We loaded the children up the first week of December in 2009 to find adventure and a new life in New Mexico. I had already scouted out a few rentals in charming adobes for us and we were going to stay a week near the plaza in Santa Fe. A week of rejuvenation is just what we needed.
As the snow fell softly outside the window, we sat in front of the kiva with its fire burning brightly and made a plan. For me it involved a farm, a new life as an herbalist, and happy children living and playing in the land that we love. For Doug, it was an effort to keep from crying or withdrawing. He was still reeling from his final straw at the office. Should he put his two weeks notice in? Are they going to fire him? What are we going to do? He stressed and fought within himself the entire trip. We weren’t sure if we could make it solely as herbalists.
We had just completed our first summer of farmer’s markets on the weekends just for fun. We had a small line of products that we had made and that worked for our family. We didn’t expect them to take off the way they did and be so accepted at the Parker and Lone Tree Farmer’s markets. It gave us hope. Still, we didn’t have a huge clientele. (Partially because we forgot to put our phone number on the labels that first year!) We had fallen in love with the herbals though and wanted it to be more of our life.
It had began simply enough. A book on natural beauty. Which led to herbal gifts, a class held at the local nursery. Which led to picking up a book there called 101 Herbs that Heal by Tammi Hartung. Which led to, “What?! That heals what?” And the mission was on to learn everything I could about herbs. Doug followed along. He enjoyed the farmer’s markets and that we were helping people. He learned through me. I got a certification as an herbalist to offer some credibility to customers the year before. We had a new career. But one that really only made $200 a month outside of markets.
Then the door closed. On New Mexico anyway. We received an email stating that there was a rather long waiting list for herbalists to get into the markets. I wasn’t unique there. I tried then to get my dance company into their schools as I had done in Douglas County. Someone had beat me to it. Then the clincher. No one would return my calls about the rentals. Not a single one. We loaded the kids back up and headed back to our home we were about to lose.
“How about Elizabeth?” Doug asked.
“Elizabeth?” I responded. (That’s not even close to New Mexico.) “Why there?”
Doug had grown up going to and working at a summer camp in Elbert (not far from Elizabeth) and had fond memories of the whole area. It was only thirty minutes from where we currently lived and secretly he had not wanted to move so far away.
I was thumbing through a newspaper, actually looking for a job, when I came across an advertisement for a house in Elizabeth. Four bedrooms, 2 baths, on a quarter acre. I called.
I said kind of snottily, “Is your house still for rent? I have nine cats.”
“Oh good, I love cats. Yes, when can you move in?”….