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.


quirkychick said...

Very excited for you Farm Chick. Can't wait to read about your adventures on the SCRANCH.

Might even come up and help you harvest.

Cannot wait to read your book!

anilucia said...

Very exciting. I'll be keeping up with you here... I have similar deep concerns, and a similar dream. No family land of my own yet. I bet you could set up a second business inviting folks to come help out for week for their own edification! I'd sign up!

Heather Clisby said...

Its remoteness could prove to be a problem for that but ultimately, it could prove to be just that very thing that people find appealing. Great idea!

Rita Arens said...

Very cool. I will be checking in to see how your adventure goes!

Liesl Garner said...

I am behind the times, clearly. I just found you on the internet last night, and have come round to see what all the fuss is about. Oh hey! We did that same exact thing this last year, soul sister! I started out a High-Heels in the Chicken Coop kind of farmer, being thrown in a bit. And now have my own muck boots, bruises, scrapes and dirty fingernails to show for doing this work myself. Biggest garden a newcomer could have - and we canned what we grew. Now we're going to learn milking goats in another month. It will be fun to see what I can learn from you on your blog!

Heather Clisby said...

Wonderful to have you stop by, soul sister! I just had to laugh at your self-description and the very idea that you could learn anything from me. Nothing in my earlier life has prepared me for the farm experience, which makes it even richer. Though I'm now snowbirding in LA, I am anxious to return to the farm in May and see what my garlic bulbs have been doing under the straw. Please stay in touch! SO JEALOUS of your animals - that's my next goal...