What use are memories?

frog eggs in the pond
frog eggs in pond, april 30 2015

The frogs are back.

For weeks before they returned, Waylon would pull at me as we passed by the pond and say, “froggies sleepin’?”

“Yep, the froggies are sleeping under the mud,” I’d say, and continue the walk to the greenhouse.

They broke their sleep last Wednesday night; as I turned the lights off and walked upstairs, their croaking bubbled its way through the walls and into our bedroom.  It took me a few moments to make out what it was as I stood still by the window, stretching my ears to their call.  For the first time since we moved into the house, I missed the thin walls of the yurt, how they let all the sounds in.

We are close enough to the pond, though, closer than we were in the yurt, and so even now as I write these words on Sunday morning, windows closed, I hear them: their popping percussion aided by the swinging notes of chickadees and the tinny flitting whistles of robins.

We counted 33 yesterday, legs all splayed out as they floated on the pond’s surface.  Waylon’s counting is sequential up to 10, and then erratic after that, going 15, 18, 16, 17, 19,  and so on, all the way up to 20-10.  He corrects me when I say 30.

I wonder how much he remembers of falling asleep and waking to the springtime concert when we lived in the yurt.  Yesterday Edge asked Waylon if he remembered where he was born.  He replied, in mama’s belly.

“But do you remember where you came out of mama’s belly?” my husband asked, and then answered our son’s stare, “right over there; in the yurt.”

It’s only recently that Waylon has started saying, “member when…” and part of me smiles at his development, and part of me wonders what language is worth when so much of it is spent on the past.

What use does a toddler have for memories?  What use do any of us have?  Sure, there are the necessary elements of learning so we may know how to feed and clothe and shelter ourselves.  The necessary learning to stay alive.

But the frogs are awake now, and there’s no use in dawdling over last week, when we’d stop and talk about their muddy sleep.  The frogs are awake, and Waylon is counting, and there are stones to throw into the pond, and there is mud to play in.

What use are memories when all of this is at hand?  When the sun is warming the water and maple buds are flowering and there is a whole, waking world to be present in.



Unfurling into May

May green

And suddenly it’s green.  It happens all at once, and every year I forget the immediacy of unfurling leaves and popping green until that moment when I look up and see the sunlight catch the color anew.

The farm is unfurling into May, too.  10,000 onions, 700 feet of salad greens, 600 feet of spinach, 400 feet of tomato plants and snap peas, plus kale, cabbage, kohlrabi, carrots, beets.  We are in with our whole hearts and bodies now.

This little boy of mine is in it, too, learning to slack line with his Papa, learning to walk in the pathways instead of on the garden beds, and learning to be gentle with transplants.  When he tried grabbing the tomatoes, I said, “Be gentle with the plants.  Give them love,” to which he responded by bending down, softly brushing the leaves and saying “looaahhh”

Now even the grass gets loves from Waylon.

pointing out birds

The birds, too, command his attention.  Crows, ravens, carrier hawks, red-winged blackbirds, robins, even a heron landed in a tree to scout our pond the other day, and Waylon announced it all, saying “toot toot toot” to show us the birds.

And now he is pointing out the window, saying “side, side” and so it’s time to close the computer screen and go out with him into the day.

Take These Eggs

{In celebration of National Poetry Month, I’ll be posting a poem each weekday through the rest of April, and I invite you to join me!  Leave a link to your poem of the day in the comments section below.}


Kindling sets flames to lick
the firebox
a cast iron skillet
takes the heat,
holds it in its open face,
and I crack the egg.
Just yesterday I threw compost
out to the chickens,
and the matted roots
of harvested pea shoots,
green stems sticking up
like stubble.
Somehow the earth
is thawing—melting
snow sets rivers running
through the field
and the chickens peck
emerging worms in the barnyard.
We all have creation inside us
The chickens, they take worms and compost,
turn it into muscle and eggs.
Me, I take these deep golden
yolks, thick and smooth, into my mouth
I turn them into muscle and milk
to feed my babe
and he, too grows:
supple skin stretches
over elongating bones
teeth cut through gums
even his voice
rises and shifts—
an audible, intangible
He does not know yet
of spring
how thin blades of grass cut
through winter’s kill
how green spreads like a wave
from the valley up this hillside,
how the lone call of the raven
is replaced by chickadees, robins, hermit thrush, and
the reverberating howl of the snipe.
He knows of the barnyard,
of chickens and eggs,
of warm milk.
He knows of cool mornings,
hot stoves.
And what do I know of creation?
Only that I cannot explain it,
though morning sun streams
through the window,
though steam rises slowly from my tea
though even in stillness
everything moves, pushing us into
(I originally posted this almost exactly a year ago, and this season pulled me back to the poem).

