What I most remember about meeting Robin was the lack of small talk. We have made eons of small talk with one another since then, so it always surprises me when I think back to when we met on an organic CSA farm in northern Illinois. After working together for not very many days we had an off time opportunity for quiet conversation and immediately started with how we should do this; we should farm this way. And we were serious. How odd, two strangers meet a begin conversation with all intention about pursing a life changing enterprise, together. Two unknown persons assuming the ‘we’ on a farm, yet feeling unburdened by such a commitment by so entirely wanting to do it. Even as we became embroiled in relationship with one another farming was always the main topic. We didn’t drop it, it wasn’t a phase: it was the plan. We each aimed our lives at the goal. We made an enjoyable life plan that included each of our strengths and interests. It’s very pleasing to us now when people who have known us from the start admit that they thought we were full of hot air.
As I reminisce about our scheme an understanding of this attitude becomes clear, our plan must have sounded too good to be true. I flew on a one-way ticket to Australia to meet Robin who was already there as phase one of having a Community Supported Farm. Sound far-fetched? This was to be our vacation before we started an occupation requiring years of uninterrupted toil. Planning to WWOOF our way through this enchanting land, necessity directed we become part of Australia’s migrant labor force and work in the country’s commercial vegetable farms to fund this phase. Still our conversation revolved around our future farm, in particular where in the United States it would be. We would buy a farm with funds earned by teaching English in Taiwan, Robin’s former occupation. The plan included me only working part time so I could produce a collection of jewelry, my sexy career choice. Together we would amass a nest egg. At the end of six months in Australia, we decided we had worked so much there that we should have a restive tour of Indonesia before buckling down in Taiwan.
The archipelago’s people and marvels captured us and during a critical week of waiting for a flight to Taiwan, we decided to stay. We unfolded the rest of our plan in Jakarta, Indonesia. Delights soon turned stale in a third world mega city; real jobs to pay real rent in an oh-so-real Indonesia. Still we were on the plan and saved money living simply without the cars and drivers that other expatriates in this country always had. We chose public transportation for our daily commute and witnessed the workers of a nation endure an unimaginably abrasive transportation system. Despite pleasant interactions with students, teachers and the general public, I fell into despair, crushed by culture shock. Robin could have stayed on for years; I insisted we leave after 8 months. The jewelry never materialized. Nowhere near our nest egg, we left scant weeks before the country was enveloped in smoke from out-of-control jungle fires. This preceded economic collapse. Our departure appears timely in hindsight.
Feeling marvelous upon our return we began our search for land. During this two-year process we remained homeless as an economic measure and relied heavily on our supportive friends and family. Extensive tours of Appalachia confirmed our hunch that Kentucky was the place, zone six; plenty of hot, but with a good frosty winter. When the realtor took us to our farm, we didn’t need to look any further. We found it. And our 60-acre farm was purchased then, in September of 98. Unbeknownst to us at the time, Sasha had also entered our plan. Our new neighbors proved to be encouraging and helpful, doing many things for us we could not do. When the gardens were in order we found the community in Nashville, TN that would support our farm. Nineteen families heard of our project and became the first shareholders of Hill and Hollow CSA. Many of these families are still with us, waiting for their first basket of the season.