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.

Saturday, December 15, 2012

Studies in cold

I sit at my desk with dogs at my feet, comfortable within the protection of my small house. Outside, a beautiful unseasonably warm winter afternoon. I spent the day tending to some things in the garden and the afternoon cutting a dead pecan tree into manageable pieces for the stove. It was close if not 65 degrees out. There have been many days that cutting wood was done in heavy carhartts and thick sweaters, but it was nice having just a sweatshirt, jeans and a baseball hat. I try not to think about the weather as much as I used to. I keep updated on forecasts and such but I no longer am so obsesssed with wind speed, direction, and  hourly humidity. Things change so rapidly from one day to the next that I just have to throw up my arms and surrender. What will be will be.

Last Sunday night as expected the temperatures fell into the 20s. During the day Linda and I harvested vegetables for our CSA and made sure all of the rows were covered with fabric row covers that will protect the crops from frost damage, most of these crops are winter hearty and can freeze solid and still be fine unless frost hits them. The broccoli rabe was so tall the covers wouldn't fit over it so we had to harvest as much as we had time for and say goodbye to the rest which broke my heart because it was so beattiful, but there was no more time, it was getting dark and we were getting very cold.

The next day, the broccoli rabe was badly beaten. I knew it would be and wasn't concerned, I had agreed to let it go. The next three nights temps dipped down into the 20's along with high winds, which is unusual at night. The sound of the wind wisling through the tree branches and distant howls of coyotes made the night to be just short of a snow storm. The fire in the stove was cranked up high and still only kept the yurt just above 65. (I like it around 75) . we both bundled up with our books. In the morning once once the ice crystals melted off the grass I went out to the garden to find that the west end of the greenhouses had been blown to hell and were just flapping there amongst 2000 sq feet of dead vegetables, not only that but some of the crop covers had been blown of leaving swaths of dead beets, turnips and greens. what was left under the covers fared well but the loss was epic. I stood out there in utter disbelief .

I accepted what happened pretty fast and had a plan in place with in seconds, before the shame, self doubt, feelings of failure could set in. I would repair the green houses and replant for a early march harvest of carrots and greens. Whats out in the feild is enough to get me through two more deliveries. I can sprout and grow micro greens and I will just have to let the CSA members know what happened. I called Linda who was a work to give her a report. Immediately Linda was preforming triage on my fragile situation and a few minutes of her telling me it was going to be okay I interrupted her by saying "I'm really okay" "you are?" she asked . "Yes, I am"

The truth of the matter is, this is small potatoes. I can re plant I can make due, And in light of bigger tragedies I'll save my energy. I'm not a parent, but I'm a daughter, an aunt, a sister, a cousin and even though I do not have children of my own, I also grieve and feel a deep profound sadness for the loved ones and families in the terrible nightmare in Connecticut. So tonight I count my blessings and feel the tenderness of care for those around me and far away, I promise to smile at strangers (In a un- threatening way) be kind, and not be governed by fear so I may not find these things possible.
I shall plant the fields, hoe the weeds and keep close to me my lessons of the cold.

Thursday, December 13, 2012

First breath

Winter is often a time of deep reflection. A time to evaluate. I looked at last year’s posting on the blog and found nothing for December. What was going on? So I found myself turning through the pages of last year’s journal entries looking for clues. What I wrote in December was about my desire for clarity and solace. I was trying to establish some kind of title for myself, some kind of box I could comfortably fit myself in, some kind of identity. Was I a chef? Was I a farmer? Was a dairywoman? The lines were all blurry. I was in a state of discomfort. I was trying to reconcile my past with the present. Trying to see a future by letting go of the past. I worked hard on this and used up many pages in my journal. I recognized my biggest struggle and challenge was forgiving myself of my shortcomings and as ridiculous as this sounded at the time, loving myself. 

