March 30, 2011

Six Months

Six months seems but a blip. And never have six months gone by as fast as they just did.

But my God, how a life can change in six months.

This little bean, buttercream breath and all, goes from this:

To this:

When little ones are so little, dew still on them, people keep telling you it gets better. The first months are so very sweet, but also so very tough. They're hard to understand, they're hard to hold, they're hard to feed and even hard to snuggle. Everything is careful and hushed.

You're just getting to know each other and that dance can be a delicate -- and sometimes lonely -- one.

So people tell you it will get better -- that there will come a day when this little bean becomes a friend, a tiny pal, a person you want to talk to, sing with, do anything for a giggle. I didn't know what they meant until now.

Giggly Willa from conradcowgills on Vimeo.

March 29, 2011

The 'Womb'

That's what I call our greenhouse. It's where we start the season, warm and cozy and ripe for fertility -- or so we hope.

It's also where, even when it's -24 out and you can't remember what something green and growing looks like, you learn all over again to trust.

Some of life's most powerful lessons have smacked me in the face in the greenhouse, like:

  • Over sow and under cover.  The more seeds you scatter and the less soil you put on top, the better. That is to say: Give your self ample chances and don't put too much dirt in the way of growth.
(By the way, a seed starting tip from J: the planting depth of a seed is always twice the thickness of the seed. And, make sure your seed has good contact with the soil -- meaning, don't be afraid to push the seed in a little.)
  • Don't be afraid to thin. If you want something to grow big and strong, give it room, even if that means cutting off a few other things.
(For me, lately this means learning to thin out the parts of my life that are crowding the more important ones.)

March 26, 2011

The Pregnant Farmer Turns Into The Mama Farmer

When J was first offered his fantastic job, we'd just come off of our first season farming and had somehow managed to survive on my modest and then quite sporadic pay. It was harrowing, to say the very least, to figure out how to live on so very little and with so few guarantees that -- small or not -- the next check would come at all, or ever again.

We were trying to get pregnant at the time -- for like the 14th month -- and I started to convince myself that baby wasn't coming because somehow the universe knew we didn't have the capacity to handle a baby, either financially or otherwise.

And, I wasn't sure how I could be a Mom and work the way I was working. I'd almost always been the breadwinner in the family and that pressure was immense when I considered that on top of caring for a wee one.

So, at the word "benefits" we jumped at J's job offer, and fast.

But, what about the farm? At the time, I told him that if he was working full time, I would go part time with my off-farm job and become the primary farmer the next season.

Then, I got pregnant.

Fooled him, didn't I?

I was some help on the farm last year and even spent the day before I went into labor on my hands and knees weeding the parsley, but largely (ha!) I couldn't cut it.

There was so much that went undone, so many opportunities we may have lost, so many ventures tossed aside -- all because we were short handed and of the hands we did have, one set was swollen from all the water retention.

So, as I look at pictures of the farm from last fall, weeds overgrown and turnips and carrots left in the beds to rot, I'm terrified that we'll do it all over again, or maybe even fall shorter.

See those large masses to the right of the high tunnel? Yeah. Those are supposedly beds of carrots.

I'm trying to imagine how we're going to manage a full-time off-farm job for J, a part-time one for me and my more than full-time Mama role and so far, I'm coming up blank.

But for now, the seeds need to be started to I'm learning to work around nap schedules. I take the baby monitor into the greenhouse and start seeding, as fast as I can, hoping that she'll sleep long enough to get a few flats going. Other times, I strap her into the front carrier, hook her onto "life support" as my friend Steph calls it, and away we go.

So, far, we're all keeping up, but the ground will thaw soon and then we'll see just how feasible a family and a farm can be.

March 25, 2011

She's Got the Whole World, In Her Mouth

She might be teething... or pondering world domination.

Have I mentioned how much I love that I live someplace where my friends can just drop by for quick chats and play dates?

Or, have I mentioned how extremely lucky I've been to find such an awesome tribe of women in our little town?

Or, have I mentioned how excited I am to be feeding my baby winter squash grown on our own farm? (See this post on the farm blog today for a little more on that.)

Or, have I mentioned how hard it is to get this kid to eat when there is anything distracting her, let alone two adorable girls playing in the living room?

This picture says all of that:

March 20, 2011

Thistles and Shamrocks, Sesame and Kale

There are few things I enjoy more in this world than the combination of the following:

1. The Thistle and Shamrock on NPR
2. Cheap, but decent, wine
3. Time alone in the kitchen
4. Thai food
5. The sounds of my husband and daughter playing in the other room while I partake in all of the above.

The kitchen has become somewhat of a haven for me, something I never thought would happen.

And, while I often complain that the kitchen in our little house is too small (it really is a one-butt kitchen and when we have company, I get isolated back there), the truth is I like the solitude it creates.

