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Some sort of weight has lifted from me this past week.  A dark cloud no longer looming, or insert some other metaphor here to imagine the rolling away of darkness and the lightness of something new.  Fresh air, I can finally breathe properly, I am not thinking about all those THINGS I was always THINKING.  Well, maybe thinking is wrong…more like chewing, ruminating, and rolling in.  With the FB gone, and now the constant email checking…I am seeing things differently, more clearly.  Time seems to move more organically, not dictated by the machinations of some device.

I’ve been reading two books that are extremely inspirational to me in this move towards simplicity and authentic living.  First, “The Last American Man” by Elizabeth Gilbert.  http://www.elizabethgilbert.com/thelastamericanman.htm  Granted, Eustace Conway lives in a teepee, and eats roadkill…I don’t know if I would want to go that far, but his way of life, and his passion for getting people reconnected with nature is awe inspiring.

Also, I finally bought a copy of “In Celebration of Simplicity” by Penelope Wilcock.   http://www.amazon.com/Celebration-Simplicity-Penelope-Wilcock/dp/1854249126

I have been obsessing over her blog ( http://kindredofthequietway.blogspot.com/) for a few years now, and now was able to read this lovely little book of hers.  Really, I would have to reprint her book here to share all the amazing quotes…and that’s certainly not kosher.  But I have gleaned so much wisdom from this little book.  One of the quotes she puts on the side was so affirming of what I have been thinking and moving into:

“Everyone who winds life round a core of machinery – physical machinery or social machinery, lie schools and institutions and global corporations – is affected profoundly, and comes inexorably, I believe, to be a servomechanism of the machinery he or she excessively associates with.”  -John Taylor Gatto

I don’t think I realized how much being tied to my computer and iPhone was creating irritation in me.  I was irritated with my children, I was consistently making them wait while I “just finished” this email…it’s IMPORTANT!!!…I’m getting you kids some sheep, I have to look up how to take care of the goats, paying a bill, making arrangements for YOU to have some friends over, blah, blah….  This multi-tasking with a machine at my side turned me into a bit of a Borg.  Armed with a “Smart Phone”in my pocket, I morphed into a part human, part machine; not realizing how much of my attention and communication was being compartmentalized into that little device.  When someone (read, one of my children) would come and demand that I short circuit my connection with it, you better believe I had to fight the rising irritation.  I was already so overstimulated by that fast mode of communication, my brain racing alongside, that the simple act of my child needing me to turn to them became the burden.  I had to try and fit them into the sticky web of my over-cluttered etheric life.  Well, as you can imagine, this didn’t work.  My children and I have been a bit at odds with each other.  I am imagining that this is often when people send their children to school and myriad activities, because “I need my time”.  I don’t buy that.  I want “my time” to be “our time”, a shared life lived alongside one another.  Sure, it’s nice to have the glass of wine with a girlfriend without children around, and I don’t plan to stop doing that any time soon.  However, those are treats.  I don’t need their constant companionship with me siphoned through devices and screens while I am actually living the REAL stuff of life.

So, this week, the sheep and the chickens arrived.  So many well-meaning people have said to me “wow, slow down, you don’t need the whole farm at once!!”, but I am finding that having these animals creates a natural rhythm to our days that without them is hard to muster.  We HAVE to get up and feed/water them all in the morning.  After dinner, we all go as a family, and reverse order the process.  Early morning, and then early evening, are such peaceful times to be outside, especially in such a beautiful and quiet place as this.  It’s hard to want to go and check out on the computer after using your body to take care of your animals, your children and husband by your side.  Sleeping is easier, eating feels better.  Wow, environment really does make a difference.  Living in the suburbs of our CT ranch house, it was hard to make such a natural rhythm occur.  It was easier to avoid it if needed.  I could stay in pajamas until 10am.  Here, I would embarassed to be seen in a tshirt and underwear walking out to the barns, so I get dressed.  Coffee comes after movement and work now, and it tastes better.  I don’t need 2-3 cups throughout the morning.  Children are a joy outside helping with chores first thing in the morning, whereas an early morning with paper and coffee sitting in a comfy chair turns them into Great Interruptors.  Once we;ve spent the morning in communal work, they actually want nothing to do with me while I have a short morning to myself.  We are all fed first thing by this common life.  The animals, the barns, the pasture have given that to us.  Giving up the email and facebook have begun the clearing process so we can actually walk in it.

