October 23, 2011

Introduction to Walnut Ridge

by Cynthia

 

Introduction to On Walnut Ridge

 Seven years ago, I convinced my husband we should buy a farm.  Having come from a long line of country folk on both sides of my family, the rural gene had been working its way up to the surface for years. We named our place Walnut Ridge because of the black walnut trees that are so abundant and the fact that our property sits at the end of a long limestone ridge that rings the valley below us. Our log house faces east, and we love sitting on the front porch with a steaming cup of coffee watching the sun rise. 

The first thing I did when we moved here was put in a vegetable garden.  The following summer, I canned forty quarts of tomatoes. All those glass jars of ruby tomatoes lining the pantry shelves like good food soldiers inspired me. Now all of the vegetables we eat and most of the fruit we consume comes out of our yard.  The pleasure of eating fresh, organically grown food has been as motivating a reason to keep investing time and energy into the land as the knowledge that the food is better for us than what we can buy in town.

 Wendell Berry writes about the  calming effects of being in contact with the “peace of wild things”.  The peace of wild things is missing in the lives of most people. The result is a poverty of experience that dulls the spirit and fogs the mind. I believe that everyone can have an enriched connection to the natural world and that it can make us better people and better neighbors. Even if you live in a small apartment and your gardening space is limited to a stoop, a patio, or a porch, you can grow fresh herbs and a tomato plant or two.  Eating a home grown tomato and eating one you bought in a grocery store are completely different experiences. Eating a store bought tomato is a bit like kissing your lover through a screen door.

Practicing some of the fundamental skills that literally kept my grandparents alive makes me feel more alive myself. On Walnut Ridge we do things like collecting rainwater, growing and preserving fruits and vegetables  harvesting and preserving wild game, and keeping a herd of goats and a flock of chickens. Not everyone is interested in the hard work and blood and poop involved in going home grown. Not everyone has access to a piece of land. But why not take a step away from your dependence on the business of agriculture and grow as much of your own food as possible?

You can support a local farmer’s market. You can join a CSA (community supported agriculture) You can stop eating processed, dead food that came from far away in trucks powered by fossil fuels and has compromised nutritional value. You don’t need fifty acres.  Just eat something that you pulled out of the ground with your own hands.

September 1, 2020

Eulogy for the Tiny Relationship

by Cynthia
Photo by Mat Reding on Pexels.com

Life was full of tiny relationships before the pandemic. They were like movie shorts, little bite-sized moments of connection that buoyed us as we went about our daily tasks. They occurred between random strangers who inhabit our orbit, but don’t take up permanent residence in the landscape of our psyches. Like the teenage boy who sacks groceries at the Kroger in my town. Because he is forced to wear a name badge, I can lob out a bid for conversation by saying, “Hi, Drew, how’s your day going?”, and there isn’t much he can do to ignore me. Often the Drews of my world appreciate being seen as real people and not just flesh covered robots, so they respond and lob a question back at me. Bam. A tiny relationship has just occurred.

Other tiny relationships happen less intentionally, like my maybe not so tiny relationship with Nancy, the woman who washes my hair when I go to the salon for a highlight. Ours was one of the tiny relationships I took for granted before the pandemic. Nancy and I talked about our grandchildren and recipes for things like fried green tomatoes and what comes first, flour or cornmeal, while she performed her divine ritual of hair-washing. She is the only other person in the world who washes my hair. I miss her.

Tiny relationships sometimes sneak up on us. Sometimes we don’t really welcome them but get sort of roped in by trying to be polite. Sometimes they change our lives.

I was in Louisville on a blustery Spring morning in 2019, the before times. I was leaving the Brown Hotel walking south on Broadway. As I approached the corner, a woman with kinky grey hair and baggy blue pants stood beside a grocery cart filled with plastic bags, water bottles, and a worn woolen blanket. She was agitated and kept walking toward the crosswalk, then veering back under the awning that ran along the ground floor of the hotel. I was a student at Spalding University, and like Drew, my grocery store buddy, had on my name badge as I walked to class. The woman rushed over to me and said,

“Cynthia, I need you to help me!”

