. I had an amazing bounty of garlic and shallots this year - they were my biggest money maker - so I can't see myself skipping them. And you have to plant in fall so regardless of whether or not I return, they will pop up for someone to harvest and enjoy.

[Interesting side note: The percentage increase from my 2012 SCRANCH income to my 2013 SCRANCH income is 451.5% - nearly $700 more than last year! Huzzah!]

On my meanderings back to Long Beach (and the eventual jump back to my other blog, ClizBiz), I have been fortunate to stay with friends in Colorado and New Mexico. Other than my friendship and gratitude, I tried to repay their hospitality with one or more of the following homemade goodies: tomato soup, banana bread (made by the new beau), garlic, grape juice, winter squash and - time permitting - a cooked meal. Mama Iva taught me that Food = Love and my time in North Dakota has reinforced that fact.
Tomato soup!
So thank you to Helen and Annika in Denver, Bliss and Neil in Crestone and Laurianna, Wyatt and Jack in Albuquerque, for hosting the wandering farmer on her way back to the big city, or as I have come to call it, The Land Where People Lock Things.

Heading West
Long Beach, here I come!