Ocotillo blossoms in our backyard.
April is my favorite time of the year. Dried up prickly ocotillo cacti turn into lush, green (prickly) spires with their bright orange pops of color reaching for the sky, declaring the end of winter. 

The desert begins to blossom. Shades of brown and muted greens suddenly fill with orange, purple, yellow and red. Tiny hedgehog cacti peek out from beneath rocks, their red blooms drawing in your eye. 58 varieties of wildflowers are blooming in the desert this month. People who say the desert is dull, boring or even ugly have never really Seen the desert. Not like this. 

Poppies in Lost Dutchman State Park

The White Temple, Chang Rai, Thailand.
Ah, the nest. I signed up to see some tip about table settings or something while planning my wedding a few years back, and now, every few weeks I get a totally off- base list of things that are killing my relationship, low fat recipes and design tips for houses I could never afford. 

Normally, I ignore them. I was bored enough at a work meeting today that I opened it. I scrolled through the usual semi-insulting articles and then clicked on one entitled "10 Things Everyone Should Have by 30." Having just turned 29, I was curious. What important items do I have less than one year to acquire?!

Here's how I stack up:
1. A Piece of Art: It goes on to clarify that this does not mean a poster or print of something like Starry Night. This one, I've got covered. I think. While I still cannot afford an original piece of art, a canvas that an artist's brush actually touched, I do have prints of unique pieces from several artists. I have a gorgeous lotus print from the artist that designed the White Temple, an unbelievably intricate piece of art itself, in Thailand (I admired them the first year I went there and second year I returned to the temple specifically to buy a piece). There's art I've created, and many other prints I have bought at fairs, etc. Someday I would like "real" piece of art, but that is not going to be in the budget any time soon.

This edition of the Grow Write Guild is about planning a dream garden.... This is easy, I've been doing it for years. 

I suppose I’m kind of a practical dreamer when it comes to my garden; to sum it up, I want a garden that almost totally feeds me. Like 90% (gotta leave room for the goat cheese and occasional take out pizza).

I want to look out my kitchen window and see waves and layers of all shades of Green. Tomatoes on the vines, squash hiding under all their leaves, ready to be discovered, beans climbing up a teepee. Chickens pecking around the garden happily, fertilizing and eating all the pests. I dream of a small orchard of fruit trees, heavy with fruit. An abundance of grapefruit in the winter to make mint-grapefruit mojitos with, figs, peaches, and of course the radiant pomegranate tree we already have.  Spring is ushered in when her first vibrant red blossoms appear.

The front yard would be an herb garden. We would have fenced in the front yard so it would feel like a little country oasis. I would grow every type of herb I could order out of the seed catalogues. Even the ones that require a few years growing time for the roots. I would walk out front in the mornings, when it is still crisp and cool, and harvest herbs for the day in a basket. Smelling the lavender and mint as I brush past them.

There would be many rain barrels and (most) of the water we need would come from the monsoons and be stored for the rest of the year. There would be a large 3 compartment compost bin, separated neatly by found and recycled pallets.  Worms in the garden, bees in the air.

And all of this would happen in the desert. :) It is possible, but very, very difficult. That’s why it’s still just a dream. 

On the night of my 29th birthday, I went to bed early, and I cried. 

No, not because I'm getting older and I'm scared of the impending gray hairs. But because birthdays are a concrete way of marking the passage of time, and it has been several birthdays now that I said I would make changes. Several birthdays since I first knew I wanted to leave teaching. And now I'm scared, terrified, that I will be forced into "one more year," again. 

The thing is, I really have no solid plan. I have a dream. I Hope to start my business in the fall and be working on that while I substitute teach part time to make money. I hope that this also affords me time to work in my garden and spend time in the sun. But What If. Those terrible little words that end the dreams of so many. What If it fails? What If I can't even get it off the ground? What if I can't find a job and I end up working at some fast food job I had when I was in high school? My husband gently replied,  "Maybe you need to move slower, take your time setting this thing up. Can you wait one more year?" No. I can't. 

That night I had a dream. It involved a car with no floor and a thousand foot drop below me, not having my phone/GPS and not knowing how to get to my destination and to top it off, the car was a stick shift and I couldn't drive it. I struggled along, barely making it. But when I woke up it became clear: If I had a map, it would have been easier, if I had known how to drive the car, it would have been easier still. That's what I need, then: A road map- plan of action, and the knowledge I need to be successful- learn everything I can about starting a business. 

I don't want to be paralyzed by fear. I don't want to trick myself into thinking that staying at my job is my only choice. It will be a daily challenge to overcome the obstacle of my own mind. 




Today I turn 29. One year before 30, that's what 29 is. It doesn't really get its own celebration because I am already looking forward, beginning to feel a sense of urgency to do all of these things while I still can, while I'm still  young enough to get away with it, or at least forgiven for it. And beating  myself up over all that I have not accomplished, comparing myself to the person I thought I would be at 30 and am not. It could be a rough year.