We are disarmed when someone uses our name. We should all, every day, walk around with name badges on, large ones with bold print so people can read them from far off. Especially now that we can’t touch people, now that we are supposed to stay six feet away from everyone, name badges would make us feel less afraid. “Hey Cynthia,” the person pumping gas across from me might say.

” Good morning, Joe,” I’d reply.

“Gracias, Cynthia,” the server at the Mexican restaurant where we get take-out could say, and I’d answer,

“Gracias, Alejandro! Como estas?”, and there you go, a tiny relationship is begun.

The woman in Louisville grabbed my arm as the pedestrian crossing signal turned green and displayed the twenty second countdown before the cars on 3rd would be unleashed.

“I’m afraid of the wind,” she said as she anxiously searched the sky.

How awful is it to be homeless, living each day exposed to the elements, and be afraid of the wind? Isn’t it enough to be homeless?

“What’s your name?” I asked as we started across the street.

“Elaine,” She replied, not looking at me.

“Well, Elain, you are doing great. The wind is strong today, but we are almost across.”

Elaine was not comforted. She continued to watch the sky and walk as fast as she could, her grip on my arm constant and firm.

A huge gust swept down on us, and Elaines’ eyes widened in fright, her hair blown back off her face as if an electric current had just passed through her body. She was terrified.

We reached the curb just as the crimson hand signaling STOP began flashing.

“We made it Elaime. Are you okay?”

I wanted to ditch my classes, walk to the bagel shop with Elaine and buy us breakfast. I wanted to hear Elaine’s story, discover how she navigated homelessness and again and the damn, relentless wind. This woman knew things I needed to learn.

“Thank you, Cynthia,” Elaine said as our fellow crosswalkers buzzed past us down 3rd. Then she pointed her cart going east on Broadway and took off, keeping as close to the buildings as she could. I watched her for a moment, disappointed, and inspired.

 My tiny relationship with Elaine changed my life. When something happens for which I feel unprepared and anxious, Elaine’s fear, and her brave permission to ask for help remind me that, I too, must do things every day that scare me. I too, can ask for help. There is much in the world right now that frightens me. Things that feel as violent and powerful and as out of my control as the raging wind. I need the tiny relationships with people in my world as a buffer.

One danger of the pandemic is that we begin to view the strangers we meet with suspicion. Could they be infected? Will they come too close to me? What I want to think when I meet a stranger is: What burden are they bearing? What do they love? What are they offering to me, to the world? What might we create together?

I’ll keep talking to the Drews of my world, and hope for more Elaines to appear. I’ll speak up, so our words can reach each other through the fabric that keeps us safe. I will not give up my tiny relationships and I will rejoice when, someday, we can reach out and take the arm of a stranger. The wind is strong, but we are almost across. 





 
Photo by Emiliano Arano on Pexels.com

June 12, 2020

The fear I came to conquer

by Cynthia

Happy to share this excerpt from my essay Wilderness, soon to be published in Deep Wild journal.

Deep Wild Journal

Ezell pic

Cynthia Ezell confronts the unknown in her first solo trip after a divorce, in her essay “Wilderness,” forthcoming in Deep Wild 2020:

By the time I returned to camp and made some dinner, the light was bleeding off the sky, and the woods loomed deep and full of shadows. Darkness came on fast as I straightened up my gear and drank a mug of hot chocolate. The night creatures had not yet begun their reveries: no tree frogs singing, no cicadas buzzing, just silence. A feeling of panic gripped my chest. I was truly alone in the woods. This was the fear I had come here to conquer.

Nothing out here can hurt you, I told myself. Breathing deeply and reminding myself that killers don’t bother to hike five miles into the wilderness to find victims was marginally effective. Just as my heart was returning to its normal rhythm, a…

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February 16, 2020

America the Dysthymic

by Cynthia

My psychotherapy practice is comprised of couples who are having relationship problems and individuals with mood disorders, grief and loss issues, and life transition concerns. Those who disparage psychotherapy might label the people who seek my services the “worried well.” My patients are middle-class adults, urban and predominately white. They are not chronically mentally ill. They are not poor, or disadvantaged, and yet, the worried well are getting more worried. The worried well are getting sick.

