Oh, these celebrations!

Last week was…

  • writing some words for this sight
  • Halloween-ing with a cute little kitten who wondered slowly through the night, finding the highly decorated houses the most interesting thing of all (aside from the special piece of fair-trade-organic dark chocolate that turned him into a cute and tired zombie).
  • Also Halloween-ing with the spunkiest, sweetest, camera happy witch ever, and her great protector, Captain America.  All the while being slightly freaked out by the first “creepy” costume for our family, the inspiration for which was “creepy doll”, but which  morphed into a banshee-type, blood splattered bat wielding creature of some kind.  Yikes!
  • Loving the farmer dressed up in fairy wings and a dragon’s tail, the cutest dragonfly ever; and loving that all night he was a little freaked out by my hardcore 80’s punk rock get up.  FUN!
  • And amidst that fun, lots of rationalizing Halloween as best as I could by focusing on the many positive aspects of shared human celebrations.  Still, I spent Halloween night secretly happy that it seemed like less people overall were handing out candy.
  • Relishing the tradition we now have of celebrating, right after the more dark and trivial fun of Halloween,  the festive and light el Dia de los Muertos.  This year, we added to the alter of my folks, the farmer’s grandma.  I love sharing this day with the kids, who did not know any of these very important people well, but get to hear stories about them and spend a day or two with pictures of them front and center.  It brings them, and our connections to this life through them, fully to our attentions for that time in such a meaningful way, all while lightening the weight of death for us all.
  • Wrapping up all that celebrating with a somewhat clean house and a trip to the woods.  Good!

As flowers die and leaves fall, we can see a semi-state of morbidity around us.  But just as easily, we can turn our eye to the beauty inherent in this design.  Celebrating.  That is what we do as the earth dies before our eyes, as we confront our own and our loved ones mortality.

The raucous week of Samhain has moved us into the gracious month of giving thanks.  Gratitude is best applied as a way of life, but we can all find a little more room for it in our hearts this month. In the Gaelic tradition, we have moved into winter.  It is still quite a bit like autumn here, and that is wonderful.  But the winter is a time of sharing this human experience–and the fears and wonders that it encompasses–with each other through the most love filled celebrations of the year.

Happy November!

Ready for the world


It was a muddy one at the pumpkin patch today.  This little guy, who has been saying “my halloween patch” and “my pumpkin” at night when we go to bed–even though he had no idea what the halloween patch was–kept slipping onto his hands and knees and was pretty dirty by day’s end.  But he didn’t mind and he picked out a sweet, little warty pumpkin and I think it is safe to say he may be bringing it to sleep with us tonight.  He had a good time.

We still haven’t tasted any of our own eating pumpkins yet, not really any winter squash either.  One of my own favorite veggie families, I am thinking about making a curry-peanut or curry-coconut squash soup soon, maybe this week, with some Asian mustard greens stirred in.  All that orange today in the pumpkin field has me thinking about cracking open a few.  And the cool weather.  It is that time of year again.

For now, I need to try to stir my late-napping, pumpkin gathering boy and wash him up.

Already so much bigger than the baby pumpkin he started out as.  Already adding his own take on the season, the routines.

Another person ready to take on the world.

Stumbling into Fall

I actually shudder to admit that this great slowing down time on the farm, the wonderful quieting of that raucous din that is summer around here, is proving to be neither quiet or slow after all.  September came, and suddenly I am so busy with homeschooling and activities for the kids and trying to squeeze a little bit of time out of all of that for taming the wildness that summer inevitably created inside our home while we worked and played outside for a season (which doesn’t make sense when you think about it, does it?),  that I have had little time to give to my “office” and “writing” duties for the farm.  Ideas come and go, poignant and thoughtful or just simple and funny, but I rarely have the time to sit down and put them to pen (so to speak!).

I keep thinking that with just one day to get things organized, a day to breath so to speak, I could get on top of this schedule and find the missing time; but the reality is that this  life will always be busy, or rather full, what with six of us and a farm in the cards, so the busy part all comes down mostly to a state of mind…and then just a little bit of good planning.  I am making a point to find the moments to breathe, and learning to live with certain piles until that grand day of organizing comes.   In the meantime, we take the time to stop a day of cleaning and wood chopping to carve those pumpkins with the small folks, we scoot the pile of school stuff out of the way and gather around the first fires in the woodstove with our board games and our books or various musical instruments.  I say the heck with it all and pick up the knitting basket instead of the vacuum, because life really is short, and the days, even shorter.  This fall has been glorious, with so many perfect, shiny golden days, with the bold colors of trees exploding before they go to bed reminding us to celebrate it all and the less showy but equally soothing colors of decay all over the farm our companions.  Busy isn’t going to cut it anymore.

Maybe this winter will bring with it some quiet?  Or more likely than not, it won’t, and so we will just have to continue practicing our graceful walk though this life one day at a time…with just a bit of stumbling along the way.

November Blue

All through the month of October, I went back in forth, trying to decide if I should participate in NaNoWriMo.  Even though I have never been much for fiction writing, the idea of writing every day without worry and without editing felt very much like something I needed to do.  A stretching, of sorts, of these very tired writing muscles.  And it was just a bonus, since ostensibly I was just going to do it to support my son in getting his book written, one he has been planning and developing for well over a year, but not set down in words.

