Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Back To The Circle

With growing interest in growing one's own food, I'll share a bit of my second year on New England soil.  From the Midwest I came with little remnants left of my former farm.  I felt shame in uprooting plants and didn't want seeds tainted with whatever might have been floating around the fields bordering my well missed old farm possibly tainting my new pristine environment here.  And so, I pretty much started from scratch...again.

With that mindset, why not follow through then, in all ways in my it's-a-new-day life? Starting from scratch isn't truly the beginning of a beginning when you're just this side of 50, no- it's more like taking life as a huge compost pile and using the best of the steaming hot mess you're left with.

Kale and garlic scapes, lovely neighbors.
This year, the Big Fish and I started our whole garden from seed, with the exception of Kale seedlings from a local organic grower as the slugs and deer combined devoured my tiny starts again and again.  And some local, though with deep regrets as the man brought these suspect seedlings home- canning cukes.  If I don't give the man a little leeway in the garden, his pride and feelings seem to get a little sore, so of course- comprises were made.  The Big Fish never thinks I plant enough cucumbers, (although I must have set out close to 40 plants) well, not enough to thoroughly wet his appetite for pickles.  I wonder if I would have entered into this relationship so heavily if I had only known of his pickle obsession?  Too late now, I'm in deep with canners, ball jars and a highly sought after prized recipe for Russian Bear pickles with a flavor such as I had never encountered before- sweet, spicy and fruity.  If it were up to him, I suppose several thousand jars of these pickles would be as good as money in the bank, trouble is- he'd never let anyone else withdraw.  He is by far one of the most giving guys I know, except when it comes to pickles...a chink in the armor, my prince has fallen from grace, he is seriously deeply pickled.
Winter rations
Oh there I go again, off the subject...I intended to write this post as a welcome to new and old lovers of food and gardening;  of nostalgic stuff with a touch of sentimental craziness.  When you start a new venture from scratch or leftovers- in the beginning,  it is exciting!  My seed shack in the hoopcoop started just this way- spruced up and everything in it's place.  Labels- got it.  Water source- got it.  Organized set up with stereo to boot- got it.  Photo albums full of used seed packs, with hand written linear notes included! Got it!  It looked really swell and I sure enjoyed my late winter days out there with the seeds and smells of compost mixed with unhibernating dirt;  a soily earth perfume wafted all around and kept me romantically in tune with my surroundings.  (Including my chicken and guinea neighbors as they shared  the next compartment over in a Florida like winter home- their music of soft clucks and scratching was as fine as any melody.)

March lingered a little longer than need be, April sure as heck didn't kick up her heels hardly at all, but May whispered first with Raven's call, when I hear and see more of those big birds- to me, they are the harbinger of Spring. ( A well written observation of a Raven's nature Ravens In Winter- I highly recommend.) I could go into a whole interesting to me tirade on my neighboring Ravens, but I won't...yet.  Like the Ravens and every other bird, lizard and bug around this farm- I got down to the business of Spring. Earnestly and gleefully, composing the garden seed by seed and row by row.  Every day, something else half haphazardly compiled in the seed-shack while little transplants exited out into the protected cool air of a hardening off room and then finally out into the great big world of wonder.
Disarray in the seed-shack.

Chaos consumed the formerly tidy seed-shack, and like life- there is now little order to be found in it.  My winter gardening plans include a much needed clearing of that chaos, I plan to spend many a hard winter day occupying that room, trying to make some sense again of the clutter.

Gardening, growing your own food is a circle, not semi or partial-  but full.  It takes you through all seasons if you are truly sincere in your occupation of it.  In my experience, it is best to not become dismayed by all the troubling chaos of any aspect of life.  In the fullness of time it takes to tend to any endeavor- the moment will come and it will feel and be right, you will recognize it if you but learn to trust your self and your surroundings.

 I always come back to the circle, not where it started or ended- that is invisible as it should be;  I come to the center and try to see it all.  It was a good year I can clearly see now;  of trying new things, experimenting with new ideas and expanding old ones.  That my friends, is what growing anything- is all about.  It's a well thought out plan turned upside down by the experience of actually doing it.  Sometimes you trust your self and other times you simply just have to trust the moment and work with it as best you can with your two good hands and brain muscle. Two quotes I am left with and may be worth pondering to others-

Weather plays havoc with organized plans, but loosely made ones stand to reason with a stormy day.

Leaps of faith are not reasonable or well planned after all- their opportunities often come unannounced.  I don't think you can be too prepared, but it helps to be open and ready to rise to the occasion.  
Little chick lifts off towards some high oats.
An essay of a post by golly, I need to write more often...see you then.  Take care-

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

From Seed, To Field, To Harvest, To Plate

I'll be getting back to the farming way of life in reporting here as so many are seeking new ways to live in a sustainable manner.
The Big Fish and I have created 13 new raised beds, made out of local hemlock.  Last year's cold, wet growing season affected the yields negatively, so we decided if we can't control the weather perhaps we can at least try to somewhat control the growing environment.
My back, neck and shoulders cry out in pain from yesterday's shoveling of manure, and don't it feel good!  My no till method does not appeal to my Big Fish, so these raised beds helped us reach a compromise there...less weeding, no need to till and hopefully greater bounties of garden produce will soon offset the price of lumber used to create the beds.

I am planting all my garlic in raised beds as a local homesteader wowed me with his crop and abundance of the biggest, healthiest cloves I have ever laid eyes on.  Incidentally, he has provided me with 30 plus year old strain from Maine garlic bulbs.  I hope I do him and the garlic proud.  He is a younger grower with his partner, I had stumbled upon their place on one of my many meandering drives.  One day I decided to invade his privacy by stopping by and picking his brain- mainly due to the interesting welded sculpture out front of his raised bed gardens.  A farmer who creates art out of cast aways?  I had to acknowledge my own history of rusty tree hanging Pterodactyls I had made out of auction finds, unable to believe there wasn't still some useful life in old farm tools!  The BF and I pulled right in and were instantly welcomed.

Farmers, gardeners are like that; friendly, open and all about helping another learn something or two about their operations that might lend a hand to your own.  I discovered this kindly cooperation a few years back when attending classes through U of I Farm Beginnings classes.  Through an internship I found many experienced  farmers who were more than happy to share their knowledge and experience if one would help out occasionally with onion planting and other muddy jobs that require physical labor.  I learned along time ago from my Dad,
"if you want to gain something, you must give something in return." 

