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

 

there is beauty all around you

mundane beauty, internal happiness, finding joy all around youBack in my early twenties, a close friend and I had this running debate going.  We were students together, worked together, and although we were in many ways polar opposites, we were such good friends.  We met within the first week of classes my first year, and our friendship held from then until my marriage and first birth, when I got enveloped in a certain wonder child’s wiggly ten toes and fingers and could hardly see anything else, wrapped in the blanket of motherhood so deeply that when I emerged, I found we had not really kept up with things and both of us had moved on.

But in our way of not agreeing on things back then, we had an ongoing discussion about the place of “place” in a person’s happy making.  He was ever ready to be finished with his studies, hungry to move away, to get out of the Midwest.  He had no fondness for this seemingly nondescript town in the middle of Nebraska.  I, on the other hand, was not so hard on it.  I could see the places where it shined and loved the people particularly shiny who lived there.  To be completely fair, it was probably easier for me to call on its graces because the University that we attended was in a town just miles from where I grew up.  I had a special kind of love for it that I could call on when needed, that childhood familiarity.

But I did understand, some.   I had spent my teen years plotting my own escape from that landscape through colleges way out here on the west coast not far from where I’ve landed myself now.  All of those options were more than appealing, the end goal of all those straight A’s I’d busied myself with in high school.  But in the end, a full scholarship seemed more reasonable than high costs, and I started to look forward to sharing these years with friends I was already close to.  In the end, I knew, I didn’t want to be out here alone.  So this mix of finances and fraternity, and a little bit of fear, won out over the adventure of moving away that I had always envisioned I’d take as close to high school graduation day as possible.

But our debate ran deeper than simply attachments to home or a dislike for locale.  I did get that, I felt both.  It was more about the way he seemed to be waiting to be fully happy.  In my ever philosophical way, my argument against this waiting was that happiness, deep and true, could not be about place at all.  My position wasn’t distinctly original by any means, it went a bit like this–if you can’t be happy here, you won’t be happy there.  A gold standard.

And what I kept beating him over the head with was this–you can be happy here, and then, you’ll be even happier there.

Not that a change of scenery isn’t wonderful.  Not that it isn’t sometimes just the thing.  I am sometimes so indescribably happy here in my new home, so very happy in this place in time.  But still, I remember.  I know that with or without it, I have held my happiness close to me, tucked next to my beating heart, for such a long time, in all the places I’ve been.  The truth is you own your happiness, your surroundings do not.

In the drear that can be January here, and then February, March, April, and sometimes May, the grey can really get to people.  In the days of more inside than out, though we still always do get out, the children in the middle of my brood are at just the right ages, and have just the right personalities that tend towards feeling the blah of an uneventful, winter’s day at home, working away at nothing more than our studies, our chores, the reading by the fire, the endless board games, tea, and what they see as more than one too many soups and stews on the table.  There is certainly a different flavor to this season, especially once the holidays end, that can start to taste “boring”.

But all of this, to me, is happiness.  I am a homebody, an introvert.  Give me quiet, sweet days with these little imps where we do not rush, we do not have to, and I am in love.  But I get it, I remember.  My daughter wants to see her friends all the time.  She is not content with a day where “nothing” happens.  And my middle son, whose skills and ambitions lie in things that are either too big of a project for such a day or out of his range or simply out of season for now like building go carts or tree forts or learning to hunt and going on survival hikes, he kind of just sits in here languishing while his older brother draws and draws and draws and I read and knit and write.  He is not one for sitting, and even the woodshop which can keep him busy takes some initiative to go work in when it is cold outside.

But this feeling, this boredom, I still try to bring to my children the only true fact I know about it, as often as I can, with my own actions and words, that the only way out is through.  For any human being, this is a handy skill to have in your pocket.  To learn to love the mundane, the day to day of any season, the grey sky, the blah days, they will happen, it is unavoidable, and feeling good and being happy isn’t just a matter of riding the high waves, the summertime fun.  I know that this was hard for me in my youth.  So hard.  But why wait to learn some of these lessons.  I wish they could know the beauty of now, now.  I know I hope my old friend has found this little gem somewhere on the roadside of his travels.  The sooner the better, right?

