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Monthly Archives: August 2013

Steps toward a well designed life

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Steps toward a well designed life

 

I sometimes have to remind myself of the steps I have made to re-design my life.

They haven’t been easy.

First Steps

But they’ve been huge steps in reclaiming joy and peace in my life.

Me and my boys with our new baby ducklings.

Me and my boys with our new baby ducklings.

No more 60 hour work weeks.

Rarely 40 hour work weeks anymore.

Through contracts, projects, and writing I make enough to allow me to keep on building my business and paying my bills.

But more, I have enough time to make room for living.

To make time for life.

Time to enjoy my children.

Time to grow a garden.

Time to sell jams, jellies, and sunflowers at the local farmers market.

Time to listen to the world.

Time to hear myself.

It is worth every penny, every hour that I get to call my own.

It is worth living my life.

And I am grateful. reflection

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Zucchini: In Abundance and Scarcity

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Zucchini: In Abundance and Scarcity

If Mother Nature has taught me anything, it is that success cannot be rushed.

Life happens at its own pace. It is up to us to try not to force it through commitments, deadlines, and expectations. Sometimes all we can do is our best, with what we have to work with.

Such as I am at this moment. I find myself riding in the back of the vehicle with two kids, who are happily enjoying their snacks. My husband is giving his mother the grand tour of small town North Dakota.

For the moment we are in Harvey. I admire the gardens that we pass by- gauging the height of the corn, the weight of the peppers on the plant, and color and ripeness of tomatoes. I am reminded of a request by the new local foods marketing specialist at the North Dakota Department of Agriculture to participate in the Specialty Crop Blog Challenge.

SpecialityCropChallengeLogo

I am a bit delayed, just as so many things have been this growing season. July’s challenge topic was Zucchini, perhaps one the most prolific specialty crops. In fact, if I ever met any one who made a career of growing this green summer squash, I might question their sanity. But then again here I am, tucked in the backseat, writing my July assignment in August on my iPhone… so feel free to question my sanity as well.

But for the common vegetable grower zucchini is like a promise, never to be broken. There will be an abundance.

At this time of year, abundance can come in the form of boxes of bounty, jars of pickles, and loaves of bread. It is a time of year that takes me back to my childhood– back to my grandparents’ garden.  Their garden was one of my happy places as a child. I was always at peace there, comfortable in the scent of dill and tomato plants. Delighted by the textures of concord grapes, the sounds of the birds, the abundance all around.  My grandparents never let me leave their home without a box of tomatoes, and cucumbers, and of course, zucchini.

When I have the opportunity to visit now, I still seek out the garden, even though Grandpa isn’t there to make sure I notice the radishes and keep me from stepping on the beans. Also, I seek out the stories. My grandmother is a wonderful storyteller, even though she sometimes gets a little distracted.

Seeing as I live more than 1000 miles away, I more often opt to hear her stories over the telephone. Our conversations are sometimes scattered, working in bits about children, chickens, and gardens in such away that I can’t help but smile.

We discuss the garlic and the chard. I tell her about the rhubarb festival we went to. DSCN9151She is so surprised that my youngest loved the rhubarb. And she tells stories about how when she and grandpa were poor and living in Montana, that they would always be on the look out for rhubarb along the roadside that they could harvest.

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It is hard to believe they once lived in a time when food was scarce. As they started to build their home and raise their family, having a garden meant something entirely different than it does to me now.

I have a garden by choice. Because it keeps me grounded.

Because I like growing my own food.

My grandparents grew a garden so they could eat.

But even with scarcity, they never ceased to be generous.

Three years ago when I began growing my garden, I had such a bounty of everything– corn, potatoes, eggplant, basil, tomatoes, and squash. I wanted to waste nothing, but was up to my ears in everything.
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I began to take a preventive approach, especially with the zucchini. The tricky thing about this squash is the more you pick it, the more it produces. It is all too easy to bite off more than one can chew. But rather than let the fruits grow to monstrous sizes, I began harvesting the blossoms.

I had read about fried zucchini blossoms in many cookbooks and often thought them to be a fine culinary pursuit. Zuchinni BlossomsI selected both male (above) and female (below) because at this point, I wanted to prevent more zucchini from coming on.

Female blossoms (not the minature fruit at the base)

Female blossoms (not the miniature fruit at the base)

We stuffed the blossoms with mozzarella cheese and basil. Then dipped them in a batter and fried them. The result was amazing!

