Damn Good Biking

Damn Good Biking
Mammath Mountain

Thursday, November 18, 2010

6-23-10: HMO Farm News Letter I wrote

Howdy Hungry Folks.

News from the Farm.

AFTER THE LONG WINTER, As of today we have in the ground a thriving plethora of veggies starting with 'maters, taters, onions, kale, mustards, lettuce, lettuce, lettuce, carrots, beets, spinach, chives, squash, zukes, melons, eggplant, okra, basil, broccoli, cabbage and all of our favorite….MMMmmmm….GARLIC!!!

Might we add tasty Garlic Scapes to add for good measure?
This is a super specialty item and won't last long.

We have also mowed an alley crop system into our 6 foot tall cover crops and will be planting Monday into these no till blocks with peppers, broccoli, cabbage, cukes, sunflowers & more lil' maters into our intercropped alley cropping system.

The wind rows are performing marvelously and protecting our plants from the constant wind and direct sun. In addition our home grown 200,000 gallon above ground irrigation pond lovingly named the "skeeter breeder" is now pulling water directly from a snow melt creek and irrigating our 5 acres.

This monster consists of nothing more than 200 straw bales, a pond liner, t-posts and fencing to contain the volume. Truly awesome.

Living up to its name the breeder is its own ecosystem and has inspired us to put fish into the pond for pest management, fertigation, food, and super Frankenstein farming!

Lastly, a fresh harvest of delicious food has arrived straight from the farm to the coolers at the Hungry Mother HQ.  We are scheduling our harvest for about every other day, go and get some, Very tasty!!

Keep growing!
Well keep feeding you

The Hungry Mother Farm Team

6-13-10: Finding my # 2, Yardbirds and Work Horses

Well with all things being said my first year as a farm manager at Hungry Mother Organics is not going so bad.

By my estimate a combination of the weather has set us back maybe 2-3 weeks, another is not having a number 2 at the farm while the need to divert my time towards the community, markets, and developing the "backyard bonanza garden" at the farm stand is left unfinished or in the balance.

However I still love the work.

Another set back for sure was that I didn't get to recruit Matt McCue's farm mule Jeremy Lopez early on during the off season farm draft. He is another of our long time FVC farmer veterans and was my 1st round draft pick.

I really need a #2 so to speak of and now "nursery season" is rapidly morphing into "farm season and despite my long hours and 6-7 day work week its difficult juggling all the fastballs and telegraphed punches coming my way when the support I need is left unfilled.

But you know what? I am making it work, and making the best decisions possible, the bad ones occasionally occur but those mistakes only happen once and I am thankful for the learning curve.

Recently in the farm draft I recruited "yard bird"
He is from Sonoma/Santa Rosa, is a Navy veteran and is one of the guys the FVC and I have been helping get into agriculture over the last couple years.

Originally he was coming for a couple weeks prior to panning for gold in the Sierra's, but looks like he needs a place to crash for a season, hopefully I can help him make some money while gaining some much needed farm experience.

Thankfully Yardbird tends to look at the world a little cockeyed; and though this bird can't fly straight he sure gets a damn good job done.

For all intents and purposes I have been left pretty much to myself to run the prison farm, which is good, after all I am the farm manager and the learning curve is steep but not unbearable.

But it takes a team firing on all cylinders and if one piston doesn't fire, such as our marketing guy not selling eggs then the 40 dozen eggs per day start piling up and tasks fall more onto my lap and what valuable space we have for produce is usurped for unsold product that normally is able to sell itself.

A farm such this I am learning takes a whole team. When the support I need to manage the farm and markets is there its awesome, however I am having to run a farm when decisions needed to be made on the fly but I am forced to wait hours if not sometimes days for a resolution.

Sometimes keeping an eye on the inmates is a full time job on its own, and each time I have to leave the farm to run errands then break time begins until I get back. Which I feel as accountability speaking is the greatest drawback of HMO operating at the prison

Having Yardbird around keeps an extra pair of eyes on the guys, he helps with many farm and house chores as well as even taking Agadez the wonder pup out on walks.

Not to forget he plays a mighty fine guitar too.

Damn I like this guy, a guess a bird on the farm is worth more than two in the bush.

06-13-10: Yardbirds and Pack Mules

Well with all things being said my first year as a farm manager at Hungry Mother Organics is not going so bad.

By my estimate a combination of the weather has set us back maybe 2-3 weeks, another is not having a number 2 to help me at the farm so I can also create the garden at the farm stand. Lastly is the disorganized management above my pay grade. I should say no more.

However I still love the work.

Another set back for sure was that I didn't get to recruit Matt McCue's farm mule Jeremy Lopez early in the off season farm draft. I really needed a #2 so to speak of and now here "nursery season" is rapidly morphing into "farm season and despite my long hours and 6-7 day work week its difficult not being able to keep up on all the task.

But you know what, I picked up the "yard bird".
Thankfully he looks at the world a little cockeyed and though this bird can't fly straight he sure gets a damn good job done.

For all intents and purposes I have been left pretty much to myself without any substantial guidance from my manager which is good. However, when decisions have to made on the minute I have to wait, minutes, hours, sometimes days and beyond for resolution.

Having Yardbird around keeps an extra pair of eyes on the guys, helps with house chores and even takes Agadez the wonder pup out on walks.

Not to forget he plays a mighty fine geetar too.

Damn I like this guy, a guess a bird on the farm is worth more than two in the bush.

06-09-10: A Food Stamp Farmer Feeding the Masses

At this time I am on $200 MONTHLY in food stamps, still holding my breath for regular pay and literally feeding 9 mouths.

Add three more servings when myself, Yardbird and lil loyal companion Agadez need to eat.

But between myself, 7 incarcerated farmers, the "Yardbird" and HMO'S 1st volunteer "Petina" as well as our other HMO staff at the nursery "not on my food stamps" we are all striving to grow food and nursery plants which will fill the hungry bellies and imaginations of thousands more!

In these times its good to be able to stretch a buck.
But a whole heap higher than donkey dung BETTER to do something that can give back to thousands.

I won't pause despite potential poverty at this time.
My life, work, love, and ultimate joy is to live in a community created from the root need of food and sharing ideas, work and daily experiences.

You know my favorite part of what I do is to think of those lil' plants moving on to become something either monumental like be a child's first tomato, or the best slicer on a burger from the Sierra's.

Working normal retail, or the living out slow painful "Cubicle Death " has no interest for me. I need growth in my daily life.

A requirement of my occupation is to grow personally on a daily basis and enjoy the simple pleasure of ensuring others have safe, healthy nutritious food to put on their tables.

I think of my villagers everyday and choke back tears, I miss them.
They would be proud of me, I am doing what I promised I would when I came home.
They taught me so much.

Call me a pleaser.

06-02-10: Human Captivity & Firing Up

"They say slavery has been abolished but not for the convicted felon."
-Ice T

Well spoken and I certainly can not argue with this quote. After a lil more than a month here I'd even add beyond slavery, another human rights violation observed everyday is in the form of the food the inmates are forced to eat.

Seriously nasty, nasty stuff. Sure they are convicts, but still human beings.
Most have illness's, addiction, mental illness.
Most are not criminals coming in, only going out.

FDR believed food is a human right.
True, but the onus is also on the citizens to learn to grow food.

