Note: See the introduction post to this series HERE…
(Kelly’s perspective) It’s 10:00 a.m.,Tuesday, December 28, 2010. Julie and I are headed south on I-35. Our destination? The Gray Owl Coffee house in the heart of Norman. She and I have spent less than thirty minutes together at this point, yet I’m comfortable and can already tell traveling with her would be just fine. In fact, I’m thinking it might even be better than traveling by myself for this particular journey…and I’m a highly expressed introvert; traveling by myself is one of the greatest rewards I give myself. Julie is sitting in the passenger seat with an ink pen and a half-sized legal pad, trying to write down – in chronological order – all the “Bomgardner sons” our common great-grandmother had. Stumped with some of the missing facts, we call my dad to ask for help filling in the gaps. As he provides the details, I become sobered when he recalls a story that was, until this point, only a brief shred of substance in the back of my head. He tells us that one of the boys had died during a move to a new home. They were either building or taking down a cellar and it caved in on him. For a few minutes my mind begins thinking about the safety cellars in Oklahoma provided from tornadoes and inclement weather, and could – at the same time – be dangerous as exemplified in his story.
We overshoot our exit because I am busy talking to Julie about something. We double back and began to make use of her iPhone GPS device; those things are handier than a pocket on a shirt. We park and walk into the Gray Owl at the exact time for our appointment. As I enter the “best coffee place in Norman,” I begin scanning the room for any sense of recognition. I know Kathy Moore only from her photo on the internet and have no idea when it had been taken.
I find her sitting in the middle table right across from the cash register; I know it’s her because there is enough familiarity with her website to be certain. Julie and I head over to her table, say hello, order our drinks and settle in for what would be a two-hour narrative by Kathy of her life, her farm, her hopes that still exist, and her dreams that have been told “goodbye.” A short version of what we gleaned from this meeting follows:
Once upon a time a little girl named Kathy was born in the state of Oregon. She was raised in a context where her family was surrounded with beauty: trees, rivers and the abundant, great outdoors. Sometime during her childhood the family moved to Sacramento, but the little girl never forgot the comfortable feeling and love she had for her birthplace. She grew up, got married, had children, worked in a State agency where she and her colleagues got involved in a predicament – hundreds became sick because of the hazards brought to them by a dilapidated building. She intervened by reporting the problems, but left her job during the process.
Soon after, she got divorced and then found herself at a Crossroads. While soul-searching for what she really wanted out of life, she decided to seek out and purchase a section of land, farm that land, and try to do something good for the earth while farming. And that is how she ended up in northwest Oklahoma. When she offered up the winning bid at an auction where she was the only woman among approximately 70 male farmers, she began her new life. Much has occurred since that day. Too much to share in one setting. However, we can begin by reporting a few of the details…
Kathy has been involved in land development, sustainable farming practices, and ecologically sound production by learning…as well as trial and error since the day she moved onto her property. As someone from a university setting, I’m used to seeing pages and pages on academic vitas of trainings, grants, developments, etc. Kathy shared her “verbal vita” with us and it is extensive.
Her dream, she said, is to have the desert-like land of northwest Oklahoma become more of an oasis; a place where people learn to farm despite the blowing and eroding soil, learn to renew and build the soil despite the limited crops that can be grown where water is scarce, and learn to be prosperous despite the sparse population and the limited economic interest NW OK normally attracts. She wants her area, the people in her area, and her own farm to grow together to become an even better part of our wonderful state.
Kathy’s farm has been featured as one of Ludivine’s educational video series, her website will help you gain more understanding of her operation, and as we speak, she’s working on the next development of selling what she produces through venues like the Oklahoma Food Cooperative. In some ways, Kathy is very much a “voice in the wilderness,” but to this day she remains committed to doing all she can to garner attention and activity for her area politically, economically, and – in her own words – spiritually…she wants what one area State Representative described at a meeting she coordinated recently: “A place where people of the community can come back together in a meeting place, share their food, support each other, and gain the richness of what is possible from these connections.”
Good luck, Kathy…we’ll be checking in on you in a few months to see how you and Anichini Farms are coming along.
(Julie’s perspective) When I pulled into Kelly’s drive around 9:30, I had been up and traveling for about four hours. I had already told her that I was only along for the ride; I didn’t care WHAT she had in mind. I kissed Tonks (her new puppy) while Kelly packed a bag for our adventure. She told me we were headed to Norman to meet “a composting lady.” Coincidentally, I love composting! We talked and talked and talked while we headed south on I-35. It was at that moment, somewhere on I-35, that I realized that this is what it must be like to communicate with a potential mate online for months through one of those dating websites and then finally meet him/ her. Essentially, that’s what Kelly and I had done. We had been communicating through our writing and a few emails for six months. Even though we had already been “matched” by a common relative, we found out that we matched on so many other traits as well.
I can count on one hand the number of times I remember traveling to Norman. I went to one football game. I went to a couple of concerts at Loyd Noble Center. That’s all I remember. Now, here I was at the Gray Owl Coffeehouse. What a cool place. It was my surroundings, I think, that allowed me to sit for almost two hours and listen to Kathy Moore share her story. Coffee, art work, and a story teller. Who could ask for a better morning? Not me, that’s for sure. As I drank my hot cup of coffee (real coffee – not that “cappuccino stuff” I get at the gas station) I wondered what it would be like to live in this town and be a Sooner in the 2000’s. For that brief moment in time, I WAS a Sooner….soaking up the vibe of the Gray Owl and listening to a woman from another place and time explain her vision for her farm and the people of this great state.
I wonder if the people at the Gray Owl know that coffee grounds are good in compost. I should check on that.
Read all the Red Dirt Rambler posts here.