May 24, 2012

A Time Capsule, Or How One Person's Trailer Trash Might Be Another's Childhood

Our two farm apprentices arrived. And let me tell you, they're magic. Pure magic. Not only are they awesome folks to be around, they're super duper hard workers and for once, for once, we actually feel like we have the labor figured out on the farm. That's a big step for a small business.

The apprentices mean I don't need to be out there toiling in the dirt and sun as much and now that I have an more-than-part-time off-farm job and a toddler to chase, that works best for our lives. But, I can't say I don't miss it. I do. A whole lot. But, I'll still get out a few afternoons a week and get sufficiently dirty, I hope.

When we do get out to the farm, we try to do so by bike. Pretty awesome road biking around here for a Mama and Toddler.

Also, when on the farm, we always strive to look farmy.

And, while at home, we try to be as useful as possible, researching all things pertinent to small farmers, like, say, reading the most recent issue of ACRES USA magazine. (Someone has to know how do decode the nutrient density of our crops.)

In other news, in order to house aforementioned magic apprentices, we are borrowing this awesome camper trailer from my Dad.

I spent some good weekends in this as a kid and I don't think it's been used since the Lowerys last took it on the road, circa 1985.

So, this thing is like a time capsule on wheels.

It's so funny, how something you didn't even know you remembered can bring back such vivid memories.

Things like a 30-year-old baby doll, a rainbow hair band, a cassette tape, the print of a camper cushion, the lid of a margarine container, an empty box of clay, a key chain, a few handmade potholders, the top from a popsicle maker.

Aww... early 80s, you were totally rad.

May 12, 2012

Convincing Ourselves We're Mom Enough, Or What is Really Undermining Women

As a relatively new mother, I'm still figuring out my role – in the house, in the family, in the workplace, in the business world, in the mothering world and in my own sense of self.

It's a nuanced, complex and challenging place to be. But, it's my place to be. And in this place, I'd like to think I am fully thinking, and feeling, my way through it all -- my own way through it all.

But the last few weeks, a debate has been building online and off that insinuates otherwise – that seems to claim that in fact, my decisions as a mother are made from a place of influence, or fear, or insecurity.

So, I'll say this as eloquently as I can right now: Hooey. Pure, freaking, hooey.

Let me just go ahead and save you the trouble of answering the rhetorical questions raised by this firestorm of pre-Mother's Day media, by these so-called “mom wars.” (Really? Inflame much? “Wars?”)

First to the most recent question – the one posited on the cover of Time Magazine: “Are You Mom Enough?”

The answer is: Yes. No matter if you're an “attached parent” or not, the answer is yes. You are mom enough. 

Ok, that's done.

Secondly, to the question raised by the debate over Elisabeth Badinter's book – the question of Has Modern Motherhood Undermined Women?”

The answer is: No. Absolutely not.

But you know what is undermining women?  This crap.

All of it.

This crap. And this crap. And this crap.

And what's worse – women participating in this crap -- women spitting at each other from across imaginary boundaries between the right way and the wrong way to be a mother, or a woman.

It's an old tactic, you know, making women think that the real enemy is each other.

And, we're so quick to take the bait, aren't we? (You need to look no further than that Time cover to see the evidence of "bait." See what they're doing there with that cover? To use “war” terminology, it's a blatant attempt to incite violence. And, I've been so disappointed to see, all over, that it's working.)

It's either:
Oh, so you make all your own baby food? You're probably totally be judging me for the Goldfish cracker I just fed my kid, but you know what? Screw off, you're the one doing it wrong.

So, your kid sleeps through the night? In his own crib? And, I bet you think I'm totally enabling my kid by sleeping with her, don't you? But, you know what? Screw off, you're the one doing it wrong.

You've all heard some versions of these conversations, right? I have. Both of them. Both in my own head.

But here's a little secret: that piously “attached” mom you think you see? The one so comically portrayed in these discussions? (The one chasing her kid around the playground with the homemade marmalade?) Or, the similarly ridiculously-crafted depiction of the BabyWise-reading mom who reportedly lets her 6-week-old cry for 3 hours straight to teach the baby to to self soothe?

