About me...

Because this journey is intensely personal, there will be times when my posts will be about more than just rebuilding the physical aspects of my life. They may be random and sometimes I think they may not even make sense to some. But whatever I post here will be as honest as I can make it, no punches pulled, telling it like it it. I hope that I can share some insight with others who might be going through a similar transitory period in their own lives. With luck and perseverence I know I will eventually successful in my new life. I have very high hopes for all of this but then I had those when Dave was alive, too. I am naturally a pretty optomistic person, I think.

I posted this last January. Dave died in March. Funny how life changes so quickly.


Last Saturday, I was a vendor at my best and favorite farmer's market.  It was so cold, I thought I would never feel my right big toe again but even so, it was exhilarating!

Since it is a winter market,  there weren't a lot of people perusing the venue early on.  That gave me a chance to look around and really "see" my fellow farmers. Usually I am so busy from the time I get to market until take down, this is something I almost never get to do.

As I looked around the market, I noticed quite a few new  faces. One thing that really struck me was the number of women farmers there. I didn't make a count then but looking back, I am pretty sure we farm femmes outnumbered the gents by about 30-40%. And most of these were the growers/producers/farmers, not the wives coming to help out.  Guess I got my feminista on over it, because it really made me happy to see that and I was jazzed for the rest of the day.

As I stood there Saturday, I thought how great it would be to really connect with other women that I have something in common with and to share ideas or just maybe vent about the things we face in our chosen lives.  I am very proud of the work I do but only someone who does it can really understands what it involves. Only another farming woman would understand why my nails are dirty and ragged all summer, why my hair is hardly ever combed and why I have grass stains on the knees of every paid of jeans I own.

I have worked along side my husband and as an equal partner in our organic farm venture for over 10 years now. As I think back over the last decade, the number of women at markets and other venues has really grown during that time. I have met and gotten to know several great women farmers. I'd really like to meet some more.

Three months later, I no longer had a farm to work or a husband to work beside of.  Life really sucks sometimes.

Not MIA...just working elsewhere,,,,,

Visit my alter ego blog The Artful Omnivore to see what I have been up to lately.
Sorry I have been slack again. Not much going on. Finally got the funds I was expecting but have not had time to do anything much outside lately. Weather has been perfect but I have just not been in the mood.  Brother is getting married and that has taken precedence over much of what I could be doing but it is all good.
Will be having the field plowed soon and be working on putting together a cattle panel hoophouse and
some new beds. I will have a photo chronicle of all that. Of course, with the holiday coming up on Thursday and the wedding on Saturday, it will be the week after before anything starts happening.
Tractor guy came by today and said he is ready to plow any time I want him to come. I am waiting on a check from the estate and when I get it I will have the funds to pay him, so I am excited I can finally get something positive and productive done towards the new field.

Not exciting to most people but to me it is like being part way up Everest.
Working on projects in the house this week. Nothing much interesting to write about on this blog.  Creative juices flowing but no cash to follow through.  Got some funds coming in next week that should put me back on the road to something....don't know what but something.
It is raining today so that put the kibosh on any outside plans I had for today.  I am kind of glad about that because the other day I was working on getting all my pots, etc. up to put into storage and I had a little experience that made me throw down what I was working on and literally run away.

I had all kinds of stuff in pots this year and I was pulling out the dead stuff and dumping out the dirt into a big bin, so I could reuse it next season to fill in stuff.  I paid good money for that organic potting soil, so I always reuse what I can.  Anyway, I had been dumping out small 3" plastic pots for about 20 minutes, which is a totally mindless thing to be doing, so I was not paying any attention.  I just happened to look down and see that the dirt
from the pot I had just emptied was moving so I took a twig and scratched the dirt around and there was a BIG, FAT BLACK WIDOW SPIDER.  I threw down the twig, ran about 30 feet and screamed like a little girl. 

When I was at the farm every day, a spider like that would not have drawn a second glance, other than to make sure it wasn't where somebody might get their hands on it accidentally.  Good thing I was wearing gloves, though. A black widow bite is extremely painful though rarely fatal so I wasn't in any real danger. Life-threatening reactions are generally seen only in small children and the elderly and I am neither of those. I was bitten by a Hobo spider when we lived in Oregon and they are much more dangerous.  It wasn't pleasant, but I survived.  

Black Widow
Today I am working on a project that started back before Dave passed away. It was something that was very important to us and I have just not been in a frame of mind where I have felt like I could continue to work on it. I have not really felt inspired to put anything new up for a long time, but if I am going to survive, I have to get my butt in gear and move in a positive direction.  Dave taught me better than that.

Dave's biggest pet peeve was "negativity". I remember once in particular, when I was just trying to be the "voice of reason" when we were planning a project, that I pointing out the cons of whatever it might have been, he looked at me and said that I should only be putting positive intentions out to the Universe. He also said that if they were good ones, the negative stuff would just work itself out and that I should stop wasting my pro vibes on stuff that didn't matter.  That may sound kind of naive to some people, but it was totally true.  When Dave wanted to accomplish something, he rarely failed to master whatever he was trying to do.  I need to channel him a little more often, instead of just missing him so much.

I am also working on redesigning the old website, so that it is more up to date and a little less downbeat. I have some grand new plans for next season (2011) and I can't wait to reveal some of the new stuff.  I think it is gonna be good.
Okay, I admit it. I am wishy washy.  I said I wasn't going to post much on this blog anymore, but I keep coming back to it.  It is like a comfortable old pair of jeans you just can't seem to throw out because there might be one more season of wear left in them. This blog feels like home and so I have come back to it again...most likely to stay.

