these ordinary moments: buying garlic

“Because being a homemaker isn’t about being extraordinary.  It’s about seeing the ordinary in a conscious way.  A way that leads to gratitude, joy and understanding.  A way that allows me to create an environment in which my family can become more human everyday.  If you are moved, I invite you to share your ordinary things by replying below or leaving a link.”

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I bought a bulb of garlic last week.  This would not be a momentous event for most, but it is the first bulb of garlic I have bought from the grocery store in over a decade.

When John and I moved back to his childhood home of Denver over 10 years ago, I needed to put down roots.  Literally.  At that time in my life I could not imagine connecting to a landscape without putting my hands in its dirt.  So I sent off an email to the owner of Keith’s Farm in upstate New York where I worked two partial seasons, and asked if he’d be willing to sell us some of his famous garlic.  I promised him that my regional location would create no business conflict and he obliged!  That story, and the evolution of the Reinhart Family Garlic, are the subjects of my first ever blog post.  (Look how young they all are!)

Last fall, when it was time to plant garlic, the moment quietly came and went and no garlic went in the ground.  Without pomp or ceremony, 10 years of tradition slipped into the past.

Looking back I can see that the subtle way in which this moment passed signified a new relationship to this place where our little farmlette sits.  For years we’ve alternated our summers between here and the East Coast.  Sometimes tending our garden and flocks, sometimes fleeing to salt air and rural life, needing to patch up the holes carved into our beings from this hot, arid landscape.  This year we just seemed to need oh so many more patches, and we left behind the farmlette for nine weeks.  Someday, perhaps, I will share our adventures, but for now, I will just say that it is unlikely we will pass an entire summer in Denver again.

Which means, no garlic.  No watching the scapes shoot out, or form into their tiny bulbs. Or ripe tomatoes cracking beyond fullness.  No more shepherding the children out of the garden before they have tomato tummy aches.  And, we are currently figuring out how to get the children on board with sending our hens to a neighbor’s soup pot.  (The economy of old laying hens simply does not add up when the family spends most of egg season buying eggs in Canada.)  The goats will be the hardest sell.  For all of us.

I try to gaze upon it all with grace as I silently lament how much more difficult store bought garlic is to peel.  (No wonder there is such a market for that minced stuff in the jars.)

It’s not so much letting go of the past that is hard, it’s letting go of a future that never had the chance to come to fruition.   But there are trade offs.  Always trade offs.  The future that needs to be, can only be when we realize that it is flexible and changing because we are.  It doesn’t feel great, to watch one future dissolve before a new one has formed, but somehow it seems necessary.   And it is Michaelmas, a fitting moment to summon the trust and courage needed to step through the doorway into the unknown.

I’m doing it as best as I can, store bought garlic in hand.

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these ordinary things: ebb and flow

Because being a homemaker isn’t about being extraordinary.  It’s about seeing the ordinary in a conscious way.  A way that leads to gratitude, joy and understanding.  A way that helps me create an environment in which my family can become more human everyday.  If you are moved, I invite you to share your ordinary things by replying below or leaving a link.

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There is an underlying belief about parenting nowadays: if we do everything right–build attachment, protect them from suffering, nurture self-esteem, buy organic mattresses and grass-fed beef–well, in the end, they’ll be okay.  One day they’ll be healthy, well adjusted, contributing members of society who call home every Sunday night to check in with Mom and Dad.

It’s a belief I know personally, and I’m glad it’s begun to fade into my past.  Too often it plants the seeds of perfectionism.  Anxiety replaces trust, confidence becomes guilt, and none of it does much to foster satisfaction.

Now, I look back over our days, and watch as each player tosses a card from his hand into the center.  I see how exhaustion transforms a broken puzzle into a wrestling match.  How happiness bubbles over to joy when it’s shared.  How not enough adult time equals a lost tempter.  How two and a half year old exuberance collapses into tears and the-wrestling-opponents-turned-best-friends respond with big brother hugs.  “We’re twins so that means we always love the same things and we do all the same things and we go everywhere together.  You can be a twin with us!”  Happiness.  Joy.  Wrestling match.  Frustration.  Lost temper.  Forgiveness.  Peace.  Repeat.  (Also an excellent single player game.)

Conceived of our imperfect parents, we were invited into the stream of imperfect earthly life.   Here in this little red house, five imperfect people have come to know the ebb and flow of family life.  Of human life.  Just as it needs to be.

 

summer days

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Oh my, dear friends, how busy our days have been.  I move through the day composing snippets of blog posts in my head, but each moment is so full of all things summer, it is hard to sneak a moment to sit down at the computer.  And, let’s face it, after supper, when half dressed children are running through the sprinkler and planning camp outs, the desire to pull out the guitar and play as the summer evening seems to draw on forever, well, it always wins.

But here I am, summoning some discipline and wondering where to begin sharing all of the magic on the farmlette.  Here are a few, rather, a lot of snapshots.

