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Lettuce, Think About It

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Lettuce, Think About It

Last night I sat down to write a blog post. I started with lettuce in mind and instead ended up writing about how much I love North Dakota winters. I’m not crazy, really. I’ve just been working with a lot of really great people lately. You see, I’ve been working with the local foods people.

When I work with folks who grow vegetables or raise pastured livestock, I find myself empowered. There is just something that is catching.

Albeit, my passions include food and nature, but there is more to it than that. These small producers are like poetry in motion. They are the change they want to see in the world.

Food people are good people. And the more I experience their unwavering optimism and unrivaled tenacity, the more I am in awe.

I secretly (or maybe openly) want to be like them. In ways, maybe I already am. Maybe that is why I feel their optimism the way I do.

So maybe it makes sense that I sit down to write about growing food and end up writing about what a wonderful place I have come to call home, even if it is crazy cold.

Here in North Dakota we just broke through a viscous cold snap, delivered straight from the arctic tundra.

It’s the first week in January. And what is my Facebook feed buzzing about? Discussions of seeds, garden planning, greenhouses, and new opportunities.

It makes me know that life is good. Truly.

It lets me know that all things are possible.

It gives me courage. When I purchase lettuce from the store that is less than mediocre, I know there is something I can do.

I can grow!

I can grow lettuce!

You see, this is really the point that I come full circle.

I grew up watching my grandparents garden, but did not have much practical know-how when I began gardening. I had a bit of a rocky start.

I planted my first garden in the summer of 2008, but I was no longer living in the Midwest. I was on the high plains of Wyoming, at an altitude of 7,165 feet. The summer was short. The air was dry. The nights were chilly.

I started out by planting snow peas, radishes, tomatoes, zucchini, eggplant, spinach, kohlrabi, and lettuce.

The dog ate 75% of the peas. The radishes were woody. Early in September the frost came and we enjoyed a harvest dinner of fried green tomatoes and sauteed baby squash. The eggplants were infested with aphids (I shudder, just thinking about that experience). The spinach went to seed by early July.  And it turned out that I really don’t care from kohlrabi.

That pretty much leaves the lettuce. Oh, my sweet precious lettuce!

I planted at least twelve different varieties in a partially shady area next to the neighbor’s garage. I grew green leaf, red leaf, some varieties were pale green and others were purple. Some had leaves shaped like oaks. They were anything but plain old lettuce. They were beautiful.

We harvested frequently and planted new seeds often. I’d go out at dusk to water and sing to them. (Okay, I didn’t quite have the courage to sing… I hummed to them.) I cried the night we got hit with a hailstorm. And I had a full blown anxiety attack when a crew repaired the neighbor’s garage roof. I picked shingles and roofing nails out of my lettuce garden for months to come.

While I melted down, the lettuce rebounded.

They certainly provided us with a summer of delicious salads. But there was something more to it.

They gave me hope. They assured me that I could grow something. They brought me joy. Pure and simple. I loved seeing them.

And somehow I forgot that?

I did not grow lettuce last year. I don’t know why.

I made room for spinach and kale and chard, but I neglected my wonderful old standby.

Then one chilly North Dakota evening, I curled up on the couch with a blanket and some of my favorite light reading material: the seed catalogs.

My absolute favorite to look at is the Seed Savers Exchange. Catalog_FREE_2014_1This catalog offers heirloom varieties of seeds. As they were passed down from generation to generation, the seeds became attached to family stories. There are unique varieties of tomatoes, squash, peppers, onions, potatoes, and even lettuce.

So I was browsing through the catalog, trying to be quite sensible about what the garden might look like this year. Then, I came to lettuce.

Aunt Mae's Bibb Lettuce

Aunt Mae’s Bibb Lettuce

I was physically stunned. I ooh-ed and aah-ed over the variety.

Rossa di Trento

Rossa di Trento

I adored the colors and imagined the textures.

Pablo, oh, Pablo

Pablo, oh, Pablo

I tried to regain my composure.

Yugoslavian Red

Yugoslavian Red

How could we ever eat all the lettuce I wanted to grow?

Forellenschluss

Forellenschluss

Maybe I need a support group or something…

Baquieu

Baquieu

Obsessed Gardeners Anonymous?

Wait, maybe I do have a support group…

Something clicked. In October I began taking a class called Farm Beginning through FARRMS. A non-profit within the state that “Grows Farmers,” so to speak. 

In the class, we learn about holistic management, food safety, and business planning. We learn how to pull our crazy ideas together and get moving on our dreams.

So maybe I don’t need professional help regarding my obsession with lettuce.

Winter Density Lettuce

Winter Density Lettuce

What I need is a business plan and a greenhouse!

