burn to shine

Because truly the world is burning right now, and we are all standing in the fire. I choose now to soften all the way, to bare myself, open wide, and write it all down to make sure we know it is okay. That we are okay. More than okay, we are divine. We will always rise from the ashes.

 may day, new beginnings

It is nearly summer solstice. We, our family, here on this farm, are traveling through this season without farming for an income any longer. We are traveling around the circle of the seasons and so much is the same while so much is different.The intense push, hard in all the ways, that last season gave us to finally let that business go, that one-time dream, one-time call, has settled. The egos have survived, even when they thought they might not. Letting go has usually been something I feel I do so gracefully. But this was hard. Really hard.

Mostly because we always think we have to be something. We were farmers. We were farmers for our community. It was a big part of the way we moved inside our space. It had been our life for eight years. Our plan for more like thirteen years. And I like change. I embrace change. I daydream about change. But this threw me to the wolves. I couldn’t see clearly. I wasn’t sure. I wasn’t sure after so long holding sure like a hostage in my tightening chest and it was frightening. I somehow thought our world was going to crumble. That things were breaking.

And yet, that isn’t all the way true. What I really knew, so very deeply, was that our world was going to expand. That breaking it was necessary to enlarge it. That we needed so desperately to move on. And, goodness, the world has grown and we keep growing and our farm is still here and we are still here. Growing food for our family, spreading compost out all over our beaten hearts and healing some of the parts of life that had, like much of our farm, been neglected and overgrown.

The story is so cliche it kills me.

Farming.

It is such good honest work. It means something know matter what. And it is also so fucking hard. The money is too thin and too bare even though you are putting your heart and soul into that dirt. The awareness of the true cost, the labor, that all food is born of, is mostly lost to really all of us, even my silly farm kids living this life. There is so much to write about this. How to make the small-scale sustainable farm sustainable, for the farmers? Nourishing and not depleting, for the farmers? So many pieces still to puzzle out in this movement. I have essays going and so much to say and so much I still want to discover about something I truly believed in and hate feeling jaded about.

But here we are in June. And after all that revolutioning, inside and out, we are basking for now in the glory. The glory of a new path. Writing about farming and gardening for my family, I can still do this. I can tell the stories that are mine to tell in the hopes that we all keep moving forward. Not just the small farm and farmer, but us, the people, connected here on earth through the clay that clings to our skin and through time and space by the crying or bubbling of the stars inside us. The threads woven by words told true and with an open heart have a power of their own. They create a net that can hold us all on this journey into a new world.

Because truly the world is burning right now, and we are all standing in the fire. I choose now to soften all the way, to bare myself, open wide, and write it all down to make sure we know it will be okay. It can be uncomfortable. It should be uncomfortable. But it can be okay. We are okay. More than okay, we are divine. We will always rise from the ashes.

Burned. Grown back. It happens, and we can fight it or find our selves more truly and lovingly inside the flames.

Here’s to new beginnings.

Let’s burn to shine.

Together.

may day,new beginnings

Swallow the dew (poetry)

small farm, farming, tomatoes, play, love, redemption, poetry

Each dawn,
I breath in,
enough.
Out,
enough.

The soil loosens in my hands.

Farming has shaped us both,
this land, and I.
It has shaped us into one word, on repeat.

Enough.
Enough.
Enough.

I load the tomatoes into the crates.
I haul in grace,
pound, upon pound, upon pound.

This deal we’ve made,
it is no small deal.
I can not wash the dirt from under my nail no matter how hard I try.

No.
It is no small deal.

Tender, tended. Provider, provided. I am not sure where I begin, where the Earth ends?

My skin is stained yellow.
I smell like tomato.
I feel that someday I will be
no more than
dirt.

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!

 

 

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.

picture perfect summer’s night

It is hot this weekend.

We are sweaty and smiling, splashing in and out of the small kid’s pool in the front yard.  And spending the bulk of our late afternoons at our favorite creek, further up in the hills from the farm than the river just down our road, but better when it is really hot and the crowds are out and the colder, mountain water feels just right.  We can’t work much in the heat, so we play.  We break into the small stash of frozen raspberries and blueberries even though they were meant to be saved for winter.  We treat ourselves.  We are summering.