Uncertainty is frightening. I have had to really work hard at getting outside my ridged ideas of how things are supposed to be. This has been an ongoing struggle from a restaurateur and chef where life is fairly predictable to a farmer where expecting predictability is a joke onto oneself.  I didn’t realize how uptight I really was. But when faced with the daily life of farming I was constantly struggling. I thought I was struggling with the wind, the rain, the heat, the dry. I was only struggling with myself. None of those things were doing anything wrong. 

This morning I was listening to the big dogs bark. The morning was so quiet and still all I could hear was the bark and the echoes. Do the dogs hear the echoes? Do they think there is another dog barking back? There is no way to really know for sure but I doubt it. I recognized that echoes also happen in the human mind. Someone speaks to us and immediately what we hear are not just the words but the echoes which is essentially our brain translating it into judgment. Shame, anger, sadness, insult, pride, happiness. But it’s nothing more than an echo, and we believe the echoes are real and base how we act in the world by them. But echoes are not real, our judgmental imaging is not real.  Mindful or deep listening is hearing that persons words without listening to the echo. Imagine that! I have no idea of what that would even be like but something tells me there would be much less anxiety and suffering in the world.

When I was a baby I wasn’t hearing echoes, just sounds, the way they really were, without judgment, when words didn’t automatically come with emotions. My true nature was vulnerable, innocent, pure, non-violent.  That baby is still inside of me. That baby grew but did not disappear. When I die, if I am fortunate enough to grow old I hope I die that baby. I hope I can become that baby again, ready to reach out and experience things as they truly are. With this I recognize that my greatest enemy was a baby exactly as pure and innocent as me, how could I ever hate or be angry at a baby? This is what they talk about as being our Buddha or Christ nature.  Everyone we face good or bad have at one time taken their first breath, and in that moment of our first breath is always how we should see each other, because at some point all of us share this truth, we will also have a last breath.

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

finding my practice

I’m cooking for a group on retreat at the Osage Forest of Peace, it’s a small centering prayer group and they will be with us the whole week. It’s a silent retreat which I love!  No small talk or unnecessary jabber and noise.  Just nine people focused on their practice. Silence is the most beautiful thing sometimes.  The chapel is not far from the kitchen so I try to work as quietly as I can. Opening and closing cupboard doors, chopping, sautéing, washing pots and pans. It makes me aware of my every move. That awareness in itself is a practice. Taking time to lie my knife on the board softly, opening the drawers more carefully turning the water on and off with care and thought is simply a dance. Every move becomes intentional.
I’ve been cooking for so long I can switch to auto pilot in an instant, even if I’m cooking for a group of forty or fifty. It just comes so naturally, but I have come to realize that I miss the whole thing, the beauty of creating a dance, a gift, an offering.  When I’m on auto pilot generally I’m light years away. But here and at the farm I like being present. I like being awake. I’m not trying to get through it or waiting for it to end, I’m happy being, as being is arriving constantly to my destination.
I am enjoying my time at the forest. I enjoy the silence and the culture of a contemplative life.  The community and guests that live there bring me much happiness. Sister Maryanne is just about the sweetest individual I have ever known. Sister Jane makes me think and laugh at the same time.   I value this sacred space that honors all spiritual and religious beliefs and strives to be a place of peace in between the blurry lines of dogma and politics. The wealth of books stacked floor to ceiling, from Hindu, to saints, onto books of plants and nature. Nurturing all aspects of how we understand the divine. I feel completely at home.
So, as Linda begins the difficult task of planning a funeral with her brothers, I pour myself into cooking, hoping to nourish and help support those working on their own tasks of expanding and broadening their lives through the pin hole focus of practice.  Within this I find my own practice, and my capacity to love and support all that I come into contact with deepens, broadens and grows.  I wish for Linda to find calm within this storm as the up-coming arrival of family and friends begins. I wish for her to hear love and virtue in every voice and I wish for her loving kindness in all aspects of these days.