As I told my grandmother about the culinary adventure and the crop management techniques, I was surprised to hear her voice calling up memories of a time when she had enjoyed zucchini blossoms,

Now long ago, before your daddy was even born, I think, we had zucchini blossoms deep-fried. Your grandpa and I had been building the house. It was early in the summer and we had planted a small garden, but of course we didn’t have much time to tend to it. We wanted to get the house done before the winter. So we were busy and all. I think we had planted some zucchini and tomatoes, and maybe some potatoes. Things that wouldn’t need much attention.

Well one day we got notice that the new pastor for the church was coming into town. At that time, your grandpa had been delivering the sermons and doing much of the work. So the pastor was going to come visit us before he got settled in.

And remember, in those times we were poor, but it was early in the summer and we didn’t have much in the garden. And of course we had some of the staples in the pantry. So I hurried out to the garden to see what I could find. The zucchini were blooming, but the fruit had not yet set. So I harvested the blossoms and served this new pastor fried zucchini blossoms. 

He thought they were the most wonderful thing. He was from Chicago and hadn’t had anything like that before. Oh my, he loved them. And you know, years later when he moved on, when he delivered his final sermon, those zucchini blossoms were still on his mind. He thanked us for our hospitality and the wonderful meal.

I think of this story often and how much it reflects our perspective of abundance, and our ability to make the most out of what we have. Whether we have too much, or not enough– there is always something we can offer the world. Male Zucchini Blossom

Am I Really an Artist? (or) Why I Need to Paint

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Am I Really an Artist? (or) Why I Need to Paint

Seeing as I am a writer, I am much more confident in communicating through written works. When it comes to face-to-face interactions, I do my best. I try to listen, have a sense of humor, and display compassion. And that works pretty well… until it comes to talking about myself.

All those questions! The most difficult of which, “What do you do?”

I can usually get through that one with a confident, “I’m an independent grant writer.” But sometimes…. sometimes someone gets me good, “Are you an artist!?” They ask it with such enthusiasm and genuine interest and somehow my answer is rarely confident. “Well….” “Uummm…” at best I squeeze out “I’d like to think so!”

But then comes the question I fear, “What kind of art do you do?”

“Ummm…. I’ve made some jewelry.

DSCN8066

and did some photography this winter…”  winter woods

“And well… I used to draw.

The Axis. Graphite. RP 2003-2004.

The Axis. Graphite. RP 2003-2004.

And in high school I painted…”

 

(I don’t even have photos of any paintings!)

All the while in my head I am waiting for the person to say, “Yeah but, what are you working on NOW?”

“Nothing.”

“But why?”

“Because… ” (and continue with a list of excuses)

I’m tired of the excuses.

I manage a gallery, but have the least amount of work displayed there.

I coordinate creative art classes, but don’t share much of my own creative talent.

Sure, I’m scared and hesitant and busy and reluctant.

But I need to start making it a priority.

Because I am a artist! (I’m sure of it!)

I dream of a point in my life where I say, “Oh I can’t do that today, I’ve got something planned for this afternoon…” And then cut to me working in my studio, on a piece of art.

I could do it.

It could be a priority.

I could pick up a paint brush and get started.

I could let go and play.

I could work on something everyday, if I wanted.

I just need to make the choice!

Complex Simplicities

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Remember those long summer days? When July seemed to drag on forever? Between riding bikes, climbing trees, swimming, playing at the park, watching summer movies, and enjoying family vacations, it seemed like we were able to do it all and still watch time move slowly. We lived in the moment, with Kool-Aid mustaches and drips of mustard on our shirts.  Those days were nothing short of fantastic!tree climbing

Summer isn’t what it used to be. There is too much to juggle. Not enough simplicity to slow it down.

I was really taken back this summer at the pace in which life can happen. I often was left feeling like I had been sucked through a time warp, uncertain of the date, still juggling away projects, responsibilities, and life events. It takes a certain kind of effort to slow it down and enjoy summer for what it is. That effort I could not employ through June or July. But maybe…

Maybe that is what August is for.

After our family endured a long month that included project deadlines, two birthdays, loss of an extended family member, a surgery, a train wreck, and a resulting 12 hour delay on Amtrak… maybe we can be grateful that July is over.

Maybe we can be grateful that we still have August to enjoy. Maybe we don’t have to be sucked into the “Back-to-School” frenzy. Maybe we can just keep on living our life and be grateful that the sun is still warm, that the days are still long, and we are together.

Maybe summer isn’t what it used to be.

Maybe it can be something different.

Maybe it can be what we make it.