North Country Farms

Is It Really Possible??!!

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 one year old child in a post-war boom, a golden era in which to grow up?
Wasn’t I just this high school student, so sure I was going to be a famous writer in New York City?

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.

What Do You Want to Be When You Grow Up?

“What do you want to be when you grow up?”

lee on fourth birthday. another doll!


How many times did I hear that query? I never had an answer I could articulate. My only dream “career” was to be a mother. That called to me ever since I can remember. Dolls were my choice of toys. When someone in my neighborhood had a baby, I was the first youngster at the door to see that miraculous little being. Babysitting was my first job at the tender age of 12. When my nieces and nephews were born, I was the willing and excited Auntie. But, somehow, even in the 50s and into the 60s, I was aware that those asking the question were looking for something more serious in a response.

lee with nephew adam and niece parrish

 Time marched on. The question kept coming at me. Especially after graduating from a fine high school and looking at colleges. I still had no answer. So liberal arts it was, at a small women’s college in New York. That proved interesting and even fun, but uninspiring. I was anxious to get out into the world and away from academia. Took my two year degree and moved to New York City and set about looking for and apartment and work.

I thought I could write. Poems and essays came easily to me. Pouring my teenage heart out on paper refreshed and renewed me. However, that was squelched quickly by a freshman professor who took my latest piece and held it up to the class and proclaimed it “the work of ego.” She was appalled that what I had written was about myself, my own thoughts. Looking back now, I ponder what the hell else did I know? I was 19. My own feelings and reflections were all my inexperienced and unworldly self could relate to.

lee with sister pat and niece lisa and nephew haig

 So, I went to a summer of secretarial school. Managed to acquire some mad typing and dictation skills, since it became clear I was not going to set the publishing world on fire, as I had hoped. Hired by a television station in their advertising department and with a studio apartment I could ill-afford, I was where I wanted to be—single, employed and living in New York City.

 This job was pleasurable and exciting. It also introduced me to the woman who is still my dearest friend, whose desk was next to mine and to whom I instantly related, although our backgrounds could not have been more diverse. From this job, I worked my way into the wild world of advertising in the early 1970s. (Think Mad Men!) Eventually, I made my way into a lucrative and stimulating position in the media department of Grey Advertising. Then into the newly hatching world of buying services, with a job more on the cutting edge of media purchasing and with a salary I could barely believe I was worthy of!

new york city. in my office at independent media.

 This whole upward profession spiral led me to a marriage with a dashing handsome top-level executive 16 years my senior. Short-lived, but loving and full of lessons for me. When that folded, I was left heartbroken and truly wondering if advertising was the profession I wanted to continue in. Clearly the answer was no.

 What did I love to do? I had spent all these years in advertising, just being carried along with the fine flow of it all. Enjoying it, for sure. But, my 20s were over, my marriage was over and I was over it.

 I love birds. I love flowers. These remembrances of what had made me happy as a little girl came before my consciousness as a step in reclaiming myself and my life.

 What followed was a job at the Audubon Society, at a greatly reduced salary, back in secretarial work. But, I was happy to be working for such a great organization with people passionate about what they did every day.

I spent my spare time volunteering at the New York Botanical Society. I took calligraphy lessons. I cultivated the great circle of friends I had met. I was content.

 Just when I least expected it, another wonderful man entered my life. We courted while backpacking, camping and exploring beaches near the city and as far away as the Caribbean and Hawaii. Having moved in together and spending lots of time at home and entertaining, I reignited my love of the kitchen. This segued into my own catering business, run out of our apartment. Once more, I had stumbled onto something to make money which also made my heart sing.