This reinforces responsibility, land stewardship, sustainability, community, grass roots economy and much more.

The weather is breaking, farm season is opening up with less frequent frost nights. The soil is warming up and my little tail wags to see tree buds morphing into leaves.

Today I mechanically carved out niches for an acre tater field, and about a 1/2 acres worth of onions, spinach, lettuces, carrots and "Hopi" White corn. Its good to be creative and use innovative strategies such as intercropping horticulture plants between standing wind rows of barley and rye.

Tomorrow we should be transplanting into the beds as well as be featured in the first part of a summer long series of stories which will be running in the Reno Gazette Journal.

Currently we are pumping water into our 200,000 gallon above ground irrigation pond created with nothing more than straw bales stacked 2 high, T-posts, reused fencing and way to thin pond liner which is bound to fail due to its thinness.

Despite the pond liner, Its Brilliant!!!

If all goes according to plan we will be collecting snow melt from the Sierra's until late July and then used in a gravity fed drip irrigation system for our vegetable crops.

On hot days I'd anticipate seeing incarcerated farmers running along in their boxers to cool off into the oasis. Our fat man has even offered the first belly flop.

Pretty rad place still, though working for my bosses is becoming more and more difficult due to their well….who knows.

However my incarcerated farmers are still incredibly loyal and hardworking. Though it is a prison farm, the real benefit for these guys is the open space w/out the hacks and good food we grow daily.

Its not easy, you can only expect so much output while paying 60 cents per hour. But you know the fact is they want to be out there, and they are 7 days a week, 8-12 hours per day.

In Carson I don't have any time left for personal things such as making normal friends so these guys are my friends. A motley crue for sure but you know we get along, I treat them decently, bring them food, work with them, and share a lot of laughs.

Though I am still not really being paid, my passion is the work. I even use half my monthly food stamps on the locked down farmers.

Gotta admit its weird being "boss", and I have to find balance between authority and friend. Some good advice was given recently by Michael O'Gorman who said, don't fire to much, but not to little either. So with that in mind….

A couple days ago, I caught a fella from the farm sneaking a few dozen eggs into the prison under his jacket. They are like gold on the inside, and there is a whole trade network based on this currency.

Sure I should have fired him but the man has been locked up for almost 20 years, most of it on the "hard" yards with murderers, rapists, etc. So I can't really say I blame him, I know it has been going on, but had no real proof.

Though he should have been canned, I decided to rip his ass, threaten banishment from the farm, but also show leniency. It worked. Taking away the only thing that matters to a man is a cruel exercise, he knows he did wrong.

Best part though, was that he shut down the whole smuggling ring. He went back into the prison and turned away all the business regardless of his peers threats for doing so. It meant more to be free a few hours a day than a criminal the rest.

Not to mention it also straightened out the other hooligans a little.

Come to think of it, it’s a bummer we won't see that fat guy belly flopping into the irrigation pond. Had t fire him to make an example despite being our best produce washer. But finding balance of firing to much or little was key. The man was screwing up by working too slow and eating too much food.

Damn he hated me afterwards, however I put a call in for him to his case manager and got him actually promoted to a better paying job at $1.50 per hour. All I had to say was that he was a stand up guy but I just didn't need him anymore.

Its funny, I have received hidden notes in school but never prison. He sent me one through the other inmates and thanked me as well as apologized for saying he was going to shank me as well as screw my girl friend.

When I wondered? Homey was on lock down.

Damn this place is fun. Really, what pleasure is there to be at the retail stand and deal with normal folk or some pimply kid trying to grow dope in his back yard. I can't say its fun either to grow for rich folk who can afford the best but seldom appreciate the workers who grow it.

I feed the common folk, inmates too apparently.


5-24-10: Two Farmer Veterans, One Pansy Division, A BBQ, Brothers B-Day

Matt McCue whom I met as a Peace Corps Volunteers I consider one of my closest friends, favorite people, and co-farmer veteran who helped start the FVC came to my farm last weekend.

We farmed, we jammed, he advised, I listened, and we BBQ'd for my man "Rude Dog" who was an incarcerated farmer who like the old song goes "from these prison walls I'll fly…..I'll Fly Away!!

Hate to see a good worker go, but good to see our "Saw'd off lil Midget" get out.
Hope he stays that way.

Bummer to lose my carpenter on the farm but damn good to see someone re-starting life as a free person. My hopes is that our farm brought him happiness and something to reflect on always as positive experience while growing food for others and with friends.

Back to matt. His arrival to the farm has finally marked the first occasion in our three years of farming together that he has visited "my farm". Sure he visited me in farm school, but that school, and with 40 others.

To be honest, Production'ly speaking me and the boys at the prison are weeks behind in field production. We finally planted out about an quarter acre of Kale, Collards, Cabbage, Broccoli and spinach. So far the weather has been miserable, gardens are being destroyed by the freezing nights and frequent late spring powdery storms. Though we have pushed thousands of plants we are sitting on tens and tens of thousands of beautiful orphan plants looking for some ground to call their own.

Good observations Matt also made were to go ahead and mow in our cover crops, alter our seedling mix for better germination as well as start field planting….grrr!!...that one I only wish.

Currently planned for the field production we are going to plant two successions of mixed taters amounting to about a 1/2- 3/4 acre, another acre at least throughout the season in lettuce, spinach, then we will also be doing an acre of sweet corn, 1/2 acre of sqaush-zukes-cukes and a late June planting of our winter crops of pumpkins, winter squash, and onions.

Currently we have a 1/2 acre of beautiful garlic, as well as 5 4x50ft beds of veggies seeded in: beets, radishes, carrots, kale, broccoli, spinach, and lettuce.

Before this weekend we will be also planting out beds at the Farm Stand in cabbage, kale, radishes, lettuce, mixed herbs, perennials, artichokes, broccoli, chives, and flowers. Not to mention this week we have finished the 2nd 22x40 high tunnel, dug 20 3x25ft garden beds, transplanted thousands of tomato plants to 5 gallon pots, and yes continued managing our flock of about 500 birds sputtering out a paltry 40 dozens eggs per day.

Whew….And I thought the awesome mountain bike rides behind my double wide that I steal on the National forest trails on a weekly basis would keep me busy enough….guess not.

On a home makers front, I have also hosted my first two guests over for dinner this week. A co-worker and a volunteer who works with us.

For memorial day weekend I am driving 5 hours to Santa Cruz and will be hosting 25 farmer veterans on Matt & I's alma mater farm on the University as well as some other stellar farms with the Farmer Veteran Coalition.

Agadez you ask, is doing very well is 7 months old, 70 lbs and is voracious for all farm rodents.

You all know the tale, its damn good to have a home, a loving pup, friends, family, and great crops to brave the shitty on and off spring weather.

Keep your powder dry and your plants dry and warm, then shred the trails all other times.

Happy 21st b-day nubb'n!!!
Love ya bub'

5-17-10: A good Field Day

HERE it is.

It is my mothers birthday, # not important but the date is; May 17th.

Its odd to think that two years ago officially marks the date I broke my back.

What a long strange trip it has been since that fateful fall.

To celebrate this ominous occasion today, I put my first field crops in the ground. After reading my winter blues rant, or even knowing the last two years has been all travel and no roots.

