North Country Farms

Blog: Food for Thought

Packing School Lunches and Pondering

Recently the marvelous moderators at the podcast Down to Birth (check it out sometime—I cannot recommend it highly enough) asked me what I might tell mothers of newborn or small children. (I suppose they thought I might have some wisdom!)

I really had to pause, as there is so much to tell mothers in that tender, terrific and often terrible place. They are blissed out at the very same time they are overwhelmed and exhausted.

All I could think to say, from the bottom of my 74-year-old heart, was something they probably have heard before . . . it all goes so fast, in the blink of an eye. And that they should consider just treasuring it. Yes, the days are often absurdly long. But the years are always wildly short.

And I added that, in each of those often seemingly never-ending days, there are always meaningful and even magical moments to capture. That you probably  have random times in each day that make your heart sing. Grab those and hold them tight, for those are what feeds our mama souls.

And here is one other thought I also included in my answer . . . all over the globe there are thousands of other mamas doing the same thing as you . . .nursing a fussy baby in the light of the moon, rocking an overtired toddler, or packing lunches while trying to drink her now-cold coffee and wrangle everyone into the day. Reach out and find those women with whom to share the experience with—the good, the bad and the ugly. They will prove to be a lifeline.

Recently, I have been packing lunch for my oldest grandson, who is close to five, and in a wonderful Waldorf pre-K. His Mama is away, and his Papa and I have been tag-teaming. For years and years and years, I packed lunch for my three children while they each attended Waldorf Kindergarten through sixth grade. That was, I might add, three DIFFERENT lunches each day, as their tastes were, and still are, not the same. How many lunches on how many days? The numbers boggle my mind! Some days I was utterly and simply tired of this task, but, of course, wanting to send them with healthy, delicious food that they would consume. Mostly I think I succeeded, but I often disliked the undertaking immensely.

Fast forward and imagine me this morning in my kitchen, the very one that 35 years ago I was gulping coffee and assembling those lunchboxes. Here I was putting my grandson’s lunch box together with my mind strolling through the years and my heart so grateful that I would get to do it again.

So, to those mothers in the thick of the gargantuan, sometimes gleeful, and often just depleting and draining days, weeks and months  . . try to remember there are others involved in the same sweet struggles and that you can and should support each other on this journey. And try to gain perspective on just how quickly it all gallops by, even though it can seem like slogging.

Lysander Jesse and baby rooster
Peanut butter and jelly rolls, nuts and blackberries, olives.

Fresh Perspective

I had the privilege of having eleven beautiful yogis on my farm and in my home yesterday. These are women I have practiced with twice weekly for years at a stunning and serene studio in my little town here on the north shore of Kaua’i. We were honoring the birthday of our teacher, who brings us together with a gentle gong each class to silence our sweet chatter and begin our hour and a half of yoga practice. Often we gather afterwards at a fabulous coffee shop next door to the studio. I treasure these relationships. These are honest, kind and trustworthy ladies.

So, this was the first time many of them had been to the farm and/or into my home. Again and again, I was greeted with superlatives about how beautiful my farm is and how lovely, peaceful and comfortable my house is. This gave me much pause for thought.

Each day when I awaken here, where I have lived and worked for over 35 years, I am grateful. Each day as well, I am often overwhelmed by all the work I see—all the weeding, all the trimming, all the clean up and recycling, all the reorganizing and ballasting of stuff—in short, all the work.

The fresh perspective of these women was a balm to that part of me that just sees all that constant work. It gave me pause to reflect. To reflect on all that has been created here these past decades. And, while the farm and my home could use hours, days, weeks and even months of work, it will never be perfectly groomed or maintained. We have neither the cash flow, the time, or the energy.

So, today I walked the farm while feeding animals this morning and attempted to look with the eyes of these precious women friends. And, indeed, the farm is beautiful, as is my humble home.

