North Country Farms

Blog: Food for Thought

Redundant and Relevant

This post is a rerun–but sometimes a rerun is still engaging. Someone came to my house yesterday and asked how I was feeling about the devastation in Japan–the earth’s shifts and the nuclear disaster. I found myself still for a moment before responding. I was aware, firstly, that this person was wondering if I was fearful. Now, I can go to fear as readily as some, as reticently as others — but rarely find it constructive. So, my truest response was a variation of this post–one of my first and one also posted on my website – So – here it is — redundant perhaps, relevant hopefully.

At a dinner party this past week, there were a group of us talking politics—an often fiery and frustrating discussion, at best.  One of the guests, a person I’ve known and loved for years, admitted with a heavy heart that she has basically given up hope. She views the insanity on a global level as a sign that we have simply gone too far and there is no way out.

I carried her words into my dreams that night. And awoke that next morning still contemplating them. And I continued to ponder them for another day or so. It was uplifting to realize that my own reflection is really quite the antithesis of hers.

While I find that there is little I can do to impact the world on a large scale, I know that my daily actions are vitally important. The way we conduct ourselves—in our interpersonal relationships, in our business, in our buying power, in our political actions and more—is what carries out into the world. That ‘ripple effect’, in essence.

Activism by lifestyle, I call it. The eightfold Buddhist path asks its followers to cultivate: Right View, Right Intention, Right Speech, Right Action, Right Livelihood, Right Effort, Right Mindfulness and Right Concentration. The right livelihood aspect resonates especially with me. Being able to grow good food in a conscious way and know that people are eating and enjoying it is one way I can impact the world, at least the northshore of Kauai! Having intrepid travelers come and stay in our cottages and experience a lifestyle consistent with sustainable living and take that concept back to their world is another way I can reach out to try and influence thinking outside of the box. Choosing to buy and consume primarily organic products and environmentally friendly cleaning products can make a huge difference. And, always the most challenging—parenting in a way that encourages mutual cooperation and respect, relinquishing control in favor of influence and making each moment an exercise in love and clear thought—that really could change things in years to come.

My dear friend from Alaska tells me there is a concept in Judaism that is called tikkun olem.  As I understand it, it means healing the world.  Now, in my own small, humble way, that is what I’m aspiring to do. . . one day at a time, one conscious moment at a time. I truly haven’t given up hope. I have worlds of hope, a great deal of faith and even some patience.

Blessings on our global brothers and sisters in Japan. And blessings on our process of enlightening our own little part of the world.

the mother ship


Alone Time and Asian Greens

All three of my grown children are currently off-island. That leaves me in our home, alone. While I miss them like crazy, I find this situation to be enriching for me. I am in a reconnecting mode – with myself. Each day slips by quietly and quickly, finding me pausing often to imagine Nell and Sky in India discovering something new and outrageous or to picture Bay in our VW camper cruising along a highway as another stunning vista opens up before him. But, I am content with their phone calls and emails for now. I am relishing the silence, the sink with one coffee mug, one plate and one fork in it, the clean bathroom, and the notion of hours spread before me with my steady work to accomplish, another great book to read and simple food at my leisure. I will open my arms to their return to this farm, their home still, and eagerly hear their stories and see their photos. But, for now, this is delectable.

And, while speaking of delectable – how about trying some of these recipes for Asian greens, growing so abundantly in our garden now or available at your farmer’s market in season –

Asian Greens with Spicy Sesame Sauce

1-2 lbs Asian greens

3 tbsp soy sauce

2 tbsp rice wine vinegar

1 tbsp honey or agave

1 tsp sesame oil

2 cloves of garlic, minced

1 thai chili pepper, finely chopped

1-2 tsp sesame seeds

Steam greens until tender. Mix together other ingredients in another bowl. Combine the cooked greens and dressing and toss well. Garnish with sesame seeds.

Potato Salad with Asian Greens, Cilantro & Scallions

4 medium sized potatoes (red or yellow)

6 stalks of pac choi with leaves

3  tbsp finely minced cilantro

2-4 scallions, finely chopped

2 tbsp cider vinegar

1 clove garlic, minced

½ tsp salt

½ tsp sugar

3 tbsp olive oil

Feta Cheese

Kalamata Olives

Cook unpeeled potatoes in water until done. Should be slightly al dente so they don’t fall apart in the salad. Dice pac choi and  toss with scallions. Combine vinegar, salt, sugar, garlic, olive oil and cilantro and whisk together. Cut cooked and drained potatoes into cubes and toss with pac choi, scallions, olive and feta. Rewhisk the dressing and pour over warm potatoes and veggies. (The dressing absorbs better when the potatoes and veggies are warm.) Stir well and serve warm or refrigerate and serve cool.

pac choi

New Year and Resilience

I’m not much for New Years resolutions. I find it more satisfying to have resolve year-round. To reassess my goals and realign my intentions more often than once a year. Sometimes I use the moon cycles to remind me of that practice. Sometimes I am just forced by circumstances to find a balance that I have misplaced somehow. To access my inner resilience in the face of something that has upset my inner compass.