So planting a farm of my own today was monumental. After being deprived of doing so back in Niger after the fall, this to me was a very big deal.

A day to really live in the moment and appreciate life.
There is nothing I would rather be doing now.

Its late in the season, though the schedule has been hectic the wintry weather been uncooperative to say the least, but the timing has not been there, its really difficult coming into a season mid swing with a rotating mix of incarcerated farmers most without any farming experience. But that's life.

So far I am managing god knows tens of thousands of plants, seven farm workers, two locations, a new home, an energetic puppy, while also attempting any chance to mountain bike or play music.

Damn its good to be settling roots.

Back to our field: Our plant out was 8 beds, 3ft x 160 ft, it took us four hours. Not bad considering we planned it out on a whim.

My goal is UC Santa Cruz speed, last year at CASFS this job would have been done in an hour, two at the most most if we were lazy.

Farming at CASFS reminds me of the old adage while working in Colorado as a raft guide. You learn that you never have a crew as good as the one you train with….it makes a difference when everyone is learning and striving to perform optimally….most days!....or at least not trying to get dunked in snow melt rivers at 0800.

Damn funny how quality of workers skills and knowledge farming plays in production!

I can't write much more but just wanted to briefly remark on the birf'day of me mum, the anniversary of a bad break in life and our farming activities.

But you know life is like the river. Ride the wave trains, rest in the eddy's, then get out and do it all over again the next day.

It really Freak'n Rocks here!

05-10-10: Lay of the Land, Integration, Culture

Its beautiful, just beautiful.

Today was a fantastic farm day, plants were moved to market, the ground was tilled and bedded, tomorrow we transplant lettuce. Our 600 egg laying chickens are also testing new waters as pastured poultry for the second full day.

Chance permitted and I even got to spend some time off the farm at the Nursery and staked the layout for our 1/4 French Intensive garden. Even recruited a volunteer, first actually.

At the Farm Stand it was a good learning day to both stake out the garden and field questions from a customer interested in irrigation for her garden.

After a few farmers markets and events it is very obvious I am way more farmer than gardener.
But that is okay, I want to learn.
This year I intend to make my outside deck completely edible.

No, no there will be no Willa Wonka like snosberry flavored hand rails but instead a smorgasbord of heirloom tomatoes, diverse peppers, strawberries, leafy greens, and specialty products. Never done anything like this, but its important to understand both my products and customers demands.

Even met a neighbor today and talked about gardening his location.

For more integration yesterday I spoke with some folk from a local sustainability group who were making a short film for that Pepsi Refresh Everything Campaign about reusable food waste, composting and sustainable farming. Film and media is still not my thing, but I like sharing my experiences and reaching out to others interested in making the world a little tastier.

I also accepted an invite to dish out food by a local chef who will be serving frittata with eggs from our farm as well as our over wintered carrots at a very notable event. The extravaganza is called Napa's Backyard and will be a perusing of the finest food and wine dished out by many top chefs from across the world not to forget about fifty quality vineyards representing their delectable wares.

My booth mate for this event is also Miss Fitness Hawaii, should be fun. ;-)

So far what I have learned about the local culture is that they are dying for readily grown healthy food as well as to take full advantage of every outdoor activity known to man achievable from flat ground to the peaks of our lofty mountains.

With this in mind today while riding my bike I wandered towards the great mountains and discovered wonderful network of trails overlooking our farm stand. On the way out I saw a local skate park only a stones throw from my home, chatted it up with some local road surfers and even managed to carve a few bowls on my bike. Super Rad.

I have found in my line of life that integration and learning culture is easy if you use the right tools or bait. In Paris, my book Les' Miserabes lured them in, in Japan, well just being tall and American did it, Africa it was learning their ways and improving their food system, Mexico, well same as Japan but less taxing.

Here in Nevada so far I have found that right strategy is to grow food, share my harvests, and continue doing all the things I love that makes me, well me.

Things are immensely beautiful being nestled in the Mountains of the glory land.

Its good to have a home.


p.s. Oh, I was even offered a winter job to run Horse drawn carriages and snow sleighs in Tahoe last week at the farmers market. Not bad eh? First week in Carson City, since Cinco de Mayo and I'm already making friends.

Damn good life, damn good life.

5-26-10: Morning Bliss & Nevadan Winter Blues, Rant.

Its sunny, the world is waking up….the plants are awake and I try to imagine what it feels like to be a plant. A perfect harmony of function and beauty that consume, metabolize then create energy for themselves.

If I die tomorrow allow me to return as a plant. Oh to be even a blade of grass In fields such as the ones I have seen and worked would be bliss. To simply exist, plants do exibit behavior but who knows about consciousness. Personally it can be over rated.

A Life to simply grow, this brings tranquility even in my darkest hours.

Chime the ominous music……….The clouds cascading from the Sierra's begin to lower, a white blanket of dust signals the coming of the howlers; these winds drill through every stitch of clothing until the back spasms.

I mean every day is beautiful, my roasted cheeks and raccoon eyes are a testament to the suns magnificence; yet the temps never turn a shade over the mid 70's for more than a few days or a good week stretch.

Don't get me wrong the typical sunny day is nice….but come on man!!!
Minnesota already has everything in the ground.

let spring and summer start rolling in, my healthy plants are seeking new ground and thriving towards feeding rumbling bellies growing in back yard gardens.
Mine not withstanding!!

This climatic drivers ed course of on and off the brakes is killing my patience and our plants potential towards optimal growth!!!!

But on the up side, it has allowed more time to be spent on the campaign to learn and manage a plant nursery production business, greenhouse, cover crops and 600 stupid chickens.

Interesting business, not easy, but rewarding.

Por lo ejemplo, take a big breath and say it fast…...

When I roam to other retail stands selling plant nursery stock I see color, big plants, low prices and lots of abundant varieties….Yet when one looks closer one sees plant health deficiencies….when one broadens the scope to gain the bigger picture one sees a wasteful mass production system dealt in volumes where thousands of plants perish only to be restocked equally as expendable with perfect clones…….…hasn't always been like this, neither has all the rest of stuff.

Sound like a bit of a rant.
It is I guess.

Its just that myself and team working at the farm put in long hours, pain staking attention and tender care ensuring a healthy environment for our plants, yet small nurseries constantly go under or growers are locked into a system similar to mass production of turkey's, chickens, etc...

Its not easy but with the right mix of constantly shuffling plants, watering, organic nutrient managed programs……... and prison fueled poetry; our plants head to our owners looking like they are ready for life, not reaching for it.

That is the difference.
Its intent, its love.

Seriously here I am with a team of inmates growing plants to feed others.
They even have a endearing nick name, the "pansy division"……..
Its not for our gardening, but on account of the pansies we grow.
"Pansy Division"…is the name of a very peculiar punk band too!

Our lil' plants represent a little freedom I guess.

Sunday after we Cleaned up the farm anticipating a farm tour we had some brat's, chips, soda's and looked at the photos of the work we have done as well as how sexy our plants look at the retail sites.
The guys loved it, me too, everyone should see where their art is hung.

I don't mean to rant earlier about big business in the nursery world, making money is sustainability, its just a lot of good plants never find homes and countless Jules of energy are expired for what end?

