First Salad

Cutting Salad and Radishes. Crisp and just arriving.

Today we had some sun and warmth; May is variable in New England and this week was chilly, so it was nice to see the sun. I wandered out to the garden with a hand trowel and a few zucchini plants I bought at our friends’ farmstand up in Stowe, dug out some compost from the bottom of the pile to mix into the garden bed, and popped them in to the soil. Hallelujah.

There’s something really calming about gardening. If you let yourself just be present for it, it has a therapeutic affect. Since starting a new job last June I’ve been pretty fully immersed. I work long days– from home, luckily — and thoughts about work creep into the hours I’m not working. But when I’m in the garden the smell of the soil and fragrant flowers, the sound of the birds and the breeze in the leaves of trees, and the feeling of my hands in the dirt has a way of holding my full attention.

Today it was just me and my son Tristan at home. He has a summer class this evening (calculus, which, it turns out, is better to take when you don’t have other classes competing for your attention and energy) and when he spotted the radishes I brought in he selected the largest one and popped it into his mouth. When he was young I grew radishes on a tiny plot we had at an apartment we were renting– two squares of the garden in the backyard came with the Cambridge apartment. It had raised beds and walkways made of brick. Tristan would pull the radishes I grew out of the ground and eat them before I could wash them. It was pretty great.

So now, about 18 years later he’s still eating the radish I grow. There’s something very cool about that.

Radish and rhubarb this week

A couple of weeks ago the radish and lettuce looked like this …

radish in the left row and cutting salad on the right

With so little in the world to feel sure about, the idea that I can grow radishes year after year gives a certain comfort. I think it’s comforting to Tristan, too.

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April Fools

Crocus and violas. Harbingers of spring.

Yesterday Inga texted to tell me she was in trouble at school and the principal was really mad at her. I didn’t panic but my heart sunk thinking of her in principal Bottomly’s office, missing class. I texted back “what happened?” Fortunately she didn’t leave me worrying for long before declaring the text an April fools joke.

I won’t write much here tonight except to note that along with April fools the crocus came and went, the chives are up. It’s amazing how plants that are so tender can weather 17 degree nights like the ones we had this week.

Chive emerging in spring

The hellebore are blooming. They are absolutely gorgeous. The photo here is from the last week in March:

nodding hellebore – spring beauty

The garlic and rhubarb, likewise, have emerged and the peonies, hyacinth, and bergamot are just starting to reach up through last year’s fallen leaves. I can’t wait for the lilacs to bloom. AND we’ve been getting eggs for weeks. 4 today.

We stopped over at the local feed store and they had adorable chicks for sale. It was so tempting to bring some home; Jon remarked it is rather cruel of them to leave such irresistible chicks right by the door, impossible to pass by them without cooing and having to fight an urge to scoop one up.

Spring!

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Snowdrops. Finally spring!

It was a kind of magic to wake this morning to the site of grass and the earth uncovered. When the sun set last night everything was still covered in snow.

But even more magical today were the snowdrops.

snowdrops emerging after the snow has melted in Massachusetts

Over breakfast I told Jon that I was going to go out to look for them today. He said – ‘Really? We had snow on the ground until last night. Do you think there will be any?

Well… yes! I did find one just emerging in the lawn this morning. And during our afternoon walk – voila! Jon actually spotted them first.

For me, these are the first true sign that spring is here.

I’ve recently begun to ask myself what one thing I can do to make myself happy today and making an effort to do that thing. This morning the answer was to take the time to go out and look for snow drops.

On the way back toward the house I passed the kitchen garden and noticed the first chive shoots are reaching up out of the ground … freshly clipped chive with scrambled eggs! And the hellebore are pushing up and unfolding. I can’t wait to see them.

It’s exciting to think I’ll be turning compost into my spring garden beds and planting lettuce and radish in a month or so…

chive along the kitchen pathway, 2021

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Love in the Air

the kitchen door – ready for valentines day

Winter is well and truly here at the farm, just in time for spring!. Today we are having a blizzard – gusts of wind up to 60 mph, snow flying. The birds are hiding, everything has disappeared under a blanket of white.

