Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Still stuck on beauty...

I feel a bit embarrassed but I'm still thinking about the same thing that I last posted. In spite of many adventures and meaningful conversations, my mind and heart seem unbendingly stuck on this idea of beauty and making love to the world (Thank you Marty, Emma, and Kati).

I scrubbed the tub this weekend. It was grimy and slimy. The drain was clogged with foulness unworthy of description. And I caught myself thinking, how can I make love to this tub? 

Receiving the world in a poetic way can be easy with an abundance of beauty. When thing get ugly, however, I tend towards judgment. Who lets the tub get this gross!? Why does that person let the drain fill with scum and hair?! And on and on and on. I'm sure you know how this conversation goes. It almost always takes on a me vs. the world format. And I'm always right. And whoever is on the other side is most definitely wrong wrong wrong. 

As I listened to my self-righteous banter I thought, this sounds like hostile love-making. No fun.

Making love to the world is so much more than a sensory exercise and beauty extends beyond the pleasantries of life. I know it sounds silly, but I opened my heart to the task and behind my judgement I found tenderness, compassion, and unconditional love. 

I don't know if any of you are feeling particularly soft and reflective lately. I certainly am. And I've found that I've been more open to painful and scary things. If any of you are there with me, or maybe your not but you're craving that, I'm sending you all my bestest Love.

Another set of visitors this weekend! So lucky. We hiked the Gorge and soaked in  the goodness of one another's company. Every time I visit with Sophie she leaves me with a nugget of her wisdom.

Lying next to the river with Becca and Sophie. Soothes my soul.

New gardening hat courtesy of Elizabeth!

Can you believe it!? We had a freeze here. The Farmers Almanac predicted it would freeze May 27th, which I thought was a load of baloney. The warm spring erased memories of the unpredictablity of the weather here. Well you won't hear me second guessing the Almanac again. It got ten degrees colder than the weather forecast suggested it would. I lost basil and my winter squash.

Thursday, May 24, 2012

The Necessity of Beauty

From the age of 18 I aspired to be a midwife. I read anything I could get my hands on, took courses, attended conferences, wrote academic papers and editorials on the subject, and apprenticed with a midwife. I spent seven years convinced that this was my path. And then, one day, I unexpectedly and suddenly put it down, walked away, and never looked back.

I am a recovering rationalist. I grow vegetables not flowers. My rational mind always insisted that in comparison to notable causes beauty and creativity were secondary. Yet the people who I admire most, notably my brother and my dear friends Rebecca and Bill, are artists. They courageously follow a path that is often unscripted. They walk a road with very few guarantees, little security, and minimal social rewards (non-profit execs tend to be more respected in our society it seems). And while I secretly wished I could let my fears go, my rational self wanted an orderly plan...with measurable goals and check lists!

Quietly at first, and now unabashedly, I am unveiling my passion for beauty like a bride. I am making love to landscapes with my camera-phone. My countertops with lavender-scented spray. My body with yoga. My soul with stillness and giggles. My home with flower-filled vases and a neatly made bed. My hands with the soil I work them in daily... not that any of this is new, hardly at all, but something inside me has shifted. 

I am making love with the world, gently and slowly. Savoring and relishing. Taking it in and surrendering to it with excitement and wonder. Living as though beauty is not a luxury but a necessity.

Rudabega never seems to forget to do this...with mountain trails, butt scratches, and the disgusting things she inevitably rolls in.

Found these vintage burlap sacks this week. Stoked about this new project material.

Desert blooms.

A bouquet from Daphne. Girl has a way with flowers.

On my morning walk down to the garden.
Picking grubs out of the garden. Their juicy bodies get me all sorts of deliciously squirmy.
Scraping the last inch of chicken manure for the final push on my new garden beds. I wondered out loud to a friend the other day if Em could part with some of her manure and he said, "In this valley it'd be easier to get a few chickens or a goat from her than priority to her poop pile. Farmers are lining up for that shit!"
Getting out of town for the day and looking pretty urban.

Monday, May 21, 2012

A Rough Week and Non-Violent Communication

To be perfectly honest, I had a challenging week avoiding feelings that are hard to feel and believing  stories I get to telling myself that disregard reality. I watched myself submerge in patterns that arise when I'm feeling off kilter. I struggled to mindfully watch rather than judge myself further (another one of those patterns).

It took a good friend to help me take the deep breath that I needed to receive my suffering and to remember--I am strong and brave. I can feel whatever is with everything that I am. Good medicine. During my yoga practice with Amy I began to unwind my stories, slowly seeing the responsibility and power I could claim by identifying my needs and my feelings.

In the past year or so I've been learning about Non-Violent Communication (NVC), a simple model that focuses on language to discover connection.  I have experienced healing and transformation with the use of this practice and have learned to observe my emotions, identify my values, and make requests of others. The practice is non-violent because it eliminates the use of blame and judgement and encourages compassion for others as well as for myself. The powerful connection that I've experienced through this form of communication has been deeply rewarding.

I send out a prayer for peace, peace, peace to all beings. I wish for the grace of gentleness and acceptance to be felt by all.  I hope that we may all choose to take that deep breath, remember our strength, and continue to grow.

