Friday, February 12, 2016

My friend and teacher, the moon.

Last night after I wrapped up bakery hours, helped Rose and her friends practice for their history fair project, enlisted Thomas's help with dishes, oversaw Nora as she prepared for a weekend trip with a church group, I kind of wanted to fall into bed or collapse in front of a glowing screen.

But the day was so beautiful and my body needed to move in the evening air.

Somehow I managed to find the wherewithal to put on a jacket and go for a 2 mile stroll. The early evening pastels slid down into the west and the blues and grays of evening took over. The moon hung in the sky, a happy smile glowing in the sky. Almost tilted grin, and I couldn't help but look at her most of the way around the loop. I paused, for just a moment, and said, "Okay! Okay! I get it! Smile!" And made my face into a silly mask, mimicking her, and then found the silly face manifest into a real and genuine, tender smile.

Tuesday, February 9, 2016

History Lesson

The other night I was having dinner with a friend, recounting the difficulty I had in gathering the kids around the table these days.

I had made a roast chicken dinner, with one of our big fat chickens, baby turnips from the garden, a few other delicious vegetables. Set the table.

And then there was only Thomas, Rose and myself.

It felt awkward. Like we had forgotten how to sit still around the table. Like we had forgotten how to make conversation on a Sunday afternoon. Just the three of us. When you have a family of five kids, plus many assorted friends and family, the table is often filled with ten, twelve plates. Not just holidays.

And then Philip died. And then we left the farm and interns and friends. And made a bunch of new friends. But then kids started graduating and moving away.

It is weird, adapting to new and different. Instead of homeschool and farm life, the kids public school and are involved in running and karate. Instead of homeschool and farm life, I am a single mom with several different off-site jobs, including the running of the little mill and bakery here.

Sometimes we gather in the kitchen at different times, grabbing whatever there is to grab, quesadillas and beans, and omelet, venison and a cream sauce, practically eaten out of the pan.

There is so much to be experienced around a supper table. And when one kid has a practice that ends at 5:45 and the other begins shortly after six and I get home exhausted and dirty, it is hard to make it happen.

So, I got rather teary eyed with said friend, and with the tears, made an intention in my heart. An intention to diligently work to make supper time happen more regularly in our house. Even if it means being a bit creative. And included in the intention was a great desire to read to the kids again, even if there are only two of them home these days and they are busy being a teenager and a preteen.

The world is hard. Their time left at home is short. I desire greatly for them to know attachment and emotional connection, and living off the farm makes that aspiration a lot more difficult.

But not impossible!

Yesterday we enjoyed gyoza and fried tofu and cabbage, in honor of the Asian New Year! And had young friends join us, and we all ate with chopsticks. We made our New Moon wishes. The other day we read a couple of chapters of our book, My Side of the Mountain, while the girls ate bowls of potato soup and I enjoyed broth from that Sunday dinner chicken. Tonight Nora made mac and cheese for herself and Rose and I ate leftover cabbage. Then we looked over the new edition of the Big Bend Gazette and I showed them this month's food column, written by their world famous mom (HA!). Rose and I enjoyed remembering last week's Asian Slaw recipe made with farmer's market kohlrabi and beets. And Nora suggested I write a book.

One thing led to another, and next thing you know, the girls and I are sitting on the edge of my bed, scrolling through this blog, looking up early February posts, from every year since February 2008.


I read out loud. They listened and murmured and laughed. Nora gave me the best compliment a writer could ever receive, telling me that she loved my writing, and that it was interesting and she liked to read it, and thought that other people would enjoy a book written by me. And she should know, since she reads good books all the time, every day! I didn't tell them the posts were unedited, and grammatically rough, and that it was primarily therapy, and that they and about eight other people are the only ones who really care to read these silly musings! (that would include you, mom!)

We scrolled through history, them reading over my shoulder, listening as I read the words with my voice. I couldn't help choking up as we remembered Zackie, our cat. We shivered a bit as we remembered the snow and the cold of the farm. It was hard to believe I had little Rose out there learning to milk when she was how old??? We remembered Julie, the fairy godmother, taking the kids to DC. We remembered my post written in Gopalpur, India. We remembered baby goats and GGGRACE with growly moms who are cold and tired of winter. Crepes in the backyard. Scorpions at campsites.

