Happy Holidaze

I love to say it: merry fucking christmas.

But this year, and I hope for the rest of my time on planet earth (until I become a final hour Christian, har har) I have already celebrated my holiday and I’m all done with this year. The solstice, for me, is the real deal, the real day of celebration, the ‘real’ last day of the year. It’s the shortest day and longest night, but there’s optimism: we reached the turning point when we start getting closer to the sun again. It’s a hopeful time, and Bill and I celebrated by building a fire and opening up our presents sent from loved ones.

The best gift of the year came from my mother–it’s a cheese press!

Above is Bill assembling it; below is it in action, pressing 50 pounds of pressure (I hung 15 pound bags of flour and rice at the end) to my goat cheddar. Ready in 2 months.

I love the end of a year because it becomes a time to think about plans for the New Year.

2010, for me, is going to be the year when I finally grow up and start dealing with my meager finances in a sane way. Lots of people think that because I published a book, I’m rolling in the dough. Alas, this is not true, book sales were good, but not great, and I’m still as broke as ever. While I love the freedom of being a poor writer, I’m getting a little worried about my future: what if I get sick, what if I want to have a baby, what if I want to finally be able to own a lot and plant trees for the future instead of squat farming?

I’ve always had conflicted feelings about owning property–can you really own land? Aren’t we all just passing through? And I hate the idea of owning a house with all kinds of problems and property values and all that crap. My dream for some time has been to buy a small parcel of land in Oakland. I would plant an orchard, run some chickens on it, and feed the people in the neighborhood, in addition to selling weird stuff like Persian mulberries or Green Gage plums to fancy restaurants to pay the rent. In order to buy a lot, though, I have to save up and raise a bunch of money (most banks will not finance a vacant lot).

In order to save money, I might do what my sister Riana, did, where she has pledged to not spend any money for a whole year. I might ask my friends who are good with money how they do it. I might have to do another 100-yard diet, because I’m guilty of spending most of my disposable money on food. To raise money, I’ll have to get mighty crafty. Stay tuned in January for that plan…

Finally, thanks to everyone who came to the Open House at the farm last weekend. Sorry if you didn’t get to do the goat tour–I had no idea so many people would show up! Despite the crowds, there are extra Goat Town T-shirts available. Mostly women’s sizes and shapes. Let me know if you’d like to buy one. They are $25 with postage.

Happy New Year!

19 responses to “Happy Holidaze

  1. Dear Novella,
    Is it too much to request a little respect for your fans who consider this a holy season?
    I truly wish you a wonderful holiday season and a happy new year!

  2. Novella,

    Happy solstice!

    It’s been a while since I’ve read the comments here and someone wasn’t scolding you for something you’d written. I know that this is more a means of getting the word out about your book than a personal blog, but it’s still your space. I’m here because I want to learn some of what you know about urban farming. If in the course of that you’re snarky/funny/demonstrate that you happen to have a personality, all the better.

    Becky,

    So although Novella may disagree with me, yes, it is too much to ask. She implied that she does consider solstice to be a holy season, just not the same holy season as you. And no one has to be respectful of your massively invasive capitalist holiday if they don’t feel like it. Deal.

  3. Peace on earth, goodwill to men, cranky Jack included.

  4. Happy Solstice Novella!
    Surely there must be some way for you to earn a decent living and do what you believe in. (I’m still looking for answers to that question!!) There’s a non-profit organization here that’s going to get grant money to set up community gardens in blighted communities in Pittsburgh. With your writing ability I’d bet you could do something like that–you just need to find where to look for funding sources. I could put you in touch with the executive director of the organization (Grow Pittsburgh) if you’re interested–she’s really nice and could perhaps give you a bit of advice.

    And where does Jack get off saying this blog is all about getting the word out about your book??? 1. The blog came beFORE the book Jack! 2. It’s not for you to judge. AND 3. she can write about whatever the fuck she wants!!!

    Merry Christmas!

  5. Great that your mom “gets” you. My mom would be mystified by some of the DIY/eco stuff I drool over. As for finances, I highly recommend reading the Get Rich Slowly blog. The guy who started it was drowning in credit card debt but worked out his own plan to pay it down. And then he kept on using the lessons he learned. He now has a good cushion for emergencies, plans his luxuries, and has taken his writing from amateur to pro. The site has a forum as well. Anyway, as someone who has my own perennial financial issues, I have found the blog thought-provoking. http://www.getrichslowly.org/blog/

  6. Novella,

    Bill and I talked about the very same thing while I visited during your open house. I recently bought a house not too far from you in Oakland. There is a large empty log right across the street that I feel should become an urban garden. Not sure if it should be a community venture or someone like yourself that wants to purchase it outright.

    Regardless, let me encourage you to follow your dream. It is highly rewarding to have a goal and see it through, and as much as the idea of “owning” land seems foreign, it is at least an investment that you can physically appreciate and enjoy.

    As far as how to go about getting a place…really it just takes saving what you can. It doesn’t matter what you make, you just have to make sure that you don’t spend all of it. When you do spend your money you make sure its on things that will bring you more wealth, such as tools or materials with inherent value that you can instill more value.

    Food is a hard one…it’s easy to enjoy all that the Bay Area has to offer. But it’s just as fun to feed yourself, and far cheaper. Having read your book and blog, I know you can appreciate this.

