I’m drinking a bloody Mary right now. I think a little celebrating is justified, because I’m feeling pretty good about life in general lately. I turned 26 a couple days ago, and took the day off work and spent most of it with Misty. In the morning we went to something that both of us have known about for a long time but that I’d never been able to make it to: Sisters’ Camelot.
I’m not sure where the name comes from, but the concept is this: There’s a bus, an old city commuter bus, that lives on Lake Street behind a greasy fish shack. Every Tuesday and Thursday morning, one of the guys who owns the bus goes to it, waits for other people to show up to help out, then drives it out to a couple food distribution hubs. These are the places that collect all the food from local farmers and organic food companies and distribute that food to grocery stores and co-ops around the Cities. There’s a pretty steady flow of food that gets turned away for one reason or another: wrong size, too much in stock, that sort of thing. That all ends up back at the warehouse to get thrown away.
But Sisters’ Camelot rescues it all, and gives it away for free to people on the street! Misty and I rode to the hub and the driver, David, a guy my age with a chest-length beard, drove up to the loading dock and slid open the front window so we could load dozens of boxes of fresh produce into all the space on the bus. Peppers, tomatoes, collards, soup, apples, pears, oranges, and on and on. And that was just at the first hub. The next one had a load of blueberries that weighed more than Misty and me combined, I’m sure, and more fruits and vegetables. By the time we left to start giving away food, there was food filling most of the space on the bus that would normally have been taken up by passengers. And this is normal. And we were rescuing all that food. It’s like preemptive dumpster diving!
We didn’t stick around for much of the giving-away process because I had a prior engagement. But I did help bring many boxes of produce into a school, and next they were planning on going to a semirandom spot on the street to yell to people, “Want some free produce?” They manage to get it almost all given away, and they compost what little is left over. It’s the kind of pure virtuous thing that seems like it should have been outlawed for some reason a long time ago in our society so dense with pointless restrictions—but there it is. Magical.
Later, we juiced blueberries to make a nice big batch of cider, and that night we went out and had ribs, and watched out the restaurant window as big fluffy flakes of snow fell through the illumination of the streetlights. And we talked and just enjoyed the night.
I liked that so much, I decided I want to do it more often. I’ve been thinking now and then about cutting my work hours down a bit. I’ve been feeling like I don’t really accomplish five days’ worth of work, and a lot of the things that I’d like to be doing in my outside life have been sort of falling by the wayside. There’s a bag of acorns that I’ve been meaning to shell all winter, and the snow has come and gone and they’re still there. That deer skin I started tanning has had a similar story. But I’m living so far below my means, and I get so much high-quality free food, I can definitely afford to work fewer days. So I’m starting with that. I’m excited about it.
Another good reason to do that, until today, was that the company I work for has been in a harsh cash crunch. Sales of durable goods have gone down something absurd like sixty percent, and durable goods are all we sell. But today, while I was sitting at my desk, I heard the most earnest “WAHOOOO!!” I’ve ever heard in my life, coming from my boss Rick’s office. This winter we’ve been brewing up a big new product that no one else has and everyone needs (I’d explain but it’s a long, boring story). The last couple weeks, we’ve been in touch with one of the biggest companies in the industry that needs it, and our sales guy had just told Rick the news about how many units of the new product that company wants to buy from us this year. To put it briefly, they’re going to about quintuple our revenue. Rick was practically having heart palpitations. He’s been working at this for a long time, and it finally paid off, and I guess now, as he says, “We’ll all get to drive fancier cars.” The money from that won’t really start flowing until summertime, but it’ll come, and the company is saved from the ravening wolves of the recession, and the grubstake I’ve been building up for when I one day move out to the country might start getting a little more fleshed out, even if I am only working four days a week.
Which is another great thing that’s been happening lately. When I first visited Minneapolis, one of the things that made me think, “Hey, this seems like my kind of place,” was stepping into Moon Palace Books on Minnehaha Avenue and finding such a wealth as I’d never seen of books about how to move off grid, how to create a homestead, how to forage, how to live in the woods. I started envisioning Minneapolis as a place where people interested in this can gather, eventually coalesce into a community, find some land, and go off to start living off the land like they’ve always wanted to. Turns out it’s true. And my housemate Currant and I are starting to get ourselves further into the process of imagining that, and thinking of who else might be interested, and where we might want to do it, and all the other things that have to be figured out before one day we actually pull up stakes and build our farmhouse next to the woods out in the country and start learning nature on nature’s terms.
This year we’re starting small. Last night Currant and I planted seeds to sprout inside before putting them in the garden that we’re taking on together this growing season. We’re going to have kale, collards, chard, leeks, onions, carrots, cayenne, beans, peas, cucumbers—the works. Fingers crossed that it works out, but we have a full-time farmer in the house (Maddy) to ask advice from if we start feeling like we’re over our heads. And we have otehr helpful people living in the house; they’ll come in handy when both of us go out traveling for about a month this summer and the garden needs tending. After going to California, Currant is going to meet up with Misty and me in Colorado at a wild skills gathering, and then Misty and I will move on almost straight from there to Crowduck. We can both hardly wait, except that we will, because we also both like living in the moment and enjoying it for what it is.
But Crowduck brings me back to the bloody Mary. I’ve been honing my bloody Mary mixing skills, so there may be a new drink in store this year to give Dan’s margaritas a run for the money. But for now I’m just going to enjoy the present and let Crowduck come when it comes, because the present has been so damn good lately.