 This romance bloomed into marriage and my original calling was tweaking my biological clock. I wanted to be a mama–really badly. Enter firstborn son in July after 36 hours of labor in our hot apartment . Exit thoughts of trying to run business and be all I wanted to be in a mother. Fortunately, my husband was bringing in sufficient funds in a commercial acting and modeling career to support this, both practically and emotionally. Win-win.

sky 1983

 The brownstone in which we rented was sold. We were bought out of our rent-controlled lease and, after looking at co-ops in the city, decided on a move to Old Greenwich, Connecticut, with an easy commute for him and a small town life of biking, walking, library, beach for us all. Small town has a small sweet health food store. Son is old enough to consider the notion of baking for that store. At home baking business is born, with baby strapped to me while working and on the back of my bike while delivering. Life is beyond grand.

nell 1986

 And that age-old urge is coming on me again as son turns two. And, so it was that my daughter was born, in our cozy house on a stunning September evening.

 I had become all I wanted to be when I grew up–a mama with a loving husband who was a doting dad. But, small town Connecticut was becoming — well, small. We dreamed of a place where the children could grow up with more land, more sun and less clothes! The real estate market was bullish, the house sold the day it was put on the market. We packed up all our stuff in storage, crammed a van full of the four of us and headed cross country. The leap was huge.

And it landed us on Kauai, where we still are, 27 years later. We had enough saved to buy land, build our home, guest house and barn. We then consider, once again, just how to generate income. “What shall we do now that we are grown up?” Well, first let’s plant a garden and orchard for us. Oh, people really want this fine fresh organic food? Business is born, as is second son, in our newly built home on another sultry September afternoon.


bay 1990


bay sky nell 1992

The marriage did not last. But the business has, in the full and fine intention in which it was created. And has expanded to include rental of the guest house and expansion of the organic farm. It is a full-fledged eco-tourism destination on one of the most beautiful islands in the world. We grow food for our community and let visitors get a glimpse of a sustainable lifestyle. It is a right livelihood.

And, now, at almost 65, I still wonder what is next? Now that I am really grown up. Kind of. And still my greatest joy, even after crafting all these opportunities in my life to provide abundance, is that I am a mama. All I ever really imagined myself being. So, I could never give an answer to that somewhat-annoying question I was asked so many times “What do you want to be when you grow up?” But, somehow it worked out perfectly at each and every crossroad in my life.

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bay nell lee sky 2013

Travel. Yes, please.

My extensive and eclectic travel bucket list got reduced by two lines this year. And both were trips that have me running out of superlatives in attempting to describe them. I will give it a go here…

September 2013 found me onboard the luxury charter yacht Surfbird for a 17 day trip down the Inside Passage– Ketchikan, Alaska to Bellingham, Washington– with seven other dear friends. A trip that dreams are made of. (Full disclosure: my daughter is the chef on this boat!)

A more beautiful motor yacht would be hard to imagine. Surfbird is 120 feet long with four staterooms designed and decorated with ultimate comfort and taste in mind. The salon and dining area are both cozy and elegant at the same time, an effortless mix.

We fished, we kayaked, we hiked, we watched humpback whales, dolphins, and sea birds for hours. Sometimes we did nothing at all, but sit on the deck in a contented daze, watching the light play on the water as we motored along. Books were read and shared. Board games were played in the evening and laughter was the soundtrack.  Each night found us anchored in another quiet cove—us and the sunset. The food was beyond divine (remember the disclosure above!)– three meals served to us each day. The entire crew wanted nothing more than our  group to be fully engaged and happy.

Some of us initially thought the trip was going to be too long–Surfbird’s usual trips are in Southeast Alaska for 8 days–but when we arrived in Bellingham each and everyone of us could have just kept on going.

I was not home from this epic adventure for two days, still digesting the experience, when I got an email from an old friend who lives elsewhere now asking if I wanted to go on a rafting trip down the Colorado River through the Grand Canyon. What could I say, but YES!

He was putting together two motorized rafts of 10 guests each for an eight day trip of 279 miles through the Grand Canyon with a guide he knew who works with Grand Canyon Expeditions for April 2014.

