“I do not propose to write an ode to dejection, but to brag as lustily as chanticleer in the morning, standing on his roost, if only to wake my neighbors up.”
On a trip to Cuba a decade ago to research sustainable agriculture, I arrived too late at the guest hostel in the southern, rural part of the island to see much of the hills surrounding us with palm trees in a small valley. I got my chance early the next morning when I was awoken by not one, not two, but what sounded like hundreds of roosters crowing all around me. I dressed quickly and went outside to find that roosters roamed freely in this village, strutting as lustily as Thoreau’s chanticleer. Roosters are undoubtedly more intent on alerting other roosters to their territory than on signaling transformation, but in El Valle del Gallo, as I called this place, I witnessed the power of roosters crowing in unintentional symphony at the dawn of another day.
I recently published A Bushel’s Worth: An Ecobiography, a memoir of reunion with my family’s farming traditions and a call for local farmland preservation. In the book, I alternate stories about small-scale, organic farming at Stonebridge Farm, our community-supported farm along Colorado’s Front Range, with childhood memories of my grandparents’ farms in North Dakota.
Many of the chapters in the book began as digital stories. For example, “Seeds of Never Seen Dreams” was based on a digital story I wrote about my Great-Grandma Flora, a teacher and farmer on the North Dakota prairie, and the ways I see my own life reflected in hers. The first chapter, “A Trace of Rural Roots,” began as my very first digital story, made in a Denver workshop in 2006. I had never seen a digital story before I took that workshop and had intended to write about something other than the North Dakota farms, but when I looked at childhood photos in preparation for the workshop, my heart was drawn to images of summer vacations there.