The other argument is that you know that whole tomato blight that wiped out the east coast tomatoes last year? It was started from a mass producing tomato plant nursery down in the South, Alabama or something like that.

Or how about the peanut contamination, or the "CALIFORNIAN" not Mexican tomato, pepper, or spinach/ ecoli' food blights of recent history.

Hello folk, if the bad stuff is in your food its in you.

Feed yo' mama the good stuff.

Farming in Nevada Rulz.
Time to pass out from exhaustion once again.

No season like farm season.

05-06-10: Finally A Home, Very Excited

After a month of working at HMO and being promised a home for myself not to mention not being paid yet. Here I am.

Happy, loving life, and enjoying each growing day.

Agate Street, Carson City Nevada; my home is a two thousand dollar trailer with a two million dollar view. I have no table, tv, dressers, bed, couch, or night stand to hang my watch.

Instead I have a panoramic view of the Southern Range of the Sierra Nevada's, a trail head leading towards the snow peaked mountains or our farm stand down down yonder.

Yesterday I moved in half my belongings from Reno, slept on the floor, woke up and farmed away.

Today I woke up a little rigid, farmed the day away then moved in the remainder of my things from the boss's pad and talked shop over a beer. Afterwards unloaded, had a slice of cold pizza, a pbr, then off on the trusty old mountain bike.

Warms the heart thinking of the labyrinths and labyrinths of mountain track as well as all different the types of flavors to ride.

I have been scoping the scene and will hopefully be able to apply as mountain bike ranger near Tahoe. This practically equates to at least two days devoted towards shredding down them there mountains.

Back to the pad, we have signed a six month lease and will explore either moving up the chain onto the farm, or staying until the spring. In the mean time however I am going to test every scheme in the books to use my advantage the abundance of sunlight entering my home and my rad scenic deck.

On which I intend to test our farm products to grow decoration, food, and practical plants used for a common Nevada home.

Should be fun.

Ample space, good weather, awesome homegrown organic food, trails, trails, trails, and the happiest little puppy alive waiting for guests, hope to see many visitors this coming year.


4-28-10: The Simple Pleasures

I love farming.

There are many reasons to love farming, the serenity of a quiet farm, the animals, the thrill of seeing sprouts after planting, the harvests, the seasonal book ends of tasks, even the failures can be appreciated…..in time…;-)

Personally my joy sprouts from sharing my harvest with folk, sampling the diverse dishes they prepare, but most importantly seeing the light go on in a person when they instantly become addicted to food I have grown.

Like Mc'Donalds and Marlboro, my goal is to get you hooked, younger the better; kids are the most fun to work in farming, their curiosities are genuine and their questions are always the best.

Now I am working mainly with prisoners, sometimes like kids, but still fun.
Even on the best of days farming isn't easy, but it’s still a good life.

Currently I can call myself the farm manager for Hungry Mother Organics in Carson City, Nevada. Which literally is on the eastern Sierra's and Lake Tahoe. With a great team, I am working three sites, a 5 acre organic farm, a road side farm stand/nursery, as well as a 200 acre parcel of some of the most beautiful land my feet have taken me.

The 5 acre farm.
The farm is located on a prison ran by the Nevada Department of Forestry on the outskirts of town. We employ at any given time 7-10 inmates, some veterans, and grow an array of beautiful plant starts, eggs, and veggies. Our incarcerated farm is located on the Prison Ranch which includes a dairy, wild mustang adoption program, compost company, and our humble organic acres complete with worm composting, five greenhouses as well as 600 organic dumb ass egg layers.

Road Stand

Our intent is to work with locals and teach them how to grow, prepare, and store tasty food. We have all the wares to start an organic garden, high tunnels for production, nursery plants, food we grow, as well as a 1/4 acre French intensive garden inspired by my time spent farming in Santa Cruz in 2009. Trails lattice our surrounding mountains while 50,000 commuters drive past our stand per day. Not to mention there is not to big of a organic or local produced scene in town.

Our Future Farm.
Next year we will be shifting much of our production to the 200 acre farm located in Dayton, NV about a 1/2 hour from the farm stand. There currently is alfalfa, 5 acres organic (cover crops), horses and cattle. The property is encircled by a stream while the Carson River courses through the heart of the property. Though we are not biodynamic we respect its approach to "intent". Our intent is to make this an agricultural wonderland for farmer veterans or any like minded folk hell bent on making the world a little tastier or beautiful than how they found it to come live, and learn.

Sounds like all the ideals why one would go into farming doesn't it?
Though there are rough days, there is no place in the world, nor thing I would rather be doing in my life.

In a nutshell,
Now my life is to farm, enjoy food, play music, mountain bike religiously, and enjoy each passing day. Its been a long omnivore's odyssey to learn about food production, food security and how to best help train a new generation of farmers homegrown from veterans.

But what I have seen, done, and left for another location to learn all over again has been an education of a lifetime.

I won't lie, it wasn't easy getting to this point it took ridding myself of nearly all earthly possessions and setting my trail to an unknown destination. The first of stops was in the bush of Niger, West Africa.

While in Niger, I served with the FVC's founding veteran Matt McCue, after we both returned from the Peace Corps he took to farming, myself I continued my wayfaring ways and traveled countless times across the country. I charged Capital Hill, enjoyed 2 Farm Aids, and spent numerous nights for food film screenings, speaking engagements, or simply to play music with new friends. A well spent trip to learn food production ranging from northern Vermont to Southern Baja Mexico.

I have what my mother describes as "Chronic Volunteerism"

During high school I enlisted to serve in the Army Reserves and continued on through college as a medic; in the emergency rooms. My patients, primarily homeless, were veterans ranging from WWII all the way up to conflicts reaching up to my departure in May 2001.

Of the many things learned, the most important for veterans I took away was the need for a place to decompress and a chance to seek opportunity after service.

I cannot speak on behalf of a combat veteran but personally readjustment was very difficult after the Peace Corps. Luckily, working as a volunteer with the FVC was a full time endeavor that enabled me to expand my passion for farming, learn many new techniques of farming and taking my time to readjust.

Now I am farming in Nevada, who knows for how long. But what I intend to do is work diligently, treat others with respect and do my best to make my time here an effort to make the world a little more beautiful and tasty.

Feb 10th 2010: Dear Farmily from Santa Cruz

ear Farmily,

Since leaving Santa Cruz in October I have travelled across the States twice by a combination of plane, train, bus, and automobiles. Latest news is that I find myself ex-fiancé'd, living on the road, sleeping in my truck or wherever for that matter and living with a loyal dog at my side.

I am currently in Davis, but going to Santa Cruz next weekend.
Wayfaring is love.

Funding is in the balance but I am setting up the village farm in Minnesota, working for the Farmer Veteran Coalition, and training my Rottweiler/ golden retriever mix to become a service dog on the farm.

Aside from a month on the farm our current tally for this last month travelling is a cross country trip and a half of over (3,000 miles!!+).

Be assured that at every nook and cranny between here and there I have been on a soap box spouting the blissful propaganda related to clean living, good food, and building community….and yes working with veterans. ;-)

You guys are often in my thoughts on this journey to figure out the world of food and I am incredibly grateful for the influence you all have had on my travels. I even walked into Jessie B in davis last week :-)

I wanted to write you guys also to inform those of you in the area that the FVC is putting together a monster of a veteran food and farming career fair in Santa Rosa on March 5th at the Veterans Hall.