I have just returned from this wild and wonderful adventure. I felt daring to take it on and dazzled by it all. The Canyon left me speechless and even teary at times. I was humbled and happy the entire time. Our 37 foot motorized rafts were the ultimate in both comfort and safety. Our guides inspired trust immediately, a must for the sometimes-intense rapids we got to run. They were experienced and enthused by their hundreds of trips down the river. Their story telling was captivating, their knowledge of the geology and history of the canyon was vast and fascinating. We floated quietly, we amped up for rapids, we took hikes up side canyons and swam in aqua waters, we slept under the stars and ate fabulous food prepared three times a day for us. The group was harmonious and upbeat and even included several musicians who serenaded us around the campfire at night. The canyon changed each of us in subtle sweet ways.

Something of note in both of these mind- and heart-bending trips was that we were all completely unplugged for the duration of the trip. No phones, no internet, no television. Just wholesome and fully fine fun. Plenty of time for personal introspection and interpersonal interaction.

I am not sure what trip is next for me. But, I know that the bar has been set mighty high after these two!


I return home to Kauai where the shades of green are numerous and the air so moist and soft. I still dream of the ochres, deep reds, and burnished golds of the Grand Canyon walls. I am taken back to a time just days ago when the dry desert air baked my skin. I still feel the icy chill of my dips in the clear blue Colorado River. I hear the trade winds blowing the palm trees outside my window and the sound evokes the echo of the river’s rapids. The song of the Shama Thrush, so melodious and merry, recalls to my memory the trill of the Canyon Wren. I have been in the canyon so grand and it lives in me.

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Here and There

I have lived here on Kauai for almost 27 years. It is a stunning and serene place to call home. This island has embraced me and my family. Here we have grown up together. This land we tend is beyond beautiful and the abundance of food and flowers it provides for our bodies and souls is epic. But, there is something about my roots on the East Coast of the mainland that still hums in my heart. This time of year I yearn for that swing into spring heralded by the bulbs bursting from their winter sleep. For the smell of new growth and damp earth as the light slowly returns. Sure, we have seasons here in the Hawaiian Islands –subtle nuances that one becomes aware of over the years. But, deep inside I am a New England girl even still. Tropical fruits do not sing to me as berries still warm from the sun do. Gardenias, while their heady fragrance means spring on Kauai and I pick them by the armloads and love them, tulips make me even headier and happier. I guess you can take the girl out of New England, but not New England out of the girl!


Here: Gardenias


There: Raspberries


There: Tulips


Here: Papayas

Yoga and My Llife

The other morning in a yoga class I had an epiphany. It was one of those magical moments when the thought came through in a serene, simple and solid fashion.  Right there on my mat in the quiet meditative time at the end of class, I realized that in my life and in my yoga practice I am striving for the same three things–balance, strength and flexibility. I know. It seems rather simplistic, but there it was for me to ponder—-the practice of yoga requires balance, strength and flexibility, as does a harmonious and healthy life.

The balance poses in yoga are often very elusive, some days more than others. While I might be stable and steady on Monday in tree pose, come Thursday perhaps life has thrown that polished poise off. My steadiness may have been compromised by events that I did not anticipate, that I find difficult to integrate. So, I call on my breath and rein in my scattered thoughts to focus on just that simple act of balance.

Balance and that same steadiness in my life is just as vital to me. Finding the right mix of quiet time and social time. Attempting the appropriate blend of physical stillness and movement. Combining the finest freshest organic foods in my diet, while allowing for that occasional divine decadent dessert. Searching for times of calm to balance the often over-stimulation this wired world offers. Knowing when to speak and when to be silent. These times all call for balance. I attempt to respond.

