Saturday, January 09, 2010

Becoming Noa

So, it's officially the future. 2010. And our little girl is growing up.

In the last 3 or 4 weeks she's started talking (well, what we consider talking: uuhhhhs and arrrrgs in rapid succession, very closely resembling sentences), copying when we blow our lips, laughing and as of last night, rolling over and waving goodbye. How does this stuff happen so quick? She's so quickly becoming social, independent.

But she's also in the process of becoming her. So often we hear people say how amazing it is to realize that this little baby, once a part of mother, is entirely her own person. And these people say they realize this early on. I have a different impression altogether. It's always hard for me to express big ideas/concepts like this in words, but to me, she's slowing growing from being part of me, her mother, to being more fully her. It didn't happen spontaneously at the moment of birth. It's a continuous and fluid process. In the first weeks after her birth, I couldn't distinguish Noa from myself. In conversation I'd forget to refer to the "three of us"; instead it'd be "us two." There's something to that. I didn't forget about Noa. I really think it's because, since she left my body--no, since she was conceived--she has been slowly growing into herself as a new person.

Take this for instance: During pregnancy a mom will develop a darkly pigmented line going down from her bellybutton called a linea negra. It becomes darker as the pregnancy progresses, and, after birth, will begin to fade. Amazingly, baby gets one too, and the same thing happens. And now these lines we have, just like the memory-experience of the particularly deep and intimate connection we had when she was inside me, are slowing dissolving into the past. Of course we're growing towards and alongside each other on a different, more lasting plane, but in this most subtle and spiritual way she's letting me go.

Really, there's something intensely human about it. I guess it carries with it the idea that no one is solely him or herself, that families (and, further, humanity) are connected to an extent beyond what I'd ever considered before Noa. Over the course of our lives, she will never fully leave me, nor will I leave her.

Sunday, December 13, 2009

Key Words since Spring: Leaving, Moving, Working, Birthing, Moving

So we haven't written much in the last, I don't know, 6 months. I think this is probably due to some major life-changing events going on. And since our last blog included "Spring" in the title, I think it's time. Ok, to recap: we left the farm in late June, moved back to Tulsa (what?!), both got jobs with Global Gardens, and WHOA had a baby! Oh and then we moved again a month after she was born because our upstairs neighbors were meth-heads and were obviously herding goats with wooden legs all hours of the day and night. So life has been brimming.

Out of order, but most importantly, our little angel Noa Violet arrived September 29th at 9:03am (9.29.09 at 9, whoooo), weighing 7lbs 10oz and just over 21 inches long. A fantastic and magical birth. Our dear friend Noa Abend had arrived on September 25, the day after my due date, and was there for the whole experience--the birth and the month following. Without her, we would have been lost and completely overwhelmed in the weeks following Noa Violet's birth. She was a dream, providing much love, massages, laughs, and also cooking every meal and keeping the place clean. She is an amazing friend and we're so happy to name our daughter after her.

Everything has seemed to work out ideally. Now, it might not seem that moving back to Tulsa is an ideal situation. But in our case, it might be. During the four months we were interning at Spikenard, it got increasingly worse. We didn't blog about it at the time, but there was an insane amount of drama there. Gunther and Vivian didn't seem to understand what it took day to day to run a farm and were indignant that the other 5 people--all in our late 20s/early 30s--didn't see their roles as being there on the farm to serve them. Of course we did learn an awful lot about gardening and about ourselves, as those situations tend to make you more self-aware, and we made some great friends. Emily left about 3 weeks after we did, and is now doing a Waldorf teacher training up in NY as well as working on a farm getting good at seedsaving and caretaking for a woman with special needs. Bobbi and Alex had their gorgeous (!) baby boy, Rowan, in early August and are now the sole farmers out there. We know they're going to be successful. Check them out in few months--Live Springs Farm is their new name. They're gonna rock it.