Hand, Rock and Moss

{In celebration of National Poetry Month, I’ll be posting a poem each weekday through the rest of April, and I invite you to join me!  Leave a link to your poem of the day in the comments section below.}

Hand, rock and moss, you

Show me again: each part of

This world is alive


Where I’ve Been

pepper seedlingsEvery year the transition to the farming season slows down my blogging.  Outside, the earth is trying to thaw even as snow sloshes down every few days.  Each time I walk to the greenhouse I hear water running in streams beneath the snow, and I linger to hear the flow gurgling under my feet, promising thaw despite the low-pressure cold fronts that persist.

Sun is coming our way, though, and inside the greenhouse we are seeding, watering, up-potting.  Waylon has his own spot in the greenhouse, cuddled with the dogs on the camping pad that Edge has been sleeping on these past few weeks so he can stoke the wood stove fire through the night.  Of course, Waylon toddles all around the gravel floor, making games of putting rocks into yogurt cups and pouring water from one bucket to another as we seed.

The greenhouse is a place of growth for all of us, seeds, toddler, mama and papa: family.

Unscripted Hours on the Beach

On Pismo Beach

It was the mornings I loved the most.  For most of our trip, we’d wake near the beach, walk over a sand dune or beneath eucalyptus trees and their long, reaching branches, and blink into the tide.

Those unscripted hours found us walking, running, chasing waves, stopping to inspect sand dollars, and watching as Waylon splashed in cold streams of fresh water that ran into the ocean.

chasing waves

There is so much to do wherever we are.  We went to California loaded with suggestions, with places we must see and things we must do, but I forgot them all.

Sometimes the best way to see a place is to not do much of anything.

How much can you learn from a long stretch of sand and salt water?  How much do you have to learn?

Not very much, I realized.

Just this: breathe where you are, be where you are.

morning on Pismo beach

Along the Central Coast

Three weeks in California took us north from LA along the central coast, through Santa Barbara, Big Sur, and Santa Cruz, past San Francisco and up to Point Reyes National Park, before cutting east to Tahoe City, and then south again to Joshua Tree before finally returning to the airport last Wednesday.

Waylon meets the waves at El Capitan State Beach
Waylon meets the waves at El Capitan State Beach
hiking to a boulder field
hiking to a boulder field
Egret at sunset
Egret at sunset
Big Sur
Big Sur
camping among the redwoods
camping among the redwoods
bouldering at Castle Rock SP
bouldering at Castle Rock SP
evening on the ocean
evening on the ocean
view from our camp
view from our camp
hot springs running into a river
Buckeye hot springs, on the east side of the Sierras heading to Joshua Tree
A young Joshua Tree
A young Joshua Tree
nap time in Joshua Tree National Park
nap time in Joshua Tree National Park
Joshua Trees
Joshua Trees

And now we are home, far from the 70 degree warmth of LA, heated instead by our wood stove as smoke rises in the single-digit air.  And we’re happy.  Maybe it’s the vitamin D we soaked up out west that still pumps through our bodies, but I think it’s more the fact that we are in the place we created, the place we chose to put our roots down.  While we let those roots stretch across the country, they always pull us back.

We celebrated our homecoming with a snowshoe through the forest yesterday, and as the dogs leapt and bounced through the fresh snow, we turned to the world at hand: white, bare, open.  The perfect canvas to start our dreams for another year on this land.

along for the snowshoe
along for the snowshoe

Gifts for Waylon: The Space to go Inside

The weeks leading to solstice and Christmas pull me in two directions.  The shortening days and lengthening nights ask me to slow down, to quiet myself, to rest and reflect and snuggle in with my family around the wood stove.  The holiday parties and family gatherings and gift-giving ask me to pile on extra outings, to break our rhythm and stay out late, to drive north and south and be merry.

And I do love these gathering times, eating good food with people I love.  And I do love the quiet darkness, the nights we have no obligations and stay home on the farm.

As we create our own traditions, though, this is what I want to give Waylon:

Candles on Solstice, homemade truffles, and poems to celebrate each other and the world.

