From seed to seed

spring, farm, farm life, pride, ego, letting goThe world around me is fully greening up now. It is a beautiful sight, all plant growth expanding, even though, as always, the wild plants and perennials take off infinitely faster than the wee little cultivated seedlings and transplants we have tucked into the fields ourselves. They are growing, certainly, but it is like watching the pot, so to speak. It is slow compared to our desire, and slow compared to the explosion of grass and weed that is so full of force and life in the spring by comparison.

Still, we have a good harvest coming in, the last push of the overwintered plants in the field are making florets now, giving us a whole other crop to eat, and the greenhouse bridges the gap by growing food fast enough while we wait for that same speed to issue forth out of doors. All green food, in spring, all great food. Spinach, lettuce, kale, turnip greens, and arugula. And wild harvests galore, because so much of the early spring weed growth is meant to be eaten, it’s true. Nettles, dandelion, wild mustard. I am making herbal vinegars with all these plants I need to pull up anyway, a nice way to hold onto all the goodness these wildings want to give away right now, even if they are growing in all the wrong places. Like we do, the earth and I, we are dancing together the dance of the season. Even the onions, right now, are green. And the garlic, too.

But it isn’t as easy to find that same green-ness in ourselves, not always, as we age, as life adds layer upon layer to our skin. I found myself in tears yesterday, in the wash station with this week’s spinach, because my oldest child is almost thirteen years old. That is only five years, by the books, five years, and there you have it, a childhood. And I know, I know, that it isn’t really left much, already, not truly even five years more. This slayed me, for some reason, out of the blue, while I worked, because his childhood is one of the most important things to me in the world.

It is so hard, this parenting gig, and I have done so many great things as a mother and so many things I wish I could take back. I started out thinking I would do everything right. I didn’t accept at all, on the outset, that life and love would be perfectly human, and that I too, must be.

But I know better than to let the sadness, the worry, wash me away, so I came inside and gave this young boy, on his way to young man, a hug. I let go. Letting go is all that we can do. Over and over and over again, the only way to keep moving forward. I have faith, too. That is just as important.

I never expect the earth to hold on to last season. I know, each spring, that we are on a new ride. Sure, I have lessons learned, I have new ideas, but that doesn’t mean it will be perfect this time round. And yet, I know, too, that I can just as surely count on things to grow, for food to be produced. The earth provides, every year, again and again, without any trace of growing older, without any hint of defeat. Without worry or weight, things just follow through, as best they can, from seed to seed.

So, must we.

 

 

whether the weather

farming, patience, almost springThe snow here has given way to rain, rain that has been strikingly absent for us during this dry and crisp winter. And this morning, as those drops fall heavy on the house in a strong, beating rhythm that awakened us to our day, as I sit here with my coffee and listen to the the sound of water tapping metal, steady and sure, I notice the comfort it brings, the relief. Coming to this valley, lush, green, and moist, I didn’t know whether I would be one to hate the rainy season or not. Would I fall prey to despair, saddened by so much grey? Or was it really that bad?  How wet was it? Were these just exaggerations, weather tales lengthened by the human imagination, tricks of the mind, the way we seem to never recall weather accurately?

I’m not sure what the truth about the weather here is, nor if there really is ever any truth to the weather, but I do know that a lot of people come out here and feel like they are home, and that I am one of them. The grey, monotonous sky offered itself to me in a warm embrace. The fog laying on the hills, the Douglas fir rising predictably from the hilltops, it all said yes to me.

And although I know place isn’t the beginning or end of our happiness, it feels good to feel at home in your landscape.

All the early plantings we sneaked in the ground in January did not weather this last bit of weather so well. As my husband says, though, seed is cheap. We will replant.

I keep thinking about the home I left behind me in Nebraska. I am surprised at the very visceral feeling of discomfort the thought of frozen ground gives me. Maybe I am not all that strong after all, abating melancholy in such a dreary place, if I feel stricken down, now, at the thought of not always being able to touch the earth, feel the dirt,  I realize that I have become dependent on the land. To feed me, even now, in what is for us a harsh winter. I am under-evolved, slave to the soil, the life that doesn’t stop living itself out here.

