I literally may have forgotten how to do this.

Well, hello dear old blog. I have really enjoyed not having to fiddle with you, truly. Something about the process of getting a blog post up and tinkering with changes is too much computer and headache than just the beauty of the words, the balance for a while just tipped between knowing how long it would take sitting here with not writing work versus being able to share the bits and pieces appropriate for this form, the dailies. I have enjoyed using Instagram as a mini-blog of sorts, but let’s get real; we can’t fit all our stories into a picture and a tiny box and our pocket. They need room and I need space.

My two younger children are at a friend’s for the morning so that I can work. I am ostensibly trying to make some money again out here on the farm, in about twenty directions, none of which have really stuck enough to become a real business yet. Still, instead of heading straight to it, to a late planting of beans that I hope will survive the deer nibbles, to some fall crop seeding, to another bit of elderflower gathering for elixir, to cutting back the catnip and oregano, to weeding, always weeding, and getting some really pretty basil potted up into boxes, to this farm that I love and that keeps me grounded, connected, inspired, and holy, I opened WordPress. Because what is burning inside my brain all the time is the way life continues to coalesce into narrative, so deeply beautiful, impossibly meaningful. Because if I die tomorrow, as the saying goes, I want to have given these pockets of madness that are my human experience back in form to this embodied experiment of life.

Last year stripped us bare. Us, the collective us, all of us, individually. At least it tried to. In a post everything world, we have two choices. Continue to let the crumbs fall where they rightfully should, or decide with all our might to co-create a wildly better world.

And somehow, for me, I know that weaving stories that build bridges, between the land and the people and people and their innermost selves, is my way to make reparations, to help repair. To heal. To encourage the remembrance and radical connection necessary to wiggle through this wormhole we have been offered.

So, I will see how this little extra room fits for now, this morning at least. To be growing always, and wild, means being okay with both constant imagining and continued surrender. The ego quiets, the mind clears, the heart pumps, and one step in front of the other, you let your brambly, prickly, weedy, purposefully lovely self make your medicine and you share it.

#growingwildfarm
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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.

keeping our heads above water in the deluge

after the storm

farm, farming, wetland, flooded veggiesflooded veggies, farm, farmingwet carrots, flooded veggies, farm, farmingbattered beetsfield of greenssurvived!This weekend, our little neck of the woods was visited by three storm systems that brought with them some “unseasonable” amounts of rain, pretty high, unfriendly winds, and a quick and somewhat depressing end to my just begun love affair with the new season of autumn. I felt cheated.

Because even though the Pacific Northwest is known for being a wet place and all, our late Septembers and Octobers really are usually quite beautiful, with a fair share of beautiful, sunny, crisp, fall-like days.  Sure, there are rainy days in the mix, too, but we don’t usually feel inundated until much later in this precious season.  And so earlier last week, when I had finished the wild and overloaded part of this year’s tomato harvest, and the shorter day length started to make for shorter work days, I found myself breathing deeply into this sweet time of the year, ready to relax. So much less hectic, but still so abundant.

I was already revelling in these changes of schedule, of harvests. I love the beginning of each new season so equally, I have to call them all my favorite.  My taste buds were singing, happy and excited for the new foods on our plates.  Our meals were a perfect combination of the end of summer and the beginning of autumn.  Arugula, lemon cucumber, and colorful mixed cherry tomato salads with balsamic vinaigrette.  Roasted zucchini and sweet red pepper tossed with turnip green pesto.  Kale, glorious, delicious kale, back from a summer’s hiatus and cooked into stews with beets and the last of the tomatoes, the sweet, paste varieties. I had even gotten to a little fall house cleaning and the kids were all working their way into our homeschooling groove.  It felt perfect.

And all in all, this whole year has been pretty perfect.  Especially on the farm. Busy, yes, and a bit of a scramble on the labor front as I realized about halfway through the year that “the farmer” wasn’t joking when he said I needed to take over the farm business for him while he expanded his woodworking one.  But the weather!  The weather this year was perfect.  If you have followed along with us for long or been part of our farm community in real life, you know that the weather has not been so perfect these last couple of years.  And so, this–this was wonderful.  So wonderful  I even mentioned earlier this year that I thought it was a little gift to us from the universe, a nice, soothing balm for our farming wounds from the year before.

And it really has been.  But as I took notes and made plans for next season, I tried to remind myself that I can’t really expect anything, at all, from the weather or a growing season.  Especially not perfect.

