Perhaps you have wondered where I have been. Not here, no. But, under the sun, every day. It has been the strangest, hardest summer around in a while, and though the thorns have dug in deep, and I find myself living ahead of myself, my mantra almost every day, “next summer, next summer, next summer,” I come back around, always, by sunset. Then I remember, the plenty of good, too. We have gone to the river practically every day, the kids transformed into the most beautiful fish (and one mermaid). And I know that this summer is this only summer, so I don’t forget to let the smell of the blackberries, overripe from all the extra heat we’ve had in our normally more moderate clime, so sticky and tasting like kool-aid, I don’t forget to let this wash over me and sink in. I don’t ever want to jump ahead, I always want to feel it all. It always come around, like me with every sunset, to have been good in its way. I am always grateful, in the end.
The farm has moved into March gracefully, with so many beautiful signs pointing to the shifting seasons. The first flowers are blooming–the always cheery and bright and abundant daffodils, the lovely forsynthia opening its own yellow petals one by one, and the violets, with a sweetness we can nibble. The air is full of breeze, and sound. Like the birds singing so happy to find food more easily, and the frogs, awakening.
A walk through our greenhouse these days, literally so green right now, provides a wonderful respite from the sight of the fields, still only slowly coming back to life, muddy and waiting. And an equally wonderful respite for our tongues. Fresh food, again. Our taste buds, singing too, we aren’t really that different from the birds.
And the earth calls, wake up. Wake Up!
And, I answer, I always answer, yes.
I have been calling this mixture here–french breakfast radishes, spring carrots, rainbow chard and kale (three varieties today–purple and green lacinato, plus red russian), plus the beets before we ate them all–my confetti vegetables. They are the bulk of what we are harvesting, besides lettuces, and so it is this combo cooked with loads of coconut oil, green garlic, and green onions, and served with a little something–poached eggs and pork today–for one of our meals, then a hearty salad, with a little meat, for the other.
This, plus eggs, for breakfast, everyday. Simple stuff.
It would seem redundant, perhaps, if it weren’t so pretty. Or if I didn’t feel like I was having a little party on my plate each day with all these colors. Or, perhaps, if tender, fresh, spring vegetables weren’t so damn good.
We round it all out with peas and strawberries, and even early ripe raspberries, for snacks, al fresco.
Recipes come in all shapes and sizes. This spring, each meal I cook has three main ingredients–fresh, simple, and beautiful. It strikes just the right chord of this season.
Topped with a dash of love, each day, and we are filled.
After seeing those pictures that come and go on the internet showing the correlation between the way food looks and the part of the body it is especially good for if eaten, I often find myself doing the same when I look at food. When I saw this giant beet, the result of what we now know is the miracle of growing food under plastic in spring, new to us this year but quite nice as it turns out after all the hemming and hawing that took place deciding to bring this into our farming picture, my first thought was that it looked like a heart. That I should eat it, right then, for my heart.
True, or not, we sliced this beauty up and roasted the whole thing, and I did end up eating almost it all myself, right then, since not everyone on this farm loves roasted beets like I do. And I did feel that my heart was filled, in more ways than one.
The little boy wanted to help slice it, not easy since beets are pretty solid pieces of root food, but we pretended. We had fun. We looked at the surprising inside design of this heirloom variety. We marvelled, together. I took photos. Our oldest boy, my visual artist, took photos too. And my mind strung together thoughts. Theories on feeding your family well and with joy, and on the need for a healthy, loving approach to food, free from fear. I played with words, with phrases like, eating with you heart and food for your heart-beet.
But in my heart, I know that modern day diet theories are a sticky issue. One I prefer to stay out of, mostly, besides shout outs about the obvious things, like DOWN WITH MONSANTO! Truly, though, I lament the fact that it is all so complicated. Complicated, more than anything, by the fact that there is a whole food industry that many of our human kin rely on to feed themselves that appears to care nothing at all about really feeding us. A food industry that not only appears to not care about that seemingly significant idea in regards to food, but also doesn’t seem to care that they are quietly (and sometimes loudly) making us and the land and all the other creatures around us sick instead. And for so many of us, sick and wanting to feel better, or simply fed up with eating from the hands that bind us, look around for something better. A little blind, we seek and grasp for a way, but we are not really sure what that is because that ship has long since sailed. We have lots of ideas, but lots of them are different from each other. And so much fear surrounds us because of this, fear of eating the wrong way, that we still don’t eat the right way because we feel confused, unsure, and mabye not better. And to hope to fix this broken machine seems mildly hopeless, making it all the worse.
I have my own theories for my own family, but I like to keep them as such, theories. They work for us and stem from our own personal experience with our own personal bodies and health. I know what makes me sick, not just physically, but mentally and emotionally, as well as what makes my children’s bodies out of whack, and their minds and spirits. We come from a long line of food allergies and we have our own set of things to consider. So, we do.
As should we all.
