One winter, when Andrew and I were living in Massachusetts, I had the opportunity to participate in a Holistic Management training class. Holistic Management started as a management tool for grazers raising livestock on pasture in arid climates, but much of the theoretical aspects and decision-making tools apply equally well to other branches of farming. As part of the class, Andrew and I were asked to make “Holistics Goals” for our yet-unformed future-farm. We strove to make our goals broadly applicable, since we did not yet know where we would be or what form our farm would take. But the process forced us articulate our priorities and our values in a way that we never would have with a standard business plan (though one of those might have been a good idea too!)
Fast forward seven years. We’ve landed. Our own piece of land, which we are gradually shaping to suit our dream. A farm business that has taken many forms and seems finally to be maturing into something for the long term. We look around and see one thousand future projects, but now, finally, we are also seeing the fruit of our labor: range coops sailing across the pastures, tomatoes climbing toward the rafters of our tunnels, our milkhouse becoming a hub of farm work; systems, routines, plans that occasionally get executed the way we expected.
On Sunday, Mother’s Day, Andrew and I went for a bike ride. At the old farm, my bike had languished in the barn for about five years. This was partly because the mountains around us were better suited for Tour d’France training than for pleasure cycling, but also because in those first five years I don’t think the two of us often stopped working simultaneously, except when it was bitterly cold. This spring we took my bike in for a tune up, and we acquired a bike for Andrew. On Sunday, my parents were visiting, the kids were behaving, and the weather was perfect–we had to get out. (Forgive us, Pastors Donna and Tim!)
From our driveway, we turned out onto Roy Shafer road, from there to Paul Rudy, and after a quick jog onto Sumantown, we took a right on Carol Boyer. I began mentally naming all of the other local roads I know with similarly personal names–Pete Wiles, Delauter, Loy Wolfe, Harley, Holter, Poffenberger, Stottlemeyer. These names are not all abstractions to me now–we know Delauters and Wolfes, Holters and Stottlemeyers, and we live on the original Roy Shafer farm. I love that the roads where we live are a connection between the history of this place and its present. I love that an elderly gentleman at our church now hails me as “Roy Shafer farm,” and that the people who grew up around here, farming, probably know our farm as well as we do.
We are not locals here. As much as I cherish the web of family connections, the rootedness of our place, we are the antithesis of it. Andrew hails from New York; I’m from Atlanta–we ended up in Maryland as much by chance as anything. Having arrived, however, I’m ready to settle. I joke that the year-long headache of moving our farm was enough to convince me never again to move, but, truthfully, I wouldn’t want to even if all I owned were a pair of socks. As we cruised down Carol Boyer, under a canopy of trees, surrounded by birdsong and accompanied by the falling water of a creek, I thought of the words of e.e cummings
i thank You God for most this amazing
day:for the leaping greenly spirits of trees
and a blue true dream of sky;and for everything
which is natural which is infinite which is yes
i who have died am alive again today,
and this is the sun’s birthday;this is the birth
day of life and of love and wings:and of the gay
great happening illimitably earth)
how should tasting touching hearing seeing
breathing any—lifted from the no
of all nothing—human merely being
doubt unimaginable You?
(now the ears of my ears awake and
now the eyes of my eyes are opened)
Andrew’s and my “Holistic Goals” take up most of a single sheet of paper. We try to revisit it at least once per year, to measure our progress, and to reorient ourselves when we veer off course. Looking back at the sectioned called “Future Resources Base” I see that we wanted “Community: Rural, spacious, with vibrant local businesses and culture as well as pride of place” We wanted to settle among “people who act neighborly” with “a local land ethic”. Just as I don’t believe that anyone has a singular soulmate, nor do I think that our corner is uniquely perfect.
Still, while I’ve lived many places, but this is my home.