It's just me, NPR, a glass of wine, a sharp knife and a pile of good ingredients at my finger tips. It's my one bit of space during the day for creativity, quiet thought, my own music and a tangible sense of accomplishment and purpose.

Last night was just a regular Saturday night in our house, but for me, it was perfect.

And the food didn't turn out half bad either. Here are the recipes. (But keep in mind, they are only guaranteed if cooked with cheap wine and Irish music.)

March 18, 2011

Finding Some Balance

When it's this cold and windy, it's hard not to go just a little bit nuts.
Last week, while having one of those hanging-by-a-thread-so-thin-it-would-break-in-a-soft-breeze sort of days, I decided to stop for a moment and do a little yoga while Willa napped.

Nap time is so very precious, and I know I should be taking time for myself, but inevitably, I end up working or planting, cleaning or prepping dinner.

So, I've been trying to prioritize time for my mind and my body.

That means yoga. In the course of the last 10 years, I've gone in and out of practice, needing yoga more during some times and less during others. But it's been a constant in my life -- something I've always seemed to find my way back to. I can't (or won't) run and I don't have any other major physical tendencies other than work so yoga is my exercise of choice.

It's helped keep me centered and relatively sane through bouts of depression, loneliness, intense stress and transition, cancer and a few years of infertility. You could say it's been good to me.

March 13, 2011

I Wish I Was Just Like My Mother

Oh God. Did I just type that?

I wrote a short story in college -- workshopped it and everything -- with the premise that one of the worst things you can do is tell a woman she's just like her mother. Even worse is illustrating it by calling her by her mother's name.

As in: "OK, whatever, Julie."

(Chills. Up. The. Spine.)

My brother says it when I overreact. My husband says it when I worry too much. My best friend says it when I reach for another Diet Coke and a pack of saltine crackers.

The truth is though, being called by my Mother's name bugs me because I am like my Mother -- when I overreact, when I worry and when I drink too much Diet Coke.

By the time you've become a woman of your own, you've worked decades to differentiate yourself from your Mom. So, it really gets under your skin when what annoys you about your Mom gets discovered in you.

But, being just like my Mom is actually a good -- nay a great -- thing.

There are so many amazing, wonderful things about my Mom and never are those so vivid or so inspiring than when she is with her grandchildren.

The woman has this, this something, with kids. They light up in her presence. They show off, they giggle, they play.

She has a way of relating to little ones and letting their world envelop her. She reads books and plays and counts and sings ABCs, for hours and hours.

My Mom is, and always has been, so present.

And just so dang much fun.

Take this weekend, for example. While I run around the house, trying to straighten and clean, cook and shine, she sits, delighted with Willa, dreaming up fun things for all of us to do. Let's go to Village Drug! Let's get the stroller out! Can't you just wait until summer when we can take her to the pool! Oh! Won't that be so much fun!

She lives to have fun, like a kid.

How does she do it? Perspective.

She's always quick to tell me, when I'm fretting about work or the farm or the house or the massive amount of dog hair accumulating around me, that this stage only happens once and if you're not careful, you'll take it for granted.

"If I could, I would do it all over again," she said this weekend. "Just so I could do it again. God, I loved it when you kids were little."

So, on Sunday, even though I had dinner to cook and seedlings to plant, grain to weigh, columns to write and logos to design, I spent about two hours playing with Willa as my Mom dressed her in everything pink and/or fancy she could find in her closet. Why? Just because it's fun to play dress up.

(Someone should tell her though, that this is a baby, not a doll, despite the evidence in this photo.)

My apologies. I can't stop posting these. I mean, c'mon. Could you?


Rumba butts drive me nuts.

Willa absolutely cannot believe how excited Nana is about this dress.

But this excitement starts to turn to frustration pretty quickly.

Willa denounces the silliness by trying to eat the dress.

The situation then quickly devolves to this.

And then finally, this.

March 9, 2011

Doing Ourselves a Solid

The day of Willa's first meal started like this:

The book says winter squash at 6 months. She's five and a half. Maybe we should start with sweet potatoes.

But we can't grow sweet potatoes. We have our own winter squash and wouldn't it be better to start her on something we grew?

How do we make sure the spoon is fully sanitized?

What's that spot on the sweet potato, is it rotten?

What if I got the wrong kind of water? Did the book say spring water or purified water?

How long do I have to boil the water?

Why does she have to have water again?

And, really? I need to watch her water intake because too much could make her *what* fail?

Are you sure the cup is BPA free?

Are we sure this is the right time? One study says 4 months, another says 6 months. What if she develops allergies because of this?

All these questions I hadn't thought of before started popping up and just like that, just when I thought I had things figured out, I didn't.

But, after a minor panic attack, Jacob assured me that for centuries, mothers and fathers had figured out how to feed their children and we could too.

So, I mixed stirred and breathed and then fed my baby. Smooth as sweet potato puree.

A few days and we had the food thing down pat.

With sweet potatoes at least.


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