leaving

For various reasons we have moved away from our little slice of woods.

I feel disconnected from the earth, life, truly. Its planting time. I have no garden.

Thankfully we have landed, feet first, at my parents farm, where the kids get to play with the dogs and hunt for chicken eggs and where I get to dig my fingers into a giant garden, complete with asparagus and rhubarb beds.

And yet. And yet.

It is not mine.

And, perhaps its the rather significant birthday I am facing, but the need for my own little piece of land – not rented, not borrowed – is rather increasing in intensity these days. On some days it seems overwhelming. Today is one of those days.

Perhaps its because I am such a visual person, but I flick through Pinterest or my mom’s collection of magazines, and I can SEE our place. The mini red barn. The huge windows on our pole barn house, half buried in a hillside, patio out back, and willow tree near the pond, the orchard on the hillside.

Dammit.

I cant let this set back get to me.

It will happen. And perhaps in the meanwhile I shall need to retire June in the Woods. Let her lie dormant, a little while longer, a seed, wintering under a pile of mulch, waiting for spring.

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eggs again

The chickens are finally laying again. We had such a mild winter and yet, from November or so until just this past week, nothing. And now. EGGS. Every day. And now I need to eat eggs again, every day.

Ah, the seasons of country life. It is seed starting season. Little sprouts, in the windowsill fighting through the mucky soil, not ideal amount of sunlight, trying, trying, to make it.

My mom, a veteran gardener of decades has a grow light set up in her basement. Her tomato plants look beautiful.

I just wrote that. Beautiful tomato plants. Ten years ago I would’ve called a handbag beautiful, sure, shoes, yes.

Not tomato plants.

Certainly not eggs.

The seasons of life, eh?

Once again we are planning our garden for here, in this rented little slice of country, pines out back, little chicken shed, enough, technically, but not enough, at the same time. I am yearning for a little riverside farm, with old beds of perennials and a couple of apple trees, a quiet field, some pines, and lots of hardwoods, next to a pond, where we will build my writing yurt, and a little red barn with a small fenced pasture, perfect for a couple of goats.

And once, again, not yet. Not this summer. Maybe next fall.

I feel like I have been telling myself, not yet, not yet, for so long, one would think I would be used to it. This not yet feels hard though, harder than the rest. Perhaps is the impending age I will be turning in a bit over a year. You know. One of THOSE birthdays. And I want everything figured out. And the dream farm, there, behind the kitchen screen door. And a book at the publishers. And a contract to write more. And a little non-profit that lets me travel around, doing a bit of good, here and there.

These are fairly modest requests. I mean, not the freaking moon, right?

Oh universe. When?

But not yet.

And so instead. I gather the eggs. Because the hens are laying again. And the soft brown is such a lovely color, and the yolks so rich and orange.

And I am rich too, really, in this little tiny house by the pines.

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a long winter.

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It was a long winter for us. Not in the weather sense really. Last year we had snow from October to April. This year we didn’t have much cover until December, January really, and then as I type, here on March 10, nearly all the snow is gone and my children are outside in shorts (it is 60 degrees, after all. HA)

No, but is was long all the same. A tough time for many reasons, as happens in life sometimes.

But it feels now, like the withered grass and the drooping dead peony leaves and the old fern stems standing like sentries in the hollow in the woods, like, maybe, finally, things are beginning to take root, and maybe finally, green things will be coming.

Like, maybe this really is it.

Spring. A new season of hope.

And it may snow again. There may be hard days ahead. But today it’s blue skies and sunshine.

And I’ll take it.

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colors

I drive down the highway, without the chatter of three little people. Without the radio. Without the DVD playing some mind-numbing cartoon.

Only silence.

The clack of the road. The occasional roar of a motorcycle as it passes.

And then silence.

And in this silence the colors of the countryside in fall come alive.

The greens of this region’s pine trees offset by a rainbow of colors. Burgundy. Orange. Vivid yellow. All against the bluest blue of Midwestern skies.

And the haze of the mid-fall day, its sunshine, makes the leaves glitter and shimmer, beckoning to us drivers as we chug along past them.

Come to me. Dance with me. And the wind. And the clouds. Mystical beings calling out.

Be more. Do more. Glitter and shimmer.

And I drive. And listen.

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summertime at its close

Its been a long summer. A stressful one in some ways. An outrageously peaceful one in others. Bigger kids this year meant we could go to the lake and I could GASP sit and read a book while they splashed in the water and built castles.

It was perfect.

And stressful, as real life and its adversities kept creeping in. Dammit, why does it do that??

And I was writing, writing up a storm. My first every novel, now done. Now in revisions. Now waiting for me to be brave and send it out into the world for someone to find it.

So, there was that.

