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“Life will break you. Nobody can protect you from that, and living alone won’t either, for solitude will also break you with its yearning. You have to love. You have to feel. It is the reason you are here on earth. You are here to risk your heart. You are here to be swallowed up. And when it happens that you are broken, or betrayed, or left, or hurt, or death brushes near, let yourself sit by an apple tree and listen to the apples falling all around you in heaps, wasting their sweetness. Tell yourself you tasted as many as you could.”  – Louise Erdich

This quote makes me giggle imagining. Sitting under this apple tree amongst dirt and lady bugs (real ones, not those lady beatles that make a mess of things and hide in the siding) with the juicy sweetness of apples all over my cheeks and down my chin, checking to miss the soft spots and worm holes in the apples scattered about the ground, making sure I miss not a one. In a way, I guess, in the spreading myself quite thin over a number of curiosities, I strive for the same – a little sweetness from all that garners my attention.

The garden by moonlight has a beautiful sweetness all its own. This is what I am immersed in – the nearly full moon bathes me (and whoever I can get lucky enough to talk into helping me!) at the wane of an evening harvest. It’s luxurious. This place is so seep-into-your-bones beautiful. The birds accompany twilight in singing and swooping for a veritable meal (they aren’t eating enough mosquitoes in my opinion).

The cucumber beatles did a number on the melon and squash planting. Thankfully Dad’s self seeded pumpkins were big enough to not skip a beat – they are even flowering, which absolutely astounds and humbles me. I liberated them a bit from the encroaching pigweed last night. I think that made them pretty happy. I am tempted to replant the squash and melons varieties that were not so fortunate to withstand the assault. I have decided to utilize a biodynamic planting calendar – that is planting by the phase of the moon. For me, the greatest significance in this is that I get ever more connected to what is happening in my midst that for the majority of my life I blindly raged beyond in my carrying on of dailies. This gives me such peace and grounding – to tie myself and my garden to this persistent and dependable cycle. Herein, however, lies the challenge: plant squashes between the waxing of the third quarter and the full moon… the last full moon was only on the 26th of June… which means, patience, patience, patience, then hope like hell everything grows to maturity before the (cross-your-fingers) late frost. 🙂 Global warming, right? So, I’m hoping that biodynamic really give a boost and boon to the seed if I plant it appropriately… this is my grand challenge to that system and my great experiment of the summer…. beyond straight rows and tilling.

There has been a lovely sweetness to work as well. Even in my recalcitrance to it. This is my pseudo-job that I eluded to previously. Before going to work at One Step At A Time Gardens (see a link to their site below) it had been OVER A YEAR since I had endeavored to work for anyone but myself. My dad, my mom, my stepfather, both grandfathers, my aunt, my uncle – all entrepreneurs, all self engaged and self employed… I told my brother that it’s just not in our blood to work for other people. He laughs. I’m half-ass serious. So, even though I love the outside, I think the people I work for and with are better than the best I could ask for, I still begrudgingly sally forth to my 8 hour shift. Often a chunk of these 8 hours are spent weeding… which I typically follow with another couple of hours of the same in my own garden… It has been enlightening to see, though, that even people gardening for production for seemingly eons have weeds… I mean, BIG weeds! (a sign of good fertility I imagine) They were crowding out broccoli and cauliflower and cabbage that was pretty well established. Opportunity! Brian is comical on a regular basis. He coined Cauliflower Liberation Front, the CLF, and this evolved into the Vegetable Liberation Front as we moved into various beds. It could have been a consequence of the heat and weeding induced delirium, but by the end of 3 and a half straight hours of liberation and sun we were rolling with laughter. I am quite sure my cheeks hurt my than my hamstrings. He did a demonstration of proper thistle pulling technique, Eli chimes in with use of the Eye of the Tiger as theme song, consideration of recruitment of Levi, the 15 year old fella that lives across the pond (not the Atlantic, but East Twin Lake) who is big into film making – an opening scene of each of us striding down a row in black shades and a full tote of weeds and a real gem is born. We laugh over  how we could imitate CNN clips of Al Qaeda training video clips that inevitably show soldiers training over monkey bars (this was unbeknownst to myself as a non-tv watcher these days, but I was laughing, as politically inappropriate as that may be, please forgive me. :)) as inspiration for our VLF training film. Oh, we have fun. That laughter is so good for the soul, so I guess I will keep going to work and pulling my share of weeds.

My garden was graced with these two sweet and lovely maidens, Jess and Colleen. They just happened to travel 1,382 miles from Boston to get there. I like to think it was the soul mission of the trip. Makes me feel special. Really Jess is moving to Portland and I happened to be a nice mid-way stopping off spot – I mean, if the garden wasn’t going to pull them in, for sure the World’s Largest Bullhead was an irresistable enticement! 🙂

This last sweet piece of life that I want to share with you today includes my family’s tendency to change recognized holidays to days that fit better with our getting together. 🙂 That would include, this year, both Mother’s Day and Father’s Day. Each we decided we were going to celebrate one week late. Seth and Timothy come over to Mom and Shane’s every other Sunday – Father’s Day was not one of them. 🙂 We celebrate family by hanging laundry together in the summer. Just kidding. It was intermission in the croquet game really. The guys in my family are ruthless. Shane and Seth duke it out sending each other down the hill alternately. Tim at one point was behind both Mom and I, Seth had already completed the course and was “poison” and Shane was to follow. Tim was lamenting over the fact that he was dreading that Seth and Shane were going to target him first – I asked him why he supposed that, and his reply, bless his soul because I gave him a really hard time and used more sarcasm than most ten year olds should have to hear, was that he was the dude. I was laughing. He was not the first victim of the “poison.”

