It is still hot this late summer afternoon, but the promise of evening and a slight cooling off is in the air. Everyone on the farm has returned to their tasks at hand, having spent the heat of the day out of the sun. My youngest son, Bay, is weed whacking, polishing the edges of the land he so beautifully mowed just a bit ago. My almost-daughter-in-law, Danelle, complete with her ever-present sun hat, is feeding the ducks and chickens and gathering the eggs. My oldest son, Sky, has just harvested bananas for tomorrow’s market and is now gathering fresh organic greens for the rabbits, filling their water bottles and settling them in for the night. I stand on the front porch feeling pensive while looking over this land we are so fortunate to own and steward in our conscious way. Our lifestyle is irreplaceable. And I simply could not do it without these grown children to help. The work is constant, dirty and often hard. But, for now we are in it together. That, in itself, is a reward I relish this late summer afternoon.
It is sweltering up here in my loft office as I come inside out of the hellish heat that is this mid-afternoon. The only place to be is the beach, but I feel almost too lethargic to motivate and go there. This has been a sizzling summer here on Kauai. Hotter than I ever recall in 28 years. I’m not digging it and neither are our gardens. Few things perform in such blazing sun, and surely lettuce and greens are not among them, excepting arugula which seems to relish it, getting spicier by the day and out performing everything else. Well, the thrips and the fungus and the aphids like it somehow —perhaps just being opportunistic and taking advantage of the stressed-out struggling plants. Bananas, lychee, and pineapples seem content enough. But, not me. I dream of cool crisp air and giant heads of lettuce alongside thriving kale and chard. Alas, it’s many months until that is a reality. Until then, you will find me slightly grumpy and inside under the ceiling fan.
I dreamed of my parents last night. I don’t often do that, but, when I do, I awake simultaneously both happy and sad. Happy that I spent time in my dreams with them, which is always joyous and interesting. Sad that I cannot do so in my waking life any more. My parents were fun and smart and mostly really easy to be around. Since I’ve lived on Kauai, they were always far away geographically, living on the East Coast of the mainland. But, never far from my heart. In my dream last night, we were trying to get somewhere in my car. My dad was trying to bring up directions on my iPad, which is amusing in itself as he never even saw an iPad. This became obvious as he tried in vain to find the map app. I pulled over and he and my mom and I had a good laugh, as he bemoaned the lack of a ‘good old paper map.’ The morning birdsong pulled me out of my dream into the dawn and I awoke with the smile from our chuckle still on my face. Then that light melancholy perched on my shoulder as I swam into consciousness remembering that today, like all days in the past several years, I cannot be with them. Just in my dreams. That shall have to be enough. I eagerly await the next time they accompany me in my sleep.
Another Mother’s Day has passed. Being a mother I find the holiday a bit overdone and commercialized. Yet I relish celebrating the fact that being a mama is the most fully fantastic aspect of my life. Truly. I live my life with every intention of being a conscious and good person. No where is that more challenging than in the realm of mothering. When my children were little, sheer exhaustion made being present and aware often second to just getting through the day with them fed and bathed without a meltdown – theirs or mine. Now, the challenge with young adult children is to let them forge their own paths with simple support and a minimum of interference. I have never been able to control them, babies or adults, I can only hope for appropriate modeling or a modicum of influence. Things shift with older children–mine are 31, 28 and 24–and it is in ways that, for me, have been about reaping the rewards of those years invested when they were wee ones. It is a source of wonder to me that all three are sensitive, smart, caring, loving individuals with contributions they share willingly with the world. Just as they openly and sweetly share their love and affection with me. I’ve said it before and I shall say it again—my children are the best part of me.
My world today is plentiful, peaceful and perfect. This amazing fact made me thoughtful of the millions of people whose day today is anything but plentiful, peaceful or perfect.
