Things I’ve Learned
Thursday I’ll be attending my first meeting as a member of the small-scale and urban farming committee for the AgExtension office here in Travis county. I met the committee organizers through Farm School and was asked to serve a term to help them develop resources and outreach for people who look a little bit like me. I’m happy to do it. Also – free lunch!
Although I’m sure on Thursday I’ll get a much better idea of exactly how I can contribute to their cause, right now I laugh at the thought that anything we’ve done here may be educational or provide insight for others. I firmly believe our entire experience so far is useful only as a “teachable moment”; a cautionary tale, in the same way that moms everywhere are using the Miley Cyrus performance from the VMA’s Sunday night (Respect yourselves, ladies!). So, what if I need to dig deep and actually provide some thoughtful insight that could somehow be useful to a starry eyed individual, drunk on the scent of hay and manure, lulled into sweet agrarian dreams after a drive out through the countryside? The truth is that we really have learned a lot without scratching the surface of what is to be learned – an intimidating realization. I guess it’s because we’re not intimidated by our own naivete that we were stupid enough to come out here in the first place.
My parents presented me with a framed, bulleted list when they sent me off to college, and I actually set it up on my dorm bookshelf because it was comforting and also contained a few extremely handy reminders (ex: Go to class. Study.) along with one I know my mother wrote that I puzzled over for awhile before finally understanding: “Remember where your love is.”
For the committee, for myself, and for you – here’s a list. It’s the things I’ve learned. The list of things I haven’t learned is much, much longer.
- Don’t stand still too long anywhere outside. Standing still invites stinging insects and biting bugs to attack you. Every time.
- There are no shortcuts. Plan to do it right the first time or do it again later. This applies specifically to fencing, but it’s relevant across the board.
- Read. Plan. Research.
- Do not over-read, over-plan, or over-research. The best education is by doing.
- The goat is smarter than the farmer. Accept this and move on.
- Find a mentor willing to answer a late-night call. They are worth more than money.
- Leave your pride at the front gate. You can go back and retrieve it in a few years.
- You are much stronger than you think. Really.
- It will get worse before it gets better. But it will get better.
- Ask questions, sign up, try to replicate what you’ve learned.
- “Regular hours” occur at any point during a 24 hour day.
- Chickens are food for the wildlife, too.
- Admire your work daily.
- You will fail. Your crop will not produce. Your animal will die. You succeed by trying.
- Remember where your love is and go back to it, go back for it. Whether or not it makes any sense at all (thanks Mom).