Here is “Ferdinand’s Chick”…he loves it because it has a tuft of hair on its head.  He laughs everytime he sees it.  I told him to hope it’s not a rooster, because if it is…it will likely end up on our table…

Here is Sweet William, a mini Nubian whether.  He stops when anyone comes near because he loves to be hugged.  Really.

These are the Nigerian Dwarf kids, Hitty and Little Lucien.  We’ve been feeding them a lot by hand, so they are getting more and more used to us.

Ah, the sheep.  Having only been a theoretical farmer until now, I had always thought the sheep would be more gentle.  I had visions of them sitting in my lap, coming to petted, etc…but these 4 sheep aren’t having any of it.  Only one will cautiously eat from my hand.  When we got them, The Tall Man didn’t back the van into the gates of the barn like the former owners told us to do.  He thought he was a sheep whisperer, and they would just follow him.  Well…they ran a quarter mile down the road, and we had to literally lasso them and wrangle them back to the barn.  That was also the last time I dealt with animals in flip flops.  Really bad footwear choice.  Now, I prefer the goats…..but the sheep will be great for their fiber, and their grass eating/manure making skills.

We got 14 three week old chicks, boys and girls…one of them is obviously a bantam hen, it is teeny tiny compared to all the others.  Already we have named it Columbine, and that little chicken better be a girl, because it’s the only one right now not in danger of being the food eventually…

Ferdinand took my iPhone one morning when I was looking, and took some pictures.  I am surprised at what he captured and how.  Maybe he has some aptitude…Here are his best shots, which I am calling Wall Street Journal and Antique Children’s Shoes on Floor:

OOO…I just noticed on this larger screen, that Ferdinand’s little feet are in the shadows, mirroring the shoes.  I need to find a photo contest for him!

One night last week, The Tall Man came home wanting to try the authentic Fish and Chips Shop in Bennington.  So, we went, and thoroughly enjoyed our meal and time together.  In the corner of the restaurant in an old English phone booth.  The iconic red kind.  No longer a phone inside, I actually had this conversation with my children. “What is that big box?”  “Well, when Momma was little, people only had phones in their homes, we didn’t have the kind that come with us wherever we go, so if you were out and needed to call someone, you would use the phone in one of these boxes…”  My children are really VERY sheltered, I don’t think they know that video games exist, they don’t know commercials, etc…but man, do they know cell phones.  Also at this restaurant, they had a few shelves of Australian/English treats that we can’t find here.  I left happy with a jar of vegemite, oh, soooooo happy.

We had a surprise outing this week.  We had to drive something over to our landlord’s house in Arlington, and we ended up taking a stop at the Lincoln House and Hildene Farms.  I am going to be spending a lot of time there so I can study their cutting garden.  The back yard of the mansion is a small hedge-lined cutting garden.  I would love to do something similar next year, and then sell the flowers at Market.  However, my aesthetic would be a little less “formed”…

Lastly, The Tall Man and I have for the first time in a long time (ever, maybe?) been talking together excitedly about our new life, all the things we want to do, and our plans for our future.  He’s always gone along with my crazy schemes, eating my bread made from freshly ground flour, proudly announing we are homeschoolers…  But, he still had a few reservations, “I just want them to be a part of team sports” or “as long as they go to college”.  This would require a much longer post, for another time maybe, but I am not wishing either team sports or college on my children.  Call me crazy, but it’s true.  I say all the time, I would rather “graduate” an 18 year old from my homeschool with only 6th grade math, but an unquenchable love of learning, an understanding of how to make their own food, and to be good, honest people who love G-d and don’t get wrapped up into the trappings of this consumerist and materialistic world.  Now, the chances of my kids having only 6th grade math are slim with with their engineer father, but you get the point.  All of a sudden, my husband has his eyes open, we have finally come too a place of complete agreement, and a shared vision for how we want to raise our children, and what kind of grown-ups we want them to be. 

One of the things we were remarking on just last night was that we feel this is the first time in our 13 years of marriage that we have actually had REAL community.  All within a week, we had myriad neighbours come to help us, and offer help.   The farmer from Mighty Food Farm ( http://mightyfoodfarm.com/ ), on the same property as us, loaned us a chicken coop to use until we could build our own, so we could have laying hens.  She also basically GAVE us 14 chicks, and will help us learn to slaughter some when the time comes.  The local handyman, a 32 year old Western MA boy (my favourite kind of boy, which is why I married one…) who lives off the grid down the road loaned us his brooding box for the chicks.  We met a wonderful family, who own Longview Lambs ( http://www.longviewlambs.com/ ), just down the road.  Although the husband is an ER physician by trade, they raise lamb for meat, and have a meat CSA.  The husband came to help us with our sheep fencing, and brought a roll of his own fence to set up for us, until we could get our own.  While he was helping set it up, the wife called me and invited us to dinner.  We went, and met their two children, and they made for us a feast of leg of lamb “from the last of last year’s lambs”.  We drank wine, had a wonderful time of touring their pastures.  Lots of talk of doing a homeschool-y waldorf-y circle type thing in the fall.  Talks of sharing a pig to raise and ultimately put in the freezer.  Already friends, it’s amazing.  We are invited to a party at the house next door the Saturday, the one where we’ve been invited to swim whenever we want.  We will never starve, never be without help, and it seems we will have real relationships, all of us tied in directly to this community, none of us commuters. 

