It's a whole new thing being a mom and a new business owner while still in the early childhood phase. It's like having a newborn all over again. LOTS OF LATE NIGHTS & EARLY MORNINGS. I usually sleep 4-5 hours a night because that's when my brain is working and won't shut off. That's when the ideas come, the emails go out, the posts get written and scheduled and the giant-scary-exciting ideas seem more than possible. They become real. I have loved meeting so many of you at our events, during classes, the seed swap, planting the childrens garden and around town. Thank you for your encouraging conversations, emails and phone calls - I wish I had the time to spend with each one of you and hear your story too. Someday I will, when the kids aren't climbing into bed with us in the middle of the night and we spend all day tracking down missing socks and the blue monster truck not the red one, packing snacks, and wiping noses. But then I'll miss these days too.
"How did you start the Farm School?" many of you have asked. Really and truly it goes back to a very simple problem I had. The very origin of the Farm School started with some seeds. How appropriate and cliche you might be thinking. And it totally is, but it's also very simple and real. I grow stuff and had leftover seeds that I didn't know what to do with. My family moved to West Seattle 2 years ago from Puyallup, and even though I grew up in Ballard, a short 20 minute drive away, we didn't know a soul in this part of town. We loved the community, the short commute to Dusty's work, and being able to walk to everything we needed.
That first summer the kids and I did a lot of walking - to the library, grocery shopping, to eat cupcakes, play at the beach and to every park within a 5 mile radius. When we weren't exploring we were planting and tending our garden. We had just come through a really tough period called "no money at all" and having a garden gave me some piece of mind that I would be able to feed these little ones good fresh food no matter what. Even if it was just spinach hidden in blueberry smoothies, I was going to sneak it in there.
The problem with gardening solely in pots and containers at a home you rent is that unless you have a zillion pots, you are never going to use up all one million lettuce seeds in your pack. Heaven forbid you want a variety and have several packs. And no one needs to plant 35 pumpkins unless you live with a scarecrow. All I really wanted is one or two great big ones to carve up at Halloween (and have yet to grow them well!). So I had these extra seeds. And I'm not one to throw out something that could magically turn into food.
As I pushed the kids in the stroller down block after block I noticed all the gardens happening in peoples parking strips, in side yards, on porches, in windows and if I could peek through fences (yes, sometimes I do) I could see well-loved gardens in backyards too. My curiosity forces me to regularly walk down alleys to see the backsides of homes, just because I want to know what's happening back there too. We'll just call this borderline voyeurism "searching for inspiration". I wanted to meet these gardeners but rarely saw people outside because it was the middle of the day when everyone was at work.
And because I didn't know anyone yet I made a group on Facebook to start gathering these people, and to give away the half packs of seeds so they could grow in your garden before they got too old and miserly to do anything but push up their reading glasses and knit in their rocking chairs. I named it West Seattle Seed Swap because that's what I had searched for and didn't get any results, so I figured others might be doing the same too. I printed up little flyers and kept them in the stroller next to my ipod and as the kids and I walked I could knock on doors and share with people or leave it wedged in their screen.
I started meeting really cool people and our little group started to grow. It felt so good to be around my kind of people. The ones that can't help but dig in the dirt and grow something wild. People like my neighbor Krista who was literally the first person to join the group, before I even met her, and I watched her turn her front yard into a cornfield and watermelon rockery and she floored me with what she could accomplish. Now she is one of my closest friends and a fellow Farm School teacher! I met Teri, on the way to park to play at the playground, with her gorgeous and wild landscape that produces food and flowers in every single inch. She shared sculptured foot-long Armenian cucumbers and blueberries with us that the kids devoured on our walk back home. I met Serenity, a beautiful, warm-hearted, generous, lover of life that shared Teddy Bear sunflowers and Anasazi beans with me that became the pride of my garden last year with their purple, brown and white speckled hulls. I met Jill, who was the first to swap seeds with me and ordered extra potatoes so I could try some too - her easygoing smile and kind eyes immediately making me feel at home. These people! Generous, joyful, nurturing and full of hope. Building a community together became really easy and fun.
Momentum was happening and as the summer started to wind down I finished up my quilt for my daughter, and started to dream about a place to gather people together to share skills. To make applesauce and can it together like Kristen and I did after she came back from her family orchard. To sew chair pockets for our kindergarteners like the group of mamas that gathered at Chris' house before school started in September. And a way to preserve and pass on these family traditions to our little ones like so many of you have mentioned as your reason for coming to a class. I know I am fortunate and in the extreme minority to live near where I grew up and be near my whole family when so many of our friends live thousands of miles away from theirs, especially the very people who would pass on these living traditions. That's why I started the Seattle Farm School. So these traditions and skills would not be lost but would be embraced. Dusted off and renewed, shared with our children, our friends and our neighbors. So we can take a deep breath, connect to each other and practice the crafts we loved in our childhood so they will not be forgotten. And what a great way to build relationships with our own children, side by side, working together like generations before us have done.
I know we have only been "in business" for six short months, but I feel like I've been building into this all my life. Not only me, but every one of our teachers' lives are saturated with their crafts and skills - they can't help but to do it. It's who they are. They love it so much and teaching flows naturally out of them. I am in awe of each one of them. If this much can begin with trying to give away a half used pack of seeds, I can't wait to see what we can do with this tribe of farm schoolers that are growing together!
Lots of love to you all! To the future! Na zdrowie!