Wednesday, July 28, 2010

"You are Here"

I am over 1/4 done my thesis (close to 1/3) by the word count and I am inching closer to the end of part 1 (of 3) of my thesis.  Statistically that is pretty good - considering I have over 2 months left until it has to be posted.

And yet it feels like I am just getting close to the end of a very small bit of the thesis; it feels like I have yet to say anything new or analytical... the section left to write in part 1 is the most important as I now need to make the leap from ecological frameworks and understanding to looking at human/social systems... the grounding and the framework I need to establish in order to get to the application part of my thesis (climate change and farming communities in East Central Alberta)...  

I would liken the feeling I am having is like having hiked uphill on a path that many others have walked before - and then looking back and thinking, "I've only gotten THIS far and it has been THAT long?"  And then looking at all that is stretching in front of you and wondering if you have enough time and space to do it all.

Yet - I know that if I haven't and don't continue along the process I am in, the next sections won't contain the insight or depth I am looking for - that I am looking for not just for a thesis document to hand in but for the kind of work I want to be doing post-thesis.  

So I am turning off the word counter because I know if I keep on working at the pace I am, it is not going to be about having enough words:  I am going to have plenty to edit and piece together.  It is about the learning, the insights and the internalising of the ideas and that process (for me) is taking words from books, running them through my head and bringing them back out on paper.  

All this sounds pretty obvious because - why would I be doing it if it wasn't for the learning?  But trust me, after almost three months of reading, research and writing - one begins to wonder what you are doing it all for, what added value you are bringing through the time and effort, and if you are getting anywhere.  So it's good to remind yourself of the process as well as focussing on the part you are in.

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Procrastination and other projects :)

To some people - they may see my putterings in the garden and yard as procrastination.  I consider these projects as key to my 'coming home' and 'becoming native to this place' - you'd be surprised how much of my thesis is formed while I do the following:

- turn the compost that I started just over a month ago: it really is decomposing!
- help my single zucchini plant pollinate itself (I hope) by taking a qtip to the male flower and then the female
- picked pineapple weed from our front lawn and hung up to dry to make into a tea
- helped Dad with shingling the shed in the back yard

All this and 800 words, editing and some research.

Pretty good day!  Off to yoga now :)

(jalepenos on the GrOw)

Saturday, July 17, 2010


I am sitting on the front porch of the cabin at Sunrise Farm - sipping red wine, camera ready for a great shot of the birds, deer or sunset... or whatever else might come along.  Amber - the farm dog - sits next to me, every so often vying for attention with my computer and the scenery around me.

Tomorrow I wrap up my stay here.  Since Wednesday morning Don Ruzicka has patiently carried me next to him on his quad as we rode through his chores for the day.  I have helped out where I could in feeding the pigs, chickens and turkeys; held the gate and passed ear tags while we sorted, tagged and moved cattle; weeded strawberries; and spotted black rot - to be cut out from the still young shelter belts.  And all along we've carried out a constant conversation that flowed from the practical (yarrow and sage are signs of over-grazing) to the philosophical; from the daily work needed to be done on this farm to the way our communities and nation and world is shaping up to be.

Don's a fountain of knowledge - ideas, quotes, contacts and sound thinking flows from him as he gathers eggs or lets his pigs enjoy a a stream of water.  He's encouraging and open and looking for new thoughts, ideas and connections to add to his already abundant understanding of agriculture and life today in the farming communities of Alberta.  I am humbled, honoured and thrilled to get to crank ice cream beside him :)

(long pause while I watch 10 ducks land on the creek in front of me)

These four days have reconnected me to why I've come home and why the theories and books that were making me cranky a few day ago, are important.

I am looking forward to getting back home and getting more words on the page for my paper.  For losing myself in the material and I am nervous what I may find when I do.  Good nervous. Just strapped myself into a rollercoaster and now at the top of the first steep incline nervous.

Ready for the ride - although hoping it doesn't go too fast because I do want to enjoy the view along the way.

(complete set of pics from the farm are here)

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

An update and an excerpt

It's been almost a month since I have been home and a couple weeks since I posted here.  I guess the last days have fallen into a pretty decent routine of breakfast - reading/writing - some gardening or something outside - lunch - more reading/writing/gardening - dinner, cooking it sometimes - cards or knitting or some less 'brainy' stuff but maybe still related to my thesis.  Also - mix into that getting logistics to coming home sorted (almost all done) and the break in there when I go out to Vance's for a walk on the farm or he comes into town to catch up.

It's great in terms of getting to enjoy the summer and having time to think and work - although I am getting restless in terms of missing a bit more of an active/social life.  It is good to be able to balance the heady stuff with things like weeding the garden, picking raspberry leaves to dry, foraging along the pond for wild mint and yarrow...  we've had two ripe strawberries and more asparagus from the garden and just holding breathes to see what survives the rain and wind from the last 24 hours.  We've had over 10cm of rain since last night at 6pm - (18 hours) and it is still coming down.

I am off tomorrow to spend 4 days working on Sunrise Farms (mentioned in the earlier post) - I kind of wish the sunshine and heat was still around but guess I won't be too hot in my coveralls!

Will try to post more from there but in the mean time - thought to share this small paragraph from the introduction of my thesis.  I was writing about the approach I am taking and why.  This was the final, more personal point:

"A journey to become native to this place.  This place in time and space that humanity is within; this place in the ecosystems that we humans occupy; this place in Alberta, Canada - were I grew up but never really felt a part of until now.  Wes Jackson’s book “Becoming Native to This Place” gave me this underlying statement and understanding of what my journey has been about.  I have sought education and experiences to help me witness and understand the wider global context that my life sits within; I have held deep the question “how can we humans flourish, unapologetic-ally, on this earth?”; and I have felt pulled back to Canada, to Alberta and to the rural life I was raised in.  These questions and explorations are my journey to becoming native to this place and I believe that as I live my inquiry I am a part of all humanity re-placing ourselves."

We did make a trip out to the farm that I grew up on.  It was unplanned (at least from my part) and it was a bit overwhelming in terms of the memories that came back.  Just walking through the yard, a smell or the sight of a certain tree or spot near the barn... and a sweet, simple memory would be waiting for me.  I hope to make another trip out there before the place is sold.