I’m going to grow lettuce! We don’t have to eat it all ourselves!

I could sell it at the farmers market. I could supply a local restaurant.

Maybe I could even sell it to the grocery store and solve the problem of less than mediocre lettuce in the winter once and for all!

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Lessons in Entreprenuership: Balance

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Lessons in Entreprenuership: Balance

Last month I began writing about what I learned about balance during my first year as an entrepreneur. The thing is, just as I began to write this piece to share my lessons learned, I learned something else.

I wrote over 800 words about the challenges I encountered while learning to balance professional responsibility, home management, and emotional health. Then for some reason, I stopped writing. Not just the draft I had been working on. But I stopped writing anything at all. I stopped making time for it.

I was busy balancing several professional projects, establishing new contracts, preparing presentations, and wrapping up the last art class of the year. I tried to stay on top of household chores and I even took time to cook with my boys and enjoy simple moments in life. Sounds like balance to me. It feels like quite a sense of relief.

For years, I felt like I was juggling umpteen different tasks, spending my waking (and sometimes sleeping) hours spinning plates. I lived in fear that these plates will come crashing down as we walk the tight rope.What an exhausting feeling!!

Sounds like a circus act. But really, does life have to be a circus act?

Sure, we all struggle to balance the housework as kids, pets, and mishaps. We struggle to find time to have fun without neglecting our workload. We try to hard to get those bills paid, holiday gifts bought, and credit card balances down.

Sure, we live in a world of excess. But we don’t have to do it all.

I struggled with balance long before I was an entrepreneur. I think back 12 years ago, to when I was taking classes in community college. I took classes 4 days a week. I had three jobs, which I worked 6 days a week. Remember, thought there was only 7 days in the week.

It made no sense. I never had time to breathe.

The closest thing to “escape” I had was my homework. As I wrote papers, I found a bit of peace. I wrote about culture, economics, society, food, history, science, nature, and philosophy. I found a place where I liked to reside.

No wonder I went on to excel in academics. No wonder I was crazy enough to write my thesis while on bed rest with my second pregnancy.

I did good to get stuff done. But I failed miserably at balancing my life.  In time it caught up with me. Exhaustion. Adrenal fatigue. Complete meltdown. Profound insight. Whatever you want to call it. I clearly had something to learn about living in balance.

And so now, after a year of being an entrepreneur, having been involved in more than twenty different projects, having addressed some of my core emotional issues and unpacked a load of baggage, having decided to home school my first grader, I think I have learned something.

We have to stop finding relying on distraction as a driving force in making decisions.

We don’t want to put away the laundry. So we pretend like its not there. We find a distraction. Preferably a more important distraction. “I really needed to clean my home office.” When we do this, we try to manipulate reality. It’s different than procrastinating, because for a moment we believe that other task is gone. You know that one task you dread and try to forget about. Maybe it is a grant report, a conversation, or shoveling the snow. It’s fine and dandy to put things off and procrastinate.

But when we use one thing to forget about another, we are actually abusing the preferred task. Think about it.

Does your office deserve abuse? Or that creative endeavor? Or that chocolate cake you want to bake?

No. They don’t. They deserve your attention. They deserve the respect of your choice. It’s time to make that choice be part of our conscious decisions.

We have to realize that it is up to us to manage our own time.

When we let ourselves be too busy, we are doing something wrong in our lives. We negate the power of personal choice.

I’ve always loved the perspective that when we say, “I don’t have time” we are really saying “I don’t have time for that.” Essentially, we are choosing not to give a task our time. There is nothing wrong with that, as long as others who may be counting on us are not neglected.

Today, I am choosing not to give certain projects my time, because I trust the judgement used to make my priorities. I know that I will tend to them fairly when their time comes. But for now, they shouldn’t get in the way of today. The projects I choose to give attention today deserve that attention. It is my choice to use my time.

We have to let some things go.

We hear a lot about sustainability these days. You know, the idea that we should be able to continue operating in the way we currently are, without detrimental effects in the future. Are you able to continue functioning the way that we are right now, without facing collapse? If so, then it may be time to make some changes. It may be time to step off the tightrope, set down a plate or two, or even question our role in the circus all together.

We have to make time for ourselves a priority.

Let me say it again. We have to make time for ourselves a priority. We all have the thing we love to do in life. It helps us be our best. It speaks to our soul. For me it writing and drawing. In the past month, I haven’t taken time to even make a journal entry. Taking the time to draw or paint for myself is even harder. It is too easy to put these activities last on our list. Not anymore. It is time to give our passions more value than that.

What is your passion? Does it deserve more priority than what you give it?