 Pretty simple logic, tried and true- and a way of life for many years in rural communities.  I'm happy to see that many are returning to sustainability, golden rules and just plain common sense;  you may not be able to see much of that in newspapers, financial institutions, Wall Street, television or what Hollywood puts out- but one can find it in Countryside, a magazine/journal written mostly by people living off the land life.  I subscribe to this magazine as it hits close to home- living, working and sharing experience of one's own way.  Also- talk to your food growers at the farmer's market you attend.  You'll be amazed at the knowledge found there and much of it free for the asking- recipes, growing techniques, seed purity and story.  If you can't ask your grower why, when, where and how, then you've missed an opportunity in learning something truly worth pondering.  From seed, to field, to harvest, to plate- the food we eat has it's origins and your food provider can and should supply that knowledge.  That's as about as honest and common sense as it gets, most difficult these days to find such opinions unless one looks to the earth and to those who coax life from it- giving back more than they take.
Take care-

Sunday, October 23, 2011

love fiercely

The colors are still brilliant.  The stars overhead are bright, the sun shined today and left a pink reminder at day's end that everything will be alright. sweet dear Grandma passed yesterday and even though her life was long and sometimes good, I don't quite know where to put my heart.  She's been with me since the day I was born.  She, the eagle in human form would die, of course- we all do.  But it was her dying, her slow limbo like dance between here and there that really got me.  I found myself praying that she'd just go, so she wouldn't suffer and yet- did she or do I?  It's awful hard to let people go, and it's even harder to feel it.  I think I'm fighting the feeling, I'm on here tonight with dinner dishes still stacked in the sink.  Apple sauce waiting to be finished, laundry and travel arrangements, a scanner that won't scan the most beautiful pic I could find of her for the obituary because the printer is shy of one cartridge which I don't even need- I just want to scan.  Dammit.

I will say that I miss her, will miss her even more- will miss that one voice of wisdom that I could count on.  That one wobbly way of standing as she did.  Her voice, her handwriting even...I pulled out an old card, looking for that elusive photo and her handwriting was on it.  Precise.  Upright and as plain as it gets and yet, the quality of the way she signed her name will never be again.  I am lost without my grandma, I haven't held her hand in so many years and yet right now, if only she could take mine and steer a bit, mind seems flooded with images.  All the stories of all the moments ever in my life, included her.  I wish for the world then, a grandma like that.  One who never pretended to know all the answers, one who often encouraged me to simply forget and go on.  One who never hardly ever cried but when she did, it broke your heart into a million little pieces that could not be put back together until she gathered herself up and went on.  She knew that, could see that so she always held together...for us.
I'm an orphan.  A forty nine year old orphan and I want my Mocko...she'd just cluck at me.  Roll those brown piercing eyes and run that forget it line by me again.  She'd probably offer me candy, a pink peppermint tablet or a chocolate star.  She wouldn't have much to say, she always just was...I could count on her just was.  And now she just was was...sounds like a pity party going on here.  Dammit.

Tell me grown up orphans left to fend for yourself, do you feel this way- did you feel this way at a later age and thought you'd handle it better?  For gosh sakes, she was ninety something- she couldn't live forever.  A part of me, the innocent dot of me- very well thought she could.  I guess I have to convince myself that tomorrow I'll rally and all will be well.  That grandma flew to where grandma's fly and gather up all the lost loved ones left before...and I'll think of her smiling and maybe she stands again tall and straight, voluptuous and lovely, kicking up her heels in a hell bent for heaven polka.  Oh I hope so,  I hope she joined with a certain young man that I'll miss forever and said-

"She needs us now, sure hope she settles down enough that we might get through in some pink way..."

Maybe, oh maybe that was her smile in the sunset.  And maybe I won't cry anymore and be so damn bitchy.  Maybe I'll quit licking my wounds and go out and greet the world again.  I've been avoiding it and it doesn't stop you know, not for me or you or Grandma Mocko's passing.
It should though, it really should.  She was something and this world hardly knew her, that's the saddest part of all.  Folks like her, plain and hardworking, soft spoken and private, never meddling yet always ready to steady you.  She knew her mettle but she never boasted about the fact that she could kick any body's butt that needed it and she would if it would help them, otherwise- she didn't trouble.  Humble and proud in an old lady way.  Wore Mocha Red lipstick every day that I knew her...looked this side of seventy and still blushed.
Surrounded herself with things I thought, but those things I see now- were gifts bestowed on a good lady who never wanted for much and rarely purchased a thing for herself except the occasional cookie.
Off she goes then, out of sight.  And I can only reach her now, backwards through thought and memories.
I'll tell you finally then, this.  It doesn't matter how old or young they are when they die, they're just as gone and they take a whole lot of you with them; it empties places in you that will remain so unless you fill them again with the stuff that shaped you.  And that's the hardest part because those who love fiercely give it freely and over fill us.  There's always more and you never even once had to ask for it- you see that clearly the unclearer they get.  Best I can do is be like that to those I love, fill them up overflowing- like she did.
She wasn't a praying woman.  She just accepted everything, pure faith.
Damn.   I wished I would have asked her about that.

Tuesday, October 11, 2011


Good morning, and only one week between posts- Me?  Somewhat organized?  I'm really not...although I do trust my internal orneriness, stamina and damned stubbornness in getting done what needs to be done.  Lists would be easier, I do keep those but they're pretty jumbled up too.  I get hard to live with when I cross things off the list, and the Big Fish just hums as he is apt to do when he knows it's far better to hum than to cross my pluckiness.  Imagine a broody hen with menopause... afraid of nothing!  Bound and determined!  Incorruptible!  Emblazoned!...

... as the leaves dripping with color that tastes like wine to the eyes!  Vivid is the ending of the day when the full moon shines her face upon the sun's last efforts-  Does she long to share the sky with the sun, a romantic time for two to hold sway there in the last and full light adorned below by rapturous color?  And I wonder more and said out loud on a rocky romantic road-trip with the fella,

"I understand the logic behind the science of leaves falling, season's changing, the temperature fluctuating and the sun and moon phases...but I do not understand, why such beauty that goes along with it?  I mean, what would the point be?  As long as those seasons change and unfold, change and unfold- what could possibly be the logic behind making it more?!

