Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Sunday, a dear man I knew unexpectedly passed away due to complications from surgery. The shock was more than I expected and for the rest of the evening and the next day I existed in a dull confused sadness. Many who know him will take his death hard. I can describe him and how calm and present he was, what a beautiful man he was, but that’s not to do him justice. The thread that runs through all of those who knew him is the feeling that we didn’t get enough time with him. I wish I could have gotten to know him better than I did. I wish I could have spent more time with him. But it’s too late now to know him closer in the physical sense.

His passing has reminded me how special and beautiful…. I don’t want to say lucky but that’s the word that fits my feeling best. I’m so lucky to live in a life where I am exposed to such amazingly beautiful kind people.  Blessed? Without it being attached to the dogma of religion, I can say I feel blessed to have the ability to notice how lucky I am. I feel like for me to really honor his life, death and my own, I need to remain open and embrace those people around me I hold so dearly. Not to take their existence in my life lightly. No matter what capacity our friendship or acquaintance, to love them without reserve, even the woman who gives me my coffee, one cream one sugar at the drive through at the Cushing Mc Donald’s on my way to Stillwater. I may not hug her, (that might be frowned upon) but my kindness toward her celebrates my own life.

This man will be missed profoundly. His beautiful wife and children, I just can’t imagine the loss they feel.   There are no words, sentiments that can reveal logic, or reason, or true comfort. No missing piece to the puzzle that can reveal the complete image of our story, and to make the attempt is to swim in an ocean with no shore. So to embrace the unknowing and love tenderly all of those my life is to become the ocean with no need for the shore.

Brad Calloway Baxter you will be missed. I’m grateful to have known you. You have left the deep richness of your memory in my heart. 

Monday, February 27, 2012

Challenging my thoughts

…….Three days until I leave for Seattle to visit my family...... Three days of endless opportunities to remind myself to stay calm and that I am not going to get to everything I want to. Potatoes can wait until I get back. Many things can wait. I’m only going for the weekend. I’ll be back Monday late afternoon. All will be fine, really……… This is the stream of dialog in my head. Not to mention the thread of guilt I have been grappling with for even going to Seattle, you know; money, time, what I should be doing etc. But I have made a pretty serious decision not to cling to these thoughts. To embrace the fact that I am able to see my nieces and nephew, my brother in law, my sister, people I am related to and don’t see more than once a year. I can’t wait!

But this brings up a general way of thinking that I am trying to change. A way of thinking that separates me from the amazing blessed enchanted life I have been offered. My normal way of thinking is there is not enough time in the day to do all the things I need to do in order to gain control over the farm thus my life. I must have all the barns cleaned out, the chicken coops cleaned, animals fed. The place needs to be spotless, no garbage or junk piles, no work left undone, office, clean and organized, bills paid, e-mails returned, garden shed (my other office) clean and organized, barns, sheds all of it perfect. It must all be perfect because, all of this is a reflection of me as a person. If the barn is dirty than I am dirty, my office is disorganized then I am disorganized. All is a reflection of me. This way of thinking creates an unhappy me, and one who is on the verge of exploding.

Since I’ve been more diligent about my spiritual practice I’ve come to be able to bring myself to a more quiet place and within that quietness I am calm. It’s easier for me to recognize thoughts that don’t help me achieve what I deeply desire and that is to live. To live in the reality of my life. To trust myself and to be sweet to myself but challenge my thinking, this is a privilege. To be alive is a gift and a privilege.
So I fight myself. I challenge myself to think differently and this is difficult but when I feel myself sinking into the feeling of failing my expectations, I breathe as deeply as I can and I feel my feet connected to the earth and I stay there until the feeling passes and I am smiling at the gifts all around me. I know what’s important. I know what needs to be done, I know that there will be things I’ll have to get to at another time.   

I have this vision in my head of chipping away at a large stone, little by little, chipping, carving, creating a piece of art which is my life, and I can only hope it will be beautiful and I don’t ruin it. I can’t get it done in one day or ten years, as a matter of fact I have no idea how long I have to create this masterpiece. So know I have to relish the chipping, the carving, the act of creating. Simply, feeding the chickens. Gathering the eggs, washing the eggs, milking the goats. When I’m planting the onions I’m just planting the onions.  This is my practice. This is how I chip away, carve, caress, not my life but my living.  