As farmers, we tend to take the most immediate data and apply it first to the coming year.  It is assumed, and generally true, that the issues that have come up in prior years have already been addressed, and so each year we tweak things a little with the added layer of knowledge the previous growing season has given us.  We can’t always plan for things we can’t conceive of, but those we have seen and dealt with, we generally will always plan for, even if they never happen again.  The question that kept coming up for me was how to adjust plans after a great year when you know you can’t plan on another such year again? And I wondered, is that a good way to live, to not count on the perfect year?  Where was my faith, my trust?

The truth is that each year, perhaps besides our very first, has always been as good and bad as it could be, perfect in its own imperfect way. And maybe I cursed us without knowing it, as I thought about all of this, but I don’t think so.  I do tend to go forward, believing.  And I really was sure that this season would end as perfectly as it began, until this weekend’s weather changed that, pretty dramatically.  All that “unseasonable” rain led to part of our growing space that was still in production going under water.  “Surprise, surprise”, the world seemed to say, because even if we know that our lower field, a seasonal wetland, is destined to go under water every fall with crops still in it, and even though we know that no matter when this happens, it never feels good, we also felt like we knew the general time frame to expect this to happen, which was nowhere close to this early!

But it did, and it is kind of terrible, but it is kind of okay too.  Those things we have learned already, from other seasons, had led us to plant our rows in this field in a manner that let the water move away from the vegetables as much as possible, and this meant that at first, especially, the water didn’t pool where crops were planted–a good thing!  And this year, we had a separate field for our fall greens that we had observed would stay dry longer than other spaces, and this field, my field of greens, stayed dry and harvest-able–so, so good!  The crops in the field that did, eventually, get too wet in the end, were summer crops we could say good-bye too, like zucchini and pickling cucumbers, or crops we could store, like carrots and beets and our winter squash planting.  It took more work than I imagined it would to harvest them all at once, but I did, and now they are out of the water and ready to store for the next few months as we finish out our CSA and market harvests for the year.  All good!

Not a perfect, happily ever after ending, but a perfectly okay ending, this storm proved to be.

And that is kind of my favorite secret of being grown up, anyway.  The knowledge that happily ever after isn’t perfect like we may have imagined it would be in our limited, juvenile experiences.  That it isn’t always smooth sailing or just right conditions that will make us happy.  But, rather that it is vastly more perfect for being messy and hard.  That growing, sometimes on our own, sometimes together, but always, growing, is the important part, not any particular outcome or expectation we may have once put our faith in.  And that, truly, in all times, good and bad, it is, life, important and wonderful, for what it is, our life.

This weekend’s deluge was just another interesting part of our story, something to experience with both dread and then gratitude, something to laugh about for its absurdity, to learn from in small and big ways.  My children love having water to splash in and their adventurous, happy take on things reminded me to lighten up.  And as for growth, yesterday, in rain gear and water past my ankles, bringing in those storage crops, I experienced perhaps the hardest day of work I’ve had out there in those fields this year.  And it left me feeling sore and tired, but it also left me feeling wildly alive.

And in that moment yesterday, I felt such a deep connection to that land, deeper than I have even felt from living here on it for seven years and helping Andre run the farm business on it for six years, and even more than I have from seeing it deeply with my writer’s eyes and loving it greatly with my big, old heart.  This year of really working hard with it, this soil and land, has tied me to it even more.  It is powerful stuff.  I felt schooled, in the best possible way.

And so today, even though some of us in this household, including myself, are under the weather after so much weather this weekend, I still feel great.  The sun is shining, I do believe we will still have plenty of lovely autumn days to come. And I do think I may just be able to relax, proper like, beside the first fire of the season, soon. And tonight for dinner, maybe we will dip into our first acorn squash too.  Both have not quite been necessary yet, but both will serve to kind of rekindle the love affair I do still want to have with this time of year after our somewhat stormy start.

And I’ll let this weekend’s deluge drain away down my back, smooth and easy, so that I can move forward without too much weight to carry, while I simultaneously keep it flooded in my veins, as all good parts of our story are, perfectly imperfect as that may be.

sunrise on sunflowers on the last day of august

sunrise, sunflowers, farm, august, end of summer“August rain:  the best of the summer gone, the new fall not yet born.

The odd uneven time.” 

Silvia Plath

September dawns tomorrow.  Many mornings this week dawned moist, cooler, with the smallest hint of changing seasons.  It is close.  The beginning of the end.  Although my own sunflowers bloomed early this year, in a year where everything was early, this morning when I woke before the rest of the house and stepped outside to catch the rising sun on the inhale, the sight of them with the kiss of sunrise on their petals really hit this truth home for me.  Autumn is coming, but not quite here.

