sunsets and love, medicine for mama

sunset, loveEven my tired eyes can be lifted to this, the golden, sinking sun.  Turned pink, my hands, and his, wander through the grass, the backyard apple orchard, almost fully picked but for the winesap, dark red and waiting.

A streak across the sky, my heart kind of picks up its beat.

I know no better medicine than this.

Weariness, sometimes, is part of the deal.  Today, the day, the week, it all left me slumped on the couch.  But little boys need things to do, and sometimes those things, a walk at dusk, are what the mama needs to.

sunset, love sunset, love IMG_0024Sweet dreams.

sunshine and lollipops and lots of tomato sauce

heirloom tomatoes, canning season, sustainable farming, farming, gardening, tomato sauce, summerWhen I am walking the rows of tomato plants in late August, so much sun on my back and sweat on my brow, and the sticky smell of tomatoes mixed with fermenting blackberries surrounds me, both intoxicating and suffocating, I remind myself to soak it all in.  In field work, and hard work of any kind, mantras help.  Remember this in your heart, in your mind, in your body.  Remember.

The smells, the heat.  The feeling of my body moving.  There is something so settling about the grey that will cover the skies here in the Pacific Northwest come late fall, and then stay all through the winter and spring.  Those skies create a sameness that spreads out covering everything, and although I love it like a favorite blanket, I know that it is all the better for this time of year right now.  For hot sun and dry ground and ripe tomatoes.

The tomato harvest in our wild, sprawling tomato patch is like a treasure hunt.  An eye spy game of finding the red hidden within all of the greens and browns and goldens of the tomato plants and the weeds.  I watch the tomatoes pile up in the path as I make my way through the rows, my loot.  The feeling of so much.  I am filled.  While I bake in the sun to gather these stars of the summer, I think about how later that night I will take all of the not-pretty-enough-for-market fruits inside and commence the never-ending pot of tomato sauce cooking on the stove-top season.  I imagine the wonderful aroma that will fill our home, and the wonderful flavor that will fill our bellies, later, when this sun is long gone.

I fight off the longing for fall.  All of the ways that I can.  I know well enough by now that love for any one thing is brightened in its contrast.  To cool off, after all that work, we will pull some popsicles out of the freezer.  We sit on our porch facing west and linger.  My children, too, grow like the tomatoes and I can’t slow it down nor speed it up so I try to take it all in.  The hot sun and dry ground and ripe tomatoes.  The sunshine and lollipops and lots of tomato sauce.

mindfulness, summer, popsicles, children, parentingmindfulness, summer, popsicles, parenting, childrenmindfulness, summer, popsicles, parenting, children


picture perfect summer’s night

It is hot this weekend.

We are sweaty and smiling, splashing in and out of the small kid’s pool in the front yard.  And spending the bulk of our late afternoons at our favorite creek, further up in the hills from the farm than the river just down our road, but better when it is really hot and the crowds are out and the colder, mountain water feels just right.  We can’t work much in the heat, so we play.  We break into the small stash of frozen raspberries and blueberries even though they were meant to be saved for winter.  We treat ourselves.  We are summering.

I love this weather.

I love the feeling of being baked, like the earth, to perfection.  I drink it in, I feel myself unfurling.  I need a good dose of it to make it through the grey Pacific Northwest winters of my adopted home.  I am, by the sun, a leo after all.

And the plants are soaking it up too.  Well watered, they love the heat just as much I do.  I feel like I can almost see them growing by the minute.

But even more than the intense middle of the day, when the temperatures peak, what I really love, and miss the most from my childhood’s Midwest summers, is the evening time during an Oregon heat wave.  Perfect summer nights, still warm, without a need for a sweater, but still cooler than the day.  If I were younger, I would just throw down some blankets on the ground and sleep outside.  If I could, I’d find some water to swim in under the moon.  Those are the kind of summer nights I love.

Last night, we walked the fields in this perfect slowing down, simmering down time of the day.  The sounds of the birds and the bugs, happy again to not be sweltering, filled the air alongside the blanket of dusk.  I had my camera back in hand after a very long two week break of lending it to the oldest boy for art camp.  I missed it, missed looking at our space through the lens, capturing this light.  I gobbled it all up and stuffed it into digital files again.  It was lovely.

