Sunday, September 23, 2007

Quick Thoughts

Today was Saturday, Farmers Market Day. A bit tough getting back into the routine, even though we only laid off for a week, due to fall sheep shearing last Saturday (which turned out to be rainy--a good market to miss, if we had to miss one. No soggy gear to deal with.)

But Emily and I both got up on time, prepared ourselves, loaded the truck, and were on the road even a couple minutes before our "drop-dead" time. If we arrive at market after a certain time, the barricades may be up, and we may have to carry in all our gear by hand. I was mentally patting us on the back when I heard that sound...

...that sound that you INSTANTLY recognize, even if you've never heard it before: the sound of the tailgate of the truck suddenly voluntarily flinging itself open, mid-turn, and strewing cargo across a busy intersection.

The thoughts that go through one's mind at times like that are a good measure of maturity and spiritual growth--kind of like a pop quiz spring on us by God, the universe and everything. And, I think I passed the quiz.

"Gee, I'm glad there's so little traffic on this highway at 6:30 a.m. on a Saturday."

"Well, it's just the potatoes, not the spinning wheel or the canopy [both high-dollar items that could take weeks to replace]. It WOULD be the purple ones...."

"If only I'd checked the tailgate after Emily closed it--but I saw her check it. It could have happened to me, just as easily. I hope she doesn't think I'm angry at her."

"Poor Ann Marie put so much work into washing those potatoes while I was driving the bus yesterday--I feel so bad that her work was for naught."

"Thank goodness the ice chest lid and the buckets weren't damaged. It's the best ice chest I have right now, and we're short on those square buckets as it is."

And last but not least, "This is going to seem pretty funny in hindsight." I heaved a sigh, and made up my mind to let it start being funny as soon as possible.

I stopped the truck, and Emily walked back to salvage the equipment off of the highway while I rounded up all the potatoes that were loose in the truck bed. With the tailgate secured and double-checked, we went on to market. Fortunately the barricades weren't up yet, and we were able to drive in.

By the time we finished setting up the booth, half a dozen other little things had happened. Vendors' tables blocking the driveway. Our neighbor's chili roaster throwing bits of chili skin on the table where I planned to display my handspun knit items. Dropping things. Losing things.

The visual image of potatoes strewn across the highway was already beginning to look pretty amusing, in hindsight. I did keep having this nagging thought about getting a ticket for littering, or causing a fatal accident from a vehicle skidding on those yummy little new potatoes, as round as ball bearings.

"One of us should go home and get a broom and go sweep up the highway," I said. Another funny mental image. Emily volunteered to go.

"Thank you for not killing me," she said later.

Well, if there's no use crying over spilt milk, I guess there's no use getting too upset about spilt potatoes.

And when I talked to Ann Marie about it later, she said HER first thought was, "oh, poor Natalya put so much work into digging those potatoes--I feel so bad that her work was for naught."

Saturday, September 22, 2007

Growing Pains

A week ago, I harvested the remains of some beds of potatoes. Under the remnants of spring's heavy mulch, the soil was surprisingly moist considering the lack of rainfall and high temperatures for anumber of weeks. Moist enough, in fact, to plant seeds for fall salad crops (lettuce, carrots, kale, chard, turnips, etc.) with considerable hope (remember, we don't do ANY irrigation at Pinwheel Farm). But likewise, dry enough to be a real pain to dig the potatoes. The fork had to be worked into the soil inch by inch, through slow patient rocking, and then levered, and then beaten into manageable clods. Oh, my aching back!

We've had 3 inches of rain in the last three days. Digging potatoes today was a different matter: easy to put the fork in the ground and turn the earth, more laborious to wipe the mud from the potatoes. Yet by the grace of our incredible soil, it DID wipe off, and it WASN'T too muddy to work up a good enough seed bed to sow beets, cilantro, and dill.

Trade-offs. Part of growing, whether growing vegetables, growing a farm, or growing a community. Digging first, then sowing seeds, then waiting to see what further work is needed.

The visiting Christian brothers, Ezra and David, have been working on resurrecting the hoop-house style barn that has been coverless and derelict for three years now. Each week, they've made some progress at preparing to rebuild: loading scrap metal to haul to the recyclers, piling rotten wood to be burned, tearing off damaged portions of the building. Finally it was time to buy new wood, to finalize the design for the restructuring, and to build the new post and beam framework that will support the arched roof supports and help the roof shed water properly.