Friday, February 24, 2012

Lil' Lincoln

I see the coolest things on my walks. Yesterday I ran into and followed this wild turkey couple. At first my presents didn't seem to bother them but after a little while their pace quickened and off onto the the woods they went.

Some years ago I had a tom turkey named Lincoln. Lincoln was a huge broad breasted bronze, an heirloom breed. He was given to me and my then partner by my vet Dr. Denham on the condition he wouldn't be "a meal" that he would be a pet. He was stunningly beautiful. He would roost on top of the hen house like a statue. One September we had a big birthday bash and Buffalo- Fitz came to perform. The mandolin and guitar played old blue grass tunes accompanied randomly with Lincoln loud cackle, Lincoln loved music!  For some strange reason both musicians were afraid of him even though he sat still on his roost. Facing the group one or the other would take quick nervous glances behind making sure of the turkeys whereabouts.

I loved to watch him strut, he made quick friends of the hens and became their best guardian, he chased the dogs off every time they got near one of his precious hens or the hen house, he was very protective.  As a matter of fact one time we had a group of friends out for a pot luck and a daughter of one friend was gathering eggs when apparently Lincoln saw the 3 foot tall child as a code 4 threat and proceeded to attack. The terrified child was saved and only one broken egg, a few scratches and a fear of turkeys was born.

Come to find out Lincoln had a bad habit of pouncing on kids. Later  Dr. Denham revealed that one day out side his office he looked out the window to see what all the hollorin' and a screaming was about, Lincoln had a three year old pinned to the ground and started to jump up and down on the poor boys chest.  (this turkey weighed no less than 40 pounds) The parents were trying to get the turkey off of him to no avail. The terrified child lived, a few scratches and a fear of turkeys was born. For some reason I thought this story was so funny that we both laughed until tears streamed down our faces. There may have been pee.

Lincoln found the ex to be a threat so he challenged her, followed her relentlessly, flogged until finally she was chased into the house. He would then pace in front of the back door making sure she couldn't or wouldn't dare come out. If she did only because she had too she would armed herself with a broom. "This turkey has got to go!!!" she demanded. But I loved Lincoln. He followed me around like a little pup. I would toss him cat food treats and he would get so excited. He was so beautiful. Until the day I ran out of treats.

A few scratches, ripped shorts and a newly birthed  fear of turkeys, Lincoln was re-homed two hours later.
We had Lincoln for about three months. Whenever I think of raising turkeys I cant help to think of Lincoln.

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Get out there!

I just did a double take on the forecast of today's temperature; 70 degrees!!!
I'm down right giddy! this is onion planting day and pepper seed starting day. Most years I do this under deep layers of clothing with frozen fingers. Or I'm wringing my hands waiting for the soil to dry out. But this year I'm right on time. Partly do do with the decision I made to lamb and kid in April instead of February. Last year round this time we were lambing out 50 ewes, and 13 goats, which was invigorating and exciting but also extremely draining and exhausting because while all this life was trying to make it way into this world the seeds didn't get started on time, the ground didn't get prepared on time and the stress was enough to put me into a mental hospital. So change was needed, priorities addressed.

This year feels so much different. I really appreciate when I can look at how I do things with a critical but non judgmental mind. Decide I want this year to be different, I don't want to pull my hair out be riddled with angst and stress and miss the beauty around me. I want to sit on the four sisters rock. I want to breathe and I want to be calm and present in my life, I want to smile. How simple it ended up being, just to rearrange a few things. Of course it goes with out saying that having less animals helps to contribute to the peace and harmony around here. Being prepared for bad weather, sick animals, etc does ease the burdens of the mind. So its really just about the gift of experience and learning from mistakes and freak occurrences of the past. I don't know if three years ago I would have been able to form the insight I have now.

This morning I relish the fact that in less than two hours I'll be out with my hands in the soil. planting 2500 onion plants. In eight hours I'll be sweaty and dirty and I will have earned a hot shower. I rest in knowing this.