This year’s growing season has been amazing.  The weather, the plantings, the success.  A true gift.  I wish we could bottle it up and pour it over ever year to come, but we know all too well that this isn’t how the game of farming works.  Nevertheless, it does feel like it was meant just for us, a balm from the universe to heal the wounds of last season, the first year that ever had us doubting our chosen profession.

Looking around last night at all the happy plants, pest free and thriving, the happy soil, the growing perennials, the beauty of our home, I almost couldn’t believe it was real.  We are truly blessed.   And we really do love what we do and all of the things that are a part of that, the good and the bad.  We are happy, despite everything that could get in the way of our happiness, and that is about the most anyone can ask for.

This place is ours.  Our vision turned reality.  The cumulation of all our choices so far.  It feels good to be able to say that we don’t regret any of it.

Last night was perfect summer’s night.  Picture perfect, yes, as captured in photos.  But more than that, it was, just like any other night in our lives, imperfectly perfect.  It was us walking our land. Food growing, and weeds too. Naked small people running around that I couldn’t take pictures of, sometimes stepping in the rows, sometimes running through the wild.  They were stitching their own sense of summer into their bare skin.  My only hope for them, and for all of you, is that there are enough golden moments in the journey to always make the whole thing seem to shine.

farm, farming, csa, field, summer, summer night

 Shining view of our lower field.  We’ve planted more space down there than ever before this year.  This golden, golden year.

farm, farm life, father, son

Down the hill with papa on a perfect summer night.

tomatoes, farming, farm, csa, organic farming

All kinds of tomatoes growing, growing, growing.   And not too many weeds, hooray!

carrots, beets, lettuces, succession planting, farm, farming

Succession plantings=success!   Carrots, beets, lettuces.   These, we keep planting every few weeks into September. 

salad mix, lettuce, farm, farming

Up close, salad mix.  And they all lived together in a little crooked house.

lettuce, field, farm, farming

Even sprouting up in the wrong place, she grows.  Lettuces are almost as beautiful to me as flowers.

cabbage, farming, farm

Red rock cabbage, even though you are behind schedule, the color of your leaves will always make me swoon.

irrigation, farming, farm

We make do, it is what we do.  Meaning, no fancy irrigation equipment here!

sprouts, succession planting, farm, farming

We were once this fragile too.

tomatillos, farm, farming

Tomatillos make me drool! 

green beans, farming, farm

Beautiful bean planting, so healthy and happy, and no pests.  Good.

love, farming, farmer, green beans, farm

I really am loving this year’s bean plantings.  And every year, more and more, I love this farmer too.

view, farm, farming, home, love

This is our home.  Sweet, sweet, home.

on mother love, on mother’s day

It is Mother’s Day.  The farmer left early to sell his wood craft in the city.  I was out of coffee filters and almost out of almond milk, so I had a barely passable cup of coffee to start the day.  I made breakfast, the same breakfast we have nearly every day, eggs.  I did add some well cooked sweet onion and spinach from the garden to the mix because I do love greens with my eggs, but we didn’t get dressed right away.  And because three of the children still have a lingering cough, we decided we should stay home today instead of doing anything special.  We may try to plant flowers.

I did want to do some writing, so I put on a movie right after breakfast.  My oldest son bought his very first electronic device and is now happily throwing fruit at things with it.  There is, ironically, in writing this today, an idea that all of this is somehow less than perfect.  But I don’t think so.

I am perfectly in love with these children and being their mother.  And as with all things in this life, including motherhood, I keep finding that the great and wonderful things are usually found even more so compared against their flaws.  That the silver lining shines brightest next to a puncture wound, a rusty hole.  Perspective is the thing.

Leading up to today, I saw many things written in a similar vein to the start of my own Mother’s day post–a kind of this is what it really looks and feels like to be a mother onslaught.  And I get it, I really do.  I have been thinking a lot about this heavy, hard work of being a mom, and the truth is, it is rarely easy and never picture perfect.

