January 29, 2009

Coming Full Circle, Times Two

Part One

Once upon a time, in a small county, in a quiet place, a young man decided to build a farm.

*Etching of Farm of Prier Squire Wilson,
my Great-Great-Great-Grandfather.
"Out the old Eddyville Road at the First Bridge",
Ottumwa, Iowa, circa 1850.

The generations that followed him were peopled with more farmers, teachers, an engineer and inventor (my Great-Grandfather, Fred Wilson, invented a corn picker, among other things), more teachers, I'm sure (note to my children: we've more than fulfilled our quota of teachers for one family. You may all go and do other things...please!), a girl who married a traveling salesman who became a millionaire, and, eventually, a psychologist named Jan. (Stay tuned.)

Part Two

Once upon a similar time, in a small kingdom, in a faraway place, another man (actually a boy of about 14 years) decided to hop on a boat and go halfway around the world to seek his fortune in a new land. He left his hilltop village in the Pyrenees and sailed to New York with a tag around his neck saying, "Jose Serrano, Hollister, California" where he would go and tend sheep (something Basques are good at) as per his sponsor's arrangement. He later bought some dry, desert land in the Central Valley of California. Today it is the richest producing land in the world. (Just add water.) His son was a cattleman and hay farmer.
His grandson got his doctorate in history (and, yes, became a teacher) and his name is Martin.

Denice and Fermin Larrey, my Grandparents,
with a prize-winning cow, circa 1940.

Martin and Jan met in high school in California and later married. Each went on to much higher education and had us five children. The only giveaway that they had come from farm families was the garden we always managed to grow, wherever we lived. Some of my earliest memories are of planting, weeding, harvesting. I also remember visiting my Grandparents' farm and climbing on haystacks, and going horseback riding, and milking cows. It all seemed so far away from what was going on in my immediate family where academics and study were so valued (not that that's a bad thing, mind you). But, as I think about it now, I remember some other things. My Mother cooked what was in season. (It's all the rage, now, but then it was just the way good cooks cooked.) We shopped at farmers' markets whenever we could. (It wasn't chic, it was the way to get the best-tasting food.) My Grandparents sent oranges and almonds from California at Christmastime, when they were at their best. What a treat! So, the rhythm of the seasons was living on in them and being passed on to me all along.

I grew up and went on wonderful adventures overseas, became a spy for a while, had some higher education myself, and, you guessed it, became a teacher. Then I met my husband, Andre, who is Russian. Russians have a very strong, vibrant tradition of having a family farm, a plot of land, a dacha. So, Andre and I spent a couple of years looking for our own piece of land. We found it near Clarinda, Iowa, about 150 miles from where my Great-Great-Great-Grandfather did the same thing over 150 years ago. What a circle!

Our dacha compound near Clarinda, Iowa.

January 28, 2009

I Finally Got One

It's that time of year when farmers catch up on things non-farm, so I decided to finally get this blog up and running. I have often wanted to put more on the Double K Farms website than simply the photos that I try to update every couple of weeks but didn't want to re-vamp the entire site to fit a blog. So, following in the accomplished footsteps of a Dear Friend across the pond who writes a lovely, funny, sometimes touching blog, Picture of a Duck, and also in those of my daughter, Juju, in Nantes, France, this year who chronicles her adventures for the Chicago Examiner, I hereby join their ranks and begin my blog about life on our farm. May my blog be at least half as good as theirs!

It has been a turning point in my life and the life of my family to own and operate a farm. We bought our farm near Clarinda, in southwestern Iowa, in the spring of 2006. For the first year, we spent most of our time building cabins and outbuildings on weekends and in the summer. The second year, we had an organic corn crop to sell and some veggies for the family. The third year, we had a failed wheat crop and a somewhat successful CSA (Community Supported Agriculture, a local food co-op) in which we fed about ten families for the season (May to October). This year, our fourth, we will again try for a wheat crop (looking good so far) and forego the CSA in favor of selling at Tomato-Tomato, Omaha's Indoor Farmers' Market! So, in the words of Jason Mraz, "we win some and we learn some". The draw of the farm is powerful for me and my husband. We love the connection to the land, the sounds of nature, the loveliness of the neighbors, the rhythms of the seasons, the taste of food cooked on the campfire, the beauty of the stars at night, the attraction of pseudo-self-sustainability, and the simplicity of life.

So, that catches you up on the progress at the farm. I'm glad I've finally gotten a

For those who haven't yet gotten this old joke...it's a round to it. I've finally gotten around to it. :)