Agrarian dreams

If you've read Animal, Vegetable, Miracle, Barbara Kingsolver's gorgeous telling of their year living locally, then you've probably dreamed of spending days hunched over your bean rows where your biggest decision is how to dress the evening salad, still warm from the earth and sun.

Of course, like many gentlewomen and gentleman farmers, Kingsolver can afford to fail. Catastrophic weather becomes an inconvenience rather than a tragedy. But to credit Kingsolver's enormous talent and work ethic, after spending hard days harvesting zucchini, she no doubt logged good notes in her journal to inform the book she would later write. A book that would require a return to the kind of intellectual sussing and sorting that have many of us yearning to shepherd a herd of unruly goats or marshall blue and brown eggs to market.

This Sunday, the New York Times featured two stories about Plan Bs--pieces that explored the realities of pursuing the dream career when career A has either sputtered or not satisfied. To have a few animals and a healthy garden is one thing--a lot of work, granted--but to expect a livelihood from the land, especially an organic, sustainable one, is an extreme, but worthy gamble.

With 10 acres in Southern Colorado, Mitch and I know a little about this dream, enough to know that animals tie one to the land; it's much harder to visit family and friends when the chickens and alpacas need tending. So we wedge the care of the land between deadlines and the exigencies of making a living with our minds. But I could see how mowing in the hot sun without having to come in to check email has its appeal. How a tired body replenished with a simple meal can refresh the mind.

I guess what I'm saying is that it appears we need more balance as a culture. That careers that do nothing but produce money or digital characters on a screen need weight on the other side of the fulcrum. The production of a sweater, a loaf of bread or a brood of chicks, perhaps.

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