Any and all are invited to attend. Some perks are enjoying free lunch, Agadez my dog, and moi !!!

To add gravity to our challenges while speaking at engagements I often ask the groups. three things:
1. Have you or anyone you know been affected by the economy?
2. Do you know a current veteran or one from any war?
3. Do you have concerns about access to good, affordable, quality, food?

Do you think its time we tried something different?

In nearly every occasion roughly 70-75% of respondents answered to all three.
And nearly seem to ponder or nod rhetorically.

I firmly believe you all are catalyst to a beautiful change we can achieve to make the world a little better than how we found it.

If any of you are in the dAvis, bay, or santa cruz area please don't be a stranger….

Come to the fair, another is in LA June, if not; You all have a home in Minnesota….If I stay;-)

In Peace,
Joshua A.

April 25th: 3 Weeks in Nevada

Less than three weeks into working at the farm and this weekend we put together the largest orders Hungry Mother has ever put out for plant starts to our retailers.

The positive comments are that the sheen and turgidity of our plants have been mentioned as the best they have ever seen from HMO. Not to boast, but I have yet to see any better starts anywhere regionally.

I was proud to send these plants out but take only the credit for a short time managing, which equals really to watering, shuffling plants and people but lazer beam focus.

All truth be told our incarcerated farmers are to be thanked for organically starting the seeds to begin their journey.

I'm really liking this place, it could be a home for a while.

From me and the prison pansies.

Keep Growing.

March 12th: Nevada, what a trip

Well I got a farm manager Job, its not the veterans village in Minnesota that I have been working on the last year. Serious bummer.

However I am working for a farm called hungry mother organics. They are a veteran ran farm operating on a 5 acre farm inside a prison. The farm produces plant starts, fresh veggies, and uses incarcerated veterans/good inmates for a little work.

This year they are starting a retail center for produce, plants, tools and such and are working to make this center both substantive in food production as well as education.

They also have a 200 acre farm down the road that they want to start developing, complete with house, organic land, and unlimited water. Best case scenario, I start managing the farm there while they focus on the other site.

I'm still so on for Minnesota, but have been getting bad juju concerning the place and our arrangements there. At any rate, if I go to Nevada, i will need to drive to Minnesota pick up my stuff and then drive through big sky country to arrive in NV. I'm actually really stoked about the drive, me my dog and open road. Awesome!

I have to admit it is a wonderful opportunity to get in with a group that is up and running.

Lets not forget Mountain biking! I'll be less than a half hour outside Tahoe and near many Holy, Holy, grails of trails. In fact the retail site is the trailhead for many of carson cities best single track....total bummer.

Anyone Wanna co pilot a cross country trip with a stranger and his dog and finish the trip with some awesome single track?

The pup shares space pretty well. ;-)

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

A Mosaic Life

Moving is like smashing a mirror of your life then placing them back together as neat as possible.

I think when you move think of it like a mosaic art project.

Why not make the pieces in your life an art piece?

For a kid, its devastating to leave friends, yet invigorating to make new ones…….
…..adults, its new work, home settling and neighbors…….
....For a dog it would be difficult to conceptualize the complexities of say' Agadez the Super Pups thoughts but…….they would probably be something like……
Squirrel!!, squirrel!!!, squirrel!!!

Alas for me.

It means rediscovering everything I own in the world and functionally packing a 91 Chevy step-side/short bed truck with a custom wood box encapsulating my life along with a 60 lb puppy and enough bedding to bundle up in the truck on cold nights.

Like a Transformer "Autobot" when all packed, my truck "Red Fred" metamorph's into a brutal road assault vehicle aptly named "The Hobo Hatchback"

The cargo bay is packing bicycles (2), computer, tool box, farm tools, clothes, books, instruments, desk, office chair, 50lbs of dog food, cooler, kitchen ware, and various automotive fluids.

My arsenal for survival is my bow and arrow from childhood, a big harvest knife!, a 30-30 lever action rifle, and 6 quilts my grandmothers have made for me…..I even have two collections with me…all my rocks and minerals, along with my xmas ornaments since childhood. ……
………...just incase I have to hole up in a Cave and spruce it up.

I had no Idea I had so much stuff!
Yet it all packs down so nicely.

Currently I am in Minnesota to pick up more stuff, (mainly winter gear), recharge, and start the westward trail Thursday morning towards Nevada.

Seems I am going to farm in the desert once again.

Minnesota didn't pan out, right people, right project, wrong timing.

Starting a farm at this stage was unfeasible in timing and funding.
No, no…No spilled milk, the project is moving forward, will open, but the funding and timing just didn’t come along at the same pace.


However, I am signing up for a project equally exciting, challenging, funded, and actually up and running.

The farm is called Hungry Mother Organics based out of Carson City.

This is the 3rd year of production and is operated by a former Peace Corps/Army/Farmer Veteran on a 5 acre farm inside a prison. The farm produces plant starts, fresh veggies, and uses incarcerated inmates for a little work. They depend heavily on greenhouse and high tunnel production.

This year they are starting a retail center for produce, plants, tools and such and are working to make this center both substantive in food production as well as educational.

The farm on the prison has a river, Sierra Nevada mountains, and a herd of wild mustangs roaming the vast terrain. Not bad for a back yard eh?

Hungry Mother also has access to another wonderful 200 acre farm about 15 minutes out of town that is planned for village-farm development; complete with housing, organic land, good soil, unlimited water, mountains, trails and huge herd of deer…hence the rifle!

Best case scenario this year I get a grip on production, marketing, and overall farm planning, next year I really lay into doing exactly what I was going to do in Minnesota.

Even better case scenario is I put my wanderlust to rest.
My 3 year Omnivore's Odyssey is finally coming to an end.
A chapter of my life is closing, a new one begins.

My new life will be in proximity to Tahoe, Reno, the Mountains, and 2 hours away from the FVC Davis office.

One could say all the perks of California, without living in it.


A most rewarding opportunity to end my global farm and food apprenticeship.
Now its time to start putting the lessons to work.

This is cross country trip number 2 in less than two months.
Ah, Life.

Agadez says hi.

Niger, News of the Weird.

ANGRY bees attacked villagers in southwestern Niger, putting more than 40 in hospital and killing livestock

Gotta Love News from Niger.

The bees swarmed into Dake-Garka village after a gust of wind broke the tree branch that had held their nest for more than half a century, sending panic-stricken people fleeing into the bush, radio reports said.

More than 40 villagers, including 14 children, were admitted to emergency wards of the regional hospital in Birni-N’Konni, it said.

A horse and a donkey died of stings while 95 goats and sheep were left paralysed.

Hours after the invasion, many residents were still afraid to return to their bee-besieged homes, village head Chaibou Abdoulkarim told Anfani.

Sunday, March 7, 2010

Our first FVC event, A quick film.

Hi guys, wanted to share this.
Cliff Figallo our media coordinator make this video for youtube.

copy and paste this address to watch.

I am shown in it a few times and speak briefly.
It was the first time I ever considered myself a veteran.

Wow how many things have changed since that time.
I love what I do!!

Our food and farming career fair was a smash success!
over 160 veterans came for the event.