I love this weather.

I love the feeling of being baked, like the earth, to perfection.  I drink it in, I feel myself unfurling.  I need a good dose of it to make it through the grey Pacific Northwest winters of my adopted home.  I am, by the sun, a leo after all.

And the plants are soaking it up too.  Well watered, they love the heat just as much I do.  I feel like I can almost see them growing by the minute.

But even more than the intense middle of the day, when the temperatures peak, what I really love, and miss the most from my childhood’s Midwest summers, is the evening time during an Oregon heat wave.  Perfect summer nights, still warm, without a need for a sweater, but still cooler than the day.  If I were younger, I would just throw down some blankets on the ground and sleep outside.  If I could, I’d find some water to swim in under the moon.  Those are the kind of summer nights I love.

Last night, we walked the fields in this perfect slowing down, simmering down time of the day.  The sounds of the birds and the bugs, happy again to not be sweltering, filled the air alongside the blanket of dusk.  I had my camera back in hand after a very long two week break of lending it to the oldest boy for art camp.  I missed it, missed looking at our space through the lens, capturing this light.  I gobbled it all up and stuffed it into digital files again.  It was lovely.

This year’s growing season has been amazing.  The weather, the plantings, the success.  A true gift.  I wish we could bottle it up and pour it over ever year to come, but we know all too well that this isn’t how the game of farming works.  Nevertheless, it does feel like it was meant just for us, a balm from the universe to heal the wounds of last season, the first year that ever had us doubting our chosen profession.

Looking around last night at all the happy plants, pest free and thriving, the happy soil, the growing perennials, the beauty of our home, I almost couldn’t believe it was real.  We are truly blessed.   And we really do love what we do and all of the things that are a part of that, the good and the bad.  We are happy, despite everything that could get in the way of our happiness, and that is about the most anyone can ask for.

This place is ours.  Our vision turned reality.  The cumulation of all our choices so far.  It feels good to be able to say that we don’t regret any of it.

Last night was perfect summer’s night.  Picture perfect, yes, as captured in photos.  But more than that, it was, just like any other night in our lives, imperfectly perfect.  It was us walking our land. Food growing, and weeds too. Naked small people running around that I couldn’t take pictures of, sometimes stepping in the rows, sometimes running through the wild.  They were stitching their own sense of summer into their bare skin.  My only hope for them, and for all of you, is that there are enough golden moments in the journey to always make the whole thing seem to shine.

farm, farming, csa, field, summer, summer night

 Shining view of our lower field.  We’ve planted more space down there than ever before this year.  This golden, golden year.

farm, farm life, father, son

Down the hill with papa on a perfect summer night.

tomatoes, farming, farm, csa, organic farming

All kinds of tomatoes growing, growing, growing.   And not too many weeds, hooray!

carrots, beets, lettuces, succession planting, farm, farming

Succession plantings=success!   Carrots, beets, lettuces.   These, we keep planting every few weeks into September. 

salad mix, lettuce, farm, farming

Up close, salad mix.  And they all lived together in a little crooked house.

lettuce, field, farm, farming

Even sprouting up in the wrong place, she grows.  Lettuces are almost as beautiful to me as flowers.

cabbage, farming, farm

Red rock cabbage, even though you are behind schedule, the color of your leaves will always make me swoon.

irrigation, farming, farm

We make do, it is what we do.  Meaning, no fancy irrigation equipment here!

sprouts, succession planting, farm, farming

We were once this fragile too.

tomatillos, farm, farming

Tomatillos make me drool! 

green beans, farming, farm

Beautiful bean planting, so healthy and happy, and no pests.  Good.

love, farming, farmer, green beans, farm

I really am loving this year’s bean plantings.  And every year, more and more, I love this farmer too.

view, farm, farming, home, love

This is our home.  Sweet, sweet, home.