But the girls started laying this week. I found two frozen eggs on Thursday, a reminder that the old calendar of holidays was in tune with things. We are coming up on Imbolg, the old pagan celebration of light and fertility- our first sight of spring. The chickens know it. And of course seeds start to stir around this time in the northern hemisphere because the days are lengthening. It’s time to start thinking about this year’s garden.

Asparagus. Strawberries, Rhubarb… all perennials that will emerge this spring. The garlic I planted last fall – too early, I think; planted in early October and was sprouted and starting to grow before the temps turned consistently cold – we will see how it fares.

seed catalogs and the fireplace- Imbolg in New England

And what happened with the food as medicine experiment, you ask? It was a success, even in the face of starting a demanding new job in June. It was successful not because of the diet, but because I engaged my own intuitive healing. Seeing Henri and changing my eating habits was a turning point; I realized more concretely than I had before that my state of mind was driving everything: what I saw and experienced — and my health. I realized I have the power and responsibility to change what I focus on. I wound up returning to a more “regular” diet, cutting back on dairy and wheat, and taking up a daily meditation and yoga practice. The result: my hypertension is much better (not gone, yet, but I’m optimistic it will fully resolve with more meditation :-), and my arthritic ankle is much better and still improving. I’m looking forward to a year in the garden on it.

today’s view from the farm “keep”

May the white goddess bless you with sweet dreams.

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Food as Medicine. I’m Living it.

Blueberries, nuts, avocados, bananas … Some of the things I can have on the elimination diet

Last week I went to see Henri Balaguera, who is a doctor of functional medicine (he is also a traditional doctor of western internal medicine). It seems everyone I know has heard of functional medicine. Before this appointment, I hadn’t; I was there on a referral from my husband Jon, who knows Henri from the Lahey Clinic, where they work together.

Luckily, there were leaflets in the waiting room so that I could familiarize myself with what might happen after I entered Henri’s office.

Henri spent a few hours with me, talking first about my familial relationships before discussing my symptoms, which include an arthritic ankle, hypertension, back pain, and episodes of depression. What struck me was how much time Henri spent talking to me about my relationships and how they affect me. His intuition, together with an obviously genuine interest in helping me heal and a kind of wisdom I don’t often encounter made the appointment not just affecting… it was life changing.

So much so that I went there saying “I won’t be doing any crazy diet or changing what I eat. I eat a very healthy diet.”

And here I am changing what I eat. The reason for this is simple. Henri diagnosed me with dysbiosis and increased intestinal permeability. That translates to leaky gut syndrome. Not arthritis. It was like getting a new lease on life.

And he is confident that once I deal with my leaky gut my arthritis will cease to plague me. He also mentioned I had some work to do on my relationships and that my spirituality, which for so many years was a bigger part of my life, needs to take priority. He thinks my hypertension will benefit from this advice since my anxiety will decrease with a more accepting perspective on the things that people close to me do and have done.

Functional medicine is a kind of holistic medicine, so Henri was treating all of me. Not just my hypertension and my ankle, though he assures me both will benefit from a few adjustments to my habits and habits of mind.

wilted spinach and garlic over brown rice pasta with kalamata olives, red pepper flakes, and olive oil.

So far, it’s been 5 days. I have given up coffee, wine, gluten, dairy, sugar, eggs … there has been a great deal of complaining and whining. Jon jokes that we are eating twigs. He has decided to do the diet with me and has not complained. I am doing all of the complaining for both of us.

A few days in, I have more energy, I feel lighter, and the pain in my back seems to have stopped. My ankle still bothers me and my blood pressure is still up. But it’s only day 5.

Our cat Gray in the garden by the birdhouse, where good food can be found.

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First CSA share of the year

Today we picked up our first organic share (Upswing Farm, Pepperell, MA – they have a pickup in Holliston, God bless them). We got Bok Choy, lettuce, parsley, arugula, and spinach. I am psyched.

I fished out an old recipe for soy-orange glazed salmon that uses Bok Choy in the vegetable fried rice and cut some chive from our garden in lieu of the spring onions and away we go.

Meanwhile, out in the garden, the snap peas are emerging, the lettuce is growing, the asparagus is still coming in and the beets are up.