Lastly, for my un-Plain and un-simple side of me…I finally went and dyed the gray hair I was growing out “just to see”.  I’ve never made it past chin length with the gray before freaking out…didn’t make it there this time.  Hair is still long, so the long gray roots were making me feel old, drab…a terrible vain thing I hold onto.  But, I needed some light coloured hair to go with my farmer tan!

I’m not certain exactly what day I am on of my “30 Day Cultivating Life” Adventure…but this is how it should be I think…the “program” becomes just a way of life.  I was struck with a great wave of gratitude the other day, as I looked around me, and then revisited last week’s blog posts.  Everything I am surrounded with is beautiful.  I have within arm’s reach, or walking distance, all the things and “ways” I have valued and longed for since becoming a mother.  It seems I have not been forsaken after all.  All the forsaking seems to be self-inflicted; a long-practiced habit inherited from my mother, who most likely got it from hers.  G-d has given myself and my family a New Land, a New Inheritance, and a New Way.  It’s up to me to embrace it, even though it is hard, and requires much sacrifice.  I have so many idolatrous cords binding me to things that help me retain my self-defeating ways.  I was having visions of cutting them, burning them, crushing their hooks beneath my feet last night.  I crave freedom, and above that the joy and peace to be able to walk in it.  Finally, I am walking in that direction.

These past days, I have been focusing on staying present when the children are acting childish.  I have also been trying to think “big picture” instead of “immediate annoyance” when I come across a surprise situation.  During quiet time, when I thought they were all in their rooms with books, I came out to find Little Crazy Matas, in his underwear in the pantry.  He had filled several cups, glasses and jars with water, and was banging them with a spoon.  When I asked him what he was doing he said, “playing the water xylophone”.  I decided to let him continue instead of telling him the usual, “don’t you know it’s quiet time….I didn’t say you could do that!  Pour all that out now!”

Our access to local food here is amazing.  It’s time to pull out Animal Vegetable Miracle again.  We could certainly eat only food from a 100 mile radius, heck, from a 25 mile radius is my guess.  There is even local olives and olive oil.  Haven’t found the wine yet, but there has to be.  I am sure there is at least some good local beer…  At our CSA this week were chiboogi beets, pink and white on the inside.  Also in the CSA room, we buy locally baked sourdough bread..which we served with fresh mozz, local basil and tomatoes.

We found swim noodles at the dollar store, and the kids have been making a collection of lumber at the swimming hole.  They use it for “boats” and making bridges, etc…  They put the noodles under a large board, and were actually able to float on it.  No more swimming hole for me, however, until there is some rain.  The water is low, and it makes it seem a bit rank.  Can’t take the city out of the girl sometimes…after a childhood and adoloescence swimming in pools and being on swimteams, I do get a bit skeeved swimming with the fish.  But the children don’t mind, so I keep it to myself.

In terms of pushing through the hard stuff to get to something better….I finally unpacked, cleaned and organized the playroom.  It’s in a three season porch, so in a few months we will have to move it.  For now, it’s lovely, with large screened windows.  It almost feels like being outside on a breezy day.  The view is gorgeous, of the lower pond, and the farms in the distance.

This may sound strange, but I have a serious problem with libraries.  Don’t get me started on what gets passed as children’s books nowadays, not to mention the fact that at many libraries there are massive computer terminals loaded with “educational games” for the children to play.  I’ve seen countless toddlers sitting in front of those screens managing a mouse, clicking at whatever the machine is prompting them to.  In Glastonbury, we had two tiny libraries, one in an 1800’s Meetinghouse, the other in an 1820 schoolhouse.  Neither had computers, both still used card catalogues.  We were often the only ones in there, as most parents brought their children to the large main branch, with its classrooms and interactive story hours.  Our story hour was old school; a woman with a stack of books, reading them outloud until the hour was up.  Anyway, we went to the Bennington Library today, and discovered a very lovely children’s room.  It had a wooden dollhouse, a canopied area with pillows for quiet reading, and stations for drawing and stamping, etc…  Very low key, very much our speed.  And…they have a great little green space in front with a climbing tree.

