Mandy and I have a long history with strawberries. The whole vision of this farm initially started with them. We were going to grow tons of them and create fruit pops sweetened with honey from our bees, produced in a kitchen powered by solar panels, and brought to the market in a truck powered by vegetable oil recycled from Athens restaurants. The most wholesome pop in the universe. But first we had to plant them.
It’s about strawberry planting time right now. For spring berries, you want to plant in September or early October. In 2011 when this was just a vision, we had one obstacle. We still lived in California. We had ordered almost 3,000 plants and had to get to GA to meet the truck driver to pick them up in about a week.
So we did what anyone would do. We put everything we owned into one trailer (mainly tools, pottery, and bee keeping equipment) and built a veggie oil processing station into another trailer. The fuel trailer was towed by Mandy’s old station wagon (populated by her and the dogs). The equipment trailer by me in the Dodge. I also built a huge roof rack on the truck that was overflowing with supplies. We looked like the Clampetts decided to move back.
We slept in parking lots and truck stops in a tightly packed camper shell in the bed of the truck each night, so we could stay with our dogs and belongings, but also because we were broke. I had converted both vehicles to run on vegetable oil and the plan was to make the whole trip using old oil that we collected from grease traps along the way. I have a history of making things difficult in the name of doing the “right thing” ecologically.
Generally when I commit to something, I don’t falter. On this hell trip however, I was bested by circumstance. Our first flat occurred before we got out of the driveway. A harbinger of what was to come. Our second flat happened 100 miles later. By the time we got to the desert we got a third flat, the solar panels (for the oil processing station) went out, and the dodge’s fuel pump died. It was terribly hot to be stuck in the desert in early September and we worried for our old dogs. We fortunately found a store that had the right pump and I learned how to replace it on the side of the road. The next night, Mandy’s car got a flat on a narrow, windy, dark highway where a series of 18 wheelers almost smashed us to bits while we frantically tried to make repairs on the side of the road. The jack-point had rusted out and before I could get a new tire on, the car collapsed on it’s axle almost crushing my foot. Grateful, but a bit shook, we brushed off the image of what almost was and scrambled up a solution. Back on the road and we made it over 1,000 miles before Mandy’s trailer started fishtailing on the Interstate at top speed and almost flipped.
I’ve traveled the country in old busses converted to run on oil by myself and other well intentioned, but unskilled do-gooder types 4 times, which is to say, I’ve had some challenging trips, but this was by far the most cursed trip I’ve ever experienced. 7 Flat tires, a jack that failed and almost crushed my leg, 2 failed fuel pumps, close encounters with big rigs, failed solar and other electrical issues and all the while, we needed to be in GA at a certain date to meet the truck driver with our 3,000 strawberry plants.
We ditched the trailer that almost flipped Mandy’s old wagon, gave up on using veggie oil, salvaged what parts we could, got back on the road and tried to make up for lost time. On the final night, completely exhausted, we made it halfway through Georgia and the end was in sight, but by 2 a.m. we couldn’t drive anymore. We dragged ourselves to the bed of the truck to sleep a few hours, but the camper shell’s lock busted leaving us locked out. Fitting.
When we got to Comer the next morning, as we were passing the sign that said, “Welcome to Comer. Make our town, your town,” our old dog Gypsy who had been quietly enduring this whole Odyssey got up and excitedly started wagging for the first time in however many days and thousands of miles. Not a word was spoken to her. She’d never been here before. Somehow she knew. Hell trip was over and we were coming home.
We got to the farm and were so relieved to have made it safely and to be able to dial back the stress level. Its a beautiful place and the dogs got to experience the joy of being farm dogs, able to roam for acres. But the trip had one last surprise.
We crashed hard that night, enjoying the comfort of a bed in a home without wheels. No blaring streetlights, truckers, or vagrants wandering by our bed or disturbing our dogs. We slept peaceful and well…. and then BOOM!! We bolted upright with fear, awakened by the sounds of 20 shotguns firing constantly, the closest one just 40 feet from our house. Visions of Red Dawn flashed through my head. Men were positioned behind those bucolic round hay bales, popping their heads up and firing away. Pellets rained down on our tin roof. Alarmed, we eventually came to find that it was opening day of Dove season and the 50 acres next to us were filled with sportsmen shooting their little hearts out.
The timing sucked, but it truly was a fitting end to the brutal journey. I guess we really had to earn that vision of being a happy little strawberry farm. But this walk down memory lane has run long, so I’ll continue the strawberry story next week.
Meanwhile, we do have strawberry plants out front of the store, so if you are here to pick up flowers, feel free to pick up some June bearing strawberries while you are at it. Hopefully your trip here will be much less eventful than ours was.
Have a great weekend!