The title of this blog comes from the dash of my truck. My sweetgrass plot is beautiful and thriving and I hand mowed yesterday. My truck is full of the musky vanilla aroma as the grass wilts and dries in the magnified sun, and my trusty (but faded) little red bird rides with me reminding me to savor the moments of life. The bird symbolic of the cycles of 12, also embodies peace, love, grace and the confidence that all is as it should be. Deep breath.

“Are wild strawberries really wild? Will they scratch an adult, will they snap at a child? Should you pet them, or let them run free where they roam? Could they ever relax in a steam-heated home? Can they be trained to not growl at the guests? Will a litterbox work or would they make a mess? Can we make them a Cowberry, herding the cows, or maybe a Muleberry pulling the plows, or maybe a Huntberry chasing the grouse, or maybe a Watchberry guarding the house, and though they may curl up at your feet oh so sweetly can you ever feel that you trust them completely? Or should we make a pet out of something less scary, like the Domestic Prune or the Imported Cherry, Anyhow, you’ve been warned and I will not be blamed if your Wild Strawberries cannot be tamed.” – Shel Silverstein

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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

“You do not have to be good.
You do not have to walk on your knees
for a hundred miles through the desert, repenting.
You only have to let the soft animal of your body
love what it loves.
Tell me about despair, yours, and I will tell you mine.
Meanwhile the world goes on.
Meanwhile the sun and the clear pebbles of the rain
are moving across the landscapes,
over the prairies and the deep trees,
the mountains and the rivers.
Meanwhile the wild geese, high in the clean blue air,
are heading home again.
Whoever you are, no matter how lonely,
the world offers itself to your imagination,
calls to you like the wild geese, harsh and exciting –
over and over announcing your place
in the family of things.” — Mary Oliver

It’s been two months; that seems like a long pause to me. Even though those two months seem to have come and gone through me like a deep breath. Each day has been long and patient and full in the living of my moments, and in looking back they have so sweetly melded into such a beautiful medley, like how lasagna gets better with time. All full of emotion, exuberance on the spread of the spectrum. Three nice days in October. One of them was the 17th and we pressed apple cider.

Charles McLaughlin, my lifetime neighbor just a quarter mile north of my Dad’s place was an absolutely wonderful host. He is 91. An agrarian his entire life, an avid conservationist and visionary – helped author the CRP program, was a founding board member of the Iowa Natural Heritage Foundation, has walls full of plaques and awards and a life full of admirers and love – and a great many more who have never met the man, but yet hold him in the highest of regards and respect. And me, I have the dumb luck to have been raised as his neighbor. As a child we were allowed in the milking parlor on our best behavior, and we drank fresh Jersey milk out of red plastic mugs, and twenty years ago we pressed cider and it was a special event to feed the apple mush to the younger cows and Daisy and Folly, the horses.

So many wonderful people shared in that day – even some not physically present, but we carried them in spirit. Seth, Tim, Mom, Mary, Lisa, Lydia, Gabe, Sammy, Jana, Rachel, Tom, Andy, their dog Nelly, Paul, Daryl, Claude and Shelly. My close friend, Sarah, we held there – we used the paring knife she sent me for my birthday. I used a beautiful bowl that Tiffany had made to hold cinnamon and sugar for dipping apples. I wore the earings that Christen gave me for my birthday. We used the rooster plates from Dad’s. Chuck didn’t come out to press cider, but studied for his upcoming INHF board meeting, so we all took turns to visit and share our gratitude with him.

Tim and Sam recharge with hot chocolate – they were ace hopper tenders. Gabe presses. Seth took the charge of making sure all life, limbs and extremities were preserved and in tact. Andy filled jugs. Chuck, legally blind, but fervently in tune, watched Nelly fetch. Claude and Gabe climbed apple trees. Mom and Shelly caught apples. Tom and Paul brought apples with them to share. The trees we pulled apples from on Chuck’s farm have been there longer than my memory allows – they were only numbers at the time they were planted – experimental varieties from the University of Minnesota. I was again reminded of how good it is to be the “kid” even at 31, but always in Chuck’s eyes, as no one else has ever been allowed to PICK apples off the tree – it has always been off the ground, because that’s how you know their ripe… and I had forgotten this, and somehow in small towns word gets round, and counterparts to your parents pass this word on that they might be a bit (good naturedly) envious to your parents, and you get that word and fill up. With good. With pride. With love. There was so much wonderful on that day. I got to Dad’s to dump my truckload of apple mush on the compost pile and to share some of the very freshest cider with Dad, and he immediately asks me, as was his tendency for the statistics, how much? I have no real idea, as I’m not much of a numbers gal for a finance major, and I said enough for everyone, which was all I needed to know.