Thanks for that, ladies. Namaste

Random Mothers Day Thoughts

My mother was beautiful, talented and charming – but not cozy. It was the 50s after all and there was not frequent warm fuzzies around my home. Don’t get me wrong — I was loved and cared for in all ways, but emotions were not on display in great abundance. Feelings were held tight to your chest and rarely expressed or discussed.

It has taken me years to learn how to appropriately share my feelings. But, not as a mother. In that realm I feel totally comfortable both sharing my thoughts and feelings and in letting my children do the same. It was a goal of mine that my children know each and every day how deeply loved they were. And how much gratitude I have for them in my life. The lessons each of my children has taught me are vast and complicated. I hope I have passed on a few choice ones to them as well.

Being a mother is a path of surrender. You find yourself at the helm of a ship often cast adrift in stormy seas and the next moment in the calmest waters imaginable. And that goes from newborn days to now, as the mother of three 30-somethings.

I never could quite grasp how so many parents feel that their work is done once their children are adults. My parents surely were of that ilk. Once we were out of the house, our problems were ours to manage and I was not apt to go to either of my parents for help or advice. We had fun times together for holiday gatherings, when we could manage to corral us all to be under that same roof from various spots all over the country and world. But still the communication was superficial, while sweet and kind.

I suppose that is why I chose a different path from the get-go. Having my children all born at home and adopting an attachment style of mothering has shaped our relationships to this day. It would seem that the two children of mine who are now parents have chosen a similar style of raising their babes. Perhaps they do feel the positive effects of having been nurtured in the way I found so vital to us. It was integral to how I saw my role as a mama.

And I also chose to surround myself with women who see mothering in the same light. We support each other and have grown together in our processes.

So, on Mother’s Day this year . . . I send heavenly love to my own mother who did the very best she could and whose memory I cherish. As well, I wish smooth sailing on this journey we share to those mothers I know and love who are navigating with their hearts.

Who Knew?

Well, I surely did not know! Being a grandmother is like nothing I could have imagined. Your babies have babies! This new role finds its way deep into your heart the moment you hold those precious miraculous newborns.

I was fortunate to be at the births of both of my grandsons, which is an honor I am humbled by. And I did not totally expect the deep solid love I felt with them in my arms. The ease with which all those mothering instincts kicked right back in without missing a beat amazed me. And, yet there is a subtle and serene difference being their grandmother, not their mother.

My children are phenomenal parents. It is a position of immense stress and full of opportunity to grow. I watch with pride as they take on the challenges inherent in being mothers and fathers. I am always there to offer what wisdom I might have to offer and yet try to let them navigate those parenting waters, calm or stormy. I respect their choices, even when they are different than mine were.

I did not have my wonderful mother around to ease my path, nor did I have a particularly close relationship with either of my grandmothers. So, I believe I am very aware of the potential to develop and nurture my special place in my grandsons’ lives. I am the matriarch in the family now, the leading generation, shocking as that is! There is more time, less intensity in this sweet spot I find myself in. And I am treasuring every moment of it.

I love you beyond measure Lysander Jesse and Dillon Michael

Stepping Up and Stepping Back

With my blessing, everyone who lives on the farm left for travel adventures at the same time. This is a first ever, and I am thrilled for Sky and his family and for Bay and his girlfriend to stretch themselves and take on new experiences. Getting off the island is a terrific way to gain perspective and find renewal and appreciation in our lives.

This, of course, has left me for three weeks without their help in running the farm. While I readily admit that the solo time has been lovely, I also have been working my sweet ass off!

My thoughts while I handled the myriad of tasks usually shared by my family have gelled into these observations:

Firstly, I miss them and appreciate that I am surrounded daily with my sons, my daughter-in-law, and my grandson. Their company, help and love are a constant in my life and this is deeply heartwarming and wholly appreciated.

 Secondly, I am affirmed in my capabilities. Aside from running the tiller and mower, I am totally capable of handling each and every task necessary to keep things humming around here on these beautiful four acres. I am grateful for my health and my strong and somewhat lithe 73-year-old body.