But in the meanwhile, garden-y, farm-y things did happen on our little homestead of sorts, if you can call it that. A gorgeous garden, now all sunflowery and golden in the slanted September sunlight. Meat chickens were raised and, er, disposed of, yes, we did it ourselves, never to do again…

But back to the garden. So happy, mostly. Beans galore incredible fennel plants, some squash, pumpkins, great greens this year, though the strangely cold June ruined my tomatoes and meant half the cucumbers we got last year. But still, some pickles and salsa have been made, lots of peppermint picked and dried for tea, bags and bags of beans in the freezer. And still we’ve got so much to take in. Potatoes, squash, pumpkins, beets, fennel, cabbage – the red cabbage was so beautiful!

And already the geese are flying overhead. The wildflowers are turning from the bright yellows and purples to the haze of September asters and the dulled colors of rust and golden. Soothing. Soulful. Pulling my head away from the high blue sky, back indoors, to knitting and potato soup and steamed squash and borsht.

And it is good. The ebbs and flows of the season and what it requires of us. Making us dig deeper. Connect. Refresh and restore.

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catching up on the home front

Its been a busy spring and summer. I had some client work. My brother got married. Now, here, in July, I take a deep breath, which is hard due to the horrible colds we are battling, and head out to the garden.

Somehow we managed in all the chaos to get the garden in. And it is July. And it is glorious out there. Blossoms on the vine plants, peas and radishes galore. I even discovered two zucchini hiding under the riotous curls of vine and leaves.

Zucchini! I have never been able to grow zucchini before. Last summer I had plants, healthy enough, and no fruit. Ah ha, the lady tells me, did you plant two plants per mound? Why no, no I did not. Ah ha!

And so, now I can grow zucchini, which really makes me a “For Real” gardener, in my book.

The colors, breathing in the moist air, the whirring of insects, strawberries gone for the season, but, oh so much more to come.

And I feel like I have been granted a tiny piece of Eden.

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springing forth

And really, that is how life feels, especially today, as the sun beats down, the wasps begin circling, mosquitoes whining in our ears, birds fighting in midair jays chasing away the loud crows squawking and crying out in fury, the air is full of heat and damp and earth and swirling pollen and after a few hours in the sweaty garden we retreat indoors, to iced coffee and potato salad and air conditioning, our bodies and spirits a little shell shocked after the winter we have endured.

It is summer. Well, not technically, but it is.

The garden is full of new things, popping up daily. We have nearly finished planting, digging a few new boxes in this year, spreading straw to try and help our sandy soil retain more moisture. Seeds planted now around the bean pole teepees, some sunflowers planted along the fence lines for color. A garden must be pretty. Its lots of work, and sure, the food is good, but while we wait a month to enjoy any kind of harvest (maybe a few weeks for some greens!) for now, its got to be a thing of beauty to behold, my requirement for all that work. Zinnias, sunflowers, nasturtiums and marigolds are my necessary garden flowers. I planted a few calendula too this year. Plus a giant gerber daisy right in the middle of the herb bed. Although I’m not sure if I like its placement or not, perhaps a little too ooo la la for my tastes.

We are doing things somewhat differently this year, trying to learn from our past mistakes, as one is supposed to do. I started by making a concerted effort to read plant directions on seed packets. As someone who rarely follows recipes and never sews with a pattern, this is a big deal for me. I’ve even asked about planting the seedlings as I buy them. The lady at the farmers market tells me, yea, you have to plant more than one squash, pumpkin, etc together in a mound, otherwise they won’t pollinate properly to produce fruit. Oh. Really? Huh. THAT might explain why I had beautiful vines last year, and NO SQUASH.

We’ve also planted the tomatoes all in the back of the garden, where they get he most sun, and I plan on dousing with an Epsom salt fertilizer soon. We also planted the watermelon as far away from the cucumber as possible (last year we had terrible tasting “cucumelon” because they cross-pollinate, apparently!) We laid down straw throughout the garden, between boxes, against the fence, hoping we will do less maintenance over the summer because of it.

And then, mostly, more. More onions dotted here and there, more squares of greens, more rows of beans around the teepees, more patches of carrots, more potatoes, more rows of corn in one big patch (last year we had a few scraggly plants in two long rows, yea, says a gardening friend, corn wont pollinate unless you have several rows together, IE, doesn’t everyone know that? Not this “country girl!”)

And so, we wait, and for now, we enjoy the green, the pollen, the bird squawks, the claps of thunder as a storm moves in, windows open to the rain, letting in the breeze at last.

 

Below is peppermint that survived the winter (hurrah!) we are BOTH brutal winter survivors!

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IMG_4668this is cilantro that RESEEDED ITSELF. I was so impressed when I noticed!

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Giant grapevine wattled fence potato bed. I’m rather proud of this one. Mad homesteader skillz, I tell you.

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Garlic shoots!! Planted last fall! They survived our crazy -50 winter!

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Parsnips that wintered over too!

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Our newly doubled in size full sun tomato boxes.

the landscape of my heart

What a winter.

Its April 4th. And nearly a foot of fresh snow sits on the ground.

My children have mixed responses. “You’ve GOT to be kidding me.” My 7 year old says.

It’ll melt in the next week, I say.

