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shifting drishti

Prune Away What Doesn’t Serve You

As I said before I’m currently in the Organic Farmer Training Program at Michigan State University. Last week we spent a good amount of time going over berry pruning, the week before we went over fruit tree pruning.

We were given the opportunity to get in with the shears and prune away. We had guidance all around us whichA3C60166-36F2-4F3F-A67F-475C44768009 took away some of the intimidation- the intimidation of I might destroy all of this. Honestly, I found it quite exciting. Pruning fascinates and excites me because it challenges so much of how I see the world.

I constantly view things with the “more is more is more” tinted glasses of life. More Work- More Money. More Food-More Nourished. More Friends-More Connection. More Giving-More Love. More Time in the Pew-More Faith. More Exercise-More Beauty.

There is always more. More that I could have. More that I could give.

Yet, pruning works against that idea. Pruning is removing, lessening, taking away and creating space for new. As it says in this diagram from my class workbook, pruning helps rejuvenate growth. At first I looked at the tree and thought why would you remove anything? These branches can bare fruit so, just leave them, I’ll get more fruit right? However, by pruning away the excess the fruits that grow have the space they need to grow. Pruning creates space for something new.

That trimming away of excess helps to direct the plants and the direction the plant grows. I know this applies to my life. I want to go, go, go. Things will work out and I’ll  just go in the direction

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I find myself. Yet, when I step back, get grounded and look at the big picture- what is not needed here? Sometimes that means removing people from my life, pruning out those that do not help me grow in the direction I want to go.

While working on pruning grapevines, Dr. Eric Hanson (MSU- Dept of Horticulture) was walking me through how we have to remove last years growth. I was nervous. There is hardly anything there once we remove last year’s growth. I couldn’t see what would be left. He reassured me we had to because last year’s growth wouldn’t bare fruit anymore. This had me thinking about how we can get stuck in our past glories. I see trail buddies from last year struggling to move past the glory of a thru hike. We are regular people now, no longer the grizzled thru hiker. The fruits of our past work have already been harvested and now there is a tangled mess of veins that need to be removed. We remove those stories about ourselves, the stories of who we once were.

As someone who used to be a 100% able bodied and now rocks out more at a solid 80% I have struggled with this. I used to, I used to, I used to can be a fight in my brain as I struggle through things that once were so easy.

What I used to be is no long who I am.

Once I remove all that excess and get ground in who I am, who I have always been, and who I will be tomorrow then I have the space to grow and be what I need right now and work on what I need for the future. No longer weighed down by the “used-to-be blues.”

Not all the lessons of the farm are about plant cells , although the reading assignments last week reminded me how much attention I didn’t pay in 8th grade biology- don’t worry y’all chloroplast is still a thing whether you remember what it is or not. Connecting with plants, the earth, nature, its easy to see how we’re all connected. Farm lessons are life lessons.

And sometimes…

Less is more.

Remove what doesn’t survive you.

 

Sexy Unicorn Studies Organic Farming

 

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You gotta have a first day of school photo, in your 30s, right…?

 

This week I started my Organic Farmer Training Program at Michigan State University. I have quite a few friends who have expressed an interest in organic farming, but they have jobs, money and security so they have decided that farming is not for them.

Since I have none of that I figured I could document the experience to include my buddies in this learning journey.

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Winter Spinach right out of the ground is so yummy. I know all the food adjectives to describe fresh food- yummy, yum, yums.

This week was all the first day stuff that you normally do. Tour the facilities, although we were able to try some winter spinach as we checked out the different hoop houses and it was delicious. Nice reminder out the gate how good fresh food.

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Learning the layout of the Student Organic Farm.

As a slow reader I have been chipping away at the reading list for months and I’m just barely on track with it. Staying on top of the reading will most likely be one of my biggest challenges. The other is socializing and chatting in general. Meeting lots of  new people creates fun times with crippling anxiety.

After our first day on the farm we went to our instructor’s house for a taco dinner. It was a great opportunity to get to know my fellow classmates. However, at one point I was sitting and chatting with 4 of my classmates. All four were in agreement how much they like quiet and aren’t in general chatters. Which means I took that as a cue to start talking in rapid fire mode where I ask questions then answer them, hold little space for others to chime in, and use Dutch words then translate them to English. My cheeks were also on fire, bright red, and took two full days to level back out.

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Checking out the kale in the Hoop House. Difference between a Green House and a Hoop House? A Green House is heated and a Hoop House is unheated.
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Top Cat. The sweetest, neediest farm cat I have ever met.

So, yeah. Socializing. Nailed it.

 

 

I’m way too excited for next week and learning berry pruning. Y’all’s Sexy Unicorn (aka No Chill) is on her way to being an organic farmer.

 

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Checking out the apples in the cooler.
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Learning to prune. Just a natural.