Part plant myself, perhaps. I can’t remember how I survived anywhere else.

But we do, and we can, anywhere.  What people don’t always realize about all this rainy weather out here, unless they work outside or with the natural elements, is just how often the sun still does come out. But it catches me, often at sundown on many a wet, winter’s day. As if to say, it will never be all this way or all that way; it will, however, always be okay.

Or, rather, that it will always be.  And that, itself, is good enough for us all.

farming, pacific NW, Oregon, sun, rain, weather, mindfulness

this moment is mine

soil, love, farming, planting, weather, small farmI don’t regularly reserve this space for straight up farming posts very often any more, but, this!  When the weather turns warm and sunny and unseasonably dry in January, dry enough to plant a little patch of ground, to smell decomposing earth, to softly crumble in your hands, then yes, farming it is.

And yet this post is not just about getting a nice little peak back into the living, breathing land again, ready to grow for us some more, it is really about this constant I keep coming back to as I relish the days this week.  That there is never just a give, or ever just a take.  This December, we had an unseasonably cold stretch of days with near constant below freezing temperatures that turned our fields, usually winter hardy here, to mush.  The more tender Asian greens, the chard, the spicy arugula, all died back to the ground.  The only things left standing were the kale, ever our hero, and the collards, kale’s just as lovely cousin.  Alive, yes, but with some frost damage.  Alive, yes, but with only enough good leaves to harvest from gingerly.  It has been, in many ways, a hungry month since then.

So, when mother nature turns around and gives us extra-dry, extra-sun, and we get to make up for loss with some extra planting to cover the difference, we take it.  And even though it is easy to think of this all as give, I remember the take.  Even this could just as easily become that.  We are certainly taking a bit of a gamble.  These crops could end up not making it (though I think they will).

And even though I try not to think about it, even this missing precipitation, I know, it isn’t all good, even if it is momentarily good, for us.  Is there ever a moment in time that is just right?

Or are they all perfectly not?

Watching my husband in the field, moving barrow full of compost with my children in tow like a hen with her chicks, the sun streaming into my heart and the worms wiggling in the baby-boy’s hand, I press the moments into my mind, snap shot, snap shot, snap shot, this is good.  I think about the next moment in time, for just a second, then stop myself, because I know I’m not guaranteed it.

But this one, it is mine.

farmer, farming, planting, sunshine, love

 

this sunrise is the only sunrise

sunrise, nature, life, gratitude, loveHappy New Year!

January is here in all its quiet and subdued glory.  After all the hoopla of the holidays, I always think it feels just right to get back to the routines, to embrace fully the structure of this first, uneventful month of the year. In our home, on this farm, this month is, like it is for so many people, completely under control.  We have lots of goals and lots of plans, and for now, we have the time, space, and energy to keep to them, the path clearly laid out.  This is a beautiful thing.

The tricky part is–and we all know this well–not all of this is likely to hold a whole year through.  Life will have its way, too.  There will be detours unforeseen.  For us, no matter the plan, there is that moment every farming season when the only control possible is to let go of control, to simply let the water pull us under, knowing that the only way to make it out alive is not to hold our breath or struggle against things, but to instead just become the fish. To let ourselves be fully immersed.  We will be there again, I know, busier than busy, lifting so much life in our arms from this ever abundant earth.  That is part of our goal, after all, even if that itself becomes its own force to be reckoned with, a force that our neat and tidy days of January can scarcely hope to keep shackled to the shape we’ve drawn for it here in this stillness.

Right now, we make lists, order seeds, plan and schedule, and it soothes our human instinct to have order, to be in control, just as much as the times of feeling out of control beautifully humble us each year when we find ourselves at the mercy–in ways both wonderful and challenging–of the natural world.

mt hood, farmscape, sunrise, beauty, life, love, gratitude, natureRight now, waking in the dark, writing every day, having the time already for a break at sunrise to watch the red sky awaken the world around me–believe me, there is a part of me that wants to stay right here.  This feels perfect.

