In an effort to clear one’s head from the cares of the world, sometimes one must distance oneself from regular life, leave your home behind and get your hands a little grimy. Whether it’s a life rift, grief of any kind or an earthquake of the heart, one can always count on some days in the dirt to heal your mind, body and soul.
And from this space, I sought out an organic farm where I could volunteer my vacation time and my energy (a true bucket list item I literally found on an old list after this adventure at my parents’ house – yes, what they say about writing it down really is true!).
After some research, I settled on a Texas farm in the hill country called VRDNT farms. It was a woman owned and operated organic farm, that for this particular Spring 2022 season was also completely female staffed. So to this fearless sisterhood, I yoked myself for four days and thoroughly enjoyed my time with them.
My first task after meeting Becky, the farm owner, and Giovanna, the planting manager, was to pull weeds amongst the onions. I learned very quickly that speed did not come naturally to me. Looking back at where I’d begun after 15, 30, 45 minutes only made the task seem daunting and feel like I would never be done. I also had a short run-in with a fire-ant before promptly putting my gardening gloves back on my hands.
One of the lessons I learned in my short time at the farm was that throughout your farm duties, you regularly have to reposition your body. You may start on your knees, move to a squat and then eventually just sit on your backside, while turning to complete your task. After 8 hours of this, when I arrived the 2nd day on the farm when I crouched down and stood back up, I thought, “I do not know if I can do this another full day.” But somehow you make it. And you don’t complain because the people around you aren’t complaining either. Knowing others are doing it helps you press on yourself underneath the sun. One gal told me, “yeah, it took a few weeks but your body eventually gets used to it.”
Despite the physically taxing nature of the work, every morning I loved hearing the birds chirp away, the faint growl of the tractor in the fields that Giovanna was plowing, the kiss of the cool spring wind across my face and the feel of dirt underneath my fingernails.
At night, I made my way back to the airstream trailer I called home for my travels. It was a quiet place in the woods I mostly had to myself until one other guest showed up the last night I was there. An open barn kitchen was at my disposal and donkeys were there to admire and evene interact with when they were out. In fact, they were a perfect replacement for roosters to wake me each morning as I roused from heavy sleep to another day of farming.
The work was hard. My muscles ached from lack of use. But each night, I sunk into the incredibly sweet sleep of someone who has earned their keep doing something worthwhile for the day. I knew the release of energy expended. And I felt the lift of the Vitamin D that the sun bestowed on my skin for those glorious four days on the farm.
Friday was harvest day. We cleaned root vegetables and used the former washing machine turned lettuce dryer to wash and package it for the customers purchasing CSA boxes. Packaging produce was the task, but it was authentic conversation that was cultivated from this day’s experience. The women I worked with that day pulled back the curtains and opened windows into their inner worlds with me. From our thoughts and musings on life, to processing trauma, I was blessed by more that what physically grew on the farm. As we packaged root vegetables, a deep connection and conversation grew between these kindred spirits.
Prone to overthinking, even while working on the farm, I began to realize even that was less wasted on a farm. As I worked through a task and through some thoughts in my mind, I could look back and see a row of bok choy I had planted, a section of earth I had weedeated or plenty of garlic I had harvested in an afternoon. There was production in the painful process.
The four days on the farm were a healing rite of passage for me. A post-experience manifestation like a drastic haircut after a first heartbreak. It created in me a peace and thankfulness, head lifted upward and hands outstretched to the sky in a worship position to the Maker who created healing through nature.
While it may sound unconventional to some and strange to others, that short escape from reality was the perfect puzzle piece to what I was needing, a salve for a wound and a balm for my soul. In fact, it was the first solo vacation I ever took, and I reveled in it. And may more reveling of its kind commence in future days.