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In the garden we are beginning to sense the fullness of the approaching harvest season.  Piles of green tomatoes are yearning for a good stretch of hot weather.  The garlic is in, and what will likely be the last of our spring greens planting.  Both of those beds, along with one more and the cold frame will be getting a good load of compost and manure to prepare for fall/winter.  This is our first year doing cool season gardening here, so it will be an experiment.  We still have a bit of work to do to get the actual frames ready, but there is time.  The peas, we have had such an oddly long season, are finally done and we will pull them up this week to throw into the goat pen.  Greens, cukes, zukes, summer squash, strawberries and the first cherry tomatoes are coming in, although nothing in huge quantities yet.  We’ve been sneaking a few beets and carrots in the name of thinning.  For the third year in a row our beans have done very little, so I will have to give that some serious attention this winter.  I planted some greens under our maple tree this year, hoping they would do well in a shady spot during the hotter months, and so far they seem to be doing well.  Herbs are drying by the bunches and I think we’ll have enough to get through the year.  So far, the only new obstacle this year has been combining companion planting with our irrigation system, which is a necessity in Colorado.  The few things I planted not directly on irrigation lines are doing okay, but not quite getting enough and so I end up spot watering quite a bit.  So more winter thinking on that one.

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In the barnyard the kids have grown so quickly.  They will be big enough to go to their new homes soon.  The bucklings don’t have homes yet, and we are still on the fence on how to proceed with them in terms of keeping them intact or not.  We’ve chosen not to disbud them, so that may complicate homing them.  However, there must be someone else out there who sees the value of allowing these lovely animals to live the way Mother Nature intended.  Time will tell and it is all a learning process this time around, so when we find out how difficult it is to home a horned goat, we will have more information for next time.  Our little chick is all feathered out.  Hen or rooster?  Well, that remains to be seen.  Either way, it ended up being the only addition to our barnyard this year.  We’ve separated out our first batch of six hens to slaughter this fall so that we can fatten them up.  We all have mixed emotions on this, but the reality of urban farming is that there is only so much space.  If we want to continue striving for our ideals of sustainability then we have to also strive to accept these compromises.

DSC02076 DSC02080 DSC02079 In the studio, well, I’ve not been down there very much.  I have managed to get the buttons on those baby boy Hawthorne sweaters which is good because those baby boys are getting big.  Hopefully they will fit well for fall.  The body on my FLS is done!  And then there is those sleeves.  I always tend to stall out on the sleeves, just an old habit of mine, but perhaps when the cool weather sets in I’ll be ready to plow ahead.  I have a gathering collection of quilts in some stage of progress, four now, I think.  Fall will be a busy time.

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August 1st always brings images of school along with it.  We begin to look forward to the stability of a rhythm, to the way our minds are a bit clearer when the sky is crystal blue and the breeze is crisp.  To the renewed intentions we’ve let go of during these hot hazy days.  The great expanse of summer, the urge to free oneself from all earthly responsibilities is so strong, that eventually I find myself craving the grounding of fall.  But it’s not here yet.  We have a few weeks left of no schedules and siestas and late bedtimes.  A few more weeks to share long visits with friends and pull out the fiddle and guitar after supper.  A few more weeks to fill ourselves with the ease that is the slow paced life, centered around what needs to be done each day, right here on the farmlette and no where else.  A few more weeks to insulate ourselves in this haven from urban life.  And that’s just what we plan to do.

And what about you?  What is August bringing to your life?

his first paying job

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If you haven’t yet gathered as much, I can tell you that our eldest child likes to work.  If it includes power tools, even better.  After “Mama,” “Papa” and “no,” his first word was “pry bar.”  His second was “nail.”  Shortly after that we were called upon to decipher the meaning of “wood wadder.”  Weed whacker!   Now five years old, he really does use the weed whacker more than anyone else in the family.  (This picture is actually a couple of years old.  I tried to capture a current one today but he insisted that there would be no weed whacking at all until the grass was completely dry.  How little I know about the rules of proper weed whacking!)  Lately he’s also been insistent upon spreading his landscaping work to his school playground, which he has pointed out is in serious need of attention.  A key part of this equation seems to be that the other children in the class will not be able to be there since he is the only one allowed to use a weed whacker.  I suppose he’s likely right about that one.

Yesterday, while I was making supper, John and the kids were out working in the yard.  Mattheus ran into the house, elated and puffed up with pride and holding up a folded dollar bill in his hand.  He exclaimed, “Mama, look, Brian gave me money!”  And indeed our next door neighbor Brian had.  Apparently, Mattheus had noticed that the grass under Brian’s hasn’t-run-for-sometime car had grown quite tall.  So naturally, lover of weed whacking that he is, Mattheus went right to work.  Brian noticed and came out to thank our industrious five year old and pay him for his work.  I cannot speak to the exact revelation that happened in Mattheus’ mind when Brian handed him that dollar bill, but I can assure you there was one.  I’d hoped we could hold out on the lessons of finance for a bit longer, but Mattheus has already told me about all of the weed whacking he is planning to do to increase the money in his new mason jar bank.  Knowing him, he’ll have a business plan drafted before the week is out.

these ordinary things: a mother

Because being a homemaker isn’t about being extraordinary.  It’s about seeing the ordinary in a conscious way.  A way that leads to gratitude, joy and understanding.  A way that helps me create an environment in which my family can become more human everyday.  If you are moved, I invite you to share your ordinary things by replying below or leaving a link.