They're just snippets of women made into caricatures -- caricatures that make for convenient news stories about "wars." Caricatures that are easy to use -- either to make blanket judgements against other women or to create imaginary judges of ourselves.

Are we that insecure about our own mothering? That we have to tear each other down to validate our own choices? That we see judgement in every parenting decision that is not the one we've chosen?

Why have we evolved to celebrate all manners of diversity within our gender except within motherhood?

Well, that's where it gets really sticky. Motherhood is a complex thing. Perhaps our most complex thing.

It's at once intensely personal and communal. Instinctual, but also intellectual.

It ties into our deepest, deepest sense of self. It's our womanhood. It's our legacy. We have a little life in our hands. It is the most important thing we will ever do. 

But, it's also something with which we can never truly measure our success. That makes us vulnerable. We want a right and a wrong way. We want measurement. We want studies. We want labels. We want something that can take this big, sticky, uncomfortable thing and make it nice and neat and black and white.

That is why we are so quick to buy into the belief that there are “sides” to mothering. Camps to join. Gurus to follow.

But we're destroying each other, our children and ourselves by thinking that.

Because when it comes right down to it, parenting is really about feeling your way in the dark, even in this modern, intellectualized, information-overloaded world. The true trick to parenting is that there are no tricks. If at first, you do no harm (and protect your children from harm), then you are Mom enough. The rest -- and how you do it -- is purely personal.

And, certainly, what we read or hear or listen to is bound to influence how we approach parenting, but just how we approach it.  We all need information and we have it and use it. But, to insinuate that outside information – outside influence -- is the pure reason we mother the way we mother, is to tell us that we aren't thinking for ourselves. (Talk about an idea that undermines women.)

I parent the way I parent not because of some book or some guru or because of my "situation in life" or because of something I fear or something I have to prove, or some trend I'm following -- as if making the world-shaking day-to-day decisions of parenting is somehow akin to picking out shoes.

I parent by the heart, not by the book.

And I can honestly say that every other mother I know does the same – whether we bottle feed or breastfeed, co-sleep or use a crib, cloth diaper or disposables, make our own baby food or buy it -- we're all doing what we feel is best, and what works for our children, our families and ourselves.

No one is allowed to put us into camps for any of those choices, individual or combined. No one is allowed to label us for them. And no one is allowed to define the value of our motherhood based upon them and them alone. Not experts, not doctors, not magazine articles, not authors, not grandmothers, aunts or uncles. 

Not other mothers and certainly, most importantly, not ourselves.

Happy Mother's Day.

May 3, 2012

Cheap Sunglasses and a Book, a Real Book

I mean really. Who knew a cheap pair of sunglasses and a new bike helmet could create this kind of joy. (Or, whatever that is.)

In other news this week, both Jacob and I are published -- like in a book, a real book -- writers.

Our copies of Greenhorns: 50 Dispatches from the New Farmers' Movement came this week and wowza, I wasn't prepared for how cool and different it would feel to hold a book -- that contains my words -- in my hands. Pretty neat-o.

The book is really gorgeous and well done. Among other great essays, it contains this one, titled "The Value of Our Produce," which I read just as I really started to struggle with this whole how-we-value-food-thing. (I say "started to struggle" because the inner conflict continues to build in me. But, that is a topic for another time.)

Anyway, here's a little gem from that essay, written by Ben James. 
"What is a carrot worth? A bunch of kale? A handful of berries? Too often, I find myself on the tractor making quick calculations in my head. For a bed of carrots, there are the soil amendments, the cover crop last fall, the chicken manure, the organic fertilizer, the plowing, tilling, seeding, irrigating, thinning, weeding, harvesting, washing, bunching, packing, and selling. Plus the cost of the tractors, implements, and fuel. Plus the cost of childcare and preschool. Plus, somehow, all the time spent on the computer (where does that fit in)? And I haven't even mentioned the cost of the land (hundreds of thousands of dollars, in our case). The sheer number of labor hours and material and property costs that went into helping this soil produce these carrots. I ought to shellac the carrots and hang them on the wall."
Sometimes, I feel like shellacking everything we grow.


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