In the effort to coax one particular original post back into alignment, it snapped at the base: thoroughly rotten, the only one apparently in that condition. Well, that's a blessing--that all the posts aren't rotten. So they set about to dig up the old post in order to set a new one. And dug, and dug, and dug...

It turns out THAT, of all posts, was the one where we just couldn't seem to get the original hole in the right place. So the hole ended up being a good 18" in diameter for its entire 4' depth. By that point we'd gotten into a good rhythm with mixing our own concrete from sand, gravel, and portland, one garden cart at a time, and we had the materials in abundance, so we just filled the hole with concrete.

David and Ezra can attest to the strength of our conrete mix: it laughed at their attempts to reduce its bulk with pick and sledge. After a day's labor with ropes, chains, 4" x 4" levers, blocks, barrels, and jacks, they managed to hoist it out of the hole. Leaving...a huge hole to refill inch by inch, tamping all the way, only to dig a new post hole. AND a 4' long concrete "log" with corners squared off enough to keep it from being rolled along the ground. We all agreed it would make an interesting bench outside the barn...a reminder of the folly of considering any construction permanent and final. I'm further convinced that all building should be done repair and, ultimately, removal in mind...just as planting should consider the eventual removal of the crop.

Together the 6 of us at the farm (myself, housemate/fellow bus driver Emily, and the four Christian brothers and sisters) work through the growing pains of becoming a community. For me, the resident expert on the operation of this particularly farm and household, the main labor is answering questions. At first, I thought there would be a gradual lessening of questions as people learned their way around, as we got to know one another and the farm.

Now I see that the questions go on endlessly; they only change gradually in nature. They began with "Do we have a _____?" Then "Where do you keep the ____?" Now it's "Who used the ____ last, and where did you put it?" and "Would it be ok if I [cleaned/sharpened/washed] the ____?" They began with asking for instructions to do various tasks, then asking what should be done, now proposing an activity and asking whether I'd like it done, or what the priorities are, or when am I going to buy the materials. I watch, I guide, I suggest, I learn to trust that things will be done well enough by others, soon enough. I am so used to doing everything myself! But I am enjoying the challenge of "letting go and letting God", through the hands of others.

Everyone is eager to learn, quick-thinking, inquisitive. What is this caterpillar? Did you see that spider? Come look at this! Which are the weeds and which are the new seedlings? What wonders there are to discover at the farm, on every branch, under every object, around every corner.

But I begin to long for the day when I truly have the heart to say, "Today I am not answering any questions."

Monday, September 17, 2007

Shifting Seasons

Summer's heat has relinquished its grip on Kansas. Glory hallelujah! Everything at the farm looks, feels, smells, sounds autumnal, even though it's a week until Equinox. Goldenrod. Crickets. A certain slightly lessened savor to the tomatoes, though the plants are lush and tall and covered with fruit in all stages.

A morning with the thermometer reading 49 degrees reminds us that after autumn, there will be winter.

I'm charged anew with energy again, after a couple months of summer-induced sluggishness. There is so much to be done! Not all of it needs done now--I'm setting a sustainable pace--but I am canstantly AWARE of the things that lie ahead. The breaking down and storing of automatic water valves; the reinstitution of regular hose-draining and hydrant shutting-off; the setting out of tank heaters, the more regular doing of chores to ensure thawed water.

The checking of the garage and shed for things that shouldn't freeze, the moving of things to the basement where they'll be safe. A concommitant evaluation of things being moved: is this the time to paint that wall or apply that caulk, rather than shift it for another season?

Emily, who has taken over the egg business at Pinwheel Farm, got a summer's worth of returned egg cartons organized the other day. The basement seemed a reasonable place to store them, so down she took them. Inquiry showed they were in the empty spot under the bathroom. Oops, lack of communication--that area is empty because older bathrooms being what they are, every now and then something drips or sweats or showers dust, or someone needs to get at the pipes. Maybe here, maybe there? Every spot she suggests seems to have pressing reasons for not being THE place for egg cartons. She just wants to put them SOMEWHERE where they can stay.

Alas, I have to explain that no such place exists at the farm. Things are constantly shifting in response to seasonal needs, changing residents, infrastructure improvements and repairs. The egg cartons find a temporary home next to the totes of processed wool. Everything will have to be moved again when we paint this room and do the floor, then moved back and re-ordered.