As if that wasn’t enough to celebrate, I hatched an idea for what to do with extra pot seeds I accidentally ordered. I can sell my extra plants! I’m not sure that’s entirely legal but I got more seeds than I meant to and what I am going to do with them? Seems sad to waste them and it’s not like I will really use all 12 plants. And being me of course they are germinated and growing. Hopefully I’ll find buyers. 🙂

And today was actually a tree planting day here. We lost a whole line of conifers during a microburst a couple of years ago and finally got around to picking out some replacements. It turns out our warmer winters have been challenging cold-loving trees that have traditionally done okay here – like the gorgeous Colorado spruce, for instance. So the awesome perennial people at Weston Nurseries (a nursery local to us) recommended an alternative – Frazier Fir – and we picked a traditional (read giant) rhododendron and male and female winterberry shrubs to feed the birds to complete the area. They arrived today and they look beautiful out in the west field. I am sure our neighbor is happy — while we like each other it’ll be nice to have our trees back.

Happy Tuesday everyone!

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Spring Food and Blooms

Asparagus is ready to pick in Massachusetts

Spring is well and truly here. We brought in our first asparagus this week, the hyacinth, tulips, forget-me-nots, and daffodils are blooming, and the swiss chard and broccoli are growing happily. I can cut chives for my scrambled eggs and have asparagus from the garden for dinner.

There’s a sense that you are witnessing a miracle when the asparagus appears. Food that emerges, year after year, and can be snapped off and popped into your mouth. There’s little else in life that is so easy and delicious. And the way they push through the ground, one spear at a time, is truly a visual marvel. My first reaction when I saw asparagus growing out of the ground was: “really? I can eat that?”

tulips, forget me nots

This year, though, I found myself reflecting on how planning, patience, and a small amount of relaxed acceptance really paid off. Planning the garden, planting, and letting go of expectations resulted in a mellow kind of waiting that ended with spring colors appearing all around. It could have gone differently. Maybe I wouldn’t have had so many blooms or the deer might have eaten every tulip the day they bloomed. Happily, though, the gardens are beautiful.

Not everything has been so care free and delightful, though. I set out some borage one day and came back to … nothing. Thanks to the rabbits. Same thing with the bachelor’s buttons. So I’m thinking pots for peppermint because it’s invasive, and pots (elevated) for everything the rabbits like, too. Professional-speak words like “pivot” and “adapt” come to mind, but so does a picture of Bill Murray from Caddyshack. 🙂

hyacinth

As we wait for our second wave of spring flowers, like the bleeding hearts below, I’m still nursing basil and hot pepper seedlings, and watching the weather forecast for frost…


bleeding heart buds … the flowers will be spectacular

…and reflecting on how patience isn’t just one of those virtues people admire, it comes with rewards.

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April (Snow) Showers

Tulips in the snow

So much for April showers. We got snow in Massachusetts today which, while unseasonable, isn’t exactly shocking. We’ve had snow storms for Halloween, too.

At this moment, the lettuce, radishes, swish chard, and broccoli are looking a bit beaten down out in the garden. The few flowers I planted and covered are smooshed but alive, and the flowers I brought in are cozy. The temps never dipped below freezing and we have a fire. Lucky us.

But this just goes to show you that mother nature likes a joke now and then. Strings of days over 70 with sun … who can resist going to the garden center and bringing home some new lovelies … ? … and then a little mid-April wind and snow to keep us on our toes and out of the garden.

Fortunately I had some old sheets nearby to cover everything with when the snow started. I’m not sure it was truly necessary but I think it helped rescue a few blooms that would have otherwise been doomed, and my husband looked very cute out there trying to make a tent with one of his tarps over the new english daisies. You don’t see that every day. 🙂

As I write this, a couple of hours later, the snow has disappeared leaving us with a dreary but unfrozen landscape. The sheets and specially-engineered tarp tent are off the garden and everything is waiting for some sun to cheer things up.

Spring flowers cozy inside

The forecast has two more snowflakes (days with snow predicted) over the next week – this, after weeks in late March and early April with no frost. I’m pretty sure there’s no moral to the story other than keep a sense of humor, don’t throw old sheets away, and keep an eye on the forecast.

watering can for flowers and vegetables sits behind a stone sculpture of 3 birds, with a "welcome" sign, covered with sone
the potting shed, it’s watering can and welcome sign.. under a layer of snow.

