I think Pema Chodron must be a farmer. I’ve been listening to her most recent book “Comfortable with Uncertainty”, which I have lovingly renamed, “This is stupid, I hate uncertainty, yet I chose the most unpredictable career ever”… This title is a work in progress, recommendations can be left in the comments below :) Anyway, I digress. I really do have the ultimate respect for Pema Chodron, I remember seeing her at a graduation from Naropa and being so moved, even though I’d studied her for years, her words are simple and poignant and I feel like I want to highlight absolutely ever line she writes. This season has been a doozy so far, not in a bad way, simply in an unpredictable way. Seeds didn’t germinate, weed mat is a blessing and a curse, cucumber beetles decided to try out my dahlias for dinner. There really is always something, and to be honest, I don’t actually mind that, I don’t mind the unpredictability of it, I can roll with things pretty easily, but I see unpredictability and uncertainty as different things. My uncertainty comes up when my emotional self gets involved, and, my emotions are completely involved in farming. I ask myself a lot “am I doing this right?”, what is the “right” way to farm? I don’t think there actually is one. This is where Pema would remind me about my maitri, or loving kindness practice. Essentially meaning that I have to offer myself the love and compassion I need before I can offer it to anyone, or anything else. I have that reminder tattooed on my arm in the form of a line from a poem by Rumi, the line is “So the pearl buys herself”… Maitri is something I do try to practice everyday, especially when I’m in perfectionist, “i’m not doing enough” mode. Yes, there are certain things to be done on the farm to support the plants and flowers, ways to tend to them to help them thrive, but at the end of the day, I have to trust myself and the plants, we both know what we’re doing, even when we don’t feel like it. My first season of farming was entirely intuitive, I really had no idea what I was doing, and this year I put the pressure on for myself to do it “right”, and I didn’t even realize I had. Well, I don’t know what the right way to be a flower farmer is, but what I do know is that I want to offer the magic of the flowers to anyone and everyone I can. I know that my days spent with the plants are the best, most peaceful days, I know that this really is soul work for me, and that it will always be supported. The things is though, I see the cycles of farming in my personal life too. What aspects of my life need more tending? My friendships? My relationship? My other job? What needs to be weeded, fertilized, protected from unpredictable weather? Where can I let go a little, give in to uncertainty more? These are practices I work with moment to moment. There’s a teaching in Buddhism, “not too tight, not too lose”, I think it all fits together, I can’t hold on too tight to being the perfect flower farmer, I can lean in to the spaces of uncertainty, but I can’t let go entirely or blackberries probably really will take over the farm, and then I’m going to have to buy a herd of goats so they can eat the blackberries so I can start all over… actually I want nothing more than a herd of goats so that doesn’t sound half bad… my point, in this completely rambling blog post, is that uncertainty makes me feel like i’m falling and there is no net below me. It’s a giant leap of faith, and a whole lot of trust to sit with. These are the lessons that I turn to the flowers for. Our symbiotic relationship reminds me that my experience of uncertainty is no different than theirs. They are as much at the mercy of the climate and weather as I am, yet, they set their roots, they grow their leaves, and they bloom. They have the support of the natural rhythms of life, bees and other pollinators, and me, as their farmer. We really are all in this together. There is no failing if you’re doing what you love. There’s trying, and then trying something different.
Inhale…Exhale…Today was the first day I have felt grounded in 8 months.
For anyone who watched my live feed on IG this morning, because I’m assuming none of you had far more exciting brunch plans, you would know that I could not sleep last night. I kept trying, and trying… mugwort couldn’t even get me into a dream state. I had this energy coursing through my body that wanted to burst out, I was finally going to get my hands in the dirt in just a few short hours and couldn’t handle the excitement. So, like any other adult, I stayed up a good portion of the night watching the Great British Baking Show. First of all, British baked goods really don’t appeal to me, too fruity. I’m a chocolate girl, any form, any kind, I’ll take it. Oh wait, that’s not why you’re reading this post is it? Farming, right, farming… So, I couldn’t sleep and then this morning I could not wait to be out the door to get to the farm. I did not know how much my soul had missed farming. I always refer to my “job” as my social work job, and farming, it’s my souls work, my praxis. It’s what I would do if I could do anything, and, I am doing it, sometimes that still blows my mind. There aren’t many things I love more in this world than digging my hands into cool soil in the morning, or seeing the true leaves starting to pop up on all the seedlings who are still nestled safely in the greenhouse. It feels so rich with possibility right now as we start to move in to spring, and today was the absolute embodiment of that. I think I had forgotten how much processing I do when working the land. I had time to get in touch with what this season means to me, because it’s so different than last year, and it let me move my winter processing out of my body and into the land. Finally being able to ground gave me time to reflect on winter which as been a very quiet time of reflection and rupture in my life. Winter was not all bad, I got to spend a lot of time connecting with new and old friends, sharing my home and space with people I care about. I got to spend some time with my family back home, I got to dedicate my time and energy to the teenagers I work with, and most importantly, I got time to connect with myself in a new and different way. Now though, I’m ready to stop putting pajama pants on at 4 in the afternoon, break out shirts that aren’t flannel (that’s a lie, who am I kidding?), and get back to my souls work, stepping into my role as flower farmer from a much more empowered place in order to bring all sorts of magic and community to the farm this year.