And so this week I was reminded, with a strong swipe, of the necessity and need for resilience. I see resilience as the ability to regain original form and to thrive and fulfill potential in spite of adversity or difficult circumstances. That is what I am seeing now in our gardens. A week ago we were in the throes of a nasty strong kona storm which had us reeling. For those of you who aren’t familiar with what that means here is the scoop. . . Usually on beautiful Kauai we are blessed by a trade wind pattern of weather. The wind comes from an east-northeast direction, bringing mostly a light steady wind to keep us refreshed and passing showers to keep everything green. When the winds switch around to the south-southeast there is usually hell to pay. And so it was. Day after day. No wind. And rain as if someone were holding a bucket over Kauai and dumping water heavily and consistently. There were flash floods and thunder and lightening. And our gardens took a beating.

Now we have returned to trade winds and the blessed sunshine.  In the wake of that chaos we are tending the gardens with gentle hoeing, a light foliar spray of fish emulsion and seaweed extract, and some intention. In just a few days time, we can see the results. Already the baby starts are rebounding and the adolescent ones showing sure signs of resilience. The plants are thriving in spite of their adversities. With a little help from us.

And, so I see that in our own setbacks are remedied not only by our own tenacity of spirit, but from the support we receive from our family and friends. Resilience is a quality of character that allows us to rebound from misfortune, hardships or trauma. But, the simple presence or kind encouragement of a loved one can provide so much more grace in the course of that process.

So I shall continue to trust in the resilience of our land and of my own spirit. To know that we are capable of facing whatever might come our way and emerging unharmed or even better for the experience.

May your New Year be full of all you wish for. Hold steadfast to your intentions. Smile often and laugh heartily. And don’t be so hard on yourself. It’s rarely worth it.

after the rains, the rainbow





The Snow is Always Whiter on the Other Side of the Ocean

For the past couple of weeks I’ve been hearing from so many loved ones on the mainland about the snow. The enchantment of the first soft snowfall. It called to my memory the quiet hush that descends during and after a snow. I remembered the magic of awakening the morning after a fall that came silently in the night. I could see in my mind’s eye the blue sky with the colorful and grateful songs birds flocking to my feeder outside the kitchen window. I recalled the sense of a spacious day when school was cancelled or I could be late for work because of the snow. I could almost feel in my body the freedom and joy I experienced skiing down a mountain in fresh fluffy powder.  I could smell the evergreens and taste the creamy hot chocolate. And I became wildly nostalgic and, yes, even jealous.

Then we got some of our unspeakably charmed Kauai December weather. The brilliantly clear night skies that go on forever. Stars too numerous to even fathom. Nights crisp enough to pull up my down comforter. Days so warm that a dip at mid-day was precious, even though the water had that winter chill in it. And, then I remembered . . .the snow is always whiter on the other side of the ocean.

I hope to have many more days of savoring the fresh snow with loved ones. But, today I treasure Kauai and the super sunset turning the western sky pink behind my coconut palms.


And tomorrow I shall be up at pre-dawn in that chilly air, ready to harvest for our loyal farm customers. I surely am not taking for granted the garden packed full of vegetables and the orchards brimming with citrus. I know fresh local food becomes scarce in those colder climates I have just waxed poetic about. Two things we are growing now are kohlrabi and fennel. Both might easily be found in late fall markets on the mainland.


Kohlrabi ~These little sputnik-shaped vegetables come in green or purple, can be eaten raw or cooked, and taste a lot like broccoli stems. The word kohlrabi is German for cabbage turnip (kohl as in cole-slaw, and rübe for turnip) though kohlrabi is more related to cabbage and cauliflower than to root vegetables. We usually eat them raw, just peeled, sliced and added to a salad, but they are also delicious cooked and are often used in Indian cuisine. I also like them peeled and roasted with olive oil, salt and pepper.

Fennel ~ Forever I steered clear of fennel, as licorice is not my favorite flavor. Then I discovered roasted fennel and my old bias was blasted out of the water. Just slice the fennel bulb in quarters and put in a baking dish. Coat it with olive oil and sprinkle with some balsamic vinegar. Roast at 400 for 20 minutes until the fennel begins to caramelize.