And yet, as with anything there for the learning, I can’t pour it into them.  They have to fill their own vessels of knowledge, as much as I do, and don’t, want to do it for them.

So, I pause.

I savor.

Dead plants are as pretty as alive ones.  There is beauty everywhere.  I can only show them one example, and never a perfect one, and hope they can see it, too.

 

all tucked in

winter, farmDecember is the sweetest.

We are all tucked in.  Cozy, warm.  Together.

Harvests are on hiatus.  We have a minimum of morning chores to tend to.  Feed and water the hens and the growing pigs.  Feed and water–and play–with the small chicks in the greenhouse.

Mostly, we sit by the fire and play games and read stories.  In this down time, we reweave the strings that hold us together that we inevitably stretch thin in the hay days of summer, all of us throwing ourselves outward, even as we are always all here, on this farm and in these days, with each other.  Because summer is its own wild beast of living.

And so winter.

We take this time and use it to tend to each other in our winter ways, and the whole, wonderful cycle works, for us.

This winter we have been simultaneously blessed and cursed with clear skies and cold temps.  Without our covering of grey skies and Pacific Northwest rain, we are getting full on that metallic tasting winter air that so many others hold on their tongues always through this season.  I love it.  I hate it.  I can step outside and feel like I am, for a moment, tucked away in the mountains of Colorado or out in the wide open countryside or quiet plains town of Nebraska.  This kind of winter feels like home to me, as much as I am ultimately a part of this lush, temperate valley now.

It was single digit cold here last night.  That is more cold than we are used to.  We all are weathering this fine, although we have used more wood than ever for this time of year and the water to our house is frozen.

No matter the temperature, though, these cold, slow days are so full of time, there is the feeling one could get so much done.    I could get a lot of things done.  Things that would make me happy, things I have been waiting all summer to get to.  On top of that, there is all the extra things one could do, to celebrate.  But instead, in December, I sit.  I wait.

I have learned so much about letting go, it is ridiculous.  Every day, we must wake up in the morning and remember what matters, and so much of it, doesn’t.

I have learned that the sweetness of this month isn’t in the doing, that it is in the waiting.  In the quiet and the stillness.

In our home, there are all the inevitable squabbles of four children inside so much, the eruption of bodies needing to move more that turns our small home into a wrestling ring or race track every evening before bedtime.   The frequent sighs of boredom, the excited as well as impatient expectancy of Christmastime.

But there is a softer side to all of this too.  There is more skin time, more snuggles on the couch.  There are news ways of playing, discovered.  There are knitting needles in my lap, slowly working again towards the only gift worth giving my dear husband, my heart poured into some thing to keep him warm while he works.

I do get itchy, who doesn’t?  I want the new year to start, all fresh and full of promise.  As always, as everyone, I have big plans.

But this last beautiful month on the calender is for the waiting.  Expectantly, hopefully.  Equal parts joy at the dusting of snow and ice to play on as well as trembling and fear, the desperate desire for the return of the sun.

All the work of December is done on the inside.  There is only the barest perception that it’s there, but it is some of the most important work we do of the year.

Fueling our lights for the new. 

All tucked in.  Warm, cozy.

Together.

thanksgiving gold

thankful, thanksgiving, farm, farm life, gratitude, simple lifem life, gratitude, simple lifem life, gratitude, simple lifem life, gratitude, simple life

“There is a crack, a crack in everything, that’s how the light gets in.” –Leonard Cohen

Today, the farm is quiet.  It is clear, frosty, and golden out there.  Inside, the fire is kindled, the coffee made.  It will be a slow day.  Tonight, we will have a small feast with the grandfolks.  Simple.  Wonderful.

