Wednesday, July 13, 2016

This little piggy, these little piggies

"Momma, this is the snack station. This is how you do it: dip your fingers into the sour cream then dip your fingers into the bag and you pick up crumbs. You try."

He hands me a plastic bag that once held entire crackers. A couple weeks ago, I had tossed some almonds in the bag, too. The mix went into my backpack for a hike. It went up and down a couple North Carolina mountains, and made the trip back to Jersey. I am cheap about tossing even stale food because you never know when you will be hungry.

The inside of the bag is streaked with sour cream, bits of crushed stale crackers and one almond. I dip my fingers in the tub of sour cream and then into the somewhat yucky bag. The cream is cold and speads across my hand. Crumbs cling to my hand which has also picked up more cream from the bag. I lick my fingers.

Beren assesses my hand. "Momma, you may need to lick more than once." I decide to rinse my hands instead.

It is time for a trip to the market to restock the larder.

Wednesday, July 6, 2016

Family Business

Jared wrote a great blog piece on having a family business, so it's kinda like, "enough said", but since I like to have the last word... Well, wait, everything he said was true, so this isn't the "last word", not by far, so this is a "yes, and...":
My coworkers and I had a mud fight on vacation just to let off steam. I started it.

Having a family business means that I'm on the clock here, so I better hustle along this this creative endeavor and get back to work. Here we go with some key points:

I vacation with my co-workers. I couldn't get away from them. They just followed me. I took a vacation to get out of various personal ruts, including my guilt about how the hell can I get any work done around here. That's also wound up with guilt number 2, when will my boss let up so I can relax and spend more time with my kid.

Ideally, my boss would let up so I could see my husband, too. Luckily, my husband is likely to stick around once my kid leaves the house. So, I suppose I can catch up with my husband then - in 13 to 15 years when our kid is about 18 or so.

My co-workers came back home with me after vacation. They just followed me. Last night my coworker took a shower in my house and shaved in my sink. I figured if he was so bold, I'd go right ahead and ask him about Virginia waterleaf transplants while he toweled off. We've worked together for awhile, so I had no problem ignoring his lack of clothing.

Meanwhile, my coworker also brought his kid over. His kid refuses to go to sleep, so I hardly get a break. No breaks to work, no breaks to hang out with my own kid, no breaks to talk to my husband.

I did recently take an evening walk on July 4 with my coworkers. We watched the fireflies and listened to the fireworks and the rain came down. A somewhat romantic thing to do with coworkers. More like something I'd do with my family, it's true.

Friday, June 17, 2016

"Farm" Triage

 During the busy season, this is the view I most frequently see of my spouse. Head down, working. I miss you (even when I don't and even when you wish I too would take my grumpy self elsewhere) even though I sleep next to you.

A reflection on my personal state of affairs. It has to be done every so often. Here it is:

Farming is looked at as a majestic release from the 9 to 5 dread of punching a time clock in the face, unless you are salaried and then they never really let you go. Most people realize that farming is tough. Tough, yes, but again, a noble venture. After all you are feeding people, and that is noble, generous, and looked upon with favor.

There are exceptions and caveats, and of course it is subjective. Some might say that the family farm is noble while farming GMOs for feed is not noble. Other types of farming are not considered 'real farming'. Let's admit it, lots of folks grumble about horses..."that's not farming". Nurseries, be honest here, friends, not necessarily farms. It's ok, I don't think "farm" when I see rows of mums, so you don't need to when you see rows of Joe Pye weed.

I'll admit it, I awkwardly call our land a "farm". I awkwardly call it "our land". Farmer? Me? Not so much. Nurserywoman? Frankly, I'd rather be called a nurseryman, just to go easy on the syllables.

I don't love the word "farm". I like what it vaguely connotes, kinda and in the best sense of the concept. Actually, I'd prefer to call what I'm doing a restoration or replanting. 

And back to the majestic release from drudgery. I'll tell you what, every April, May, and June my family slightly to completely unravels. Complete disconnection from each other and the planet earth. We are so incredibly busy that life becomes like an emergency triage. What's going to get done, and what's not going to get done. We eat poorly until with great effort we reverse that.

Minor criticisms of each other are duly noted, registered, and rejected. We're cranky, we're lonely and brittle. Our kid, who supposedly we are doing this "for" so he has a better life, acts badly, too. Momma and Papa are not paying attention and are pretty unpleasant at times.

And hey, remember, I'm not even a 'farmer'. I'm a nursery(wo)man who also makes programming and land stewardship consulting part of the business plan.

We don't see our friends who farm during this time of year. We don't see our friends who work in the financial world during tax time, that's true, too. Nor, our college age family during finals... but... what am I trying to say? There's some irony in the noble venture to farm. The f*cking to do list won't go away. And just when the to do list gets really long and my head is about to explode, many of my pals might be in the same boat, and nobody's able to get together and unwind.

Ultimately, I need something more than unwinding together anyway. I'm really feeling the need to build a little village that links our separate farms, regardless of what we're farming...whether its vegetables, wildflowers, taxes, or the myriad other tasks that pay the bills.

 Home office before the plants took over Hoophouse 1

 OK, so riding this rig does put a smile on my face.

 More family time together checking out the labors. Part of this area is now paw paw, persimmon, hearts a burstin', New ENgland aster, pearly everlasting, steeplebush, etc.

 More family time together laboring. Race around picking up all the things that should not be flail mowed.

 More family time together pulling weeds.

 More family time together picking as many strawberries as possible so we have then for the winter.

 That's me. Nurserywoman, hear me question my existence.

The vegetable garden, mixed feelings. We do have adequate purslane finally.

