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My birthday is in the middle of November, and there have always been things I liked about that, and others I didn’t.


When I was a kid, the first snow of the winter sometimes happened by November 14th.


In fact, I had a standing bet with my best friend.


Her birthday was at the end of the month, and I bet her we’d see snowflakes by mine, and she bet it would happen closer to hers.The anticipation was exciting, even when the snow didn’t quite make it in time for me to win.


I loved the return of quiet winter days, the possibility of school cancelation, the start of basketball season, and the thrill of sledding down the hills in our yard with my sisters. I even convinced my dog Molly to ride with me sometimes!


And having a birthday after the farm’s hay and corn harvest was finished for the season made it feel there was more time and space for birthday celebrations.



Me pushing little sister Nicole on a sled a few years back. ;)


But one thing, a silly thing I know, but still a thing, I never liked about my birthday was that my birthstone was yellow topaz.


It seemed so boring compared to other seemingly more vibrantly-colored birthstones like ruby, garnet, sapphire, turquoise, emerald, or even the classic diamond.


I couldn’t see anything so great about yellow and wished for another when friends were sharing what theirs were.


But this week, decades later, as Tuesday’s harvest started accumulating in our myriad of crates, baskets, and totes,


I became aware of all the yellow around me - lemon cucumbers, yellow cherry tomatoes, yellow/orange heirloom tomatoes, yellow wax and romano snap beans, even big yellow sunflowers Aidan planted on the edges of different plots - and thought it awesome, fabulous, beautiful, and bountiful.





I kept pointing out anything yellow to Bill and the kids (They asked if I felt okay? Or if I had snuck a beer out of the fridge.)


I also remembered Stacey, the kid, disparaging her yellow birthstone as boring and uninspiring. How wrong she, actually I, was about how pretty, bright, and cheerful yellow is.


And I realized how happy it often makes me.


Well, unless it’s some milk fed calf’s yellow poop I’ve inadvertently stepped in! The reality of farm life is never far away.


And it’s the color of the sun too.


Of course, as farmers growing vegetables and meat, both dependent on photosynthesis, the sun’s important to our livelihood.


But it’s more than that.


It’s vital to life for all of us, making it arguably the single most important chemical reaction on Earth.


I mean, we wouldn’t have anything to eat or any air to breathe without it!






As I snapped photos of our yellow veggies, I felt grateful for that big yellow ball of gas in the sky, and its role in my life.


That potential for growth and harvest signifies hope for the future.


Who couldn’t use more of that these days with


all the uncertainty and distrust that is swirling around us these days?


And then,


just like that,


the gratitude evaporated that silly little part of


Stacey the kid,


but actually me,


that still wished I had a more exciting birthstone.


Poof!


It was gone.


It’s kinda weird, but I felt lighter, confident, and more true to myself.


Thank you yellow for helping me accept myself and trusting that, even though I don’t know what the days ahead will bring, I,


like so many others,


WILL


do the best I can to figure it out.


Sunflower (photo by Marlee)


I'm sorry it took me so long but am really glad I keep on figuring it out.


And I know we'll figure it out.


Together.


Transplanting, along with directly seeding in the soil, is the name of the game this week. (And for weeks to come!)


We’ve transplanted kale, chard, beets, some onions, rhubarb, and spinach. Wondering what’s up next? Asparagus, the last of the onions, mini broccoli, kohlrabi, and potatoes.


Yikes! That’s a tall order, and there’s a good chance we'll be playing catch up into next week.



beet seedlings


But we’ve never been ones to shy away from long work days, and I don’t see us doing so now.


Besides, my sister Nicole is coming to help this weekend. (She doesn’t know it yet, but we’re calling her our secret weapon of this event ➡ Our 2021 Spring Transplant!)


We’re getting in the rhythm of the days, first morning chores and then heading off to our respective jobs for the day.


Bill and Aidan are often prepping beds to be planted a few days off, while Liam, Marlee, and I transplant seedlings into the ones they readied a few days back.



Bill & Aidan making trenches for asparagus and Aidan hitching a ride!


Sometimes the three of us work quietly while thinking our own thoughts. Other times we discuss or debate subjects like religion, politics, racism, or current events like police shootings. Or, if we’re close enough to each other, Marlee will play a comedian like John Mulaney or Aisling Bea on her phone. We listen and laugh together at their ironic observations knowing we’ll probably reference some of them in future conversations and laugh again.



Liam joking me that he thinks we're planting mandrakes not rhubarb!

(Harry Potter aficionados will understand the reference and why he's wearing earmuffs. 😉


I appreciate this time with my kids. Their perspectives often challenge me, and I alternate between taking pride when they articulately express themselves and feeling uncomfortable when they call me out on an inconsistent belief, and I stammer looking anything but articulate!


Both situations are good for me.


Some say I’m afflicted with maybe a little too much assuredness in my views. My mom says I inherited it from dad. Maybe there’s some truth to that. He could be very certain. But, I try to keep my mind open to other possibilities. If there’s one thing I’ve learned over the years, it’s that humility is good.


