Phase One of "Become Successful Farmers" is now well under way, and I apologize that it isn't the most interesting phase for y'all to read about. Phase One, of course, is "Big Man and Johnson Get Jobs to Pay Down Debt."

Big Man is working as a machinist outside of Ithaca, building some metal parts that make up some big ass machines that test something about porosity. Yeah. I am working as a legal assistant to a small-town lawyer, who does everything in the world a small-town lawyer could do, except handle contested divorces and referee pistol duels. I like it -- I get to dress up again, and meet all kinds of bizarre characters with bizarre problems that they are oddly anxious to talk about. Apparently, with the ongoing dearth of small-town therapists, a lawyer (or a lawyer's assistant) is often the best one can do. People call who want to know if they can get better custody agreements if they can prove their ex is making meth. People call to explain that their mom was a bitch and how do they change her will. People have extremely elaborate narratives involving DWIs and missed court appearances. To go from not leaving the farm or talking to anyone but the Big Man to this was quite an about face. But an enjoyable one. I spend all day busy with a variety of interesting tasks, and have to take none of it home with me.

A 9-5 is not a part of the ultimate Plan, of course. It is but the first stepping stone, and it is also arguably the hardest. How to keep a passion for rural do-it-yourself living when you're out the door right away in the morning, and home just in time for the 45 minutes of light needed to shovel out the driveway so the stupid rear-wheel drive truck can make it up? How to keep motivated to make that from-scratch 3 hour dinner when I drive past a Subway, a McDonalds and an Arbys? I think part of what helps is how strikingly different a rural 9-5, for us, is than a city 9-5 was. Now, when I walk Stupid Ursula in the morning, there is no rushed around the block, please poop already mentality. There is the lake, pinkish-silver in the 7:30 light, and there's last night's snow clinging to a hundred pines, and there's a cardinal in a tree who humors me by whistling back when i try to imitate it, and Ursula tramps through the woods and fields at her own pace, no leash necessary. The drive to work is not a subway or a traffic snarl, but a series of rolling hills and emerging vistas. The homecoming is a pleasant rush of keeping on my coat as I turn on the heater, gradually coaxing the temperature downstairs from 34 degrees to a cozy 50. And it's fine if dinner takes three hours; it's not as if we're rushing out to a bar, or need to finish an essay. And there's endless tweaking of the Plan over dinner -- what if we put the pigs over here, and what if we made a hen house out of that truck cap, what if we managed to build a greenhouse off the dining room.

Gloriously, Phase One also involves the dramatic rolling out of The Garden. Final (I think!) architectural plan is laid out below. March 10 is the first day on the Garden Calendar: celery and celeriac seeds in soil! Stay tuned for details.