 Being strong in yoga comes with time and practice. Many times on the mat I call on my strength to achieve or maintain a pose. My physical strength, yes, but also the strength of spirit. So, too at times in my life I have had to reach deep to call upon that inner strength to meet situations that have required all I could give and then some. My mother used to say that God never would give me something I could not handle. True so far. But, that inner strength has taken me years to cultivate and be capable of consistently drawing upon. It is often the intangible in my life that supports my strength. The love of my family and friends. The time I take in nature. It is also the habits I nurture in my life that foster that potency. The rhythm of my daily habits–sleeping well, eating well, exercising. All so needed to foster that strength when it must be mustered.

 And who has not noticed that being flexible in body and mind is an attribute worth cultivating? In the thirty-plus years of my treasured yoga practice, I have found my body gradually more flexible, markedly so when I commit to a regular schedule of classes. And that flexibility is a boost to my comfort in sustained poses.

 So, too, my life is enhanced by a flexible attitude. The desire to control is part of my psyche. I came to realize, once I had children, that attempts to control them were futile. So, I cultivated a path of choosing to have some influence on them instead and relinquished my desire for control. Being adaptable when situations evolve in a direction not originally planned makes me less prone to angst. A supple body and spirit make my aging process more graceful and the days more enjoyable.

 I cherish my yoga practice, as much for what it creates in my life as for what it brings to my overall health. This realization just confirmed that once again.

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Resolve Something Every Day. Every Hour. Every Moment.

It is New Years Eve – again. And randomly you will be asked “What is your New Years Resolution?” Ugh. How hugely annoying I find that question. Ask anyone in March what their resolution was and most will have forgotten or given it up. We are suckers for setting ourselves up to fail.

“I’m on a diet.” And you see that person a week later with apple crisp smothered in vanilla ice cream and a sheepish grin on their face. Their response? “It was too hard.”  “I’m going to yoga every day for the rest of my life.” Later that month the excuses abound. “Classes too expensive.” “Too much work, not enough time.” “I will never ever yell at my children again. Ever.” Until they bug the crap out of you for a little thing on a day that has simply been way too much or they come home after curfew without answering their cell phone for an hour and you’ve been worried sick.

Why don’t we resolve every day to just try. Just have the intention to eat healthier, exercise more, be more compassionate and communicative. Just try. Just that day. Just that hour. Just that moment. Attempt to find the balance more. And forgive ourselves when we don’t.

I know what I’m going to do in 2014. Breathe more. And more deeply. Starting the next time this week someone asks me what my resolution is.



Roots and Wings

I have often heard the saying that we need to give our children roots and wings.  I found providing the roots instinctual. It was in my nature to nurture. It was my pleasure to offer rhythm and to create ritual. It was a breeze for me to make our house a home and shelter–physically, emotionally and spiritually. All these efforts  came intuitively to me as I relished the wild wonder and real responsibility of being a mama. I feel certain that all three of my adult children are solidly rooted in themselves, their family, their communities and in the world. And I don’t mind taking some credit for that.

Now the wings part. This is a bit more challenging. Oh, not for them—for me! While I find the quiet that descends on my home when my adult children are off adventuring and living awesome lives elsewhere full of its own kind of richness, I miss them. It is a delight to me that I not only love my children, but I enjoy them. They surely have their wings, having spent numerous months backpacking the world, living and working in far flung places. It is me who recognizes the conundrum this time in my life offers, as well as the opportunity to hone my own skills as the proud and loving mother of grown children for whom I have provided those roots and wings. The mama who can no longer fix it all for them. The woman who has her own interests and talents to take time to further now. All that said, it remains a good news-bad news scenario in my book.

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Pick of the Day – Arugula

While the garden is in the thick of summer doldrums, the arugula seems to be super excited about the heat! So, try this recipe with the abundance of this spicy green –

Arugula Pesto

2 cups arugula leaves  – stems removed

1/2 cup walnuts

1/2 cup olive oil

1/2 cup grated parmesan

6 cloves garlic peeled

1/3 teaspoon salt

Combine arugula, garlic, salt and walnuts in food processor until smooth. In a steady stream, add olive oil. Then stir in parmesan by hand. Serve over roasted potatoes or pasta.