September 28, 2011

One. Whole. Year.

Seriously though.

How did this...


September 20, 2011

Three, Warty, Wonderful, Years

Three years ago today, we were here.

One year later, on our first anniversary -- and wrapping up our first year farming -- we spent the evening pulling winter squash out of the field by flashlight, saving it from an impending frost, while our perfectly cooked pot roast went cold on the kitchen counter.

Last Saturday, we spent the morning in squash patch again, cutting bulbing fruit from thickening vines. It's become somewhat of a tradition.

This year in particular, it felt symbolic. It was therapy. It was good to be outside, watching nature do its spectacular fall magic and letting my body work again. As we cut and stacked and searched and cut and stacked, I had time to think. About frost and loss. Fertility and fallow. Marriage and motherhood.

About fragility.

And how quickly it can turn to toughness.

About beauty.

And how it deepens with time and imperfection.

About resiliency and steadfastness.

Fitting then, that when I got home, our dear friend Michael (read him here and him and his awesome wife here) -- the wise man who, three years ago, in front of God and Mother Nature and friends and family (and nearly the whole town of Dutton), pronounced us husband and wife -- sent us a link to this essay, written and read, by dear friend of his:

“On Cold-Weather Vegetables” by Katrina Vandenberg in Orion

Perfect timing.

September 17, 2011



What a word.

To miscarry

I imagine a running back, grabbing a football straight out of the air, fumbling it and watching it drop to the grass. Or a waitress, balancing a tipping tray of food, stumbling a little and then hearing tumbling glasses and steaks and potatoes plunking to the floor.

Miscarry – as in in whoopsies, she missed that carry.

The medical term, however, isn't any better: Spontaneous abortion. For one, the connotation is terrible. As if, somehow, you chose it, scheduled it or it's somehow political or violent. But even leaving that loaded a-word aside, it's still wildly inaccurate.

There's nothing spontaneous about it.

Miscarriages happen slowly, or at least mine have, with a spot in the morning and then one in the afternoon. Hours feel like days. Checking, second-guessing, listening to every creak or twinge in your abdomen, wondering if this is it, or if you're OK, or if baby is gone already and you just don't know it.

Then, the hours can actually turn into days – real days. Days of waking up wondering if today's the day it will happen or if today's the day the spotting will stop and you'll go on to get bigger and better. You memorize the numbers to keep your sprits up: 20-30 percent of all women bleed during pregnancy and of those who do, 50 percent go on to have perfectly healthy pregnancies.

But when the spotting starts coming with a low backache and little shooting pains, the reassurances turn pale and in creeps that heavy anticipation of the sadness – sadness you know you'll feel, sooner. Or later. No one can tell you.

Then the pain comes and you know it's over. Or almost over. Or starting to be over. From there, it can be another few days. Cramping and crying, cramping and crying. My first one came with contractions I could time. This last one just happened, painfully, but not excruciatingly. It happened all day long, in between lunches and snacks and packaging veggies for delivery and among games of peek-a-boo and friends and family stopping by to make sure we were all OK.

Because of all of that, this one seems easier to handle. No less sad, just less heavy.

With the first, I felt even more broken than I do now. It was our first pregnancy and one that came after many months of trying and failing, trying and failing, the overwhelming fear of infertility building with each month.

And then, Miscarry. As in, maybe my body's not meant to carry anything at all.

The numbers arrived again. 10-25 percent of all pregnancies will end in miscarriage.

Research shows that 40 to 75 percent of all miscarriages are because of genetic, chromosomal abnormalities. That is to say, not because of something the mother did or didn't do.

I took some solace in knowing that all systems were a go – that we could get pregnant. But, those infertility fears were quickly supplanted with other fears. Fears that I wouldn't be able to carry.


With this second miscarriage, I know, deep down, that I can both make and carry a baby – inside and outside my womb.

But, the guilt and the wondering is still there, however faint this time. Did I run up those stairs too fast? Is that what did it? Was it the two glasses of wine I had before I knew I was pregnant? Is it a complication from my C-section? Is it because I'm still breastfeeding? Is it all the coffee I've been drinking? The stress I've been feeling? The heavy lifting I've been doing? Is my body just not ready?

The chatter can be endless if I let it.

I fought cancer in my 20s. I was a body-conscious teenager who had major issues about too-early development and thick thighs and a too-big chest. I've wrestled with the aftermath of a sexual assault.

Because of all that, I'm afraid I've patterned myself to think of my body as something that will betray me, something that's made up of dysfunction and brokenness.

I fight that feeling every day.

After that first miscarriage and the months of trying to get pregnant while friends around me sneezed and got knocked up, I needed something to work on, so I worked fighting that feeling. And I worked on my faith. Faith in my body, in God and in goodness.

When we first found out I was pregnant with Willa, that work started to pay off. I let myself slip into hope and promise. I taught myself to believe in my body – that it was made for this baby – and I taught myself to believe that I deserved this, that my body deserved this.

