February 16, 2013 § 3 Comments

Sometimes, and especially in new places, I start keeping a kind of list, a collection in my head, of things that nature impresses upon me. All along the way there are these gifts; do we notice them? When I start collecting I seem to remember to notice, to make it habit, and to receive them with gratitude. Here are a few from the past week:

1. Two coyotes playing in the woods at Occoneechee Mountain. They looked like they were fairly young and were bounding about quite happily, until they saw us – Tass with her ears perked up, and me peering closely, and fighting the urge to go and join in the fun. At night we can hear packs of coyotes howling, howling, long strains breaking into yips, voices joining one after another.  I love it, this reminder that I am not alone nor solely among humans, and that the night, when we grow still and quiet, brings forth others who have much to say.

2. A bird’s nest made of horse hair, glittering with beads after a rainy morning. The walk in the woods that day was splendid, damp. There is so much green here, even this time of year, all the mosses and lichens, the trunks of trees. I knelt down in the leaf litter and dug through the layers, through the forest floor to the clay below. I just needed to touch it. The soil here is so unfamiliar; I know it is not as “good” as what we have back in the Midwest, but it fascinates me. I am beginning to love its redness. It belongs here, this way, you know, and it’s important to learn how we might grow things well in this place – respecting what a garden needs while also appreciating what the earth is.

Nearby a tree had fallen, and its base formed a wall of clay soil and various rocks; I dug at it a bit, shaped the clay in my palm, pulled the rocks out and felt them, ran my fingers over the velvety green at the foot of the trunk, and hungered for a book on regional ecology.

3. The moon hanging like a crescent-bowl in the sky on Valentine’s Day. The stars so, so spangly up above the pines. That, my friends, is a love-gift.

4. Yesterday Tass and I went walking a near trail, and we found a spot where we could slide down the muddy banks and climb onto a couple small boulders in the river. I sat there while she waded all around me, and the early afternoon light struck the water upstream of us. Everything was brown and golden; the water is murky green and moves just fast enough to be noticed; the temperature was 60 degrees and the sun warmed my face. I sat there and smiled, for I knew we had found a favorite spot, to be visited again, to watch change over the seasons.

5. And then, today! What happened today nearly outdoes the others – in any case, it was certainly winter flaunting herself (which I always appreciate). We woke up to snow falling – in such delicious wet flakes, big as a quarter, tumbling down slow as you please. I stood on the porch and looked up at the gray-white sky, at all those specks and each one of them different. Later the flakes grew smaller and fell faster, and soon the ground and all the limbs of the trees had a proper white coat over them. When I’d finished helping a friend pull up her floor, I went home and had a cup of tea and let the dim of evening settle in, and then I went walking through the woods. I love the white mysteriousness of snow at day’s end, especially inside a stand of trees. They say this kind of snow hardly ever happens here. I’m inclined to think North Carolina did it for me. Welcome, Northerner.

Why, thank you.


Beginning Farmers: Learning, Networking, and Connecting to Place

February 8, 2013 § 1 Comment

Check out the article (title above) that I wrote for A Growing Culture! Here’s a link, with the first couple of paragraphs below:

It’s no secret that more and more young people in the U.S. are looking to establish careers in local, organic, and small-scale farming, despite the risk, instability, hard work, and moderate income. Even many well-established career adults are abandoning their corporate jobs to start farms – and writing books about it. Most of these folks are unapologetic about their choices, choosing instead to either shout to the rooftops about why they’ve chosen a lifestyle such as this one, or to quietly go on doing what’s important to them. Yet as much as farmers enjoy their independence, getting started and continuing successfully depends upon a network of support from other farmers, researchers, landowners, and the general public.

Khaiti and Andrew French, who run Living the Dream Farm in Clayton, Wisconsin, were drawn to farming because “of loving good, real food and caring about how animals are raised in agriculture.” They are famous for their duck eggs in Minneapolis circles, and also raise turkeys, rabbits, chickens, and goats. Farmers such as the Frenches, inspired by voices such as Wendell Berry and Fred Kirschenmann, seek meaningful connection to the land, family-centric lifestyles, and practices that are in line with their carefully considered ethics.

Read more.

And . . . home, again

February 8, 2013 § 1 Comment

I’ve remained on the quiet side the past couple of months, but guess why? Because changes galore have been happening. I like to take a little while to settle in before I start talking about it.

Remember when I went to North Carolina? Well. I’ve come again, with all my belongings and my dog in tow. We mean to stay.

I’ve faced transitions enough times that I feel something of an old pro at them (I no longer let all the uncertainty and newness pile up until I can do little more than burst into tears, for example). One of the best things about putting yourself into precarious and/or unfamiliar situations is that you learn to adapt, reach out, and trust. You fear risk less, because even while it sometimes makes things quite uncomfortable and even unpleasant, on the other side of risk you might find something wonderful. And you trust that the universe (or, for me, God) will catch you. In this overly-independent society you actually learn to accept help and to cultivate gratitude. People like to help people, did you know that?