Why not garble it all up in a cement mixer, like man does when he lays a foundation- rocks and dust, water and motion, grey is the outcome and yet, there lies a strong foundation after it dries...
But I must question that logic further when I wonder- what if love was part of that man made mixture?  Would the rocks not be then, the most beautiful to be found?  Would the dust blend beautifully with but never totally saturating the rocks?  And wouldn't that foundation touch more people as they strolled by it,  I mean really touch them in such a way that would bring about a harmony of hearts, echoing each others joy at such a marvelous sight?!
And I can't help but wonder then, if each would recognize in the other a similar spark of adoration for what is created with love?...."

"Take the picture...." he hums.

And so I do.

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Shuttering at all the Beauty

Leaf Laden Path
All along the roadside, trees are covered in jewels.  Again I find myself thinking about the old year, the droughts and rain, the sunny days too few- but all resurrects itself in the colors that greet me at every bend.  Maine- Washington County to get specific, is one of the most wondrous places I've ever seen and I get to live here.  I had to drive to Addison for a part time job testing,but even in the rain- how could I be testy?  So what if I'm following an inconsistent moving log truck or a car with across-the-river-license-plates that speeds then pokes, speeds then pokes- these colors are to die slowly for.  Even in the rain, an oil slick upon my windshield- how does any of the little miseries compare, how can any sorrow stay when what I'm seeing still cannot fully be absorbed- fall in all it's splendor, even right out my back door?

Dress rehearsal for the peak season...
I hope the sun shines as it will or won't on Thursday, I'll take my Canon and shoot; shuttering at all the beauty.  My oh my, I wonder if I'll cry should I come upon a Moose?  Only if he steps quicker than I can brake, otherwise- even a silhouette as big as a barn door is welcome.  In fall, in Maine- is a glad time.  Happy or sad, bumbling to boot- it won't matter, I haven't got a care when the moon is hanging and the pantry is almost full of my garden's goodness.  You can frown at me, sigh long and hard, merrily I'll swap smiles with you and wonder out loud, do you see it too?  The Autumn way, the roadside paved with the golden rush of all the fallen.  Mother, please take them in- the leaves so full of rich blood red with deep bright veins of the last of the greens for the year.  It is enough then, to simply see and be ever so grateful for valuable sunshine, worthless rain and the glow- the golden gracious glow!

Mama Moose beautifully drab next to the fallen 
I aim to bring you plenty more color in the days to come...
Take care-

Wednesday, September 28, 2011


Leaving Maine...Summer still

I headed out to Illinois for a very long trip, medical tests for a daughter I was greatly concerned for, all is well.  Traveling through New Hampshire to check on the son who literally fell off the trail down a ridge, broke some toes, got back on and then fell again in the Wildcats; not to terribly far from ending his long hike.  He'll have to wait until next year and tackle it again.  All in all, my young man hiked hundreds of miles and I am quite proud of him. Hikers and I mean the majority of them, are truly decent and good people.  They look out for one another, feed one another, keep each other dry in the rain and laughing in the storms.  There's a bearded, hairy bunch of humanitarians out there and by gosh, I'm awful thankful my kid had the gumption to go out amongst them and live like that.

I drove through New Jersey and Conneticut on a GPS snafu- never again, no sir not even on a million dollar bet.  How anyone can do that, day in, day out is beyond me- traffic and intolerance.  Seemed like such disregard for one another and even themselves, passing blindly-   I know that there are many individuals among them, good people.  But I can tell you, I only met a few- one genuinely kind construction worker trying to get me around traffic through country directions.  Another really funny yet serious guy at a gas station who saw my pick ax in my door as I was exiting the truck.
"Don't let them see you with that!"
"The cameras."
I looked around, didn't see any of those...
"It's illegal to defend yourself in New Jersey."
"Get out of here!"
"I'm serious, don't get caught with that thing- they could arrest you."

I am back to uncivilization and thanking my lucky stars.  Between being civilized and treating other people like they just don't matter,treating children like they are to be disrespected in the most sad and ugly ways, no thank you. I'd just as soon be uncivilized and take my chances with a Black Bear and her cub, four feet of snow and storms that raise the rain right up through the rafters.  I'd rather be able to see the stars at night and not be considered weird because I mention "did anyone notice the harvest moon, isn't it lovely?" at a lonely old rest area in the middle of the night.  People have just stared at me, like I'm from some other planet- all because I dare smile at them or say hello.  It's a grave concern when folks look at you like your Jack The Ripper just because you wished them well, they're more open to rudeness and dishonesty- apparently, they do trust that kind of behavior.

Autumn invades Maine
So, yeah- I'm going to keep on writing this blog because I do have something to say and it's usually pretty decent.  There's not enough decency among us, maybe somebody will catch a drift of their own thoughts built up in mine and go up from there.
 Life is good.  Sometimes maybe only in seconds, and sometimes those seconds aren't even consecutive- but the sun came up this morning and I waited on it.  Lovely. It only lasted a few seconds, but man oh man it restored a goodness in me.
There's clouds out there right now waiting for me to notice them.  There's fat yellow butterball hens cleaning up some of the remnants in the garden, I like to hear them talk.  And they treat their little ones well I notice, so I'll make sure to keep their water up and their grain bin full so they'll keep that good business up.
And I'll keep here, a good word.  For you.  Hope it helps.
Take care-

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

word singing vale ringing

It is August, wet and wilder than usual.  I will not be able for a time to attend this blog as other matters prevail.
I bring a snippet of news of a wonderful journey taken by my youngest son who is hiking the Appalachian Trail.  I had every intention of posting his just short of miraculous hike and the reasons behind it, but that will just have to hold for awhile.  His name is Mathew and I could not be more proud of this young man who has hiked so many difficult mountains in his life and is now applying all that discord and turning it into the trip of his life.  Maybe it will be he in time coming on here, to say just what it was that inspired him to let magic come into his life and what he has discovered, what keeps him going even though he has taken a tumble down a ridge, winding up with some broken toes that he vows- "will not keep him from finishing the trail." God or whoever you deem Him to be and all the magic and goodness of kind thoughts of whoever reads this, be with Mathew.

I'll leave you with this for a time as it speaks so well of a creed that holds faith, hope and communion with each other in the highest form of compassion by simply singing out to each and everyone.