And what makes this in between time so uneven and odd, I think, for everyone, is that we are beginning to long for the sweet, slow contraction that comes with fall.  After the way summer explodes us, opens us wide to the world, its full days and full living, we grow tired of all that expansiveness.  In spirit for sure, but as farmers, in body too, now that hours upon hours have been spent picking summer crops in the same repetitive position.  Our backs and legs begin to complain.  We begin to long for a little bit of structure and containment.  The wild abandon feels too much.  We want the growth to slow.  We want to turn inwards, face away from the sun some.

And this inkling tickles us while we wait for the world to fall in upon itself.  We know what we are letting go of~summer~is worthy of our love and we know that one of these days will mark our last swim in the river, our last chance to camp in the tent, our last outdoor summer potluck or gathering.  We know we can’t wish it away too soon because we know will miss it.  That by the end of winter we will feel all of this in reverse.  This uneven tinkering between the end and the beginning is always filled with this mild angst.

And so I fret a little myself, torn between a really strong desire to not weed another single row of vegetables for the season and to give my neglected home a thorough cleaning and an equally strong sensation of wanting this time to last forever, of wanting to harvest and preserve as much as possible, to really keep at it for as long as the sun will allow.

sunflowers, sunrise, end of summer, autumn, seasonsSunflowers are always the one for me right now, my guide, so to speak, at this time of year.  The way they follow the sun while it lasts is as good a reminder as any that this is what our trade calls us to do while we still can.  All the hay isn’t in, so to speak, we can’t quit now.  And even some cool morning weather and some fallen rain and some gentle winds that speak of change can surprisingly balance with the days that are still hot and are still long enough.  The way I told it to my market customers earlier this week was this, as the weather literally changed back and forth over and over again throughout the day, “how crazy is this day!”

Perhaps we are all going a little stir crazy, not in the exact way we are when we long for spring and call it cabin fever, but in much the same way.  We desire some time in our “cabin”, won’t that be nice.  And much like we feel when spring turns us out of doors again, amazed and refreshed, this we will feel when we do finally get to tuck in for winter.  Having to get through the crazy-making in between times only means the respite that follows will be that much sweeter.

sunflower, seasons, autumn, end of summer, august, farm

august setting: seasons on the farm

sunset, queen anne's lace, farm, farming, seasons, august “These are our few live seasons. Let us live them as purely as we can, in the present.” Annie Dillard.

A reader left this quote in the comments the last time I managed to squeeze a little time out of the day to write over here.  Annie Dillard is one of my all time favorites, and this, this was just right.  For all of our breathing moments, for sure.  But as a reminder to breathe, too.

I’ve been thinking a lot this summer about seasons.  About how much they dictate life on the farm, and about how disconnected they sometimes are from the reality of modern life.

Lazy summer days.

Not quite.  Definitely not on the farm.

Summer is the busiest of all the times.  We take breaks, here and there, as we can, but the longer than long days are filled to the brim with work.  Sun up to sun down.  Five to nine, as another farmer splendidly put it.  We squeeze in as much as our minds and bodies can manage, and as the children allow without reminding us that working in the dirt is not exactly play for them…even though it is for us.  Thankfully.

They remind us that time with friends and dips in the river are necessary parts of summer too.  As well as whole days away from the beating rhythm of the farm, at the beach or in the mountains next to a sweet, quiet lake.  We really do want it all, so we try for as much as we can.  But the truth is, we can’t fully live in two worlds, so we mostly live and breathe farming in the summer, and I often feel this crashing together of two different ways of life throughout this season that for most people signals play, but for us signals work as play.

But even more than this disjointed idea of a “summer off” that we are, by trade, removed from, the end of summer-back to school time of year feels even more disconnected from what is happening in our lives on the farm than ever.  It arrives at the time when the farm is coming to full fruition for the year, and our work, though growing shorter with the shorter days, keeps up at its summer pace, if not becomes more busy.  We don’t really quiet down out here until we are through September.

Oh, September!  The most abundant month of the year.

Even though preparing ground and sowing seeds and planting transplants is busy in the spring, and a constant job up until just now, even with it done for the year, our work load is still heavy.  Weeding won’t end until the rain comes in earnest.  And harvesting is huge right now as summer crops ripen daily.   We need more time for keeping up with that, as well as more time for selling this massive abundance of our wonderful produce, not to mention more time for preserving as much as we can for our family while this abundance is here.  We are still so busy.

