Monday, March 2, 2009

Funemployment update

(That's me, in the middle)

What I did on my week-long funemployment vacation: made casseroles in the middle of the day, almost finished some unfinished knit projects, spun yarn from the roving stash, started seedlings, got a pretty good head start on spring cleaning.

And I worried, lots.

On bright side, my skin looks great! Work stress always shows up in my skin, but no work = no work stress. Weirdly, unemployment stress doesn't seem to count. Who knew?

I think I know what I want to do next. Michigan State University offers a 2-year certificate in sustainable agriculture.

But yeah, I'm worried. I'm worried that a 2-year certificate (that's as much as the state will help pay for) is not going to be enough education, even though I already have a (now useless) Masters of Science in my former field.
I've looked online at job listings in the emerging urban ag field- most of the interesting jobs seem to require 4-year undergrad degrees. I already did the 4-year thing a long time ago. Besides, I just finished paying off my student debt last year, and the thought of a brand new pile of indentured servitude at age 40 completely fills me with dread. It's called trickle-down economics these days, but it used to be called Feudalism. But I digress.

I also worry I'm too old for a second career in such a physically demanding field; I have really terrible knees and a bad neck.
Small women are surely at a disadvantage in a field that requires physical strength. I can lift about 40 pounds if you need me to move it somewhere, but it's a struggle. I fear I'll be eating extra strength Tylenol for breakfast, lunch and dinner the rest of my working life.

I'm attending an
organic food and farming conference this weekend in Lansing, called MOFFA. Maybe I'll find some answers soon, or at least a better idea of what I'm getting into.

And then there's the small matter of land. I was telling the wife of my favorite farmer about my possible new career path on Saturday at the farmer's market; I told her that my dream job was to become the head gardener for a local and seasonal restaurant. And she plainly (and kindly) asked, "And you'll grow the food, where?" It was rather startling to hear, but was a point well taken. Her one little question is all I've thought about all weekend. After all, I come from a long line of lifelong, landless apartment dwellers with no money
. So I'll be a landless, itinerant peasant gardener with permanent knee and neck pain, hooray! Think my new field comes with a good dental plan?


chaiselongue said...

I hope you succeed with your plans to grow food for a seasonal restaurant - what a great idea! I understand your worries about starting something new and getting new debts at 40, but don't let it put you off. I started a PhD at 40, finished it at 45 - yes, I know, there was no heavy lifting involved! I don't know anything about where you live, but could there be derelict areas of land which could be used to grow food on? I was amazed and inspired by what people had done in Havana - see the video link on my blog
Sorry if this sounds naive and useless advice, but I really do wish you well. You sound such a resourceful person that I'm sure you'll find a way ... good luck!

PJ said...

Ilex, You sound like you're making the most of a difficult situation. I love the idea of a two year sustainable ag certificate and here is where I'm going to give you some unsolicited advice and I apologize for that but your back and neck will not get better and right now you're prolly doing a lot to accomodate them. Ask around, talk to KMI massage therapists especially, for someone who's more than just a chiropractor, someone who's also a healer and see about spinal decompression on a DRX-9000, a true non-surgical back cure. Trust me on this one, if you knew what bad shape I was in two years ago you wouldn't believe I'm the same person. I was physically disabled - my neck and lower back were a complete disaster and I was losing the use of my right arm - now I can leap tall buildings in a single bound (sorta). There's been lots of physical therapy involved to remedy left over soft tissue problems but a lot of good has come out of that, it's like finding a whole new community of people who are on my wavelength. What I'm trying to say is that I think that if you get yourself healthy all else will follow. And now I'll shut up.

d. moll, said...

Hmmm, MOFFA conference is a good idea, you need more data. How cool your skin cleared up, literally a fresh face! I'm with PJ do something about your knees and neck. Email me if you like maybe I can come up with simple things and see if they help......Ha, ha I am still waiting to see if I teach next year, I suspect not I see some chips subtly falling........

PJ said...

PS You can strengthen your knees by doing aquarobics at the YMCA, these days it's really more like pilates in the is if you have the right instructor which you should if you go to the affordable Y.

Anonymous said...

Oh, wow! What an exciting direction! FWIW, I can't imagine any sustainable restaurant would care if you had two or four years in the classroom; they'd rather taste your tomatoes.

And where to farm? Detroit has more vacant land than the entire area of the city of San Francisco. There's got to be a place you can pick up a lot cheap, or use it for free. Get the restaurant to buy a vacant lot near it and offer them half your veggie take.

Tamra Stallings said...

What about sustainable ag promoting or education? There are all kinds of groups sprouting to encourage/educate people to do what you are doing on you balcony.

Anonymous said...

My certified organic CSA might be hiring....but they're in WVa...however, we have kickbutt cheap land here...;) Food for thought!

MOTM said...

That 2-year certificate sounds fantastic but I agree about the nervousness of more debt. Have you tried a search for online courses? It be cheaper and potentially save you time. (And if you find something fab let me know. I'm still looking.)

Kateri said...

Sounds exciting, even if it is stressful! Growing food for a seasonal restaurant (or something similar is my dream job). Some days I wonder why I went to school for nursing instead of horticulture. I hope you find something that works for you, both in the line of education and in the line of work.

Rabbits' Guy said...

Here is my 2 cents ...

look at it is full of what can be done in just a few short years. Look at 'Staff' and read about Michelle Long. I heard her speak a few weeks ago.

You might live where this is needed .. it is a possible model. Be an organizer ... (easier on the back)

Good luck .. ps .. it is never (in these troubling times with a troubling future) too late to start a career.

Condo Blues said...

Maybe you can talk to the school to get an idea if there are other types of jobs that you can do with the new degree that aren't as physically stressful?

P~ said...

Hey Ilex, so sorry to hear about the "f"unemployment. I was gonna say something earlier, but honestly, your "hate the republicans" rant kinda scared me. :-)
If you don't mind taking some ideas from a pseudo-hippy crunchy-con, no-kool-aid-drinkin' conservative then I have some thoughts.
First off, if you have an idea in mind for what you want to do blogging about it is one thing but talking to people is another. Face to face, people tend to get scared off of their dreams by others uneasiness about them.
Second, Look at your strengths. You are incredibly knowledgable about patio container gardening, worm composting and crockery preserving. What can you do with that in the mean-time? Hire out to other busy (read: working) families to grow their organic food on their own balconies? Perhaps you could provide their veggies to them for a small cost and keep the excess to sell to resaurants? What about preservation and patio gardening classes? This is forecast to be one of the biggest boom years in the vegetable gardening area in decades. Take advantage of it.
Don't let others talk you out of your dreams. Write them down as clearly and vividly as you can as though there was nothing that could possibly stop you. Then believe that it can happen.

"A posse ad esse" friend...from possibility to reality!
All the best to you.