I love Thanksgiving a whole lot.  I love that it is on the eve of advent, of deep winter.  That we are done with harvest for a bit, that I can wish for snow and not worry about trying to gather vegetables from under it.  That magic fills the cold air.  But more than anything, I love it because I love giving thanks.  Whenever I slip into meditation or deep relaxation in a yoga class, this is the feeling that floods my veins.  I am so damn grateful, for it all.

All the wonderful, obvious things, sure.

But perhaps even stronger still is the gratitude for the rest of it.  All my mistakes–and there are plenty.  All the hard times–and there are plenty of these too.  Every good and bad part, mixed together into the story of this life.  For all of that, I am thankful.

I haven’t always felt this way.  Most of us, probably, start our journey into adulthood with some notion of a happily ever after that is all “good”.  But one of the blessings, in my mind, of growing older is the hazy way the good and bad start to blur into a deep, vibrant hue that is all its own and that is far richer and more complex than any of our youthful black and whites.  Everything begins to shine golden, not just the sparkly parts.

And since I’ve been at this for a while now, and because it is now my second nature, I come to this day easily, gracefully.  I like that.  But I get that it isn’t like that for all of us all the time, so please forgive my gushing, I am sure it can be annoying at times.  Because the truth is this, it is all a mess, for all of us, I just happen to think that it is a beautiful mess.

But, it did take time.  Honesty.  Forgiveness, of all kinds.  Open eyes.  An open heart.  Trust me, with these, the thankfulness will come.

But for me, now, this is my practice, my breath, each day.  And so, each year, on this day, I find myself with lots to write about.  Just for fun, this year, I rounded them all up–2008, 2009, 2010, 2011(1, 2, 3), 2012 (1,2,3).  If you look through them, you will see that there is both a progression and a sameness.  So is life.

Today, my list is short and sweet.  I also find that the tiniest element of humor is there, which for my serious, somber self is a good sign.  I think that as I get older, in this regard, I am getting younger.  And lightening is nice.

So 2013! Let’s get something down, for the record!

Right now, I am thankful for:

  • time to write, whenever and whatever, even on Thanksgiving morning!
  • phone cameras, instagram filters, and an easy, quick way to satisfy the creative impulse in my busy farmer-mama days
  • three year olds, for perspective (and for keeping me humble)
  • the smell of three year old nurslings, like the pheromones of a man, which have been shown to calm and bring a sense of well being to a woman when she is held, putting my nose to my son’s head and holding him in my arms still regulates my nervous system instantly, just like when he was a babe–I think this is related to the circularly perfect nursing relationship.  So, whenever I get a little worked up, all I have to do is pick up this boy and inhale.
  • acorn squash–a seriously fine replacement for former fave, delicata squash
  • the always forgiving and in love man that is my husband
  • AjjA Wood, taking off beyond our dreams
  • all of the members of our farm family for their continued support and participation in our farming and eating adventure
  • good food–that feeds my body and my soul and keeps my family healthy–from our land and the land of our neighbors and this valley, a veritable garden of eden
  • the most perfect growing season on (our) record–I am more than imaginably thankful for this one (farmers live and die by the weather)
  • three “big” kids–this one is bittersweet, but it is also a lot of fun to see these sweet little ones grow up, and it makes having just one “little” one seem so stinking easy!
  • a home, we owe a lot of this to the grandfolks, and I hope they know how thankful we are for that
  • plant medicine and learning new things
  • McMinnville Community Accupunture, for taking care of me when I don’t take care of myself, and always working miracles
  • deepening friendships and creative collaboration
  • my brave brother whom I am missing a lot today
  • the golden, frosty, dry weather we are having, the kind of weather that reminds of November back home in Nebraska, reminds me of Thanksgivings from my past, and mingles my loves for these two places in the sweetest way this holiday
  • you, all of you, humans, reading this or not, I am thankful to share my world with you and all of your golden human-ness

And now, it is time for a mimosa with my love, the cook today, and some games with the kids by the fire.  Bliss!

Happy Thanksgiving Day!

 

 

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.