If we hadn't have left the farm, we'd now be out of work with a newborn, who knows where. Now, we're back home surrounded by my side of the family who are getting pretty proficient at doting on the little one and supporting the new parents (not to mention doing their laundry!). We work for an amazing organization--Global Gardens. Bhads is at Eugene Field Elementary School, teaching gardening and peace education, loving it, and is adored by his students and fellow teachers. And I was doing their admin work and teaching one day a week at a satellite school up until the birth. I'm not sure what I want to do at this point, although I do know that I just can't leave this baby of mine. So in love. And the gals at GG (5 other girls, all in our mid-20s to 30s, likeminded and incredibly lovely people) have been so supportive. Three of us had babies within a month of each other, so they definitely know what it's like. We both feel so lucky to be involved with GG and to have such amazing people to work with (and to have as friends).

About a month after Noa was born, we decided to split across town. Our apartment was nice, in a great neighborhood, within walking distance to the farmers market in summer and the Irish pub, very sunny and bright, and most significantly for me: it was where Noa was born. Yep, we had a very successful homebirth...or apartmentbirth. I labored for 8 hours in our one bedroom apartment, with Bhads, Friend Noa, Molly, Mom, and our wonderful midwife Ruth and her hard-working assistant Dana. It was a full house...apartment. There were some strong emotional ties to the place and it was hard to move. But when faced with sentimentality and possible explosions from the upstairs potential meth-lab, we figured it was an easy one. Our neighbors had been shady from the beginning--about 8 or 10 people cycling in and out throughout the day and mostly throughout the night. When our friend Noa stayed with us, she had to sleep on the bed in the living room, and had to try to sleep through strange banging and what sounded like heavy furniture being dragged back and forth. And seriously at all hours and constantly. We had a friend do a background check on the guy and as it turns out he'd just gotten out of jail and had a long list of charges against him. So we moved.

It was uncanny timing, but we are now renting a 1929 gingerbread style duplex just a mile up the street. It has two rooms, a front porch and a tiny back yard we're going to intensively garden here in the Spring. It's pretty sweet. And our landlady is this adorable 80 year old who used to live here when she was first married, her sister on the other side, something I'm trying to get my own sister to consider--if I could just get the lady next door (who is lovely and I feel bad writing this although it's so obviously tongue and cheek) to move out and my sister to move back to Tulsa with her boyfriend Ryan. I'm not sure which would be harder. Yes I am.

In a way, it's a strange reality to now be so grounded. Back in Tulsa. Renting a home. Driving our own car. With a baby. We've been on the road for so long, I never really thought we'd settle down. I never really wanted to until now. It's so cliche, and people always told me this (to my annoyance), but with the baby we really just want to be settled and near family. I always wondered if and hoped that my restlessness would be quelled when Noa came, that I wouldn't feel the deep longing to be somewhere else--back in Poland or Ireland or somewhere completely new. I'm so happy to say that it worked. All I want now is to have my baby in my arms and my husband and pup at my side...just a totally ordinary life.

And it feels so nice.

Saturday, April 18, 2009

A Spring Update

Here at the farm I have found myself thankful for the many rainy days we've had recently but even more grateful when the sun has shone itself, which seems like it's been few and far between. But how easy it is to forget the gray days when the blue skies appear. On those days, to get up and out at 7 is a real joy. The bird songs hover in the cold air just a little longer. The fog hangs in the shallow valley on the horizon. The pigs wait impatiently for their morning feeding. The moo of a cow from a neighboring farm bellows along with the roo-coo-ca-coo of the rooster in the hen house. And I head for the green house along with Bethanie, Emily and Gunther to check on the starts and get the day rolling.

Recently we have been transplanting tomatoes and cukes in between the thriving lettuce and leeks on fruit days and we've already got peas sown and coming up in the market gardent along with some good looking swiss chard transplants. Emily has filled in a few more beds in the greenhouse with fennel, their slender leafy fingers glowing bright green next to deep forest green of the deer tongue lettuce. Apparently deer tongue lettuce is Gunther's favorite. His directions were to make it a priority in the green house before sowing any other lettuce, and so we did. I can't wait to try it in a few more weeks when the leaves start maturing.