Dysthymia, also called persistent depressive disorder, is a diagnostic designation that describes a consistent feeling of depression that is less severe that Major Depressive Disorder. Some of the symptoms of dysthymia include a loss of interest in normal activities, sadness or feeling empty, hopelessness, irritability or anger. What many of us have been witnessing in our patients and in ourselves is a general malaise that, while not at levels that warrant a diagnosis, is growing more pervasive.

America is becoming dysthymic.

The water torture drip, drip, drip of the negative environment created by the current political climate and our constant connection to media is literally making us sick. It doesn’t matter which side of the political tug-of-war you are one, whether you’re delighted about Donald Trump being president, or desperate for him to return to the penthouse at Trump Tower for good. No matter your political perspective, you likely feel set-upon and fearful. You are afraid that you will lose what you have now, or afraid you’ll be forced to accept something you find abhorrent.

Ranging from despair to apathy, the specter of hopelessness from which my patients suffer has nudged me to inquire more often about their spiritual hygiene than in the past. Spiritual hygiene refers to what we feed our minds and how we nurture our souls. A steady diet of talk radio or cable news (no matter the flavor) is likely to lead to a spiritual sickness characterized by bitterness and anxiety. People who spend more time on social media, especially of a political bent, than they do talking to friends, spending active time outdoors, or enjoying their hobbies are more likely to feel less positively about their lives. Contemptuous rhetoric has a toxic effect.

Our limbic systems are at the mercy of pings and vibrations and the clarion call of news reports designed for provocation. Our brains have become habituated to compulsively respond to every text, every call, every Facebook post as if they were important to our survival or functioning. Some of us even wear devices on our bodies (on our bodies!) that alert us instantly that someone, somewhere, wants our attention. The problem is that everyone wants our attention. Getting attention is the name of the game. The ability to grab the eyes and ears of people who don’t even know you is called “having a platform,” and has sadly become more important in some quarters than having something worth saying.  Our bodies are the conduit through which all that data passes through: our spirits, our souls, our nervous systems.  

I’m not arguing for being uninformed. The question you need to ask yourself is “how much do I need to know? If you deplore Donald Trump, you aren’t going to deplore him any less by being constantly focused on news of his latest transgression. If you admire him, you probably aren’t going to admire him any less because of what you read or hear. Confirmation bias affects all of us, and the polarization of our political environment thrives on it.

If activism is what turns you on, then march and write and organize and protest with your whole heart, but realize you will need to neutralize all that political acid with a big dose of poetry, and time spent in the woods, and hours holding and being held by someone who doesn’t give a fig about your politics.

No matter who lives in the White House in 2021, the people you love will still need your attention. You will still need theirs. The poor will always need help from those who are more blessed. The maples will be magnificent again in the fall and you need to notice them. Your body will still be fragile and soft and temporary. Sleep. Eat real food. Visit with your neighbors and talk to the children in your life. If you don’t have any children in your life, find some to hang out with. Every child can use more adults in their lives who listen to them.

The political slime fest is only going to get worse the closer the 2020 election gets. The world will go on after you are dead, people will be fighting, those in power will still be trying to get more of what they will just misuse. You have one short life. Use it for good. Guard your heart.

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October 6, 2019

by Cynthia
Meet Charlie

We have a new baby at Walnut Ridge Farm.  Our first Dexter calf was born on Sept 28th. His mother was named Peppermint Patty by her previous owners, so we named the little bull Chocolate Charlie. (I always felt sorry for Peppermint Patty because her crush on Charlie Brown was unrequited). We were hoping for a heifer we could keep to build our small herd, but this fellow is just so darn cute.

Mom is distracted by the donkeys who are curious about their new pasture mate

Cows are in the news this week. At least in the form of beef. A report was released by scientists writing for the Annals of Internal Medicine that seems to contradict what nutritionists have been saying for decades about the health consequences of red meat consumption. The report is not actually saying to “EAT MORE BEEF”, it’s saying that the previous nutritional advice about the health benefits of restricting consumption of beef and lamb was not based on the results of rigorous scientific research. Now the authors of the report are being accused of bias, as they may have previous ties to Cargill, one of the biggest beef producers in the U.S.

The report in the Annals of Internal Medicine was, however, careful to point out that their report does not address the impact of the beef industry on the welfare of our planet.

