Tuesday, August 30, 2011


I came across this beautiful spider's web this morning when I was down at the pasture. It was strung so perfectly between the handles of the manure wheelbarrow and the green waste bin.

I needed to go clean the pasture, so I had to move the wheelbarrow. But the beauty and fragility and amazing strength and commitment of this spider's web made me pause.

Things are never black and white. People are rarely only fragile or only strong. Sometimes we pour ourselves into an endeavor and yet we find in the end we've chosen the wrong place or time or moment for it. Life is full of contradictions. Doesn't a spider's web capture that perfectly?

Scooping up manure is my meditation these days. There's something about the fog, the quiet of the country, the animals quietly munching on their hay. There's something meditative in the repetitive action of scoop, lift, heave, scoop, lift, heave. I do some good thinking out there.

But first I had to deal with the web. There really wasn't a choice. Silly spider, didn't she know I was going to have to move the wheelbarrow? What a choice...to construct her net between two transient objects.

I really didn't want to destroy that beautiful web. So, I moved the wheelbarrow slowly and slowly the web unhinged from the handles. Ultimately, it draped down from the green bin, useless, broken. The spider, luckily, was nowhere to be seen, so hopefully she did not witness the destruction.

I've been caught in a sticky web of conflict these days with some people in my life. Hurt feelings, silences, tears and rage. It's so easy to make blanket assumptions about people and to forget how complex they can be. It's so easy to destroy something beautiful, something that took much effort to build. It's also so easy to spiral down and down into a pit of anger, crushing the forward progress you've already made. Out in the pasture, my thoughts kept spiraling to a conversation I recently had and the things I wished I'd said and the things I'm relieved I didn't say. My anger bubbled up and my heaves of manure got pretty rough.

I stopped and breathed deeply and shook my head to clear it. My heart was racing. Again.

If we storm through, without taking in that quiet, without those moments of meditation, we're sure to cause damage. What I want now is to move through this, to carefully disconnect the sticky web, gently put it aside, yes broken, but gently, and move on through.

For some reason though, right now it seems to be about the destruction. I wonder when we'll get to heal?

Friday, August 19, 2011


We’ve been getting a weekly box of produce from a local farm since June. It’s an incredible bounty to absorb each Wednesday. Bags of greens, shiny cucumbers, fragrant apples, huge brown eggs. I love going to pick up our box at a neighbor’s front porch, stepping over a pair of tiny blue flip-flops and carefully avoiding tripping over the tricycles and scooters strewn across the floorboards. It’s a very country spot, down a gravel road, across from an apple orchard, a stack of produce boxes sits waiting right there in the shade. I open our box and walk back to the car, arms full of bags bursting with Mother Naturey goodness. Sometimes there’s so much I need to make two or three trips to the car. Sometimes, I come better prepared with sacks of my own to carry all the loose carrots, turnips, corn, beets, and onions.

The way summer is we’ve had several weeks where we barely could touch all the great food in the fridge what with camping trips and homeschool conferences to pull us away from our kitchen. A couple times we had a friend pick up the box instead so her family could enjoy it, but mostly we just bring it home hoping to eat it, save it or haul some of it along on our travels.

Oddly enough, our own vegetable garden was a complete failure this year. Deer have gotten in either over the fence or squeezing in past the gate at least three times eating our beans, lettuces, and tomatoes down to nubs. We replanted the beans and tomatoes at the beginning of the summer only to find them eaten up again and so we gave up on those crops. We’d planted over 30 of each and it was a real disappointment to walk away. At this point we have some zucchini (who doesn’t?) and a possibility of pumpkins in the fall, herbs, and some radicchio, I think. I have a sinking feeling every time I look over the deck railing down into the garden since I’m afraid of what I’ll find.

So our CSA (Community Supported Agriculture) box has given me an alternative happy farmer feeling.

What is required each week, however, is a certain amount of processing as soon as it all comes home. It’s a serious job and if I’m not feeling up to it, I stuff everything into the fridge and hope for the best. But, the reality is that the lettuces need to get washed, spun, torn and stored in a large bowl in the fridge, covered with a paper towel to absorb the moisture and plastic wrap. The root veggies need their green tops removed and to be bagged and put away. The onions need to be tossed in the pantry. And the cherry tomatoes and fruit need to get eaten! Fast! Otherwise they’ll be compost.

Last night, one day home from the biggest and final camping trip of the season, I cleaned out all the bins in the fridge and processed all the veggies we had. There were a few things hanging around past their due, a few that luckily lasted, and all the new goodies I’d picked up yesterday afternoon.

Besides a large bag of amazing compost material (looking on the bright side, of course), I was left with a huge bowl of lettuce, three full drawers of satsoi, spinach, cukes, scallions, parsley, basil, broccoli, turnips, and carrots. A bowl of Gravenstein apples sits on the counter. Red and gold beets roasted in the oven. My bedside table has three cookbooks on it (Local Flavors:Cooking and Eating from America's Farmers' Markets by Deborah Madison, From the Cook’s Garden: Recipes for Cooks Who Like to Garden, Gardeners who Like to Cook, and Everyone Who Wishes They Had a Garden by Ellen Ogden, and Nourishing Traditions by Sally Fallon)…I’m looking for some inspiration, something good and different for a bounty of sweet carrots and a large bag of spinach.