M 28
Tonight, I broke a promise. The stars are out and the cool night air dragged me outside for a smoke of my pipe. It couldn’t be helped. The alley behind our apartment is a holy place where our neighbors go to feed an addiction and get the latest news. As I sat outside and lit a flame to that fresh tobacco, I realized the small dread that’s been building up inside of me for the last year. It’s the dread of the city. The dread of confronting my neighbors. The city is not a bad place, it’s my attitude towards it that’s gone down the toilet. The smoke was good. I sat beneath the heavens and slowly realized, “this is what I’ve been missing.” I like to think under the stars. This is the thing that makes me who I am.
     I was told recently by someone near and dear to me that I am a leader and not a follower. That going to the farms was an act of following, not leading. It felt like an attack. It put my spirit in a meat grinder. If I go back to my original thought, the engine that set all of this in motion, I’m brought forth to a single word, Change.
     The idea of applying to the Peacecorp was an act of change. Farming was just an offspring to that idea. In all honesty, I chose farming simply because it sounded the most interesting. There was no great divine reasoning behind that choice, it just felt right. To me the most essential thing was change. I needed, no, I was begging! for change. Something to drag me out of my current life and throw me into the sweet chaos.

     If I sit and think about farming, a flood of imagery enters my skull. To translate these into words would break its essence. It would turn the Mona Lisa into an abstraction and put an end to the mystery that is the subtle shape of her lips. Food is a language unto its own, one that I’ve ignored for most of my life. We can fly away into space on shiny ships if we gotta, but we should never neglect the very thing that keeps us all standing. Farming is the change that is necessary for this moment in my life, and I will admit right now that I am indeed a follower, but it’s my instinct that I’m following.
     Rosy has a special tattoo. A thin line that wraps around to the inside of her wrist where they stop to meet a small triangle. To Rosy, I believe this represents change (shoot me if I'm wrong). When I randomly apply my lucky number to it, nine lines in the form of a triangle, it evolves, in shape and in meaning, and I’m reminded of the logo that I created (below) some years ago on a hike inside of a snowy forest near Mt. Hood. It’s a very random correlation, I know, but it is also a very important symbol I've come to appreciate over the years. This new idea popped into my head tonight while I was outside smoking. Okay yeah, it’s just a logo for my design company, but for some reason it pulses like a drum whenever I picture it in my mind.

     The one true thing that attracted me most to design was the origin of language. In the early history of mankind, graphic symbols were created to represent an idea, and our language evolved from those basic forms. Were I to start a new language of symbols in this very moment and my logo was to be the first character, it’s meaning would be this: “The change from follower to leader.” That’s got a nice ring to it.

M 27
Our apartment is in it’s original state, the day we first arrived to plant our little flag. We’ve traded our mattress for a hardwood makeshift bed by sprawling out our blankets on the floor. A little projector borrowed from a friend, hums and chugs as it blasts our new favorite show, 3rd Rock from the Sun, all over the wall. There’s a tiny echo made with each footstep as I creep from room to room. We just spent the weekend with Rosy’s mom down south in a small town called Stayton. We packed the last of our belongings into her parents barn and then proceeded to enjoy the weekend by eating good food and drinking good wine. Rosy’s mom set me on a little chore of mowing a big grassy field that sits next to their house. I accepted it as a payment for my debt to her for helping us move. The lawn mower was noisy, my nostrils blazed with pollen and I was left with a ringing in my ears after the job was done. It was work that took nothing but the strength of the mind because of its tediousness. I didn’t mind it because it gave me a chance to think. It wasn’t until we got back home today that we both realized the reality of the situation, we got nothing and there’s no turning back!

     Our old home will be passed on to another. Our new home will be next to a field of vegetables and fruit. When we first moved into this apartment, it took some time to adjust, to our new surroundings and to each other. Slowly, life in this place began to shift and warp like a ball of clay, paintings were hung, furniture scurried across the floor, memories were added and subtracted. It was a cave we called our own. It’s just one of the many homes I’ve lived in and now it will rest somewhere in my mind, to be conjured up in the future and told to any ear that’s willing to listen.
     I look at the kitchen and think of the hundreds of meals that came out of it, some amazing, others too experimental and horrifying to tell. When we first moved in, the kitchen was my pride and joy. It had the look of a kitchen that was used and beat-up for many a great purpose, with its retro counter-tops covered in dishes and cabinets filled with mason jars. And out of all of that, a good cup of coffee over a stack a pancakes was enough to satisfy me. Rosy and I would sit and tell stories, taking in the lazy sun as it rolled past us. At first thought, I find it difficult to think of every memory produced in this little factory. After enough time though, the little gems that made this place shine will begin to pop their tiny heads out of the dust.
     After a long day of work, we’d find a little place on the couch or in bed where we could feed our brains to the TV. Rosy had her Antique Roadshow, and I had my Svengoolie. Our clothes would be hung up to dry wherever there was a place to put them. Books would be piled up in random places. We shoved all of our knick-knacks together and called this eclectic masterpiece home. The feeling won’t hit me until we’re long gone, but that’s okay, you can’t live in a past that hasn’t passed yet!