    I’d suggest giving yourself some goals to reach your dream. You could spend only the money that you make outside of your book sales, and leave your remaining book sales to accumulate. You could also feed yourself most of the week and pay for food once or twice a week.

    You’ve also got a good following now, I’m sure you could teach classes for donations and accept donations through your site. Every little bit helps.

    Lastly, you could always start with a house (which you only need around ~20 down through a conventional loan) or go in with someone else who is interested in the house while you are interested in the property…then rent from your partner.

    There is always a way!

  7. Hullo all,

    Oh, goodness. Sorry to have come across as overly aggressive. I need to put a lock on my computer preventing me from posting until I’ve been awake for an hour or two.

    Jeannine, I’m sorry if I was unclear, but that was precisely the point I was trying to make. The commenters here so regularly tell her not to make fun of someone or something, to be nice and never judge anything. I want to hear what the author has to say, not some censored version of it. She’s allowed to be funny or snarky if she wants to be. In fact, I usually like those bits. I have a bit of squatted land that I’m just starting to turn into a garden, and if there are things that in Novella’s opinion would make me Not A Farm, I’d like to hear about them! And the note about the book really wasn’t intended as a slight. If I remember correctly, she has been noting that a book deal was one of the aims of the blog since the beginning. There’s nothing wrong with that! It’s the way that publishing seems to work these days. What I did a poor job of conveying was that as a site with, among others, professional goals, things will be worded with a public in mind, and perhaps be more likely to err on the side of being nice. But speaking for myself, I would like to cast a vote in favour of continued snark when that is what the author is feeling.

    Sorry again for being unclear/an ass/insufficiently jolly.

  8. I think the teaching thing would work as a money maker, especially if you had room in your place to put a few people up, or space for a couple of tents, or a friend with lodging space you could partner with. We saw a lot of this as back to the land 70′s hippies. People would pay good money to stay a few days to learn various homesteading , sustainable living skills. On another topic, people farming vacant lots really should have the soil tested for heavy metals contamination. In our nearby city several possible sites were rejected for community gardens when high levels of lead, cadmium and other dangers were found in the soil. It came from former buildings that had burned down decades before, depositing lead paint residues and other toxins into the soil.

  9. Novella, happy solstice. I just finished your book (a gift from my sister, who is gardening in Greenwich, CT). It was a fun read. I hope it provides at least some income for you.

    I feel sympathy for you about the issue of owning land. I now have some property, but in Idaho, it’s a more affordable matter.

    Perhaps you could write another book, a how-to for urban growers. I am a voracious buyer/reader of books like Eliot Coleman’s, and you might want to tap into that market. That could help fund your property needs.

    My sister self-published a book. Doing something like that could help reduce the ‘overhead’ involved in publishing, at least until you get on your feet financially.

    BTW, I, too, consider the solstice the turning point of the winter. People who are ‘Christian’ in their background would do well to learn more about the origins of their holidays. If they did so, they would be a little less thin-skinned about perceived differences between Winter Solstice and Christmas. Both holidays are celebrations of new beginnings and the hope of things to come.

  10. A cheese press! I am envious!!! Please keep us posted on how it works for you. One is definately on my list of wishes.

    I am glad your Solstice was grand. Ours was, too. It is the first year we Celebrated the Solstice and it feels so natural now.

    Congrats on the success of your tour. My husband and I thought about driving down for it, but ruled it out in the end. Some other time, I hope.
    Happy New Year!

  11. I agree wholeheartedly that Novella (or any of us) does not owe anyone equal air time to include all other perspectives or viewpoints. It’s not disrespectful to anyone to express one’s point of view!! It’s her blog, afterall!

    And I also don’t think it’s one bit cranky to point this out.

  12. Hi Novella! I bought your book with some Christmas money, read it in three evenings, and enjoyed the hell out of it! I hope it continues to send money your way.

    As for getting a place, HUD’s 203(k) program will lend you the money to buy a place and fix it up, all in the same loan. Take a look at the FHA website. It’s how I bought my first home, which I’ll admit was pretty cheap- $70,000- but that’s because I moved from California to Florida so that I could afford a house (are you kidding? In California in the nineties, $70K was a down payment!). So check them out.

    And I have a friend who uses exactly the same Christmas greeting…..

  13. ghosttownfarm

    jack: no worries at all, my dear. happy new year. and you can count on snark throughout and beyond 2010.

  14. ghosttownfarm

    spidra; happy new year! i’ll check out that blog. see you at the scion exchange?

  15. ghosttownfarm

    merry christmas becky! and happy new year.

  16. Thank you Novella :)

    PLEASE tell me that Urban Farm magazine has contacted you. I wrote them that we need REAL farmers producing food like YOU writing articles!! If not, we need a write in campaign! :)

  17. Hi Novella,
    My daughter gave me Farm City for Yule and it was fantastic, I couldn’t put it down!

    I’d love to buy a t-shirt but am a 2x…do you have any big sizes?

  18. ghosttownfarm

    hey kathy;
    i actually have a really cool shirt that might fit you.
    what’s your address?

  19. Really needing to get myself a tee!
    Bought the book from our local used book shop — it was just sitting there all alone on a table, and I had to have it. I absolutely loved it, and it left me wondering what was next for you & Ghosttown. I’m so glad to have found your blog. Thanks for sharing what yer doing! It’s fascinating and inspiring! -Clare in Duvall, WA

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