Agadez the super pup was awesome.

We spent today in Sonoma County at a very swanky and horticultural paradise for a barrel tasting. It was beyond amazing.I even made freinds with the head farmer.
Brilliant stuff.

WEll I'm flying back to MO for about a month, coming back out to CA in the late of the month for a competive award. I'm making a project to hire vets on our farm and to use the funds to give them a 1,000$ stipend per month while covering room and board.

Can you believe I picked up 5 vets to come and work!!!
So pumped!


Thursday, February 25, 2010

1 Month + 4,000 miles = 2 Worn out Puppies

Before arriving in California Agadez the super pup and I had put on 2,500 miles.

Add a flight to California, tally the day trips to Sonoma, Napa, and other locales then add on this weekend trip to Santa Cruz this weekend and it should total atleast if not more than 4,000 miles.

Whew! We are some worn out road pups.

Since being in Cali' we have been working tirelessly to pull together our first regional food and farming career fair for the Farmer Veteran Coalition in Sonoma County (NorCal). Total score, we have nearly 40 tables of veteran, food, and farming organizations in line to deliver some fantastic services, jobs, and educational opportunities.

We are unsure of how many veterans are going to come, but we already have 30+ of our regional farmer veterans who are looking to continue or begin their lives into the realms of agriculture.

Did I mention the event is only 8 days away?

Incredible! If not anything else, we are actually ahead of the bell curve.
A first for us.

Though we are not finished, there are some finishing garnishes to add to compliment the dish.
I could not be more thrilled. Life is SPICY!!

Now for news of NIGER:

As you can read after my last few posts; you will see that in the midst of all this traveling, Niger has suffered a coup as in the last week. At first glance before the gun smoke dissipated one (including myself) would have thought that this was one more step towards the precipice of chaos that Niger seems to be teetering towards.

However. Its looking like a little coup is good for democracy.

In short initial reports from Niger are speculating that the military junta that overthrew the president did so to preserve the sanctity of democracy and have pledged NOT to run for public office in the ensuing election that will sweep the country.

Apparently President Tandja was overthrown as a direct result of his failed power vacuum to extend his presidency beyond his mandated term limits. Beyond the crushing hand he has placed over his people with the world's finest military training and weapons America can offer; he even found time to dissolve the supreme court and parliament….and that's for beginners.

If anything, getting him out of power was a good thing, his wife even better.

Well, nuff said on this matter.

Its been mentioned by another blogger that I should write something on behalf of my own opinions. I normally would relish in the opportunity to speak my piece on Niger and the horrible direction they are being nudged towards to preserve their country through strong military rule.

But as things stand. Niger seems to be doing better as a result of this coup…..well at least for now anyhow. Where in the world has anyone actually heard of "pro coup" demonstrations across the country….and peaceful at that?

I love Niger, everything I am doing now as a farmer is because of what the proud saheliens taught me about living.

I'm broke, penniless, and have no idea how I'm going to make my living in Minnesota.
But this I do know. There are worst things to be than broke, being without resourcefulness is far, far, worse.

Folk, I'm doing just fine.
Agadez and I are just pooped.

That's life on the road.

Now I'm figuring out how to put the farm together. Who knows I might even come out of California with a few potential farmer veterans.

Oh how I relish in the opportunity to finally cook my own meals, pump some iron at the gym and meditate in the solace of my own farm.

Another downside of the road. Restaurant food and hotels. Geez I think I've put on 10 pounds since the beginning of the year. Agadez too! But good normal weight for a puppy; he's 'bout 50 lbs!!

Well Folk Be well, and keep on rocking in the free world.

And don't worry, President Obama is American born and doing his best to reform health care.

Put the petty partisanship aside. I think 8 years with an inept faux dictator and his kabal at the helm was enough of a setback for our country.

Move on, move forward, and plant some Acorns :-)

One Coup over the Cockoo's Nest

An article from BBC describing Niger's current Coup.
Interesting Coup to say the least.....

NIGER Characteristics from the World Bank:

Chronic poverty:
Population 14 million, 61% live on less than $1 a day

Resource rich:
Huge reserves of uranium, Chinese firms digging for oil

Politically unstable:
History of coups, assassinations and on-off rebellion by nomadic Tuareg people in the north

Niger junta bars itself from future elections

Salou Djibo, leader of the coup that overthrew Mamadou Tandja
The junta leaders have not yet set a date for elections

Members of Niger's military junta and the interim administration it is setting up will not be allowed to run future democratic elections.

Junta spokesman Abdoul Karim Goukoye reiterated that the coup leaders' priorities were to hold transparent polls and restore democracy.

President Mamadou Tandja was overthrown a week ago after a decade in power.

Col Goukoye said that Morocco had offered to shelter Mr Tandja, but this was denied by Rabat.

Mr Tandja and several of his ministers are still under house arrest.

Niger's main opposition party has called for Mr Tandja to be tried for high treason because of his decision last year to scrap limits on the presidential term in office, which went against a ruling by the Supreme Court.

Earlier in the week Mahamadou Danda was named as a civilian prime minister to oversee the transition to democracy.

The junta has not set a date for the new polls.

"I have asked for the necessary guarantees to be sure of committing myself in the process leading to a real restoration of democracy," AFP news agency quotes Mr Danda as saying in his first public comments since his appointment.

Niger has experienced long periods of military rule since independence from France in 1960.

But Mr Tandja's supporters argue that his decade in power brought a measure of economic stability to the poor West African nation.

Thursday, February 18, 2010

A Coup de E'tat In Niger....Not Good.

Now for some terrible but not completely unexpected news from Niger…..

The BBC reports…..

Niger President Mamadou Tandja and his cabinet are being held by soldiers after gun battles in the capital, a government source has told the BBC.

Gunfire broke out around the presidential palace at about 1300 (1200 GMT) and continued for 30 minutes, says the BBC's Idy Baraou in Niamey.

State radio is playing military music - a similar pattern to two coups in the 1990s.

Tensions have been growing in the uranium-rich nation since last year.

Mr Tandja was widely criticised when he changed the constitution in August to allow him to stand for a third term.

Long-term tensions
Our correspondent says tanks have been firing and witnesses report seeing injured people being taken to hospital.

An unnamed French official told AFP that a coup attempt was under way.

"All I can say is that it would appear that Tandja is not in a good position," he told the news agency on condition of anonymity.

Soldiers captured Mr Tandja while he was chairing his weekly cabinet meeting, the government source told the BBC. AFP later reported an official as saying Mr Tandja was possibly being held at a military barracks about 20km (13 miles) west of Niamey.

A witness told the news agency that the bodies of three soldiers had been taken to a military mortuary.
The situation in Niamey remains unclear - there has apparently been no large-scale deployment of military personnel.

The government and opposition have been holding on-off talks since December - mediated by the regional body Ecowas - to try to resolve the country's political crisis.

Mr Tandja, a former army officer, was first voted into office in 1999 and was returned to power in an election in 2004.

Niger has experienced long periods of military rule since independence from France in 1960. It is one of the world's poorest countries, but Mr Tandja's supporters argue that his decade in power has brought a measure of economic stability.

Under his tenure, work has begun on the world's second-biggest uranium mine, and energy deals have been signed with Chinese firms.