October was full. November started out that way. Dad’s health was failing. The garden was neglected. Potatoes. There are still potatoes frozen hard into the ground – in-garden-compost – I should find the Latin for that and coin it, use it in speeches of managed practice. I troubled to bring in sugar pumpkins and some spaghetti squash and a Garden Way cart full of potatoes – Blues, Yellow Finns, La Ratte fingerlings. Tom came to visit and brought bulbs. We planted them along the south side of the house. They will be beautiful in the coming year.

Dad passed away on the 7th of November. I couldn’t have chosen more fittingly a father who I will carry with me always. I know Seth feels the same. We are so blessed to have had so many wonderful years with a man who knew about filling his. We carry on his projects and his love of the land, his sense of good stewardship, his connection and bond with his community. His presence missed by us, but by the whole – so many kind words of condolence from friends of his, of ours, from family, but we all know we will all miss. We are all the better for having shared in this journey with him.

Yet another project inspired a bit by Dad. He planted a pumpkin patch this year – six hills – it yielded 70 pumpkins – good fertile soil in that composted cattle lot. We went out last Sunday and hacked open half of those frozen pumpkins and with equally frozen hands dug out the innards to take into the house to sort and thaw. Tuesday, before the big blizzard came to fruition I was out there with my ax and hand trowel cleaning up the rest of what was salvageable. I roasted pumpkin seeds for two straight days! Vinegar and sea salt. Cinnamon and cayenne pepper. Soy sauce and ginger. Coconut and curry. Dark chocolate and chili. Bloody mary seeds with fresh horseradish. Plus, some seeds are being saved and dried for next year’s pumpkin patch. I love this idea of saving Dad’s seeds and planting a patch in his memory and each year harvesting and saving seeds to repeat the process.

I want to say thank you to everyone. To everyone who has supported or doubted or participated or rolled their eyes, because really, the only reason you do any of these is because you care. I am constantly surround by, bathed in and overflowing from all of the love you give. My patience, my strength, my humbled moments come from this wealth of companionship, care, community. I am, for lack of a word that more fully encompasses the enormity, blessed. Endlessly. Ame de la Terre will continue postings as the garden venture evolves. I am moving to the Twin Cities in January to pursue my certification in massage therapy. I will be living with a friend who has a back yard, a small garden and a need for plants… hmmm… 🙂 I’m ordering my sweet potatoes now.

“The father wants the girl to be a weather girl on television, or to marry and have babies. She doesn’t want to be a TV weather girl. Nor does she want to marry and have babies. Not yet. Maybe later, but there are so many other things she must do in her lifetime first. Travel. Learn how to dance the tango. Publish a book. Live in other cities. Win a National Endowment for the Arts award. See the Northern Lights. Jump out of a cake.” — Sandra Cisneros (The House on Mango Street) (my regards to Aurora, CO, to living off Colfax, to Mr. Hofsess on this one).

“One final paragraph of advice: do not burn yourselves out. Be as I am – a reluctant enthusiast….a part-time crusader, a half-hearted fanatic. Save the other half of yourselves and your lives for pleasure and adventure. It is not enough to fight for the land; it is even more important to enjoy it. While you can. While it’s still here. So get out there and hunt and fish and mess around with your friends, ramble out yonder and explore the forests, climb the mountains, bag the peaks, run the rivers, breathe deep of that yet sweet and lucid air, sit quietly for a while and contemplate the precious stillness, the lovely, mysterious, and awesome space. Enjoy yourselves, keep your brain in your head and your head firmly attached to the body, the body active and alive, and I promise you this much; I promise you this one sweet victory over our enemies, over those desk-bound men and women with their hearts in a safe deposit box, and their eyes hypnotized by desk calculators. I promise you this; You will outlive the bastards.” — Edward Abbey

kayaking coffee

Autumn. She’s here in full force – the cold rain a stark reminder of progress according to seasons at this latitude. It has been a long time since I have posted. So many things have manifested since my last opportunity. A lot of kayaking. That was my saving grace, the integration of balance – a little after the fact as “burnout” left its lingering mark – but, nonetheless a learning experience – after all, I remember a quote along the lines of “we only learn our limits by going beyond them”.

stephanie

This is my best friend, Stephanie. On a still and beautiful morning at Crystal Lake when we were in “training”. She spent a number of years as a naturalist professionally, also, so we compliment each other well in our curious  and curiousity of nature, and can usually identify for one another the flora and fauna of the little ecosystem. I say in training because since the last time I wrote I turned 31 and I participated in my first triathlon/adventure race. Really, during the race I was realizing I had been terribly negligent in actually training – more for the running and bicycling portion – the kayaking was the relaxing and enjoyable part, as usual. About 27 miles in total. Stephanie, her sister Laura, and myself. We stayed together and finished together – it was a great way to spend a morning – completely outside… even if 15 miles of bike riding on Iowa blacktops surrounded by corn and beans gets a little monotonous.my last saturdayWe had our last Saturday market together the week before my birthday-  there is our good friend, Carol, perusing the offering: winter squash, Red Russian kale, lemon cucumbers, Ukranian Beauty eggplant, heirloom tomatoes. There is a lot of good energy around this Saturday market, and a lot of people working very hard at helping it evolve into an event – with more traffic, more vendors, more entertainment and engagement. We are moving in the right direction. We just really need to get a buzz about it – keep spreading the word – write to the editor, attend community events – such as the Taste of Iowa that was held at the fairgrounds last week. Stay in the loop. Stay active. Bring your friends. There is ALWAYS delicious food (of course there aren’t any of us that are involved that are not below stooping to using the stomach, tastebuds and conscience to lure interest!). I was graciously invited to attend the fall meeting of the Regional Food Systems Working Group help at the Iowa Arboretum this past week (if you have not visited the arboretum south of Ames, it’s a must-do for the priority list!). It was so fantastic for me to be there listening and absorbing all that is happening in the state of Iowa for the local food movement. There is a lot of excitement and enthusiasm for the Food to School Program. In our area we are arriving to the necessity of a dedicated local foods coordinator. There is so much to be done. The momentum is here.rainbow salsa