I want to give him the space to go inside himself when he needs it, when the darkness invites him into long nights and gives him stars to find his way.



A Thanksgiving Goose

Crisp crackled skin, juicy fat, deep flavorful meat.  A Thanksgiving goose!

Thanksgiving Goose

The goose was a gift for Waylon’s birth.  Our friends at Gozzard City brought it over one late summer day last year when Waylon was still a floppy little baby unable to hold his head up, and the goose went into the freezer with the intention of pulling it back out come Christmas.  Instead, it got lost among the pork and chicken and turkey and beef that also filled the freezers, and so over a year later we finally took it out to thaw, and cooked it on Sunday for a pre-Thanksgiving celebration with my parents and brother.

It was my first goose, and though I rarely follow recipes step by step, I tried my best with this bird.  In the middle I switched the recipe I was following for a simpler one, and the goose didn’t seem to mind one bit.  The temperature and length of time were different, but it was still stuffed with caramelized onions, bits of fatty bacon, chunks of apple and torn bread.  It still dripped fat that became our leek-laced gravy.

pumpkin pieIn the case we discovered that none of us liked goose, the bird was joined by a smaller fowl in the form of beer-can chicken.  Luckily, we found that not only do we like goose, but especially when dribbled with gravy, we love goose.  Nothing went to waste.

By the time dessert came around, Waylon was past ready for bed, but he sat on his uncle’s lap and tried his first taste of pumpkin pie, which happened to be just the thing to keep him going a little longer into the night.

The left-over goose and pie kept us fueled as we drove to New Jersey yesterday, and primed us for turkey tomorrow.  This year I am thankful for all these things: friends who raise geese, our bumper crop of pumpkins, the leeks that started in our field and ended simmering in goose fat, the soil that grew our vegetables, the grass that fed the animals, and family, always family, who share these meals with us.

pies and candlelight

Another Winter in the Yurt

Winter, 2013
Winter, 2013

Snow flurries breezed over our hillside and into the valley this past week, and though the land isn’t white by any means, we’re only 6 weeks from solstice, and the shorter days and colder nights bring us closer to the bare quietness of winter.  This will be our fourth winter in the yurt, and inside we are making some changes.

It’s Waylon’s second winter in the yurt, but first as a toddler.  He’s not one to sit still unless he’s snuggling in for a book (and even then, he’s always ready to go grab more books and bring them back to us to read).  He walks in circles around the yurt, climbs on anything he can, and is reaching higher everyday to pull down whatever it is that’s just out of reach.

So, to make the yurt more toddler-friendly, and winter ready, we’ve made a few changes…

  • We put a door on the yurt!When our dogs broke the screen door this summer, we replaced it with a blanket (very traditional!).  The solid door needed some repairs and re-painting, and it took until October to finally get around to it (though we could have used it during some torrential rain storms when water pounded right through the blanket and onto the floor).  The door used to be a lovely antique shade of green, but we only had one color of paint on hand, and so “grandma’s sweater” blue now graces our door, and I have to say, I love its brightness.

Our Door: Grandma's Sweater Blue

  • A homemade railing for the lofted bed~When the heat of summer rolled in and the lofted bed became too stuffy and hot, we moved our sleeping quarters down to the futon.  No more, though!  Edge built a safety railing for the loft and our toddler who loves to test the limits.  With the futon as a couch again, we’ve re-claimed some space on our “main floor.”

toddler bed railing

  • A play nook for Waylon~With a little cleaning out and rearranging, the space under the lofted bed is now a play nook for Waylon.  With a bookcase, his toys, an oversized pillow, and a string of Christmas lights, I often look over while I’m making dinner or cleaning up to see him in the nook pulling books down and banging on a drum.  (Of course, the dogs appreciate the pillow, too).

Waylon's play nookAnd then there are the little things, like doing dishes every day, sweeping each night, and keeping the dining table relatively clutter-free (relatively).  As we nestle in, creating a nest that we can all find space in is truly important to add peace to our days.  Though we talk more and more of what kind of house we’ll build (and I admit, these conversations almost always start by me), living in the circle of a yurt brings a coziness I’ve yet to find anywhere else.

As we tucked into bed last night with the warmth of a fire in the wood stove and a bright moon just peaking over the ridge, I said, “I love our life.  I love our boy, and our yurt, and being so cozy.”  And as Edge smiled and clicked off the light, we drifted into an early winter night, ready for our fourth winter in the yurt.