In a long-ago published interview (I think it was in an Ebony magazine I was reading in the dentist's office), I remember Eartha Kitt being quoted as saying:
"I trust the dirt. I don't trust diamonds and gold."
As a kid growing up in North Carolina who most assuredly had dirt beneath his fingernails at the time, this was a profound (and profoundly crazy) statement, which is, I suppose, why it stuck with me all of these years.
Of course, almost as soon as it was humanly possible, I fled the red clay environs of my childhood for the smooth, hard asphalt of New York City -- in the pursuit of diamonds and gold.
By most people's account, I found them. I had a good job and a de-luxe apartment on the Upper East Side. I went to some pretty great parties and had some conversations with some famous people. (They're just like us!)
But after a while, you learn that many of the diamonds are zirconium and a lot of the gold is just left over brass from one of Donald Trump's construction projects.
Two years ago, my partner and I cashed in every last stock we owned and purchased The Beekman Farm. At the time, it was a cute diversion from our life in the city. We adopted a herd of goats, plucked eggs fresh from the chicken coop, planted a garden with heirloom vegetables, learned to can, jam, preserve and freeze, and even learned to make our own soap.
In the summer of 2008, the garden was so successful that our weekly grocery bill was reduced to $30 (including the necessary paper-based products). We were in the best shape of our lives and our skin was perfectly sun kissed, albeit in a distinctive farmer's tan pattern.
Of course, our friends thought we were kind of crazy. Why did we spend every weekend working from sun up 'til sun down? Why had we become so fascinated by the differences between cow, goat and rabbit manure? And why would we exile ourselves so far away from the Hamptons?
In the fall of '08, as the markets entered the beginning stages of their global meltdown, we were sitting in the kitchen of the farm canning the last of the tomatoes and listening to NPR when a conversation with Eartha Kitt came on. She talked about the early part of her career when she was just starting "to make it." In her first home in Beverly Hills, she installed a chicken coop in the backyard and referred to herself as a "dirt girl."
And with that it became clear. We are dirt people, too.
Of course these days we have plenty of friends who want to learn about life on the farm, about gardening and about $30 a week grocery bills. Some might say that we are still chasing gold, though it's the "black" kind. It's the glacial kind. The kind that made Schoharie County, NY, "the breadbasket of the American Revolution." The kind that gets under your nails and stays there.
To learn more about life on the farm, visit www.beekman1802.com.