Tuesday, April 8, 2014

Things come up

Spring has most definitely sprung on the farm, typical warm days and cool frosty mornings for this part of Oklahoma. Everything is going great on the inside. I feel alive, rested and inspired, things couldn’t be better that is except for: virtually no germination on the spinach beds, poor germination on the beets and a rabbit or some critter has eaten ¼ of a bed of broccoli and to top it off the tractor has been in the shop now for two weeks. I’m officially behind. What does this mean? Mostly that I will miss an entire succession of my spring plantings and go right to summer. It means spring will be light and we’ll have to put more of our energy into summer and fall. But it could be worse.  I work hard on not getting stuck in the problems. 

Things come up, and when they do I have to decide right then and there, how I’m going to spin this to myself. Am I going to blame, rant at the sky, default to karma, or am I going to let things be as they are and try to make the best out of an unfortunate occurrence.  I’ve gone back and forth on it really.  Some moments I handle things better than others.  This morning was one of those times I was able to do pretty well, I decided to go for an early very brisk walk and it helped. Half way through, an idea sprung into my head. I’ll re-plant!  Seems pretty obvious doesn’t it. It’s not desirable but it’s a solution. 

I’ll get through it with long brisk walks and humor.

Monday, March 31, 2014



Its been nearly one year since my last post and I thought I would share something that happened to me not long after my last blog entry that’s very difficult to talk about. Mostly because I've worked so hard to hide it. I didn't know it then and it wasn't until last fall when I found myself at my computer googleing  the word “Burnout”. Looking closely, it appeared I had all the symptoms.  It was hard for me to be enthusiastic about anything to do with food or farming, the thought of even cooking dinner felt like a root canal. Thinking about soil health, seedlings, the farmers market, everything I loved was over demanding, overtaxing and downright dreadful.  

 I had just finished up a great season of Farm Table Dinners, one of my best. I gave it my absolute all in spite of what felt like a complete crumbling of my total existence. Many mornings I sat in deep contemplation of my next move. Finally my plan was to just examine myself, to shift my awareness to the reality of the present moment and not beyond and to see what would happen. I would try not be attached to any outcome. If I had to give it up I would, but I didn't want to make any decisions quite yet.

Most of the commentary on the subject of overcoming *burnout* states rest and a vacation as the best remedy, both inaccessible to me in my current situation. Burnout is not to be mistaken for depression; even though I had burnout I could still be very happy. I had a great life. An amazing supportive spouse I’m madly in love with and good friends, by all appearances happy. My work had just become simply unbearable. Which, my work was for the most part the center of my very existence.  

I started cooking when I was 14, it’s the only profession I had ever known. In Seattle, my home town I had made a name for myself and there 11 years ago I believe is where this Burnout had planted its seed. When I was a young chef my career seemed unstoppable. I experience an unprecedented amount of success, but 11 years ago I had one epic fail, one that pulled the rug out from under me and changed the course of my life. Watered by that failure, unknowingly I was on a slow path that would take me eventually to a farm in Oklahoma, where a perfect storm would produce a bumper crop of insecurity, fear, failure and ultimately full blown burnout.  Everything I was in Seattle I wasn’t in Oklahoma. I had no real estate in the community, no history, no roots, I was an outsider.

I found a place here where I seemed to fit in, but I’ve been in between worlds, I was no longer a chef at the helm of a busy restaurant and I hadn’t quite become a farmer either. I really had no identity and felt at many times completely lost. Part of my problem was I kept trying to hang on the old person I was, hanging on to that identity I had worked so hard to establish, Clearly, I had a death grip on the past. Surly, I thought I am still that same person with that same talent, however I didn’t trust myself. I wasn’t sure if I even liked myself. Who was I now? what value did I have?  

My first few years in Oklahoma were the most challenging and dishearten experience of my life.  Anyone in their right mind would have left, gone home. But I had nothing left there but ashes, the ashes of my mother, my sister, the ashes of my success and the suffocating ashes of my failure. I stayed in Oklahoma in spite of conditions. But in the years to follow I managed to disassemble myself down to my very cells, sometimes intentionally and sometimes simply by things I’ve experienced.   

I have experienced profound love and friendships here and I must say the thing I cherish most about living here in Oklahoma are the Oklahomans themselves, but I’ve settled into the fact, and have surrendered to the truth that I am, and probably always will be an outsider.  But there is also a freedom in this, one that I have just recently begun to recognize. Without an anchor I’m free to explore the seas, without the kite string I can explore the skies. Without a place I am everywhere. My exploration of food has no boundaries for the places it can take us, even if the ingredients grow so close to us as if right against our own breast.

The skies have cleared for me. Thanks to another perfect storm of events, one being a new farm partnership with a Tulsa restaurant, an entire season of farm table dinners selling out in 24 hours, not to mention three very enthusiastic interns coming on the farm for the season,  The “burnout” has run its course. It served a very important roll. It took me apart, down to nothing, stripped me of everything I believed, made me wrong, made me simple, made me empty.  I surrendered.  I'm never going to fit into any box. I'm always going to be rouge and outside of the norm and now that I'm not trying, I am finally free.  I can’t wait to be in my kitchen, my lab, my studio. I can’t wait to puck the earth of her offerings, creating without boundaries, without limits, without inhibition.  Untethered, clean, empty and lovingly sharing with you. 