Now, when I look at this perfect little being that is my daughter, almost walking and all snaggle-toothed smiles and giggles, I know there is immense beauty and goodness in this world -- and inside of me too.

I know we would have loved the two babies we lost and I think about them both often. Sad for them, sad I never got to meet them, sad they didn't get a chance. But, I also know that my family will be what it's meant to be – that there is a grand plan for our lives and it involves a lot of love and light, but also a little longing and sadness. And that is just as it should be.

This time of year, as the world buttons itself up for winter, slowing and cooling, leaves floating off branches and green dying back to brown, is a good time to remember that sadness and darkness will bring life. It's what will bring tulips and buds in spring. Fallow produces bounty next year.

It takes faith and patience and time. But, if I've learned anything I've learned that if you keep moving and keep trying and keep hoping and most of all, keep a gratitude for the love and life you already have, all will be as it should be.

Death eventually turns back into life.

Emptiness eventually turns to full.

Darkness begets light.

September 15, 2011

Quick and Dirty Update and Recipes Galore

Sorry folks. I've gone bloggy AWOL.

I can't quite give you a full-blown update on all the happenings right now, but here's the quick and dirty:

Take the regular mid-September craziness -- with the farm party last Saturday (cooking for 60 people, with no childcare, am I nuts?) and more produce coming off one small plot than one kitchen can handle, and then add that to the scramble of trying to get ahead of, then dealing with the aftermath of, the first frost (two frosts actually, Friday, Sept. 2 and Saturday, Sept. 3).

Add into that a sick baby, some health issues of my own, the temporary closure of an endeavor that is near and dear to my heart, and then, mix in a major rise! and fall in the saga of trying to find a "home" for this family and this farm.

We've been a little keyed up around here, to say the least.

But, it's starting to settle now and into a quiet, sunny autumn no less. These cool mornings and hot sunny afternoons make up some of my favorite memories and my favorite moments.

So we have that to counter balance all the stress and sadness we've been feeling. Thank God this is all happening now and not in, say January.

Soon, I'll break all of this down, but for now, that's the quick and dirty from a Life, Cultivated and to sweeten the deal, here are some recipes from our farm party. Made, of course, with all (main) ingredients (if only we could grow olives for olive oil and lemons for lemon juice -- drat) coming from our own little farm.

Bronze barley with cucumber dill dressing (By Mark Bittman)
Prairie Farro (our brand of Emmer) salad with basil and tomatoes and zucchini (This was a slight variation on the Bluebird Grain Farm recipe the link goes to.)
Black chickpea salsa (Substituting black chickpeas for the black beans, of course and in the party dish, I used half tomatillos and half tomatoes.)
Lentil hummus (only I added about a 1/2 Tablespoon of cumin)
Cabbage crunch
And, the heritage turkey

September 2, 2011

In the Weeds, Part II

I could come up with some caption here about how uphill paths are usually the ones that lead to something greater, but I think it would just come out sounding like one of those terrible motivational posters you see on the wall of a high school counselor.
The last time I wrote about being in the weeds, I was literally in the weeds.

The last few weeks though, it's the figurative weeds that have been blocking my view.

There's not much I'm comfortable writing about here just yet, but suffice it to say, the last few weeks (well, years really) have thrown us into facing big things like what "home" means and how much place matters and how sometimes, growing just where you happen to land can lead to a shallow root system.

But when the questions looming are that large and in our case, largely out of our hands, it's just easier to tackle the small things.

And, that is healthy, to a certain extent. Like, instead of worrying about where we're going to live this winter, I first work out what we're going to do with all those beets. Or, instead of stewing about whether we'll ever actually be able to own a farm or a piece of a farm, I rearrange the living room furniture again.

Jacob and I are constantly talking logistics. Logistics about the day-to-day operation of the farm, of our delivery schedule, of our upcoming farm party, of dinner and lunch and car tires and cupcakes for Willa's birthday party. Or, lately, logistics about building permits and irrigation equipment and buy/sell agreements and FSA loans and septic drain fields and backhoes and trailer houses, or yurts? or modulars? or just building a house? or finding another house in town to rent?

With each little detail, with each little patch of "weeds" we lose sight of the sky. We lose just a small bit of the big picture. Until, it's hard to see anymore at all.

In our hurry to worry about our meeting with the county sanitarian, we forget to dream about where Willa will climb trees or where we will someday sip coffee on a porch and watch the sunrise or how, with just a little piece of ground, we could change the way we, and our communities, grow, eat and value food.

I remember, sitting at at tiny kitchen table in a single-wide trailer three years ago this month -- when we first decided to farm on our own -- sketching plans for a farmstead, writing down what we wanted in a property, dreaming about what it would be like to do it, to actually farm.

Back then, we wanted nothing more than to just get on the ground, get our hands dirty.

Now that we're doing it, I'm sad to find that in all the doing and working, we've squeezed out that sense of imagination, the craziness, the hope and the promise.

Today, the weeds cleared and for a few hours -- hopefully more -- I felt a little of all of that creeping back in.

And dang, it feels good to dream again.


What do you do when you get into the weeds?


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