“I think what we owe each other is the celebration of life and to replace fear and hopelessness with fearlessness and joy.” –Vandana Shiva
For a while, I’ve been struggling with the concept of stability. It’s never really been my style but as I grow closer to yet another birthday I do get concerned about balanced health and financial stability and things like: will I be able to take care of my parents and aunt/uncle (they don’t have any children) when they are much older? Suburban lifestyles seem to center on stability as the thing I should be doing and what I should be aiming for.
However, I came to the realization that maybe my ups and downs in intellectual thought, emotional health, physical well-being, and spiritual reflection isn’t such a bad thing. They oscillate back and forth like a sine or cosine curve and so maybe there’s a sense of stability in the oscillation; it just keeps flowing. The joy and fulfillment I feel at the farm intertwines with the struggle of how do I come up with the $$ to buy land and make farming a viable livelihood for myself and help take care of my family + future family. Or at work, there is this contrast I feel between the struggle of feeling beat down with tiredness as a minimum wage laborer + dealing with passive aggressive co-workers + the high influx of orders and the learning I’m taking in as I think about how to build a cooperative restaurant enterprise that can still be financially solvent when the success rate of most restaurants is like less than 30%.
Even though thinking about all of this can turn into a headache, I’ve been trying to take the approach of stepping away from the word “should” and moving into a place of “be.” I’ve been super grateful to my teammates at the farm: Laurette, Melissa, Maya, and honorary member Sabriel.
The amount of laughter and chuckling over just the smallest things creates so much joy. We’ve created a whole other world for ourselves at the farm. We’ve slowly been establishing our underground radio network WHOO 37.1 centered on whoo.. is coming to the farm or is already at the farm. We got a special segment called ooo D2 we listen to you… So much beauty that comes from imagination and the plethora of streams, tributaries, and side segments it gives birth to. Just the other day we had a little circle gathering where Sabi prepped us some daikon we found in the pasture as we shared our taste buds and experiences.
I’ve never really engaged in that kind of fun on a farm. It makes me regret some moments I’ve had on the previous farm I was working at where I was much more focused on the work that had to be done or felt overwhelmed with how much had to be done. However there’s also a kind of “productivity” that also happens with just having fun and enJOYing each other and the farm. What a sanctuary and sacred place Sarvodaya Farm is. Thank you to all who have contributed to its magic. Joy and the celebration of life are active pieces in the future I am working to bring to reality. The more I stay my course and engage and leverage resources from what is around me, I’m confident I will slowly keep building towards a future that hopefully will benefit generations beyond me.
(there was also a video but the file size was too big… sorry!)
Happy International Women’s Day. I chuckled at this Vandana Shiva quote: “Patriarchy is based on appropriating rights and leaving responsibility to others”- I think she’s being too polite here when really it tends to lean towards appropriating rights and taking credit while leaving the responsibility and burden/work to women; or it’s something I’ve definitely experienced in many settings including work and home.
This week my team switched to Field work and I am loving it. Manju is full of wisdom of the subtleties of plants and I am deeply enjoying learning alongside her. Every day I am at the farm, there is something new to learn; this is what a carrot looks like when it’s ready, these are signs of cats, these are signs of gophers, these seeds did not do well, this is how plants grow in winter versus summer. And I feel a surge of excitement in me. I knew that gardening made my heart sing and now I am experiencing more confirmation that being this close and working collaboratively with the earth, in community, is an intense passion of mine and brings me deep JOY.
I have been working through my resistance to allowing myself to have a great time at the farm. Growing up as a foster child, then working as a social worker, and now as a holistic counselor supporting many people of color facing systematic oppression, I am intensely aware of the need and heartache in the world. So much so, that sometimes it is hard for me to enjoy my wonderful life with my children and my deep happiness being at the farm. As a child that was passed up repeatedly, I unconsciously made a commitment to not look away from the pain of the world…but I am gently reminding myself that embracing and living into my JOY always allows me to be a nourished, rejuvenated, solid vessel of love with my family and all who come my way for support.
The other day the director of Ability First came to pick up greens that the farm donates to their program. She shared with me that she and the children at the center make soups, salads and stir fry’s with the farm produce. My heart felt full knowing that these children were getting the enjoyment AND nourishment of the farm’s bounty and all of the love, intention and growth that those plants facilitated. To me nutrition is inextricably linked to spiritual and psychological health, so I was extremely happy to hear this.
For years, when I feel overwhelmed by the hard realities and wish I could ‘save the world,’ I always remember a quote by Mother Theresa; “We can do no great things in this world. Only small things with great love.”
The issues are so complex. There are no simple solutions. But as I follow my yeses (discussed in a previous blog) I am understanding more of what she meant by GREAT LOVE. As I learn and soak in the vibrant energy of the farm, working with beautiful, thoughtful people…my heart swells more and more each day. And this fullness WIDENS my experience of LOVE within and without..it feels great as in bigger..and great as in GREAT! I am so grateful to all who help hold and create this amazing experience. And I am trusting that this ever expanding heart is doing her small part.