I'm back!

Friday, April 19, 2013

Journal entry

April 19th 6:11 am Friday, 35 outside and 61 in yurt. Today highs in the lower 60’s will be cold tonight, no frost warning, but a fire will be needed.

I’m sitting in front of a beautiful fire with a very hot cup of coffee. I ran out of pages in my journal so decided to type away. Yesterday was chili stayed cloudy and very windy throughout the day. The rain from the night before only measured in at ½ an inch so that thing needs to be re- mounted (not level) word has it we received at least five inches of rain the night before and by the looks of the pond I believe it. We missed the bad stuff, the hail, the 60 MPH winds by mere miles. Luck, that’s what that was. Luck. The field looks a little ragged but not nearly what it could have looked like. Whew!
Yesterday was spent digging myself out of a really dirty and disorganized house. The commercial kitchen project we have going is almost complete but the farm house is a crazy place. Cleaned now, scrubbed down to the studs. The kitchen is looking great. Something I’ve dreamed about for years is finally becoming a reality, It’s been hard though and costly. 

Jackie Dill came yesterday afternoon, with Neva and her WWOOF-er  ( http://www.wwoof.org/ ).  They settled in at the cabin, Linda brought a load of wood up and the place was cozy by dinner. They will be up and about foraging this morning and throughout the day for the found and foraged dinner here at the farm this weekend. 

I slept fairly okay woke up a couple of times once to put wood on the fire. The second time I woke up was at 3:45 the night was still and quiet. This is the time of the morning when thoughts can get ugly and your brain can turn on you. I’m ever so familiar with this routine so instead of engaging the thoughts I focus on my breath. In. Out. In. Out. Slowly. Deeply. Then before I know it the alarm is going off and the smell of coffee and firewood fills my senses. 

I’ve been so busy I haven’t made time to sit. I miss my practice and try to practice deep mindfulness as I’m working but nothing is quite like the time and space sitting in meditation. I long to rejoin my breath. Things are down to the wire, the kitchen, the dinners, the field, the goats…. I know it’s only temporary and I’m trying to work with grace but I’m tired. Haven’t had a day of rest in several weeks and am starting to drag. This Sunday though is that day. We’ll milk and do the regular animal chore but a book and a position of leisure is my aim for the entirety of the day. 

In spite of my extreme tiredness, the energy will come to create a six course dinner from wild foods foraged from the farm and nearby.  This is the first dinner of the season. I’m tired but excited and am ready to take the plunge and immerse myself in cooking. This will be my practice today. A place I’m familiar with, a refuge. A still pond that I float on. The wild foods are the current that moves me from place to place, and as I shut my computer I will release myself from all other thoughts and concerns and surrender to flavors, textures and the colors. Ahhhh. What a wonderful thing. 

It is an absolutely beautiful morning.

Thursday, March 28, 2013

Competing with the moon

This morning the moon and the security light (I think that is what it’s called) were competing for shadows. Each at opposite sides of the farm. That’s how it is at the farm right now everything competing for light. Maybe that light is the sun, the moon, attention, or a bottle. But living is sometimes a competition that only the strong or the ones pliable enough to be tossed around a bit survive. The great thing about waking up at 5 am is I get to experience the play of darkness. It sometimes feels like such a secret world.

While I’ve been gone from the blog, 17 kids were born and are all thankfully healthy and strong although we had a couple that were questionable. All of the Does are doing fine but one of our girls had quadruplets and we were worried but she is doing just fine, as it turned out another Doe, Ruby who had twins suffered from a light case of milk fever and spent yesterday morning getting love and attention from the vet. She’s on the mend.

Along with the welcoming of 17 new lives we’ve also managed to plant a few thousand broccoli, cauliflower and cabbage plants, 4500 onion plants, several rows of cool weather seeds and the propagation hut is now housing 1000 tomato plants (27 varieties) and baby chard, kale, kohl rabi, pepper and soon eggplant and a few other variety of plants. We started converting the old farm kitchen into a commercial kitchen and that’s been a lot of work, but worth it I’m sure! 

Oh and I got married (in Seattle) It’s funny how I didn’t really think Marriage would change anything. I mean I love this person beyond belief how could a ring and a piece of paper ( a legal document) change anything. But amazingly it does feel different and often I feel the ring on my finger and the greatest Joy comes over me. It’s a reassurance, a profound statement that I and the person I love have made a bond that is almost wordless, meaning the depth of that bond may sometimes go beyond what we can form into words which can do justice to our feelings. So the ring does that for us. It says everything we can’t. It’s silent and powerful, needing no explanation.  So this is a surprise to me and I understand now why getting married has been such an important subject in our culture and society.  Now the debate is who owns marriage. Who has the copy right on marriage? Who is allowed to marry and who is not? 