Speaking of local foods – the tomatoes are here in full force. I have been a slave to the kitchen many mornings – creating sauces (sometimes with roasted vegetables like Thelma Sanders Sweet Potato Squash, eggplant, carrots, onions and zucchini) and salsa, like the one pictured above, affectionately referred to as rainbow salsa. Red, yellow, orange and green tomatoes make a lovely combination in flavor and aspect. This batch I tried to make particularly spicy with jalapeno and Habanero peppers.gingerAnd today I finally potted my ginger. I read an article stating at how easy it was to get ginger to root from a store bought rhizome, and I have to contend it is easy… if one has good, fresh stock. This was my third attempt. I bought this ginger at the co-op in Ames. It has been sitting in a jar in the bathtub upstairs for a good 4-6 weeks patiently waiting for me to come across an appropriate container, and the to actually alot time to tend it. Finally. I did. Maybe in a year I will be harvesting my very own fresh ginger! A key ingredient in that ever popular strawberry jalapeno jam. 🙂

“How to Overthrow the System: brew your own beer; kick in your Tee Vee; kill your own beef; build your own cabin and piss off the front porch whenever you bloody well feel like it.” — Edward Abbey
“Nothing was ever in tune. People just blindly grabbed at whatever there was: communism, health foods, zen, surfing, ballet, hypnotism, group encounters, orgies, biking, herbs, Catholicism, weight-lifting, travel, withdrawal, vegetarianism, India, painting, writing, sculpting, composing, conducting, backpacking, yoga, copulating, gambling, drinking, hanging around, frozen yogurt, Beethoven, Back, Buddha, Christ, TM, H, carrot juice, suicide, handmade suits, jet travel, New York City, and then it all evaporated and fell apart. People had to find things to do while waiting to die. I guess it was nice to have a choice.”
Charles Bukowski (Women)
I can hardly believe how much I had forgotten that I am most thoroughly riveted with the wit, wisdom and sarcasm embraced by Mr. Bukowski. How true it is that we find distraction, and if so fortunate, an embedded passion that drives us, and carries on in spite of us. My friend, Lisa, recently reiterated a statement and philosophy fulfilled and thriving in the life of a good friend of hers: “if your life’s work can be completed in your lifetime, you’re not thinking big enough.”  Beautiful. True. Impellent.
This past week was not full of marketing ambition, but of sharing the bounty of garden and local foraging with a diverse crowd – which to me is far more rewarding – if I could give everything in my garden away to those who know the effort and toil required, the wealth of heart and soul that is poured into the land and the raising of plants from seed, who understand the full empowerment of knowing how cared for the land is and in turn how wonderful and reciprocating the plants are in appreciation with the explosive flavor of the fruit – that is satisfaction, that is remuneration.sweet corn
Out the kitchen window it appeared that sweet corn shucking was a bonding experience for the circle of folks involved. Activity was abound in the house for the duration of both Thursday and Friday. Thursday was filled with flour flinging and apples – Phyllis, Tiffany and I in team effort created a dozen beautiful apple pies that had the rustic beauty of giant galettes – I will never waste time trying to make a magazine worthy pie crust again, as these had so much more character, so much flare. I also learned the importance of chilling the pie crust before trying to roll it out, and that if you add a little vodka to the crust mix, say a tablespoon, it will encourage it to brown beautifully. We also boiled pots upon pots of potatoes – blue, red, yellow – on a questionable-at-best new gas stove… Phyllis was not a happy camper – so much so that she allowed them to come at 3:45p on Friday to replace it! In the midst of the cooking extravaganza with guests filtering in… unbelievable in phenomenal transitional cheffing  and hilarity.
culianry art

Thursday evening was epic in scope, and soul gratifying in affirmation. That evening I ventured out to the prairie with Paul, Sofia, Dick, Craig and Graham. Paul was giving a descriptive tour to Craig and Graham (both currently of NYC) who are filming for a documentary they are producing about meat in America – Sofia, Paul and Phyllis’ grand-daughter, stole the show with her broadknowledge of monarchs and how to identify their gender. I learned, also, that the monarchs have a favorite forbe on the prairie and that is the Meadow Blazing Star – of no relation whatsoever, I also learned that Patagonia, AZ is the hummingbird capital of the world, with 41 species embarking upon the locale. The evening was appropriately interrupted twice with intermissions in the meal and clean up for proper sunset appreciation – indeed it was spectacular, and as antiquated became more entrancing – we should all be so lucky!fashion sense