Once my mind wandered in this direction, I found myself focusing on mothers around the world caught in the brutal reality of war. Mothers who want nothing more for their families than shelter from the shocking atrocities taking place all around them. Who want their children to be in the state of innocence that ought to be every child’s right. Mothers who want enough food for their children’s bellies to be full before sleep at night. Mothers who should be able to visualize a future for their children that is worthy of them. Mothers who are valiantly attempting to be everything for these children while their fathers are fighting for them. Or fathers and uncles who have died in this quest. Mothers sending their sons off to the insanity of war. Mothers who are fleeing their homes and violence I can barely imagine in order to find some semblance of safety.
To these mamas I send all my prayers for peace. Peace for them in their daily lives. Lives that should be so much more simple and full than they currently are. At the same time, I bow my own head in sheer gratitude for the kind of day I am having.
Just what is it about a rainy day? Especially after weeks of bountiful beautiful sun. We pull in. We become more still. Introspective. On the farm, there is little we can accomplish outside. So the house becomes my world. My home. My cozy home. Soup seems so right. Reading under a soft blanket is just the ticket. Tea tastes better than ever. The sound of the rain is soporific, soothing. Looking out the windows of my world for the day, the green is vibrant. The gardens seem to be drinking in the water like they only do with gentle rains. The sound track of the day is both the earth and me sighing.
I’ve been reading a book by Michael Ableman entitled Field of Plenty: A Farmer’s Journey to the Frontiers of American Agriculture. It is a fine read by a man who has devoted his life to small farms in our country. I’m enticed to read page after page of his prose—his stories of farms that have survived the storms of development and corporatization of food supplies. He strives to demonstrate by these stories that “farming is not just some lowly form of drudgery, but that it is an art and craft and an honorable profession. . .that good food is more than just about the confluence of technique and fertile soil, that it is the result of men and women who love their land, and who bring great passion to working with it.” This is the new agrarian movement he sees sweeping the country. How I wish more of this movement would find a foothold on the beautiful agriculture lands here on Kauai. Sigh. Seems like a wish that is just a whisper on the trade winds, lost in the shortsightedness that is so-called progress here.
SPANISH CHARD SQUARES
vegetable oil to coat baking pan
one package of spanish rice
one bunch of swiss chard
two beaten eggs
one cup shredded monterey jack cheese
one cup shredded cheddar cheese
freshly ground pepper
Preheat oven to 375 and oil 8 inch square baking pan. Cook rice according to directions. Steam chard until soft and drain well. Chop chard well and put into bowl. Add the eggs, cheeses, cooked rice and pepper. Mix thoroughly. Put mixture into baking pan and spread evenly. Bake until firm, about 20 minutes. Remove and cool for another 20 minutes. Cut into 16 squares and serve with salsa for dipping.
Say Good-bye to Packaged Foods
My recent goal has been to say good-bye to packaged foods. For two simple reasons.
I live on an island. The recycling program is abysmal. I actually have nine bins for recycling. Nine. Glass. Glass refundable. Plastic refundable. Plastic #1 and 2 only. Aluminum cans refundable. Tin cans. Newspaper. Scrap paper. Cardboard. All to be resorted almost daily, because such an inane system is hard for our guests in our farm stay cottages to comprehend. And all to be taken to the transfer station weekly. And then who knows where exactly it all goes from there. I would like to believe it really gets repurposed, but remain somewhat skeptical. So, what is left goes into the landfill. A landfill which is dangerously overfull, while the County endlessly debates where to put the next one. Even after recycling, there is at least a garbage can a week that goes out to the curb to get taken to that bulging landfill. So, the actual packaging of packaged food is an important issue for me.
I want to live a long and healthy life. In order to help that goal along, I am a compulsive label reader. The labels on most of the packaged foods are downright scary. I cannot even pronounce much of it, must less comprehend what chemicals are in it attempting to masquerade as food. Buying less processed foods is healthier and surely more delicious.
I simply cannot agree with the argument that these foods are easier and faster to prepare. What could be so difficult about having some brown rice cooking while you sauté some cut up chicken and add some vegetables? Or remembering to soak some black beans the evening before and adding vegetables, some chicken broth for a divine soup? I just don’t get it. Making your own broth to add is also easy. You have bought and roasted the chicken–simple enough. Just put the carcass into water the next day and cook low and slow for several hours. These seem to me to be enjoyable and rewarding efforts.