Just yesterday on a beautiful sunny day in the low 70s we found the time to transplant a dozen or so rasperry plants at the bottom of the garden along with 3 gooseberry plants. And at the other end of the garden we put in an apple, pear, peach and cherry tree next to a handful of blueberry plants. I'm looking forward to their juicy offerings in the seasons to come.

Thursday, April 16, 2009

Big Day

The board meeting is coming up this weekend -- so all the members are arriving one or 2 at a time tomorrow. So today was the last day without the added responsibility of cooking for 15 people that Beth, Emily and I have been assigned to do -- it'll be fun, actually. Lots of good food! I'm even making a banofee pie.

So we spent the day, beautifully sunny and still, with the plants. We planted a peach, pear and cherry tree early in the morning. Then I mowed the market garden with the new riding lawn mower while Beth and Emily transplanted raspberries and gooseberry bushes. I don't want to become the permanent lawn jockey so I'm doing my best to avoid being the one who always mows, but so far that's been the story. At one point I totally lost sight of what I was doing on the mower for a second and completely wiped out a blueberry bush seedling. Felt bad, but what can you do? Maybe it'll grow back.

So that was the morning. in the afternoon we planted 8 tomato plants in the greenhouse and cleaned up a bit and watered before putting up a tent that will serve as the mess hall for the next couple of days.

But the highlight of the day was when Bethanie told me how happy she is here and how it feels so good to be tending to the earth while our baby grows in her. Pretty amazing! She's 4.5 months along now and feeling full of energy!

Saturday, March 28, 2009

Lettuce Water Rescue

The weather forecast said 100% chance of rain today and they were right. But Beth and I managed to stay dry most of the morning thanks to our greenhouse duties, despite all the drips and leaks that our poor greenhouse is victim to. Beth sowed eggplants and a couple varieties of bell peppers -- purple and brown! I didn't even know bell peppers came in those colors and each is supposed to have a unique flavor. Can't wait. I sharpened the hand scythe (how much I like a sharp blade) and took it too the long grass that had taken over some of the green house corners. I've never sharpened a blade like this before, but now that I've got the hang of it I'm looking forward to sharpening the machete I picked up in Costa Rica. I just used a pretty fine file and worked it toward the blade at about a 20ยบ angle. Okay sorry to get all boring on you. I just really have a thing for sharp blades. Anyways, after that I ventured out into the rain and rigged up a pretty effective tent covering for the lettuce that I just transplanted outside yesterday into the cold frames. I'd hate for them to get hit by the cold. It might even snow tonight. Could get 3-5". We'll have to wait and see. Well, by the time I had it all covered with the help of a large clear tarp, some stones, hay and a few logs, I managed to keep most if not all of the standing water from crushing the lettuce. Hopefully I'll be able to say the same tomorrow if we get any snow. Now I'm in by the fire. Beth made a delicious beef stroganoff. We followed that with one of her homemade lemon tarts and some tea. It should be a cozy rest of the day.

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Sowing Peas

The rain came down today hard and fast. With winds gusting from the south, slurping down the hill from behind our cabin, rattling the greenhouse, shooing the clouds along. But not before we sowed the first seeds of the year in the garden -- peas. Giant Swiss Snap Peas. And rows of snow peas. Here's something interesting -- a convenient rule of thumb -- seeds like to be sown their diameter deep. So that's what we did with the peas. We planted them 2 inches apart and about 1/2" - 3/4" deep. Bethanie, Bobbi, and Emily were so excited about getting these green little balls in the ground. I was less excited about the idea of planting peas and just excited about planting something. Peas and me don't get along. I don't mean like they upset my stomach. More my pallet. I can't stand their mush. But maybe snap peas in the pod with change my mind this year. I'm always up for tossing aside my old eating habits. So bring it on peas!