Thank you to all the volunteers who came out today. You are so awesome! I can’t wait to share more farm musings with you all through the season.
The leaves are falling, the weather is turning, and I’ve found myself reflecting on my first season of flower farming. I moved from Portland from Boulder, CO. a little over two years ago. On my first visit to Portland I went to the International Test Rose Garden and knew I had found my home. I called my friends and family and told them I wanted to move to Portland, that things don’t grow in Colorado like they do in Portland, that the trees even had things growing on them! I was in love. Shortly after finishing school I packed my degree in Buddhist and somatic psychology, and my two mini dachshunds and moved to Portland where I knew not a single person. The summer before I had moved I worked on a goat dairy farm and as a landscaper for my school and noticed that I was missing working on the land, but I moved late in the season and farms were closing down for winter, so I added myself to volunteer lists and forgot about it while settling into a job in social work, working with youth coming out of corrections. It was rewarding work, but heartbreaking and I quickly got burnt out. At this point spring was starting and I chose to take 2 months off of work to explore the magical city, take herbalism courses, and…volunteer on some farms. My first email requesting volunteers came through, a moment that was to change my life in ways I wasn’t anticipating. The first day I volunteered at a local urban flower farm I met the woman who ( didn’t realize it at the time) I would elope with and marry just a short six months later with a huge greek wedding planned for our year anniversary. We fell madly in love and I spent most of that summer on her farm learning everything I could. I loved it. I knew I had found where I belonged. As summer moved into winter and we began navigating the perils of relationship and marriage I began feeling a bit directionless, but did not know what I was seeking. My wife came to me one day and told me that one of her farmer friends was giving up his land to farm a bigger property and asked if we should rent the land, to which I said yes. As things began to play out I decided to rent the land by myself, still not having a clue what to do with it. And then, as if the most obvious thing in the world, I thought to myself..” I love flowers, things grow in Portland, why don’t I try to grow flowers?”, mind you, I had never grown a thing in my life so I was not entirely confident in this decision but I moved forward with it.
So here I was with a magical piece of land, and no clue what I was doing, but I was confident that with my wife at my side she would help guide me through the first year and we would live happily ever after growing flowers and vegetables, raising little farm babies…
Well, as they often do, things took a big shift about 2 months into my first season. My wife left, deciding the marriage business wasn’t for her. So I found myself heartbroken, angry, and grieving, with a farm full of plant babies and no idea what I was doing. I had never raised a plant in my life, this was my first stab at farming, and all of a sudden things were starting to bloom. I didn’t know what they needed, I didn’t know what I needed, so I took to the land. I sat with all my flower babies and learned the lessons they each had to teach. My sweet peas reminded me that life is full of beauty, playfulness, and sensuality. They were there to help me get my feet back on the ground and to figure out how to move forward. Once summer was in full swing I had the poppies, snapdragons, asters, and tobacco flower to show me beauty and resiliency. By this time I had taken on another near full time job back doing social work with youth. My days were full of teenagers, laughter, tears, and flowers. I kept apologizing to the flowers every time I went to the farm because I felt like I was failing them, I did not feel like I was there enough or that I was taking care of them well enough, and yet each day, they were still there, in their glory, thriving, reminding me to be gentle with myself, that I was not failing, that I, like them, was going through a process of growth, bounty, and endings and eventually rebirth (well not so much for the annuals, but the metaphor was just too good haha) And then fall rolled around and so did the dahlias. Oh those dahlias, the ladies who were there for some of the hardest days I had. There was more than once occasion where I sat in-between them and cried, and each time I opened my eyes to see those magnificent blooms I felt a little better. They were my strength to finish out the season. I grew Cafe au Laits for our second wedding so on our supposed to be wedding day/wedding anniversary I packed them and a dear friend up and went to the beach to thank the land, this earth, for the gifts and the challenges of the year and I offered them to the sea. I love ritual and I love water. It felt so healing to give it all back to the earth. In one final push through the month of October I finished out the season, cover cropped the beds, dug a 25ft trench while I had a concussion (I don’t suggest doing that, neither does my Dr. ), and I said goodnight to the land, knowing that next season will be even more magical and full of community.
I can’t articulate the lessons I learned, both about farming and life through this first year of farming. The warmth of which I was received into the community was astounding. I owe so many people a million thanks for the support, the help of all all my amazing volunteers and all my friends who let me complain about deadheading, weeding, and seeding trays with microscope seeds. A huge thanks to all the farmers who have come before a written books about this stuff! You saved me more times than I can count.
I closed this season out with a heart full of gratitude, warmth, and excitement for next season. I can’t wait to share all the magical things I have in the works for 2018.