     The life lived here is unlike any other life I have lived so far and that is why it will not be forgotten. It was here that I learned that life could be treated differently and yield wildly different results. It was an experiment of sorts. It wasn’t that I didn’t know how to live, it's that I discovered a new way of doing things. If there’s an art to living, this was the Jackson Pollock of lifestyles and I loved it. I leave this place with greater confidence. Rosy taught me things I never thought about and I’m grateful because of how simple a magic trick it was. A new chapter begins, we roll out of here with our backpacks and some photographs in hand, to remind us where we came from and where we’re going.

M 22
I want to think forward. Far into the future. If the past can exist in the mind, surely there’s room in there for the future? Thoughts of the future must be essential, how else can humans justify any actions of the present? The future is an invisible ball of clay, chiseled by the now, then thrown into the closet of memories. If you asked me years ago what I thought about the future, I’d bite my thumb and shrug my shoulders. In my last post I talked about my past. I’ve always condemned myself for trying to predict the future because it has always been the present that has mattered most to me. You reach a certain point in life, I imagine, where the present becomes the fulcrum. The mind begins to shift back and forth. Every movement filled with purpose. The purpose then becomes a vision. We move through the storm gallantly until we’ve aligned ourselves with that image, that place where "we see ourselves.”

     I never saw design school coming. I never saw the farms until the seed was planted in my head (no pun intended). It wasn’t until life opened this door and barked in a godlike voice saying, “Yes, you may pass this way.” The doorway begins on the first of June and on that day we will pass through another little unknown. Beyond the farms I see a thick fog. A fog that will not clear until we have passed through this next dark corridor. Before the idea of farming, I’ve been trying to build a small design business with my mother who is also a graphic designer. That process is like building a motor from bits of scrap. I do not know if it will run, but if all one has is closed doors and a gut feeling, you have to take your chances on something.
     When I was young, I imagined the world much like a video game. That when I grew up, life was going to be constant adventure and travel. If I ever ran into any baddies, I’d just pummel them into dust and float away on my starship. As I’m sure you all are aware, reality is a tough thing to swallow. Making moves became infinitely difficult because the horrors of reaching bottom were ingrained into my head. Being born and raised close to the city, even if it was as tiny as Portland, you quickly learn what it means to be poor. That up is the only direction.
     Moving out on my own meant learning new things, and learning them quick. Fortunately for me, life didn’t start from nothing, it started with everything and I learned to shave off the inessentials. Life previously was more complicated than it should have been. I grew up comfortably, and it took a lot of effort and control to shed that comfort.
     Farming aligns itself with certain ideas formulated through the many years of my existence on this planet. Life on a farm is nothing like the future I envisioned as a child, but I believe the experiences gained and the credo that people build for themselves is instrumental to finding that ultimate path. There are many other people that are doomed for darkness and for them (and myself) I give a silent prayer and move on.

M 20
I grew up in Oregon. What does that mean? It’s been a relatively quiet and peaceful life. Out of 50 states my mom got lucky when she arrived here from Venezuela many years ago. Portland to me was a hot little mystery that I experienced vicariously through my oldest sister who danced through part of the 90’s bohemian scene. She dragged me around on mini adventures with her friends and through her temporary college life at Reed. She taught me about cool music and what books were a necessity in life. My mom was busy building her new career as a graphic designer. I spent a lot of my time in school or at my Grandmas house gobbling up cartoons and good food. I fought and bickered with the middle child, my second oldest sister, and from all those battles I infamously dubbed her the “firecracker” of the family. In all fairness, she’s the one who introduced me to one of my greatest friends. It was a friendship that would ultimately spiral into one of the greatest times in my life. I was part of a handful of awesome kids that terrorized, harassed and enlightened a little apartment village in Gresham called Silverwoods. My mom drove into me an unrelenting amount of optimism and spiritualism that in time has allowed me to look at my past as an unforgettable jewel not to be thrown away.