Monday, December 3, 2012

change of plans

The list is long today. This last week and weekend took an unexpected turn when Linda's mother's health became worse and she found herself at her mother's bedside waiting for her final breath. Her mother went peacefully yesterday evening.  Sometimes the death of a loved one is a relief knowing their suffering is over. It's easier to let them go. But there is still the place they hold in your life that might feel empty. I remember that when my own mother died and my sister. The air went out of the room and I felt empty spaces in places I cant describe. After many years of grief, I'm starting to understand that empty space as fear of my own mortality, regrets and attachments.

This week I was scheduled to cook at an eight day Rohatsu sesshin a zen retreat that marks the Budha's enlightenment. Two days before I was supposed to be there I needed to cancel. Linda was off to be with her mom and someone needed to be at the farm, so I traded places with the cook at Osage, he also has a deep practice in zen traditions so was very pleased with the opportunity. So, he is down in Chico Texas with the sangha and I am cooking in his place for the community and guests at the Osage Forest of Peace.  That way I can drive back to the farm each evening and take care of milking and farm goings on. I understood the levity of the situation when I dropped Linda off at the airport and rushed to Stillwater to teach my last cooking class at the Wellness Center and rush then to pass the torch at the monastery. What have I gotten myself into?

When I realized how much work was ahead of me.  I cried. How would I be able to do this? I spent a few hours feeling sorry for myself, but I continued to sit and meditate in spite of feeling rushed and exhausted. Finally I realized that all this was a small sacrifice in comparison to the overall need of not just Linda and her brothers and mother, but to Andy (the cook) who will now get to deepen his practice, and I get the gift of nourishing my friends at the Forest. When would I ever get an opportunity to be useful to so many at the same time. The farm is fine. maybe could use a little TLC but the animals are safe and well and the garden is doing its thing. Projects can wait. Thoughts can wait, plans can wait. Right now is what matters.

I have the day off to rest. I'll be picking Linda up at the airport this afternoon. A few things will get done. In some ways this is just what I needed to raise my own awareness and deepen my own practice. A change in plans should always come with a welcomed excitement. Each moment is so precious, each breathe such a miracle, and when we see that last breathe in  a loved one, we see just how precious all the breathes that came from this person were, no matter the complicated relationships we've had with them. From the very first to the very last, every breath counted. Every breathe I take counts from my first to my last. I hope I can always remember that.

Sunday, December 2, 2012

love matters

I’ve been searching on the internet for poems about mothers. One just perfect, to ease your rawness of the event. The great one and only event, when we lose our mothers. My search came up thirsty and hungry, an unsatisfied compulsion. I decided to make a cocktail.  Nothing fancy just grapefruit juice and vodka, hoping to break through the gristle and sinew that gets in the way of my thinking. When I was ready I came upon a memory of my own mother’s death although I was not with her at the time of departure,( I had left just the day before, after sitting diligently at her bed side for seven days).
Why did I leave? Why did I go?
I know why. She taught me. I had responsibilities. Something she learned very late in life herself, but instilled in me with desperate fervor.   So I left her. I flew back to Oklahoma to engage in my responsibilities.
Was it worth it?
 No. I had my responsibilities messed up. I miss- interpreted her teachings
Time for another drink
I’ve thought about you and your brothers so much in these last few days, I’ve thought of corn seeds.
I’ve thought about your grief and what you might be feeling; Relief, sadness, can we have a do-over?
I’ve thought about healing and anger and confusion. I’ve thought about feeding you. What could I cook for you that will help bring stillness? And I’ve thought about priorities and markers in time and space, because events are what shape our world like clay, regret and pride are the kiln, it can go either way. What happens now is anyone’s guess. “the arrangements” is a given, but a new story unfolds
A history revealed and a future not at our fingertips.
Your sorrow is my sorrow, your joy and relief I share with you also. Know that my heart is burning brightly for you, a fire that cannot be extinguished.
To our mothers, who live in us always