We spent the afternoon, after a delicious lunch of shepherd pie (made with organic beef, not the traditional lamb), transplanting tomatoes (dark beefsteak and another beautiful little one with a golden stem) and then flowers that will eventually be forage for the bees. All the while the rains shook our leaky greenhouse as we shuffled from one table to the next trying to find a drip-free zone to do our work in. A beautiful day on the farm. Rain and all. And now I'm going to drink tea and read a bit... maybe study up on my knot tying.

Bethanie watering seedling bunching scallions.

A shot of our greenhouse. Beyond the door there is the heated end.

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Our New Home

We arrived at Spikenard Farm safe, sound and, well really, sad to say goodbye to my dad. We'd been staying with him off and on for the past couple months and it had really been a pleasure. He'd made us feel so comfy in his place with a massive inflatable bed that you really couldn't tell was inflatable and with tons of good, healthy food. Leaving his place and going to meet a completely new experience like, eh hem, becoming farmers was intimidating.

The past week and a half, though, has been solidly good. We're starting to feel more comfortable with our roles here and ourselves, and starting to settle in. We have a log cabin and, yes, it is idyllic. It feels very nice to have a place that we know we'll be in for a while, so we have pictures of family and friends tacked up to our bedroom walls, postcards from Europe taped to the rafter in the loft, our books on a bookstand that Bhads built!, the piece of fabric Molly brought me back from Ghana on the table, little knick-knacks we picked up on our travels like the little plastic elephant we found on the streets of Krakow and the nesting doll one of my students gave me, my Baby Jane doll, lots of my mom's stuff that she so sweetly donated. With time, it will feel like home.

So let me introduce a few of our fellow farmers. This is Emily. She's staying with us in the other bedroom for a bit while her yurt is getting a stove. We all love those stoves. She's really good at starting fire in our stove, here. We're doing the market garden apprenticeships, while she's doing the beekeeping apprenticeship. So she'll be here through November, too. She's a sweet gal and interesting to talk to. I'm really starting to admire what the bees do for us. And she's excellent at cooking veggies!

Alex (left) and Bobbi (under) are the other younger couple on the farm, who we found out are also pregnant too! It's pretty sweet having someone to talk to about the joys and the woes and the weirdnesses of being with child. And they both have great senses of humor, so we end up with deep belly laughs when we're around them. We've been helping them with the wood chipper this past week. Well, actually, Bhads has been doing the chipping and I've mostly been hauling limbs and sticks. Yes, a glorified "picking up sticks." Good thing I had so much practice when I was younger.

Sheila is a dog. She lives with Bobbi and Alex and is hilarious. When she greets you, it's with a mix of spazzy energy and meekness. She gets obsessed easily, loves to be squirted in the mouth with a water hose, kills all kinds of small rodents and then leaves them all over the farm, and is in love with Booster. At the moment, she's in heat, and also Booster is without his naughty bits, he still has something in him for Sheila. It's pretty funny to watch them try to figure that one out. But they are the best of friends already and are quickly forming the farm's first pack.

I don't have any pictures yet of Vivian and Gunther, the creators of the farm. The two of them live in the cabin next to ours, and are just lovely people. Vivian is thoughtful and cheery and is so supportive of us already. Just so warm. We actually haven't seen Gunther very much since he's been away. But from the impression we got when we visited here in February, he's very much like his wife in those ways.

We're doing very well. I just had a dinner of peanut butter toast on homemade whole wheat bread with the best honey I've ever had. Bhads is sitting by the fire studying up on knots. He's getting really good at them and has been rigging up all sorts of stuff all over the farm. Booster is on the bed, curled up on a blanket (go figure). And I think I'm about to go up in the loft and read a bit before bed. It's been a good day.


Mister Booster, what's your news, sir?

Well, mister Booster's news is big this time. He's gonna be a big brother! The official word is out: we are pregnant.