As far back as 2011, The Environmental Working Group released the Meat Eater’s Guide to Climate Change and Health. Here’s an excerpt of that document:

“By eating and wasting less meat, consumers can help limit the environmental damage caused by the huge amounts of fertilizer, fuel, water, and pesticides, not to mention the toxic manure and wastewater, that goes along with producing meat,” said Kari Hamerschlag, EWG senior analyst and author of the report.

He’s talking here about factory farmed beef, not pasture-raised, organic beef produced on small farms by farmers serving their local farmer’s market or individuals who purchase directly from their farms. The report goes on to say that:

“Choosing healthier, pasture-raised meats can also help improve people’s health and reduce the environmental damage associated with meat consumption.”

For people interested in “sustainable eating”, it seems clear that eating less beef than the average American does (four times a week) is beneficial to our health AND the environment. When you do choose to purchase beef, buy it from a local farmer whenever possible. Ask if it was produced without the use of antibiotics. Ask where the meat was processed. Ask if it was raised on pasture. Eat more beef, but only if it came from a cow raised on pasture as near to your home as possible. If finding local beef seems like too much trouble, you can always switch to tofu!

September 27, 2019

Build the Universe

by Cynthia

On a summer morning

I sat down

on a hillside

 to think about God-

 a worthy pastime.

 Near me, I saw

 a single cricket;

it was moving the grains of the hillside

this way and that way.

How great was its energy,

how humble its effort.

Let us hope

It will always be like this,

 each of us going on

In our inexplicable ways

building the universe.

 Mary Oliver

We are all building the universe, one grain, one life, one moment at a time.  Freudrick Buechner’s famous line, “all moments are key moments, and life itself is grace” came to mind one morning when I was sweeping cobwebs from the ceiling corners on the front porch. Fog gathered in the cedar trees below the yard like sheets of grey chiffon. The mist crept up the hillside and enveloped the house as I gulped deep full breaths of cool air. Then the entire house was shrouded in mist, literally consumed by the fog. Vision faded and time suspended. This was a key moment, full of grace and wonder. Moments like this remind me why we left the city and moved into the rural countryside.

One unfortunate consequence of the culture war our nation is embroiled in is that an artificial divide has been erected between urban and rural people. Prejudices and misunderstanding abound, fed by the red/blue political maps of our bifurcated republic. Rural folks don’t all run around in red MAGA hats. We are not uneducated. Many of us have chosen to live in rural communities because we value an agrarian lifestyle, or we seek self-reliance, or we value open space over the conveniences of city life.

Most people in the world do not have a choice about where to live, or what to eat, but for those of us who do, we have a responsibility to be deliberate, to think about how our choices affect the future of the planet and those who come after us.

I haven’t had the guts to review the results of the latest United Nations Climate Action Summit, but news reports of the summit are peppered with words like “dire” and “irreversible”. Unbelievably, the political leaders of the most powerful nations seem more concerned with political power and financial wealth than addressing the urgent warnings of the world’s scientific community concerning the health of the planet. The president of the United States is the chief offender.

Ecocide. There’s a scary new word for the lexicon. The traditional take on the demise of the Easter Island population is that the islanders cut down all their trees to make statues and in so doing, committed ecocide. A more scientific take on the tragedy suggests that a proliferation of rats destroyed the trees. The islanders had no trees, and therefore no boats, but they learned to live on rat meat, until being killed off by STDs introduced by Europeans. Either way, its a grim tale, a possible metaphor for our modern times.

 Will we make our world uninhabitable as world leaders refuse to take action, preferring instead to brawl over their little pockets of power?  It’s like fighting over space on the deck of a sinking ship, instead of grabbing a bucket to bail water.

Whether or not we are near the tipping point on climate change, we are building the universe, and the universe is getting mighty hot and crowded. What we do does matter. Each plant we grow in our garden, each jug we recycle, each time we pass up that pineapple in the grocery store and buy an apple from the farmer’s market instead,we build the universe for the better.

September 22, 2019

Encore

by Cynthia

It’s French for “again.” We yell it when we want the band to keep playing, when we want the night not to end, when we want more of something good. I’m about to board a plane to return home after a short vacation with a dear friend, and I definitely want an encore on the last four days!