With so much help around the farm these days, a lot of big things are getting done, and a lot of little ones as well. Today Ezra and David began in earnest the huge task of repairing the derelict barn. Soon the sheep will have a snug winter home, a lambing area, an improved handling system. Part of the barn (actually a greenhouse-like hoop structure) will be used to experiment with winter gardening (can we figure out how to do that without actively irrigating?), and part will give space for skirting fleeces on sunny afternoons, and similar projects that are too messy for the basement and require excellent lighting.

Washing windows sounds small, but as many as there are, and as dirty (I don't think they'd been touched since I left the farm more than 3 years ago) as they were, Ann Marie's undertaking was significant. "Little" things include checking the space where the siding of the house meets the concrete block foundation for mouse highways: happily, none were found.

Often mice invade the house in droves this time of year; so far, we've caught one, and seen few signs. We did find, hanging from the basement wall near the washing machine, a huge snakeskin. Most likely our 6' black rat snake. No idea how it got in or where it is now, but after lengthy discussion it seemed like a no-brainer to welcome the unseen guest in preference of destructive mice. The snake can seek out mice in the ceilings and walls where we can't.

Speaking of skirting fleeces, we did a quick fall sheep shearing with little fanfare yesterday, removing the fleeces from a number of market lambs as well as from some of the ewes with exceptionally long fleeces. Always an exciting, interesting day with the shearer, Danny, and his wife Marilyn sharing fiber animal news from other farms they've worked at recently. Entertaining, educational, inspiring.

I got the main fence up around the east front paddock today, except for something across the south end to protect the new volunteer raspberry patch from hungry sheep. When that's done, and I get some more hay delivered, it will be time to shift sheep: separating lambs for weaning/preparation for butchering; preparing the ewes for breeding; separating the ewes from the rams by greater distance as the fall weather makes them more frisky, too.

Soon, hopefully, I'll shift some fresh batteries into my digital camera and get some more pictures posted.

Wednesday, September 12, 2007

Remembering 9/11

I noticed some flags at half-mast today, others not. Silly me--I honestly didn't realized the significance of the date as I wrote a check for the season's first big round bales of alfafa hay this morning. So I asked a random customer--why are the flags at half-mast today? Only when he said"September 11" did it click in my head.

It seemed odd that some were and some weren't. None of the factories or warehouses on my bus route--none of the "trades"--honored the destruction of the World Trade Center in that manner. But the "agencies"--post office, university, etc.--did.

My slowness to recognize the date brought to mind the poem I wrote in tribute several years ago. No matter how thoroughly television can impress on us the tragedies and traumas around the globe, it is the things that we personally experience in the very center of our lives that move us most powerfully, and reshape not just our daily lives but our very beings.


I rose from the ashes of a dying marriage
To help the roofers nail new shingles on my home.
The new point of view helped me take heart,
Surveying from above the work of my hands
Those hard years, starting the farm.
Now I would carry on the work, alone
As I had always done without knowing.

August is a harsh season for shingling,
But we did it anyway, working morning and night
And carrying out the rest of life in between.

Then one day from the roof I saw a lamb fall.
Another lay next to it:
One dead, the other dying
While I perched high above, like an angel.
I was their shepherd, new to the job,
A stranger to death,
Innocent of the forms in which it might come.
I fled to the vet with the dying lamb
Gasping in a dog crate in the back seat.
Declaring it unfit for salvation,
The emotionless vet drove home the needle to end its life.
I sat with it while it died,
Crouched on the wet cement at the base of a grey wall,
A tiny lamb surrounded by thick steel bars
Designed to contain crashing cattle.
Without ceremony, the vet carved open the carcass.
The rumen writhed with parasites, swollen red;
The flesh was pale and bloodless.

The lab work would be complete in three days.

By then, three more were dead.
One fell before my very eyes,
Running slower and slower until she stumbled,
Dropped to her knees, seized,
Breathed her last breath
And lay as if gazing into heaven with blank eyes
While her comrades slowly returned to her, and sniffed,
And, finding she'd gone, matter-of-factly wandered on.

In all, eight graves were dug in the sun-baked soil that year,
My innocence buried little by little in the stubborn earth,
The final dust settled with sweat and tears.
My heart seemed to have emptied itself,
My eyes were numb, my arms ached
From the weight of the shovel
And the memory of cradling new lambs, now dead.
I steeled my will each morning to go do chores
And review the list of the missing: Are there more?

And every morning and evening,
We nailed new shingles to the roof
While I gazed across the fields of the farm
To distant mounds of dirt.

August is a harsh season for burying the dead,
But I did it anyway, working morning and night
And carrying out the rest of life in between.