Buying in bulk has become a more attainable goal. Even our local supermarket has a bulk section. Besides, those jars lined up on the pantry shelf with rice, oats, nuts. beans, granola and the like in them are so aesthetically pleasing to my eye. So much more so than the garish packages. Vegetables and fruits have no packaging! And we should be eating more of those. And, while I am on that, don’t bother with those plastic bags for those. Just take your cloth shopping bag into the store and put all fruit and vegetables into that. I just line my produce drawer in the fridge with a kitchen towel and the fresh foods go right in there sans plastic bags.
We cannot heal all the woes of the world. But, there are some simple ones we surely can have control over. And what comes into our homes and is consumed by us is one of them. Next time you go to the market, stop and think. This time make just one choice differently of something not packaged. Next time two. And, before you know it, you will have significantly reduced the packaging that comes in and out of your home.
Is it really possible that just a few days ago I turned 65??!! The sheer volume of the number boggles my mind. Remembering how ancient that seemed just a flash ago make me realize just how those years have whizzed by. In a blink.
Wasn’t I just this carefree career gal flying off to ski holidays in Europe?
Wasn’t I just this young mama with a miracle in my arms?
I was all of those. Still am — somewhere inside. All have shaped me into the woman I am today. Life has been kind to me. My experiences have been mostly gentle, even those that weren’t.
Happy Birthday to me. May I be the wise old crone writing years from now —- didn’t I used to be that 65 year old with so much energy to give and so much love surrounding me??!!
I suffer from PISS — Post Iniki Stress Syndrome, so aptly coined by my friend who rode out Hurricane Iniki with me on September 11, 1992 here on Kauai. It was a Force 5 hurricane, as direct a hit as one tiny island could take. NOAA has said it is the most powerful hurricane ever recorded in the Eastern Pacific . We hunkered down in our strong post-and-beam home, built with intention, love and hundreds of hurricane clips. We survived relatively unscathed when our island was utterly devastated and thousands lost everything. The basic infrastructure of the island was destroyed — no water for a week, no phones for two months and no electricity for three months. The storm shook me to my very core. To this day, winds blowing over 15mph or so make me uncomfortable.
But, I must say, ignorance is bliss. In those years, we had no television and no internet in our home. So, the first we heard of the storm was pre-dawn when that same friend who told me we have PISS, woke us up to say there was a storm on the way. It being my daughter’s 6th birthday, she and I were both in denial. My friend, however, originally a native of New Orleans, brilliantly ignored my pollyanna attitude and took our van and was first in line when day broke to get plywood to board us up. I remain grateful to her to this day. Nowadays, thanks to the internet and social media, I have known about the two hurricanes swirling out in the Pacific and contemplating their track towards the Hawaiian Islands, for days and days. Days and days that I have been been in active anticipatory anxiety. I know there is nothing I can do. I am prepared, at least in a practical fashion—plywood on hand, plenty of food, containers for water, etc. But, practical is not what rules my stomach, which has been swirling as much as these two storms.
So, I compulsively check the NOAA website, watching and praying for a downgrade, a change in course, anything to indicate we won’t be slammed this week. All the while, knowing how fickle these fits of nature are. Yup, I am a PISS sufferer and that’s my story. If you are so inclined, picture these two storms, Iselle and Julio, being non-events in my life and the life of precious Kauai. If you pray–please start immediately.
I have always been one to shy away from utilizing that much-overused word. Overwhelmed. Yet, I find myself in such a state recently.
I sat down to write a very long-overdue email to a friend. I had avoided writing her as I did not want to have the entire communication be my whining.
So, I decided to take a deep breath, open a cold beer after this hard hard day of work on the farm, and list things that are going okay to counterbalance all that is currently not.
I am healthy.
I am loved.
I have more-than-enough to eat.
I am financially stable.
My children are all of the above also.
The ocean is calm and clear.
I can take time to dip in it.
The farm continues to provide abundance even while fighting a multitude of pest invasions.
My cottages are booked.
See, I feel better already.
Count your blessings. Even when you might be overwhelmed.