A Good Creed

If any little word of ours
Can make one life the brighter,
If any little song of ours
Can make one heart the lighter,
God help us speak that little word
And take our bit of singing
And drop it in some lonely vale
To set the echoes ringing.

Take care-

Thursday, August 11, 2011

Dear Citizen,

(Prior post, worth pondering again...)
It is entirely up to you how you interpret this photo. The nature lover in me notes it as a message from Mother...

Dear Citizen,
   You seem to have become preoccupied since my last message...are you paying attention?! You of all people, camera in hand, eyes like a near sighted hawk- I've left little notes for you everywhere. Remember the Garter Snake you stepped on just last week? A surprise to you I'm sure, but a note from me none the less.  Take heed! The beauty all around is a gift from me to you and yours, but have you done enough to promote it's significance? 
   The fields are aplenty, but the soil/soul of nature has been neglected and abused. The tiniest of hosts have been starved...the plants, the roots that I have created are in dire need of compassion. The forests, if allowed- will heal themselves, the air and waters too. I have created an ecological model that sustains itself, will right itself in time. However- the good stewards of the land are most appreciated and are indeed needed for their necessary work in feeding their fellow man's heart,spirit and very existence. (The protests though at times seem a bit off the mark. Solutions are needed here...not more fighting.)
   With a higher sense of purpose and above all praise- show the politician, the people, the masses through prose, poetry and pictures like the old masters did; a beauty they may not comprehend.
   It is the heart of the poet that must convey the absolute essential worth of nature. The words must move one from an insincere security to a beautiful truth.
   All one has to do when confronted with beauty is acknowledge with gratitude how restorative to one's soul a mighty oak, a sunset, a Monarch, a tiny frog, a Preying Mantis, a deep lake, a rushing river, a Grizzly Bear, a welcoming wind...truly is.
   Enjoy this day. It is yours as it always has been, to freely do and make of it what you will. I do request with an earnest plea-

Deeply consider the beauty and begin again and again and preserve it.
Thank you,


(T.L Starks 09/01/2008)

Thursday, August 4, 2011

A little sunshine from a sass

I look at all the faces on the shelf and smile.  Such beautiful kind and loving faces, mostly-  and oh the stories they tell!  They all resemble one another a bit and some more than others... 
 Grandma Hope there, leaning on the door smiling and hugging herself a bit around the middle as she so often-ed tickled us with not so nice for young ears jokes.  I loved her.  She was my earliest account of a corker.  She- even in her long and some may say lusty life- partied with Al Capone after picking his ducks free of feathers along side the Illinois River.  It was a well known fact that prohibition prohibited little along the shores of that somewhat wild waterway.

 Grandma and Grandpa, to supplement their sparse income- plucked ducks and geese, cleaned turtles and fish for out of towners.  And speaking of fish, Hope liked to drink.  Not in an alcoholic way- more of a spectator sport way.  She was really good at it.  I can recall in my lifetime and even in her very later years, 90ish...she could really sock them back.  Not beer, no- that was for cheap thrills.  She enjoyed her Wild Turkey and drank it every day.  Followed by a shot of water. "My tonic", she'd say.  She is the only woman I ever knew over 50 who said the "F" word, but only in jokes- still, I was quite taken back.  She'd just slap her knee and laugh.
I tried to see her every so often, just to take her for drives or listen to one of her wonderful stories.  I believe she must have been around 86, nearing her next birthday when I traveled to Browning for a visit.  She decided she'd like to take a drive and so we did.  Very seldom did Grandma wear pants, almost always a "house dress" covered by an apron that would be discarded by the door as she left the house.  On this particular day, she looked quite fetching and felt so, she said.  Oh Grandma!  I thought ice cream should be in order and so she directed me to a little town, several other little towns away so that she might get the best root beer float going.

She had a wonderful way of winking and elbowing you, kind of like a gangster might do-
"Here's the deal chickee, see...we're going to hit the soda shop and show these folks what's up.  Tangle their innards and get 'em laughing, they've all got cobs up their no sees and a little sunshine from a sass like me might do them all good!"

I smile now, but back then- she always made me a bit nervous.  You never knew just what she might say or do...see what I mean by a corker?

I recall driving back home a different route, of course- she had stories for every mile and she was not one for repeating a tale, rescinding certain aspects maybe...  She was never a bore.

As we traveled down the black top, I recall several cars passing and her telling me I better giddyup if I wanted to save face.  So, feeling always a little ornerier in her presence, I pressed down on the accelerator.  

"That's the way chickee, get them coppers wondering what they're up against!"

What a joy, she and I buzzing eight miles over the speed limit, feeling the wind in our hair and just a bit naughty...when, sirens then lights prevailed.  Oh my!  I looked back and sure enough- the dirty coppers were after us.  I looked at my speedometer, I was doing 63 in a 55- shamelessly I might add.  I pulled to the side of the road- hoping that my transgression did not add up to a speeding ticket but maybe just a warning, because those are so much cheaper and I could ill afford a fine.

The dirty copper was a straight laced state trooper and he did not care one iota for my little fairy-tale like story of taking my Grandmother out for a nice drive and ice cream for her birthday.  No heart, just steel ice where it used to be...he asked for my pertinent info and proceeded to write up the ticket.  I just stared ahead and seethed, not noticing yet what was going on in the passenger seat.  My seething turned to shock and disbelief as I noticed out of the corner of my eye a bit more action than decently necessary next door-

"Hey sonny boy..." called Grandma as she proceeded to hitch her skirt up her leg and slowly jerk it a bit, kind of like a tease, exposing her very wrinkled knee. 
 "This is my granddaughter and she is so sweet to take an old lady out for a drive, don't you think?!"  She would look at him and then direct her eyes down to her knee and then up again, real quick- to see if he might follow.
Horrified is not the word best used to describe- well, my absolute breathless shock!  Oh dear, what to do, what to do...
He smiled at least, and shook his head.  Thelma and Louise weren't getting out of a ticket and Louise there was really something to behold.
As he handed me my ticket he said have a nice day or something to that effect.
To Grandma, he leaned in and tipped his hat, giving a quick wink-

"Happy birthday lady, stay out of trouble..."

"You may kiss my ass sonny, don't know what you're missing..."  as she winked back, and jerked her dress back down over her knee- no use wasting flesh on the inhibited.

