Archives for posts with tag: Iowa

 

“And I will show that there is no imperfection in the present, and
can be none in the future,
And I will show that whatever happens to anybody it may be turn’d to
beautiful results,
And I will show that nothing can happen more beautiful than death,
And I will thread a thread through my poems that time and events are
compact,
And that all the things of the universe are perfect miracles, each
as profound as any. ” — Walt Whitman (The Leaves of Grass)
 

The surprise of beauty and liberation. Before today, this impetus to muse was not so apparent or compelling. First and foremost, I apologize for my lack of elaboration on the seasonal evolution and my gardening hard knocks education – thank you to all who remain vigilant in checking in. And to those who continue to encourage my free willed, indignant at times, humble ponderings and philosophizing of the nature of the whole.

So, today I had this epiphany of sorts. That nature in her splendor exhibits no perfection and by doing so is incredibly and magnificently such. Imperfection equals perfection. How bizarre. I mean, my entire life has been this see-saw back and forth cognating on how to be perfect, how to act perfect, how to do all things with perfection. But where does one find perfection if not only in the mind? And, really, as any good perfectionist knows, no matter how perfect or precisely above and beyond accomplishments land, there is ALWAYS room for improvement. Always. How asinine to beat one’s self up over this perceived under-achievement. Ludicrous. Delirious. Obscene. And yes, at this moment of 31 years, 11 months and 336 days of youth I am struck by this notion of true perfection lying in the simplicity of imperfection. I have been thinking way too much all this time.

Of course, anyone who knows me really does know that they have tried to tell me this for years. I am truly amazed at how something so profound just won’t sink in until you are good and ready. In honor of this said enlightenment, the market tomorrow morning will host me along with my “less than perfect” onions. This being due to the fact that some are dirty, some have more dry skin than others, some are lumpy or misshapen or just had too much time in the rain – but each and everyone is more than delightful enough to sass up a burger or enliven the plate sautéed in real and wonderful butter (preferably homemade from raw milk… to be continued). I have been stating for the last couple of years that the general public just needs to get used to their produce not looking monotonously perfect. Indeed, the most exquisite and healthful plants and fruits and vegetables are all lumpy or misshapen or slightly irregular – it would be those that have not been sprayed or genetically modified or held with a critical hand and critical mind, no doubt transferring that critical energy to the misfortunate who indulge. I won’t have it. I love all of the plants that come from my garden. So much so that I struggle with selling them to folks I do not know. It is not a moral high road, it is simply that there is a lot of me in each of them. If I determine one is not “good enough”, then perhaps that is only a reflection of what is within. Ah, liberated by imperfection.

I have definitely been struggling this summer, hence the lack of creative juice. Too much outgoing, not enough savoring the moments. I have simply come to this conclusion that doing more is always being less. Now I have to start living accordingly. I am making great strides. I have not even attended the market four out of the last five weeks because I have made choices that build me rather than require my energy moving in a one-way fashion. Weddings and an herbal symposium and a trip to Chicago with the loveliest of friends. So much good food for the soul. These moments fill me with aliveness. Addicting. Thank goodness. You know, it really reaffirms the importance of making time to do the things that remind you to savor and feel the moments of being human.

And if this photo isn’t evidence of inner peace and love of life, I don’t know what is! Paul and this fantastic pie full of team effort – Phyllis’ expertised guidance in crust creation, my rolling of the dough, Mary’s imperfectly perfect pieces of apple with just a hint of cinnamon and the most necessary freshly grated nutmeg. A rustic beauty, and even more of a delight for the tastebuds!

Mom came to the market a few weeks back and helped me out the day that I went to help Paul and Phyllis and Mary make pies. She brought her infamous home-ground wheat buns with flax meal, local honey and love, and as you can imagine they stole the show. 🙂 We also got a little press in the local paper that day. There are 3 photos and we even made one of them. That’s plenty of on the radar for me for this season. http://www.globegazette.com/wow/article_d671baa2-a17d-11df-844a-001cc4c03286.html

This would be another imperfection that is serving me well, and then some. The imperfection of the USDA (let’s not get ranting on that soapbox… this could become a novel in just one post!) and their inability to do much more than parlay to the lobbying contingent under the guise of well-being and health for citizens. So to keep the likes of raw milk out of the hands of the ignorant who cannot make choices wisely for themselves. Well, to hell with that. Obviously that is just one more rule that does not apply to me. 🙂 Or Tom since he is the one of which we have photographic evidence of procuring the finest the black market has to offer. We made homemade yogurt in a crockpot, thanks to Genesis and her most fabulous link: http://www.nourishingdays.com/2009/02/make-yogurt-in-your-crock-pot/ AND I made butter for the very first time… and it has never tasted better! In fact, my tastebuds are just ruined. That’s the risk one takes.

The most delightful part of engaging with the dairy farm was the girls. Each with her name on her eartag. Meet Jupi. Quite the meet and greet that evening. I feel so lucky. 🙂 And open and falling into my heart and out of my head a little more every day. I practice and practice and practice and then remind myself some more. That life is lived from the heart and in the moment. With some well placed dirt under the fingernails.