This week was more learning experiences for me. Caught my first chicken and was able to hold one. They are pretty sweet gals and it felt nice to hold and pet one. It feels really soothing taking care of the chickens; they require much more care then I ever knew. I like that I am learning how to take care of them and it has inspired me to want to be able to own some chickens one day. My team and I are getting the hang of things. We have even named some of the interesting looking chickens.
I’m on salad team now. Let me tell you how excited I am. I like being artistic and I quite enjoy expressing that in many ways. Can’t wait to decorate and make the salads look beautiful. This week I was actually able to purchase a salad and it was delicious!
This is the first week of transitioning to the animal team. It was a bit interesting getting into the swing of new tasks and making mistakes. It’s all about the learning process. Shout out to my green team (I know you aren’t fond of the temporary name) for holding it down and getting the hang of things together.
I find it kind of neat how as we transition there was also a new transition of chickens that came in to the farm. I believe it is going to be perfect getting to know the new chickens and them getting to know us. We are both starting off anew. I have never worked with chickens and I am very excited to master this task. I hope to become really comfortable catching them, they are pretty fast little gals.
Another part of being in the animal team is of course tending to the cats! I love cats o this is quit the treat for me. I was able to get close to one cat as it was eating and I touched its fur briefly. I also hope these cats will be come comfortable with me enough to let me pet them fully.
On Monday we switched stations. Field went to chickens. Chickens went to nursery. Nursery went to field. I was a little sad at first because I was learning and enjoying being on the field but I also was really excited to go to the chicken station. We also changed compost team and I am on it this time!
On Friday, we mulched the chicken area and while we were mulching we got to talk to each other. I learned more about what everyone does for a living. I liked getting to know more about everyone.
I was also excited because I was thinking about adopting some of Rishi’s older chickens.
A few weeks ago we found out that the chickens were going to go to Rishi’s house to be slaughtered. Lucas, Sabi and I were talking to Brooke about it and she said that they had said she could take Aussie (the chicken) because they saw that Brooke had a special bond with Aussie. But she was sad because she didn’t have any place to keep Aussie. So I offered to see if we could take Aussie, because we have eight chickens already. I asked my mom and she said that was fine, but she would talk to Pearl about it and maybe we should take more than one chicken so Aussie would have a friend. Also it’s important to have more than one chicken when introducing new chickens to a big flock. Pearl said yes and we arranged to get them today.
So after the farm, we headed to Rishi and Pearl’s house…but along the way we stopped at an India Sweet and Spices store and Pearl showed us all of the different spices that she suggested we have so as she mentions a recipe, we will have the correct spices for Indian cooking. (My mom has been asking her for recipes). After this, we went to her house and had a delicious Indian lunch. I watched her cook lentil papad and display the other food.
Then we went out to the chickens. We decided that we would get three! Sabi chose Aussie, I chose Falouf and Penguin. My mom wanted to get another one but we couldn’t fit another one in the carrier that we had brought.
I was surprised that they were very quiet during our drive home. I kept forgetting that we had chickens in the back. When we got home, we let them roam in our backyard until it was night. Then we put them in the carrier and brought it inside so they could sleep. We are not putting them into the coop yet because we need to introduce them to our chickens slowly. Because chickens have a pecking order, the older chickens might pick on the new ones and fight.
What is a weed?
Back when I was a little girl, a weed was anything that my grandma didn’t want growing in her lawn- and I got $5/hr to remove them!
These days, my definition of a weed is, well, shrinking. What were formally, most certainly weeds, I have come to discover are in fact, quite edible. In fact a weed is really just a plant that is undesirable in a certain situation. mint, for example, is super invasive, but if you go to Whole Foods you’ll find it selling for $5 a bunch! Weeds aren’t the problem, but its what we do with them that makes them a problem or not. When I was in the Seattle area, I noticed there were wild blackberry bushes growing everywhere! I thought, ‘how amazing! These people have access to wild blackberries throughout the entire season!’ Come to find out that these wild blackberry bushes grow quite quickly and some even find them to be rather invasive. In a way, they are also a type of weed, uninvited and very presumptuous (for a plant).
So as a reminder to myself, and as a favor to anyone who is in fact still reading these words, I have decided to list a few of the California native ‘weeds’ that are edible. Forget salad bars, lets start foraging!
This is mallow. Mallow is EVERYWHERE right now, including the farm. Mallow can be used as a mild laxative, diuretic, anti-inflammatory that helps clear mucus from the body. You can eat the leaves and the stems. IT has beneficial polysaccharide and antioxidant compounds that include phenols, flavonoids, carotenoids, tocopherols and ALA fatty acids. So if you are suffered get from gut issues or want to help control your inflammation, this might not be a bad (and free) option to try!
Lambsquarter is a mineral rich ‘weed’. Even the dust on the leaves is full of mineral salts from the soil. About one cup of its greens contain 73% of your daily Vitamin A and 96% of your daily vitamin C. It contains B vitamins including thiamine, riboflavin and niacin. This plant is best eaten when the leaves are young, and you can thrown them in a salad just like you would spinach.