Perhaps this blog will get an encore. My blogging endeavor got buried in 2015 under the leaf-cover of my life: an aged parent, graduate school, grandchildren, and a diagnosis of granulosa cell tumor for our daughter Bethany.

It’s almost autumn and the black walnuts are dropping their fruit, the big greenorbs crashing onto the metal roof of our house before rolling into the gutters where they will be retrieved and cached by the squirrels. The leaves of the Osage orange trees are beginning to curl, the weeds in the pastures grow golden and stiff. The seasonal revolutions of the Tennessee countryside provide a meaningful, if occasionally inadequate, compensation for the humidity of August and the gray dampness of winter.

A cancer diagnosis is like a nightmarish storm that descends out of nowhere, terrifies you and creates havoc, then passes on. It is difficult to stop yourself from continually searching the sky afterwards for storm clouds.  We are all learning about living in the present. You can read Bethany’s moving account of her experience at https://invisibility.home.blog/

When life seems to tilt askew as it does when someone you love is suffering, the rhythms of the natural world can feel like a comforting reassurance. Things will be okay. Life goes on, the earth keeps turning and God will nudge the sun up over the horizon tomorrow.

2019 is winding down with my MFA in hand, my parent still with us, and Bethany recovering from chemotherapy. The environment is not faring as well. The world is hotter, dirtier, and Trump has another year to gut environmental protections for our air, water, and wild spaces. One must look for good news and peek under the covers of the headlines. One must tune one’s inner radio to the Joy Channel.

Up your hopefulness factor by checking out the

Good News Network

at goodnewsnetwork.org

You’ll find a story about a scientist in Mexico, Sandra Pascoe Ortiz, who is developing a biodegradable plastic from the juice of the nopal catcus. Her new plastic degrades in soil in one month, and when submerged in water, degrades in a matter of days. Best of all, if it makes its way to the ocean, and is consumed by a sea creature or bird, it will not hurt them, unlike our current plastics which kill close to 100,000 sea animals and over a million seabirds each year.


Maybe our planet will get an encore if enough of us decide to change the way we inhabit it.


Richard Powers wrote the 2019 Pulitzer Prize winner for fiction, Overstory. Powers’s novel explores the ways that trees heal themselves, how they share information, how they regenerate, and how they are essential to human survival. The trees know things we are still struggling to learn. Bradford Murrow says,

“Richard Powers’s novel will complicate the way you think about the environment, activism, our gossamer connection with each other and nature…”.

I can’t think of anything more needed in our country right now than for someone to “complicate” the way we think about the environment. We need to be jolted into action. We need to be awakened to the sacredness of the natural world and our dependence on its health for our own.

December 21, 2014

While We Wait

by Cynthia

Christmas on Walnut Ridge

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The halls are decked with greenery and bows, and even the mallard on the mantle is feeling festive. The stockings are hung from the chimney with care

 

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and I’ve got a wild boar roast (provided by my son-in-law) brining in the refrigerator for our big family dinner on Christmas Eve.

Inside the farmhouse, everything is warm and close, the white lights on the Christmas tree spangling the room in a glow of peaceful contentment.

Outside, all is cold and drab.

The tree limbs are naked spires, lifeless without their skirts of leaves to sway and shimmer. The high grass brittles in the wind and dead things are everywhere. The animals wear thick winter coats; the cats loll on the porch like tiny old women in expensive furs. Gray-ness prevails outside the door, making it too easy for me to hibernate by the fire and neglect the farm chores.

There is something lonely about winter. It is easy to forget that hibernation is a time of fervent, but invisible activity.

“I prefer winter and fall, when you feel the bone structure in the landscape – the loneliness of it – the dead feeling of winter.  Something waits beneath it – the whole story doesn’t show.”

–  Andrew Wyeth

The whole story here on the farm is that things are happening. Big things. Transitions. While we wait for Christmas, and the new year, and the green grass of Spring.

Winter involves waiting. Waiting requires patience.

We’re waiting here on Walnut Ridge. Waiting for Christmas, waiting for the interminable long nights to get a wee bit shorter, giving the sun a chance to hang around in the frigid sky until we get back to the farm from our jobs in town.