I found her while walking out in the Juniper. A silent helper.
Legend has it that Paonia was named by a bunch of drunk miners who were trying to spell Peony. Our famed flowers are blossoming all over town.

My much needed friend Elizabeth. By the end of our adventure together we were giggling over a shared mango treat. Such a beautiful friend and soul. Thank you.

The result of my craft project this week. I'm pleased with it but have ideas for the next model. Luckily I have a lot of friends with chickens. This idea originated as an accessory for the very stylish urban coop that my brother built.

I swear I didn't even ask Ruda to pose. She just came and sat in while I was snapping a few shots.

Building silk screens for another project. I'm excited about this process and am appreciative of Maya coaching me through every little step. Without his guidance I'd have many spliters.

I am so thrilled. While walking along the ditch with Jaimie we found a wild apricot that is loaded with fruit. I adore apricot everything....jam, crisp, just the fruit. It's been a few years since the weather has allowed their survival in strong numbers.

Lots of snake energy this week. This one seemed to die mid-slither.

Went for a hike up Kebler Pass with Sarah, Megan, and Jaime. The wild flowers were out, and luckily Sarah can identify most plants. Four girls, five dogs, many smiles.

Jaimie is a friend from college who stopped in for a visit. Such a treat to discuss education with her.  Another college friend, Kati, spent the night last night. I adore her insights and poetic perspectives.  For living in such a remote location I feel so blessed for such inspiring visitors.

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Chicken Day...Hooray!

This weekend we had a bit of drama in the chicken coop. We've had a broody hen sitting on eggs for the last two and a half weeks, and we were ready for the chicks to hatch this coming Wednesday. Well, on Sunday the broody hen, Helena, flew the coop so to speak and there in the nest lay twenty uncovered eggs.

Typically a hen hatches eight or so chicks, but Helena choose the most popular laying box, the Penthouse, and the other hens were not giving her maternal priority. They kept squeezing in there to lay eggs and Helena kept on accommodating these eggs as if they were her own. After coming up with an incubation plan for the sleuth of orphaned eggs (and having a chuckle thinking of creative warm places to stash the eggs) we waited to see if Helena would return to her roost. Within an hour she was back in action. It seems she needed to stretch her legs and grab a bite to eat. Fair enough.

I went to check on her early this morning and out from under each wing poked a little chick. We checked on them throughout the day and have so far counted five cheep-cheeping chicks. We even brought Helena some of our homemade Mother's Day pastries. It seemed fitting.

This evening we picked up the Penthouse and moved it to a mini coop. It's important to do this in the evening after everyone is bedded down and too sleepy to make a fuss over the commotion. In this isolated coop the chicks will grow for two weeks; the stabbing beaks of the pecking order is too harsh a reality for these fluffy chirpers. I'm curious to see how much longer Helena will continue to sit on all those other eggs.

But wait, there was even more chicken excitement today! A few weeks ago I brought my students up to Emily's to learn how to butcher chickens. While I struggle with the killing side of things I am endlessly fascinated with the anatomy part, which thoroughly disgusted my students. At the end of class I enthusiastically wrapped several chicken feet, wing tips, and a chicken head in newspaper to bring home for future art projects. I realize this is not necessarily a normal thing.

My car has smelled like there's something dead and rotting in it for a few weeks now and today I solved the mystery. I was cleaning out the car and pulled chicken treasures from the driver's side door. Out with the old (carcasses) and in with the new (spring chicks). A good day indeed.

Helena looking huge.
Mama hen.
The chicks are araucana mutts.

An equally interested Ru. She was glued to the chicks.

I realize Ruda is on point and may be tapping in to her hunting instincts, but she is a doll with the chickens.
The culprit of my car stank.
Lynn's amazing popping corn ready for season two of Downton Abbey.
Dumpster diving with Maya. More project wood!
My mom's birthday today! Sometimes I wish I didn't live so far away from my family.

Saturday, May 12, 2012

Propagation and Beer

Most drunken propagation happens in bedrooms (or at least I think it does--I don't have any life experience to verify this…maybe it happens in the woods. Or in cars. Or the kitchen?). 

At around four this afternoon Daphne brought some of Shawn's delicious hard cider into the propagation house. I was very thirsty and Blossomwood Cider goes down easy. A little too easy. Within 20 minutes my cuttings weren't looking quite so straight, my voice sounded loud and opinionated, and I said shit that I had no business saying. And since it was ladies day in the prop house it was down right hilarious. The thing is….I can't remember now what was so funny. Maybe it was just getting drunk--proof that alcohol does not improve my intelligence. Anyways, today's drunken propagation took place in the green house. And no babies were produced in the process, just many happy albeit somewhat crooked plants.

Working in the prop house with the girls is the farming equivalent to a quilting bee. We swap poultry and pruning tips--Em recommends raising 50 cornish hen hybrids all at once for tasty meat birds, giggle about living in a small town--sometimes it takes newcomers awhile to realize that being an asshole isn't an option, and catch up on each other's lives. Days like these provide another dose of soul food, which is easy to come by in these parts and yet never under-appreciated.