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

I'm headed off to Stillwater today to teach a cooking class and thought I would post these pics I took in the greenhouse of a "weed" haha. This weed brought me to my knees with camera in hand squatting as close to it as I could get. As of right now the whole plant flower and all have gone in the crops of some chickens whom I let in, to "cleanse" the greenhouse, for replanting next week.

Monday, February 20, 2012

the sitting rock

I find some of the best places on my walks. This rock was discovered while searching for dead trees to harvest for the stove. I come back to it often and I cant tell you why but I climb up and sit on it. I I swear it calls me! "Come sit on me for a while, until your but gets too cold to bear it". Its remarkably soft from all the moss, like a cushion. although this morning it was wet so now I have a remembrance  on the seat of my pants.

I was a climber as a kid, have the scars to prove it so its hard for me to pass by something as beautiful as this and not want to be all over it.

Today peppers, eggplant and more tomato seeds will be started. New beginnings, new lives taking root. Lives to be nurtured and loved and then their fruit in return to nurture in multitude. This is the way.

I'm calling this rock my four sisters rock.

Another Thich Nhan Hanh quote “The miracle is not to walk on water. The miracle is to walk on the green earth, dwelling deeply in the present moment and feeling truly alive."

Friday, February 17, 2012

The burden of being upwardly mobile

I've had an inner struggle for the past eight years or so with my attachment with the all mighty dollar. I didn't grow up wealthy but I had more than I needed. When I grew up I got to a point when financial wealth meant something very important to me. It meant I was smart and talented and lucky. I believed money mattered, mattered to my friends that I had it, mattered to my family that I didn't need, it and mattered to society because I could spend it. I believed that a person’s value or their importance (mine) was measured in the ability to have whatever one wanted whenever one wants it. But at the same time my attraction to the monastic life, life without the burden of desire for things and such has always been very powerful and strong. So this is why I say struggle.

When I say I’ve had this inner struggle with money in particular for the past eight years it’s because before that for the most part I didn’t think about it, other than having it. There was not a possibility in my head that I wouldn't. But it happened. One day almost nine years ago I found myself with $14 in my possession. No assets, no debt, no job at least until April, one month away. I may have only had $14.00 but I ate like a queen, fresh food from my very first garden, lamb chops from the first livestock I had ever participated in raising and confidence in a discovery of self reliance.

Since then, thankfully for the most part I’ve managed to keep more than $14.00 and I’ve also managed to take on some debt. But I look at wealth so much differently. I look at my value so much differently. I’ve learned to measure relaxed shoulders and foreheads as priceless. I’m not saying money or wealth is a bad thing, no not at all. What I’m saying is how we perceive our own value apart from money is an even better thing. I’m 45 years old and I’m just now figuring this out. 10 years ago you wouldn’t have caught me living below my means. But now I thrive in it. I’m more dependent on my leg muscles and arms then my credit card or bank account. I value my partner and friends above all. I’ve no time for small talk, I dive into the richness of our inner lives. What’s happened to me? Maybe I just grew up, got a little older started to notice and question the things that were and are important to me. Over time my choice to farm and try to make a life from the land has become a monastic one, a way of life I had always desired deeply beneath a thick skin of insecurity. Here I’ve found an openness, a vast world of endless opportunities and experience. Unburdened by fear or confidence. I wake up each morning with the freshness of a young child, and I feel free.
I love this quote from Thich Nhat Hanh; “My actions are my only true belongings”.                                        When I first read it I cried. I worried so much about being 45 and not having “assets”. Maybe when we feel we’ve lost it all do we realize we didn’t posses it to begin with? What beautiful belongings to have, my actions. For this I can be secure in knowing they’re all mine, these are my assets, and I’m generating more each day!  It makes me think about how I choose to live my days and moments. How I treat myself and others. How I plant, how I cook.  I don’t know what else to say than this feels really good.

Thursday, February 16, 2012

Where I walk

This morning the earth is soft from the rain and snow, my feet sink in and my boots are shades of red clay and rich dark humus from rotted leaves and branches. In the woods where I take my walks I find deer trails to follow, ducking under low branches and stopping to smell the wet molding leaves. I feel the ground under my feet. I look closely under a tree carefully lifting the blanket of leaves and I wonder if we’ll have chanterelles to forage this summer or morels in April?  Will there be green briar tendrils, oxalic, chick weed, and poke? Will there be black berries, sand plumbs, pecans? My mouth waters at the possibilities. Sweet Jesus, keep walking.
I get to the end of the trail which is a gravel road the one that will take me home. 