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Harnessing Dark Moon Energy

A new moon reminder on my desktop.

I’ve kept a stickie by my computer monitor for years that says: New Moon. Let Go, Declutter, Sleep.

The descending dark moon is a good time for letting go of the things that are “eating” at us, aren’t benefiting us, or are creating noise and clutter around us; it’s a little like cleaning out a backpack or purse. There’s the opportunity for unloading, for unburdening, and with that, a potential for rest.

I think of harnessing the energy of moon tides as paddling downstream instead of across or upstream – working with the tide encourages ease and success. In the case of the waning new moon, releasing, reflecting as appropriate, and resting.

On the flip side of the waning dark moon is the new waxing moon – a good time to set a new intention or make a new beginning. They kind of go together since letting go of something creates an open space. And since nature abhors a vacuum, it’s best to decide what you want to fill the space with … and then the waxing crescent is for planting seeds (intentions or actual seeds!). And so on.

For me this year I chose to release some old “shoulds” that clutter up my thinking. They are like rocks under my carpet, creating a tripping hazard. Every time my mind settles on a “should” it means I am not present for the moment or for what needs doing right now. So they are out. bam. Released into the receding tide of dark moon energy. Just like that.

a south-facing new moon altar

As we begin our ascent out of a dark pandemic winter, sowing early spring vegetables and visiting garden centers (yes! woohoo!) a glance back in time has me feeling grateful for spring, for lengthening days, for the vaccine, and for the earth, rain, and sun that will nurture my gardens this year. So that’s my new moon intention.

Seedlings … herbs and flowers … spring fever at the farm!

So … a couple of last little notes about the new moon: It rises around sunrise and sets around sunset. We can’t see it because it’s between the Earth and the Sun, and the dark side of the moon is facing us.

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Hemp Seedlings for CBD oil

hemp plants in a south facing windowsill

Years ago I was involved in a motorcycle accident. It was just after my 21st birthday and what started as a lovely autumn cruise turned into an accident that left me with a compression fracture in my back, three breaks in my pelvis, and a shattered right ankle. It could have been worse! The person driving the bike skillfully put us down into the side of the car tires first, rather than colliding with the car, which hadn’t seen us.

Some years later, I do an awful lot of yoga and have tried various pain relief for the arthritis that has developed in my poor little ankle.

I’ve found CBD taken sublingually and applied as a topical oil are the best natural remedies. So, I started making my own since it’s expensive!

Last year I ordered 10 seeds from ilgm.com, managed to germinate 4 under a grow light in the early spring, and away I went on my adventure, growing the hemp alongside my other spring seedlings:

seedings, hemp plants are in front, dwarfed by tomatoes

As you can see from this photo, my hemp plants were dwarfed by the brandywine tomatoes that are right behind them in this picture. I didn’t know much about nutrients or hemp, but they grew and flowered anyway. They were forgiving.

I put these little guys in a sunny spot in my vegetable garden. They didn’t grow much, it turned out the roots were so developed by the time I brought them out that they filled the pots they were in, and when I put them in the ground they didn’t spread out. Also, they were also competing with squash. I know. It sounds silly but I put the plants in there together and let nature take its course.

I decided to clip the flowers when my son, who knows about marijuana, advised me that the flowers should be harvested NOW. So I did, hanging them to dry after clipping off a few leaves under his direction, and after they were dry I “processed” them.

Processing, it turns out, is very simple. You “decarboxylate” the flowers in an oven at a low temp for 35 -60 minutes at about 280 degrees Fahrenheit. After that I put them into a jar, covered them with olive oil, and left them sit for 6-8 weeks. I see lots of websites suggest using a precision cooker or crock pot. I didn’t.

Hemp marinating in oil

When the time passed I strained the oil out of the hemp et voila! CBD oil.

This year I bought more seeds and am growing a bunch of plants to make into oil. It’s easy to do and I really enjoy growing the plants themselves. They are cute, and they become big and impressive if you care for them properly, so I’ll give them their own garden bed this year. 🙂

If you want to give making oil a try or have questions please feel free to get in touch!

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