     Like galaxies that stretch apart as the universe grows, my friendship with many of the apartment kids grew colder over time. Kids moved away, others split our friendship like wood for fire. I held no grudge and moved with the wind. High School came along and we were all busy toiling away at the people we needed to become in order to survive. I grew out my hair, worshipped jeans and the color black. I was a mirror, held up to the various little tribes in high school, and the only ones that would take me in as their own. High School was a mix of hard lessons and beautiful thoughts, like cavities and the free toy that comes inside a box of cereal. I admit I was a shark when it came to the discovery of girls, but the friendships and memories that spiraled out of them was well worth the chaos, at least to me. Art class was the only thing I gave a damn about. I did well in the basics, math, history, english, science... not so much. I relied on many of my friends to help me through my other elective classes.
     With Art, there was always one memory that stuck in my mind that I consider my “moment of enlightenment.” I was about 15 years old when I had just pulled an all-nighter of playing video games online with friends. The sun was peeking through the window and I decided to make myself a cup of green tea and listen to some music. I put on the new Incubus album called Morning View, and proceeded to draw the same old silly anime characters I mimicked from my endless addiction to games and comic books. Suddenly the song Warning plays and for once in my life I am both hearing and listening to the lyrics with unprecedented clarity. My heart is racing and I’m unable to comprehend all the new thoughts flooding into my head. My style of art changes from that moment on.

     Art was to be my constant mode of expression. I can’t remember the moment I robotically decided to enter design school. Even to this day, the whole process felt like an automatic nature that was out of my control. I enjoyed the ease in which I moved through school, until I hit a brick wall with a few professors who began challenging my design (not my art, mind you, but my design.) I knew exactly what I loved about art, and couldn’t fully understand the purpose of design. Over time I began to believe that design was just art without soul. Chalk it up to too many cessions of smoking weed with a lot of deep thinkers and weirdos. I knew that I needed to work, and that design was the one and only skill I had under my belt. I went through the motions and slowly accepted my fate. The freedom of creativity that would occasionally come across my plate was filled with a enough glitter to keep my attention. Art faded to the background with quick dabbles on the computer, but I needed to keep design in my focus if I was going to compete against others for work.
     Fast forward 10 years from my first design job and here I am, sitting in a chair looking backwards through my mind. Both my art and my design are no where near a masters level and that’s okay. Nights not spent with a paintbrush or a mouse in my hand were nights spent with friends and family, under the stars or deep inside of a forest. The Northwest continues to fill me with awe. Getting into farming just made sense. A farmer possesses the same magic as an artist. The ability to raise something from nothing. In all of my studies in astronomy I cannot think of a greater a jewel than the magic possessed by this tiny little grain of dirt floating through infinite space.

M 18
There’s a pile of books I’ve put together for my time on the farm. I’m not a fast reader, but I will love the hell out of a good book when it comes across my path. I think the written art form is a thing not to be overlooked. I was in high school when I started taking books seriously (I wanted to impress people badly) and it took me way too much concentration and focus than I was able to give at the time. Frank Hebert’s Dune was the first book to officially suck me into reading even though the language was a little beyond my hormone-driven pea-sized brain. Comic books were harder for me to swallow because I enjoyed the little mystery I was forced to surrender to my imagination with a book. My list of completed books wouldn’t impress anyone, but it’s the time and the journey spent with the book that I enjoy most. For this summer I’ve got four books that I’d like to focus on:
     1. Agriculture for Beginners by Burkett, Stevens and Hill. Of course I have to have a little book on farming. Rosy borrowed the book from the library and it was my first ever farming book. I loved it so much that when it was time to return it to the library, I went to Powell’s afterwards in search of a new book and luckily came across the same exact book which I knew I had to own. It was written in the early part of the 20th century and is a textbook for school kids. It covers many facets of farming including tilling, planting and harvesting. It even goes in depth about livestock and horticulture, which is great because it gives me small doses of everything farm related.
     2. Philosophy: The Power of Ideas by Brooke Moore and Kenneth Bruder. Some months ago I asked Rosy’s uncle, who studied philosophy in college, where there was a good place to start with this subject, and this is the book he lent me. I believe everything has a foundation in philosophy and this book taps into an array of great philosophers.
     3. Atlas Shrugged by Ayn Rand. Another book recommended by Rosy’s uncle. Our little talks on philosophy led him to believe that this might be a worthy read for me. So far I’m around 100 pages in and I’m enjoying the dialogue between these complex characters whose motives and personalities seem to be in a constant flux.
     4. Bushido: The Soul of Japan by Inazo Nitobé and Hagakure: Book of the Samurai by Yamamoto Tsunetomo. Technically these are two books and they go into great detail about the code of the Japanese Samurai. My interest came specifically from a Samurai film class I took in college. For my final assignment I got the chance to write a fictional story that showcased all of what I learned about the Samurai. This read is part hobby and part research in order to turn that story into a graphic novel in the near future.