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We all have one.  Many women are one.  In their very existence, mothers are as common as mice in the kitchen.  Stop lights at the corner.  Leaves on the trees.  And yet the power to carry, nurture and bring forth something new in this world is nothing but extraordinary.  Nor is it reserved for women alone.  We are all capable of such miracles.

As we approach Mother’s Day this week, I hope you will join me and some of my fellow bloggers with Kim at Mothering with Mindfulness, as we celebrate our shared paths in a series, On Mothering.

friendless february

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The light is returning.  The sun is beginning to peek through the window at our supper table.  The number of eggs in the laying boxes is increasing.  The seed order has arrived, promising the green of spring.  The predictable thaw has been so unseasonably warm that the spring bulbs have begun poking their shoots out of the ground.  The next snowfall will set them straight.  All of this waking up in the natural world, and yet, for some reason, February seems generally short on friends.  (Respiratory season surely does not help its social life.)

How can it be that amidst all of this promise of rebirth, the inner feeling of soul is one of death?  This is how I always experience it, and when I speak with others the words, “it’s just been really hard lately,” repeat themselves over and over again.  Not the hard that demands fire and force and fury as Michaelmas does, but the hard that requires the day to day commitment of putting one foot in front of the other, even if it feels like the ground is molasses.  And unlike the dark days of Christmas, it feels as though there is little grace sent to us in the form of hope and celebration and community.  Instead we are called upon, our tiny huge selves, to gather our own endurance to live these days.  Perhaps not to excel, or thrive or find revelation, simply to be steadfast and know that that is enough.  That sometimes we learn what must be learned, just by getting by.  That we accept the feeling of dissatisfaction and for a time lay it out honestly on the table, because we hope that it wakes us up to what we’d rather forget, to all in this human world that is not right, even if we cannot begin to find solutions.  That joy and hardship are the partners that make us human.

As I watch the children, it’s clear they are oblivious to the mood of these days.  They gaze back at us, wondering why our knickers are all in a twist, for they are too fresh to be burdened with the atrocities that human beings create, to understand how far we have to go, to experience the lasting, inescapable grief of loss.  They speak of returning to the Starflower Garden with matter-of-fact-ness.  They have their squabbles, their small inequities, but of the grand things, they are little Buddha’s of the heart.  As far as they are concerned, all things are possible, and all solutions have problems, and if there isn’t a solution, then maybe it wasn’t really a problem after all.

It is a tempting place to be, but I remind myself that a five year old is not going to figure out how to feed the world without toxic chemicals and bee colony collapse.  He’s not going to solve the Southwest’s water crisis as we watch the Colorado River dry up, or find the economical path to renewable energy.  And, it’s not likely he’ll depolarize the Islamists and Christian Fundamentalists.  Or the Pro-Lifers and the Pro-Choicers.  Or the Vaxxers and the Antivaxxers.  Perhaps one day (I hope, as all parents do) he will have as good a shot at it as any of us, when he has known the sufferings of a few more Februaries.

As I wade through three feet of molasses, I watch my children and their innocent hearts, and hope that as I am enduring the darkness of these enlightening days, I will find a way to preserve this openness of heart within myself, so that when the crocuses finally do bloom for good, I may emerge from poor friendless February with a clearer picture of what it means to be human, and a little more strength and desire to strive for this capacity within myself.

I guess I’ll have to wait and see what Easter brings, but for the moment, it feels like it’s enough just to get by.

these ordinary things: making beds

Because being a homemaker isn’t about being extraordinary.  It’s about seeing the ordinary in a conscious way.  A way that leads to gratitude, joy and understanding.  A way that helps me create an environment in which my family can become more human everyday.  If you are moved, I invite you to share your ordinary things by replying below or leaving a link.

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My grandmother has always said, “when you make the beds, the rest of the room doesn’t look half bad.”  Up until recently (she is 91) I can say with near certainty that the beds in her home were always made.  I’ve more or less let go of keeping the house as tidy as I want to, at least for now, but I do make the beds every day.  Moving about the rooms, I find a sense of strength in the familiar ritual.  Shaking out the covers and pillows of the last night’s sleep and breathing new air into them.  Creating a place where we can find solace at the end of a busy day.  Finished, I look at them, knowing that even if I can’t do it all, I can teach my children that what we do, we do with love and intention.  That the way in which we work is far more important than the outcome.