This is sweet Em and with the inconspicuous brown bottle. This one tasted like it had berry and ginger in it. Similar to kombucha but hits a whole lot harder.  (I love kombucha, but for those of you that don't I swear they make a tasty cider). Well worth a trip over to Shawn and Genese's. 
Just a short angle on the propagation house. The number of plants grown here is astounding.

I mentioned that I've been challenging myself with projects. This is a dresser I picked up off the street. 

This is the final outcome. Autumn helped me with the colors and I found the hardware at Hobby Lobby for super cheap (that place is dangerous!! though I'm lined out for my next few projects). I used this tutorial as a guide, though I left out the antiquing process because it looked pretty awful when I tried it. 
The peonies blossomed and no doubt I am taking pictures of every petals unfolding, but I am just loving these sweet little blue flowers Claire grew. 

We made doughnuts in class this week at the Trading Post, our town's  natural food co-op. For all the healthy food that comes out of that kitchen we managed to produce some deep-fried delicious white flour goodness. We experimented with four different recipes- my favorite involved an over-night rising process.

One of Em's goats whose name I don't know. 

Emily got two little studs this year. Boy oh boy are they rambunctious, Very cute because they are small and manageable but we are all hoping they mellow out as they grow.

This is my garden journal. My friends Scott and Sharon make them to supplement their farming and landscaping incomes. Their work is beautiful and it seems fitting to catalog each season it.

Luke and I made a quick curry together this week. It's so nice to have fresh colors and herbs to add to dishes these days.  Luke walked me home along the irrigation ditch-- the silloutted mountains, stars overhead, warm breeze, and our linked hands reminded me just how charmed life in our valley can be. 

My girl.

Friday, May 4, 2012

Double-digging. Double

About six weeks ago I started to put in a new garden. This probably would have been a good project to start a few weeks earlier, when the soil first softened and before the avalanche of To-Do's slid into Spring. Whoops.

I took a month long hiatus when my other commitments demanded priority, but now I'm back to my daily routine of waking, stretching, sipping my tea, and heading down to the garden. I've been double-digging the soil to form the new beds--a time-consuming, slow moving process. The red soil sticks to the tines of the spading fork, as clay-based soil tends to, and I generally hit a rock, or four, every foot. While my shoulders are turning red and tightening, the complexity of the birds' songs expand as different species show up from their winter haunts.  Green is making it's vertical crawl up the mountain as the snow-line recedes at an alarmingly fast pace this year. Blossoms flutter to the ground like snow with the spring winds.

I wish I documented all the tell-tale signs of the season's progression--the budding of the trees, the Mountain Blue Bird's arrival, my already burnt skin...Everything has been so early this year, and my critical mind craves some documented proof. Sounds pretty Jeffersonian..."Dear Diary, Today I saw my first humming bird of the season."

But back to the tedious task of double-digging, a bed preparation technique which I practiced with my homesteading mentors Claire and Tony. Briefly, by preparing my garden beds in this way I loosen the soil to allow plants to penetrate the earth and enable good nutrient absorption. Most vegetable root systems reach at least three-feet into the earth. Carrot and beet root systems stretch at least eight-feet downward! Since I'm working with clay compacted soils I can get further down using this technique then I would with a mechanical tiller and save some fossil fuels in the process.  Also, double-digging advocates argue that this method better maintains healthy soil structure than using a roto-tiller, which inverts organic matter. If you want to learn more about this technique there's a great chapter in John Jeavon's How To Grow More Vegetables... and there's a wealth of information on the internet.

At times I am not sure if I will be able to till the entire garden in this manner. My mind seems to think my body incapable of the task, but a strange resilience rises within me each time I think about quitting. Besides the benefit that the soil reaps from this work and that the root systems of my plants will soak up, I can see the faint glimmer of a silver lining to this arguably barbarous practice.

I've spent hours now in my new little plot and if Frost were to look in on my progress he'd rightly say that I have "miles to go before I sleep." In the process, I'm connecting with this piece of earth and it's magnificent views. And because I'm there so much, neighbors stop by to chat with me and keep me company. Admittedly, there's been a day or two in which I spent more time taking breaks and enjoying conversation then I spent digging. Back when I first started I sat on the porch with Logan who taught me some new tricks on the banjo. I talked books and connected with Lucy, someone I rarely see and who feels best when we find one another spontaneously.

Had I brought a roto-tiller over I would have finished the whole process in two short, noisy hours. Faster, yes. Back saving, yes. But without the pleasure and joy of just being. Without the time to relax into observing the shifting of the seasons and the strengthening of my hungry muscles.

Lucy and Fly. (Thanks for the photo Lucy)

Our show's tour in the big city gave me a chance to catch up with Kati and Lisa. Kati brought Farmers' Market goodies for breakfast!

Farm Fresh everything, except the chocolate. Which I ate. For breakfast.

We learned about baking over a fire in class this week. 

View looking North-West.

.   .   .

Can't get enough of this one...

Tea at the garden.
The Lilacs have arrived. Love me some lilac lemonade.

Morning yoga with Ruda.