M 17
Two weeks away from the big move and I’m looking around my apartment that sits on Hawthorne. The place is already half empty. Boxes are strewn about and little random things sit around waiting to be saved or sent to goodwill. Summer is almost here. Rosy is in bed, tired from a long day in the sun and kicking the ball around. All the windows are open to let in any breeze that happens to wander by. Our living room appears bigger because of how empty it is, and in the center there’s a large dobsonian telescope pointing straight up in the air. This is one of the few summer activities I have planned for myself. I borrowed it from the Rose City Astronomers tonight. I also purchased a little star guide to help find some constellations.
     I feel I’ve had the great opportunity lately to take on a few different hobbies. Hobbies I’ve thought about, but never took much action. With all this free time now, I’ve been dabbling with different things and seeing what sticks. On the window sill is a small juniper Bonsai I’ll be taking with me as well. Rosy has a row of little black containers with little sprouts of basil in them. A fishing rod sits against the wall around the corner, alongside it is a smallish box filled with little doodads and memorabilia. A pile of photographs sit on my desk waiting for the right place to go. I guess one could say I’m compiling a survival kit for my mind. Small little reminders of the past that will hopefully keep me going.

     I don’t expect this summer to be easy because of how new this all is to me. The idea of running off and doing something completely out of my nature is a wild thought. It is something that I have always imagined but could never wrap my mind around because I never knew a good way to go about it. This isn’t just about farming. It’s about finding a different way of living. One that doesn’t consist of cubicles and nicely pressed slacks (not that my slacks were ever pressed, just saying.) I guess the romantic idea of just “leaving it all behind” never entered my head because I was too afraid to burn my bridges. With someone like myself, I find it very important to keep my past close to me so that I have something to go back to once that bridge is crossed. Every once in a while I like to go back to my old apartment in Gresham where I grew up and reminisce over old memories with friends and family. The feeling is like a set of old lungs being injected with fresh air. I wouldn’t trade those memories for the world.

     Well the stars have aligned and now is the time to boogie. This apartment has been very kind, but the view sucks and inner-city living is slowly becoming a pain in my ass. Maybe I came to this town too old, too ripe to appreciate the Portland stink that has it’s hooks in everybody's mouth these days. I got a small taste and now it’s time to try something new. A very “millennial” thing to do I’d say, grab a sampler size and bounce. The dawn of the internet has overloaded us with too much information and too many temptations, how can one resist seeing all the world before they leave their own fleshy vessel for God knows where?

M 15
Just call me Alejandro. I refuse to give myself the title of farmer just yet. In the city, I am a graphic designer running 10 years deep. Outside of the city, I’ve yet to carve out my name. This is a blog chronicling me and my partner, Rosy Pinecone, and our adventure in farming life. About a year ago I finally came to the conclusion that a big change was necessary and what that was I didn’t know. Rosy and I first applied to the Peacecorp, and when it came time to choose a path, I looked at the list of jobs and thought, “farming sounds nice!”
     Well it turns out that I had almost zero experience on a farm, until Rosy shined a light on WWOOF, an organization that connects everyday people with organic farmers. Last year, I worked part-time on a few farms, taking in the sweet country air and enjoying a different kind of freedom. Freedom from the city, freedom from design and especially freedom from my computer. After 4 months of work, it was time to apply for the Peacecorp with my newly gained experience of working in the mud and cleaning chicken coops. After we applied, Rosy and I waited, and waited, and waited, and after a few months of waiting and being ignored by our recruiter, I sent off a firm (but polite!) email explaining that we could not wait any longer and keep putting off potential jobs. Our recruiter came back with a rejection letter and we finally got our answer.

     I moped and yawned and groaned, not understanding what to do next. On one side I was bitter about the rejection, on the other I was relieved to not have to carry the weight of wondering whether or not we were going to be spending the next 2 years on a farm in South America. Something inside of me still kept biting at my soul. After working the last few years as a freelance designer, I kept coming to the same conclusion, that I was fed up with designers, ad agencies and working for useless causes. The one biggest obstacle that was holding me back from changing my course in life was of course my student loan, which I promised myself to never neglect that responsibility.
     It was time to take the leap. After some deep sobering thoughts I came upon an idea of the only path that made sense to me. My plan was this, save up as much money as I can and take the summer off to spend it living on a few different farms around the Northwest. Live out of a tent if necessary and work my ass to the bone until I’m sick of farming, and only then would I be able to make a clear decision about becoming a true farmer. This blog will be updated weekly (perhaps a few times a week) with thoughts, wonders and ponderings about my adventures of life on the farm.