Back to Albany airport….but Papa was held up in two different airports, so we had first half of the day to tool around the house.  Went to our pick up at the CSA.  This has by far been my best CSA experience to date…instead of a box already made for you, you get to chose 15 “items”…selected from large amount of picked that day produce, and some of it, like herbs and peas, pick your own.  Ventured to Church on Sunday…the closest liturgy to us, at New Skete in Cambridge, NY.  It’s a monestary/nunnery that was formerly Byzantine Catholic, then they converted to Orthodoxy.  It’s a different experience from the Russian Church, but the environment is absolutely stunning, enough to inspire spiritual openness and calm into the hardest of hearts.  I have to admit, I am VERY affected by aesthetics and environment.  I was never the kind of girl that loved going to church in a store front or steel building with flourescents….

BEAUTY:  Since moving here, I have gone to our CSA pick up anxious to get our vegetables, then scoot home to “unpack”.  This Saturday, I took the time to take the children up to the fields and pick some parsley, basil and peas. 

Simplicity: 

Space:  Cleaned the car.  This may seem like no big deal, but we are talking about the past month moving back and forth between CT and VT.  Lots of eating in the car, lots of little pieces of garbage, Ferdinand’s missing shoe finally found….

Going Towards Instead of Away:  Again, fighting impulse to leave CSA because of all the “stuff I have to do”, we stay and spend time with new chicks.  The children and I got very excited about getting our chickens!  Finally we live in a place where we can have a rooster, and we have real coops in real barns….so hopefully they won’t be destroyed by some predator like they were in CT.

Pushing Through Something I Didn’t Want to Do:  The gardens have been neglected here for two years, and to be honest, I don’t know what is a weed and what isn’t….but I weeded the flower beds of things I KNEW to be weeds…the nettles.  Will definitely be making nettle tea.

Spiritual Connection:  Went to New Skete for liturgy.  Rogues of the Orthodox world, they actually incorporate Silent Worship into their liturgy.  It’s beautiful, in an awe inspiring place.  They even start their Matins outside, and everyone makes a procession into the Church together, instead of the priest doing it alone.  One of the Brothers came and took Janka Fairy and Ferdinand to be part of the Great Entry Procession, where the priest brings the Elements through the people.  The children love to visit the Koi Ponds there. 

Health and Well Being:  I can’t seem to separate this category from food….made a beef stew in the oven.   Put beets on the top, and fresh parsley, and yogurt.  Must be my Eastern European background, but I can’t eat enough beef with beets and some sort of fermented dairy product….

Meaning:  Family walk to the corn field.  Put the goats back into their barn, and staked some tomato plants.  Ran into huge angry snapping turtle.

Today, with Papa out of town, we spent the day leisurely going from one activity to another.  We spent time with the goats, watered our parched tomato plants, and went down our road to our swimming hole.  Many moments today of remembering why we moved here, and how it is the fruition of years of dreaming and envisioning what we wanted our lives to be.  Here’s the list….

Something of Beauty:  Spent most of the day side, taking the time to look, again and again, with what surrounds me.  The hills and pastures in the distance, the cool blue green water of the swimming hole, and the gardens.  Accompanied by good friend Joachim.

Something of Meaning:  Sat with Janka Fairy when she came to me, serious and straight, to announce that she understands now that it’s not St. Nicholas who puts the presents in the stockings…but that St. Nicholas is nevertheless real, and we can ask him to pray for us.  A strange summer epiphany.  Perfect timing to start her saints block in the fall.

Something I had to push through:  WEEDING!  We weeded the veggie bed, even though I think we came her too late in the season to really get much from it.  I had the kids beside me for the work.  They ended up playing with water in flower pots.  Pushing through, it ended up being a sweet time together. 

Something Simple:  Dinner tonight….one layer sauteed onions and garlic, one layer thinly sliced potatoes, one layer zucchini, one layer sauteed greens…the whole thing seasoned with sea salt, and drizzled with olive oil and lemon juice.  Some water for steaming.  Bake 375 covered for about an hour.  Eat with plain yogurt.  Tons of leftovers for tomorrow.

