North Country Farms

I Call Foul

In case you missed it. . . there was a news report earlier this week that alleged Bernie Sanders told Elizabeth Warren in a meeting that a woman could not win against Trump in 2020. Warren brought it up in the Democratic debate on Tuesday night and Sanders denied it. She then went on to create perhaps the highlight of the evening when she said that she and Amy Klobuchar were the only ones on the stage that had won all the elections they ran in and that, therefore, a woman could surely defeat Trump.  It was a great moment, a tad sassy, but both classy and worthy of the applause that it created.

After the debate was over, there was the usual handshaking and congratulating between the candidates. Until Sanders extended his hand to Warren and she awkwardly pulled her hands into herself, refusing his handshake and confronted him. What followed was a heated exchange in which she accused him of calling her a liar on national television and he asked that they not go into it there, suggesting they talk another time and place.

I call foul. Regardless of the validity of Warren’s accusation, I was disappointed in her reaction. During the actual debate she professed to “not wanting to fight with my friend, Bernie.” She then adroitly managed to get in her delightful dig at the male candidates and make her point. Then to pull away from a handshake moments later struck me as inappropriate. As a politician, she knew cameras were rolling and people would be noticing and buzzing about it. What was her point? She could have taken his hand, looked him in the eye and said the exact thing.

In my view of Bernie Sanders, it seems unlikely he said it precisely as the Elizabeth Warren camp reported. My instincts tell me there was something missing from the story as told this week. There are four people running neck and neck in Iowa, and the campaigns are going to grasp onto anything in an attempt to establish an edge. But, in any case, it was, in my opinion, a low moment for Warren.

At this point, I am completely undecided about the Democratic candidates and the one best poised to take down the buffoon currently in office and restore our country’s reputation in the global community, tackle the climate crisis, the mammoth income gap and so much more. Perhaps I fall into the “Any Functioning Adult in 2020” movement. But, this kind of incident matters in this important race. I noticed and it stuck with me. We currently have enough rudeness and divisiveness in our country. We surely do not need our Democratic candidates creating more.  

Truth at Seventy Years Old

There is truth in growing wiser as we get older. However, the truth I have uncovered in my 70th year should perhaps not have taken so long to discover. Here it is: I cannot do it all. And alongside that starker-than-ever truth is this one: Nor should I have to at this point.

Ever since I can remember I have taken huge pride in being a strong and independent woman. Being successful in the mostly-male world of the 1970s advertising scene in New York City made that a necessity. Going through a divorce in my late 20s and having to restructure my life in that same dynamic city also tested my resolve.

There followed a relatively peaceful time in a wonderful supportive relationship and marriage. That did produce two amazing children. The crazy idea we dreamed of and initiated to move across the world to Kauai with a newborn and a toddler surely took stamina. Then the wild gargantuan project of taking four wide open acres and, while living in a barn we built while planting the land, building a home and creating businesses. And, in the midst of that, having a third baby.

I was young and vital and strong. I could take on anything. And I was a supreme giver — mostly to my children. But, eventually to their small sweet Waldorf elementary school and the community. Taking care of myself barely came to my mind. I ate well, exercise consisted of life and I was in a loving relationship. I could keep on giving and giving, working and working. And I did.

Fast forward 20 years to a flat-lined marriage and subsequent divorce.  To say it was emotionally draining and financially difficult would be a mammoth understatement. But, I knew in my heart that I had to dig deep and find a way to preserve the intention behind the founding of the farm and keep this home for myself and my children, then pre-teens and teens. And to keep the businesses thriving and providing for the four of us. I was strong and independent still.

Here we are, another 20 years later, and it has somehow, magically, with some grace from the kind universe and some outrageous hard and often exhausting, emotionally and physically, work on my part, continued to do so.

While I remain vital and strong, like that younger woman whose sometimes ragged, but always blessed, path I outlined above, I am 70. I cannot do it all. I am learning to ask for help. I am attempting to create a life with time to just be. Asking for this doesn’t diminish my strength and independence. I am still that strong and independent women, just a tad more tired and in need of a tad more tenderness. That is the lesson in this for me. And I’m attempting to integrate it now. Wish me well.

Rain and Me

As the rain pounds down on the roof of my loft office and the thunder rolls in the mountains, I have been pondering just what to say about the rain. I really like rain—–gentle nourishing rain. But, this kind of deluge is difficult for me enjoy. When the rain comes in torrents like this there is the inevitable voice in my head reminding me of the damage to our gardens and orchards. And that can translate into an income shift for me. Then that leads me to some fear-based thinking of how to make all the money work.

In no other area in my life do I posture myself in fear. So, I struggle to re- position myself in the face of this kind of storm. Try to modify my stream of consciousness to one of not arguing with the reality of this rain and not focusing on fear.

Instead, I can be grateful that this rain is the spin off of a hurricane that missed our island, sparing us potentially much worse weather, and sparing me much worse anxiety. I can, instead, find a way to appreciate indoor time. Write letters to loved ones. Open up the novel I’m reading and venture into that world. Take solace in the dry comfortable home in which I live, the great food I always have stocked up, the exceptionally fine friends I know are there for me, and my loving children who sustain me in deep ways.

And, pivotal to this place I strive to reach is a true belief that I can continue to find ways to generate the monies that wash away in rain like this. The deep knowing that I have always been blessed with abundance, and that will not change.

I desire to refocus my energy in this weather to re-centering instead of reacting. So, as I write this, the rain continues to come in heavy bands and I assure you that my inner journey is a work in progress.

Summertime and the Farming Ain’t Easy

Never has Kaua’i been as hot as the past couple of summers. These dog days make farming difficult to impossible. The mid-day heat finds us all wilting, nothing more so than the greens in our main market garden. Me, I can refresh myself with a swim, but the gardens just suffer. As well, there are new little sparrows and finches never seen up on the north shore until the past few years, who find our kale, chard and Asian greens delectable. They had eaten all down to the midribs. Hence, our decision the past few summers to sow cover crop and let the garden rest and replenish it with a big hit of green manure when the cover crop is tilled in.

There are a few vegetables that like the heat and beans are one of them. We grow all kinds in the summer in one of our smaller gardens. Long beans, green beans and yellow dragon tongue beans.

They are delicious just steamed with vinaigrette or butter and salt. But you might try also tossing them with feta after dressing them with balsamic vinegar and olive oil. Or going a bit Asian with lime, fish sauce, some garlic and a bit of sugar–adding some dried chili peppers if you like spice.

We will till and plant again in a while, hoping to come back on line just as the weather moderates some. Our customers have been so very supportive of us with this new pattern of providing them with fresh organic produce. We are happy to at least have bananas, lychee, papaya, eggplant, pineapples and these yummy beans— all of which like the heat.

“GARDENING IS A WAY OF SHOWING YOU BELIEVE IN TOMORROW” author unknown

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.