Archives for the month of: June, 2010

 

XVII

The days aren’t discarded or collected, they are bees
that burned with sweetness or maddened
the sting: the struggle continues,
the journeys go and come between honey and pain.
No, the net of years doesn’t unweave: there is no net.
They don’t fall drop by drop from a river: there is no river.
Sleep doesn’t divide life into halves,
or action, or silence, or honor:
life is like a stone, a single motion,
a lonesome bonfire reflected on the leaves,
an arrow, only one, slow or swift, a metal
that climbs or descends burning in your bones.”
— Pablo Neruda

At a snail’s pace, these things happen. Slow Food. Longest days of the year sunsets over the prairie. Healing and moving forward and letting go. Mulching the nicolas. I am so very often reminded this season of what it means to take my time. How so many of us wrestle with the demands we pit ourselves against, and lose track of how precious and luxurious life becomes with a natural indulgence of tempered allowance – of space for one’s self, for breath, for honoring movement. In utilizing the thesaurus (the volume contiues to remain at the top of my list of all time favorite books) I return to the unfortunate connection of the embodiment of the word “slow” with so many negative associations: backward, draggy, dull, inactive, drawn-out, sluggish, stagnant, time-consuming, unintelligent, obtuse, unresponsive. It’s no wonder we are immersed in a society averse to such a philosophy – what is good about slow? On a side note, when did-time-consuming get such a bad rap? Isn’t time the one thing we are blessed with options boarding infinity in doing something with – every single one of our moments epitomizes an insatiable consumption of time with activity, inactivity, emotion, embrace, inspiration, creativity, expectation, self criticism, “delicious ambiguity” and day dreams.

Well, many of us had a good plenty of wonderful reasons to partake in slow. We were a part of the annual Slow Food Solstice event at the Dream Farm – Paul and Sarah and Lisa among others spent the day preparing the place for us in pouring rain and emboldened wind, to have the sun arrive on cue – about 5:30 that evening. It could not have been more gorgeous. So much to be said for reconnecting with the souls and smiles that remind you of why you find yourself in the space you do – even if you feel at continual odds with over-commitment and recovering from perfectionism – that this is what the granduers of life are all about. A pleasant reminder. I mean, a rich and filling me to the point of overflowing love of the oneness of this whole damn mess of life. All the trouble and pain and injustice and insecurities melt away in this space. It is nothing short of sacred. We should slow down more often.

“Let us toast to animal pleasures, to escapism, to rain on the roof and instant coffee, to unemployment insurance and library cards, to absinthe and good-hearted landlords, to music and warm bodies and contraceptives… and to the “good life”, whatever it is and wherever it happens to be.”   -Hunter S. Thompson

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“Seek not that the things which happen should happen as you wish; but wish the things which happen to be as they are, and you will have a tranquil flow of life.” — Epictetus

When I started out with this blog this morning, prior to finding the opening and closing quotes, I had the most grand intentions of writing about the excitement of barometric charges and the entertainment of my cat, Persephone, seemingly playing shadow puppets in the mud room last evening, but then I stumbled back upon the writings of (not by, mind you) Epictetus and was pulled back into the vortex of his thoughts and of Stoic philosophy (the last time I indulged was in 2006 on a delightful visit to Milwaukee), so this entry may, by in large, be far removed from my original intentions. This just fit.

Eudaimonia” – flourishing. Happiness. I’m drawn to it. Flourishing, as in the plants are, and in the midst of them, I am. There are other points in my weeks that I don’t feel that so much, but that I strive to understand what it is in my way of thinking that constrains that ebullience. But, therein seems to lie the answer as I see the words tumble out onto the screen. It is in the thinking that the flourishing is being relegated, when in the most simple and profound reality flourishing exists purely in the feeling, in the experience, not in the confines of the mind. This definitely takes practice. Every day I remind myself to sit with my experiences. Don’t let my mind wander (which seems to wreak a little havoc with the blogging creativity), but to “be with the tomatoes” – how do they smell, how does it feel, what is the entirety of my physical and human experience. Alexi Murdoch says it well with his music, “I am just a spirit trying to be human.” Try is the key word.

I particularly enjoyed this excerpt from the “Publisher’s Notes” from the book Enchiridion. “In the Stoic view, our capacity to be happy is entirely dependent on ourselves – how we treat ourselves, how we relate to others and how we react to events in general. Events are good and bad only in terms of our reaction to them. We must not try to predict or control what happens, but merely to accept events with equanimity. The only thing we control is our will, and God has given us a will that cannot be influenced or thwarted by external events – unless we allow it. We are not responsible for the ideas or events that present themselves, but only for the ways in which we act on them. ‘God’ in this case is not the divine being of Judeo-Christian theology, but a material immanence conceived as a fiery breath infused in all things.”