Something creative and new:  The children built airplanes today.  Again, not something I did myself, but I fought my impulse to tell them to leave the chairs turned upright and to get out of the box of curtains…

Something of Space:  Because I allowed them all this free reign in the main room of our house, I was able to sit and read quietly for a little while.  The planes turned into puppet show scenery, and the children put on several shows for me.

Something of Spiritual Connection:  Swimming at the swimming hole…watching the children try to catch minnows.  THESE are the moments of life!!

Going Towards Instead of Away:  The shows went on for quite some time…and my temptation was to tell them, “okay, last song, let’s wrap this up”…but if I had, I wouldn’t have seen the story of the Angry King (Janka Fairy was VERY upset…he was supposed to SERIOUS, not angry)

I think I am going to change the subheading on my blog title, “Cultivating a Beautiful Life”.  I’ve been feeling my cyclical malaise with all things domestic and responsible.  I’ve been allowing the dissatisfaction of my children cause me to shut down and just basically want them to scram, ie “go play outside” syndrome…thereby filling them with more neediness and dissatisfaction.  The desire to escape has been much greater than the desire to jump in.

We just spent the last month moving to our dream house in Vermont.  We did the moves ourselves with minimal help, dragging the children back and forth the three hour ride, packing our own things into a series of rented box trucks.  We finally brought the last load here last weekend.  I’ve managed to put a lot away…but the garage is filled with boxes and bags.  The first few days we were here, and the internet wasn’t set up, and only one truck had brought its load here, I was feeling so positive.  The landscape of this place is remarkable…set on 350 acres of farmland (most of it leased to proper farmers), it’s a 1734 farmhouse with its original barn and corn crib.  We’re set on a dirt road, off of a dirt road.  Organic CSA on one side, raw milk dairy and creamery on the other.  There’s nowhere you can look and not see beauty.

Then, the moving continued, the boxes accumulated, our bodies tired (my 38 year arms can’t lift and move the way I used to in college…or maybe just that we have more, and three kids in the midst don’t make it easy).  I’ve already lost some of that amazement that I originally had at being able to live in such a place as this. 

I thought that we lived rather simply, that we didn’t have too much stuff, but as the things started coming in, intruding on this idyllic old house, it began to feel heavy and weighted.  I started to get that old familiar feeling of just wanting to watch TV on Hulu, or surf the internet, instead of unpacking.  I have been wanting to get the kids “out of my hair” instead of sharing this new beautiful place with them, actually enjoying them and our new surroundings.

We got our goats two days ago…some sheep to arrive in the next month or so, and the chickens.  Ducks for our upper and lower ponds.  We are thinking of maybe having a small cut flower farm next summer, as well as medicinal herbs.  Never before have I been so close to being able to live out my fantasies of a WHOLE life, one lived on our own land, making our own food, having our own cottage industries, in a place of beauty and serenity.  And yet, I am irritated and cranky.  Already letting the house get messy instead of picking up.  Already sending the kids away more than is necessary or even nice.  I’ve been in front of this computer nearly since I got up this morning.

I guess maybe some of this computer time has helped in some way.  I was able to connect with Lisa of The Wonder of Childhood Magazine, www.thewonderofchildhood.com,  and have a very long conversation with her on the phone about Waldorf in VT, and homeschooling, etc…and life in general.  She then turned me onto While Tangerine Dreams…a blog of great inspiration and creativity that I spent all of last night with.  http://whiletangerinedreams.typepad.com/while-tangerine-dreams/2011/02/start-dreaming.html

I am inspired, now that I am on a farm (the oldest working farm in VT, by the way!) that “cultivation” should be my new impulse and action.  I need to cultivate these dreams, these visions I have, instead of being cranky that they don’t exist in perfection already.  I am going to create a 30 day adventure for myself, where everday I have to cultivate various things in my life.  Here is what I am thinking of so far:

-something of beauty

-something that requires me to push through doing something even when I “don’t want to”

-something of loving connection with my children and husband

-something of meaning

-something of simplicity

-something that creates space, either physically or etherically

-a time of silence

-a time of frenzied and/or passionate creativity

-something that lends towards health/well-being

-something of spiritual connection

I’m thinking these things sound like a lot, but their requirements need to be little, and met through what is normally my daily life anyway.  So…my thing of beauty needs to come from what I am already naturally able to do, in this environment with my family.  It can be as simple as setting a special table for dinner.  The thing of space could be waking up 15 minutes before my children.  Something of creativity could be a craft with the children, or rearranging the nature table.  You get my drift.