Right now we're finishing up the 12th week, the last of the first trimester. It's been a relatively easy first 3 months--minimal nastiness to report. However, feeling like you have 20 lb weights on all your limbs does make the farm work that much more challenging. But we have good boots (we splurged and now look like real farmers). I'm already feeling my energy come bouncing back and I'm looking forward to the majority of my days being bouncy. If you really want to know about cravings, you know, I haven't had them since leaving Tulsa. I was craving Knotty Pine (chopped beef oh-my-gosh-good sandwich) and we did pull off the road for an emergency Piccadilli lunch of chicken fried steak, mashed potatoes and gravy, mac and cheese (ahh!) and peach cobbler. Since then I've been eating a lot of sauerkraut and pickles, but not really ravenously craving them. They're just good.

So the little one is due September 24th. Don't worry, we have names picked for a girl or a boy; but, sorry, they're secret! I know, we have to be difficult, huh? But you can rest assured, the Bs stop here. We can't be one of those families who have 3 kids and they're named Betsy, Bobby, and Bertrand. We are cheesy, that is known, but you kind of have to draw the line somewhere.

Love to you all!

Wednesday, January 07, 2009

Sweet Spuds

If I could be a vegetable, I would be a sweet potato. Why? Some or few might ask. The reasons are simple.

Sweet potatoes are awkward and oblong. They can be sweet or savory. They are grounded. They have thin skins. They are trustworthy. They are mad about Autumn. They can be mushy. They have few enemies. And they love to people-watch.

I wrote a little rap to portray my admiration to this special piece of lusciousness.

Sweet Po-Tay-To Rap (record pending)

Sweet Po-Tay-To,
Don't be afraid, yo.

To show yo' colors, yo.

You always steal the show
Yum, yum, yum, yum.

Sweet Po-Tay-To,

You are delish in dough.
You ain't nobody's foe.
You ain't got no woe.
I wanna eat you!

Sweet Po-Tay-To,
You were born so low.
You always on the go.
You might die in snow.
I see you lookin' my way, sweet spud.

Finding a Farm

We sit in Tulsa, at another point of transition for what feels like the 10th time in the past two years. Really, it's been far less, but in between teaching semesters and farming and traveling we sit and wait. Plans up in the air. Living with such a sense of personal freedom is something I love. I get the sense at times that some friends and family think that we're living irresponsibly. But I see it as living freely. During these times between adventures I am so thankful that our families are so welcoming and supportive.

Working on Finca Ipe, we really connected with the way of life -- being so close to nature, working hard within a tight-knit community, and learning and practicing how to live sustainably and grow food organically. We want to continue down this path and now we seek to learn the skills of organic/biodynamic farming. We've sent around 15 emails to farms in New England, California, Illinois and Oregon. And we've had a few follow-up emails since. But the time ticks by. We're ready to get to a farm now and start working, but it looks like most farms want help beginning in April or May. There are a few however that need help sooner. And those are the ones we're applying to, keeping our fingers crossed.

Some days I feel a little down, concerned with 1000 questions: Where will we be in a few months? Will we like it? Will Booster be okay? How long will our families put up with us before they feel like we're too dependent on them? What's the bank account look like? Will farming be something that we still like doing after a year? And these questions go on and on.

The good thing is that generally I feel positive about what we're doing and how we're living. I feel excited about what's to come. Friends like Molly, Noa, Jethro and all the people on the farm, who are living similarly to us, remind me that what we're doing isn't as crazy as some may think. Someone told me recently that what we're doing is so far out of the main stream that they're worried. My response is it only feels that way when we're here in an environment that stifles our true sense of freedom and forces many (not all) to live under some illusion that we've only got two options: 1) work like crazy in jobs that we hate in order to make money, so we can feel secure and successful (which are possibly more illusions), and continue to pursue happiness (it's unfortunate that our country was founded on the belief in the "pursuit of happiness" rather than happiness itself) or 2) be homeless. Maybe I've been clumsy in summing up these options. But, the bottom line is that there are more options than we perceive and sometimes in order to have great adventures we must be willing to be considered fools.