Gardener and Mama

I am a mama. I am a gardener. And I see the connections and correlations.

When the notion of a baby came into my consciousness, I prepared myself emotionally and physically for that possibility. Just how I prepare the soil before I plant the seeds that are to become our food. Pregnant I nurtured my body, fed it amazing healthy food to best cherish and support the baby growing inside. Not unlike I feed and nurture our gardens. When my precious babes were born I kept them close, monitored the energy that surrounded us and nursed them endlessly. And so it is with how I watch over my little starts in their trays as they are preparing to be planted out in the garden. As my babies grew older, it was with immense gentleness that I let them slowly out into the world, always aware of their environment being a tender one that supported their spirits in an appropriate way. My young seedlings get that same assiduous attention to their care, especially upon early planting. As the plants grow, they receive hoeing and feeding with a watchful eye, but the joy is then in just witnessing their process, perhaps pulling the aggressive weed, giving an extra boost of nutrients should a storm leave them weakened. As did I deeply delight in observing my children mature, always aware of the storm that might come their way, leaving them particularly vulnerable in its wake and in need of that deeper dose of loving care from me. And then the harvest, also carried out with sensitivity and smiles.

So it is that I now reap the harvest of my mothering, now that my children are all young adults. I receive back a million-fold the warmth and love I infused into their upbringing. I marvel at their deep compassionate spirits and their soulful thoughts and deeds.

I will always be a gardener. I will always be the mama to my three amazing children. I have, with the utmost care, given them roots. Now, they are spreading their wings.


farm family in the garden

Road Ramblings

Having just returned to Kauai after a month roaming the mainland in an newly purchased, but far-from-new, VW camper van with my son, Bay, from Santa Fe to Santa Cruz, my thoughts turn to that time away. . .

The best:

  • Best hand-me-downs from loved ones for the trip: cashmere long sweater from Michelle, down comforter from Vicki, large ceramic travel mug from Natasya.
  • Best purchase on the road: assorted pack of bungee cords
  • Best nostalgia: drinking our fresh camper water filled from Natasya and Gary’s well
  • Best pre-planning: sending ahead a box of rags and dish towels from home

Thoughts on an early morning in Nevada:

I’ve done sun salutations for years, but nothing like this morning as the sun hit the peaks with aspens aglow across the valley from the campsite. And then it slowly crept through the pines and into our campsite, taking the 35 degree cold and shooing it away and seeping into my body. I closed my eyes, let it flow over me and breathed it in, along with thanks, as I shed layers and embraced 50 degrees like a balm. 


Trips like this provide fodder for memories unfettered to your daily life and, as such, are held differently. I look forward to more road rambling in this camper that already holds such great energy from our adventures.






Sometimes just getting out of my own island orbit makes me remember why Kauai is so wonderful. Yet, the sights and sounds of San Francisco this morning down on the Bay are stunning and I am off to explore them as the sun just now rises on my farm and family on Kauai.

Autumn Equinox and Balance

The autumn equinox has arrived. Summer’s long days are noticeably shorter now. And the ocean already has a bit of a nip at the end of the day, as well as its first swell of the season. The light is lower and with that slant it feels distinctive to this time of year. The sweet subtleties of the seasons on glorious Kauai.

We have begun again to seed some vegetables that do better in the cooler weather—kohlrabi, leeks, cabbages, broccoli, carrots.  You will see the upper garden, on the left as you come into our driveway, is all freshly dug and ready to receive both seeds and seedlings. It feels like the turning of the page into this new season.

The Autumn Equinox is the date when night and day are nearly of the same length and the Sun crosses the celestial equator moving southward (in the northern hemisphere). This represents the first day of autumn. When I was reading about the Equinox this week from several sources, there was a reoccurring theme in the various essays and articles which really touched me.  This theme was balance.

As there are equal hours of day and night, light and dark, so we strive to balance our own worlds.  Attempting to stabilize the energies, of outward, physical, yang manifestation and inward, psychic, yin creativity.  Working to have breathing-in time, in response to all that breathing out.  Summer is such an outer time—going at full tilt, traveling, later hours, more visiting.  Now, our energies naturally start that inward pull, as the daylight hours shorten. The balance. How can we balance all the elements of ourselves and our lives? Our personal needs with the commitments to the outside world.  Our receiving with our giving.  Our quiet amidst the din. Our doing with our being.  I know when I achieve that state of balance I feel my finest. I suspect this is true of all of us. In my yoga practice, the balance poses remind me of that ever-present need for being poised, stable and steady in my daily life.