Thirdly, while I can rise to the occasion, I do not wish to do it all myself. I feel just fine asking for help and for delegating to those younger and stronger than myself. This immense responsibility alone is not what I want in my daily life. I want, need and deserve more time to relish the days of my own shaping. That surely still entails working on the farm – at things I enjoy doing and do well. It also means taking quiet contemplative time, embracing my time at my favorite yoga studio and coffee shop in town. Or it can look like me and a book on the couch after lunch, dozing off for a 20-minute respite. It often can mean taking my grandson to the beach while his parents till and plant thousands of starts into the gardens. Or a long walk and talk with a friend.

 I appreciate that my family takes pride in this farm, our home, our worthy endeavors and each of them is willing to contribute in such meaningful ways.

So, kudos to me for stepping up and kudos to me for stepping back.

Coffee and Me

I want to believe that coffee is good for my health. I know it is good for my psyche. My mornings would simply not offer the same satisfaction without my coffee ritual. It isn’t about the buzz—I wake up pretty ready to roll into the day. Suffice it to say I am a morning person. It is about the practice and procedure.

Recently a dear friend who knew how I enjoy my latte or flat white when I am out and about or when visiting my daughter and son-in-law, (he makes a wildly delicious latte every morning I am there!) offered me his old countertop espresso maker. Try as I did, I could not get into that rhythm on my own. It seemed like too much hassle to do before I had my coffee.

So, back to my simple fulfilling pour-over process. Grinding fresh beans in my burr grinder starts the procedure. The grind is fairly rough. The water is boiling in my precious little gooseneck pour over kettle. The grinds wait in the moistened paper filter positioned over my favorite cup in my glass funnel. Recently, on the advice of a dear friend and fellow coffee lover, I switched to a Hario funnel. (You can google that whole gig online—-it’s definitely for those who are picky about their pour over, but worth the exploration, in my opinion.)

The pour is s l o w. Takes about 3-4 minutes. The aroma smells like dawn to me. The first sip tastes like sunshine in a mug. Despite the fact that I drink decaf, this cup of carefully curated coffee makes my morning.

Are you coffee crazed? Tell me about your ritual around this delightful part of your day.

Here are some quotes from a recent New York Times article on the health benefits of coffee, which I choose to believe! . . .

A large 2017 review on coffee consumption and human health in the British Medical Journal also found that most of the time, coffee was associated with a benefit, rather than a harm. In examining more than 200 reviews of previous studies, the authors observed that moderate coffee drinkers had less cardiovascular disease, and premature death from all causes, including heart attacks and stroke, than those skipping the beverage.

“The potential benefit from coffee might be from the polyphenols, which are plant compounds that have antioxidant properties, according to Dr. Giuseppe Grosso, an assistant professor in human nutrition at University of Catania in Italy and the lead author of an umbrella review in the Annual Review of Nutrition.”

Gardens and Grown Children

There is a concept I am massaging in comparing tending the farm to tending my children.

When the gardens are performing in epic fashion and providing produce in abundance, I can only take so much credit. The bulk of those kudos might just be showered on the moon, the sun, the rain. Of course I take pride and care in tending, but the confluence of the elements can make or break it. So, when things are not producing and we see the heat, the bugs, the birds, I can rest my weary mind and body in knowing I have done all I can.

In a similar fashion, when I see my now-grown children doing amazing and brilliant things, I can only pat myself on the back so much. Which ultimately leads to the inevitable conclusion that when they screw up, I should not take this upon myself. I have, for so many years, done all I can to insure they had a nurturing environment for their minds, bodies and souls. The rest becomes all theirs.

I Love the Father of my Children

I love the father of my children. Perhaps usually an obvious and not monumental statement. However, the father of my children and I are divorced. For over 20 years now.

The path to this sweet spot was initially rocky, I can readily admit. But the effort was undoubtedly worth the result, which remains steady and calm all these years. While the marriage did not survive, the intention behind choosing to have children and attempt to raise these three now grown children to be good and caring people has kept our hearts and focus in the right place.