Ah Stinging nettle…friend or foe I still don’t know. However, it is an edible plan and is often used to make medicinal tea. It’s an antioxidant, antimicrobial, antiulcer, astringent and analgesic. Today it is mainly used to treat urinary problems, allergies and joint pain. You can make a tea from the leaves, or sautéed them. Some people make tinctures out of them or even create tablets or capsules to sell.
These are only a few here that I have seen the most throughout the farm.
This past week started out with my finding out that a trap I set last Friday caught a gopher over the weekend. That’s right… The trap caught a real, dead, kinda big, kinda gray haired, completely gross looking gopher. I didn’t get to see it in the flesh, but Chika was thoughtful enough to snap a photograph before she fed it to the cats. Thank you, Chika. It felt good to catch a gopher! It made me feel useful! Hopefully this catch saved a few vegetables and put the word out to the other gophers to be a good neighbor and stay below ground or something.
This week my team found out we are on “Animals” for the next six weeks. This means we will be responsible for taking care of the chickens and the cats. This will still involve plenty of field and harvesting work. On Wednesday, for instance, my team mate Melissa and I harvested rat tailed radishes for the csa boxes. They get their name from looking like peas and tasting like radishes.
Later that day, Maya and I helped Lynn move the worm bin (that’s the pretty wood box in the photograph next to Maya and Lynn). We are redecorating at the farm in order to set up what I am calling our new “Compost Tea Room.” This will be a covered area by the compost piles where we will make compost tea and hopefully sit and drink regular tea as well.
The week ended on Friday with my teammates belting out a rendition of “Everybody” by the Back Street Boys. This was a funny thing to watch and listen to as we stood in the chicken run, just ask Maya and Sabi. I’m not a 90’s kid like the bulk of my team, but I will admit to singing out the initial line of “Everybody” based on something we were learning with the chickens. My teammates took it from there. They knew every single line! I was dying. YeaaaahAaaaa.
All this is to illustrate that I never know what will happen on the farm. Sometimes surprising things make me laugh out loud here, or feel sentimental, or solve problems in my head. There are so many reasons to be here at this farm in Pomona, not the least of which is the “naturally” silty soil. Yep, we learned in farm class from Rishi that Pomona land is way better for planting vegetables than glamour girls Claremont and Upland because of the make up of the soil. As a Pomona girl, that made me feel even better than catching the gopher.
Until next week…YeeaaahAaaaa.
Rishi’s lecture busting apart the false dichotomy of natural vs. unnatural and all of the dogmas that it spawns, was refreshing and a great reminder. I certainly have a tendency to go there, simply because what is earth based, commonly called ‘natural’ resonates for me and in many cases for children, actually does facilitate noticeably better outcomes. However, I’ve learned and am always relearning that dogmatic approaches aren’t helpful.
I remember when I was trying to not feed my children any GMO’s and I found myself getting angry at well meaning people who offered my children GMO food… Or angry at someone who offered me food in plastic and foam when I was trying to be zero waste…. this is a mix of the dogma which creates angst that Rishi was talking about and messy boundary setting. Even though I would sometimes lose my way in this…I ultimately would come back to my own recognition of the incongruence of this with my desire to be loving and peaceful in my choices.
For me it’s not about whether or not I say natural but what my intention is when I do (which I think is essentially Rishi’s point too). Often in my work, I will talk about ‘who is running the show.’ If our wounded/ego/defense, what I call ‘teenager self,’ is doing the yoga, meditation, healthy eating or whatever, then we are prone to being dogmatic, narrow minded, pretentious, judgmental, because it is essentially a fearful, controlling energy and behavior (designed to protect us immaturely). If our higher self/loving adult self is running the show, we tend to be more open, curious, generous of spirit, and accepting of differences…seeing the bigger picture from a place of love and compassion, or at least glimpses of it (i.e. accepting creation/growth/birth AND death/destruction). From the latter place, I can see the sweet intention of the person offering my children something and simply thank them.
It still is definitely a role of my loving self to set boundaries/limits on things that are not harmonious, as Rishi would say. And to speak up and advocate for those for whom these choices are not theoretical. But what his talk and literally every experience on the farm reminds me is that instead of focusing on what I don’t want or taking a major stance…a simpler way to create what I do want and reduce dogma and angst, is to focus on my “Yeses.”
I choose an interconnected web over weak systems. I choose what feels deeply good. I choose my own happiness and liberation (even when I question it, or it feels uncomfortable). I choose Sabi running around on the farm with glee, Maya expressing her leadership, Lucas getting to explore his physical strength. Sabi saying yesterday “I can’t wait till we have our own farm!!” Laughing and chatting with all of the thoughtful, passionate and caring people at the farm. All of the many possibilities we would never have known if I had not followed the longing of my heart singing YES!
Every step we have taken into this less traditional life that we enjoy, has been a path of Yeses that I could not have foreseen. And that is the seed I want to keep ‘watering’ with my attention and energy.