So, while I’d like to think I offer them some “wisdom” from living longer than they, I also realize they’ve experienced a world much different than the one I grew up in. That gives them valuable insights I don’t have. Ones that I can best understand only if I’m willing to listen to a different perspective. And that I would actually BE the wiser for considering even if, or maybe more importantly, when I disagree.


Often, as we move down the rows, I feel myself stepping away in my mind to observe our interactions. It’s a surreal experience.


I see me, usually next to one of them and across the thirty-inch-wide soil bed from the other, on the ground, pulling baby kale, chard, or whatever we’re planting out of trays, settling them in the hole I dig, and then firming the ground around before moving to the next seedling just as they do.


I can’t help but be brought up short by how much older I look than them.


Much older that I’d like. I see lots of grey hair. That’s maybe not so bad for the curls I know, for sure, I inherited from Dad but look at those wrinkles! I like that I express myself through my face - smiling when I see you come to my market table or run into you at Nina’s - but I don’t think of myself wearing those visible reminders all the time. I notice I’m getting up and down slower and with more awareness of my movements then Liam and Marlee. I remember when I could easily stand and squat - often with a kid in tow - was it really that long ago?


I realize that I’m going through my days thinking I’m as young as they are. It’s an unconscious self-deception. But in these observational moments, I can't deny, the gig is up. It's obvious to me, with an unforgiving clarity, that more time has passed than I feel comfortable with.



Aidan, Stacey, and Marlee


I zoom out. Seeing the farm around us and expanding out further to the greater world around us and I imagine other farmers spending their time similarly during this season.


And I feel my place. On this farm. In this family. And through this body, even as it’s getting older than I’d like.


I don’t want to take any of it for granted.


I feel myself trying to suck up every moment I’m so lucky to have. Take it all in. I’m hyperaware of the shortness of our lives.


Surreal, but so real that I feel more alive than I ever have.



This is the time of year when the pace seems to pick up more and more everyday.



Five-month-old puppy “ i.o.” is not entirely sold on the idea of cows being out in the pasture instead of the barnyard where she’s always known them to be!



Sometimes it’s a delicate balancing act to get everything done that needs to be done. And, sometimes, when nature and time collude in pushing, it feels like a rude shove!


We felt the shove this week, but it feels familiar and is even welcome because it means our work matters.



lettuce popping up in the field



Animals smell the pasture grasses greening up, turn their noses up at their dry hay rations, and stomp their feet waiting anxiously for their turn to leave the barn.



Seedlings continue germinating in flats regardless of whether or not there’s room to squeeze them in the bursting-at-the-seams propagation houses.


tomato seedlings



Directly-seeded-in-the-field crops like peas, lettuces, radishes need watching over for watering and covering from frosty nights while other soil beds are being prepared for planting in the next weeks.



Bill & Aidan filling sandbags to weigh down row covers needed during recent below freezing nights.




There’s also desk work - billing, responding to questions and concerns from new CSA members and customers, and writing newsletters, as summer quickly approaches. Those tasks fall to me.


I love communicating with members and organizing almost as much as I love working outside. But I end up pushing it off in favor of the demanding animals and plants.


I optimistically (and often erroneously) think I can catch it up in the evening.


Ha! What a not-funny joke I play on myself and, sometimes, you all when I get behind at replying. (Sorry if you’re one of those waiting!) I always feel younger before 3 pm. After that, reality hits, and I find not only has time run out to get it done today, but so has my energy!


I’m realizing I need to discipline myself to get these important tasks done. Maybe if I get up earlier? When it’s quiet, and the day’s commotion hasn’t caught me up in its eddy yet? But I'm reluctant to do so. I don't want to get out from my snuggly warm spot under the covers earlier . . .


But where else would I find the time and space?


So maybe . . .


(I know getting colorful highlighters from my mom’s store, while making my calendar look nicer, weren’t the solution. Lol.)


Don’t get me wrong, I’m not complaining about this time of year.


The push/pull can be overwhelming, but all five of us feel the excitement of the main growing season’s potential.


It’s all in front of us and is gathering momentum. Kinda like a roller coaster approaching the crest of a hill.


Getting on the ride means navigating the challenges spring throws at our feet as it hurtles us into summer.

But it means feeling motivated, getting caught up in creative problem solving, knowing the satisfying tiredness of meaningful work, and having the opportunity to grow as farmers, team members, and as people too.


And we're clear on our farm - "we got on the ride" years ago.


And we choose to stay on again and again because it makes us grateful for this land, family and friends, farm members and customers, each other, and this life.


It's all worth it.

Us



We're rewarded again and again as our feet touch the ground we've been privileged to farm. We're rewarded again and again when someone tells us how much they like our lettuce, or enjoy our maple syrup in their morning coffee, or love the color of our eggs.


We're rewarded again and again and again and again.


Yes.


I accept the challenge to be more disciplined . . . and I'll raise it one early morning at a time.




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