But the schedule around us begins to change.  School starts, different bedtimes are in order, different daytimes too.  People seem to temporarily forget that our mid-week farmer’s market is still going on even though it is not, by their books, summer any more, and we always kind of languish a bit in our shoes, standing at our booth with the most produce of the entire year and moderately slow market traffic.

Disjointed.

The life that we lead has to be flexible and malleable in response to the natural world.  It expands, then contracts.  It is tempered to the reins of the physical seasons .  It keeps a steady beat, it keeps a yearly rhythm, but it changes vastly throughout the year, and is in no way arbitrary nor under our control.  This isn’t really how the modern, non-agricultural world keeps time.  Most of the year, for most of the folks, schedules can be kept at almost the same day to day rhythm for the entire year, with only the wild and crazy mix up of Christmas and a short “summer” to temporarily detour them from that order.

It is much different for us, and I admit, I sometimes find it hard to bend our lives to fit into the schedule of the rest of our world.  A friend and CSA member, who catalogues Medieval manuscripts, wrote to me, “The prayer books begin with a calendar, and the illuminations include a “labor of the month” for each month of the year. Summer through autumn shows farmers working in the field, cutting hay, tending crops, harvesting and crushing grapes. In December, the labor is killing the boar for the Christmas feast. In January (and sometimes Feb as well) the “labor” consists of sitting by a fire! Your schedule is far more in tune with human history and the seasons than the summer vacation that resulted from industrialization.”

And there is peace to be found, for me, in her comment.  I know we have chosen a way of life that is more like lives lived in the past and that feels good deep in our ancestral bones.  But more than that, I really do believe that what we do out here on the farm is paving the way for the future.  It feels as visionary as it is a hearkening back.  It is the straddling, in the present, that is the challenge.

The next eight weeks or so will only be more hectic and crazy than the rest of our already wildly busy, summer farming season because I have to divide my attention between our own summer farm schedule and the coming sooner than the farm’s “fall” schedule of our lives.  The thought of it makes me feel a little weak in the knees.

But, I am alive.  I can still breathe.  It will be, and always is, okay.  I love this time of year when the harvest is so amazingly full, it only makes sense that the schedule mirror that abundance and become fuller, as impossible as that seems.  The sheer putting forth of fruit from the earth at this time of year seems impossible too, but to be able to give so much in such a compressed amount of time is as simple as breathing for the earth.  I am sure I can do as much too.

Because after all of that fullness and hard-working and time squeezing, we do fall, naturally, into a very quiet time out here on the farm.  We do come to a point in the year where we have plenty of time.  We relish sitting, sitting made better because it is by the fire.  And for about two months, January and February, tending the fire day and night really is almost all of the work of the day.  Not entirely, of course.  We do have work to do year round, but for a stretch of time, in the deep of winter, we are, nearly, still.

Our schedule, although it isn’t always in step with the rest of the world, has become, for us, familiar.  I don’t fight it any more with trying to mix other people’s realities into ours.  It is comforting in its own steady and predictable way, even if I don’t have help at bedtime with my four children, whose bedtimes are near sundown in the summer, nor do we have a whole day off as a family aside from the couple of camping trips we do make time for in a summer.  We do have a lot of down time together in the winter, a lot of time to catch up on sleep and rest.

We do have lazy, winter days.

This circular rhythm, we have come to know it and love it.

It is marked by the plants growing outside and the hours of the sunrise and sunset.  The temperature.  August begins with blackberry feasts in the morning and after dinner, and ends with Queen Anne’s Lace all around, catching the last rays of the setting summer.  We won’t be tucking ourselves into autumn until the equinox.  Or even a few weeks after that since our “summer” market season continues into mid-October.  Into pumpkins and winter squash.  Then, we will rest, as a farm, and the school mom shoes will not feel too tight slipped over my field shoes and my fingers, happy for the dirt under them, will likely find more time to get inky–metaphorically speaking.

For now, I hold on to an imaginary handle bar.  The end of the roller coaster ride of the busy farm season is the wildest, and so we will aim to make it the most fun and sweet and lively too.  I’ll somehow aim to embrace the two worlds we live in by choosing this way of life, the past and the present.  And truthfully, it is three worlds to embrace, to breathe in simultaneously with each breath, everyday, because through this all I am holding the small hands of the future in mine, as well.