In late November, we tucked the Farm in for the season, ready for its sleepy cover crop of snow, and headed southward toward our planned route of other organic farms, where we would live and work through the WWOOF-USA program.
It was a good plan, a great route – but as we all know, what will be will be – and it’s rarely just what we had in mind. As it turned out, we first had to endure some loss this Winter. First, sweet mighty Cleo lost the use of her legs, after 15 years of the finest companionship a dog has ever provided man.
We kept her comfortable and happy til the very end, let her sleep in the bed with us, rolled her to her favorite places in a padded wagon, gave her all the love and treats that she wanted, and said our goodbyes at my sister’s house in Illinois.
Immediately afterward, my Mom’s health began to slide, as the cancer she’d kept at bay for a decade came back to roost. We turned back North, cancelled our plans to return to Yokna Bottoms Farm in Mississippi, and spent the month of December in my Minnesotan childhood home helping prepare the house for sale and my mom for a move into an assisted living facility.
By January, things had stabilized enough that we packed up the trailer again and hit the road for Texas – now with my mom’s dog Ace joining our family entourage. It would be just another month before I had to come back North …
Habitable Spaces (Kingsbury, Texas)
We’d spent almost the entire winter last year at this unique artists’ residency, and it was wonderful to return to see our human and animal friends, all that’s changed and endured.
Biodiverse Food Forest HomeGreen Permaculture Center (Rockport, Texas)
Their goals here are as lofty as their name is long – to transform a sandy, neglected, abused little parcel of land into a lush symbiotic edible ecosystem. Meredith and her mom are just getting things cleaned up and starting to grow – we helped them out wherever we could, and enjoyed the proximity of the ocean, in between.
Immediately after leaving Rockport, I got a call from my sister – my Mom was fading fast. I got on a northbound plane immediately, while Kristin and the dogs drove West toward our final host farm in New Mexico.
After a powerful and surprisingly positive week helping my mother make the transition into the great unknown, I flew back to rejoin them with a refreshed appreciation for life.
Last Word Ranch (Los Cerrillos, NM)
If the native soil in coastal Texas had been poor or challenging, the soil here in the high-altitude desert was barren and blasted. Irradiated by the sun and scattered by the howling winds, very little plant life grew – outside of the carefully nurtured gardens and the high tunnel packed with the aquaponics symbiotic system they’d just started up – fish living in water filtered by edible plants that used the fish waste as nutrients, a Rube Goldberg system as interconnected and unlikely as all of Life.
Although the loss of Cleo and my mom made this one of the emotionally coldest winters in the personal record books, it was not a bad winter. We shed so many tears, but death is an inevitable part of living – and life is a wonderful thing indeed. We met lovely people, reconnected with friends, bonded with family, learned, and laughed – and we are coming into Spring ready to keep on growing; forward, upward, and ahead.
Thank you all, again, for being part of this journey.
Gabe, Kristin, Widget, and Ace