I’m usually a pretty decisive person. In our business I make snap decisions, one after another, often without as much knowledge or experience as I would like. Thirteen years of business ownership has taught me how to quickly research a problem, plot out a path and stay the course, but I also trust my gut.
Whether it’s the location of swales, a root cellar, roads, fencing or ponds, my decisions for The Ant Farm have been racked with uncertainty, and in some cases good old-fashioned fear. But why?
The answer hit me like a ton of bricks during the TSP earthworks course, and it’s much more obvious than I’d like to admit.
What Are We Creating?
The approach to this crazy endeavor should be like the other challenges I face everyday with my business. We need to figure out where we want to go, plot out the path and then stay the course, making corrections when needed. While we’ve had numerous conversations about what our life will be like “on the farm”, we’ve never deliberately sat down and laid out a vision for The Ant Farm.
We know the kinds of things we want to do on this land, but what exactly do we want The Ant Farm to be?
It began in 2008, when Leigh and I traveled to Italy. You can see the video re-cap here. It was a trip we had spent our first eight years of marriage planning. I learned to speak Italian. We studied Romulus and Remus. We read about Michaelangelo. For the first time in my life I willingly learned about art. When that plane took off from Birmingham, we were ready for anything… only, the reality of Rome and Riomaggiore took us in completely unexpected directions. As we walked down the same ancient cobblestone roads as the apostle Paul, learned of Luciano’s (our host in Rome) family history, and toured an age-old cemetery on the Ligurian coast, Leigh and I realized the importance of family legacy for the first time. We finally understood how profoundly the decisions we make today will affect the lives of many generations to come.
As Americans we have lost perspective on how the present links the past and future. We no longer build homes. We buy houses. According to the 2007 National Association of Home Builders American Housing Survey, the average length of stay for an American single-family home is twelve years. There’s nothing permanent in America. It’s all “progress”. Our oldest buildings date back to the 1600s, while Luciano’s apartment in Rome had been in his family for decades before America was even discovered. Even in broken English he could better articulate what it means to be a Pascucci than I could explain what it means to be a McKibben. Without strong roots it’s difficult for us to grow.
Standing on a stone tower in Vernazza, overlooking the Italian Riviera on one side and a centuries-old cemetery on the other, Leigh and I decided that we wanted to leave a legacy- to change our family tree by building our home into something lasting. We decided not to build another house, but to cultivate an estate that could change the lives of our children, as well as our children’s children.
Turning that dream into a reality has been overwhelming up to this point. I have found myself second-guessing every decision and feeling incapable of managing such a monumental task. Shaping this raw forest into our picture of the Garden of Eden requires the same decisiveness and confidence as running a business. However, my opinions have been blowing in the wind because I’ve been distracted by the brushes and colors, not focused on the actual subject I’m painting.
What ground cover mix should I use?
Should we get a live-stock guardian dog before or after we have animals on the property?
Where will the pond go?
How do you build a gray water system?
Which excavator do I need for digging my earthworks?
These are all important issues that have to be addressed, but the most important question remained unanswered until we recently decided what it is that we’re trying to create. As artists with a clear vision of what we’re painting, we’ve been freed to enjoy the process and revel in each brush stroke rather than constantly agonizing over what to do next.
So what are the tools in our bag? What’s our canvas like? What will our Masterpiece look like when it’s finished?