We’re waiting for the kids who will be born in February to our does.

      (We’re talking goats, not reindeer, and baby goats, not children).

These fat mamas-to-be were happily gobbling up sweet feed this morning.

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Our goats are Kikkos, a breed of goat that originated in New Zealand.  Kikko is a Maori word that means, basically, flesh to eat. Eating the flesh of another creature involves making an ethical judgement if one is a thoughtful person. Some of my friends just don’t do it. I understand. I do it, but not without ambivalence.

Caring for animals that you know are going to become food for humans feels like a pretty heavy thing.

Some people say that humans should stop eating other animals, but I’m content for now with eating and farming animals who are easy on the environment, and raising and slaughtering them in the most humane and sensitive way possible.

Goat meat is the protein of the future.

It’s certainly the most consumed red meat in the world, (almost 70% of the meat eaten globally) and it’s popularity in the United States is growing exponentially.

Here are a few reasons why you should be eating chevon (meat from adult goats) or cabrito (meat from young goat)

1. It is both kosher and halal.

2. It has 1/3 fewer calories than beef and 1/4 fewer calories than chicken and much less fat.

3. Goats are easy on the environment, unlike cattle. Goats are browsers; they eat weeds and shrubs and don’t require supplemental feeding.

4. Goats can thrive in different environments, especially our Kikkos. Kikkos can adapt to dry arid climates as well as to colder, moister areas.

You can search online for a local source of USDA approved chevon or cabrito. Or check out the website http://www.eatwild.com for a list of pasture fed animals in your area.

                                                                           Princess Grows Up

I wrote last year about our little doe, Princess. Like so many of us, she kept making the same mistake over and over. She just couldn’t resist the grass (it’s always greener) on the other side of the fence so she spent a good deal of time with her head stuck, helpless until my husband or I noticed her absence from the rest of the herd. She was so unable to remember the inevitable that we had to wrangle her out almost every day. (If she were a person, we would say she was ADDICTED).
She started losing weight because she spent more time with her head in the fence than she did grazing. The other goats began shunning her as she got weaker and more sickly.  As a last resort, we removed part of her horns to keep her from getting stuck. She looked pitiful, but it worked! She started restoring some weight, and the other goats let her back into the herd. (Herd animals often instinctively drive out a sick member as a way to protect the herd from disease)

 

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Here is princess with her nubby horns and her fat, pregnant belly. All grown up and one of our nicest does.

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The sheep are also thriving on the good grass that still remains from a summer that blessed us with plenty of rain. The lambs  born this March are grown, and may become mothers themselves next Spring. Here they are their birth day.

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And here they are today. Mom is in front, and her two babies are behind her. They should have gone to market in the Fall, but we decided to hold on to them and see if they produce lambs next Spring.

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Even though the world looks bleak outside, deep,mysterious things are happening. Babies are growing into mothers. Tiny roots are pushing further into deep soil. Trees are drinking in the nectar of decomposing leaves and life is nourishing itself in the womb of winter. Things are happening. While we wait.

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April 26, 2014

Relationships Don’t Matter…

by Cynthia

Beautiful photos of a man and a cutting horse.

April 26, 2014

When I Grow Up I’ll Be A Farmer

by Cynthia

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I’d been pulling weeds around the raised beds in the garden for a couple of hours this morning before I remembered to stop and stretch my back, sit down and rest a minute. Realizing how weary I was already, at only ten o’clock in the morning, a voice inside my head sneered, “Why are you doing this? This is nuts. You could hop on down to the farmer’s market and buy all the vegetables you want. Why do you spend so many hours out in this garden?. (The voice was on a roll and getting louder). You could be doing other things, more important things. You could be reading that new novel all your friends are reading. You could be doing volunteer work. You could be improving your mind, going to the gym, writing that book you always talk about wanting to write someday instead of breaking your back pulling weeds. Jeez.”

I had to admit, the voice had some good points. I don’t have to be gardening, so why do I? How do you explain something, even to yourself (and the voice inside your head) that feels like a compulsion, like something you just have to do?

