(Canadian Thanksgiving was a couple of weeks ago, but Cam is still counting his blessings….)
I suddenly found myself with a huge buzz on, kind of like Scrooge when he wakes up after his night of spirit visitation. Usually at this time of year I’m sick of gardening and vow to never plant another vegetable again and yet this year I’m totally enthused about getting back in the garden next spring.
I have no doubt my current jolly disposition comes from many sources. Chemical imbalances in my brain have suddenly been fixed perhaps, but mostly I think it’s the result of being at the end an incredible summer growing food for our CSA members. I still very much believe in the market system and this summer we grew food for 40 members… customers… who genuinely seemed to appreciate our efforts. And they told us how much they appreciated our efforts. It is rare in business to get such positive, direct feedback from your customers but it really makes all the difference in the world.
The downside of the market system is the concept of creative destruction and since the economic collapse in 2008 Michelle and I have experienced much of that. Our traditional source of income including book publishing started a slow decline to the point where we could no longer rely on them. We tried dozens of ways to tweak the model and create new markets that didn’t work out. Luckily we had a backup plan which was to turn our abundant garden into an income stream. The first year we sold our excess produce at a market stand in the village near us. Last year we tried running a CSA with just a few members which wasn’t really economically feasible, but it satisfied our intention of learning what we needed to know so that we could ramp up production.
This year we basically quadrupled our customer base and I was over the moon. The challenge of performing up to the expectations of our members was significant, but the one thing I’ve always found in life is that the return on emotional investment in a project is somewhat determined by its scale. The idea of Michelle and me growing and harvesting a box of produce for 40 members over 16 weeks seemed pretty monumental. I knew we could do it but this confidence didn’t come from a sense of hubris or arrogance. It came from the fact that over my many years in business, much of it in sales or self-employment, I have learned that you can often do anything you set out to accomplish if you’re willing to put in the hours. It’s just a numbers game. Put hours in the front end and what comes out the back end is often pretty great.
I learned this again this summer and after what felt like running a marathon, our efforts seemed to pay off. And what’s weird is that rather than being dazed and confused and dreading next season’s marathon in the garden I’m really looking forward to it. I have never had as positive a reaction to my efforts as we did this summer. Michelle and I are constantly writing down ideas to improve productivity next year.
I am very grateful to our members who showed the confidence in us to invest money up front and gamble that we could live up to expectations. My goal is to perform even better for them next year. We hope to grow the business marginally next year but existing members will take priority, as will their friends and family who are interested after seeing our weekly baskets this year. How amazing is that!
I am also grateful to live in a country where this market system still exists. I am proud to be one of those people who still cast around trying to figure out a way to earn a living being self-employed and in so doing help create wealth in our system. Creative destruction is a messy concept when it rains down on you, but it seems to be the best of a lot of competing systems economic determination.
I also think my current state of euphoria is based on being grateful for so many other blessings in my life. I have a healthy, very supportive partner and wife. I have two exceptional daughters embarking on their own life journeys. They both have amazing men in their lives who I enjoy spending time with immensely.
We’ve just finished a busy fall season of workshops/visits here at the house and they were a real blast. I met some absolutely wonderful people and I am so grateful that they took the time to come here to learn about what Michelle and I have done, and shared so many of their own great insights that I’m now working into our lives.
I am grateful for great neighbors who lend me their tractor and are always supportive of our endeavors. I am thankful for the fossil fuels that I can put in that tractor that allow me to accomplish in a day or two what would take me several months to do by hand. I am grateful for the sun that warms my (home-based) office as I write this and the technology that allows me to share these thoughts with readers. I am grateful for the solar panels that turn sunlight into electricity to power our home and make our lives so much easier, and that heats our hot water to save us from releasing carbon into the atmosphere in its pursuit.
I’m grateful for the neighbors who helped us fix our inverter and bring down our wind turbine and repair it after our lightning strike this summer. It was a cataclysmic disruption, but from a creative destruction standpoint I now have the backup redundant inverter I always said I needed and I have whole new level of knowledge and comfort working with my power system. Thank you lightning strike. I am grateful to our neighbor who allows me to use the off cuts from his mill to make absolutely amazing kindling for our woodstove. I am grateful for the trees that removed carbon from the atmosphere as they grew and now heat my home with the most wonderful, body- and soul-warming heat you can get.
I am grateful that I’m increasingly learning to stop worrying about my sole source of retirement income being the meager government social pension I have paid into during my life. Many suggest that there will be no money there when I go to claim it. That seems to worry me less and less as I get closer to that time. I’ve got firewood in the woodshed and potatoes in the root cellar.
I am also grateful that after 54 years on this planet I’ve come to know what makes me happy. Michelle and I sat having coffee and fresh eggs from our happy chickens and tasty hash browns from the potatoes and onions that we grew this summer, at about 9 a.m. yesterday morning. Many people would be at their desks at that time of day, counting down the hours until lunch, and then the hours to leaving work. I was going over my list of fall things to do, and it is incredibly long. It’s almost November and I don’t have my garlic planted so I am way behind. But we sat in our kitchen warmed by wood that we cut from our land, nourished by food we produced (although we still haven’t figured out that whole coffee thing), surrounded by thousands of acres of trees and ponds, in a home warmed by some of those trees, powered by the sun and wind, having what seems like a fairly small impact on the planet. We have wonderful friends and family and customers who make all this possible. I am truly grateful. I am very, very happy.