But getting to that point, the point of knowing what works for you and what doesn’t, of where and how to source the food that will really feed you the best, personally, isn’t easy. And so, to say you should eat with your heart doesn’t really work at all for most of us, unless we have already cleared a lot of the post-modern cobwebs out from inside, and can hear, loudly enough, that beating vessel for what it wants to tell us.
What to do?
Thinking about this mess, it struck me that we do, indeed, have something we can all agree on, something we can all do without fear or worry or confusion. That the easiest, simplest, truest thing that can be said about eating and thriving and feeding ourselves well and whole, without complication, is this–eating fresh, bright, and beautiful vegetables, in abundance, is the right place to start.
Whether you plant your own small (or large) garden and eat your own harvests, or you head to a farmer’s market, easy to find these days, and eat the harvests of other farmers like us, or even if you just go to the regular market and look for the brightest, most beautiful, and fresh looking produce you can find and bring it home, this is the place to start. Eat them, everyday in every way. This is a powerful and fulfilling way to eat no matter anything else.
Or so my heart and head decided, stewing about this all, beet in hand and then in tummy, the other day. I know, without a doubt, that this food feeds the whole me. And the whole you probably wants a bite of this beauty too, this vibrant, healthy, uncomplicated, sweet kind of food. There is little bad you can say about the humble vegetable class. Besides the sometimes unpleasant flavor of less than fresh broccoli, it is all good. This, I feel sure about, even in a time when sure is hard to come by. So.
Eat Your Veggies! With love.
There are a few themes I have running in my head like a mantra for this year. Balance was the one I was sure most important. It was the word I kept writing on the tops of my to do list. That, and “today is the only day”, which is a constantly good reminder.
But the truth is that balance is a finicky goal when you are a homeschooling mother of four. I keep wanting to balance some self-care, self-soothing, self-loving time in with the call of other’s needs and the beating rhythm of the farm, but I just can’t trump those others’ needs with my own, it doesn’t work for me. And I seem wildly inept at creating time. Sometimes, there just isn’t enough of it and I know that some day my “today is the only day” will look a lot less peopled than my today’s, so I let go of wanting more than it seems I can do while my main occupation and preoccupation is being here for smaller folks.
That kind of balance is hard to find when I look at how the scales are tipped at present, and I want to have peace with that as easily as I did when I probably had more peace in general–a few spirits ago and only a dream of a farm in hand.
The balance that is coming in to focus this year is the structure of our farm business. We have been a CSA driven business since we set up shop out here, and we always thought this was the best way for us to farm. We love the deeper connection we tend to get with our CSA customers, the sureness of their harvests over the more changing nature of the markets, and it just was always our driving intention. We had read so much about it before we actually started to farm, our book knowledge left us settled with a plan before we’d begun at all.
As can be the case with just about anything you learn from a book, but so much so with farming, until you are on your land and doing your thing, you don’t really have all the information you need. And as great of a model as the CSA model is, for our farm and its particulars–size, labor force, capital, etc–it meant that our own little (big) family was always last on the receiving end of all the really great food we grew. Having community members invested in our farm for the whole year and having them be the main supporters of our farm meant that we prioritized their experience, always.
This is, of course, a good thing and is what we should be doing for them. And we were always happy to do it. But, as with the shoemaker’s children running barefoot round town, at times it was really hard for us to not taste any of a particularly wonderful crop, or to end up (graciously) eating food from other farms instead of our own. To say it like that makes it sound a bit crazy, even though it wasn’t. It was, however, not really sustainable for a sustainably driven operation, right?
And so, this year we significantly downsized our CSA. We even downsized our markets to one summer-only market. We hope that by restructuring it all, with our family prioritized, we will actually better serve everyone. The word that has now materialized like a sweet song in my mind for this year is this~abundance. A beautiful word. A positive word.
Not that balance isn’t, but for me, it was always sounded with a sense of lacking and guilt.
Our smaller CSA will have a pretty sweet year since we will never be stretched at harvest. We can provide for them even more abundantly. Our market customers will be greeted with abundance each week too, since most of the harvest won’t be under the table set aside for the CSA. And our family will experience the glorious state of abundance as well, which is after all, truly one of the best blessings of growing your own food. It fills you up in many, many ways. If you have ever done it, you know that feeling.
And so, already in March, my kitchen is up to its ears in purple. Cauliflowers! A crop that was usually so important for market at this time of year that I could only drool over it while it made its way into our dear customers hands. And already, I am getting out the vinegar and the canning jars (fermented cauliflower was decidedly unsavory in our opinion), preserving the abundance. This, I love.
And although all we do out here on this farm stems from our love for it, to deepen this, straighten it out a bit, and get it just a little bit more right, is always good. Change is a constant for us–today really is the only day–so we won’t say things are settled, we know better than that. But I can tell that for this year, or this today at least, things are looking so good. Balanced, even, a bit more.