“There are two basic motivating forces: fear and love. When we are afraid, we pull back from life. When we are in love, we open to all that life has to offer with passion, excitement, and acceptance. We need to learn to love ourselves first, in all our glory and our imperfections. If we cannot love ourselves, we cannot fully open to our ability to love others or our potential to create. Evolution and all hopes for a better world rest in the fearlessness and open-hearted vision of people who embrace life.”  — John Lennon

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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

 

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

“Well, art is art, isn’t it? Still, on the other hand, water is water! And east is east and west is west and if you take cranberries and stew them like applesauce they taste much more like prunes than rhubarb does. Now, uh… now you tell me what you know. ” – Groucho Marx

Hmmm… one might wonder what it would take for a girl to get back on the blogging wagon… just a little taste of spring, and then of course the weather or darkness to drive me indoors. I have been meaning with good intention to write now for at least a month. We all know where the road paved with good intentions leads… alas and however I am finally making a go of it.

A month ago now I got some seeds started on a makeshift nursery bed in my room. It consisted of my 6′ (sometimes referred to as 12) farmer’s market table, an electric blanket that was my grandmothers (surely passing all safety inspections!) and just two bedding boxes left over from last years foray. I rifled through my seeds, gladly passing by those cherry romas that I couldn’t possibly keep up with, and going straight for the Gold Medal and Green Zebra heirlooms. I also diligently planted about a dozen different types of peppers swearing that I would be able to keep them organized and labeled, which lasted all of two weeks… yes, the amount of time it takes for them to germinate. 🙂

So, there remains a beautiful bunch of seedlings happily leaning towards the sun, choosing heliocentricty to any of my mechanical interventions. Rotating the trays is how these guys got displaced from the original labeling system. Perhaps the fruits will reveal the truth later this summer.

I tilled my garden. This is a pretty big deal. Believe it or not, all it took was one year of trying to reinvent the wheel to see that there may be some validity in these time honored traditions. Who knew? I blame my strong German heritage for this streak of stubborn will.It’s amazing what you can do with a few horses under the hood. Most traces of last year’s garden are lying in wait to reincarnate in this season’s bounty. There are a few potatoes that were left to freeze last fall that tease me a bit in my neglect to retrieve all the harvest the plot had to offer, but I take the generous perspective that it was my offering for all that I was given – and that encompasses far more than lambs s, purslane and the stray and strategically planted onion or Chinese red noodle bean. Hours. The incredible hours spent with the dirt and the sunshine and the red wing blackbirds – there is just nothing so gratifying, so nourishing to the simultaneous creative thought process and contemplative witnessing meditation. And I get to do it all over again this year!But, like I said, things are looking a bit different this year. Tilled garden. Straight ROWS of plants. You would hardly recognize this as the same geography. I wasn’t planning to plant potatoes, but I just didn’t have it in my heart to heave three burlap sacks of sprouted potatoes that were resting the whole season through in the basement onto the compost pile. Five rows of potatoes later I was slapping the dirt off my hands with a strong sense of “Wow, this is amazing… I am TWO MONTHS ahead of where I was last year! And I didn’t know it could be so easy!” – the weather this April definitely doesn’t hurt anything. So, in addition to potatoes, the garden is warming encouraging red, yellow and white onions, sugar pea pods, dwarf pak choy, bunching red onions, Swiss chard, three types of kale (specifically dino and red Russian in Tiffany’s honor), arugula, lettuce, daikon radish, mustard (to the chagrin of my bean walking step father), wildflowers, beets, carrots, Chinese kale, popcorn and flint corn. And it’s only April still. This is the kind of spring you fantasize about.This is my brother, Seth, and the one who is responsible for me having any equipment to drive. There may be a few of you out there that are still unaware of my nonexistent mechanical karma… I mean Dad and I would even go so far as to say I had a mechanical karma deficit. Seth, on the other hand, is in my opinion flat out brilliant in this regard. I follow him around the parts store and get distracted by things I could make jewelry out of and bargain hunt for a battery for the Massey and he is ordering plug wires and various other components that may as well be parts for building space craft to an unknown universe, which in effect is kind of what working on trucks and tractors feels like to me. So, I do the books, Seth manages equipment and between the two of us and those we can sweet talk into turning rounds we get some things accomplished on the farm.That’s my seed man turning the soil. That way I could till my garden. 🙂 This is an 8 acre field that has been in cool season hay for two years, but is now part of a SAFE (CRP) program. This summer it will get planted to native prairie. There is a prairie pothole in this plot that we plan to allow to recreate itself. Even plowing you could tell where the soil type was different. The dirt holds so many stories and such a vast history – going slow enough to notice when the engine noise deepens and the plow pulls a little less fluidly slicing through the topsoil you get to learn her history. It is such an incredible feeling to become a part of this land you love. What a dream. What a great place to sink your roots. There are another 16 acres that will be going into wet and messic prairies this year. We plan to experiment with a plot of teff for hay and we are going to start transitioning our cool season hay fields to warm season natives. We are working with a fellow who is a graduate student at the University of Wisconsin – Madison who is doing research in grazing natives for dairy on suggestions for planting. From a number of sources I have been given notice that what we are working on is fairly cutting edge as far as research is concerned (I’m sure there are some around who have always cut prairie for hay, so I don’t mean to discount that rich knowledge), and that is something I know we are pursuing that would make Dad proud, without a doubt. A powerful way to move forward and meld his spirit and energy into the texture and weave of this land we hold dear. A powerfully exciting and renewing season is upon us.