Long drive home, and she never stopped talking- telling tales that would raise the hair on your toe nails.  I never once thought to question her behavior with the knee exposing, for after all- she was my Grandma Hope, and when she couldn't live up to her name, she never tried to live it down either.

Happy Birthday Elizabeth Hope...I'll never forget you chickee.

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

the unlearning

There is a scripture in the trees,
I have read it.
There is a heaven here, and there...
From what I've seen and haven't seen
From what I've learned and unlearned-
 the unseen is too far
The unlearning is the hardest.

T.L. Starks copyright  2011

Friday, July 15, 2011

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Wherever the sunlight dappled...

Crab Spider 
I just had to share this observation.  I walk around with my camera in hand or in lap, whatever the transportation mode may be at the time of my "ah-hah!"  moments or my "the light, the mist, the moisture that Iris blue sky- grab the camera!" distractions to whatever it is I may be doing at the moment.  Yes, even driving...but only on back roads and only when I'm putting along, ready for that moose to step out or to catch that bear streaking away from a blackberry patch.  Those moments of moving mammals aren't often caught with any great focus other than my absolute shift to awe and wonder, then and only then- does the camera become meaningless and I just mentally make note, or as I like to say- moments like that are carved somewhere within me and I draw upon them when I get to thinking that this old world is such an ugly place sometimes.  (Although, that kind of thinking is pretty fleeting with me and not carved anywhere as I am able to shift away from those dark, dampening spirit thoughts and move directly towards the sunny spots that warm and revitalize.  That's just how I roll people!)
Yoga-like position

So, onto the subject of the matter...Ron Howard's collaboration with his daughter and Canon in an open call to all photographers,( professional and dabblers- like me, to submit theme related photos that basically they're going to be building a movie around-Imagin8tion) really got my juices flowing.  By golly- I was going to get their attention with some fantastic shots or wondrous event unfolding right before my lens...well, that didn't happen- I didn't get their full attention, but no matter!  The thing that caught mine, and is now etched and carved into my wonder vault- was a tiny little creature potentially easily missed and so very well hidden in plain bright sunlight that I almost didn't see her.  And taking the shot was extra difficult, even after adjusting to the bright light and bright pink of the rose she boldly perched herself on- this little Crab Spider, this clever huntress made me stop and really observe.  She sat in sun spots on the rose petal as to camouflage sunlight!
I could have sat there all day, learning from that little lady- watching her make the most out of her brilliant abilities...she mesmerized me and to this day, I'm still caught up in the web-less wonder of it all.

Wherever the sunlight dappled, that's where she fixed herself.

  Deception-"an illusory feat; considered magical by naive observers", that'd be me...

Take care-

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

oh the high hopes...!

Those that till the soil and plant the seed, till the souls too of all who share in the bounty of the garden. 

Oh my, I sure have had a full dose of humanity this week...and tomorrow, it only gets better.

Our first farmers market begins Thursday in Princeton Maine.  Trouble is...not many crops to speak of.  Sure, they're all mostly in the ground, but the ground is boggy, cold and the sun hasn't shined much since...geez, I can't even remember!

I do have a fine crop of fresh photo greeting cards though.  Nothing like waiting until the last minute to get all those finished, but- I was feeling vulnerable.  My heart and soul in those pics, deep and quirky as it may be- will others follow along, see the logic in a tiny frog sitting on a leek?  Or the small spider on a fallen leaf floating down a spring fed brook, brown on brown and yet the light just hitting all the high marks- an arachnid sailor with eight legs and countless eyes; a tiny spectacular bug in all it's brilliance- will that compute?
Whether or not the thought that I put into it leaps off the surface I suppose isn't really important, but the story of why or how or when- that would be plenty to take in and then tell- although I do hope folks will be willing to share some of their Hallmark dollars with me too.

Ahhh, the wondering of it all consumes me- happily I might add.  Well, maybe there is one exception- I have to deal with an insidious sort...all the patience I must bear.  All the tolerance I can stand...  To a point and then, well- that's another vulnerability popping up.  A few people around here are under the impression that I don't get angry, or impatient or wobbling mad.  I'm a champion wobbler, let me tell you!  I get just as balled up as anyone I suppose, though I seldom strike out as it seems to serve no purpose other than my own...and what's the sense in that?   Usually I gather up my camera- mad, glad happy or sad- off I go and find expression in all sorts of landscape and fauna.  I get those pictures downloaded and see just why I took a certain shot.  Only then do I fully understand my motivation- in the light and the dark, the shadows and the shine; always I see that life is composed of opposites.  Pictures tell the story that I could not- in all my humanness, comprehend until the shot was fully exposed.  

So there you have it, a telling of the days and weeks leading up to a tomorrow that so many are looking forward to.  What started with a tiny dream comes to full fruit tomorrow as we give this community something that gathers all the opposites together in what seems to me, a sacred place of opportunity.  Story telling, art, hand crafted Maine-made creations, food- (this our commonest bond) will somehow I hope, blend us all together for a time.  When that first car comes rolling in the parking lot- oh the high hopes we'll all have!
I will have the camera, I will take the pictures, I will historically depict this great day for our little community.  I know it's not Washington crossing the Potomac- but it is a moment in my life I don't want to forget because of it's tiny triumphant message.

"He who digs a well, constructs a stone fountain, plants a grove of trees by the roadside, plants an orchard, builds a durable house, reclaims a swamp, or so much as puts a stone seat by the wayside, makes the land so far lovely and desirable, makes a fortune which he cannot carry away with him, but which is useful to his country long afterwards." 
Ralph Waldo Emerson

Monday, June 6, 2011

Another chicken analogy..

Good morning.  The weather seems to be aligning with farming today, I have half the gardens planted although the peppers and tomatoes are none too happy as the night time temperatures went back into the lower 40's, quite steadily...  We started all of our transplants this year from seed, so I'm especially protective of these plants.  (I have had need to replace Kale with seedlings from local organic farm as something found all my starts delectable.  I think slugs...they got almost all of my broccoli and cabbage too.  I sprinkled wood ash all around the perimeter of these rows and now, no more problems.)