Three years later,
At the end of the high heat of summer,
In September, I savored a season of no significant graves:
Perhaps too soon.
The grass was still green, despite drought;
The birds beginning to flock for fall,
The sky an impeccable blue
As white vapor trails suddenly looped and turned,
Writing question marks in the sky.
In the bright, joyful morning,
My heart leapt with pleasure at the fine, mysterious sight:
Was someone else too glad, that morning,
To fly in straight lines?

And then, the news came--for once, real novelty--
That elegant, creative act of destruction
Stopped heart after heart in rippling waves
Spreading outward from a far center
Until I was touched.
Shock--grief and anger and disbelief--took hold
The hearts of everyone I knew
And shook them savagely.
But mine? I seemed exempt,
Calm and clear, accepting of what was unfolding,
Unafraid. Amused, even, I hesitate to admit,
At the sudden upside-downness of everyone else's world.

Twenty-five sheep and their fat lambs
Chewed one cud and coughed up another,
Laid in the shade of the far trees
On the green grass of three-year-old graves.
They're healthy; I'm a better shepherd now;
I farm alone; it suits me well.

September is a harsh season for accepting,
But I did it anyway, working morning and night
And carrying out the rest of life in between.


These many years later, I continue to "carry out the rest of life in between." This year, again, there have been losses of sheep to worms. This year, again, I rebuild the house and farm.

This year, again, the morning was clear and autumnal, the sky an impeccable blue: a season for being glad of life itself. September--as well as the other eleven months of each year--has become and easier time for accepting. The grass grows green, recovering from the tenants' overgrazing, but there is no trace of the old graves.

Sunday, September 9, 2007

"O God Guide Me...."

"...Comfort me and protect me,
Help me to live in harmony with Your will."

A lovely spiritual chant shared with me at Canadian Yearly Meeting of the Religious Society of Friends (Quakers) more than a year ago. My theme song, today.

The Growing Growers market gardening apprenticeship program's September workshop on weeds, insects, and diseases of vegetables was held at East Wind Gardens at Drumm Farm in Lee Summit, MO, today. All day. Not my choice of how to spend my day off, with so much work to be done at the farm and so many willing, industrious hands there seeking my guidance. But I am bound and determined to complete the entire series of workshops this year. And I ALWAYS learn something worthwhile from them.

Getting there, though....Mapquest suggested a route via major highways through downtown KCMO; that seemed reasonable on a Sunday morning. Apparently Mapquest was not aware that the highway was closed. Barricades suddenly routed me off onto an exit, onto another highway...suddenly I have no idea where I am, where I am going, how to turn around, or anything, amidst 3 lanes of fast traffic with no map.

In the past, this would have been a panic situation for me. Now it's a prayer situation. A return to my traveling attitude of the past two years: "OK God, what do you have in mind THIS time?" and "It's an adventure!"

Several random exits and several miles later, I'm in Westport with no idea how to get back on course. A local at the gas station I finally find knows the way to a connecting road, but not the name or directions. So he acts as a pilot car and leads me through the complexities of non-grid streets and sets me on the right path. An hour late, I reach my destination. On the way, my path weaves in with several transit buses, close cousins if not outright siblings of the ones I drive.

At the workshop, touring the impressive garden, I spot a too-familiar plant lounging about on the compost pile: Japanese Hop Vine, a.k.a. "Vegetable Barbed Wire". In the slide show a short time earlier, no one else had recognized this plant, so I pointed it out. The host farmer had never seen it. "Must have come in with the composted chicken manure," she said. Composting does NOT kill every weed seed. This particular weed is astonishing. At the greenhouse I once worked at, it would routinely sprout in soil that had been steam sterilized.

The best time to control a weed on one's farm iswhen one sees the very first plant, before it set seeds. I risked the raking, rasping stems to find the base of the plant and pull it up. Clouds of choking pollen wafted from the malelower stalks. The female flower clusters, discretely tucked into the leave axils, boasted nearly-ripe seeds. I carried it to the dumpster and disposed of it.

For the return trip through KCMO, I spoke with several workshop attenders and got several answers. The one I chose to follow (being a path I'd taken before) turned out to feature a traffic jam (at 5:00 on Sunday afternoon?). Again, surely God has a purpose in this? Other than testing my temper? As I sat and waited, resisting the temptation to try to move into the lane that was moving SLIGHTLY, reminding myself that as long as I stayed in my lane any accident that ensued would be someone ELSE's fault...I realized that if Pam were home I could stop and pick up Toss on my way home.

