North Country Farms

Blog: Food for Thought

When Are You Going to Retire?

When are you going to retire? If I had a dollar for every time someone asked me that, maybe I could retire!

But, really — I’m not sure just what retirement would look like for me. I mean I know several loved ones who are retired. I know what their retirement looks like. Just not clear what mine would resemble.

Most of my days are full to overflowing. But, with good work and with only myself to answer to. (Well, okay, I do have to kowtow to the IRS, the State of Hawaii or the mortgage company.) Some days I wish were a bit more measured, with a more time to take a deep breath and a long beach walk. But,usually I can fit both of those into my day.

While I do less of the physical work around the farm, thanks to my sons, I still am the one who is orchestrating the scene. But, then again, many a day finds me outside doing that contemplative task of weeding or a strength-building task like trimming and hauling or even the menial task of being the chamber maid for our cottage rental. I am the list maker, the director, co-farmer, office manager and more.

For almost 20 years I have kept the intention behind the founding of North Country Farms going strong on my own. I feel accomplished and proud of this. It has been a home and a livelihood for myself and my children.  But the reality is that for us all to remain on the farm, we must all work it and keep the endeavor generating income. So, for now, I remain working, not retired. And that is just fine, as I said, I don’t know what retirement would look like for me right now. I shall try and travel more, carve out more time for beach, yoga, reading, writing. And take each morning as a gift and each job as an integral part of a wonderful life.

Sensual or Sexual

Definition of sensual: relating to or consisting in the gratification of the senses

Definition of sexual: relating to or associated with sex 

I was thinking today that perhaps I am a sensual being at this time in my life, not necessarily a sexual one. That prompted me to look up the definition of both words. Sure enough – – – I was right – – – I am sensual. Very. Not particularly sexual currently.

The way my body and mind relax under the spell of a warm sun. The completely fine feeling of immersing myself in salt water after soaking in that sun. The smell of my coffee beans grinding, promising that delectable morning java. The feel of my grandson’s soft sweet thighs. The staggering beautiful sound of the birds at dusk. The luxurious low light on my gardens at sunrise or sunset.  The feeling of that deep clear breath when I first lay down on my yoga mat. The breathtaking feast for my eyes of a brightly blooming orchid. How my fresh clean sheets caress my body and smell like the sun. That first sip of a perfectly chilled glass of good wine. The heady scent of gardenias, jasmine or stephanotis. The way the grass or the sand feels under my bare feet. My senses stimulated.

In years past, I would have considered myself extremely sexual. Perhaps this is aging. Approaching seventy with my senses so finely tuned, my gratitude for the world around me heightened. It is a fine life. I am thankful for my sensual self.

In the Land of Angels

I have been living in the land of the angels for the last month. My oldest son’s first son was born a month ago. They all live on the farm here so my days were initially filled with being of service to them. Laundry, meals, and my favorite of all . . . walking and rocking a newborn.

It seems like eons ago I held my babies fresh from the womb, and yet it seems like the blink of an eye. I did not forget the smell of their heads, the sheer beauty of them relaxing into sleep in my arms, the deep desire to comfort them when they seem distressed. I also did not forget the dreamy difficult times of being their parents—of being unsure, of being exhausted. So, it became my purest pleasure to help in any way possible. And in the process, I got the gift of a lifetime — to bond with my grandson.

My son and his wife are finding their way beautifully into parenthood. They seem more confident each and every day. And they are truly, madly and deeply in love with their baby boy. To watch this all unfold is a treasure to me.

 

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Balance in our Farm Life

In April 2018, the north shore of our island of Kauai, where we live, received 49 inches of rain in 24 hours. After the shock of such an epic weather event, we replanted our gardens and, when the performance was abysmal we figured out that the nutrients had all been washed away in the wild weather. We did all that we knew how to do — which was to till the entire field in and plant a long –term cover crop to rest and replenish the soil.

That was last May. It is now October, and we have just harvested our first crops since last spring. It is heartening to be back in the familiar rhythm of seeding, planting, and harvesting. It is divine to have our greens for our meals once again. It is marvelous to have our customers return to us with gratitude, telling us how they have missed our produce. We surely have missed providing it!

Thankfully, our farm stay cottage has remained steadily booked. This is the beautiful balance of our lives here on the farm—providing fresh organic fruits and vegetables to our local community, while also providing a place for visitors that offers an off-the-beaten track experience.  People who stay with us are usually familiar with the farm-to –table movement, frequent farmers markets and appreciate our activism by lifestyle. The customers who buy our produce are supporters of local food and appreciate the hard work and love that goes into bringing food to their tables weekly.

For both aspects of our livelihood here, we remain grateful.

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Rough and, subsequently, Tough

This has been a rough spring and summer for the Hawaiian island I call home, Kauai. And, subsequently, tough times for me.