We found out the hard way- chickens don't like their coop all lit up.  When we moved the "snow birds"  back to their winter home from their Florida-like Hoop/Coop, egg production dropped a bit and then we kept finding half eaten eggs in the nests.  I've never had this problem before and couldn't figure out exactly who the culprit(s) were and why- (given that they are extremely well fed with yummy greens to boot), they would eat their eggs!  When they entered their summer home, I thought it best to do some spring cleaning and open up all the doors and windows to the fresh sunshine and breeze!  I took down window and door coverings, turned their laying boxes to face the doors and loaded the cubby holes with extra sweet smelling hay- nice, dry and sunshine!  The stress from the move, their dark hay-bale shelter from the hoop coop was no more, and they proceeded to be like cannibals and eat their own eggs.  (I have noticed as well that it is the chickens who are not laying, the ones with the bright yellow legs, as opposed to the hens with the bleached-out ones, who are the culprits a/k/a soon-to be-Sunday-dinner...)
So, quite by accident the Big Fish was inside the coop, turned the boxes to the wall so he could set a trap and catch the egg eaters one at a time with the only available laying box to the other gals.
Low and behold...a funny thing happened.  When I went to check for eggs, which became a very frequent endeavor as I didn't want to leave free lunches laying around...I heard a fuss coming from the boxes.  My head said don't stick your hand in there, weasel or snake or worse?????!  Like a fool who smells the milk carton even though it expired a month ago- I wiggled my hand down in there anyway.  Two hens were sitting on top of each other with six or so eggs underneath them!
There was only enough room to barely slip a fat hen through between the wall and the box, but by golly- my Houdini hens did it and we have had no more problems.

Egg production is up and consistent, egg eaters are blind in the dark and I have learned a most important lesson-

It is not always in sunshine that we do our best production.  Sometimes it is the dark places we find ourselves in that bring about the restorative balance most needed for a fresh new start.

Another chicken analogy brought to you by a true wonder...and a happy ecstatic egg collector! Take care-

Friday, May 27, 2011

And we who see

Unlearned Lesson

Memorial Day
Of every year
The little valiant
Flags appear
On every fallen
Soldier's grave--
Symbol of what
Each died to save.
And we who see
And still have breath--
Are we no wiser
For their death?

The greatest casualty is being forgotten, learn more-

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

What makes for a vital life?

Rain.  Wind.  Satellite intact still so I'll write here something of what I've learned from April.
Physical pain lasting too long...such a wimp (I have found out).  Not that pain is intolerable, but my actions to keep it from entering my every moment are.  Yikes.  Horrible way to live, not turning one way for fear of bringing about the jolt and then the spasms.  Makes it hell on this farmer to plant these days.  But still, I find I am happy.  Of course I had to first learn to be that way again or rather- choose it.
I think that's how it works.  Choices we have we don't often choose.  We simply accept this is the way it's gonna be for a LONG time.  Oh my, how depressing.  Thankfully, I found a wonderful masseuse and pretty wise human being in Lubec Maine.  She really worked me over.  And told me her story.  She chose and chose and chose all her life, never once settling from what I could concur...hers is a vital life.  I feel sometimes I get stuck in whatever the opposite of vital is- perhaps unnecessary would be the best opposition (or worst) to being vital.  So- leaving just a little bit of room now for the pain, I choose instead to notice that it is getting better.  Diminishing, dissipating and not so near darned depressing.
I'm such a physical gal, always have been.  It's been a difficult bumpy ride, trying not to hurt more than necessary.   But I hung with it after visiting that hopeful therapist, because she in fact did give me that more than a rub- hope.  Didn't even realized how much I needed it.  Thank goodness for those sweet champions out there who dole it out thick when we forget just how it's done.

And speaking of champions...perhaps visiting the Veterans Hospital yesterday with the Big Fish really made the choosing hope, vitality over despair and depression much easier.  First there was the fellow who hopped and slid , hopped and slid down the hallway into our waiting room.  On crutches, wearing plaid, suspenders and a gigantic smile.  See...that's the thing that gets me, inspires me- how the heck does he smile?  We thought he just refused to use a wheelchair.  Nope.  "Still got one good leg, the other's fake.  If I sit down, I always wonder if I'm going to get up...and I always do."  Smile.  I just sat there but everything in me wanted to bolt from my chair and hug him, thank him...for being so sunny when clearly, it rained often for him.

And then sitting again (one does alot of sitting in those clinics- but only because so many are being served, so it is an honor to just sit and wait with the best of them....) in the pharmacy waiting for the Big Fishes RX.  Wheels, I heard them before I saw them- they whisked like push, slide- push ,slide as his hands did the work his legs used to.  On the wheels was a man, gray headed and bearded, thin yet lovely in a graceful way.  I know...odd description, but I was taken with his beauty.  He shined.  On me.  Looked right at me for what seemed too long, I looked down- then up again and the smile just grew gentler.
Pleased to make your acquaintance.
Yours too.
Off he rolled, lovely as ever though never would he walk again.  It only seemed to make him more beautiful and almost, I swear- almost out of doors, he talked so much with those hands and arms I wondered- could he fly?  He saw me looking through the large plate glass window at him, almost as if he knew I was taking him and his every move into consideration.  Again, that lovely smile towards me and then finally out, into the world.
What makes for a vital life?  Do you know?  Can you add anything to your own or others that might bring that vitality about?
I aim to get right on it after this post.  My own life needs shined up a bit.  So that others might see in me that same kind of beauty, vitality- like the man on the wheels who made me believe he just might fly some day.
Take care-