Wednesday, June 8, 2016

School Trip to the Nursery

Beren heads for the rain in Florida

One of the many things I love about my son is that he heads right out into rainstorms. Yesterday, the older kids from his school visited our nursery. Rain came on cue. Their teacher said, "I love rain. This is great. They'll certainly remember this trip."

Kids ran screaming, "TORNADO!" "RAIN!" Some ran under a tent, others didn't. Beren partly went under, standing directly below a stream of water that poured down his head. Did I say I love that kid?

In between racing around the pond and playing on the swings, we saw some plants and yelled over the excited din. As it should be.

One teacher discovered a butterfly in hoophouse two. The girls hustled in to see it. Magically, the butterfly slipped out of a slit in the plastic. I found a bumblebee clinging to the shade cloth. I gently grabbed it, banking that this creature would not sting me. A few buzzes and the bee calmly clung to my right pointer finger.

"Won't it sting you? Can I touch it? Can I see it? I can't see it! Can I pet it!?" "Yes, the bee could sting me, but I've had practice. Plus, today is a little cold." I added to the teachers, "I hope I'm not a bad influence here."

I got a couple minutes of attention because of my outrageous act. I talked about buzz pollination and pollen sacs, showed the bumblebee around a final time and placed the bee on a fleabane.

After the kids left, I was pretty overstimulated. Bottom line - teachers deserve rich rewards for all they do.

Saturday, June 4, 2016

Pardon My Appearance

Pardon my appearance, I've been remodeling myself for the past seven months. I took a break from writing, opting instead to go within rather than present outwardly. I've considered writing about many topics, sad stories, sweet moments, or passing things I hope to remember but just couldn't write about. Again, all the effort - a h*llmouth worth of effort - went to tinkering around with the gears, belts, and gaskets of this human being.

A few items around this time were tough regarding writing. I've seen a few 'mommy blogs' go kaput around year 3, 4 or 5. Kids go to school. They become their own person, big time. Mothers get busy (busier? turn attention elsewhere? Saying "mothers get busy" seems to identify a persistent condition). I respect all that. But, where was my writing going? Down the hopper or just existing between my ears as a drove to some future soccer/scouts/choir event?

When I did write, I didn't bother letting anyone know. No Facebook, no asking Jared to review for massive typos. I have a few reasons for that, including slipping into a sleeping bag made of myself and my self-awareness. It was too difficult to present and represent myself while doing so much inner work.

Of course, none of this is particularly easy to talk about, but part of my work has been standing next to and in front of my fears. Checking them out, walking alongside them (hey, man, you've been with me for awhile, maybe I'll say 'hi'.), and seeing if they are all I've built them up to be. When I can, I let go. Otherwise, I say, "yeah, I'm afraid of that." Or, "come along." Or, "I'm gonna take you on, and only one of us is gonna make it. And, it's gonna be me."

One tremendous fear I have is The Fear of What Other People Think of Me. I have that one pretty bad. It's a chronic and occasionally acute condition. At this point, I don't think it's going anywhere, but in a good moment, I can address it. I can ask myself what exactly I'm concerned about. I can also see the good in it, that is, when it's not debilitating. In the good light, I give a sh*t about other people.

And so, in opening the big trap door, I'm letting you all know at one point or another, or maybe more than one point, I've been concerned about what you thought of me.

I recently and accidentally ground-truthed this with a stranger. Turns out the Stranger and I both know a Person. I like the Person. The Stranger did not like the Person. The Stranger let me know it, and let me know it over the course of a couple minutes. It was indulgent. I let the Stranger know I liked the Person, briefly.  

The take home message? From this conversation, I can deduce that Yes, someone has talked sh*t about me, too. Yes, there are people who don't really like me. What a relief, it's true. It's true, and it's no big deal.

Monday, May 30, 2016

Oh, wow, this is a pain in the *ss

Beren tugged my arm as I talked to my mother in law on the phone. "Momma," he said in a whisper. He continued so quietly that I could not understand him. I shook my head and wrinkled my eyebrows indicating I could not understand.

"Momma, I need a plate," he said in a more audible whisper. 

"Ok," I mouthed, handing him a plate.

Later, I realized he was being courteous. Though still interrupting my conversation, he was doing so at a lower volume.

When he was a baby, his needs were immediate, fast and at times, furious. I would say for me, at a "holy f*ck" sort of level (diaper plus missed feeding cues, or just woke from, he insisted despite my equal insistance, awaking from a nap is BY NO MEANS to be done calmly. Awaking from a nap must include a minimum of 10 minutes of screaming no matter what.) 

By toddler age, needs and experiences are down graded to "holy sh*t" (by no means are we leaving this playground)  level alternating with "oh crap" (forgot a change of clothes and fell in a puddle). By now things get up to "oh, wow this is a pain in the *ss" (another case of poison ivy, or it's very hot and his legs do not want to finish the rest of the walk home) level with occasional spikes to "oh sh*t" (tumbling off porch railing). "Holy f*ck" level is rarely reached these days. Maybe I have relaxed a little, too.  

Overall, a good weekend here - mostly a mellow flow. Beren did collapse on our road in aggravation, defiance, and tiredness (see "oh, wow this is a pain in the *ss" above") partway home from a search for wild edible mushrooms. Of course, any weekend that includes a couple hot afternoon hours floating in the Musconetcong River is a good weekend. Plus, full family camp out on the living room floor to beat the heat. 

Monday, May 23, 2016

First word

Towards the end of April:

Beren and I pulled into the parking lot of the only pharmacy in southern Warren County that stocked Tincture of Benzoin.

"What's 'on... ee'?" Beren asked me.

"Did you just read that sign, Beren? Did you just READ a WORD? Wow!"

Beren glowed in his quiet way.

"That's the word 'one'. O-N-E. One way."