Firstly we experienced epic rains and flooding in April. Almost 50 inches of rain fell in just 24 hours. I am not sure I can express what that kind of rain is like. Relentless. Wild. Frightening. Those are just a few words that come to mind. This caused phenomenal damage to communities. Bridges closed. Homes lost. Roads washed out. Still to this day, the road out to the beautiful rural communities of Wainiha and Haena is still closed to all but residents and will probably remain so for many months. Our farm is just now readying again to plant our market garden, which we sowed in long term cover crop to replenish the soil after losing inches of topsoil in the flooding.

Then just this week we were tortured by the Category 5 Hurricane Lane. We waited and watched and worried for perhaps five full days as it barreled through the Pacific and took a northern turn right up the western side of the Hawaiian Island chain, where it churned for days, never quite touching down on land, but always threatening. The hours and hours of suspense and the hype by the media both here and on the mainland was super stressful, particularly to those of us who have experienced the wrath of a full-fledged hurricane.

https://northcountryfarms.com/2018/04/19/ptsd/

Yesterday Hurricane Lane was broken up by our strong trade winds and is slowly moving westward, but not before packing a punch to the Big Island. We still expect heavy rains here this afternoon and evening.

I feel relieved. I feel grateful. I also feel exhausted and wrung out. That kind of anticipation is surely tough for me to handle.

While there is nothing we can do to control the weather, I do strive to be able to feel less vulnerable and frightened. Not quite sure how to achieve that though.  There were moments in these past days when I felt centered and calm. And other moments when I felt scared and shaky.  I am not clear how to increase the less stressful moments. But, it would be a fine thing for my frazzled psyche.

Some Thoughts on Aging

Ever go to the camera on your phone only to find it facing you and become rather startled at who that person is? Or Face Time with a loved one and feel sincerely shocked at the little image in the box on that screen that is you? Or my personal favorite – walk by a mirror and wonder just who that old person is looking at you?

Growing up and growing old is inevitable.   How we handle it, however, has more room for options.  At my current 68 years old, I look at my hands and I see my mother’s hands. I look at my numerous wrinkles and see hours of laughter and even hours of worry. My once-perky, now-saggy, breasts are a tribute to over nine years of nurturing my children at those breasts. My gray hair I try to wear as a crown—a crown of glory for all the years I have been happy and healthy on this planet. I smile when I recall that one of my sons told me it wasn’t gray, it was platinum—a far finer description.

Mind you, this doesn’t always work. That face and body looking back at me in the instances above is inarguably aged, which is, I suppose, marvelous considering the alternative.  But, it doesn’t always please me. I am well aware I am stuck with it and I chose not to alter it in any expensive and vain way. But still my attitude towards my appearance wavers, depending on so many things.

Mostly I see the most prominent variable in how I feel about how I look is how happy I am in the moment. How content. How fulfilled. And, how well rested. I have noticed that the photos I see of myself when I am happy are the ones where I think I look my best.

Today I had coffee with a dear friend who commented on how nice I looked, despite me moaning about my exposed fleshy upper arms in the tank top I was wearing for the yoga class I just finished. I then recalled what I know to be true—if we saw ourselves as the people who love us see us, we would feel more confident in our beauty.

So, take good care of yourself. Feed yourself fine food. Exercise and stretch even when you don’t feel like it. Make rest a priority. Take time to nurture your relationships. They are the food for your soul. Because what matters in the end, is not how we looked, but how we loved.

Cheers! Here is to you and me. . . and growing old!

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My Sense of the Spiritual

I love being a mother. With my children now 35, 32 and 28 and all with sweet partners in their lives, I still find being their mother to be what I do. I can no longer stop being their mother than I could stop the sheer fierce force of their births.

Each of these precious children was born at home. Each birth was a window to the divine, deeply transformative and dramatically terrific. I would not trade a moment of those hours, some blissful, some brutal – but every bit of it wildly wonderful.

And so the years have brought more of the same — daring, difficult, dramatic and just damn darling times as their mother. Every stage of being a mama is new. Just when I think I have figured out how to be a mother to a 3 year old, the next 3 year old comes along and needs a completely different approach. Just like with 30 year olds.

This path has stretched me, sometimes even to a breaking point. But, I somehow I manage to muster the strength and continue to attempt to master this role of a mother. Perhaps I never will totally grasp it, but I truly believe each of my children knows how I treasure the trying. It is my sheer joy, my own sense of the spiritual.

PTSD

From the National Institute of Mental Health website:

“PTSD is a disorder that develops in some people who have experienced a shocking, scary, or dangerous event.

It is natural to feel afraid during and after a traumatic situation. Fear triggers many split-second changes in the body to help defend against danger or to avoid it. This “fight-or-flight” response is a typical reaction meant to protect a person from harm. Nearly everyone will experience a range of reactions after trauma, yet most people recover from initial symptoms naturally. Those who continue to experience problems may be diagnosed with PTSD. People who have PTSD may feel stressed or frightened even when they are not in danger.”

Well, this would surely describe my situation. I have become, over the years, very frightened during intense weather events. Wind. Rain. Thunder. Lightening. This last week, as our beautiful island of Kaua’i was hammered with 30 inches of rain in 24 hours and a wild chaotic thunder and lightning storm that raged for 12 hours, my nerves were as raw as possible and my stomach in knots. While my home was fine and I was safe, my rational mind could not connect with my emotions and calm me down.