 

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Pete asked me to take his photo to document his first day as a farmer.

 

 

I have a Doritos Lodged in my Throat

Anticipation is a weird thing. When you sit at a point right before something new begins, it sits in an awkward and askew way in my body. Anything could happen.

y’know?

Really good stuff could happen, or you could get caught in more of the same drudgery under a different name. Anticipation doesn’t feel warm and exciting to me it sits in me like a Doritos chip that was not eaten but inhaled.  I want it to move down so I can continue eating Doritos.

Tomorrow morning I start my Organic Farmer Training Program at Michigan State University (my undergrad Alma Mater). At the end of last year I applied for a scholarship for the program and received a large one which makes it possible for me to join this program. As I sitanticipating what it will be like a million thoughts run through my head.

Maybe I’ll learn a ton and I’ll be like this cool hip micro farmer helping to bring fresh food to women who are victims of Domestic Violence (this is my best case scenario and why I applied.) Maybe I’m in over my head and I’ll spend 9 months looking like the shrug emoji.

I want to help other women like me. When leaving an abusive and violent relationship you can’t tell which way is up much less remember to buy groceries and make yourself a descent meal. Nourishing your body is so far from a priority. Hell, most of the time you are struggling financially (almost two years out and I still have nothing), so worrying about buying good healthy food isn’t going to happen. Also, I need to create my own path. No one is going to provide me one here in Michigan. Whenever I tell people I’m looking for work they laugh at me and wish me luck without offering any kind of help. y’know? It’s Michigan they say. I shouldn’t have moved back. I shouldn’t want to help. Michigan is past saving. They laugh that I would think I could move back and be a part of where my family has lived for a 100 years.

The other thing people laugh at me about is wanting to make friends. I have moved into my Mid-30s. I live in poverty, I’m single, no kids, and don’t have a career. Friendships aren’t available for people in my demographic. We’re allowed a pet that we obsessively love and that is all the more we are to expect from here on out.

I don’t fit in or have an ease in which to connect with people. I have lived all over the world and never worried about making friends, because, well, I like people. Friendships have not traditionally been difficult for me. Ever since my attack I have struggled to connect with people, often finding myself isolated and alone even when I’m in a crowd. I even struggle to message back old friends that I know get that I’m kinda odd and aloof. I don’t want to bother them by responding to their text asking how I’m doing.

The day before I start my OFTP (Organic Farmer Training Program) I can tell myself I’ll finally make some friends in Michigan. I’ll connect with people and we have similar goals so we can support each other as we go after these goals in our different corners of the state.

Then I remember…

I remember I’m a polarizing person. People’s response to me tends to fall into two categories. The first:

yaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaassssss. This be-yotch SAYS WHATEVER IS ON HER MINDuuhhhh!!!

the other is:

yes. This BITCH says whatever is on her mind….

I’m aware of this. I might make some really good friends, friends that if I’m perfectly honest I really need at this point. Or I could make a bunch of enemies who can’t believe they have to learn about tomatoes with someone like me.

That’s why I have this lodged Doritos of anticipation in my throat.

Maybe I’ll be a great student and take to it naturally, but I don’t even understand my book about Soil. I genuinely didn’t give a shit in chemistry and 17 years later its finally catching up with me.

Maybe I’ll make some life long friends, or maybe I’ll be a weirdo eating cheese sandwiches in a corner by myself.

Anticipation.

Anything can happen.

I’ll eventually be able to look back and tell you what happened. As for now. Well,as for now your guess is as good as mine.

 

 

Leo checking out my Vermicompost with me.
Leo checking out my broccoli sprouts– earning farm dog cred.  
Soul of Soil was assigned to us. It was too difficult for me so I went and checked out this simplified book about soil from the library. 
I forever have a slight smell of bag balm about me. 

Oh, By The Way…

… I made it.

I hiked from Georgia to Maine.

The Appalachian Trail was a beast. When people ask would you do it again or when is your next long hike all I can say is, “I’m Good.”

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My business cards make sure people know I can climb mountains.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m glad I did it. I’m extremely proud of myself and Leo for making it. The worst was probably about 4 months in, realizing how much work I had put in and I still had two more months of struggle, of scrambling, of straight ups and downs.

However, that’s the thing about the trail. You know.

You know what’s coming.

You know how many miles you have hiked. You know how many states have been checked off and how many more you have yet to come. Guidebooks tell you about monster climbs, scarce water sources, and where you can grab a burrito. The hiking app GutHook will even pinpoint your exact location on a map of the trail. You can watch your dot slowly move towards Maine. Maybe you’ll meet someone new and interesting, but after months on the trail you have your bubble of people moving along at your general pace. You know who snores (they always find a way to set their tent up next to you), who has goals to sleep with a wide variety of people, who thinks they know more than you, who is always down to party, who will make you laugh if you run into each other while filtering water. You know.

