We Almost Named Our Baby Wendell

“Mars” eating a radish in the sun

Farming in the far north takes a lot of…..trial and error. Just when you think you know the ways you can improve your crops, your yield, your soil, your organization and tools, the next year is so wildly different.

Pink Dandelions I have been growing the last 3 years FINALLY came up in the field this year

Take this year for example. Every single person you come in contact with in Alaska this summer will tell you this is the rainiest, nastiest, coldest, darkest summer we have had in a long ass time. Fireweed on most of our property still hasn’t even bloomed. By this time last year, we had picked strawberries, blueberries – high and low bush, crowberries, and raspberries were almost finished. Harvested and (eaten first) frozen in the full freezer. This year, the raspberries and Saskatoons haven’t even started to ripen, we harvested half of a quart jar of strawberries (that broke full of berries and we didn’t even get to enjoy any!) and the blueberries we have only pecked at the bushes – wondering if more will magically appear and sparing what little food the birds must be getting to eat. The cranes are honking outside my window now to leave and the bees have only barely enough honey to feed themselves one day.

No matter the year, Primrose is dedicated to her baby chicks and loves her chicken chores

Every year has its own story. Last summer it was an entire garden space that just would not produce. It was a bear and the devastation it caused to our flock. It was the porcupines and moose coming in and eating almost everything.

Mixing native and cultivated plants for beautiful boquets

Who could have predicted that this year we would have had so much rain that we “should” have used every square inch of the high tunnel for food production? How could we have better equipped ourselves? What can be done to be more precise in so much uncertainty? With a season that is drastically shorter than the lower 48 it also makes finding information, tips and tricks, and tough ass fast growing crops so much more difficult to come by.

My best helper, “our time” is picking the flowers together

Sometime I feel, and I know my husband feels the same, like we are failing. We are failing at business, we are failing at organizing, we are failing at being successful, we are failing because we are not making much money, everything seems to be constantly in a state of disarray, and I cannot ever seem to think of a solution let alone implement one that is 50/50 to work.

But then we read the words and work of Wendell Berry. We are inspired. Filled with pride. ˆReminded . Reminded that what we are doing is a success. We don’t need to focus on our societies first impression of success : money. We are reminded we chose to not sell anything this year and work solely on our family’s food and infrastructure for our farm. We are reminded that we have a Family Farm, by Berrys definition (read his 1986 piece “In Defense of the Family Farm”) We are creating soil fertility naturally. Reminded that we are learning. How do we learn the answers to the questions I have just typed? We keep going. We learn the cycles through time, through experience, through dedication. The dedication of doing it over and over and over.

Our new garden did/is doing well this year despite the fact that this was all wetlands last fall

So here we are today. After feeling crummy last week. Feeling absolutely revived. Feeling purposeful. INSPIRED. This IS why we are doing it. Because it is the right thing to do. No other reason necessary.

How could you argue with the “rightness” of this

And that is why we we were going to have Marlena’s name be _?_ Wendell _?_ Stark . Because I was also sure she was a boy.

I am glad you were born you baby girl

“Love, it’s a sacrament and it’s probably some kind of a necessity, to take responsibility to be able to love somebody, and marriage is a way of acknowledging and accepting that responsibility.” -Wendell Berry on “Bill Moyers in Conversation podcast

The happiest. My hero. My forever inspiration of life.

Published by secretgardenalaska

Best friends raising two daughters off-grid in a remote area of Alaska. We grow food, write stories, make jewelry, and live a sober life.

11 thoughts on “We Almost Named Our Baby Wendell

  1. I love your book and your who you 4 (5 with your brother) are and are becoming!
    I listened to the Cleared Hot podcast and have been trying to decide what kind of book your book is. It took me a few days but I really believe it is a love story and that is why so many people across all spectrums enjoy it so much. Anyway, keep being awesome. If you ever make it to Utah, I’d love to buy you and your family dinner.

  2. That’s is such a beautiful way of thinking you guys are doing amazing. I don’t know your day to day struggles or week to week. But I know that this summer has been very different from Other as it should be it’s alaska 😉. From a outsider getting little glimpses that you all post you guys are absolutely successful. So keep it up and keep moving forward you guys are doing great!🥰 much love from the Beans family

  3. I’m glad you guys are feeling better and inspired… you are not failing! Keep your heads up, you have a beautiful family and you are living life to the fullest 🙂 -Mike Baker, California

  4. I totally enjoyed every word and as a gardener myself I know the struggles but your courage and tenacity to continue is inspiring! It is very important to teach the young how to grow their own food! Think about sharing your knowledge in a day clinic at your place for a fee! Most people would love to learn some of the things your family knows. Lots of Summer tourists in Alaska they would pay to learn from you both! I want to come visit one day soon to meet you and see what you and Robert are doing. Take care and never give up!!!!

    1. Gwen, that is a great idea! We have kicked it around a bit and would love to do a program involving youth (high school and into young adulthood) . We imagine it would take some kind of grant funds which seems way more complicated given we have never received a grant we have applied for! But it doesn’t mean it cannot be done! Especially if we went the alternative route and had members pay from pocket.
      Having you out here would be incredibly special for my family, anytime you are welcome.

  5. Been a real poor summer for sun! Hopefully these last few weeks of decent weather gave the crops a boost. I have been thinking of you guys and would really like to bring the family to visit the farm some time.
    Thanks for sharing in your blog,

  6. I can’t wait to meet you and your beautiful babies. Your farm is amazing and what wonderful lessons for your children. And the world you could teach us all some great ideas.

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