Friday morning arrived, and the harvest was on – squash blossoms, sweet corn, heirloom tomatoes, pattipan squash, lemon cucumbers and edible flowers were among the measure. Phyllis eased us into the morning with a proper cup of coffee and fashion sense to be adorned by all – including Paul and Sarah. 🙂 The day was full of cutting, chopping, baking and frying; camera crews, random conversation, laughter and winks. I mixed a large pot of colorful and addicting potato salad by getting into it bare handed up to my elbows – I convinced that’s why it tasted so good! Jobs were delegated throughout the day – Daryl chopped cucumbers, the guys (Craig and Graham) got in on tomato chopping, as did Annie (in the squash blossom cooking photo) who kept us rolling with laughter – Annie and Tiffany were also responsible for the incredibly popular creations of fried squash blossoms – complimented as appetizers by the grilled Santa Fe peppers (fresh from Tiffany’s garden five miles as the crow flies) stuffed with cream cheese, sweet onions, olive oil, salt and pepper – grilled by me… who had no idea of what I was doing other than to just make them look good – lucky for me I have an eye for good looking food! 🙂 Presentation plus as a former customer reiterated. So much fun for us all, and the weather could not have been more cooperative.wine table

Not to be glossed over was the fact that we had wonderful company for the evening’s celebration of  Niman Ranch pig custodians/farmers, folks who value painstakingly the sustainability and humane causes and chefs who inspire and humble through the taste buds. Steve from Chipotle, Theo (raiser of pigeons) from Whole Foods, a star studded line-up for culinary folk including Rick Moonen, Andrew Hunter, Kent Rathbun, Harold Moore, Brian Wubbena – and so many others who I have grown to have such an affinity for over the course of this season. Thank you to the wonderful hosts, the Willis’, and the companionship and camaraderie of those I was fortunate enough to share space and energy with. A truly magnificent experience, and all rooted in the garden.

“the free soul is rare, but you know it when you see it – basically because you feel good, very good, when you are near or with them.”
Charles Bukowski (Tales of Ordinary Madness)
“You can best serve civilization by being against what usually passes for it.”  — Wendell Berry
Hmmm, yes, I do believe it is that time of the year most could easily be convinced that it’s just as easy to throw up ones arms in disgust, just walk on, simply toss in the towel and be content in the effort that has been put forth… alas, myself and those I feel closest akin to do not function this way – perhaps at times feeling a bit beleaguered and abused, sleep deprived and short of patience, but never without the passion to carry on in spite of what pressures may weigh. I am sure this is where that helpful notion of balance will eventually prevail… although I am quite convinced in the achievement of such an ideal being a lifelong quest and process.bicycle
With this in mind, I have been trying to live each day simply and in the profound acceptance that these moments are what catapult us from life to living, from functioning to thriving – with all the ups and downs and chaotic and unexpected twists, turns and dives that make this beautiful ride so engaging. Easing into the day with a peaceful and energetic paddle around Crystal Lake with my best friend by my side seems to be the perfect way in which to invite a sustainable tranquility to my pace of the day. We enjoyed the company of many green herons and kingfishers, as well as the disturbing thrashing of breaching minnows, many we found belly up in the melange of pond scum and lake weeds. There was also a large snapping turtle, dead, floating about that we had to investigate (as good scientists do!) and prod with our paddles. This disturbs me, as I think we both felt that these were indications of an ecosystem not in full health, and the concern about a lack of oxygenation of the water prevailed.
Following the indulgence of water was the indulgence of prairie. I decided to harvest prairie sage and red clover blossoms. I think I did a good job of pissing off the pollinators, as I chose only the prettiest and sweetest pink blooms of this waning summer season. Ethnobotany lesson for the blog entry today :

The flowering heads of red clover improve urine production, circulation of the blood and secretion of bile. They also act as detergent, sedative and tonic. Red clover has the ability to loosen phlegm and calm bronchial spasms. The fluid extract of red clover is used as an antispasmodic and alterative. Red clover is used in the treatment of skin complaints (especially eczema and psoriasis), cancers of the breast, ovaries and lymphatic system, chronic degenerative diseases, gout, whooping cough and dry coughs. Red clover is one of the richest sources of isoflavones. Isoflavones are effective in treating several conditions such as hot flashes, cardiovascular health and osteoporosis. Red clover also contains minerals such as calcium, magnesium, chromium, potassium, and vitamins such as niacin, thiamine and vitamin C. Red clover ointments are used to treat skin problems such as psoriasis and eczema.
noodle beans

Even though I could easily waste hours upon days in my favorite place, I decided it would be in my best interest to make my way to the farm early afternoon. Lawn mowing and hay cutting were the afternoon’s agenda. Then, with dusk quickly approaching, it was time to play in the garden! These are the fabulous Chinese Red Noodle Beans that grow up to 24″ long and are absolutely phenomenal to both look at and eat in a little stir fry. They are liking the trellis, although I think in retrospect it could be taller, and they are especially happy that I pulled away the grasses and pigweed that were hogging up all the sunlight.nodding sunflower