With much hemming and hawing, Halloween came and I still hadn’t signed up on the nano website, and then November 1 came and it was just one of those days.  Besides making it to a morning Farmer’s Market meeting, the rest of the day was a wash.  Nothing more than comforting the sweet (but fussy) baby and doing the dishes (from the night before) was really accomplished.  Even the farm newsletter, which had taken me the course of two days to finish with all the pumpkin carving, pumpkin cookie baking, apple cider warming, birthday party attending, mushroom hunting, and halloweening interruptions, had not been saved before I turned off the computer on Sunday and needed to be re-written (maybe).

I decided that this was clearly not the time, and that one-handed typing is just not fun enough to push myself when we are all busy with our normal busy-ness and the not-so-busy-ness of just being a new baby requires (allows).  Besides, I prefer rambling these personal semi-non-fiction blurbs on the blog better anyways, and thought that maybe, just maybe, a more reasonable goal would be to write every (other, or other, other) day here for now.

And it’s only four days into November, so I don’t feel too bad just getting here.  The last few days have been full of sunshine and warm temps and I can’t help but try to get outside as much as possible, to feel the sun on my face.  It has felt very cool and rainy to me these last few weeks, with less interludes of sun maybe, or more downpours than drizzles.  Either way, less blue is better for me right now.  I usually love the rain, but will take as much sun as November wants to give us.  Maybe it is because we are just now eating our summer watermelons.

First CSA Harvest of 2009!

Photos by Olorin Jaillet!

Although we find ourselves 7 or 8 weeks past our hoped for starting date for the 2009 season, we are pleased to be starting 6 weeks earlier this season than last, making for 35 weeks of veggie harvests this year. Providing our farm members with fresh and healthy food for 2/3 of this year is exciting, and another step closer to our final goals for the farm. And at the start of this year we can’t help but being excited with where we are now.

The soil on this poor old farmstead had seen years of abuse…nothing chemical, thankfully, but the topsoil from two fields had been scraped and sold to the old Riverbend dump and almost every other space had been cut for hay or overgrazed. Although the animals that were grazed here gave something back to the land as they grazed, never as much as was taken; and when a field is cut and the green matter is removed, all of the energy the land put into the growing of that grass is taken, something needs to go back and this was never intentionally done. The pastures our first two years here showed signs of this. They were filled with thistles and grew grass poorly. The vegetable field was heavy clay, and was also weedy with thistles and queen anne’s lace. For those of you who have been members since our first season, you well remember the troubles we had in such a growing space.

But things have improved each year as more and more organic matter has been added to the soil. When we started working the beds this year, we found the soil in most spots is great, loose and rich and beautiful! And the thistles, which thrive in subsoil and poor soil have been replaced by lush clovers in the pastures and a whole host of really beautiful herbacious weeds that we have yet to identify. These are great signs of soil improvement, which is really our overarching purpose on the farm anyways. The rewards of healthy animals grazing good pasture and healthy fruits and vegetables from healthy and alive fields does ultimately benefit all of us in the form of delicious flavor and nutrient dense food; still, we believe that human survival depends on healthy soil, on the smallest of living creatures like healthy micro-organisms in the soil and the buzzing bees in the clover. It is hard for us to imagine that the farmer whose home this was and who at one time owned a hundred of these acres of farmland around us left behind a homestead with soil in disrepair, nor a single bit of fruit or shade/wind trees anywhere. The latter is a bit trivial, but it seems it is a farmer’s duty to protect the land, to build it, to nourish it, because as with anything in life, the take, take, take mantra will never really yield any true return. So we are thrilled with these signs, and we anticipate a great year of growing!

We are also working more space this year moving from growing on a little less than 1 acre up to 2 acres, which is exciting. Some of the new space is planted in fall/winter crops like leeks, Brussel sprouts, and potatoes,which we are determined to let grow to maturity, foregoing so many new potato harvests (our favorite!) in order to have them for winter when we will appreciate them even more. Most of it will be sown in cover crops for our mid-summer plantings for fall, winter, and next spring. This provides us with enough space to really have 45 weeks of veggie harvests, our ultimate goal, as well as allowing each field a resting period. We would have needed a lot of inputs to keep our smaller plot producing year round and healthy.

We are also hoping to experiment with growing on our lower field. Another source of frustration we have with the previous land owner is that this whole field is planted in reed canary grass. This grass was once encouraged as a good forage/hay grass for wetlands, but it is truly invasive and persistent and follows water, filling streams, choking out diversity. There is a small portion of our lower fields which the horse on our property favors grazing. We have begun to see a bit more diversity in this patch as well as less canary grass growth to this point. Aside from that, the soil under this grass is beautiful from river floods. So after we get soil test results, we hope to try a large pumpkin planting on this section, hoping that the sprawling vines of the pumpkins will help smother the grass. After Halloween, we will let this year’s pigs down to eat the rest of the pumpkin crop. Our hope is that they may be able to root out the canary grass rhizomes. This will most likely be a lengthy process, but one we are excited to try.

And although it is always hard for a parent to reconcile the fact that babies grow just as fast as weeds, as we tackle the heavy to do list of spring on the farm, our children, all another year older, are just that, another year older. The boys are so helpful, but our youngest, who is just a few weeks shy of 3, is (for the most part) now past just working on distinguising path versus growing space and we have another great garden helper! As she helped put transplants and potatoes in the ground this year, after each one she raised her arms to the air and exclaimed to the plant and the universe, “Grow, Plant (Potato), Grow!” It is hard to imagine that with these blessings we won’t have a great year!