Then one day its done, and you no longer know. You no longer have “angels” leaving you goods in the woods to brighten your day or to nourish you. You no longer have the simplicity of just walking forward and that being all you have to do to check off another successful day. You no longer have your path mapped out for you.

Some become obsessed with the next trail. Preparing for the next adventure. OR planning a return to the trail the next season. Reliving the experience as quickly as it ended. The draw of trail life too enticing to just be over one day. Some have jobs lined up and partners waiting for them, their lives quickly going back to safe and well marked. Then there are others, those like me, where the trail ends and there are no more trail markers leading the way. No waiting partner to help ease you back into normalcy. No job to throw yourself into. No books nicely laying our what your future ups and downs will be.

You may have goals. An idea of where you are headed. Scrambling up a mountain to realize its taking you in the opposite direction you want to go. Sliding back down to be trapped in a valley till day light. Another day of trying to find your markers. Trying to find your way.

Life is an unmarked path through the wilderness.

Finally


I’ve hiked over 1600 miles and Finally in the kind of places I wanted to be in. I’ve worked so hard, pushed on when I didn’t have it in me, and just straight up struggled. Now I’m in Vermont in the Green Mountains (Go Green!). It’s muddy and I’m dirty and smelly. And it is so beautiful. Last night I rounded out a long day of hiking swimming in a pond up in the mountains. It was wonderful. 

New Jersey and New York

New Jersey and New York flew by. After crossing the Delaware Water Gap I partnered up with a fellow Thru Hiker, Jellybean, that I have known more or less from the beginning. However, we had never hiked together. She was looking for a change in hiking partner and we needed someone to keep us motivated after the death march that was Pennsylvania. New Jersey for the most part was pretty chill. The highlight was at High Point State Park they give thru hikers a free can of Pepsi. Everyone in your radius gathers there so happy for a free pop. The crossing into New York was rough and rarely spoken of there were some scrambles and slick rocks. After about 20 or 30 miles it calmed down and became some reasonable hiking again. 

In New Jersey my belt buckle broken when a little pup decided to try and chase a bunny rabbit. He finally broke free and the. Didn’t know what to do. Leo just stared at me as I stared at my broken belt buckle. I called Osprey Packs right away. They were going to be able to get it to me right away so we scheduled it to be sent to me in Kent, CT. However, when I got to CT my new buckle wasn’t here and they said I’m not in the system. Hmmmmm… the only reason it’s a big deal is it means instead of my hips supporting the bulk of the weight from my pack my shoulders have been supporting all of it. 

We have been hiking in the Mid Atlantic Region since mid-May. Very excited to finally be in New England, the most talked about and loved section of the A.T. Let’s rock and roll. 


1400 Miles


These dirty sweaty trail babies just crossed the 1400 mile mark in Bear Mountain State Park. We also keep hitting the most touristy spots on the trail on Beautiful Saturdays. #nailedit 

Pennsylvania 

Pennsylvania was rough for me. This is where the metal aspect of the trail was really challenged. People always talk about the ends GA/NC/TN and VT/NH/ME, the Virginia Blues, and Rocksylvania and barely mention the other states. Rocks are my real weak point out here. I can do ups and downs push through the every other day of rain. But rocks. Ohh, boy. I don’t have depth perception, in the last year I have really become a shuffle walker, and I don’t have the worlds best balance. I enjoyed the ripe raspberries and… this wasn’t a fun state. I would honestly tell someone if they aren’t going for a pure thru hike skip it. There are hardly any views. My mom requested pictures of the views to be posted on my Instagram and I didn’t really have anything to offer her. There was occasionally an opening looking over some farm lbs or industrial waste sight. 

I had a panic attack on “Knife’s Edge”. A complete breakdown that I had to hike 12 miles after to get into the nearest town and take an unplanned day off to recover. I tried in one of the many unnecessary sharp spear like field of rocks and cracked my head and gonna have year another badass scar.

I guess this is the point of the trail right? To be pushed to find your edge and give yourself slack when you need it. I think so much of the trail is mental and I was pushed to my edge and still made it through. Bye PA. I won’t miss ya. NJ let’s see whatcha got. 

Crossing the border-hike on the turnpike
Post fall. Using my phone to check the damage.
Mid panic attack
Typical PA hiking.
Rare view
Hikers waiting out the rain
The one good thing about this chunk. Wild Raspberries
Why? Why a field of rocks?

Good Lord.

In an epic down pour on some poorly marked rocks o got turned around and walked 2 miles the wrong way. I didn’t even know until some hikers asked me why I was Southbounding. I even argued that I wasn’t…. but I was. I’m almost out of food so I must trudge on for a resupply. I don’t want to brag about my inherent orienteering skills. 

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