Thursday, January 28, 2010

Greet'ns from the Road

Hello folks, I am sitting warmly in a public library in Saint Louis.

I arrived yesterday after about 17 hours of being in the car.
Straight Shot, well I took about a 5 hour nap after being up for over 24 hours and flying cross country, just to then pack all the stuff up and head back west to where I flew from.....whew!!!

Agadez the super pup is a marvelous road dog, but is a bit of a bed hog in the truck.

The first night spent in Louisville I spent on my back in the fetal position as wonder pup slept beneath my feet.

Why not put him on the floor board you ask?
I tried, but when he is determined to sleep somewhere its like trying to plug a leak in a damn with your finger.

I'm staying in Saint Louis until Friday and then moving on to Warrensburg, (old college town) then to KC for a week, then my farm for a week, then Sauk Center Minnesota for who knows how long....but I hope long. I need a home.

The road trip thus far has been awesome, I love traveling and experiencing the joy of seeing the diversity of our country and the people we meet along the way are not to shabby of a perk as well.

so yes, single, homeless, and without regular paychecks coming in does have its drawbacks; but this is the happiest I have been in the last couple years. And they have been good years spent all over the country doing the things I love; A life devoted to creating music, traveling, farming, and eating good food regularly sure is a tough way to go.

I am loving life greatly and appreciating the joys of having Agadez the super pup always at my side.

but damn, charlie, my other dog.......sheeeeeeeeeee is going to be pissssSSSSssed!!


A quick food fact

Did you know?

4, count them 4, companies control 83.5% of the beef market.
Another 4 own 66% of the hog industry.
And to mention evil reincarnate; 93% of the soybeans grown are under the control of 1, yes 1 company's patents.......Monsanto? Ever heard of them?

I don't have to say anything more about this, the numbers just say it all.
Not good. Nuff said.

Buy local, Buy from a farmer you know.

Friday, January 22, 2010

North County Times of San Diego

here is an article that speaks of many that work in our circles.
Nadia is the rock behind the Village here in Minnesota.

John Keith has faced his issues is doing well, and has started an online forum for veterans to speak with one another about VA issues and the high rates of suicides experienced by our current veterans. He is a definition of action hero, within two days he had thousands of people signed up.

Lastly I met Mary Ellen in DC during the summit to end Veteran Homelessness in 5 years. Good ole' irish gal if I ever knew one.

Pay attention to the last line of the article because it relates to even me.
I'm doing this practically for skittles.

Although Chaplain Fred Tittle left Vietnam in 1970, he only filed for compensation from the Veterans Administration in 2003.

"I never considered filing a claim; as a matter of fact, it was filed for me ... I'm not sure if I ever would have unless prompted by someone else, another combat veteran. This is one of the reasons I do the work that I do with injured veterans; I know how difficult it is to ask for help."

Tittle is a former combat-disabled Marine who is working as chaplain at Moffett Field, located near Sunnyvale, with combat-disabled veterans as well as active duty members. Most of the injured have traumatic brain injury and PTSD.

The last time I talked to him, he had just helped an Iraq veteran and his family who were living in a homeless shelter find "a more suitable, calm place to stay and get them connected with help and resources." The couple have a young daughter ,and the wife was about to give birth at any moment.

On a given day, Tittle will drive a soldier to her doctor's appointment, defuse a potentially violent altercation with the police and help a confused and frustrated veteran fill out his mountain of forms so he can get his disability compensation. He does not get paid for any of this.

John Keith, an Iraq veteran, was at the lowest point of his life when he e-mailed Nadia McCaffrey last year. McCaffrey's son, Patrick, was killed in Iraq in 2004, and she has since become an advocate and "kind of a mom" to many young veterans who have been flailing, utterly alone and desperate in the months and years after serving their country.

In physical and emotional pain, Keith felt like he couldn't keep trying to get his benefits, trying to deal with the VA, trying to find medications that wouldn't make him have black-outs. It was through McCaffrey's emotional support and practical guidance that he was able to regain his strength and start advocating for himself ---- and others. McCaffrey does not get paid for saving and rebuilding lives.

Mary Ellen Salzano started the California Statewide Collaborative for Our Military and Families because she saw the need to save lives by not only connecting the dots, but connecting the humans. She spends most of her waking hours helping people who are struggling with a myriad of issues and a sense of deep desperation, to get in touch with people who might be able to help them. She does not get paid.

The VA has seen a 26 percent increase in suicides, mostly among 18- to 29-year-old veterans who served in Iraq and Afghanistan.

It's time to create a new kind of work force ---- of paid advocates.

Monday, January 18, 2010

Tweet Tweet, said the farming blogger

Hello everyone...reporting from Sauk Centre MN.  

For those of you who may or may not know me, I am the farm manager of the Valley Forge Veterans Village.  I wanted to let everyone know that i have been up here on site for roughly two weeks now and have started laying the ground work for the very first installment of the village farm program.

Beginning modestly we will begin production by building a high tunnel to get a head start on the Minnesota seasons and grow high value vegetables such as tomatoes, cukes, peppers and eggplants in the summer.  This spirng we will begin a modest garden and begin production of cool season crops such as kale, spinach, salad mixes, raddishes, broccoli, turnips....yadda yadda yadda.

WE also will begin seeding the pastures for fertility and future animal use.  Though we are waiting for acceptance from city council our plans are to potentially begin getting into pastured poultry and begin growing birds for meat, eggs, and amusement. 

So far we are getting grants underway to modestly begin. I have also created a three year development plan to ensure our growth fits sustainably into our abilities; while laying the foundation agriculturally for another hundred years of wayfarers arriving to bask in the beauty, serenity, and bounty of this powerful place.

Its been a long road for all of us to get to this point, and I am thankful for all of your commitments to our mission.  The real work begins now.

With that being said, let me say this clearly. IF there is ever a time to start putting your shoulders to the grind stone the time is now.  Though we are opening officially in coming months, we are still in need of monetary donations for operational expenses, not to forget suggestions or help in grants, potential funding, sources, contacts, even equipment donations to better enable us to get this farm off to the best start possible.

Honestly I'd even take a stubborn ole Missouri mule if someone had one to lend or give.

Be well everyone and be rest assured this project is happening and will be one that brings hope, great food and opportunity to enable others to burn as bright as the sun for many years ahead.

Signing off for now,

your professional wayfarer and relentless goofball

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

Travel, Snow Dogs and Artists in Minnesota.

Today's flight with the tiny but mighty super pup Agadez was a smashing success. He was granted carte blanche access, enormous hospitality, and even left a few souvenirs in the terminal as a tribute of thanks when the urge to not release was too much to bear.

So I am here safe and sound, its 2111 and I am bushed.
Last night I got 1-1/2 hours of sleep and then only a few cat naps during my flight.

Factors impeding my quest for a few quick zzz's on the flight were:
1st A super chatty stewardess who ran me through the escapades of every dog she has had. Grr!
2nd, Well who the heck can really sleep back with in masses in coach.

O'how I long for the days of traveling internationally 1st class on Air France!
Thank you peace corps!

Once you taste the good life certainly there is no joy left in coach.
Well not really, people are always much nicer in the back.

In fact a guy sitting next to me bought me a beer and I received some great advice from an interior decorator as to which color to paint the barn here in Minnesota.