And yet, I can not find a bad thing to say about it.  I honestly love being a mother.  As often as I am at my wits end and ready to pull out all my hair–still, I love it.  And even in those moments, if I can only just breathe for a second, I can find in my children’s eyes the reason for it all.  It is easy, if I try, to remember what is, to me, the hallmark of feeling and being a mother–the endless and boundless and unimaginably deep love we carry in our hearts for these small humans.

All mother’s feel this, it is hard wired into us, but it isn’t always easy to stay with that feeling.  We are human, too, after all.  I made it easy on myself when I entered this job the first time around and just did nothing else at all for the first many years of my mothering journey.  Looking back, I am sure that this is what made my time with a precocious and needy and busy first born baby boy so easy.  I gave him my all, and we didn’t expand too often outside our own insular little lives back then in Nebraska, so there were rarely any squabbles, rarely any hard times.  In fact, I remember so completely the first time we ever had to come to terms with feeling upset with each other.  He was nearly three and I was nearly ready to birth his baby brother.  It was a hard moment for me, I was a little heartbroken.  I hadn’t imagined mothering would ever be hard.

But of course, many more such times have followed since.  Now that we are a family of four kids and two businesses, not to mention my own mid-life need to resume some activity related to those non-mothering dreams I once had, there are many squabbles, and many hard moments, and ever so much give and take.  I was definitely living in a kind of fantasy land back then, thankfully so.  However, I’ve found that for all the perfectness I felt in my first three years of parenting, I have eaten crow for it all a million times over as we travel further and further down the road of time together.

mothering, mother's daymothering, mother's day

But that is okay, because this is essentially the most important thing that has come to my mind as this Mother’s Day approached, the knowing that this road passes by faster and faster each year.  That those tiny feet grow into big ones and we don’t even remember the sleepless nights or the spit up and messy floors.  Believe me, we don’t.  I long to remember, really, because that would mean I could also recall the smell of the newborn better, and the way it felt to hold them in my arms when they were so little.  All of the things they said and did as they made there way out of babyhood and into toddlerhood, and then childhood and beyond.  Sigh.

Instead of being able to remember it all, we learn.  We learn that we do indeed continue to change and grow and evolve along the way, as well as devolve a little too.  We learn that we can not foresee the future, nor make any real claims about whether we did a good job or not.  We learn, hopefully, that we will all do amazingly well and that we will all fail miserably, that to say otherwise is the real fault.  And we learn, ever so humbly, that they will be there own people and that they really will be okay.

We learn that even though it is really so hard, that doesn’t mean that some of us can’t always say good things about this work, because for some of us, that is our nature.  Others, blessedly, can make us laugh about the insanity of it all–to wear your heart outside yourself so that it can constantly take a beating seems outrageous and ludicrous on the face of it.

But that is what mothers do.  And really, despite the holiday and the really wonderful way in which we kind of deservedly get our kudos on this day, this work, this loving, is for the most part, and for so long, done entirely thanklessly.  If we are doing a good job of it, we only get thanks in the form of sticky kisses and hugs.  Or from taking in the tiring but intense need those small hands have to hold ours while it lasts.  From being the one they come to at their worst.  We are meant to be taken for granted, to always be there for them, to not be thanked until they have done their growing and are happy and healthy young adults who look back in wonder at this magnificent, unending love they were given.

I don’t really remember getting all of this when I was young like my children are, but at some point, despite the many, many failings of my own parents and the fate of illness that left my own mother bound to a nursing home when I was just entering my teen years, I came away from it all seeing that both of them did have this same fierce love for me.  And that has been enough.  That has held me despite it all.

So, mother’s, today, hold onto this love and take respite in knowing it is enough.  Above all, let it guide you, day in and day out.  It is hard to do, but it is your gift to your children and to the world.  As another wise mother puts it so perfectly, “Spirituality doesn’t look like sitting down and meditating. Spirituality looks like folding the towels in a sweet way and talking kindly to the people in the family even though you’ve had a long day. ” Silvia Boorstein, from On Being.

