As autumn falls upon us

The weather outside changed so abruptly this weekend.  The long, dry, warm, and beautiful fall–that was kind of like summer–weather we’ve been having turned to pretty rainy rain just like that.  Friday we kindled our first fire of the season.  Sunday we hosted our fall farm potluck/open farm inside the house instead of outside around a bonfire.  Even though the dust from other farmers’ bare, tilled fields was enough to make me wish for some wet weather, in the end it actually seemed harder to take after so many especially wonderful days in October.  Running errands in the rain was a bit of a downer, but the cozy feeling that is beginning to return to the house, a space so empty in the outdoor days of summer, is really nice.  I am ready to move into fall, rain and all.

But with autumn coming, I can’t help but also start to take stock of a year nearing its end.  I have been going through both my written and mental to do lists for 2012 to see what I did accomplish that I meant to, what I didn’t and won’t, and most importantly what matters to me to still get done before January.  Many of the things on my list found a way to the light, although the fiddle and piano completely eluded me and will, I think, till the bell drops on this year.

Not on that written list above but on my mind all year was the need to start taking some yoga classes again, and sadly not a one have I attended.  Thankfully, a CSA member brought up a series of deep restorative classes that she will be teaching from October through December and I think that is just the right way to begin.  This was part of a general “take care of yourself mama” feeling that permeated my own personal goals for the year, and although the yoga hasn’t happened yet (and the coffee still floweth forth), I did get myself out running in the spring and gardening and farming a lot this summer.  And since there was less of that, like usual, after the baby was born, it felt really good to do so much work in the dirt this summer.  It really hit me how much that makes my heart sing.

Maybe I’ll start running again now that the garden work is pretty much done for the year.  I do prefer being out in the cloud and cool for that kind of activity.  I may make the switch to tea soon, may, now that there is more a sense of waking up slowly, without so much work to be done in a day.  There are still four busy children to face, but this is the time for sitting on the couch and reading, reading, reading.  Sweet and relaxed.  I just might be able to manage a few groggy mornings.

As far as tasks go, a lot of home projects were accomplished this summer, but the kitchen remodel is hopefully still to come during winter.

I also feel ambivalent about my goal to make a rag rug; the truth is I want the rag rug, but I don’t necessarily want to make the rag rug.  I really just want to work on knitting, I’ve missed it this summer.  It was a summer with little sitting and I am over the moon to have that kind of time again.

And although there was no canoe, we did borrow a raft and take it out on our magic mountain lake this summer.   We spent countless hours at the river, we made sure to make time for that.  True weekends in the summer still eluded us, but they are already back with the turning of the seasons, maybe that will just always be a part of the farming cycle.

In the end, I really don’t feel like too many things were left undone.  It’s already been a pretty good year.

I was driving down the road the other day thinking that the only thing that I wished had come to fruition this year that hasn’t is getting to see The Lumineers play live.  Not happening.  However, a local favorite is coming to town at the end of the month, and that will definitely do.

I can’t help but feel that the right track is the one that leaves me so content.  No big  feelings of “need to do” or “things would be better if”.  The leaves are beginning to swirl to the ground, marking the winding down of another year of this life.  If you haven’t found what makes you content, now is the time.

I remember feeling a little like we were standing on a precipice at the start of the year, ready for take off, when I set down that “passions to fulfill” list for 2012.  Now I feel like my feet are planted solidly on the ground, dreams intact, work being done to continue bringing them down here to the earth.  Around my feet, the colors of the season gather, each leaf another wonderful moment of life captured.

(as an aside and completely irrelevant,  it was pretty hard for me to do the picture of my feet for this post because of this wild anti-whatever-everyone-else-is-doing kind of thing I have.  It is silly sometimes, I know; but also, if you want to have your own voice out there in the world, you have to be careful not to just be going along with the flow, and man is the Internet full of shots of people’s feet and shoes.  Still, it seemed so necessary to go with the words of the post, and so there you have it.  And please know,  I don’t begrudge any one else’s pictures of their feet, I do enjoy those shots, and it happens to be one of my son’s favorite photo ops as well!)

Elderberries at Sunset

Look what blew in on the wind two years ago and planted itself in a perfect spot and produced a decent crop of so-good-for you berries this year!  Elderberries!