It is with the intention of being present that I am continually practicing with the hopes that one day it is my way of being that I trekked into the garden for the market’s harvest. Happily so in retrospect of the culmination of weather events (hail, tornadoes, intense downbursting winds, torrential downpours)  in the evening.

I am just absolutely thrilled with my time in my garden. There is something incredible about being amongst the seeds you start – this is probably carries over quite nicely into all realms of “seeds”, but this is my intensive. This photo is of beets and Red Russian kale – which was planted 1) because I like it and 2) in homage to Tiffany who is making her home in Bend, OR. She had such beautiful kale on her table under our shared tent last year that the market presentation would take on quite an emptiness without it… so I am growing four different varieties! 🙂 This weeks market table will be adorned with Red Russian kale, Scotch blue kale, arugula, loose leaf lettuce (probably the last cutting from this planting – the next planting between rows of Bloody Butcher corn is just emerging), sweet snow peas, onions and BEETS! This is excitement, folks! Not only have I never grown beets before, but I feel like I’m fotunate in how early they are making their appearance.I have also been experimenting with the time of day that I harvest. Last week I harvested in the evening, presuming upon the theory that the plant is acquiring sunlight throughout the day and stockpiling stores of energy to move it through the night, that the end of the day would be when the plant is most powerful. This week I harvested at the middle of the day. I observed a significant difference in the plants. This may have been contributed to by 40 mile and hour winds and 85 degree temperatures as well – Mother Nature institutes so many damn variables. I am also looking forward to learning more about biodynamics and harvesting according to the moon – there are days that are better for leaves, for roots, for fruits – supposedly this enhances the flavor and storage of the item harvested. This investigation may have to wait for implimentation until next year, but for now the proverbial seed is planted, and it is in my consciousness when I am harvesting.

In my kale harvest, I was coming across a fair amount of leaves that were less than market worthy. Ah-ha! The chickens will love me! I harvested an ice cream pail full of greens for them and then promptly went to visit. At the sound of my voice Ruby, Willy, Wonka and two of the G.G.’s (Golden Girls) clamored to the door of their pen… can you tell they are ridiculously spoiled? I scattered the leaves about the ground and they happily went to pecking them apart. Lovely little beasts. I also decided it was a good day for my first-ever egg checking. Yes, I say that with a sigh and relief as I unencumber myself with the admission that I have not visited the chickens in their coop in over a year – since they were fuzzy little chicks! Mom and Shane are both very diligent in tending to them, and I haven’t had a particular absorption with them, so I have remained a distant, albeit appreciative, consumer of their most wonderful culinary contribution.  This is one of the G.G.’s quietly tending to keeping her egg. I let her. Hope to see you at the market on Saturday morning. I will continue my shameless plugging of the Downtown Mason City Market in it’s new-this-year lovely locale, City Park, just north of the Southbridge Mall, from 9am until noon. There will be live music AND, another shameless plug, a free tai chi class in the middle of the park at 11am with the gentleman I am studying Chinese Wellness Arts with and owner of Mason City Wellness Center, Glen Hepker. Do make it a point to come – it’s a wonderful experience in being present!

“What we need are more people who specialize in the impossible.”
— Theodore Roethke


“The moment we begin to fear the opinions of others and hesitate to tell the truth that is in us, and from motives of policy are silent when we should speak, the divine floods of light and life no longer flow into our souls.” — Elizabeth Cady Stanton

A lovely afternoon in the garden planting sweet potatoes and still trying to make a dent in that blue angel food cake that Aunt Kathryn (Dad’s sister) made for the celebration of his life – a favorite of his for birthdays as a child. As you can see, it goes with everything including white wine. This picture was taken on May 9th, the day following a most wonderful gathering of friends and family in the most unlikely fashion. I tell you, I have never in my life felt more grateful for my place in it. This was a day of the most beautiful outpouring of love and support and sharing of spirit. Neighbors, making me most grateful to be amongst this amidst conventional farms, as much as I do not align myself with the tenets of such practices, our neighbors are real and present and a big part of our farming support system – we have a reputation of eccentricity to uphold, and I’m sure they won’t let us let them down. 🙂 I received two phone calls that morning from folks that Dad had meant something to – and they shared their stories and we laughed and we were brought together – a great and generous gift – thank you, Dad. The day following was a bit more lovely as far as the weather was to be concerned and after the scare of a hard frost the night before, I felt fairly safe and justified in my confidence that it would be the last. The potatoes took it on the hop and the flint corn looked questionable, but both came roaring back with intentional vigor, not to let a little frost inhibit the manic energy of the annual.