I would have went with the traditional barn red, but perhaps a rich hue of royal blue accentuated with a creamy white along the borders could really be very stunning. Who knows?

Touchdown, Minneapolis!
Arriving in perfect timing, Jimmie our project director made a haul from Wisconsin and picked me up at the airport. Then two hours later I safely arrive to this stunning campus currently blanketed with about a foot or more of snow.

What a contrasting vision compared to the lush greenery of my earlier voyage here in May. The current temperature is soaring at -4F, and I must say with the right layers it didn't feel to awful bad.

My present hypothesis is that once the mercury dips to say below 10, it doesn't matter how cold it is. Its just cold. Apparently the natives mentioned it felt much better due to the lack of wind, which is not always the case.

Wind? Ah man, its usually windy here in the winter?…..grr!
That changes the game.

My first day and the security blanket of my thoughts to be able to withstand the cold has been already yanked from beneath me.

Worry not, I have not lost the faith.

Like Niger and everywhere else, you adapt.
A beneficial by product of my wayfaring ways and not living in regulated environments for extended times like cars, offices, and houses certainly has a pay off, that being my body acclimates rather well.

Moving on.

Relishing in the opportunity to take a walk and bask in the glory of this glorious place Agadez and I went on a night tour of the farm. We walked in knee high snow, followed squirrel and raccoon tracks leading from trees to hideouts, and from there to brush lines then fence rows, and looping back to the trees.

It made me appreciate the tactics, nature, and cycle of life in the north. As I observed the underground lairs of these scavenging species I received a darn good edu'ma' kation too; which can be best summed up as protect your nuts and dig in.

Taking the signs of the lesson to heart I know my charge to feed so many during these wintry months will be a considerable challenge. Similar to the squirrels experience, if harvests are successful then after the difficult winter months the pay off is emerging into the magnificence of another spring and living for another renewal of seasons.

Without the cold, one could never truly appreciate the opportunity to once again be embraced by warmth and another chance to procure adequate bounty in anticipation of the next winter. Its nature!

Despite the many challenges laying in wait, I'm feeling very eager to attempt the task at hand.

To teach others and provide sustenance is a duty, the ability to do so annually is learning and embracing natures truest art form; survival, above all others, this is my favorite form. Unfortunately not too many or enough in contemporary times are learning to wield the brush and peacefully create a masterpiece for themselves while striving to paint a portrait for sustainability.

Currently I'm looking out a window on a whole campus that resembles a blank canvas in my minds eye. Within my mind I envision an obtainable portrait, and if we work hard, plan precisely, and execute brilliantly then this place has the potential to be a true masterpiece.

Well its time to shut it all down, cuddle into my sleep sack and doze off to the delightful sounds of Agadez chasing the farm squirrels in his dreams.

Today was a day, tomorrow is another day.
They all add up to create a life.

Be well, and yes the view from my window and the hard comfort from my pallet on the floor here sure beats your fancy pants beds and the cubicles many of you are reading this from.

In the words of my father, Keep your powder dry!

Sunday, January 3, 2010

A new dance number

Well today is the day.

My first month at my new home in Minnesota begins today.
Big grin here.

Flight travel begins in Charlottesville VA at 0714 and ends about 1330 in Minneapolis.
From there its about a two our drive with the boss man Jimmie Coulthard until we arrive at the campus.

It will be a big change coming from the mild eastern winters versus the rugged and burly -20 below temperatures of the northern plains.

Am I prepared?
Was I for Niger when the mercury rose to 130+ F?

Who is? But you have to literally "weather it out", take your lumps and get adjusted.

My feet are leading this dance, no need for control, I'm liking this number.

Will it be a feeling like Niger? When I arrived in my village for the first time it felt as it took 30 years to arrive at a place that had been waiting for me.

If I only had the time to mention all that I learned there.

They were my family, the village was my home.
I thrived, if anything, this is all I seek for my next journey.

What a lovely word.

Well its about 0115 in the morning, wake up is at 0600.
You do the math, I need sleep.

Bon chance!

New Year, New Decade, New Beginings, Same old Me!!!

Can you remember where you were a decade ago?

I remember hazily New Years Eve, the millennium, New Orleans, a young, inexperienced and frisky kid wandering the unknown french quarter, but intrigued. I guess at that time I was interested about the world enough, but not a clue where I fit into it. A week after New Orleans I shipped out with my Army unit to Osaka Japan to help run a health clinic during training operations.

Japan was my first time out of the United States it was a welcomed break from my first paltry academic performances at school. The Mark Twain quote comes to mind of "Don't let your schooling interfere with your education" Sounded like good advice so I took it. My month in Japan was one of the most defining moments of my life.

To say the travel bug bit hard would be an understatement.

Fast forward 10 years, 14 countries, 4 continents, and many journeys living, working, studying, and traveling abroad and domestically. No real goal comes to mind other than simply attempt to better understand the world and learn how to live meaningfully in my own right.

Geez, thinking of me as that kid makes me chuckle. Despite my experiences starting from that date hanging from the rafters of that glorious city off the big muddy, I am grateful to say I still don't have a clue about the world. But I sure as heck am still eager to learn.

If anything about what I have learned is this: If you follow your feet and passions it seems life has a way of taking care of itself or in my case bringing it all back full circle.

Me a farmer? It made my family laugh when I came back from Africa.

Farming is a multiple generational occupation within my family. Its part of why I joined the service before I graduated high school, college didn't appeal to me and farming was something I swore I'd never do.
Now its all I want to.

Monday, January 4th 2010 I leave from my current abode in Charlottesville Virginia and go to visit my new home in Sauk Centre Minnesota for a month. In tow with a mandolin, computer, some clothes, bedding and my new puppy I am very eager to get to the farm assessed evaluate the structures, soils, and growing spaces while also initiating the process of meeting the natives.

As far as my wayfaring ways are considered, they will never be done.
But for the immediate future, I am looking forward to the prospect of waking up for many years at one location and continue to learn more about the world while creating a home. Its a warm feeling to have a future shining as bright as the sun, nothing could be better than being the 1st farm manager and part of a team focused on redefining veterans services. that 21 year old kid 10 years ago never would have thought I would be helping to start an intentional community for military veterans.

This next portion of my life would not have been possible without the shaping and molding from my four amazing parents. The patience and wisdom of my grandmothers, the adoption of myself by many other mothers and families and friends around the world who have always seemed to be there to pass on and share their knowledge, food and homes to get me along while wayfaring along my merry way.

I am utterly in awe of the beauty and magnificence of this world. Not a day hardly passes where I am not taken by the earths plants, terrain, wildlife, humans, and wonderful little puppies like the one snuggling next to me. They all regularly fill my heart with joy and wonder at the diversity of creation.

Honestly I don't really care to know who or what created it. To know would ruin the surprise and mystique.

Besides what would happen if it was like some intergalatic hillbilly creator?
Like a cousin eddy from the chevy chase family vacation movies.
I suppose knowing might explain the wisdom in some of the worlds more peculiar creations. You know ones like the duck billed platapus and Rush Limbaugh.

Lastly so so so sorry for being out of touch on this darn blog for the last half year, a lot has occurred, way more than one could imagine. Maybe someday I'll write more reflectively.

Till then, ta ta for now and happy new year.