A Day in Three Parts. Pt 2: The Run

Immediately post-compost route, we transitioned into our longer voyage for the day: to Viroqua, Wisconsin, to pick up a bulk food order from Driftless Co-Option, a bulk food-buying cooperative co-operated by none other than KJ Jakobson, Oren’s mother.

I’d touched base with Oren in the morning when we’d picked up his bucket. He informed us that, though his wheelchair-bound mother would likely be unable to cook lunch for us, as she’d recently broken her leg, she would definitely appreciate us cooking in her place. I packed some veggies while Fanni got Ella’s diaper bag together and tried to feed her one more time. She was oddly disinterested, as she’d been all morning, so we loaded her up and picked our way towards the small town in the southwest corner of our fine state – home to some gorgeous landscapes, quality coffee, and a couple of organic dairies.

“Alright, so Polly said we should check the prices in Westby before we get her dairy order at Organic Valley. Apparently they have good deals on butter sometimes.”

“Okay, and what did Logan order again?”

“Two pounds of pepperjack cheese, and 5 pounds of butter, but only if it’s under $5.40/lb.”

“And Polly wanted cheese, butter and buttermilk. I guess we’ll check out Organic Valley first, then Westby, and pick it up from the best place on our way back.” Frugality is a key to the farming lifestyle, and we’ve become adept at coordinating the best and cheapest options for quality off-farm food options. Having completed our required dairy speculation, we traversed Viroqua in search of KJ’s place. As we picked our way down her street, it was obvious which house we’d be entering: the dwellings of a kindred spirit.

Her front yard was beautiful, with flowers of all colors and shapes blooming concurrently, raspberries running rampant along the side of her house, and not a blade of grass in sight. We approached the front door and knocked. We tried KJ’s phone again, and heard it ringing inside, so we entered tentatively and called her name.

Unoccupied though it was, the spirit of the space was palpable; the lodgings of a mystic. Bookshelves of endless subject lined the walls; gargantuan plants and trees reached out from every corner; dried herbs of endless quantities and colors filled the whole of the kitchen table. I looked out the back window upon the wild, lively and overgrown yard. It was a special place.

Its occupant was obviously not home, however, so I called Oren.

“Wait, so she’s not there? I told her you guys would be coming; that’s really weird. Have you called her? Oh, she left her phone, huh? I’ll make some calls.” He sounded concerned.

On the couch, Fanni sat with Ella and tried to feed once more, as it had been a long drive. “She’s just not interested; all she wants to do is look around.”

I couldn’t blame her. I wandered and mused on the variety of book titles; from herbal healing to community organizing, and the ecclectic collection of herbs on the table. Oren called back.

“Yo, so she’s in a wheelchair so she can’t be too far. Maybe she went to the Coop or something. Otherwise, she called me this morning about this case she’s fighting with the city, so it’s possible she got some crazy idea and went to the courthouse, but she should be home soon. You should just start cooking I guess.”

I hung up and started poking uncertainly around the kitchen of a woman I’d only met once in passing; gathering my supplies and starting a tomato, green bean and zucchini stew. Finally, she arrived and studied her way through the front yard, picking flowers and assessing plants. We met her outside and made our way to the wheelchair ramp in the back, as she told us about the case she’s fighting with the city, regarding her “unruly” yard space.

“Yeah, so it’s just not the urban aesthetic they’re going for. And they don’t appreciate my communication style. I’m very straightforward and outspoken. They want me to just be a nice little lady, but I’m just not.” She brushed off my attempt to help her climb the ramp into the back door.

“I’ve figured out a system for every threshold.”

By now Ella had begun crying uncontrollably. We dished up bowls of veggie stew, and attempted to eat and converse, but it was just too much. KJ seemed unruffled by the situation. “Let me make some calls.”

I heard snippets of her conversation while I paced the floor with my sobbing daughter.

“So you don’t have the homeopathic infant colic tablets? I would highly recommend getting those…”

After some time, she rolled out of her room. “Okay, here’s what you do. You go to the Coop and ask for Arwin. Then you ask Arwin for homeopathic baby chamomile. Homeopathic baby chamomile. You dissolve one dose in water, and give it to her through a droplet or damp rag. Wait just a minute. It should get better almost immediately. If it doesn’t work, give her one more dose, and then one more. It is electromagnetic, and is nothing that will hurt her. If it doesn’t work after three doses, then it is not the right remedy. Who are you asking for at the Coop again?”

“Uhh…” I’d forgotten.

“Arwin. Then you’re getting homeopathic…”

She went through the instructions one more time; her detail-orientation reminding me of her youngest son. We thanked her and said our goodbyes over Ella’s screams.

Outside the Coop, Ella took the first dose of baby chamomile and calmed down immediately. We parked in the shade and she nursed to her heart’s content, falling asleep easily for the long ride home. Thank goodness for KJ Jakobson.

Back in Stevens Point, we got stuck behind a long, slow train as dusk set in. I walked towards the tracks and watched her approach; end nowhere in sight. Calm, healthy daughter and wife in the car, I simply could not wait to get on to the adventure of Part Three.