From seed to seed

spring, farm, farm life, pride, ego, letting goThe world around me is fully greening up now. It is a beautiful sight, all plant growth expanding, even though, as always, the wild plants and perennials take off infinitely faster than the wee little cultivated seedlings and transplants we have tucked into the fields ourselves. They are growing, certainly, but it is like watching the pot, so to speak. It is slow compared to our desire, and slow compared to the explosion of grass and weed that is so full of force and life in the spring by comparison.

Still, we have a good harvest coming in, the last push of the overwintered plants in the field are making florets now, giving us a whole other crop to eat, and the greenhouse bridges the gap by growing food fast enough while we wait for that same speed to issue forth out of doors. All green food, in spring, all great food. Spinach, lettuce, kale, turnip greens, and arugula. And wild harvests galore, because so much of the early spring weed growth is meant to be eaten, it’s true. Nettles, dandelion, wild mustard. I am making herbal vinegars with all these plants I need to pull up anyway, a nice way to hold onto all the goodness these wildings want to give away right now, even if they are growing in all the wrong places. Like we do, the earth and I, we are dancing together the dance of the season. Even the onions, right now, are green. And the garlic, too.

But it isn’t as easy to find that same green-ness in ourselves, not always, as we age, as life adds layer upon layer to our skin. I found myself in tears yesterday, in the wash station with this week’s spinach, because my oldest child is almost thirteen years old. That is only five years, by the books, five years, and there you have it, a childhood. And I know, I know, that it isn’t really left much, already, not truly even five years more. This slayed me, for some reason, out of the blue, while I worked, because his childhood is one of the most important things to me in the world.

It is so hard, this parenting gig, and I have done so many great things as a mother and so many things I wish I could take back. I started out thinking I would do everything right. I didn’t accept at all, on the outset, that life and love would be perfectly human, and that I too, must be.

But I know better than to let the sadness, the worry, wash me away, so I came inside and gave this young boy, on his way to young man, a hug. I let go. Letting go is all that we can do. Over and over and over again, the only way to keep moving forward. I have faith, too. That is just as important.

I never expect the earth to hold on to last season. I know, each spring, that we are on a new ride. Sure, I have lessons learned, I have new ideas, but that doesn’t mean it will be perfect this time round. And yet, I know, too, that I can just as surely count on things to grow, for food to be produced. The earth provides, every year, again and again, without any trace of growing older, without any hint of defeat. Without worry or weight, things just follow through, as best they can, from seed to seed.

So, must we.

 

 

springing (time to wake up)

violets, spring, farm, 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.

strawberry, spring, plant, greenhouse, farm, farmingsalad mix, baby lettuce, spring, greenhouse, farm, farmingbraising mix, greenhouse, farm, farming, springgreen onions, farm, farming, greenhouse, spring, seasonal eatingA 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.

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!

 

 

filled up, full moon

full moon, october, farm, sunset, life learning, gratitude, mindfulness, loveYou wouldn’t believe, the sky here, is so blue this October.

A new color scape for my eyes–a perfect, clear blue sky mingling with those browns and yellows and greens–I feel like I’ve never seen it before, like it is brand new.   And even though I can’t paint, I wish I could.

All my paintings right now would be of the bright green grass and the dark, green evergreens that from afar, look like someone’s quick sketch against the sky, aglow with golden light and foiled so perfectly in this autumn story against the turning leaves of those trees shedding their skin, shaking off the summer in brown and yellow.  Wondering, what parts of us are deciduous, which, ever staying?

I want to find these exact four colors and paint them like swaths next to each other and hang it on my wall so I never forget how beautiful they were, together, this fall.  The perfect combination.

By the middle of the day, if I am harvesting, I can strip down to bare my arms to this warm enough, October sun.  It is all kinds of glorious.  But in the morning,now, I must layer.  Wool, warmth, to protect me from the quick intake, the cold breath.  It takes time for me to expect, and to want, that kind of greeting from the morning air.  But it signals the season, a must.

I watch a rotund, Autumn moon rise, and know that the fields are not so full any more, but that I am, filled.

There is still a brink, but I am no longer tottering.  The kids and I are nearly in our fall groove.  It is nice.

Moving through life, things change, always.  Nothing is static.  Every three months, the world here turns itself inside out, a brand new season.  And for us, on this farm, that means a brand new rhythm.  It is good practice for living, so much change, over and over again, throughout the year.  Always moving forward, always changing, but blessed be, always in a circle.

Each time around, we know some things, and some things, we don’t.

But all this movement, all this circling, it teaches us.  We learn the big truth, that we can never just stay put.  That life is flux.

We know that all we can do at any moment in time is fill ourselves up on whatever is around us, whatever that is.  And that we can’t hold onto any of it, that we have to let things keep moving, no matter if we are ready to or want to, or even if we feel like we can”t live with all the letting go.  And we learn that even if we want to move on, that adjusting takes a lot of time and energy and is no simple thing.  We learn, really, necessity.

We know, deep in our bones now, that the deal we make with life is this, forward, forward, around, around, until eventually, we fly off the wheel.  No one moment in time contains us.  Keeping on is all we can do.

We know that holding on and digging deep, that these things only serve us if we accept them as fleeting.

That all we have is this.

Folding into a warm embrace when we can.

Laying down, and deeply tending, roots, that will and can, never hold us.

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.