I’ve been caught again and I have fallen into what seems to be a very good place. I’m so excited to be working in the farm and gardens at a year-round camp in the Piedmont region of North Carolina. Here in Orange County we have many, many small sustainable farms, fantastic food co-ops, winding roads, and horses galore. Two and half hours east, we reach the ocean. Two and half hours west, the mountains. Everyone has been so kind and inviting; southern hospitality is not a myth. Tassie is thrilled to have new friends, and so am I.

We went walking with one of our new friends and her dog the other day, and since I am currently camera-less (two broken ones), here is a first shot of us in North Carolina, courtesy of Leah Maloney:


Pardon the messy hair; some days, like those where the only things on the agenda are a long walk and a lot of reading, it just seems all right to let it stay a bit wild.

So. We are going to become southerners. Hold on tight, y’all. I can’t wait to find the stories that are here.

Among other species

February 1, 2013 § 1 Comment

Here’s a passage I came across in my reading yesterday that made me pause, re-read it, and ponder for a bit:


Thoreau, and his many heirs among contemporary naturalists and radical environmentalists, assume that human culture is the problem, not the solution. So they urge us to shed our anthropocentrism and learn to live among other species as equals. This sounds like a fine, ecological idea, until you realize that the earth would be even worse off if we started behaving any more like animals than we already do. The survival strategy of most species is to extend their dominion as far and as brutally as they can, until they run up against some equally brutal natural limit that checks their progress. Isn’t this exactly what we’ve been doing?

What sets us apart from other species is culture, and what is culture but forbearance? Conscience, ethical choice, memory, discrimination: it is these very human and decidedly unecological faculties that offer the planet its last best hope. It is true that, historically, we’ve concentrated on exercising these faculties in the human rather than the natural estate, but that doesn’t mean that they cannot be exercised there. Indeed, this is the work that now needs to be done: to bring more culture to our conduct in nature, not less.

– Michael Pollan, Second Nature: A Gardener’s Education




January 30, 2013 § Leave a comment

Dear readers,

At the risk of continuing shameless self-promotion, I’m wondering if any of you have favorite independent bookstores you’d like to tell me about?

I’m trying to get my act together in terms of marketing my book, since I’ve been fairly lackadaisical about it up till now – admittedly, because it makes me feel silly to promote myself. But you know? It’s not about me. It’s about the story, which in many ways isn’t even solely mine. Because the story is the product of so many life experiences that the world generously offered me, so many people I came into contact with, the space to daydream throughout my childhood, and the inspiration and creative nudges of so many other writers and their books.

There are lots more readers our there that I’d like to have access to this story. So I need to get over myself and figure out how to get this book in their hands. Girls who love horses have just gotta read this story.

So. As I explore more venues, what bookstores would you like me to know about? Could you provide me with the name and either the web address or street address so I can send them a reader’s copy? I’d be grateful!

I’m working on an author website right now – another thing I’ve shyly hung back from. I’ve got quite a bit of fine-tuning to do, and I need some fancy pictures of myself (and maybe some horses?), but keep checking back to get the link in a few weeks.

Other than that – what have you been reading lately? I’ve been alternating between Michael Pollan’s Second Nature and Holley Bishop’s Robbing the Bees and Rodale’s Ultimate Encyclopedia of Organic Gardening. It is fun to sit on the couch with three open books and to keep picking them up in intervals.

Travel on

January 30, 2013 § Leave a comment


Friends! Many things have been happening. One of them I am so excited to tell you about:

For the past year or so, my sister (Elena), Mom (Barb), and I have been talking about starting a travel club. We’re finally in a place where we’re ready to make it happen! What this means is that we’ll be organizing group trips and going to fantastic places all around the globe.

Our first destination? Greece, September 2013! We’re looking at a route that will be taking us through the isles as well as onto the mainland, with emphasis on the travels of the Apostle Paul.

So, I’d like to personally invite all of you to join our club! There’s no cost to become a member – it simply means that you’ll be added to our member list to get the most up-to-date and thorough information about the trips. There’s not any kind of obligation, and you can ask to leave the member list at any time. If you love to travel and want to make new friends this might just be for you!

Here’s a link to our website (which yours truly has been slaving over, so please admire its prettiness!): Seven Seas Society Travel Club.

Wouldn’t it be great to meet one another en route to a European extravaganza?

Happy adventures to all of us – at home, on the road, and over the ocean.

Not resolutions, so much as habits to cultivate

January 8, 2013 § 2 Comments

These things have been impressing themselves on me in the last few weeks, as I look towards yet another new beginning along with this new year. We are ever in the process of shaping the lives we have been given, and who we might be within them, aren’t we? All of us look for signposts towards what is right, so I wanted to write down some of mine to keep them in front of me. Saying them is not the same as doing them, of course, and I can only try when I remember. Forgive me, friends, while I stumble on through humanity!

be quiet(er).
speak less impulsively; watch your words; listen more closely.

be gracious.
assume the best; forgive readily; be slow to anger. be gentle with self.

be generous.
with time even more than money. with food. with helping hands.

be kind.
to everyone, as often as possible, beyond what is expected.

be frugal.
handmade things are good! avoid senseless expense. save.

be sincere.
act with intention; follow through; hold true to your convictions.

love bravely.
quell bitterness; embrace others; accept the reality of loss, yet open your heart.