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

unfolding the green

Earth, my dearest, I will. Oh believe me, no more

of your springtimes are needed to win me over--, one,

ah, a single one, is already too much for my blood!  Rainier Maria Rilke

Cool blue morning-North Conway, NH
 Are you still visiting this all too often quiet blog?  It is a reflection of it's owner as I have been pretty quiet and consciously busy.  Not in a rip roaring way but in a steady kind of pace, following the seedlings.  I've had a post whiplash headache, every morning I wake up and hope it's gone.  Still here, but getting softer, more tolerable.  It's making me patient.  I hate that.  Who wants to be patient?!  The new plants require it.  The day to day weather of my Downeast home site teaches it most, I can put up a fuss and be beside my self with worry or I can simply enjoy this pace as I know too well how quickly it will pick up.
Cute kid
 A friend called upon me last week to visit another friend's farm with her, see the new faces there.  Before I left, the Big Fish was adamant...and really pretty hasty with his command- "NO GOATS!"
Goats?  Who said anything about goats dear man, I was only going to go and see, take pics and revel in the sunshine.  Pee-shaw- goats, isn't he silly?!  (I'm working on him, believe you me....)
Irving, do you hear that??
Maude, you're driving me insane- it's too early I tell you!
 And, Moosehorn Wildlife Refuge requires my utmost attention these days...the eagles are patiently waiting, I often find both of them on the nest as of late.  I neglect to bring my tripod, although the camera is always ready to take these fuzzy but telling shots.
First volunteer of Spring
 There is still snow in our woods, I can see it from the deck- although that doesn't seem to stop the little volunteers from flowering, what a happy sight to see!
Pussy Willows~fuzzy jewels of Spring
 I remember back in Illinois trying to get these things to grow in my woodlot.  No such luck, ever.  Here in Maine- pussy willows grow everywhere and in New Hampshire too as this is where I took this photo on a recent hike.
Seed Shack getting a bit crowded
 I love my seed shack.  I'm like a little kid, having to be called in to supper about nine times!  The only reason there is a post today- ran out of transplanting pots...

Spring brook in banks of snow
And finally, something new my eyes have to adjust to, time and time again- more awe.  Traveling the woods- walking, trudging sometimes through snow then mud, sometimes bogs that aren't quite at their boggy best yet...then to come upon a spring-fed brook, further into the season than it's banks.  Even the trees are slowly, gently- all along it's borders, unfolding the green while the snow and ice retreat, little by little backing away until winter cries surrender and spring triumphantly takes the crown of the season.

Right now, as I type this...and it is a wonder that the satellite holds as it is spitting little frozen icy balls outside, I still feel Springs tightening grip around the throat of winter.  Last week, it was foggy weeping for the old man, this week- the last tantrum?  an icy mix..

"..blow north wind, ice come raining down- today, I'm breaking the waves...tomorrow maybe too."

Here's to spring and sunshine.  Let the winter ways pass, I am ready for IT!
Take care~

Monday, April 4, 2011

that eternal bubbling

A heavy crop of snow.
Once again the blog is the last thing on my mind, but I do want you to know that as I wander and work, my camera is always with me.  I capture this and that with the good intention of turning it into a blog post.  For instance, this pic is from my walk on Saturday morning- after Mother Nature thought it would be cute to dump 14 inches of snow on us as an April Fool's joke.  This poor little guy wasn't laughing-

A mighty little force of nature.
He was on my trail, in a rut as deep as a railroad tie- how something so fragile, so tiny could survive a snow storm in Maine and remain intact is another great mystery I hope I never solve.  I picked him up quite gingerly, my heart sank as I figured he was as good as dead- but apparently the warmth of my hand was all he needed to revive.  I placed him inside my coat and turned around early from my walk- I needed to get this little fellow into my warm seed shack until Spring really came for him.  Just as I rounded the bend on the lane, up and out he fluttered- to an old dead Birch tree near my mailbox- maybe the loosened bark on that tree would serve a cocoon like purpose.  It still amazed me, the whole small experience of finding a butterfly in April in Maine in a foot of snow....
Raised beds in the hoop house- snow bank outside.

And those seeds started in the seed shack in March in Maine are now doing quite well.  We have 31 flats started and are fixing to start about 20 more if I can make more room.  The Asian greens are already to be put into a colder climate as well as some turnips I started- I know, I know but I can't help my self.  I'm a Midwesterner by birth and now is the time to plant this stuff!  Last year at a market I sell at, some folks thought I was a witch or something- bringing greens and radishes to fruit too early for mere mortals- nah, I just don't know any better.   What's a little snow or frost- that's what they make plastic blankets and straw for.                                                                                                                                                           

I haven't had the best of luck recently- on a beautiful perfect day I wrecked my truck.  Blueberry pie went flying, accelerator had a mind of it's own and frost heaves in the road set it all in motion.  I hurt my pride and my shoulder but all else worked out.  Although- take this to heart and heed it from someone who wished they had.- 
If you get a recall on your vehicle- do as it says.  I just received mine in the mail two days prior to the accident- it encouraged me to remove the floor mat- this encouragement I did not read until after the wreck.  If only...

Well, that's just about it in a nutshell- seeds are started, more work to do there.  Snow is covering this lovely land but surely will recede soon when the temps hit the 50 mark, as they are rumored to do come midweek.
Guineas do not like the white stuff.
I hope your Spring is bringing that eternal bubbling about in your veins, may you feel looser, may you be free to wander and wonder at the small things bursting through the earth just at your feet.  Something in that tiny stem excavates a person's soul from the deep, cold trenches of winter- the thaw begins as light reaches in and all is made anew once more.  
Take care-

Monday, March 21, 2011

The Little Starts

Follow effective action with quiet reflection. From the quiet reflection will come even more effective action. --James Levin

~Garden Stakes~
The Big Fish and I have been busy...

We have recently collaborated in our slow-dance-two-step-honky-tonk-bluesy-sway way, and built a seed shack.
  I am the frugal farmer and  he- the techno toy boy;  you don't have to spend money if you take the time to innovate and expand an idea with materials at hand versus install fans, run electricity and make sure it's all on the level.
So- we take the best of both worlds, lay it out and intertwine a design that is efficient, cheap, and maybe a little bit crazy though mostly- sustainable.

Hoop house, seed shack, new kitchen in the works...I don't ask for these things.  He simply listens.  I talk too much at times...(dreaming out loud) and he listens equally as much- somehow, we have become quite in tune with one another,  I am spoiled now too.  Not like a bad egg but like a good pile of compost- broke down in such a way that deep in the center there seems to be something remarkable and useful in keeping our union quite fertile.  He finds me amazing at times, the feeling is there any other joy that matches the art of a relationship that is both reciprocal and amazing?!

I come from a place way back when, where dreams were kept stifled and still.  Now I dance.  In the seed shack.  The Big quiet Fish smiles shyly and eventually gets up from his listening post- and we waltz, forgetful of the crooked, potholed roads we both have traveled, of world hunger and sadness- amnesia sets in and there we twirl in the center of the universe.

~Sweet Guy~

The seeds we plant may not make up for quakes, for seas sweeping in and taking more than is humanly bearable, but the little starts- the first true leaves of a new tiny creation here, seems a solid investment for a hopeful future.