My daughter gave me a little book for Christmas, one of those “Words from my Mom” books where your write down things from your childhood so your great- grandchildren have a records of your existence. It was sweet of her, but it made me a little depressed. The book is a reminder that someday I won’t be around to speak for myself. One of the questions the book asks is “What did you want to be when you were a little girl?

When I was in high school I wanted to be a professional weaver, and in college, a dietician. A few years after college I realized what I really wanted to be was a psychologist. I never became any of those things, although I came closest to psychologist when I became a marriage and family therapist. But when I was small, I wanted to be a farmer. I spent some time each summer on my cousin Diane’s farm, playing in the hay loft, riding horses, dusting tobacco plants, collecting wild berries and fishing in her pond. I thought it would be the greatest thing in the world to grow crops, and ride around on a tractor and take care of animals on my own land.

I suppose I pull weeds, and plant seeds, and grow my own food so the little girl inside me can play at being a farmer.

After the weeding, I transplanted tomato plants, all heirloom varieties from seeds saved from last year’s crop: San Marzano, my favorite paste tomato, Amy’s Sugar Gem, a very sweet heirloom that produces vines heavy with golf ball sized yummy fruit, Garden Peach, which is a  cultivar of a native South American fruit mainly from Peru where they are known as Coconas,  Costaluto Genevese, an ugly little knobby tomato with an intense tomato taste due to its high acid content and Mac’s Round Green, a little green tomato that I got from another Master Gardener in my county and have never eaten

I think I’ll put the “Words from my Mom” book inside a box, along with some heirloom tomato seeds. If my great-grandchildren really want to know who I was, they can plant a few of these old tomato varieties and taste for themselves a bit of history. One bite of a Garden Peach tomato on a hot summer afternoon and they’ll understand why I was a gardener!

 

 

April 2, 2014

by Cynthia

Spring Lambs on Walnut Ridge

Spring Lambs on Walnut Ridge

We had two new lambs born last week on Walnut Ridge. When I bought my first pair of sheep I named them Charlie and Maude, after my grandparents.  My grandparents had nine children, affording me plenty of names for future lambs. Our first set of lambs was a male and female. We named the female Grace, after my mother’s oldest sister. We could have named the male Hugh, after the oldest son in the family, but that might have been a bit maudlin since we ate that lamb for Easter dinner the following year.  Since Maude’s latest lambs are both girls, no one gets eaten, and they will hopefully have a long life here on the farm producing more lambs. We named them Ruth and Ina, after my mother and her next youngest sister. Hopefully Grace will give us some lambs later this year, setting us off on another branch of the family tree.

After this interminably cold winter, things are finally coming back to life. The pastures are greening up, making the goats very happy as they were tiring of the winter’s fare of cane fronds and cedar bark. The fruit trees have swollen buds that thankfully survived the latest sub-freezing nighttime temps. The Bradford pears are in full bloom all over town; their white smelly blossoms beautify the city streets and make it hard for the allergy afflicted to breathe.  The Vandy co-eds, like pear blossoms, flood the streets in the Village near my office, dressed in sheer, flowy things, sashaying about in high wedges, chirping away on cell phones, buzzing with energy. Everything wants to move, to burst out, active and alive.

This winter was so long and frigid, despair hung around in the corners like spider webs. The usual tragedies seemed more potent and relentless; deaths, illness and lost causes seemed to suffocate hopefulness and faith. The darkness and cold felt interminable. And then a few days of sunshine and green and it is as if a light turns on and the darkness melts. Just as I am despairing of seeing new life, just as I am about to concede defeat to the cutworms or the root rot or the inherent folly of humanity, I walk out to the garden and there they are, little green shoots, or fuzzy yellowish fronds, or fat celadon leaves. The seeds I planted weeks ago will have pushed their way to the surface, drinking up the sun and turning themselves into little chlorophyll factories. I’d love to be as resilient as Nature, as dogged and determined. Maybe someday I will remember that recovery and emotional healing are like the emergence of spring plants: Just when we  think that nothing we are doing is creating change, we get a glimpse of new life. Things just get easier, things fall into place and symptoms finally recede.  We have a new sense of ourselves and are ready to grow in ways we could never have dreamed were possible. We just have to hang on.

In the depth of winter, I finally learned that within me there lay an invincible summer.   Albert Camus

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Precious!