Since I launched our new website earlier this month, I’ve fielded several excellent questions from you that essentially ask, “What the heck are you doing, CC?” I thought I’d answer them thoroughly here. As a teacher I’ve learned that if one person asks a question, many more are thinking it.
History and Context
My husband and I named our place Lightcap Farm after the farm in Ed Abbey’s A Fool’s Progress. The Lightcap Farm in the novel goes through many incarnations, from working farm to strip mine to logging operation to family homestead. The farm is a little like Shel Silverstein’s giving tree—it is there to provide for the Lightcap family by taking whatever form necessary. We liked that idea, and we love Ed Abbey, so naming our farm was an easy decision.
The Real Farm
Although we took a long pause due to the drought, we continue to slowly transform our 3 ½ off-the-grid acres into a family farm. Our farm is not and will not be a certified organic farm, but we do refrain from pesticides and usually plant organic stock. We also use organic soil. We do not plan on a big commercial enterprise, but will sell our produce locally (as we have in the past) and eventually offer our own unique concoction of a CSA. Look for frequent updates about the farm on the blog.
The Virtual Farm
While that was happening, I began developing a virtual platform for my writing. I chose the URL lightcapfarm.com and published a blog via WordPress. You can still find those articles, essays, poems, and photographs in our archives. For years I imagined a more complex website that furthered my dream of incorporating word and idea farms as well as more ambitious publishing endeavors. Like a cup of tea with the bag left steeping, those ideas ripened until I was ready to pull out the bag and drink the brew. That was last fall. In essence, the virtual farm seeks to nourish the wild and natural within each of us as it celebrates and honors the wilderness of the planet.
The Word Farm
As a writer and a teacher, I am painfully aware of how our cultural vocabulary is dwindling. Words fall out of favor and out of use every day, some becoming endangered. As I began working the real farm several years ago, it struck me that words needed to be nourished as much as my China Rose radishes or Thai Basil. As so many words have become endangered or extinct, so have hundreds of species of fruits and vegetables. Words and crops have this in common: as our society is streamlined, we collectively believe we need fewer and fewer of them. This saddens me. The precision of our thoughts and thus our actions depends on crisp, meaningful vocabulary, and we are losing that as sure as we are losing the ability to pick up an Arkansas Black at the supermarket.
I’d hoped to have the Word Farm project launch along with the web site, but when I wasn’t ready, I decided to launch anyway and share the process of the Word Farm’s evolution with you. Starting this spring you’ll see infographic boxes (some people call them memes) showing up on social media. These will contain important words that are endangered, words that we believe we shouldn’t live without. I say “we” here because I’m inviting all of you to help me find and nourish these words. You can send your suggestions to firstname.lastname@example.org. You’ll get a big public thanks from us when we share your word on the site and, through social media, to thousands of famished wordivores.
The Idea Farm
This project is more complex and I’m hoping for a summer launch, but it may be fall. Today, we have as many ideas as ever, but they aren’t as complex or effective. As a society, we’ve fallen into an either/or paradigm that is crippling us. This paradigm is served to us in a kind of IV drip controlled by the media, particularly the media of cable t.v. and radio: Fox, MSNBC, CNN, even Pacifica at times, though I would say Amy Goodman is a cut above every other journalist at any of these outlets, despite her extreme bias. Watching these channels for a few hours is the easiest way to see what I’m saying. Rather than report the news, the pundits gather in a semicircle and predict the news. Either this will happen, or that will happen. Chatter, chatter. Blah, blah, blah. The fact is, any of a thousand things could happen, and sitting around discussing only two of them is not even news. A news report should focus on what did happen, and more importantly why. It was my frustration with this dynamic that led me to dwell on my Idea Farm concept. You could call our Idea Farm the “think tank” section of the web site. I am looking for ideas that transcend the either/or paradigm and build bridges to more complex, proactive, and compassionate paradigms that will serve our society rather than continue to debilitate it. As with the Word Farm, this aspect of Lightcap Farm is interactive with you, the reader. It will take the form of guest writers who will present ideas, synthesizing them down to a sentence or two that will be broadcast on social media as are the words from the Word Farm—with infographic boxes. Those boxes will be paired with an essay on the blog from the guest writer who elaborates on the idea with extended examples or a proposal. I will be soliciting writers for the Idea Farm, but you are also welcome to volunteer. Send me an email at email@example.com.
The Book Farm
Most of your questions these last few weeks relate to how and what and why I’m publishing here at lightcapfarm.com. That’s actually a long story, and one I’m careful about telling because I don’t want it to sound like I am am full of “sour grapes”, as my mom used to say. Suffice it to say I had several very bad experiences in the publishing world, both print and radio, and so did some of my colleagues. I decided, basically, that I didn’t want to play with them anymore, since they didn’t play nice. Whether it was a 20 year old NPR intern telling me that didgeridoos didn’t belong in Nevada County, an out-of-touch board of directors who gutted travel funding for stories, or an inept editor at a national magazine who shelved every interview he paid me to conduct, I was done. (At least in the last case, a subsequent editor wrote me a three page, handwritten apology. That helped. He only lasted there three months, though.) As I wrote in “Thoughts on a Decade Passing…”, I decided I wanted to create and control my own microphone. Lightcap Farm is that microphone.
As I continue to publish my own essays on the website’s blog, I have also begun to invite other authors to join me. Steve Ford is the first (check out his debut essay “Rucksack Revolution”), and if all goes according to schedule I’ll introduce you to the third by the end of February. Featured authors on the blog are here by invitation only. None of us are paid to write on the blog. By the end of 2017 I hope there are a dozen or so of us, and our books will be born from the writing we contribute to the blog. Authors will be paid from the profits of those books. Lightcap Farm is in no way a publishing mill—no one can pay me to publish a book. Currently, the website is funded by my freelance work (see Freelance Services on the site), which I’m glad to say is going like gangbusters.
Some of you have asked if we will offer subscriptions, and the answer is yes, eventually. Subscribers will benefit from a creative mix of a CSA, discounts on books, and other special features yet to be invented. Meanwhile, of course, you are welcome to donate, although your contribution is not tax deductible. See “Contact Info” for our address if you want to send a check, or email me if you want to donate through Paypal or Square, as those direct links are not yet available. All donations go to maintaining and improving the site. The most powerful way you can help is to share us, www.lightcapfarm.com, with your friends and family via email, social media, or word of mouth.
I hope I’ve answered most of your questions. Please ask more in the comments here. I am excited to begin this new journey with you. Thanks for caring about Lightcap Farm!