My last blog post was May 9th, and then such a whirlwind of activities and work began that I lost sight of this moment of reflection and writing about our farm. We've had some big things happen this summer, most notably, a wildfire that forced us to evacuate our farm and once returned, live in the nearly unlivable conditions of smoke and soot-filled air.
The River Fire started July 27th and quickly grew and joined the Ranch Fire becoming the Mendocino Complex Fire, the largest in the state's recorded history. We watched the path of the fire and studied the maps of wind patterns, trying to guess where the fire would go.
Then it came towards us. "Advisory Evacuation" hung over our heads for two days before the "Mandatory" flashed on our phones and my hands began to shake as I scrambled to grab the few last-minute things we hadn't already packed up in the car and truck. We filled the pick-up truck with 90% of our saffron corms, a large bag of our garlic, a large box of photos, and the dog. The car was filled with the cat, our 9 chickens, and a few precious things that I couldn't bear to lose: my mother's guitar; my daughter's ukelele; a wooden stool my daughter had made; her prom dress; some linens from Turkey; an etching by a dear friend; and a piece of an apple tree branch that had grown into the letter, "M" which neighbors in Sebastopol had given me years ago. Those moments really boil down your life into what is most precious and valuable...what would break your heart to lose and what they represent.
What was heartbreaking to think of and wasn't something we could pack was the hours and hours of work we had put in to the farm so far. Simon had just completed putting in drip-irrigation along our native plant hedge, in the kitchen garden and along our row of berries, something we had been looking forward to getting done since last summer. I felt so sad for him and all the moments he had felt hot and exhausted and had kept going and persevered doing all the work we had done this last year. To have to start from scratch ... would we have the courage to do that?
Neither of us have ever owned property, never lived in one place very long. We both feel a mix of emotions about this place- pride, overwhelm, and deep care. To "own" a property and put everything you have in to it feels amazingly grounding and secure and incredibly frightening and heavy. When we evacuated, we stuffed what we could into our vehicles and left behind the farm, this place that is ours now that won't fit in a moving box.
While evacuated, we busied ourselves helping a friend on her farm, and cheered ourselves up by thinking about a rebuilt farmhouse from insurance money- one where the windows open and shut properly and there was adequate insulation in the walls and attic. Yes, we would start again. This year, when we are still young enough-ish and strong enough-ish to do it, we would start all over. But what about five years from now? I guess this is what owning a business and a property entails- grappling with these kinds of questions - this is part of the investment, a weight that is as delicious as a quilt on a cool evening, and heavy as that hundredth shovel-full of dirt on a long row of planting.
Yes, we came back to grey, smoke-filled skies but with a renewed love and passion for what we are doing here and so much gratitude that it was here waiting for us to toil and invest yet more of ourselves in to it. This place is part of us now and its a good feeling.
Thanks for reaching out. The fires in summer 2018 were close to us, and we had to evacuate but we were spared any damage. This year, though it has been quite smoky, we were not in imminent danger and were never forced to leave. We’ve been lucky! You can read about it here: https://peaceplentyfarm.com/blogs/life-on-peace-and-plenty-farm/fires-update-we-are-safe
Just read the amazing article in Martha Stewart Living…how wonderfully interesting about corms and saffron. As I was reading I wondered if you were affected by the fires….so I pulled up Peace and Plenty. You are a beautiful writer Melinda. Are you able to be back on the farm now? Do you need to rebuild or were you spared? We love e
San Fran…maybe we will visit on day…be safe❤
Leave a comment