On July 12th and 22nd my work will show again. But this time it’s not a film. This time the work that I do to balance filmmaking will be on display—my urban homestead. Honey Due Homestead is on the Gardens on Spring Creek Urban Homestead Tour and I find myself every bit as nervous as I do on film premiere days. Usually I have a glass of wine, a pint of beer, or a tiny shot of tequila to calm my nerves before a premiere, but on the Saturday that Fort Collins families parade through my gardens I don’t guess I’ll be relying on alcohol to take the edge off.
On premiere night I anxiously anticipate the reaction of the audience. Will they laugh at what I think is funny? Be moved by sadness or a need to act? Will they yawn, die of boredom, snore, or sneak out of the theater? Or will the audience even think this film is relevant at all?
Four feature films have tested my story-telling mettle, adding confidence as I add to my body of work. But the homestead has never been publicly tested. And so I sweat.
I’m nervous because you won’t find my garden gracing the cover of Better Homes and Gardens. Mother Earth News maybe, but probably not that either. When editing a film I craft storytelling perfection and don’t release it until it’s so. The garden allows me much less control. And there’s freedom in that.
The young hens have been eating my bean plants, and munching the corn to the ground, so my three sisters garden is uneven; much less than picture perfect. And then there’s that rabbit. Most people work to keep rabbits out of the garden. We let ours in. The garden is his protected outdoor play area and he helps himself to lettuces, clover, young basil, oregano, bean plants—whatever warms his fuzzy little heart. There’s plenty to share I tell myself and keep poking seeds in the ground to replace the small disappearing plants.
It’s a battlefield out there. Hens, mice, a goat (no elaboration needed), a dog who likes to eat flowers (including squash flowers), and that rabbit–all think they own the place. And they kinda do. That’s what I like about it.
I work. A lot. And raising my food gets me outside with the animals roaming free, and the green things, and the Vitamin D soaking into my skin; moving my body by digging, and dragging sticks into piles, and pulling nails, sawing up wood, shoveling muck, wacking weeds, and any other manner of chores that start my day with movement, sunshine, and nature in the city. It makes me happy. I feel competent and productive.
Then there’s winter, when I pull a bag of heirloom tomatoes from the freezer (assuming the critters left me a few) and warm the house with a fragrant sauce that tastes of summer and hand dried oregano, savored by a fire in the woodstove with beetle kill wood dragged from the forest by my own hand. Now that’s livin’.
So the garden isn’t House Beautiful, which most days makes me wonder why they picked me for this tour. Most things are made with what I have around or can glean from Freecycle cast-offs. Corners aren’t always square and sometimes the goat gets in and it’s back to square one. Happy critters mean more to me than corn in rows, each one with its matching bean vine. But still the garden provides: fresh eggs daily straight from the butt of happy hens, year-round greens, carrots sweet as high fructose corn syrup, and better nutrition than money can buy. (Who even needs a crisper drawer when food stays in the ground until dinner?) And that’s why they like it, the committee said. “Because it shows that anyone can do it and you don’t have to spend lots of money.” So here I am, an example to us all. And all I wanted to do was get outside.