He is a fine, honest and kind man this father of my children. And I am so pleased to call him a friend. Happy Father’s Day, Chad.

Flattered in Inverness

In 2004, a year or so after getting divorced, I took all three of my children to Europe for four weeks. It was perhaps financially a foolhardy folly, but just what we all needed. As there were four of us, we each got to choose a place to visit. I chose Tuscany, Sky chose Paris. Bay chose skiing in La Clusaz in the French Alps and Nell chose Scotland. A week in each place. It was a trip for the memory books.

Part of our interest in Scotland was that Sky, Nell and I had each just read the first book in the Outlander series. The site of the Battle of Culloden was eerie. We also went to the Isle of Skye, of course. The myth of the fairy hills and that magic was entrancing. In Inverness, we stayed at a really quaint and cozy hostel. Our room with two bunk beds overlooked a field always filled with rabbits and rolling hills in the distance.

The common room of the hostel was a snug spot, with a fireplace and comfy seating. It also had a computer where I spent time composing our travel log that was being sent back to loved ones. The manager of the hostel was a charming and kind young Italian man named Sandro. Well, younger than me and I was 55. He took an interest in me and was friendly and flirtatious. We talked and talked. While he was keen to take it to another place, being recently divorced and traveling with three teenagers, I never followed through. But, I never forgot his flattery and sweet demeanor.

Just the other day I came across this calligraphy name plate he did for me. It took me back to lovely Inverness, that eclectic hostel and Sandro’s warmth and how it made me feel—pretty, interesting and desired.

There are so many more memories of that trip . . . Indian food in London before going to theater, the walks in the Chianti region of Tuscany and the ancient agritourismo where we stayed, the baguettes in Paris, skiing the mountains of La Clusaz and the meals at the tiny hotel there which left us catatonic nightly. But, fresh out of a marriage and being hit on in such a gentlemanly fashion is fine to recall.

For November 2020 and all it promises to bring. .

November, go easy on me. This has been a tumultuous time. My emotions are all over the place. My usually grounded self can sway toward worry, anxiety and even sadness. I speak to people all the time who have experienced these same unsettling swings. You can read a plethora of articles on self-care during these uncertain times. And, I am aware of every bullet point. They are thoughtful and appropriate reminders, which I appreciate. Often I can even muster up one of the antidotes. But, even considering myself a relatively conscious individual, sometimes I just falter and fall into the abyss. But, I am writing to just make a mental note to stay centered when it all feels off-kilter. Be nice, November, I’m trying.

Mama to Grown Children

Years back I pondered what parenting older grown children would be like. I thought it odd when people said they could not wait for their children to be eighteen so the difficult times would be over. Well, here I am — mother to a 37 year old, a 34 year old and a 30 year old. And, guess what?— the mothering never stops. I still worry and wonder. I am still their mama. I still worry when one of them is sick or sad. I still wonder how the obstacles in their paths will mold them. I often think I have done a fine job in being their mother, embracing and guiding them. And some days I believe I have really screwed up in how I have reacted to them. I am happy that they all like me, as well as love and respect me. That feels wonderful. But each day is new. Remember how you navigated newborn life, toddler life, young child life, teenage life, life watching them become more and more separate? How each milestone was new and you had to constantly adjust? It’s still the same for me. I have never been a mother to a 37 year old. And the 34 year old is taking that chapter on differently than her brother did at that age. And the 30 year old is also, of course, a completely different kind of guy. They each require an approach designed to best meet them where they are. So, my point is — it is always new! Always challenging. Often rewarding. Often frustrating. Full of love and lots of laughter. Each age and each child unique. And the process continues. Mothering doesn’t stop because my children are grown and independent. That’s the joy. That’s the constant work in the relationships. And mostly I feel up to the task I treasure more than anything —- being their mother. It’s just that it is different now, not necessarily easier, just different.