In the 1980’s, Heinz Ketchup issued a series of commercials demonstrating all the good things that come to the smart people who are patient enough to wait for thick, rich, flavorful Heinz to slowly emerge from its glass bottle packaging. Like a butterfly emerging from its cocoon, it takes time – but the time is worth the superior end result. Heinz slogan of course, was “The best things come…to those who wait!”
Sometimes I get asked, usually in a sidewinding, often slightly judgmental, but always genuinely curious way, what are we are doing that is taking so long? Are the treehouses finished yet? When will we open and why aren’t we open already? When these questions started rolling in after the first year of development, I was a bit defensive and felt more of a need to dispense concrete rationale for our timeline, which has become atypically long for most new businesses.
But as the months have worn on and in turned into years, I feel more and more happy, confident, and grateful about our path and approach to building The Coal Burned Spoon. For starters, I am grateful that we had enough real estate, business and other assets to liquidate in order to finance these early stages and allow us to survive for so long with no income. But I am also grateful for the deep, rich learning – learning that will yield a superior end result – that has occurred as we have thrown ourselves into the depths of every aspect of this project. At 42 and 62, John and I are at a point in our lives where we’re all done half-assing things just to get by temporarily, or to save money, or because the money isn’t there. This project is our joint magnum opus and we are doing it right, whatever it takes and however long. I’m not running on a damn shoestring and gas fumes any more. I refuse. And I have spent my life creating a scenario where I don’t have to.
There was a time when we had to make those compromises, and they were painful. Dealing with chickens mucking around in their coop as muddy soup from the paddock infiltrated the floors after heavy rains. Clawing through rock hard, depleted soil with a long-handled cultivator until my palms blistered. Picking over flea-beetle ravaged arugula for hours to scrounge up a few pounds of salvageable crop. Constantly fixing collapsed cheap mobile fencing. These were the early days of the farm, and we worked hard to fix all the problems, one by one, year by year. Making the farm, functional.
Between 2009 and 2019, we dedicated ourselves to that task: functionality. It does not come quickly. Eventually, we created over 10,000 cubic yards of organic compost to enrich our fields. We grew nutrient-balanced crops we were proud of. We produced gorgeous rainbow eggs stores clamored to buy wholesale at $8/dozen – and that was 5 years ago. It was a life hard-fought, and chock full of compromises – never earning enough, dealing with the wrong tool or the wrong setup, begging foundations for money, waiting for months or years to subsidize improvements in functionality.
But as difficult as that life was, I have no regrets. Why? Because it taught me a sacred lesson: that good, functional things just aren’t born overnight. You want a farm, it’s possible to purchase and set up a farm in a few months time. But you want a *functional* farm? If you’re incredibly talented, insightful, have already apprenticed for years to acquire the raw skills, and you take every scrap on advice from every elder you can find, it might take you five years. If you’re like me – ten.
This new business is no different. As we have conceived, researched, planned, site-hunted, site-acquired, designed, fundraised, pitched, and permitted this project…the truth is, I’ve learned lessons I didn’t know that I didn’t know. We’ve had a chance to grow ideas into full blossom stage, and realize whether that blossom is perennial or annual: destined for a long fruit-bearing life, or good only for one expensive, short season. We’ve saved ourselves hundreds of thousands in future development dollars by cutting loose mistakes before they took hold of us. We’ve gotten at the core of what this place is really about for us, and what it is *exactly* that we plan to offer our guests. (And, hint, it’s not just an overnight stay in a treehouse.)
One of our most pressing tasks over the past couple of weeks has been to go through The Coal Burned Spoon’s freshly updated Gantt Chart, and hone in with detail Stage 5: The Construction Schedule (which definitely deserves to be capitalized.) It’s satisfying to look back on the 4 previous stages completed, and to look ahead knowing that this year, we’ll finally be able to paint the picture of our progress with tangible, physical structures! And when they’re done?
…Well, as they say, the best things come to those who wait.