But this isn’t how life works, and why should it?

Life is a force to be reckoned with.  All we have is this moment.  The real resolutions, each year, the ones that matter to us most, the ones we hope to keep true at their core and really want to bring to light can’t be heavy with their own stomachfuls of stone.  Sometimes, what may masquerader as strength in January can end up being a mere veneer, hiding underneath it a brittle underbelly that just can’t weather the storm.

After thirty-seven years and so much paying attention, this is one of the good lessons I know I’ve learned, but the kind that I need to always remind myself of, especially now, in sweet January.

Don’t forget to tie up those hopes and dreams and innumerable plans with the highest quality rubber bands you can buy. 

The kind of strength this ship needs is the kind found in elasticity, not rigidity.

Wrap me around this life, a million times over in any sort of direction, and I swear I won’t break.  And when I’m unwound, I’m still the same still thing I was, not bent at all.  The shape remains.

I swear this to myself, right now, in this peaceful, perfect moment, this one sunrise.  And, I’ll try, at least, to say it with each other predictable morning sunrise I get to see.

rilke, sunrise, nature, beauty, gratitude, flexibility“If to enjoy even an enjoyable present we must have the assurance of a happy future, we are “crying for the moon.” We have no such assurance. The best predictions are still matters of probability rather than certainty, and to the best of our knowledge every one of us is going to suffer and die. If, then, we cannot live happily without an assured future, we are certainly not adapted to living in a finite world where, despite the best plans, accidents will happen, and where death comes at the end.”

Alan Watts.

all that remains

winter, poetry, writing, natureIt is cold tonight, stepping out onto the porch to return the pile of outer layers we gathered up throughout the day.  Damp jackets.  Grandma’s woolly crocheted hats.  Knitted gloves too small already, my own handmade holiday gift last year to those little fingers, grown.

I don’t mean to, but I shiver.  Days when I’ve been inside so much, only out to feed and water the animals and gather wood, days that I don’t really mind all that much because they are filled with the kind of still, quiet warming that I need in winter–just one of these days and the chill that wants to catch my skin and stay, in just seconds, shows me just how easy it is to soften.

And my mind wanders for a minute in the dark, the light burnt out a while back, in high summer when no light was needed, and still hoping to be replaced, to see a check next to its name on the long, winter to do list. I realize I don’t know.  I’m not sure how soft to be.

But soft or not, I return into the arms of the fire full house, letting the wind and cold beat the last bit of life out of things as we wash the evening dishes, finish a thousand drawings, and put to bed so many tiny, household lives we’ve lived, today, this one winter’s day.

This Sunday, this Monday, they are the first relaxing days I have had in a long while.  Since September.  And these two, just the start.  So many remain, days such as this.

This year, like every year, we find that we are not great at growing onions on this farm.  Rather, it is like this–we don’t really know if we are great at it or not because limited space and time and the lure of the green onion to eat and sell all summer long always wins over the much more sensible idea that we should just let those onions grow.  So that they might now remain, for winter.  Every week, at market, I buy onions from much more sensible farmers, with much more land and a whole winters worth of alliums to caramelize in my skillet.

And for their sense, I am thankful.

But even though our larder doesn’t house them, our home does.  Us, the onions, brought inside.  Chill morning by brisk eve, winter is the fine task of pulling back the layers to reveal what grew in us this year.  What is new there, what gone?  Opposite the bundling we take on to go out the door, inside, we peel away all but the naked remains, the new seed of us.  What will that look like?  What will we have to offer the coming, new year?

The rest is shed and buried back in the ground, the old skins, like the plants we once were out under the sun.  And my life, shaped and severed each season by these elements–sun, fire, earth, rain–at least I know how to grow it well, I think to myself.  The longer I live here, the more well shaped I become.  This land, these seasons, our little harvest, our life, it grows fuller with each and every winter that comes.  And so, I let go, the wandering mind, and slip under the heavy pile of covers for the night.  Faith can be as simple as this.

A pattern found worth trusting.