 I cannot control the climate in the universe- but I can somewhat right here, right now- control the garden given me to tend.
Pocket Knife Seeding Method

Seeds of life and seeds of dreams- at least, it is something more than a chance or twist or a quake- it is a choice made daily to grow flowers and fruit; to hold up my end and if need be, take up the slack where so many who suffer through no fault of their own- have lost their grip.

Take care-

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Made To Shine

In the heavens among clouds, stars are being born,
Nearby in a neighboring land, children are being lost. 
Deep in the darkest corners of space, suns become bound together.
And in sad cities, childhood itself becomes lost.

 by Yosl Kurland from Prayer For Bosnia copyright 1995

They were arguing, the two young men blocking my path to the escalators.  It was not apparent at first, that they were even friends.
"Excuse me...."
"OH, sorry lady, sorry..."
They immediately moved aside as I began my upward climb with a very heavy green case, a half empty water bottle fixing to fall out of a way too cumbersome bag filled with camera, books and a lighter than I started with, wallet.   The escalator rose with me, the young men and several other nondescript travelers.  It was late.  I should have gotten into the Boston station from Chicago by 9:30 PM, instead- eleven.  Great.  I missed my connection and no more buses or trains would be leaving out towards Portland Maine until the early AM.  This is where the young men and their argument came into play.  They had a ticket they needed to sell, as Portland was not where they intended to go together.  One guy was heading in the opposite direction of his buddy and due to circumstances- they decided it best for the broken hearted one- not to be left alone.  
The ticket seller would not adjust the ticket, refund the money or listen whatsoever to the two young men.  I had nothing more to go on, so I opted not to buy their ticket- matter of fact, it was time I estimated- to just sit and gather my self and the information at hand before I decided to buy any ticket anywhere.

The broken hearted guy was tearful.  But he was very tough so it was exceptionally hard on him to cry or not cry- no emotional in bursts or outbursts no sirree- be tough.  Be a man.  Learn from your friend that you just met at the station- "Your sister won't be here to collect you, man....  I don't know how to tell you this...I'm so sorry.  Your baby died."

That was the argument early on, in front of the escalators, remember?  The heart breaker was giving a message that the heart broken could not, would not bear.   Apparently he had just come out of rehab after several months.  Seems he had a choice back then- jail or get your self dried up.  He chose the latter, but before he left- he hugged his new infant son, made promises to him that his own father never kept in all of his life and went away to get better.   He came home to Boston.  To a new life.  To a cold new beginning.  

I learned that his mother was homeless, raised him mainly homeless, she was a heroine addict or whatever she could get and yet, he loved her and respected her.  
She had no choice.  The father early on made a waste out of her and the son just hung on as the Dad eventually took his own life after inflicting much pain and homelessness on his little follower family.
Yeah...this is a sad story.  Trouble is, it's true.  The heart broken guy, only 17.  The heart breaker friend, a bit older and loyal as anyone I suppose, the heart broken guy had ever known.  

"I don't care about the ticket, you need to go back to Portland."
"No man...I'm not leaving you now.  My sister said she'll come tomorrow to help us.  I'm staying..."
"Why?  What's the point?  I don't want to live.  Why would I want to live now?  I'd jump in that harbor but it's so fucking cold, and I've been cold all my fucking life and I just don't want to end cold..."  And he sobbed then.  He broke.  And I was there.  And all I could do was not break too.

"I'm so sorry, take my hand..."
"What the fuck lady, get away from me...leave me alone, God dammit!"
"Please, accept my hand, I don't know what to do for you...hold it.  Take it, tell me..."

His friend intervened and that is how we sat with him, in between us- just like that.

So- that's the story of how I spent the last night of my journey home.  In a Boston bus station.  Holding a young guys hand.  For several hours.  That's all I could do and it was all the warmth I guess, he could take.  But he let me.  His friend sat on the other side of him, in silence- sometimes he'd look at me and I'd look at him and we knew between the two of us was heaven and hell battling it out in a young- too too young soul.
Did I mention this heart broken guy was beautiful as I had ever seen?  Raw, yes.  Broken, oh my God...  Capable of moving past the instant sorrow on top of the life ladened with it?  I tell you, I just don't know.  I may never know. He held my hand and I held his and that's just about all any of us can do I suppose, in a bus station, in Boston where the marble floors are made to shine but people, homeless, hopeless people- shine just as much with a whole lot less care and attention.

I should have given that young man my number.  I should have said- "Call me, let me know how your life is going...I want to know."
But instead, I left him with this-
"I don't know what to say, I'm sorry.  You don't deserve it.  Listen to your friend, he cares for you.  Don't be alone..."
"What should I do?  What do I do, tell me...."

"The next right thing,"  I said, " And then the next right thing after that."

As vague as that statement was, I could not say to him in all honesty- I don't know.  He may have been hopeless for much and most and maybe all of his life...but, I am not.  And someone I remembered, once said that to didn't seem at the time a loving thing to hear, or even navigational for that matter- but in times of great despair, the truth is all that one can hear- even in simple terms as "the next right thing."  Basic instinct tells us, for survival sake- what the next right thing is that keeps us alive and moving out of harm's way.  That young man was not open to any blatant fairy tale or triumphant message from me or anyone- but he did hear that low down honest one.  He did. 

The next right thing then for me, was to write this story and tell his side.  So maybe, just maybe some day- someone might read it and remember that being indifferent, blind to suffering while we rail against traffic lights and Charlie Sheen's behavior- is not the next right thing.  It's not even close.

  From where I sit, under my stable roof and blue sky above with a fire burning not eight feet away warming me almost too much to the point of being uncomfortable...well, I truly don't know what that is, uncomfortable.  I know hope and beauty and see no reason beyond this moment to ever cry about anything, but instead be oh so grateful that I did not end up in that middle seat.

His name is Steven- he could use our prayers.
Thank you.  Take care-

*I met  Yosl/Joe Kurland on the train from Boston to Chicago...he sang for me in the great shiny hall of Union Station and taught me a bit of Yiddish and stories that perhaps made me more open to that young man in the Boston station.
He reminded me of a saying I had come upon years back-

“It is not your obligation to complete the work [of perfecting the world], but neither are you free to desist [from doing all you can do]…”.

Yosl Kurland