"Sure, come on by, we're having friends over for dinner so we'll be here," Pam says. "How do I get to "here" from where I am?" I ask. "Where ARE you?" says Pam. "Somewhere east of downtown Kansas City that looks like a parking lot, but I think it's actually I-70."

She gave me verbal directions; I didn't dare let go the steering wheel enough to write while talking on the cell phone (which is terribly dangerous to begin with). I have a visual memory, not a verbal one. So 45 minutes later when I'm STILL driving northish on Hwy 73, wondering if I've missed the turn, I'm really doubting my memory. Again, somehow panic eludes me. I'll either find Pam's from this back way, or I'll end up in Nebraska. Another adventure. At least I don't have to be at work until after noon tomorrow. More miles, more twists and turns, it's weirddriving by the penitentiary in Leavenworth. I'll either find Pam's from this back way, or I'll end up in Nebraska. Another adventure. At least I don't have to be at work until after noon tomorrow. O God guide me....

A few minutes later, the promised junction appears, and soon I'm at Pam's.

One of the visiting friends turns out to be Sandy, the owner of Toss's son Tripper, the one that's apparently working his way towards national herding trials. What a delight to meet--again!-- this fabulous animal athlete who was born on my bed just over three years ago! I've not seen him since he was a 7 or 8 week old pup. Like Toss's other pups that I've known as adults, he's not just a smart dog and a great athlete, he's also got a great, friendly personality and great looks. In actions and build, he reminds me a lot of Scout, my parent's dog from Toss's first litter, and a full sister to Tripper (and Luna). Sandy says she'll send pictures, and I'll try to get one on the blog eventually.

Seeing Tripper, meeting Sandy, sharing a fabulous home-grown prime-rib barbecue with all the trimmings on the deck in the pleasant, insect-free evening: Yes, God guided me well today, right through my times of doubt and dismay.

Worth Noting

It's actually a very short story: A drop of water falling into the pond of my day, or maybe my life. An encounter of less than a minute's duration. But to give you enough light to see this little moment by, I'll have to set the stage for you, which will take longer.

My housemate had such awful allergies today that she chose drowsy-making antihistamines over going to work. So I drove myself to work, and drove home alone. Thus I was at more liberty than usual as I passed near Liberty Hall.

The most efficient route from work to the Post Office to pick up my mail goes through the intersection of 7th and Massachusetts (a lively corner at night), or at least 7th and Vermont a block away. At 7th and Mass., on weekend evenings, Saxophone Man rules. With the car windows down, I can hear the sound for several blocks, faint strains of jazz echoing among the brick buildings through the traffic noise, the trains, the squeals and giggles of young revelers. Sometimes he switches to a flute. His simple, skillful, melodic improvisation on the background of cacophony always captivates me, like noticing a special birdsong amidst the general hubbub of farm sounds. Those few moments of music, heard in passing, give me immeasurable rest at the end of along day. They are an essential part of balance in living a life as busy and complex as mine is these days. They are of far greater value to me than any formal concert in a fancy hall.

Saxaphone man is extensively tatooed, dressed in the raggedy, stained denim typical of vagrancy. I suspect this is partly showmanship. But once in awhile, when I'm alone and nothing seems pressing and the night air is particularly fine, I'll walk the block from the Post Office to Saxaphone Man's corner, and put a contribution in the old coffee can that sits atop his wooden crate.

Tonight was that kind of night, and then some. So I sat on the concrete rim of the nearby planter, and listened to jazz, and watched strangers walking up and down the streets: couples strolling with "to-go" boxes in hand; families of every description (including a family of five, parents and three children, where every member's face bespoke a different racial ancestry); lovers holding hands (including two sweet young men); toddlers sleeping in strollers; dogs enjoying a night on the town; giggling co-eds; rowdy young men calling across the street to one another; two graying homeless men who greet me with a joyful, resounding "Hey Bus Lady!".

Saxophone Man has a sense of humor: As a little girl walks by with a Standard Poodle nearly as tall as she is, he skillfully, without missing a beat, weaves in the tune of "How Much Is That Doggie in the Window," which probably only I and the girl's grandfather notice. Later, he ends the night's concert with a tune familiar to me from Dad's old favorite jazz album, Last Set at Newport.