This is potentially a powerful time to examine balance in our lives—how best to come to that place as a perpetual practice. May this fabulous full moon and autumn equinox serve to help us in this process.

May we make wise choices in how and what we harvest,
may earth’s weather turn kinder,
may there be enough food for all creatures,
may the diminishing light in our daytime skies
be met by an increasing compassion and tolerance
in our hearts.

yin yang

Every Stage is the Best

I am always the first perhaps-annoying person to remind parents when they are totally tapped out and running on empty with their children that each time is magical and not to be rushed. Not to wish for the next stage to arrive too expeditiously.  I’m the one quick to tell parents when they are wanting their child to talk, to potty train, to read, to get their license, to head off to college–whatever the next stage they see as somehow a relief or a change–that the moment will surely arrive, and, most likely, way too soon. It took my until my third child to really ground in  that elusive notion.  Now, that third child is 20. And, as I look back at photos of all three of my children as little ones, I simply cannot fathom the speed of the thousands of days that have brought us to this point.

I reveled in the newborn phase, celebrated the crawling, laughed out loud at the toddler antics, smiled through my tears at the first days at school,cautiously celebrated the teens, offered advice and dried their tears during their new found independence while holding them close at the same time. Every stage is the best. Now, I shall readily admit that perhaps, at this point in my life, I have some selective memory operating in my middle-age brain. But, even digging deep and pulling up the feelings of those sleepless nights with a teething baby or those sleepless nights awaiting the phone call to hear that a teenager had safely arrived on the other side of the world, I hold those moments as sacred. As sacred as the ones I recall of a relaxed afternoon on the beach playing with my toddlers or an enchanted evening deep in conversation with a teenager full of thought.

The days are sometimes long and hard, but the years whiz by at overwhelming warp speed. Each moment is a gift. Each stage in our children’s lives and our lives as parents is to be relished for just what it is — part of the immensely complex and intricate path we have chosen. That path is full of twists and turns, hills and valleys, long days and often longer nights, but it is blessed. I have no desire to hurry it, even though I can taste the joy of being a grandmother! Every stage is the best. I can bask in this one of having three amazing twenty-somethings for a while with joy!

Responsibility Rant

A story caught my interest and subsequent puzzlement and even anger today.   The family of a 7-year-old boy in West Virginia sued the child’s elementary school and collected because the child jumped off the swing on the playground while being Superman and broke his arm. Consequently, the swings in the whole state are being taken off the playgrounds. Playgrounds in elementary schools without swings?!  Bizarre.

What strikes me as simply strange is our unwillingness to take any personal responsibility. For anything. We want someone else to fix it for us. Handle it for us. Tell us what to do. Tell us how to do it. When to do it.

I remember when I made the decision to birth my first baby at home 27 years ago. With that decision came an enormous responsibility to be informed and aware. Informed about the process of the pregnancy and the potential for situations to come up in labor and delivery. My family and many others were stymied by this choice of mine. Their take on it was that the doctors know better. Forget that my body knew what to do. Forget that I took weeks choosing a midwife whom I felt was competent and capable. Forget that I had all intention to manage this pregnancy and birth with minute attention to my and the baby’s well-being. Forget that we arranged a back-up in the event of any emergency. It was simply not appropriate to take on all that responsibility. It was, however, just peachy to give all that responsibility to someone else. Someone I could sue if things went awry.

On the farm here we step up to take responsibility to nourish our gardens. I’ve been told that all that time and attention could be lessened by just using chemical fertilizers. They are, after all, made to do the job we take hours doing by tending our compost piles, spreading the compost, turning the beds, hoeing and hand weeding the rows. But, we want that responsibility. We embrace it. The buck stops with us, barring any of the myriad of happenings that can befall the fields that only god can administer.

I sometimes joke that I missed my chance at the jackpot of lawsuits when that same homebirthed firstborn son was about 18 months old. He was happily ensconced in the seat of a grocery cart in a lovely small gourmet grocery shop in suburban Connecticut while I perused the produce. Without warning the wheel fell off the cart sending Sky tumbling to the floor along with some Granny Smith apples. I picked him up, kissed the bump on his head and sat right down on the floor and nursed him, reminding him that he was just fine and drying his little tears. Within moments I was surrounded by management from the shop who ushered us into the office and proceeded to gush all over us with their apologies. I thought they were so kind, and, indeed they were. But, the underlying tension was more to gauge my potential to sue them for the faulty cart. Followup phone calls came from their attorneys inquiring as to his well-being. All I might have wanted was a free pass for their scrumptious cheeses!