My stomach growling for three fresh scrambled eggs, a chunk homemade gouda, warmed tortillas and hot sauce.   Hot coffee with a splash of goat milk and raw honey. I can smell it. I’m ready to eat the gravel under my feet I’m so hungry. I’ll heat up the black beans too from the other night. I’ll eat four eggs. Oh glorious food, soon I shall have you! I decide I’ll play a game. I'll walk real slow, breathe, if I make it home a meal for me is guaranteed but the future isn't. Don’t be in such a hurry I think to myself. I see another deer trail. There are tiny little paw and hoof prints to explore. I make it home an hour later.

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

A meandering update

My key board has been pretty silent lately. Seems like so much happens it’s hard to get it all down in comprehending sentences and then so much time goes by it just gets worse and feels pointless to write anything. But, I've had some things on my mind. I’ve been chewing on ideas and some general meanderings. That’s what happens during winter, it’s an opportunity for me to turn the previous year over and feel some sort of peace with the upcoming one. I hate to keep bringing up last summer but it kind of beat me down a little, but on the flip side the fall was more of a success then I could have even hoped for. My fall plantings were well, dense. There was more food than I knew what to do with. So with that came a renewed sense of possibilities and confidence.

The last part of December I took some time off from my regular farm schedule. I woke up when I wanted, I wrote uncountable pages in my journal, I ate, I fed all the animals of coarse and did all the things that needed to be done, but not with the regular sense of work and seriousness and no lists. In the afternoon I would write and take walks and think about things. I decided to take on some things that had bothered me in a deep emotional way for a very long time. I started to process of being sweet to myself, having empathy and compassion for none other than me. I realized all this time I had been trying to do this for the world outside of myself. I missed a real important basic principle. I count. So in a nut shell I decided to no longer give myself a hard time about the past. About decisions I’ve made, experiences that I had or something I had said or done years ago.

I woke up one day and I thought, “My life is so wonderful and so amazing I need to find a way to not miss it”.  And there it began the unfolding nature of self awareness. I went over everything that had been bothering me over the years. I took it from different angles and kept asking myself “am I sure about these things, about what I believe?” I wanted to spend time on this and then finally, finally, let it go. I wanted liberation, freedom. I wanted to be liberated from the broken record of fictional dialog I have with my sister. I wanted to be free from the fictional dialog I have had with my ex partner and so on. I desperately want to be free and liberated from the dialog I have with myself about what I should have done, shouldn’t have done.

It was several weeks ago, I was taking my morning walk up to the sheep and said something I often say to myself. “Ah, if I only had it to do over again with what I know now”. Then a loud voice came into my head and retorted quite sternly. “What do you think today is?!” “Every day is a do-over with what you know now! You are doing it over again with what you know now! Every time you open your lungs to breathe you’re doing it over again with what you know now. Geez already!!!” I felt like I had this little person in my head throwing up their arms exasperated ‘when are you going to get it’!!!    

Message received, thank you.

So yes, I’ve been talking to myself. But since that time I’ve let go of a lot of things I needed to. I wondered now that I’m not using so much time with fictional dialog and beating myself up, what will I do with all the open space in my head? I don’t miss it, I knew I wouldn’t and I knew that to be a better farmer a better chef I needed to step out of the past and into the real world I live in. The unfolding of self awareness continues, I live, I breathe, I trip, I fall and I get up again. I fart and laugh about it. I’m doing okay.

I wonder sometimes if this blog is too personal, if I give too much away about my vulnerabilities, my follies, my quest for understanding of the sacred and desire to experience it. I don’t know any other way. My heart is always on my sleeve.

The farm has a new web site and there is a blog attached to it and I wonder if I should start to use it. I wonder if because it’s attached to the business if I should be reserved and conservative with my thoughts or just stick to recipes or planting tips. Or should I just put myself out there like I do now? I would really appreciate any suggestions or opinions if you would care to leave a comment.

Thanks for reading