So I've decided to set some birthday intentions, in this year before 30.

  • I will finish the 3rd and 4th garden plots. What happens after the plots are dug and seeds sowed I cannot predict, so all I will commit to is digging them.

  • Launch my business officially. Again, can't predict the outcome of this either, all I know is I have to try.

  • Commit to a daily yoga practice.

  • Find some consistency in my eating habits and feed my body what it wants, not what my emotions tell me. Eat more home cooked meals and less spur of the moment junk food.

  • Find some peace in my professional life, and feel that my work aligns with my passions and goals.

This year I will need discipline, commitment and perseverance to make these things a reality. But I will also need to learn to trust myself and my intuition, especially when it comes to my work life. Of course, I believe that this is the hardest area to trust my intuition in, because bills and bank accounts are so concrete and real, and our intuition, while real, often fades away into the background.

I have a gut feeling that this year is going to be big. Real big. Permanently life changing big. By the time I hit 30, I suspect I will be a very different woman.

As the name of my blog will tell you, we are in the beginning of what will undoubtedly be a very long process toward a functioning urban homestead. My intent is to be completely honest with what we have done, and what we haven't, and not try to make it out like we have some robust beautiful garden. We don't. Yet. 

Our greenhouse during the winter months.
Gayla from You Grow Girl has started a "creative writing club for people who love to garden," with wonderful prompts. I have decided to jump in, so here is my first post answering the prompt: Write about your first Plant.  

Gardening is in my DNA. Both my parents had incredible green thumbs, and my childhood homes and yards were always overflowing with all manner of trees, vegetables, flowers, herbs and houseplants. My Dad was a gardener and landscaper and my uncle grew fruits and vegetables to sell at the local farmers markets.   Our half acre held a small orchard that had been planted there years before my family moved in- and as a small child I remember picking all kinds of apples, cherries, apricots and peaches. They usually got turned into delicious pies and cobblers cooked by my mother the same day they were picked, or saved for jams and jellies.

On hot summer evenings, when the sun started setting, my Mom would spend hours outside tending the garden. She would water row upon row of vegetables, do the weeding, then come in at night with basketfuls and spend the rest of the night cooking up her harvest. Our front yards were an explosion of color from dozens of varieties of flowers. In the spring, we would head to the local nursery and go on flower filled shopping sprees. These memories define my childhood.

Six months ago I found myself at my naturopath's office complaining of depression, heavy fatigue and a general feeling of "Blah." She asked me a purposefully broad and vague question: "What do you like? What makes you feel good?" I looked out her window and replied "the Sun." She had me tested for vitamin D deficiency and not surprisingly, I was low. 

I say that this is not surprising despite the fact that I live in a climate that sees sunshine 350 days a year. I personally never saw it because my last two jobs had been in a basement. Four years of sun deprivation to a person who so dearly loves and craves its warmth and light. 

I had already taken some major steps towards my goal of being happier. I had quit an intensely stressful job that had left me with adrenal fatigue (aka the first three years of basement life), and found a more positive, less stressful environment (though it just so happened to also be in a basement). I had somewhat impulsively begun a yoga teacher training program, after walking out of a hot yoga session feeling better than I had in ages, and hoping that yoga would hold some secret key to energy and contentment. 

Following the advice of my best friend, and recently certified life coach, I made a "big old list" of things that made me happy: Sun, yoga, live bluegrass, being home on a Monday (or Tuesday, or..), my dogs, my cats, my husband, my best friends, chopping vegetables, eating outside, doing physical projects (even digging irrigation ditches outside inexplicably improved my mood immensely), drinking tea, exploring new places, anything that made me feel self-reliant, flowy skirts and dresses, tank tops, funky jewelry- I began to be able to picture the life that I thought might make me happy. And my current job, working 8-5 five days a week, inside, for someone else, wasn't it. 

So now, five years into the career that I have worked and studied for, and lived and breathed- I have decided to give it all up. For the grand experiment of trying to live a life that fulfills me and makes me happy. This means leaving my profession, and the steady paycheck and healthcare it provides and leaping into the unknown and hoping to fly. I am starting from scratch. 

Its terrifying and exciting to start all over again, and to go down a path so different than the cultural norm., but I've always loved adventure and you only live once. 

Have you ever taken a huge career leap? What made it worth it for you?

    About Me

    My name is Melisa (but I go by Wren) and I might be a little crazy. I decided to quit my solid, respectable day job because I missed sunshine. And because I have had this nagging desire to control my own destiny for as long as I can remember. I took a leap of faith into a new life, starting from scratch.

    This blog is documentation of our experiments and adventures in creating a more sustainable, self-reliant urban homestead and crafting a happier, more meaningful life and career.  

    I dont know what this journey holds, but I hope that the winding path ahead includes yoga, bright colors, herb gardens and goats. 


    April 2013
    March 2013


    Grow Write Guild
    Work In Progress