How many times have I felt like this, and decided some “new plan” or WAY would fix it for me?  Too many to count.  I’ve been gluten free, dairy free, yoga practicing, journaling, waking up early, only reading spiritual books, only reading novels, no tv, all tv, no facebook, facebook all day, sewing, knitting, studying herbs, whatever it was in whatever combination, in an attempt to reorganize and pull myself up by my bootstraps for years.  All of these endeavors have been well meaning and well intended, but all involved some sort of regimen; a denial of one thing, or having to adopt yet another thing on top of the rest of my life.  Then, when boredom or realization of imperfection sets in, I quit, fall into discouragement until the next PLAN.

So yes, maybe this “30 Day Plan” I am self-implemeting sounds a bit like a PLAN, but really I mean it more as a minimum time commitment to start looking for and cultivating qualities that I want to reflect, instead of taking the overly driven attack of materialistically changing things for radical change.  Let’s hope so.  I also plan that during this time, I only get on this machine in the morning before kids or after they are in bed.  I will try and chronicle what I do.

So if any of my regular 5 reader actually read this…do you have any suggestions for other qualities to cultivate?  Anyone want to do it with me?  I’m starting tomorrow!!

I have been very inspired lately by a woman named Lynn Jericho, who has a blog (among other things) called The Inner Year.

http://theinneryear.blogspot.com/

She takes the Christian Feast Days, and really helps you focus on the Inner Meanings of them.  Here is what she writes of Inner Annunciation:

“Archangels appear when a divine impulse will change the future of human existence or human consciousness. They announce, make whole, enlighten and protect the impulses living in our souls.  The impulse they attend to can be subtle and delicate or grand and powerful but the impulse is not personal and will impact more than an individual and more than the moment.

A virgin is pure, innocent and has yet to receive.  In each of us, in our consciousness, at any moment there is a place of virginity.  This is the place where we receive Imaginations, Inspirations and Intuitions. When we become aware of these divine impulses we often feel surprised and unworthy and wonder how this could be.

Immersed in the materialism of our modern times, it is difficult to realize in our humility that we are blessed and full of grace in these moments.

In your inner experience of the Annunciation, feel your way into an intimate connection to this festival.  Take a spring walk and quietly bend to your innocence.  Think back on your inner annunciations.  Consider how you let the divinely conceived grow in your inner womb until it is time to birth.”

After a really miserable winter, after a really devestating miscarriage, after spending months parenting by rote, not by love…I have recently felt the growing presence a new Seed.  In perfect timing with the Annunciation, my Inner Self sits in the presence of the divine, hearing the message, “It’s time to reawaken to your True Life, to your children, to your True Self…WAKE UP!  You are missing out on what is Real and Pure for that which distracts and robs!”

Thinking of things in the Threefold Way…body, soul, spirit….I want to grow organically and authentically as a Whole Being, not just compartmentalizing one bit of myself or another.  It’s time for me to return to noticing, listening, and simply BEING.  I want to finally rise above the paradox of all at one time being DEPERATE to hear the Inner Christ, and yet doing everything in my power to avoid being present enough to hear.  At night, after the children are asleep, it’s easy to idealize my interactions with them, but in the dirty face of it, easy to high tail it and run the other way.

So, my personal Annunciation message has been that I have conceived the Seed, now I need to let it grow.  It’s time to water it with silence, presence, and most of all love.

And thanks to Lynn Jericho, whose work has helped to open this awareness in me!!

Little Crazy Matas eating all of his berries

Little Crazy Matas eating all of his berries

picking

picking

Our berry bush

Our berry bush

The view looking down into the little "valley" where the berry fields and orchards are.

The view looking down into the little "valley" where the berry fields and orchards are.

I’ve heard that Glastonbury is the center of all things “U-Pick”, but have yet to pick anything.  So, we went on a search for a U-Pick farm, and discovered Rose’s Berry Farm.  We followed the signs along New London Tpke., through residential neighborhoods, past some building that looked a bit like a warehouse of some kind.  When we turned into the drive to the Berry Farm, we were met with a beautiful view of the road cascading down into the berry patches.  The view was so beautiful, and I was surprised to find so much farm land ahead of us.  I was expecting some dinky little patch.  This instead was an enourmous operation.

To the right at the bottom of the drive is a playground, with ample room to picnic and play.  To the left is the store, a gazebo, and the place where the truck comes and picks you up to take you to the patches that are farther away.  A woman gave us a big bucket, and shuffled us off in the right direction.  We were met by a teenager, who showed us the four blueberry bushes that were to be “ours”.  What a well oiled machine, and no competing with other customers for a place to pick.