It was a long day, Farmer's Market this morning followed back-to-back by driving the bus. I was tired to the bone, but as I listened, the melodic, meandering, rhythmic thread of the saxophone seemed to wind its way into my mind and then draw me out of the tight, tense coil I had become, relaxing and refreshing me. To me, there is something uniquely healing about a single live instrument of good tonal quality--a way the sound resonates in my own body that never happens with recorded or amplified music, a purity that is lost when other instruments join in. The order of the notes is almost (though far from entirely) irrelevent. I've tried in vain to explain this phenomenon to a friend who plays the piano, who apparently can't believe that I truly enjoy listening to her practice (even scales) simply for the sound of the fine instrument...a deep pleasure I'm rarely afforded these days in the busy-ness of our separate lives.

I'd been sitting there about 45 minutes when a passer-by roused me from my reverie. A total stranger, 60ish, slightly arrogant, well-fed, well-dressed, well-exercised...that deliberately casual look that's anything BUT. Some well-to-do someone in town for Band Day and the football game, no doubt. A band director, a coach, a business sponsor. Not the sort of person I'd expect to approach me, sitting there in my bus-driver uniform and prayer covering.

He stopped close in front of me, almost confrontingly, as his companion walked on a few steps before stopping to wait. Still mesmerized by the music, I responded pleasantly to his opening words (now forgotten) by rote. "Nice music." He riveted his attention on my covering. "You're...uh,... Mennonite? Enjoying the music?" It was part statement, part question. "You're not supposed to do that, are you?"

"Whyever not?" I responded, baffled, now focused on him.

He shrugged. "Well, I guess you don't get much chance to hear music, do you? It being forbidden in your church, and all that."

I sat speechless for several moments, wishing I could instantaneously summarize for him the spiritual and harmonic wealth of Mennonite hymnody; the fellowship of monthly Sacred Harp 3-hour singing meetings; my long-time love of classical music; the symphony of birdsong that has attended my whole life; the timeless nights of "thinking along with the music" at old-time jam sessions with good friends; the delicious, sweaty exhileration of a rousing contra dance band; hours of relaxing on my friend's couch while she practiced on her superb grand piano; the endless stream of hymns and improvisations in my head as I garden or drive....

He shrugged, and reached to shake my startled hand. "Carry on," he said, implying a puzzled and oddly authoritative consent that I hadn't realized was required for me to do what comes so naturally to me.

I know that various churches of various denominations have forbidden various sorts of music at various times for various reasons, but I can't imagine myself ever consenting to such nonsense! I cannot think of anywhere in His gospel that Jesus said, "Thou shalt NOT sing, nor dance, nor make any joyful noise, nor listen to nor observe any such thing."

No indeed. Jesus even suggested that the stones should sing! And so will I! And so will the Saxophone Man's saxophone!

Friday, September 7, 2007


Would I rather sit along at the computer and write a blog entry, or sit at the kitchen table with Emily, telling stories about high school home ec class while eating an omelet she generously cooked to my taste, her response to my casual remark about how good the omelet she was eating looked?

Would I rather pound t-posts to fence an odd corner of the front yard, or stand with David and Ezra, watching a huge pile of rotten lumber go up in flames, proclaiming the cleaning up of the long-unsightly side yard?

Would I rather hack weeds in the sun and wind and mosquitoes in the garden, or sing hymns in the cool, shady, screened garage with Ruhamah and Marie?

These are ALL activities that I enjoy doing. But the choices I make on a daily basis reveal a certain pattern.

Living in community, especially after living alone for so long, greatly enriches my life, and highlights my shortcomings as well as builds my strengths. The fact seems to remain that I am a social creature, drawn to the company of whoever is around me. And thus I will always tend to choose the activities that keep me interacting with or working near others, rather than the solitary endeavors that may be--or at least may seem--more important.

But it IS important to spend quality time with those who share my daily life and the work of the farm. I trade the satisfaction of checking completed tasks off my "to-do" list for the sense of well-being that comes from living a balanced, peaceful life with congenial companions. The work gets done, more slowly to be sure, sometimes not even by my hands but by others'.

It's also, in part, a family pattern: Dad always seemed to want to have someone present as he puttered on projects, handing tools, helping hold things. (He may not agree with my memory or conclusion: we've already established that I grew up in parallel universe to the one in which he raised me!). Eventually I realized this came out of his love of teaching: his puttering was narrated with explanations and instructions, generally deeply rooted in science. I find myself often doing the same, even if the audience is Toss or Ambrosius. But how much more fun to narrate to someone who occasionally says "mmmmhmmmm."

So, my apologies to my dear readers for infrequent posts. Know that this signifies good things in my life: work getting done, a peaceful community, pleasant companions, enough sleep being slept for a change.