In an ideal world I’d teach part time and also run this farm learning center, develop a native plant nursery, and expand the whole deal.
In a more than ideal world, one of the colleges I’ve been working for would want to embrace our workshops as a part of one of their programs. That isn’t going to happen. It might happen for a golden girl or boy tenured professor. It isn’t happening for me.
How do I know if I haven’t asked, someone is bound to ask. Okay, I have asked.
Denied. Lines have been drawn. Oh, have they ever.
Will I keep asking? Of course. Learning to grow food in a hotter, drier climate* is not only currently trendy. It’s increasingly necessary. I believe in it.
I’ll continue to believe in it and the practices even if I move elsewhere.
Back to that ideal world. In it, I’d have real job security at the college and adequate health insurance. Including dental. And mental health. Oh yes.
I’d have a retirement package.
I’ve got none of those.
For four decades I didn’t think it was necessary. I was content to build a certain skill set and rely on the perceived solidity of my then-marriage.
When I was raising my kids, I learned how to do drylands farming, more or less. I say more or less because that’s kind of how it is. It’s always in process, never quite done. It’s always small victories, never real success. Or maybe when we do work on the margins like this, we redefine success.
I learned a little about teaching through raising and home educating a houseful of children.
I learned a little about writing by doing it. A few friends had home education publications and they usually needed someone to write. I had stories to tell and I wrote.
When the mortgage for my first farm went into the shitter (that’s a long story, but it’s for another time), I had to make a choice. I could work my way back toward grad school and maybe teach or I could write for an income.
I decided not to write. I never stopped writing for myself, but decided I didn’t have what it took to write for a living. I enjoyed writing for my friends’ small publications but just couldn’t imagine selling my work the way you have to in the commercial world.
I ended up getting sidetracked. I decided to learn all I could about human interactions with the natural world and then teach.
I was detoured by archaeologists. It was a happy enough detour. I found a place to land after a bankruptcy, after a foreclosure, and quite a bit before a divorce.
Archaeology consumed one whole era of my life.
It was a beautiful thing. I could study the land, the plants, the people. I could spend time outside and in a lab. I could write reports. It was a nice little plus, there, being able to earn money writing. And, eventually, I could teach.
Some archaeologists don’t like writing site reports. I do. They are like a Zen practice for me. There’s a form and no form at the same time. It’s like a meditation.
Mostly, archaeology is out of the question for me right now. I lost my main job due to health issues.
It’s hard for me to accept that I may not do it again. Because it’s hard, I tend to tell myself “maybe.” Maybe I will and maybe I won’t. Maybe I can do it in a different way. Maybe in another lifetime.
So I teach and run a farm learning center and think about ways to do archaeology when the door is open just a tiny crack.
I teach part time. I’ve gone on about the ups and downs of contingent teaching on this blog. I don’t want to do that again right now.
I don’t know where this farm is going. I’ve reached a point where I cannot continue to spend money developing the learning center. It isn’t self-supporting. I support it.
I’ve spent some time talking with farm day “regulars” about how we can carry this work into the future. Some of the ideas may work.
I’ve had different kinds of discussions with my kids about the same thing. They help sustain me. They sustain the sustainability educator. That’s important. I’m grateful.
I’m not terribly worried about it. It will work out one way or another.
It always does. One way or another.
In an ideal world I would do the work I do for a net gain of wealth. That seems fair doesn’t it? Even in a world that’s not ideal?
When it’s not an ideal world, how do we continue to compose the stories of our lives?
*Nabhan, Gary Paul. (2013). Growing food in a hotter, drier land. White River Junction, VT: Chelsea Green Publishing.