Little Crazy Matas didn’t allow even one berry to make it into his box, and he was blue around the mouth and fingers by the time we were done.  The older two helped me fill my large pail halfway.  All told, we left with three pounds of blueberries, and probably ate a pound’s worth more while picking.  We hope to go back next week to pick raspberries.

We ate a lot of them just plain, alongside some nuts for a snack, and also on top of some vanilla ice cream as a treat.  I decided to try my hand at a Blueberry Buckle, to bring to the Quaker Family Sabbath Meeting that we were attending on Sixth Day evening.  I found a recipe on the Food Network site.  It turned out wonderfully, although slightly raw just in the very middle…although no one seemed to mind.    I tend to overcook cakes and muffins, so I think I jumped the gun on this one.  It was served after a meal of curried lamb, brown rice and goat’s milk yogurt…the lamb and the yogurt from the farm that we had the Meeting on.  More on this Meeting in another post, it was lovely beyond expectations.

Seventh Day morning, and I woke up before the Tall Man.  The children and I made “Adirondack Flapjacks”, which is really just a nostalgic name for pancakes…although it did involve separating eggs, and whipping the whites until stiff to fold in the batter.  We used up the rest of the berries (I would say about a cup and half’s worth) with about a 1/4 cup of honey and 1/4 cup water.  I boiled them down to make a syrup for the flapjacks.  It turned out beautifully, and I am wondering if there is some way I can can this syrup for use in the winter.

When I am out with the children doing something like picking berries under the sun surrounded by farm land, I am almost immediately able to lose my hardened “Mean Mommy” exterior.  When we are gathered with some common purpose, away from the distractions of a house filled with junk, we get a glimpse of life as it is meant to be.  We were just playing at “work”; our survival certainly did not depend on these berries that we picked.  However, it reminds me that our family’s goal of becoming more self-sufficient (where the berries ARE something we depend on to add to our food stores).   When I read the Little House books, I see such a wonderful picture of a family living and working not for some secondary gain (money, entertainment, and “self-fulfillment”), but because G-d told us that we were to live by the toil of our own hands.  The meaning and purpose of life really was about G-d, family and the very simple blessings (and toils) of an authentic life. 

I want it, I want it!  But I realize that if all of a sudden you were to pull the plug out on modern living for me, my family would die very quickly.  I do not posess the skills to live self-sufficiently.  It is a lost art on this generation.  If the groceries stores and U-Pick farms were to close down, we would be about two weeks from starvation.  In this day and age, I think that we need to be prepared for a situation where the grocery stores are closed.  We are working towards it, but still so obviously far from the goal.

When Janka Fairy was in ballet camp last week, the boys and I discovered JB Williams Park.  This 160 acre park on Niepsic Rd. looks unassuming from the parking lot.  However, when you start walking along the trail, you discover so much more.  Walk to the right, and you walk over shallow creeks on the way to a small fishing pond, stocked with trout and other such fish.  Also is a heavily shaded playground.  If you walk to the left along the trails up the hill into the woods, you come upon a beautiful little red clover “field” cut through with a babbling brook, just the size for wading. 

There was a town sponsored “camp” for 3 year olds up at the playground.  I had the boys at the creek, wading and splashing.  They were pulling leaves to float downstream as “boats”, and stepping on the skunk cabbage to make it “stinky”.  When it came time for pick up the campers, all the parents passed us by on their way.  So many of them smiled and made comments like, “oh, that’s so wonderful” “I remember doing that for entire summers when I was a kid” “that’s what you’re supposed to do in the summer” and “OOOO, looks like so much fun”.  I tried to be open and friendly with all of them, actually hoping to make some connections, as I know absolutely no one here yet. 

About five minutes later, camp was dismissed and the mass exodus began.  The comments from parents completely changed.  All of the children saw us in creek and thus began the “mommy, can I go in the water?”  “I want to do what those kids are doing”.  The parents all hurried by, only two of them saying that tomorrow they would bring their wellies so that they could go in after camp.  One father, obviously irritated, dragged his daughter (who was clad in shorts and crocs) across the little footbridge saying, “you don’t have the right shoes”.  Other parents were in a rush to get to another activity, “oh no, you have your tennis lesson now” …”mommy has an appointment”.  Some refused to look at me.

What happened to these parents…on the first pass of the bridge, they were reminiscent of their long-gone childhoods, smiling at the sight of two children just “hanging out”…on their return trip they turned into hurried, irritated grown-ups with much more important things to do.