The pollinators continue to deafen the wandering ear as they flit between the sunflowers and bean blossoms. They are fascinating to behold from the cover of crouching in the tall grasses and “weeds” – their delicate looking bodies taking up such feverish motion. The birds are on the move as well. Snowy egrets and Canadian geese have been filling the sky and the silence. Dad says to be on the lookout for Blue Wing Teal, as they usually start making their way through the last week in August.harvest

The harvest is getting more gratifying and delectable. I’m luck to have any tomatoes on my flat, as an equal amount, or perhaps more realistic ratio of 2 for me, 1 for the box, find their way over my tastebuds and into my belly. Complementing the reds and browns and yellows of my nightshades are the shell beans, noodle beans, lemon cucumbers and Thelma Sanders Sweet Potato Squash that I am entirely excited to delight in… one of these nights that I’m not working until 10 or 11, however, seem more akin to savoring the sweet summer flavor. 🙂

“If the world were merely seductive, that would be easy. If it were merely challenging, that would be no problem. But I arise in the morning torn between a desire to improve the world and a desire to enjoy the world. This makes it hard to plan the day.” — E.B. White

“Let go of what has passed.
Let go of what may come.
Let go of what is happening now.
Don’t try to figure anything out.
Don’t try to make anything happen.
Relax, right now, and rest.” – the long version of the translation of Tilopa’s “Six Words of Advice”

Lots of sporadic rain has led to me spending only minimal time in the garden. I must first point out that I have strayed in permanence from my no-till operation – the expanse of weeds was enough to bring me to the verge of emotions – pulling the starter on the roto-tiller was the most immediate way to mitigate the consumption of being overwhelmed… so I tilled for a couple hours, diligently making multiple passes over weeds reaching for my waist, and it was empowering and gratifying – I haven’t regretted it for a second!

Black raspberries are coming on nicely in this area – I went to Pilot Knob both horseback riding and the for a purposeful berry hunt with Tiffany, made a lucrative haul – now what to do with them? I’m thinking something along the lines of a black raspberry and ginger glaze… let the creativity run wild!

tiffany touring

I had, last week, the good fortune of helping at my dear friend, Tiffany’s farm. We pulled giant ragweed and thistles and wild grape vines that were entangled in the apple trees. She has beautiful gardens, as is exemplified in my capturing of her giving the grand tour to Paul Willis on one of my trips to be artsy. We share a canopy at the Farmer’s Markets in Mason City on both Friday and Saturday, and have become completely enthusiastic and supportive of one another in our multiple endeavors and thought processes – it is just a blessing to have such beautiful people come into our lives, and I am so fortunate for having the opportunity to cultivate such a friendship.

blessed sunrise

Sunrise in my most treasured place in the world – the marsh directly north of my father’s farm. It inspires quiet contemplation and a tranquility that will just settle into your bones. Over the past couple of weeks I have been doing a lot of meditative introspection and have come to a couple of solid conclusions. First of all, that to fall back in love with the place you are from is a unique experience, and that there is freedom in the acceptance. And there is grounding in taking action to reitterate the notion… like finally getting my Iowa driver’s license – it was the last article I had been clinging to of my transient segment, and to finally allow that chapter to close and embrace the beginning of the next has been liberating. My other major acquisition in contemplation has been the absorbtion of understanding with the heart – that thinking too much is dangerous, analysis and worry are paralyzing and debilitating, that trying to understand the whys of how others work is only another illusion of control – that true balance comes from an open and trusting acceptance that we all have our reasons for doing and for being and in embracing others completely, one must have a blind faith in each other. I strive constantly for enlightenment, for the ability to love purely and honestly without contention, without control, and it seems that this is an ongoing cycle of progressions and regressions – with the elation of progress urging us on to a humble acceptance of the world around us and the regressions there to remind us of how far we have come.

and we plant

And as the internal transitions ameliorate, so, too, do the tangible and physical. Another truck load of plants, most with character and stories to be treasured, have found a settling in the yard of my father’s place. One day, the lawn mower will be obsolete! More fabulous and thriving lillies dug from behind the restaurant of a good friend, and a “weed” with a gorgeous purple flower pulled from the tree pot of another friend’s employer… then there are the miscellaneous plants and flowers that come with clearance sales and my addiction to perennials of all kinds. It’s almost a challenge to be patient for the coming years in the anticipation of the jungle running wild.

So, today is another market day – it is off to Mason City for the afternoon. Did some baking – homemade crackers, this time with the omega 3 and 6 boost of hemp seeds, and then some gluten free sweet potato muffins with nutmeg icing for an experiment in the kitchen. Somehow managed in the maelstrom of the activity of the week to put up a batch of each strawberry jalepeno jam and sweet potato butter, AND to get my special order jewelry fabricated – still working on mastering the 25 hour day however. Thanks to all for the continued interest, inquisition and support of my purposeful undertakings – regaling in all my endeavors is enjoyed exponentially more when shared with those of curious intrigue – I am blessed to have such company on this journey.

“Here’s to the crazy ones. The misfits. The rebels. The troublemakers. The round pegs in the square hole. The ones who see things differently. They’re not fond of rules. And they have no respect for the status quo. You can quote them, disagree with them, glorify or vilify them. About the only thing you can’t do is ignore them. Because they change things. They push the human race forward. And while some may see them as the crazy ones, we see genius. Because the people who are crazy enough to think they can change the world, are the ones who do.” — Apple Computer Inc.

