How does it feel to be ‘free’?

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Two days ago (and three years) my daughter way born. I have written a lot about how going from one child to two changed my entire world. Of course, those treasured posts are floating around cyber space and it breaks my heart that I can’t ever find them again. I’ve been asking her how old she is now and she tells me, “I’m free years old now” with the seriousness and maturity of a forty year old. She’s charming.

She has been the biggest surprise for our family in so many ways. She was not planned and before her character really started to blossom I had in my head an idea of what many little girls were like. She has broken the mold over and again. She’s very much ‘girl’ yet loves to have dirty feet and ratty hair. She will cover her body and clothes with dirt and water the moment she spots a mud puddle. She wants to dress up like a princess but often puts on her brothers shoes and sometimes his under ware and dances around the house half naked singing songs with unrecognizable lyrics put to them. She likes to play with cars as well as dolls and she also giggles when she ‘let’s one rip’. I’ve never seen a girl more beautiful.

I enjoy her thoroughly. She’s delighted our home and decorated it with personality and colour in a way all her own. There is so much love in her heart and her spirit roams with the cosmos. My girl with brown sugar hair and vanilla scented skin. Happy special day, baby. It’s good to be ‘free’.

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Chloe winking

Chloe winking

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It’s an ‘alive mess’

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As the weather cools I’ve been pulling up garden plants in preparation for winter. It’s harvest time and today I clipped 20 varieties of squash from a few different plants. I wish I could show photos of what our garden looked like before I dug my hands in it. There were piles of newspapers bundled together to form some sort of ‘border’ for a ‘garden’, weeds grew higher than my slim 6’2″ husband and every time I dug the earth to plant something I was uncovering garbage (wires, plastic bags, toys, tampons-good times- and the occasional sock). In the past four years I have taken back under a quarter acre of land and grown food, herbs, flowers and taught my kids to love playing with worms.

I’ve read and reread books on composting, growing fruits and veggies, and tried to figure out how to eat seasonally while living in the midwest. Over the past year my family has been interested in the slow food movement so we are trying to take some dominion and stick it to the man as we become urban homesteaders, the best we can.

I understand that there are a lot of people in the US who don’t have time or can’t make time to grow food. It’s time consuming…. sort of. But the payoff is huge and the reward of self sufficiency is intoxicating. It’s empowering to eat food that you’ve toiled over. Your seedlings become like little children whom you’ve nurtured and are now giving back to you out of thankfulness (I’m not a TOTAL hippy and I don’t believe that food talks or that zucchini has a conscience- I’m writing allegorically). Yet the end of the growing season comes and it’s time to let your buddies die. They give you their last breath and then the cold comes and takes their colour away (again, I’m not a pantheist). I’m always sad pulling up my pumpkin plants; piling them in a heap to be burned and putting my gardening gloves in a box until April. Our winters are long and deep and I don’t grow anything under the snow. Last year I grew spinach and lettuce in the window sill but that’s just not the same.

This is the end of a season and I absolutely love the harvest. I’m thankful for all of the work of spring and summer and the yield that it brought our family. If you have felt overwhelmed by the mere thought of starting a garden let me bring some encouragement; start small! All masterpieces started as an idea. Every artist started out small. Gardening is incredibly artistic and undeniably therapeutic. If you suffer from anxiety, garden! If you have anger, plant something and watch it grow! If you have allergies to food chemicals, grow your own! Start with basil and tomatoes next year. The year after that throw squash seeds in the ground and leave them alone. They will grow ferociously without any help from you and one plant is enough for you and your neighbors; they will run when they see you coming with a handful of zucchini to give away.

It’s easier than you think and it’s blissfully empowering to know YOU made this happen. If you have children you’ll love to see their black fingernails filled with earth grabbing a red (or yellow) tomato and putting it straight into their mouth. Store-bought organic is pricey and often comes from miles away (I have been known to buy tomatoes from CA but I don’t prefer it- I like to support my small, local farm) but something from your backyard is twelve steps away.

If you don’t know where to start but would like to grow your own next Spring here are some things I’ve learned:

– You don’t have to worry about compost for now (look into it later though- you’ll love it!) just put a plant in the dirt and remember to water it.

– If you’re overwhelmed starting plants from seed just buy plants from the Farmer’s market in the spring. They are very inexpensive.

– Start small and let your green thumb ‘blossom’ as the years go by (You can’t be a perfectionist as you garden. Learn as you go and don’t try to do it all in one year, trust me. It’s stressful to be a gardening perfectionist). Just plant basil and tomatoes the first year. Once you get the hang of it do some research on local growing and what grows best in your neck of the woods.

– Enjoy the process. If it won’t grow, pull it and start over. Get in the sunshine and breathe. Relax and enjoy the peace. See the colours, smell the smells and taste your food. It’s friggin’ awesome!

Take a look at these links. I subscribe to Organic Gardening and it’s fantastic!

http://www.organicgardening.com/

http://www.amazon.com/Omnivores-Dilemma-Natural-History-Meals/dp/1594200823

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A season of plenty

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These days my  breath is foggy during my morning coffee with cream. The creaky wood floors in our home chill my bare feet now that the air has dipped into the 50’s. I love the autumn. I am eating my purple cabbage with farm fresh beef and homegrown beets and carrots. My kids zip up yellow and red sweatshirts and slip on purple Wellingtons over stripped socks.

Today we visited the library to hear pumpkin stories and pick up another bag full of children’s books. Soon these colors of orange, red and yellow will all die and turn to brown and black. The dead brown will cover the landscape and I will sit inside my chilly house wishing we had a fire to rub my hands next to.

Recently I ordered a book for my daughter’s birthday (which is tomorrow) and I am thinking of ordering another for myself. I love the poetic description of colour in each changing of the seasons. It reminds me to love the changes of the year even while living in Wisconsin where the winters weigh heavy.

My garden will soon die leaving us to buy our vegetables at the store (instead of picking them from our back yard) and our family will hibernate inside for the next five to six months. For now I’ll juice the apples from our tree and throw our massive butternut squash into a lovely curry. We can think about Winter another day. Enjoy the colours of autumn.

This is what I’m enjoying today….

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Leaf-hair masks

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Farm fresh milk with cream on top

 

Dirty garden carrots

Dirty garden carrots

 

 

Our pumpkins are turning orange

Our pumpkins are turning orange

 

 

My dusty gardening boots

My dusty gardening boots

 

 

Apples sitting ready to be juiced

Apples sitting ready to be juiced

 

 

I still have tons of peppers waiting to invade a fresh mozza pizza

I still have tons of peppers waiting to invade a fresh mozza pizza