It is our responsibility to eat well and consciously. To find the diet and path that nourishes our health. To learn to listen to our own intuition and our own bodies. It is neither the drug companies nor the doctors’ job to do that for us. The miracle of pharmaceuticals and physicians to step in when balance is lost or the situation is dire is irreplaceable. Just as irreplaceable is our own accountability in taking care of ourselves on a daily basis.

Shit happens. It happens to even the most wonderful people. It happens to little boys pretending  to be Superman on playground swings and little boys munching on Granny Smith apples. In these litigious days, it is our responsibility to watch out for ourselves. To empower ourselves and our children to make intelligent decisions for our own well-being. And to carefully weigh the options before casting blame and looking for compensation beyond ourselves.

Honorable Profession

I’ve been re-visiting 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.  Seems like a wish that is just a whisper on the tradewinds, lost in the shortsightedness that is so-called progress here.

And, so we carry on here at North Country Farms in this honorable profession, while fewer and fewer folks are allowed that privilege here on this expansive and expensive island. I cannot solve that political and financial conundrum, but we can continue the intention that grounded this beautiful piece of land and my family in the love of growing food over 20 years ago. I can say that it is a livelihood that finds me at the end of every day tired and pleased, albeit sometimes frustrated at the never-ending list of projects to complete.

This summer has been so full of fine weather, making the usual summer doldrums retreat in the wake of the plentiful gentle rains. We are successfully growing things that usually balk at summer — like abundant lettuce and greens. And the new vegetables that Sky has brought into our rotation are growing gloriously under his tender care — like red long beans, purple scallions and fennel. We are looking for new sources for seed, Sky being particularly interested in heirloom varieties and their potential for seed-saving. We are exploring the no-till method in the style of John Jeavons for our smaller gardens. It is an ever-evolving process with golden intention and grueling work.

I take heart in knowing there are other small farms with people who also believe in this model, who have the energy and passion to carry on in the face of mammoth inappropriate corporate mega-farming. People with the same mindset and heart who also feel that their efforts are vitally important. Sharing their path and their passion gives me glimmers of hope. Communities are enriched by farmers and we, in turn, are surely uplifted by the community.

The Empty Page and the Power of Words

It is of concern to me that, while I love to write, the empty page often glares back at me with a sneer and a smirk. It is taunting me with threats that what I write is not particularly interesting. That vast unfilled paper has been known to laugh at my attempts to be passionate, perky or pertinent.

When I was a freshman in college, I had an English Composition teacher who was the wife of the notable American author John Cheever. That fact that she was a miserable alcoholic and most likely jealous of the young fresh aspiring writers in her class only occurred to me many years later. Then it was purely her ripping criticism of me that mattered. She gave us an assignment to write a poem in the style of e.e.cummings. I was ecstatic. He was then one of my favorite poets and I was both excited and eager to take on the task. In fact, I wrote a couple of poems. Ms. Cheever took my creations and held them up before the class. My heart skipped a beat, thinking perhaps she was about to laud my fledgling efforts. But, no — she told the entire class that this author had nothing better to write about than herself. She waxed on about the pathetic poetry I had poured myself  into, as I withered, wilted and just about wept in my seat. It is no understatement to say that day in that class sowed the seeds of self-doubt in me as to the worth of my writing. I composed very little until many years later. And what I did write I never shared.

Now, with the inevitable perspective that those years brings, I can only imagine Ms. Cheever’s own jaded issues and even view her with more compassion than she bestowed upon me. I still am baffled as to her insistence that worthy writing should not be about oneself. In fact, at eighteen years old, what else did I have to reflect upon? And, it still remains clear to me that writing from one’s own experiences brings a light to the work that illuminates both the piece and perhaps sheds some of that light on the process for the author and the reader at the same time.

I write for me. I share it because I have received so much from the writings of others. And I’m not just speaking here of only famous books, nor necessarily even of published pieces. Although I devour books, magazines and newspapers constantly, I also read several blogs. Those authors are some of my favorites. They fearlessly share themselves, their mundane experiences, their epiphanies, their challenges, their successes and mostly their feelings. That inspires me to slog on, blog on.

The writings I filled several spiral-bound notebooks with during my teens are long gone — mistakenly thrown out by my mother in a move. How I would love to see them now. To get a peek at the precocious girl who gushed prolifically about those intense feelings of those tumultuous years would be such a window into myself. I would, however,  be much easier on her than the cynical Ms. Cheever was. I’d be so careful not to judge the immaturity contained in those profusions of passion she spilled onto the pages. I would rein myself in with full awareness of the power of my words to impact her confidence in her writing.

So, here I am — sticking my tongue out at those sometimes mocking empty pages I have yet to fill and hugging that young woman who was just doing what she so dearly wanted to do — just write.