“There is a time in every man’s education when he arrives at the conviction that envy is ignorance; that imitation is suicide; that he must take himself for better, for worse, as his portion; that though the wide universe is full of good, no kernel of nourishing corn can come to him but through his toil bestowed on that plot of ground which is given to him to till. The power which resides in him is new in nature, and none but he knows what that is which he can do, nor does he know until he has tried.” – Ralph Waldo Emerson

“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
“Afoot and lighthearted I take to the open road, healthy, free, the world before me.” — Walt Whitman
 
“Farm to Market” reminds me of a road in Skagit County – people would come and dine on fresh kumomoto oysters from down the hill at the Taylor Shellfish Farm, and on the wonderful halibut beautifully presented and mingling with the flavors of plum chutney and honey balsamic to a lovely tree crowded view of the creek below the restaurant on their way to a beautiful day of touring the tulip fields near LaConner, and since they had likely stumbled upon us via the scenic route (Chuckanut Drive being the proverbial representation as car commercials are filmed there) would want to know how to get to where they were going – Chuckanut Drive through the foothills of the Cascades that reach to the salty water, and down to Edison (where they have the best pie) and then you hang a left on Farm to Market Road, which tours you through the prolific agrarian landscape of the Skagit Valley.
 
It is also what came to mind last Saturday morning as I was traveling eastbound into the sunrise on my wat to market, admiring the big blue stem (which, incidentally is high in protein and makes a good forage for horses and livestock) as the heavy air was gradually easing back.
farm to market
 
It really is such a fine way to start the day. The truck was laboring forth with preserves, Shane’s little wooden barn, freshly baked crackers, lemon cucumbers (yes! I actually took a little produce!), and enthusiasm for the day… with the addition of the randomly acquired roadside bouquet that has taken to adorning the table, and seems to make the coffee taste better and the day more light.
passenger seat
 
The wheels have been turning in my mind – the markets on Saturday are easily the most enjoyable for me, as people get to casually peruse and enjoy the social environment fostered by the venue.  The frustration lies in the flow – or the lack there of. I have a vision for creating a buzz, for generating interest, for instilling my excitement. Since it’s just a vision it’s best left to the brainstorming, but, if learning more about the local markets of North Iowa is in your spectrum of interest, please continue to check back – good things are to come, with the efforts and endeavors of a group of very committed people!
 
To the farm and garden! So, I have been harvesting a multitude of tomatoes daily now – it’s wonderfully exciting as I finally have enough so as some make it out of the garden – before it was of no use to think they could make it further than my hand, which directed them to my mouth. All in the name of quality control! I have also been harvesting my shell beans, and then got to thinking, I wonder what the proper technique is for harvesting and drying shell beans? Well, I did my after-the-fact research (although there are a few left on the vines), and discovered that one should wait until after the first frost to harvest the pods, as the beans will then be dry. Hmm. Good to know. 🙂 The beans are beautiful, though – Calypso, Tigers Eye, Jacob’s Cattle, and Rattlesnake. Black, white, gold and crimson, purple and maroon – stunning!
 
Progress continues to be the status quo on the farm, also, which elates me to no end. We picked up seed for rye, winter peas and vetch for winter cover over ten acres at the seed house about 3 weeks ago now… and it’s all planted! Really, it’s true, and I know there might be a few doubters out there given the pace at which things often progress, but we really did it!
 
color planter
 
We have been really fortunate to have my brother’s help lately – here he and Dad are loading the drill for the September planting. He has also been hauling loads of bales away from the canary grass hay field that will eventually be transforming into a quintet of prairie potholes. I look longingly across the dredge ditch when I can take my eyes of monitoring the cantankerous nature of the 4-bottom plow at that field with notions of turning it next. I will have to hope for a mild fall, or bundle up, however… but it’s all a matter of perspective since, after all, at one point I plowed ten acres on that side of the farm with the Massey-Ferguson and a 2-bottom plow in November.
 
Only two weeks remain to visit Tiffany, myself and the other fabulous vendors at the Downtown Mason City Market (8-11am) – hope to see you there!
 
“he saw that all the struggles of life were incessant, laborious, painful, that nothing was done quickly, without labor, that it had to undergo a thousand fondlings, revisings, moldings, addings, removings, graftings, tearings, correctings, smoothings, rebuildings, reconsiderings, nailings, tackings, chippings, hammerings, hoistings, connectings — all the poor fumbling uncertain incompletions of human endeavor. They went on forever and were forever incomplete, far from perfect, refined, or smooth, full of terrible memories of failure and fears of failure, yet, in the way of things, somehow noble, complete, and shining in the end.” — Jack Kerouac
“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)

“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