I decided to return the next day, to see if some of the parents brought the kids boots.  This time, on the way to pick up the campers it was, “you guys again…are you going to start sleeping here too?”  “you guys are pretty hard core?” “I guess if it was good one day, might as well do it again?”.  The departure was even quicker and more curt….except for one mom, who stopped at the end of the bridge with three little children and one baby in a car seat, and opened her large sack.  Out of it she pulled three pairs of boots…..”thought we’d join you today, I’m glad to see you’re back”.

Picking Leaves to Float downstream as "boats".

Picking Leaves to Float downstream as "boats".

Splashing

Splashing

At the fishing pond, a short walk from the lower creek.  Second day at the park.  We brought our boats on ribbons.

At the fishing pond, a short walk from the lower creek. Second day at the park. We brought our boats on ribbons.

Who needs a playground and a summer camp?!

Who needs a playground and a summer camp?!

Here we are on a trip to the Audobon Society in South Glastonbury.  The inside is filled with caged birds and other small animals, including a parrot of some kind that says “Hello” and sings a mutilated musical scale, “La La La LA La La La”.  They offer a small table with some paper scraps and markers/crayons.  Also a big box of soft animal hand puppets…even a little carpeted stage.  I am thinking this will be a good rainy day/fridgid day destination.

The path down into the woods crosses a wading stream, only a few inches deep, very gentle and very wide.  The bugs attacked us upon entry into the woods, however.  So….next time we will bring our wellies for wading in the water, and bug spray to fend off the insects.

Pass the mini-bamboo grove, down the hill, and follow the path to the left, and it opens to a large clearing abutting a horse farm.  Apparently, sometime horses and riders can be seen jumping and cantering in the big ring, but we have yet to catch them.

At the entry to the path is a large mulberry tree, and a bit past that, a currant bush.  My little foragers noticed right away, and quickly stuffed their mouths full.

I love it here.  Glastonbury is absolutely beautiful.  I actually discovered this after moving here.  Having been in West Hartford for two years after leaving my happy existence in Rockland County NY, we were ready for a move.

I never felt at home in West Hartford.  Things seemed to move too fast. People seemed to be pressured, living such busy lives.  I thought the big colonial on a street within walking distance to its busy town center would give me feelings of connectedness and community.  The truth was, the huge house just needed to be cleaned, and it became quickly filled to overflowing with STUFF.  My whole life became about managing the stuff, and blocking my energetic crew of inventors and destroyers into one corner of the house or another so I wouldn’t lose total control of things.  I never made the connections, and I never felt at home.  We would drive long distances to go to untouched places of natural beauty.  And to top it all off, rent was probably more than we could comfortably afford, and it felt like we could never get ahead.

When looking for a new house to rent, we knew that we wanted to downsize considerably.  We craved having a small, cozy space, where we could still feel close and connected even if at different corners of the house.  We also knew that we wanted some usable space outside the door.  We also did not want to live in a house right next to another one, where my children could scream, “the neighbors are watching baseball, mommy!”  And most important, we wanted to reduce our rent significantly.

Enter a mad craigslist search and and tours of rentals from Avon to Western MA.  The house we felt best for us was in Glastonbury, CT.  We never had considered this town, but the listing had rent lower than we had even hoped and two acres.  The house is a small ranch, and one-level living was beckoning to us.

So, we moved here.  We figured any place with a drive-thru Starbuck’s and a Whole Foods with a playroom is a good place.

After being settled here for a few weeks, I took a drive to help calm the late afternoon crazies.  We drove down Hebron Ave. towards Hebron.  After making a quick discovery of Highland Market, we watched the houses turn into farms and rolling hills.  Stone houses covered in ivy were across the road from red barns, Holsteins and wild flowers.

I literally pulled the car over and began to cry.  “Why are you crying, mommy?”  “Because it is so beautiful here, and we live here.  This is our home.”

Weeks in Glastonbury, and I feel more at home here than I ever did in West Hartford, and even in NY before that.

So, my children and I are planning to stick around Glastonbury this summer, and resist any temptations to venture out of the town limits (well, okay, maybe I’ll go to Gilead and East/South Glastonbury…).  We are still going on our weekly Sturbridge Village trip and family visits out of town, but otherwise…our plan is to discover every bit of Glastonbury that we can.  We are going to jump in streams, go into the old schoolhouse libraries, pick flowers, find walking paths, and anything else that tickles our fancy.  We are also going to do this to help us develop a better sense of Place (remember, our family mission?)

We’re going to make this our home, and I want my children to say when they are older, “I am from Glastonbury”.

So…Glastonbury, this is my letter of devotion to you!  Here I come, I’m gonna love you up!

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