“AWWWWW, but mom, I LOVE WINTER,” the 5 year old says. “ITS SO FUN.”

I am in the numb stage. Yes, its April. Its snowing. I know. Whatever.

And it is beautiful.

This winter though, with its 40 below temps and hurling winds and snow from October to April has me questioning WHY the homesteading dream must take place in this frozen northern state.

Think of the growing season they have in places like Texas! We could double our garden output! We could actually get goats and not have to worry about heating a barn and morning milking in sub-zero-God-awful-freezing-your-face-off temperatures.

And then I think, where would I go? Texas? Not sure. North Carolina? We aren’t southern enough I think. Arkansas? Um, Missouri? Iowa? Northern Florida? Somewhat attractive but finding a gator in my backyard pond kind of dampens that enthusiasm. Maybe exotic, like Hawaii? I was born there and feel some connection to it. A coffee plantation on the side of a volcano and a grove filled with mango and banana and macadamia and avocado trees?? Yes, please. Clearly I have the most enthusiasm for this option. However. Its thousands of dollars of plane rides away from here. Where family lives. And what’s more, the area of the country where we have lived on and off for generations.

And this is my thing. This sense of place. Where I look out at the swaying trees, the lakes dotting the drive as we head south a ways to Grandma’s farm, the mighty river cutting through the bluffs, the woods and trees that I’ve known since I was a child.

This landscape is embedded within me. Its a part of me. The pines sway in my dreams. The thunder cracks and the rain pours down and the heat of July pushing down on me and the waking of the leaves and lilacs and the tender violets and the thickly falling snow coating the world a white, pure, simple. Its all inside of me. And I can’t escape it, even in the wide dry hills of California, where I lived for many years, this place of my childhood, tall grasses of the prairies, lady bugs and Queen Anne’s Lace, paper birch boats and apple blossom fairies.

All in me. I am captive to it, I suppose.

And, readily so. 

We moved many times in my teen years and as a young adult I studied back east, in Europe, traveling to exotic locales, seeking new and different. Fitting I suppose that I end up, by happenstance (in the form of a full ride scholarship for husband to go to law school), back in the landscape of my childhood years. And then, even as city dwellers for awhile I felt the call of the countryside. And dreams of chickens and goats and gardens and kids running in the mud of spring began to swirl around in my daydreams.

And here we go.

And here we are.

Home.

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under all that white

piles of white
everywhere
bits of ice, blowing
snowdrifts, growing
a path stomped out to the coop
I follow it
the frozen world underneath
curled ferns, dead now
sleeping moss, frozen
above, priestesses of the sky
the trees
carry the weight
of ice and snow
holding up their limbs, proudly
not giving way
and yet they sway,
heavily in the winds that set in after the storm
we light a fire
feed the flame every hour
fighting back the cold
fighting to keep our heads
in the game
of winter
the sun shines so brightly in the blue Midwestern sky
but not warmly
it is taunting
beckoning
a harsh lover
yet welcome
as I sit in its rays
under blankets
sipping coffee
waiting for the world to come alive
again.
And it will.

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a grey midwinter day

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There is something about the grey midwinter day. The cold presses in around you, stifling, weighty. Even through the kitchen window, as I clean dishes in hot water, tea kettle whistling, space heater blowing, even then the cold fills me, creeps into my corners of my being, dulling my thoughts.

The world is silent, as I watch through the window. Silent smoke curling into the sky, silent snow falling, in tiny flakes, glassy diamonds from above, dusting layers upon layers. Silent birds hop about in the snow, up onto the feeder, the dark junco and chickadee and then the bright flashes of the cardinal and jay, the only color in my view.

The snow lies in heaving mounds around the yard, footsteps from brave bundled children winding in circles. Out onto the meadow it lies flat, pressed down by the wind like an iron has passed over its whiteness, only a single line of deer tracks marring its surface. The woods are quiet too. I haven’t seen a single deer this winter.

Aside from the darting blues and reds of the birds it is a dreary grey world. And I am in it. Sipping tea. Wearing a ridiculous wool cape and fingerless gloves, fleece pants and shearling lined slippers. Watching nature videos on the couch, wrapped in blankets. Reading book about jungles. Waiting for the world to come alive again.

“What are flowers like?” my daughter cries one day. We take her to the conservatory in the big city nearby and her blue eyes well up with tears at the greens, pinks, yellows and reds. Color mama!

The grey has become tiresome.

And then on some days, we wake up to the sun rising through the trees, visible again, the sheet of grey clouds erased for the time being. The brilliant blue then paints over the sky, pulling across its canvas the welcome color, with the white wisps of frozen cloud far above, and though these days are the coldest, the birds sing out fiercely, crying out in a pained glory at the rays of the sun.

And I cry too, in pained glory, at the blue sky and golden sun, remembering days at the lake, the waves, the sand, the grasses, the clover with its lazy bumblebee. How could that possibly be the same sun?

And we make more tea. Put another log on the fire. And wait.

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