Kathryn and Tom helped me planting. These sweet spuds had much doting over – there was just no way they were going to not thrive… even though they seemed to threaten such for the first week. The garden is ALL PLANTED!! This is such a wonderful and amazing statement to be able to make. I have never been able to honestly say it in years priot. Not only is it planted, but it is maintained, AND somehow it managed to consume the same 75′ x 75′ as last year – with lovely plots of flax and oats and sunflowers (thanks to Meg’s planting last year – these are self planted beauties!). I have a good crop of Nicola potatoes – one of the only potato varieties with minimal impact on the glycemic response – this studying holistic nutrition (for those of you not aware, I am currently in the professional training program through the Institute of Integrative Nutrition in NYC for my certification in holistic health counseling) has created a whole new criteria for growing and selling at the market. If I don’t feel it would benefit my health, I have huge reservations about selling it to anyone else. This means I am not making more preserves because I don’t like the sugar. I mean, I am crazy about the sugar, and that in and of itself is a big red flag to me. So, yes, white potatoes, not entirely bad, but have a lot of room for improvement, and this is where the Nicola comes in. If you want to familiarize yourself a bit more, check out this link: http://breastcancer.about.com/od/cancerfightingfoods/a/potatoes.htm – I am growing these potatoes mainly as a seed potato crop for the Albert Lea Seed House. They are pretty rare as far a potatoes goes – I’m looking forward to taste testing soon!

My brother, my nephew, the dog – these guys hang out and grill and play the guitar and sing while I’m in the garden. Next to the chorus of meadowlarks, bobolinks and red wing blackbirds, it is the sweetest sound. I have no doubt that the plants grow stronger and ever more resilient because they are exposed so the beautiful vibrations and energetic wave lengths. We are eating well this season. As are the folks at the market! I am having a swell season at the Mason City Downtown Farmer’s Market from 9-12 on Saturdays. I even had a good day in the pouring rain last week – as in I was under a tent and still my skirt was wet up to my knees! I have some new jewelry pieces, which I have been having great fun with and a great response to, and my horseradish didn’t last long – I am hoping to process another batch this week. I have taken Swiss chard, four kinds of kale, loose leaf lettuce, rhubarb, onions, purslane, wild spinach (aka lambsquater), arugula and sweet snow peas for produce, beautiful bouquets harvested from the old farmsteads in the neighborhood, the prairie across the road and some ditches worthy of traipsing around in for phlox and sedges and alfalfa also decorate the table the the arms of some lucky folks. If I’m diligent in my preparation I have homemade crackers, too. Hmm, that’s a long list. I am surprised to accomplish it most weeks on top of studies and an actual pseudo-real job (3 days a week 8-5… still pulling weeds and washing produce, however).

So, perhaps there are those of you out there wondering what is going on with the farming and conservation efforts. Well, the rain has put a bit of a damper on things… hoping it will hold off enough of June for us to get our last two (that is out of three!) fields of annuals planted by the deadline for field certification. We are making our father proud keeping in the tradition of experimenting with new crops. This year we put in 8 acres of teff – an annual (at this latitude) grass originating from Africa, where there it is primarily grown for grain. You can find it in aisle 13 at Hy-Vee West in Mason City if you want to experiment with it in the kitchen. 🙂 At least it was there the last I checked. I picked up two bags of teff along with six bags of millet at the Seed House that is to be planted down by the cottonwood trees.

The eight acres of teff is a nice fuzzy green – we were fortunate in the timing of planting – I think it got in about one day ahead of the seemingly endless precip. Went out to check the eight acres of prairie that Dad planted close to this time last year and it’s coming along nicely – there are a lot of black eyed Susans looking close to bloom and a few patches of native grasses amongst the bushy, brilliant green clumps of reed canary. Wish I could say the same about the 40 acres of reed canary hay. Just one 8 acre plot over (across the winter rye) the field has been absolutely decimated by what we are suspecting to be armyworms. What on earth are the armyworms here to teach me? This is the question. This field has been established for close to ten years – Dad must have put it in before he got so anti-monocropping, which he subsequently engrained into my brother and I. So, we are currently in touch with some entomologists at Iowa State and Illinois and I am sending specimens off in the next day for verification. Hoping we can mow the stems and with any luck the next generation will move on to another field (preferable not one of ours). One fellow thought this could well be described as a “freak” incident, which I am definitely hoping to believe. We refuse to spray, not only because this is the chunk of ground we have under organic certification exemption, but also because we are just so damn hell bent against such blasphemy. 🙂 All will be well – we will manage, in the mean time we scratch our heads and try to figure out how to protect ourselves from a repeat episode in the future.

I’ll leave you in these wee hours with a picture of one of my most treasured places. Gladfelter in the low light of the setting June sun. Ah. Even for an endlessly busy girl it’s distracting enough to pull over to the side of the road and just sit and breathe it all in.

“Sometimes I think the world has gone completely mad. And then I think, ‘Aw, who cares?’ And then I think, ‘Hey, what’s for supper?”
— Jack Handey
“You must live in the present, launch yourself on every wave, find your eternity in each moment. Fools stand on their island of opportunities and look toward another land. There is no other land; there is no other life but this.”
Henry David Thoreau