The rains have mostly passed. The damage to our farm will recover. Other parts of our island are not so fortunate. Kaua’i  has been declared under a state of emergency. Areas are cut off by massive landslides. Homes have been lost. Businesses washed out. Roads and infrastructure are ruined. The devastation is immense. It will be many months before many are back to anything resembling normal. Meanwhile, I surely count my blessings. I am grateful for our situation.

My PTSD is something else. I’m not so sure how to get a grip on this. As we approach hurricane season here in the Hawaiian Islands, my memories of the epic Force 5 Hurricane Iniki make me tense and slightly nauseous just thinking of it. While I have always resisted the labeling of any “disorder”, it is somehow validating to know how I feel is real and recognized.

Time Travel

Recently I got a lovely look into the young woman I was in 1965-66.  It came to me in a package of letters I received. Letters I wrote to a young man I was quite enamored with. He and I had a brief, but sweet, time before he left college in Cambridge and joined the Navy. We exchanged letters for quite a while. I wish I still had his.

About two years ago, he discovered my letters. This prompted him to go down the proverbial internet rabbit hole and find me. Several emails were exchanged and months later this brown envelope arrived. It it were dozens of my letters to him.

I opened it and just the handwriting took me back. Way back. I settled into a chair and was lost for hours. Lost in the mind and heart of that young woman 50 years ago. Feeling her emotions. Remembering the times of which she spoke, some of which I had forgotten. And what struck me as the most notable of this time travel was how much like myself today this gal was. Her deep love of children. Her clear desire to have a family. Her ache to find work that was meaningful. Her itch to travel. Her deep love of the outdoors and especially the beach.

Here I am today with all that intact. And much of it manifested. Along the way much was lost, gained again. Wisdom I have now I would love to share with that girl. But, I really loved the person that came through in those letters. And, that is quite wonderful.

 

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In Touch

In 1967 my sister and I went to Europe for the summer. We called my parents twice and sent occasional postcards. Granted, we had an itinerary that they had helped arrange, but still we were off on our own and very often clueless. We did have a wonderful time, which we still talk about when we are together.  But, now I ponder how my parents felt about it. Did they worry?

My three children have traveled the world. Alone or with friends. I have known only the outline of their sometimes  vague plans. I have often been awake in the wee hours wondering what time it is where they are and how they are doing. Skype, Viber and email have been my extended umbilical cords. And I have taken a deep breath every time they contacted me by any of those methods.

It’s a different world 50 years later. I am a different parent than mine were. My relationship with my children is closer. The good news is that we are all grateful for this. They like knowing where and how I am, just as I like knowing where and how they are.

Just now I received a phone call from a very concerned papa calling from the mainland. His daughter is here on Kauai working on a farm, the name of which was not clear to him. Her cell phone has been off for some time and he and his wife were, understandably, worried. He found the listing of my farm and called to see if I could help in any way. I spent some time finding the farm and calling him back with a phone number so he could check on her. He seemed so relieved that I understood his situation and was willing to help. I hope they connected. I hope she is okay. I also hope she remembers to call her mom and dad occasionally.

Thank you Sky, Nell and Bay for always caring enough to stay in touch with me.

Balance and Solstice Time

BALANCE: 

Noun:

  1. An even distribution of weight enabling someone or something to remain upright and steady. Synonyms: stability, equilibrium, steadiness, footing
  2. A condition in which different elements are equal or in the correct proportions. Synonyms: fairness, justice, impartiality, evenhandedness, egalitarianism

Verb:

1.Keep or put (something) in a steady position so that it does not fall. Synonyms:                     steady, stabilize, poise, level

  1. Offset or compare the value of (one thing) with another. Synonyms: weigh, compare, evaluate, consider, assess, appraise, judge

 

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This solstice time when we are returning to the light is, for me, a time to insure that I am feeling balanced. That my personal equilibrium is steadfast. That the different elements in my life are in correct proportions. That I am in a steady and stable position in all aspects of my life. That I have evaluated the value of different areas of my life and they are being honored appropriately.

Take a look at the definitions provided, via Webster, above and see if you can take some time to assess how they reflect in your life. Then let us all celebrate the return of the light.

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It’s my blog and I’ll rant if I want to

It’s my blog and I’ll rant if I want to.

We are an organic farm in the tropics. If you do not wish to experience that in all its facets, please stay somewhere else. Staying in our farm stay cottage, you will encounter geckos and perhaps even some of their droppings. You may see a cockroach. You will usually have mosquitoes on the lanai and just about everywhere else you explore. If you leave food out, you will have ants. You will hear the wild roosters at dawn, or even during the nights of the full moon.

You will also have access to our market gardens full of delicious organic produce and our orchards seasonally dripping with oranges, grapefruits, avocados, papayas and more. You will experience Kauai as lived by real people with real lives here. And that real life includes all kinds of critters. If that is not what you want then please do stay somewhere else.

Rant over. Composed with as much aloha as I can currently muster.