Two years ago I watched a film that changed my life. I am one of those suckers who can really let a good documentary punch me in the gut, but this was different. This film, about sustainable farming, was an epiphany. As a Los Angeles based actress, I never had any particular interest in farming as an occupation. I am, however, passionate about my food and where it comes from. So along with working at farmers’ markets on the weekends to get to know the people who grew my food, I had started growing some of my own vegetables. When I watched this film, I was brought to such ridiculous awestruck tears as I witnessed this thing of beauty called a “forest garden.” A forest of food, designed so that everything works together in a closed system requiring very little human input: no weeding, no tilling, no fertilizing, no pesticides. Most of the human work is simply harvesting the bounty. One acre of this Eden could feed ten people, which is twice the yield of a conventional monoculture farm. The particular one featured in the film contains more that 500 species of edible plants that host a diverse population of wildlife and insects that keeps everything in balance. It seemed too good to be true, or like some sort of anomaly. But this was all made possible by thoughtful observation of wild, rugged nature, which tends to thrive without modern human intervention. I fell madly in love with the very romantic concept of land stewardship, a way of living cooperatively with nature as opposed to attempting to dominate it. To be truly healthy is to live in and support a healthy ecosystem. I was like Varuca Salt from Charlie and the Chocolate factory, I wanted that, and I wanted it NOW.
I realized that food is my religion. Not only do I love growing, cooking and eating it, but I worship good food as communion with the divine. It’s how we are made, how we build ourselves and our environment. Its the currency of life. To eat consciously is to be aware of life and death as part of a single whole that cycles through time. I can live in a way that supports this great force that lets us exist for this small moment to taste its deliciousness, or I can bite the hand that feeds me, break the cycle of life and death by removing ingredients from the mix for the next go around and turning them into useless waste. I can foster biodiversity and opportunity, or I can force monoculture upon our soil and weaken the bed of life. My happiness and sense of self-worth are wrapped up in this cycle, and I want to keep it spinning.
I became pregnant with my first son a month later. He is now nine months old, and since becoming pregnant, Ryan (my husband) and I have found our big life plans being put on fast forward. We are currently packing up and getting ready to move across the country to the mountains of Western North Carolina. We have always seen living on some land with animals, a garden and backyard access to good hiking as a goal for the future–maybe when we retire, we thought. Actually, after seeing that documentary I had devised a 10-year plan to build a forest garden on my 1/4 acre lot in the San Fernando Valley. It was a noble plan. I have huge respect for the urban homestead movement, and folks such as those at The Growing Home are paving the way in sustainable living within the urban grid. But somewhere along the line while I was pregnant we started clicking around on landwatch.com, and we became enchanted with the idea that we could live more affordably outside of Los Angeles and have access to trees and streams! Also, I was yearning to be a part of a community that shared a love for taking care of it’s natural home. I knew I had a lot to learn, and I was beginning to feel like books and youtube were not enough for me. I needed regular hands-on learning from actual people right in front of me. Our research brought places like Portland OR, Austin TX and Missoula MT to our attention, but then once we started learning about Asheville NC, we got really excited. This is a place that loves artisanal food. DIY culture and self-sufficiency are big there and have a long history in Appalachia. There is a major Permaculture community, and people are getting their heads together and making the place a hub of innovation. When our son was 5 months-old we booked a flight out there to check it out. We couldn’t believe how welcomed we felt. We actually made several friends in the mere week we were there, found some job leads, and fell in love with those Blue Ridge Mountains. So, feeling a little crazy and a lot YOLO, we made our decision. As soon as we got back to LA we started getting our house ready for sale, and now here we are, getting rid of most of our stuff and putting the essentials in boxes.
We plan on starting from scratch in our new home, to literally hand-build our new life from the ground up. We will be building a cob house from the materials already present on our land once we find and purchase it. Much more on this later. We thank you for following our story. As we research, develop new skills and build our adventure, we hope that our experiences will be of some value to those who are interested in taking a similar journey or are simply curious about the same things we are such as: homesteading, natural building, permaculture, food forests, vegetable gardening, chickens, goats, foraging, medicinal plants, slow food, nutrient dense cooking, fermentation, and natural birth. We also encourage feedback and welcome advice and comments from anyone who’d like to add their two cents. As I said, we have a lot to learn, and we hope that our blog can be a space for learning and collaboration around these topics.
Saying goodbye to friends and family and jumping into the unknown is not easy. The life we’ve made here is what is making our future possible, and we are so grateful for the support of our loved ones. Without them, we wouldn’t have the courage to take this leap. We see this blog as another way to keep in touch and keep y’all up to date with our crazy new life. Thank you so much for reading!