I have catered countless weddings as a matter of fact I’m catering a wedding reception this Saturday. This couple can marry anywhere they wish, and did.  I will provide the food for their celebration like all the ones before them. I will poor my heart into it like all the receptions I’ve catered before. In spite of the fact that marriage is a privilege that has not been available to me until now, when my home town passed a law making me equal to my family and friends at least in Washington. I’ll take it. Even if it is the skim milk kind at least through the eyes  of legal lenses.

But enough of that right now. Life is all around us screaming for attention. Each moment a flying arrow. Gone so quickly. One day we wake up and realize all the moments we’ve missed all the sunrises and sunsets, all the full moons. opportunities to love our enemy our friends, our family, to say how we feel, to create, to be profoundly compassionate.  To love ourselves so deeply that it spills over into the dear lives of people around us. Not forever but right now, I am here. I am here. I

Wednesday, January 2, 2013

A bright New Year

I quit making "resolutions" years ago, I do think about and plan changes, generally to do with what went right or wrong at the farm, what needs tweaking and what needs to stay the same. But the desire for self improvement, to be healthier, happier and more organized is a daily thang. So by time New Years rolls around I'm over it. I'm ready to get to work on real tangable things like getting the field ready for planting!

This year I am overflowing with hope, I have lots of exciting changes to soon start writing about and I cant remember a time when I harbored so much excitement in the pure wonder of being alive. 2012 for me was one of the best years as far as the farm goes. It was a year of self awareness, forgiveness, humility, and the first year since I began farming that I had a few dollars in my bank account at the end of the year albeit not much, but more than negative so that's a real accomplishment! This would horrify most but I have the biggest grin on my face right now!

While I don't have a "resolution" I do have an intention. I've been reading this prayer before and after each time I sit. Although I may not see Lord or Master as something outside myself, this prayer has profoundly spoken to me and has become my intention for 2013 and beyond.

Prayer of Saint Francis of Assisi

Lord, make me an instrument of thy peace.
Where there is hatred, let me sow love;
where there is injury,pardon;
where there is doubt, faith;
where there is despair, hope;
where there is darkness, light;
and where there is sadness, joy.

O Divine Master, grant that I may not so much seek
to be consoled as to console;
to be understood as to understand;
to be loved as to love.
For it is in giving that we receive;
it is in pardoning that we are pardoned;
and it is in dying of self that we are born to eternal life.
Happy New Year friends, may you be safe, may you be healthy, may you be happy and may you be at peace. And may you eat many vegetables!

Thursday, December 20, 2012

Winters past

We've had a couple of challenging winters on the farm that have been hard to forget. The blizzard of 2009 on Christmas and the big snow storm in 2011 two days after we received 28 pregnant sheep, ready to pop. Oh the fun! I was just remembering one year, just befor kidding I decided it would be a good idea to lay several inches of wood chips down in the barn instead of hay which is what I normally use. When kidding and lambing began I would come out to the barn to find Almond Roca kids and lambs. The Southdowns were the worst!  The momas were terrible about cleaning them off so they were just covered in wood chips. On more than one occation I would find my self in the shower at three AM with a cold skicky wood chip dredged lamb. They were so frikin' cute though!

And the lamb that dropped and got left behind. I found it, thought is was dead but it was just cold. The lambs tail was frozen! In the shower we went and then the blow drier and then in the laundry basket with the heating pad. How bout the time we lambed out 49 ewes oh lord I thought I would die!
They were just coming one right after the other! I couldn't keep my head on straight!

Well in two months Kidding rolls around. My latest count was 18 bred. I thought it might be twenty b'cause the buck decided to go A-Wall and got in with all of the girls. But those girls (the ones I carefully decided not to breed) will be due late May. Half will be due first couple of weeks in March. But no more sheep. I am out of the sheep business and couldn't be happier. I am excited about kidding and I'm excited to finally have some winter weather. I feel like I'm ready, as ready as I'll ever be. Got the stove going, hot tea and carrot cake, what more could a girl ask for?

Wednesday, December 19, 2012


I just noticed today that when I make mistakes I no longer rant on with the inner dialog about how stupid I must be, how unworthy and well... the list of words I once used to describe myself was long, But that's beside the point. What I have come to recognize is I no longer see myself as this "adult", who's experience and wisdom somehow should reduce the amount of mistakes one makes. I now see myself as a little baby, or a five year old. Mistakes are inevitable because at five your on the fast train to living. Your not worried about making a mistake, your concerned with exploration in the here and now. That's real freedom right there.

I would not want to be five years old again. At five I was a lonely child. Painfully shy which I learned later to overcompensate for by creating my own world and my own reality. But I have a lot of compassion for that five year old, and I know she is okay. I also know throughout her entire life until she is in her 47th year of life she will believe that each time she makes a mistake 1billion brain cells are killed, and she is unworthy of the blessings in her life.

The garden has taught me about new beginning after new beginnings, and forgiveness.How am I different than the soil, or than a radish? Each winter I watch life end an start again. Living examples of freedom and innocence.  Not recklessly, not without thought and intention, not without struggle, But graceful in the truth. Seeds, if cared for thoughtfully will grow.  I have many seeds inside myself that need thoughtful care. People and animals, vegetables, some I know some I don't, need that same kind of care.That has become a simple truth for me.