Growing up in New England, I had a vague image of what the desert would look like, and feel like—and it didn’t necessarily bring to mind an image of abundant life and color. However, it took Joshua Tree only a matter of moments to begin to reveal to me the magic that is life in the desert.
Sunrise turns the mountains purple and the sun greets the morning sky with vibrant colors. I climb from the tent and walk around the house to lean against the Joshua Tree. A rabbit flits across the ground in front of me, and I breathe deep—this is the first morning I spent in Joshua Tree back in November. I had arrived at night after many days of travel and fallen fairly immediately to sleep. Although I spent only a few days at Opuntia Garden Farm in November, by the time I was thoroughly enchanted and knew this place would feed my burgeoning fascination with permaculture well.
Arriving again in Joshua Tree in January, the colors welcomed me again. The pastel shades of green on the shrubs and trees, the browns of the ground, the yellow straw in the swales, the deep green of the leaves in the kitchen garden, and of course, the vibrant blue sky.
On my first evening of my internship stay, Maya and Damian and Oliver welcomed me into their sweet desert home, filled me with delicious food and warm tea and over candles we each set intentions for my stay. Then it was time to wrap up in sweaters and scarves to head out to a cozy camper to sleep.
My days in Joshua Tree floated into a sweet feeling of timelessness. Early mornings were greeted with delicious green smoothies or sometimes pancakes. Later mornings would be filled with projects on the land, and then time for lunch and an afternoon lounge in the hammock underneath the old mesquite tree.
Through talking and eating with Maya and Damian I began to gain a greater understanding of using trees as a truly sustainable food source. Though I have often enjoyed treats from trees in Vermont, such as maple syrup and apples, the trees in the desert are vastly different than the trees in Vermont that I know well. Inspiring in their abundant life with little water intake and their ability to take in and utilize so much sunlight, it was lovely to learn about the different species around the property.
I got to collaborate on many projects during my stay. It was lovely to dive into building happy compost, brewing compost tea, digging a channel to harvest rainwater, and making bread from acorns I helped process.
There were countless joys in each day, from digging my hands into the bottom of a swale to feel moisture even weeks after a rain, hearing joyful children on the trampoline, feeding the chickens, getting to know everyone who lived on the land, gorgeous sunrises and sunsets, and even pulling the last spine of a choya bud out of my bare feet.
Ultimately, there are no words to capture the wonders of my stay, but I feel blessed to be able to begin to convey the gratitude I feel for my time spent on the farm, getting to know the land and the people, and getting to throw my body and heart into every project, conversation and moment I was a part of. With a little water, some beautiful plants and a whole lot of love Opuntia Garden Farms is a place overflowing with what I can only describe as magic.