Yesterday was the new moon. On new moons these days I like to make my wishes as we enter a new phase of the calendar. One of my wishes was that we would know contentment in our family. That we would have emotional connections. That we would remember who we were and grow into the bigger who we are.

I feel rich beyond description, and more grateful than I could ever write for the life I have. Setting that intention has brought us back to some sweetness we truly needed. How lucky I am. I love my jobs. I love my kids. I see miracles most every day, in one weird form or another.

Oh, and we have bunnies, in the backyard, in a hutch behind the chicken coop. Petunia has pulled her fur to make a fluffy lining for her little nest box. Black Beauty has not, but maybe tomorrow? The Amerecaunas keep flying over the chicken yard fence and ate the new broccoli and brussel sprouts I set out. Nothing new there, since that seems to happen most years for the last seven or eight years! The Johnson grass in the vineyard continues to be my guru, and I wonder if maybe this week? Next month? I will try the puff pastry recipe Holly gave me on Facebook the other day. The sun is clear and bright, and with the troubles that come our way, the heartbreaks and the loneliness, we are given such a sweet cup.


Monday, February 1, 2016

Sunlit, Windy, Blowing Dust

Yes, the temperature is in the 70's. But the wind is stirring up a dusty haze that blurs the mountains. Stirring up allergies as pollen is blown hither and thither. I believe the wind is blowing in a cold front. Which is normal this time of year. We greet each other in the store, at the post office and grouse about the wind. We crinkle our foreheads, frown, peer at the haze. It seems to be a cultural ritual, this need to complain about the unpleasantness!

So. To be grateful.

I am grateful for the interesting way the wind has of changing up the day. I love the wind in that it is so easy to personify her. Sometimes mild, at times temperate or flirty. A gentle tease, a blasting hurricane force with which to reckon.

She is grumpy right now. That's okay.

I still love her! Before you know it, she will have done her work, and will be ready to settle down into a much more gentle dance. But how would the rains ever come, or the cold be blown away if she never did her job?

That said, today's meditation will definitely take place INSIDE my house and not on a dusty, blowy mountain top.

Wednesday, January 27, 2016

Good Medicine in a couple of forms.

Some of you may recall my words on legalism over the past few years. It is never very attractive, in the realm of spiritual practice, food, or anything else for that matter.

SO, while I regularly teach that white flour and other simple carbs are not helpful in one's everyday diet, sometimes a big, fat cheeseburger and fries, preferably in a small, locally owned burger joint like Magoo's here in Alpine is just what the comfort doctor ordered.

I practiced mindfulness as I chomped into that burger. The melty cheese, the toasty bun, the hand-formed beef patty satisfied my hungry heart for a few minutes. Aaah. I smile to think of that pleasurable lunch.

That said, it was great motivation for me to get out for an early evening two mile walk to compensate for all those carbs. I spent some time praying on the walk. I enjoyed the crystal blue sky. The moist air, the blond grasses. A few whys and what fors and how longs? But most of all, I delighted in the bright sunlight! At one point I raised up my arms in joyful prayer, telling the sun I was ever so glad to see him out so late on a weekday. Even now, almost 6:30 pm, the skies are bright, the shadows growing longer, but, shadows require sun, and sun there is.

Oh, I think I might survive the winter, she says with a sarcastic grin and a sigh of relief, knowing that it is absolutely ridiculous to get mopey with only 6 days of cold dark over the course of several weeks of winter here in the Chihuahuan high desert. Seriously...

Blanket of White

Yesterday I had to bundle up in many layers to head up the mountain to a job. I went out to the orchard and veggie gardens I help maintain and snugged the beds with agrobon in preparation for the cold snap to come. As I worked, fingers growing numb, the snow began to fall. At first tiny little specks. In an hour thick fluffy flakes that quickly covered junipers and live oaks and yucca and agave. Even the grasses were frosted by the thick layers. Instead of the vineyard, I moved to indoor tasks, working away while the snow came down, delivering a nice dose of moisture and nitrogen. All organic!

How lovely it is to live in a place where one day I can work in short sleeves, the next, enjoy a winter wonderland of quiet, cushioned cozy comfort, reading in front of the fire, and today, the sun is shining brightly, melting away the winter blanket, giving me hope that the dark will not last forever.

