My life has changed a lot externally in the past 5 or 6 years. In the fall of 2013 my partner and I moved from northern Vermont to the greater Boston area to grow food closer to a market of people who might like to buy it.
In Vermont we had an amazing community of like-minded people working on farms, making art and generally living a simple life. We didn’t have kids, although some of our friends did. We rented rooms in shared houses with backyard chickens. We sat around fires and sometimes people sang too many Gillian Welch songs. I worked alternately on small farms, in the service industry and in the school system. Before that is a whole other story involving freight trains, bikes, worn boots and spending the winters in warm places and never signing a lease. More on this later.
So sometime around late 2013, early 2014 all that changed. We packed up a u-haul and drove to Berkley, Massachusetts. A town I thought was actually Beverly until we visited to check out a land situation in the summer of 2013. We signed a 5 year lease for a farmhouse, old florist shop and just over 10 acres. The rent was easily twice as much as either of us had ever considered spending, but it was a FARM. We had a budget and a business plan and we were confident we could make the small farm dream come true.
We knew something was wrong when we arrived and the 10 sheep we were promised (and written in the lease) would be gone, were still there. Two of them were rams, the other 8 were bred ewes. After a year of moving paddocks for someone else’s sheep (because they only left them one large and seemingly nutrition lacking round bale), no small number of lambs and several conversations with both local and state animal welfare officials, we talked to a family friend who is a lawyer and got out of our lease. Probably not more on this later, this is a chapter best left closed.
Although we had a reasonably successful first season on the farm (we grew vegetables, went to markets and had a CSA), we couldn’t find another piece of land nearby and so we were faced with the decision of what to do. Go back to Vermont and work on other peoples farms? Something else?
We decided to try the (not so) big city and moved a little south to Providence, Rhode Island. We got married. We both got jobs, not on farms, although food related. (More on “My husband the butcher” later). We had too many bourbon smashes one night and had a kid. We stayed for almost the first year of his life in our 550 square foot apartment, walking to the coffee shop, to the community garden, downtown.
We missed growing, but we were still in fiscal recovery from years farming (eg. when I was 28 I worked for $600/month plus farm food and lodging, meanwhile my student loan payment was $250/month). So the three of us moved in with my mother-in-law for almost a year, saved some money and paid off the last of our farm/farmworker debt.
Buying is cheaper than renting in the Boston area where you’d be hard pressed to find a two-bedroom apartment for under 2 grand. So we bought a house through the USDA rural redevelopment mortgage program. It’s essentially like the VA loan (no down-payment) but you don’t have to be a vet, and there are geographic restrictions. Seriously, check it out if you have no savings but want to buy a house. We found a place with just under a 1/2 acre with a south-facing lawn. We bought it for this — a place to grow food. We planted a garden, some raspberries and a couple hazelnut trees. We got some baby chicks and had ourselves another baby human.
Which pretty much brings me to now. So here I am, a leftist (not a liberal mind you), former farmer, living with two kids, a 9-5 job and 2 kids, living in the burbs (of New Bedford, which is not quite the burbs but pretty much the burbs). I should mention here that I also identify as queer, and am gender-fluid but mostly agender/androdgynous (In college I used to call it post-gender). Because I’m female, and our culture allows this in the realm of normal for females, most people just see me as a regular woman who doesn’t shave or wear dresses that much. I’ve been out since 1999 and this doesn’t bother me much, I’ve had a lot of time to process my identity. I don’t make a point of correcting anyone, because there is a lot of misunderstanding around non-binary and I don’t want to draw attention away from others who see it as more of a central part of their identity. I’m also married to a cismale (and back in the 90s we called them bio boys), which adds to the confusion.
So the point is here I am looking for like-minded parent friends, looking like a slightly tomboyish green democrat Mom. And this is how I found the crunchy Moms. This is a thing you see, on the internet. This is what I look like, externally. A crunchy Mama. I’ve spent about a year trying to find some community in this place. There are certainly some of these folks that I’m sure I would identify with a be great friends with, but overall, I have found these crunchy mama platforms to be:
1. Extremely judgemental — someone recently called vaccination “child abuse”. This and other divisions is so against everything that I believe in, which is promoting justice, creating community, respecting others, interdependence and valuing diversity. (et al.)
2. Consumer driven — often these spaces talk about the best “natural” or “organic” thing to buy for your child. Our family is always buying things for the kids. We don’t buy much. Partially because we don’t have much do-re-mi but mostly because we think consumerism and global capitalism is going to destroy the planet and our souls. We buy second hand first because it is gentler on the planet and second because it is gentler on our wallets.
3. Does not inherently value local economies — If we’re going to fix this shit, it’s going to come from the people. I understand ordering from Amazon and grocery delivery is cheaper sometimes (spoiler alert, it’s really not most of the time, more on this later too), but if we do not invest our capital in local economies, ESPECIALLY food economies things are going to get a whole lot worse.
So I guess my point is, I’m not a crunchy mama. I’m also not perfect and sometimes I get deliveries from Target and do many many other that do not coincide with my values. This is not to say I have the answers, maybe it’s really a question. Who else is out there feeling these feelings, living these contradictions ?
This is just to say, if you’re ever in the New Bedford area with some small children, look me up. I’ll be the one planting seeds in the backyard. Stop on by, I’ll fix you some tea.