How the seed was planted.

In the name of independence and sustainability we have slowly been creating a small urban farm on our little plot of land in Denver.

The seeds for this urban farming dream were planted in my childhood. My mom is a damn hippie and, despite all of my resistance to this truth, I am almost exactly like her. When the two of us and my older brother, Farrell, are in the same room together we entertain everyone else with our eerie similarities. Have you ever seen the Coen brothers in an interview together? It’s kind of like that.

Of course, it was impossible to see how amazing my mom was while I was growing up. As it is with most people, I couldn’t appreciate my parents until I wasn’t living with and depending upon them anymore. Now I know that they were not only good parents, they were excellent and I couldn’t have asked for more.

My first inkling that I might have had an edge over some others in the parent department happened on my third day at college. I went to the basement of my dorm, Mc Cowen Hall (the one everyone on campus lovingly referred to as “Mc Compton” because of its condition) to do some laundry. There were two other girls in the laundry room. I didn’t really pay attention to them at first. I was just excited to get my laundry washed so that I could put it into the dryer. My heart was a flutter at the thought of using a real dryer. Although we had owned a dryer and it worked perfectly fine, my damn hippie mom insisted on everything being hung. Even in winter. Our living room and dining room were perpetually covered in drying laundry hanging from every table, chair, open door and curtain rod available. Have I mentioned yet that we were super classy?

When I snapped back from my lusty dryer fantasy I realized that both girls were now standing next to me, eagerly observing my every move. The one that looked like Rose Mc Gowan said, “Do you know how to use a washing machine?”  WHAT?!

“Um, yeah.” I said, trying to not sound completely snotty.

“Can you teach us so we don’t ruin our clothes?” They smiled and blinked in this way that made me think that these girls were the kind of girls that pretty much always get someone else to do their work for them. They both bobbed their heads up and down, pink Gap baseball caps moving in unison. I already didn’t like them.

“You don’t know how to use a washing machine?” I really couldn’t believe it.

“Well. We’ve never done laundry before.” They seemed surprised that I would expect them to know something as trivial as how to wash their own clothing.

“How did you get clean clothes?”

They exchanged confused glances. Rose Mc Gowan said, “My clothes were just in my closet.” like it was a magic fairy trick that her closet performed.

“You’ve never washed, folded or put away your own clothes before?!” I was starting to get a little bit pissed. Why wouldn’t someone teach them that? Why wouldn’t their parents want them to have basic life skills? It had never occurred to me that there were people who didn’t teach their kids those sorts of things.

They were starting to look embarrassed. With their eyes cast to the floor they simultaneously said, “No.” Crap. Now I felt bad. It wasn’t their fault. I wouldn’t have ever done laundry if it wasn’t assigned to me as a chore. That’s when the feeling first hit me, my parents weren’t just being jerks, they were teaching me how to live! Lucky me that I had to work so hard.

“Alright,” I said, “let me show you how.” They perked up as I demonstrated with my washer and then stood over them as they tried it out on their own washers. They were delighted at how easy it was. We made some small talk while I showed them the dryers. I was getting tingly. I had even driven to Target to buy dryer sheets just for the event. Dryer sheets!

“Where are you from?” The typical question was posed.

“Aspen.” They said in unison. Of course.

I continued to have similar experiences in my first few months at UNC. It was a very foreign culture to me. This was the first time I had ever really been around people from the suburbs, and they freaked me out.  Everyone seemed to care about things that didn’t really matter to me, like what brand was printed across their chests.

Although I made many friends, I was really out of my element. This was due entirely to the way I was raised. I learned that I worked very hard compared to most of the people at school. I learned that most people’s parents pay for their college education. This thought had never occurred to me before. But I also learned that I knew a lot of things that other people didn’t and I had a lot more in the life skills department too.

My parents making me bust my ass in the house and around the yard, garden and orchard had actually been good for me. I also learned about money from my parents. They were very open about their own finances and it was pretty much always a struggle with six mouths to feed coupled with my dad’s drag racing habit. My mom also sat me down and explained many things to me about money and where it goes.

I watched in horror as my friends all applied for credit cards and just started using them all over the place for everything. I applied for a credit card too. But I called my mom first and she told me to charge something big that I needed and could pay off with three payments and then after that use it once a month for a small purchase if I didn’t have a big purchase to pay off. This would help me build credit. That’s
what I did and she was right. My friends didn’t get this sort of information from their parents. I couldn’t understand for the life of me why not.

Thank goodness for my mom and dad.

My list of chores hung each day from the kitchen door. This dreaded list had a section for each of us four kids. Ugh. How I hated that list. I was WAY too punk rock for these chores. They were beneath me, I was certain of that. A sampling of the chores I was assigned:

  • Oil the pig (yes this one means I literally took vegetable oil to a pig and wiped him down)
  • Pick up rotten fruit from the orchard
  • Weed the garden
  • Gather and wash laundry
  • Hang laundry outside (explain to me again WHY I can’t put them in the dryer?!)
  • Clean out the irrigation ditches
  • Hunt for eggs on the property (okay, this one was always fun)
  • Clean the turkey poop off the front porch

There were many more, but you get the idea. We worked hard as a family.

My mom was the cook and I spent a lot of time in the kitchen with her. I truly enjoyed cooking from a very young age. When we were latch key kids in elementary school, I always made after school snack for my siblings. They were happy to let me do the chore.

I spent a lot of time during summer vacation experimenting in the kitchen. I loved the summer because I could go out to the garden to search for inspiration. Looking back, I realize that I pretty much always made omelets and fancy quesadillas, but I was experimenting with various flavor combinations and learning the art of melding sensations on the palate. This exploration in cooking was heightened the summer I turned sixteen and became a vegetarian living in a cattle ranching community. If this vegetarian thing was going to work, I was going to have to feed myself.


~ by vegucationmama on October 1, 2011.

2 Responses to “How the seed was planted.”

  1. still don’t use my dryer 95% of the time… 🙂 and I just learned recently that farms all over the south have a mechanical device called a pig oiler – you fill it with oil and they rub up against it to scratch and get an oiling at the same time!

  2. The fact that you actually read content that can bring you to discover a device such as a “pig oiler” leads me to feel completely validated in everything I wrote!

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