“I long to accomplish great and noble tasks, but it is my chief duty to accomplish humble tasks as though they were great and noble. The world is moved along, not only by the mighty shoves of its heroes, but also by the aggregate of the tiny pushes of each honest worker.”  Helen Keller

We have done it! We have taken that long and arduous stride of action towards our dream, our passion, our goal – that foot was caked in lead – and, fortunately our perseverance is prevailing, even if Mother Nature is getting her druthers from time to time.

prairie seed

This beginning I speak of is that of planting the prairie and establishing the conservation segment of the farm. Over the next few years an evolution will occur of regression in mimicry of her roots. It is a fruitful and diligent task to establish mesic prairie, potholes and wetlands in an area that was once topographically marshland now dredged and tiled for the ambitions of agrarians. One that we are up to, however. The “beginning” was a day last week – we mixed our expensive forbes and grasses in the old watering tubs we had for cattle and my horse, loaded the Brillion, and Dad set to planting as an impending storm approached – full of energy, color and movement – not so different than ourselves.

looming horizon

This system moved into the area a couple of hours early – this photo was taken around 2pm. I got the equipment put away and the shop and barn closed up, and when Dad came home we stood at the end of the driveway, in awe of the lightning, and swept by the cold wind rushing down from aloft – it was absolutely exhilarating. Since that day our project has been on hold, because the next portion to plant is in the peat ground east of the runway and it does not dry up with any expediency. Yesterday I was back on the Massey with the little tiller fluffing up a beautifully tilthy seed bed, so with any luck today the planting will resume. I also spent some time on the 2520 with my worktunes and NPR keeping me company while I drove in what felt like incessant circles mowing what will soon be worked up in an attempt to kill the existing sod so that more prairie may be seeded in the autumn.

The garden is growing so emphatically. She is in a constant shift of motion and energy – right now the cabbages are showing off striking yellow blossoms, while the golden snow peas and rat tail radishes are providing the abundance of fruits. The red romaine lettuce is enjoying a break in the heat and humidity, and continues to provide the contrast in color. The borage that I planted amongst the strawberries and dill is vigorous, and the purple blooms arrived recently to my enthusiasm. I finally broke down. I am no longer a weed-free gardener (as in expenditure of energy), and have gravitated to a more weedless version of my experiment. It will never be perfect, so to speak. but it gives me a goal to keep in mind – and I think the plants are ever so appreciative as they now are allowed to bask in the full glory of the sunshine. Once again, those weeds came in handy, and I am resolute in my interpretation of them as both cover crop and green manure. 🙂

I have finally gotten my jewelry shop up and running on the internet. This is a fantastic speed bump to have traversed, as I have been putting it off for quite some time. For those who are curious, the shop can be found at www.capriciouslyquixotic.etsy.com – the interpretation of the name being something along the lines of whimsically idealistic – which I feel I am a victim of with a far greater frequency than I care to admit, although to those who know me this comes as no surprise. A sample of my work lies below.vail

As if I needed another reason to have a preoccupation with the atlas, right? Torturous and inspiring to the gypsy soul. 🙂 Another fun sidenote is that I now have a grasp on the functioning of the acetylene torch which tickles me to no avail!

Looking forward to a minimal week of markets – both the Clear Lake and Mason City markets for Saturday, the 4th, are cancelled, so if you want any goodies for the weekend, the Friday market in Mason City will be the place to find myself and my wonderful and enthusiastic counterpart, Tiffany (she has been bringing beautiful and delicious kales and greens, and her fused glass jewelry is spectacular!!).

“By the choices and acts of our lives, we create the person that we are and the faces that we wear. By the choices and acts of our lives we give to the world wherein our lives are lived, hoping that our neighbors will find our contributions to be of worth, and hoping that the world will be a little more gracious for our time in it.”  -Kenneth Patton

Festive greetings from a weed friendly gardener! The garden is lush and green and the sweet clover, red clover and dwarf pack choy are adding their brilliant colors to the mix. The inflorescence of the grasses lends a nice artistry to the aspect when the wind gently tosses the grains about in the breeze. Lambs quarter, oxalis, Shepard’s purse, pigweed, smartweed, and the newly added purslane add a splendid biodiversity to the various vegetables, fruits and tubers patchworked around the garden. Not the picture of permaculture efficiency, but the artistic merit is entirely gratifying if one is not focused on economics. The sunsets have been breathtaking when not hidden behind storm clouds, and the brilliant yellow light that lays upon the landscape at dusk humbles one to stop in their tracks to absorb in appreciation.

neighborhood

Last night we had the great good fortune of experiencing the most wonderful in ambiance, camaraderie and flavor – satiating in an array of aspects. My father and I attended the Slow Food event at Paul Willis’ farm near Thornton, IA. Paul raises hogs for Niman Ranch and is entirely passionate and enthusiastic for the endeavors in which he invests his energy – consequently he attracts many of the same type of people. I was so fortunate to catch up with old friends and acquaint myself with new. Paul and Phyllis were great and gracious hosts, and the pot luck dinner provided by the energy of “local” efforts – both in measure of personal preparation and ingredients made for an entirely satisfying and gratifying experience.