Have you gotten the idea that I absolutely love where I live? The mountains outside my window have fluffy shawls of cloud and a slight powder sugar dusting. By noon the skies will be clear and by tomorrow my yard and gardens will be moist, and I will be grateful for temperatures back in the 70s. Isn't it wonderful that the world has so much diversity and something for everyone?

Monday, January 25, 2016

The Pursuit of Happiness, or The Greenhouse is SO Clean!

Theo came over on Saturday and we worked together on greenhouse clean out. The greenhouse is a multipurpose zone, used twice a year to raise chicks for meat, used to hold plants over the winter that don't tolerate our cold snaps, a lime tree, several aloe and baby agave, airplane plants, ocotillo baby and a bay laurel plant. Come January and February we aim to use it to start seedlings for the garden.

The deep litter for chicks is a combination of hay and pine shavings. After a few weeks, it is a perfect mix of chicken manure and carbon matter, so I spent a few hours hauling it via wheelbarrow, over to an area near the garden. After a few months, it will become food for the garden.

My friend washed chicken dust off the plants and repotted a few. I hauled and hauled, growing covered in dust. Reveling in the tshirt weather, soaking in the sunshine. The girls hacked up the christmas trees and burned them in the firepit. They played with the rabbits, are latest acquisition on the farm. I mean small town backyard.

The other day I started an online course offered by Coursera. It is called "A Life of Happiness and Fulfillment." Winter months usually bring me down, and as I have several life decisions rumbling around in my head, like should I go back to school? Should I ditch self-employment and get a steady job that might offer benefits that would benefit me? It was recommended to me and sure enough, the course is engaging, challenging and enlightening!

When I started working out in the yard I felt a bit grumpy, realizing I had to make a choice, clean house or clean greenhouse. I felt pressed and irritated that I had to make a choice and couldn't do it all. I wondered why I couldn't be more like those other women who keep such tidy houses. Why couldn't I be better at helping supervise kids in the arena of household management? And then my muscles warmed up. The sun kept soaking into my bones. I felt contentment and satisfaction that comes from working companionably nearby others, not chatting, just doing our thing, as Nora entertained the little boys with Playmobil and trampoline and Rose entertained her squad of teen friends by burning things and showing off bunnies.

All of a sudden I paused as the light bulb went off.

I am happy! I shouted over to Theo and told her it would be damn stupid for me to be inside cleaning house on a day like today! I don't judge anyone who would find their satisfaction in doing household chores. I really love to clean my house. It makes me feel centered and cozy and safe. That said, a clean greenhouse makes garden plants, soil amendments and taking advantage of the gorgeous weather filled up my heart and warmed up my muscles and I can truly say I felt happy. I let go of my wish to get it all done perfectly. Duh.

This course I am taking talks about how our culture tends to look down upon happiness, as it might feed our ego more to work toward whatever our idea of success might happen to be. We think that being happy is selfish. I want to pay attention and know when to choose the thing that helps me feel satisfied and content, and JOY so my kids can see that as a model. Yesterday I was feeling tired and mopey and unhappy again. Then, as I drove home from a late Sunday afternoon hike all by myself, I began to mentally recount moments of joy and happiness I had experienced over the past twelve months. There were quite a few moments of pain, but when I thought about it, a flood of happy memories filled my mind.

I was kind of taken aback.

Wow. I think I am happy and just forgot to pay attention! Dang.

Well, more to come later. But as writing makes me happy, I thought I ought to sit down and do it for a minute during my lunch break!

Tuesday, January 12, 2016

Little Gifts, or wow, it has been awhile since I took an evening stroll

After a lovely visit with a girlfriend, I ventured out for an evening stroll. The air was brisk. The stars were big and bright.

I looked toward the west and the giant crescent of a moon was a glimmering bowl. I rushed to the top of a knoll, hoping to give her my full attention. She swiftly sank beyond the far mountains, and all that was left was a faint glow.

Oh how disappointed I was to see her disappear.

Oh how delighted I am that I went out with just enough time to catch her departure and tell her goodbye.

Monday, January 11, 2016

Carne Guisada, Tacos, Venaison en Bourgogne, Steak, Stuffed Peppers, Curried Venison, Venison Bone Broth, Yummy Meaty Bones for Brownie and Blackie

Patrick pulled the ginormous industrial strength meat grinder out of the closet. With three and a half deer to butcher, looks like we could use her awesomeness.