These grow wild in the hills here and we have gone collecting them in the fall before to freeze and make syrup with for the winter since they pretty much kick the pants out of the various colds and flus that come along with the changing seasons.  So, we were pretty thrilled when we identified the little sapling growing in our backyard a few years ago.  It finally produced berries this year, and I almost missed the harvest because I didn’t realize that the birds were snacking on them quite as soon as I should have; still, it was a fun little harvest.

We will still need to go find some or order some dried for the winter, but having my own tree makes me very, very happy.  And since we are in the rounds of sore throats and runny noses and coughing at night this week, this small bit will make a nice syrup to use right away.

We snacked on a few, the baby and I, on the steps as the sun set the other night.  Tiny moments, like these tiny berries, can hold so much.  I felt like I hadn’t sat for so long.  Watched the sunset, been still.  Two year olds are so good for helping slow things down.  There are a million little things this boy wants to show me making it seem like there are a million things I can’t get done; but gosh, is he so sweet.  It is always worth the letting go of my own movement in favor of his.  These little things, so fortifying.  It’s a wonder we ever lean towards thinking that its the big and loud and exciting that matter more.

Happy (Chinese) New Year!

This year I think I’ll throw my lot in with the Chinese calender and call this the start of a (great) new year.  I am a dragon child after all;  according to the eastern skies this will, indeed, be a year meant for me.   There was a part of me itching to go right after Christmas, ready for resolutions, goals, plans.  But there was another part of me right in the middle of serious pain, pain that began the day after Thanksgiving as what seemed like a sore muscle and turned into a misplaced rib and tightened shoulder/neck muscles causing nerve pain through my whole arm and hand, lasting through the holidays and into the start of my fresh, new year.

So, I just gave in, finally, to my body’s cry to slow down and practice some much overdue self care.  Part of that meant a few weeks of mellow.  After a busy and stressful year of adjusting to the new family size and the growing business pace, it was really what I needed.   At the start of last year, when I was riding high on the bliss of a very relaxed and positive year on the farm and a brand new baby, I intentionally didn’t set any goals for myself, wanting to just be with that new little guy as he grew that first year.  Still, there was such an ominous feeling to the beginning of 2011, I should have been a little less shaken by the stress of the little dip we took in our roller coaster ride, a little more prepared.  Instead, I just pushed through making sure to take care of everyone else.  As for myself, I certainly didn’t get enough sleep, and I drank way too much coffee!

But now our little guy is so solidly rooted in the family, another wild and wonderful sprout toddling along with his brothers and sister and making just as much mischief and laughter in our home as ever.  And I think that as much as last year was one with growing pains, this year is a year to grow, stretch, and work hard too, but without all the worry and feeling of being busy.  I had to stop drinking coffee and modify my diet as well as take myself to get a massage, a few chiropractic adjustments, and some accupunture (which really rocked the pain!).  It feels good to spend a bit of time mothering my own body a little, and I feel refreshed and ready to take on the year.

The farmer, too, was feeling really tired by the end of the season; but two week off of market and a new season to plan and he is as fresh as spring and ready to go!  The beauty of farming is that the end of the cycle–the winter, the death and dying part–it so quickly becomes the start of new! hope!  growth!

So–2012!

I am sure we will be just as busy and we have lots of plans, lots!  So there will be the balancing of the farm and the family, as always.  But it is the year of the water dragon, a year of good luck, prosperity, a year of flowing and flying high again!

Here is to a very happy new year!

Food for thought

A neighbor brought this over for us this week, and I couldn’t help sharing.

I especially like numbers 1-4. Five and six seem like tenets everyone pretty much holds dear, right?  And no one wants to waste food.

But I like that the US Food Administration is promoting these two things when it comes to the nation and food:  thoughtfulness and local buying (not sure when the “and Drug” was added but found this interesting as well and will have to do some research when I am not buried in children with colds, holidays, birthdays, and spring farm work).

Supermarkets and fast food make it so easy to not have to think about what’s for dinner.  And even those of us who give a lot of our attention to what we eat and where it comes from have those nights when we hit dinner-time wishing we didn’t have to think about it (Don’t we?  At least I still do on “those” nights).  My point being, the allure of easy and mind-less is there even for the diligent.