Your Mother’s Day will probably look a lot like mine.  Even if you have others around you and you do get to go out to dinner or have a bit more of some things special, you will, all day like every day, be doing your highest work as well.  You will be mothering.  It never ends, never goes away.

And even if you are tired or cranky or sick of it all for the moment, you can, perhaps, still just fold the towel sweetly, with a nod to that special love in your heart, and they will feel it.  It will hold them through all the things near and far.  Your love will hold them, always.

Happy Mother’s Day.

letting go

my favoriteIn spring, and really all year and every day, the to do list for the farm is hefty and long.  And the reality is, of course, that life’s to do lists don’t ever come to an end, so part of coming to peace with things both here on the farm and in life is realizing that it is the work that is the thing more than an outcome or ending is.

Still, in spring, time sensitive matters arise in farming and it is easy to feel, more than at other times, that dreadful feeling of not having enough time to get them all done when they need to be done.  Fortunately, this spring we have been blessed with unseasonably dry and warm weather, giving us plenty of time for tasks we often find ourselves waiting and waiting to do just in time, or often late, because of the endless spring rain.  Most mornings this year when we sit down to decide what needs to be tended to for the day, we find we are usually able to take a deep relaxing breath, a sigh of relief, knowing that for this day on the calender we are right where we should be.  But there is always something to do, and as the days continue to propel us forward, we have to expand our frame of reference to not just soil prep and planting but to weeding and watering too.  Staying on top of things is always the goal.

And that is why it can be frustrating to go out to the field with two small helpers at my side and a grand plan to weed the gooseberries, and then in the end only manage to get one bush down the row before there are tears and cries for mama and I feel the inevitable split between duties, one of course calling me more.  If there is no redirection to be found, I must stop what I am doing and come.

And even though a part of my mind wonders and worries at that moment how I will ever manage my share of the farm work when things like this happen, I always aim to just let it go.  Sometimes, the need is for nothing, really, except that I am not giving my attention to something else.

What do they want to do?  Pick flowers, be held.

apple blossoms

And so we do this.  We look and listen at the apple blossoms, full of flowers and bees.  The smell is so heady and the sun is on my face, a warm boy’s skin next to mine, soft only like it is when they are small and nursing.  And all the while–singing, laughing, talking, skipping and dancing around–my only daughter makes us bouquets.  It is like heaven.


Any seasoned parent will tell you this, and it is really quite trite but like other ideas of its kind, it is equally true~slow down, pay attention.  They are only little once, they grow up so fast.  This same advice applies to life too.  Wake up, smell the apple blossoms. Because you see, they are already, less than a week later, spent and on their way to fruit.

It is hard to balance the pull towards productivity with the peace of mindfully doing nothing.  In that moment, in the field, I really wanted to finish a task on my to do list.  The perennial fruits are the worst for weeds and it is one of those things so much the worse if we don’t get to it before it is bad (and it is already bad, I didn’t want it to get worse).

But of course, the trade off was equally important to experience, just as it was more important for me to do.  Pausing, giving my children what they needed, lovingly letting go of that feeling of rushing worry–even letting go of the rewarding feeling of finishing an important task–wasn’t easy, but it was worth it.

Later that night, quickly and peacefully after dinner and before bed, in the perfect light of a fading spring day, the baby and I managed to transplant two rows for the farmer.  A small task, so easy.  But manageable.  I never wanted more than to be a mother for so long, I was so fully immersed in the work of it, joyfully, and I didn’t ever worry, for so long, about getting much else done.  Those first three children came in a span of five years.  It was busy and full of them.  I suppose that helped.

But now I am learning the art of working with my children, and letting go is probably the most important tool I have for that.  I like to really finish the work at hand, whether it is weeding through an entire row, cleaning an entire room or finishing all the dishes, or writing until I get it all down or a natural break comes up.  That is not how it goes, though, with children around, and learning to stop mid task and just be there for my children is something I have to do over and over again.  It is good practice for living life mindfully. It is good to do always.  I am glad they are here to teach me this simple but hard truth.

And in the end, having these beautiful reminders of this lesson scattered all through my house, isn’t too bad, either.

also pretty