We sharpen knives. We don aprons. We pull out very cold, very large quarters of venison. We turn on Pandora to the Bach station. Light conversation accompanies knife work.

We are slow. We wish Daddy were here with his flashing knives! Decades of practice for him. A handful of years for me. Patrick's first time to wield a knife on a deer carcass.

I tell him that slow is okay, especially as we wish no injuries to accompany this harvest.

A girlfriend pops in earlier in the day. "Wow, people sure do love you guys!" she says, as she looks at the amount of meat waiting to be processed.

And don't you know I know it.

Thursday, January 7, 2016

Mental Photo

A sliver of moon made her way up into the black velvet sky this morning. I paused in my baking to witness the event. A couple of very bright stars cheered her on as she steadily rose.

Friday, December 4, 2015

Thankful in all circumstances

Now that three kids are gone from the house it seems like holidays are becoming more and more precious. This Thanksgiving Thomas, Rose and Nora loaded up and we headed to Central Texas to spend the long weekend with my folks. My mom picked up Patrick and Maggie from their dorms. We all settled in to their house after dark. A quick supper was had and then we moved toward dishes clean up.

Wouldn't you know it? The kitchen sink water refused to drain. My parents did some preliminary work on unstopping the pipes and we all went to bed, figuring that by morning it would be resolved and we could then move on to Thanksgiving prep.

A couple of weeks ago I made a list in my journal of birthday wishes. One of them was for the kids and me to have a holiday season full of contentment, love, peace and joy. I didn't think about that wish very much afterward, just sent it off into prayer land and moved on.

Fast forward to Thanksgiving. My dad did all the typical things one does to try to unstop kitchen drains for a couple of hours. Then he and Patrick went down to the crawl space and tackled the pipes down there. My folks live near the lake on a rocky hillside. The water is full of minerals. Apparently the minerals had been building up on the inside of the pipes, like clogged arteries! They worked and worked, and the rest of us set aside our expectations.

It was drizzly and somewhat balmy. We took our coffee outside and visited on the covered deck. We ate spelt cinnamon rolls and quiche brought from the bakery. My sister and I took a couple of long walks and caught up. At some point I guess I saw the kitchen filled with dirty dishes from the day before and figured we better come up with a contingency plan for the day.

We grabbed big plastic tubs, began to heat water, and carried out dishes to the deck where they were washed in hot sudsy water. There was laughter. It was a novelty. It completely threw our holiday off balance and as a result, we relaxed, and just rolled with the flow. After the dishes were done, we brought out all the vegetables. Thomas chopped potatoes to make his famous mashed potatoes. Maggie convinced me to make a vegetable stock so our dressing could be made vegetarian. Patrick made his cranberry jello dish. Rose and Nora worked on bread and cornbread that Maggie made for the dressing. I made a giant tray of roasted root vegetables. Daddy put on the turkey. We eliminated several other traditional veggie dishes and the homemade potato rolls. The ersatz plumbers continued to labor on, Daddy, Patrick and my sister.

After the pleasant, atypical day, we sat around the table, thankful, full of yummy food, and content. we had one of the most unusual and pleasant family Thanksgivings we had enjoyed in a long time. I was happy to wash up the dishes and pots and pans out on the deck, dark and drizzly, sound of rain gently falling on the tin roof over head. About the time the dishes were nearly finished, the pipes began to drain again! Hurrah!

The next morning I felt a little frazzled from all the socializing and work. Some of the kids joined me on the deck for silent breathing meditation. Their first time to sit still and not do anything, just breathe, maybe ever. The combined spirit of peace and calm was a gift to me. Later, I walked in on Maggie and Patrick doing yoga in the dining room. They were so graceful and beautiful! They asked if I wished to join them, so I had to say yes. My first experience with yoga. It was really hard. They were great teachers. When I told them that it not only hurt, it was boring, they laughed at me, and asked me if I thought being still for fifteen minutes might be considered painful and boring!

We had a lovely time spent together with family. Not everyone could be there, and they were missed. We all agreed that the slightly uncomfortable circumstances through us off kilter enough that we were able to be present with each other in a way we hadn't before.

We were content. The house was filled with love, peace and joy. And fun stories, and laughter, and only teeny moments of snippiness that were quickly covered by grace.

I am so thankful for my family. I wonder what circumstances will lead to our joyful content Christmas???