 

paul

The evening wound up with a grand tour of the prairie and wetland on Paul’s property. Over 100 species of plants in one space is awe-striking and inspiring – the purples of Ohio Spiderwort and alfalfa to the yellow of the Golden Alexander and the white of the Yarrow, plus so many more that have already escape the grasp of my thought – ah, just instills a little peace in one’s bones that there are folks whose visions and actions are carrying us and pressing us on in the right direction.

Today, the market! The North Iowa Farmer’s Market to be exact. I continue to experiment with recipes and ingredients and presentation of my wares. You will find a variety of preserves abound on the table, as well as artisan homemade crackers and gluten-free treats that seemingly melt in your (well, mine, too, as I have deemed myself quality control!) mouth. For fresh produce I have wild greens (most commonly referred to as weeds, but I will post a couple recipes that will make you feel differently about these fabulous and nutritious alternative edibles!). I will finally have my jewelry for sale in addition to a hand crafted model-scale barn that was created by my stepfather. Always treats for tasting, and if you can’t join today, then perhaps tomorrow, as that will be the first of the Saturday markets in Mason City – you will find us downtown from 8-11am in the parking lot just west of City Hall; 10 1st St NW.

crackers

“We abuse land because we see it as a commodity belonging to us. When we see land as a community to which we belong, we may begin to use it with love and respect.”  — Aldo Leopold

“A community is the mental and spiritual condition of knowing that the place is shared, and that the people who share the place define and limit the possibilities of each other’s lives. It is the knowledge that people have of each other, their concern for each other, their trust in each other, the freedom with which they come and go among themselves.”  – Wendell Berry

meg in garden

 

For Memorial Day weekend I had the great pleasure of inviting one of my nearest and dearest friends into the experience of the garden. Meg made the trek north from Kansas City and we completely indulged in some quality time on the farm. It was incredible for me to get to share what is happening, and to watch it evolve with the love and care of two people as opposed to just myself. It floursihed! Saturday afternoon of the holiday weekend we planted potatoes: all blue, La Ratte fingerlings, yellow finns and mountain rose – in plots neighboring plots of bush beans and soy beans and marigolds and onions – this garden is more and more becoming a beautiful patchwork – I am so happy to have gone away from the traditional rows.seeds

 

We went back to the garden on Sunday (after Canning 101 in which we prepared a small batch of Clove-Peppercorn-Pear Sauce) to survey our accomplishments and with the explicit goal of getting the rest of the potatoes in. As Meg walked through the garden she noticed something quite disturbing… someone had been here! The potatoes were no longer nestled into the rich humus, but rather carelessly strewn about the top of the bed… and was what more curious… not a single bite mark or scratch to the seeds. Hurridly I got on my knees and tenderly placed each potato back in the divit it was removed from.  Tragically, also, I recognized this as the work of peskey raccoons – we also soon realized the seeds of soybeans and Japanese sweet corn had been pilfered as well. Immediately I changed tracks – an electric fence had to be built and functional before the day was out. I am ever so grateful for Meg’s presence and diligence in planting, because while I was building she single handedly accomplished our set goal for the day. Our great artistic feat came with the placement of my old rusted bicycle frame that I had salvaged from my friend, Matt’s, burn hole – the garden really is becoming a place representing my community. I also have flowers I have transplanted from my friend, Hayley’s home, as well as my grandmother’s, and I plan to add poppies from my brother’s.

We went to the market in Clear Lake Saturday morning. It was an incredibly fun venue. I took for tasting samples Honey Sweetened Fingerprint Cookies with Wild Violet Jelly (a wild harvest creation), and also homemade wheat crackers to top with cream cheese and Spicy Jalepeno Strawberry Jam (perhaps to be renamed Afterburner!) – people seemed to completely enjoy them, and I had many requests for the treats to be sold in addition. Hmmm… endless possibilities! dandelion

 

The look of the blog site is evolving, also. The recipes page will be the home to the recipes I use for my tasting samples at the markets – I’m not much of one to follow a recipe true and fast, rather it’s a jumping off point for creative liberties… but they will allow for the basic premise of reconstruction. The page entitled “Celebrity Farmers” is a place for those who come to participate on the farm to leave their stories and photos – it gives everyone a unique view through their perspective of Ame de la Terre. I, too, am excited to read those posts! Also coming soon will be a page dedicated to the items that will be featured at the coming week’s markets, as well as a link to Chasing Fireflies, which is my jewelry and recycled design elements endeavor that is in it’s infancy.

To close I wanted to share a photo that was just a quick snapshot. Meg and I witnessed three times in the period of 24 hours geese running down the road in front of us with their goslings… only to abandon their children for the safety of cover… an interesting observation in the different parenting styles and self preservation philosophies!run goslings

“A person who undertakes to grow a garden at home, by practices that will preserve rather than exploit the economy of the soil, has his mind precisely against what is wrong with us… What I am saying is that if we apply our minds directly and competently to the needs of the earth, then we will have begun to make fundamental and necessary changes in our minds. We will begin to understand and to mistrust and to change our wasteful economy, which markets not just the produce of earth, but also the earth’s ability to produce.” — Wendell Berry