I feel the burden of all the thought I put into how we eat every time I go to the grocery store.  Local, Organic, non-GMO, non-processed…and for us gluten and dairy and soy free…and meat we really only want to get at farmer’s market or from our farm–it isn’t easy to make these choices today simply because they are not the choices everyone is making.

Not the majority of consumers.  Not the supermarkets or fast food chains (even though the marketing is there).  And not the US Food and Drug administration.

If they were, our food culture would look much different.  And easy and thoughtful would coincide beautifully with one another.

Free trade, globalism, commodities, and large-scale meat production are where most of our federal government’s food policy energy goes.  A lot of things have changed in the last 100 or so years apparently.

But there is hope.  And I do hope that we all can be a part of bringing some things on that list back to the front of people’s minds when they are thinking about what to eat.

Food.  Buy it with thought.  Cook it with care. 

Buy local.

(And in my opinion and that of the 1917 US Food Administration, you should also consider using less wheat and unethically raised meat).

At Market this Week: Nettles!

There are a few items we choose to bring to market that we wild harvest from our property because they are delicious(most importantly) , super nutritious (like out of this world nutritious), and also (very kindly) fill seasonal growing gaps for us.  We do “cultivate” these wildings, clearing the areas where they grow or maintaining stands of them specifically for harvest, and we are always thankful to have such an abundance of them when we do.  In the early spring, when our over wintered vegetables are well harvested and new plantings are young, we are blessed with fresh growing nettles, perfect for nettle pesto and just in time to start getting the farmer’s body ready to battle pollen season.  In the summer, we harvest lamb’s quarters, a non-bitter tasting green that thrives in warm weather when our spinach has called it quits until fall and the kale has reached its height of “summer” flavor (not at all as sweet as in the colder months).

We never harvest a ton of these, but they are always a hit.  Some people already know how good they are for you and appreciate the chance to eat these nutritional powerhouses.  Other customers love their taste and will request them again and again.  We enjoy them in their season, and making nettle pesto is something we do every year.  It was the first recipe we tried the first time we ate nettles, back in the wilds of Colorado, with the encouragement of an old friend who not only gave us a taste for wild harvested weeds and king boletes, but also inadvertantly planted the seeds of our future–he had just returned to Colorado from the Pacific Northwest where he was working on a farm and we had many lively conversations with him about farming and this neck of the woods.

I was hesitant then, but the pesto was delicious and didn’t sting a bit.  We love it so much that we rarely make anything else with our nettles, aside from drying them for  tea.  But they really can  be used like any other cooking green, braised and finished with a bit of lemon juice or rice wine vinegar, or added to soups or sauteed and tossed with pasta.  But this is important–they must be cooked!  Between the soaking and washing we give them, and some cooking, even a light steaming, they will be sting free; but handling them out of the bag from our market stand with your hands will give you small stings.  We just dump them from the bag into the pan and steam them until they wilt, then cool them and proceed to make our pesto.  This blanching preserves their nice bright green color too.

We have always been fascinated by the high levels of nutrients in wild plants, so much higher than those cultivated by humans, even plants cultivated with as much love and care and attention to soil health as we give our plants.  This is one of the reasons we really attempt to mimic nature as much as is possible, keeping it as our growing model in as is applicable to our very human endeavor.  Nettles are really high in many minerals, including iron, potassium, magnesium, and calcium, and nettles are often used to help with anemia.  I personally use them as a general blood builder and as a concentrated source of minerals during pregnancy and while nursing (though please speak with your health care provider before using if you are pregnant or nursing!) and for the kids.  They help lesson your bodies immune response to allergens, and the farmer uses them in the early spring to help prevent or lessen his immune response to pollens later in the season.

This nettle season, encouraged by a friend and our own gut feeling, we are going to try to eat nettles even more than we normally do.  They are recommended to help protect the body from radiation, and just in case we are coming into contact with more unfriendly radiation than we want, we will be trying out some different ways to cook nettles this year. Either way, we feel extra thankful to have such an abundance of this healthful and tasty green this spring.  Head out to the woods and wild forage some for yourself if you are feeling adventurous, or if you want to keep it simple, stop by our market booth at The Market this month and grab a bag.  Either way, enjoy the tastes of spring both wild and tame!