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Tom & Wayne Discuss Things

During our last couple of days in Costa Rica we stayed at a guesthouse. Wayne was staying there long-term and Tom had been renting out the garage for 10 years. This is a re-enactment of the conversations I witnessed. I'm not making this up. In my opinion they were absolutely hilarious and they didn't even know it! You can listen to this movie file or click the link below, download the file and give it a listen. I'd love to know what you think.

download the mp3 by clicking here

Saturday, December 20, 2008

Soap (from Beth)

My hair is still damp and slightly noodley from my shower "experience" this morning. It shouldn't take nearly as long to dry in this crazy arid Texas weather as it did in Costa Rica. It's not silky smooth and it doesn't feel like the angels kissed it with their luscious, morning dew of Spring aromatics or like a waterfall of soft and suppleness flowing like time from my moisture rich follicles. It feels like I washed my hair with a bar of soap. And indeed I did.

Coming back home is always a new experience. Seeing family and friends is what it's all about. It seems like every time we come back I grasp the magnitude and beauty of these relationships more and more. At the exact same time, we never fail to see our culture and country in a critical light. I might call it reverse culture shock for lack of a more descriptive and less generic term, but in reality it stirs up feelings of resentment, anger, frustration and confusion.

Walk into the average American's bathroom and take a look at the body-cleaning products on offer. There's soap in the form of liquid for your hands, but not for your face. For your face you need a special, sensitive formula that won't hurt you, but not for your hair. For your hair you need another liquid soap called shampoo that will revitalize and fluffen. But you cannot forget your conditioner that will inject moisture into the hair you just revitalized (or "vitalize" as one of the shampoos in this bathroom currently claims. No "re" about it). If you don't do this, you will be a flathead. Hence: multiple bottles, pump-action and squeeze, and a few bars lining the shower and sink space like little soldiers.

While traveling, I've been forced to carry less. Shampoo takes up quite a bit of space in your backpack when it's your only piece of luggage. It's true that that space could be better saved for items like: fancy cheese, a piece of bamboo, or an ugly scarf with pictures of African wildlife for your sister.

So we started carrying just a bar of soap for cleaning purposes. What a liberating discovery! Who knew that one bar of soap could clean a whole body?! Well, many people probably knew that. But I didn't. One bar of soap and your done with all the plastic bottles full of promises, your done with a magnitude of waste, your done with the idea that you need to purchase a different product for each part of your body. How great is that?

Really, it's symbolic for me right now. This bar of soap is a simple, uncomplicated idea of what one daily routine could be like, rethought. Take away the options, the consumption, and you have one, old-school bar of soap. And even going beyond bar of soap that you can use on your washing, your house-cleaning, your dishes. How novel! Buying less and using less.

Thank you, soap, for this morning lesson.

Saturday, November 22, 2008

What a Sunset

Derek took us over to a lookout point on the farm where the four of us (Derek, Beth, Me and Rach) sat on a car and relaxed to watch our first sunset in Costa Rica. It was gorgeous to look accross the valley and through the mountains to the Pacific.

The Gate and a Truck Full of Manure

I think I posted about the gate for the farm (Fuente Verde) that Beth and I had a big hand in building. All bamboo and beach palm with some bolts and bits here and there. It´s been turning a few heads, literally, as I´ve personally seen 3 cars stop to stare at our creation. Not bragging, it´s just got an unusual look for this area. Generally a gate here consists of a single metal bar across the road or some removeable barb wire. We´re proud of our creation!

Also Derek and I spent a wednesday morning to shovel shit. A whole truck load of horse manure into the back of the farm truck. My shoes were caked. Glad that´s a rare treat.

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Zip lining

Loved it! Zip lining this past weekend was so much fun. Here´s the pics and videos from our day. Look at Beth go! And check out that 3-toed sloth we saw on the way. Our guides telescope was awesome!