To paraphrase that guy from Extreme Makeover, "Welcome home, Suzanne Ballard, welcome home...."

Finally, some progress!!!

I am making a little progress on the field this week.  The friend with the tractor finally got it repaired and he came this week and bush hogged the upper part of the field, so I could get a better look at it. It is much larger than I anticipated and I am kind of excited about that.  My friend is planning on coming and turning it once this fall and
working it again for me in the spring. He said he would have it ready in time to plant the first of April, which thrills me to pieces. I get to spend the winter planning my new garden space for next year and that feels like the first positive step I have taken in months.   I am going to start working on the herb beds again soon, since it has now cooled off and I don't have to worry about having a sunstroke when I am out working!

As soon as I can get my camera repaired, I will take pictures to post with this so you can see the new plot.

How I got to the place I now find myself. The real story...

When my husband died, I moved to my hometown, to be closer to my parents and frankly, because I wasn't given much choice in the matter.  Family dynamics change when someone dies and this time was no exception. I have never been particularly close to Dave's mother. The reasons don't really matter any more but they had a profound impact on my life after Dave died.  I am trying to make the best of a bad situation but I think it bears an explanation to anyone who is reading this blog so that one can get a feel for what I am up against.  It is not a matter of me just being slow or unable to complete tasks.  There is much more to the story than that.

When this journey began, I was already into my gardening season.  I had one garden already planted and another waiting on the weather to break so that I could get out and prep and plant it for my early summer crops. Because it was so wet this spring (2010) it was about 2 weeks later than usual but not that big of a problem. In addition to the plot that was planted and the new plot awaiting planting, I was also trying to figure out a way to establish a new place to grow after I moved.

I had a lot of plants in the greenhouse that needed to get into the ground but their harvest season would occur after I was hopefully moved, so I transported my tomatoes, eggplants and some pepper plants to the new location.  Unfortunately, being 40 miles away from my plants at the moment is making me kinda nervous anyway. The new location had several major storms blow through and I was worried that things might have been damaged by the wind and rain.

So, I drove there one afternoon to survey any damage and lo and behold! another storm blew through while I was there. Damage wasn't anything too major but there were some things that were totally lost. I just had to put everything to right as best I could and hope for the best.  Most everything survived the storms, even the ones that came later on. 

The situation I found myself in back in early May was beyond anything I seemed to be able to do much about. The garden situation turned into just one in a long series of bad luck and setbacks. Having one garden to manage would have been easy, even with the rain and other adverse conditions. I could have worked around it.. we've done it before, many times. But having the garden I need to be tending the most be 40 miles away (which is an hour trip each way for me...the route is thru some of the most congested traffic in this area) proved to be extremely hard to work around.

What I have written on this blog up until now about my reasons for moving (especially the part about the moving of the Farm being instigated by my need to be closer to family) is only a tiny bit of the truth. I did need to be closer to them but I had a much more distressing reason for making this move back to my hometown.

In the first week after Dave's passing, his mother announced  to me that she was planning on renting Dave's beloved organic fields to another farmer, where he intended to grow hay. I was not offered ANY choice, not the opportunity to stay and be the renter, nothing. Just pretty much "you need to go", implied the sooner the better. That happened in late March. Imagine if you will the effect that would have on a grieving widow, who had not even had time to wrap herself around the fact that her husband was gone forever...I was completely devestated by this announcement. I didn't get out of bed for 2 days.

Ironically, she said that she wasn't pushing me to leave and in the next breath was telling me that she also intended to remodel the house where the two of us had lived for the last 10 years and rent it out. And that I needed to get all of my equipment, tomato cages, plant stakes, etc, out of the field by June 1st, because that was when the new farmer would want to start working in the field. That all needed to be done by the time school started which is August. I was too stunned to even reply to most of what she said to me that day.

Since the remodel on the house would take about abt 2 months minimum by my estimate, so that didn't leave me much time since it was already April.  If the house needed to be vacated for the new tenant moving in by August and repairs needed to be done before that...well, you see where I am going with this.  Without giving me an actual date to be out, that was effectively exactly what she did. In other words, I had between 45 and 60 days to move the last 10 years of my life....my home, my farm....everything. So much for not pushing me out.

The thing that puzzled me at first about all of this is that Dave was staying at her house during this time and she had been included in many of our conversations about the Farm. We all knew Dave would not be able to do any work this year and talked at length about what would happen with the garden, with CSA, etc.
We talked at length about how I would manage things with Dave unable to participate physically (at this point, we were not counting on him not surviving past March...he was not that sick until the last 4-5 weeks before he died). Our garden plan for this year was to use the small plot for early spring crops and to plant just a portion of the larger garden space that we knew I could manage with little or no assistance. That was a good plan and it would have worked out fine. I had volunteers waiting in the wings to help me with anything I needed help with at the Farm. Dave's mother knew way before Dave's death that this was our plan.

She listened and sat in silence. At any time, while Dave was alive, she could have voiced her intentions. She could have given me some time to adjust. Dave could have helped me make a new plan. She was completely aware that I had obligations to my CSA members and that what this farm produced was my sole source of income. She heard me tell Dave that I would do whatever I could to keep the Farm going. She even sat at Dave's memorial service and listened to the pastor read a eulogy that included the statement from me that stated "I will continue to operate New Moon Farm Organics, no matter what happens in the future. It is Dave's legacy, what he leaves be ind as a testament to his dedication and love of what we do here. I intend to continue our dreams and follow the path..."

And yet she sat through those conversations (and in that church) and never said a word to either Dave or myself about her intentions for the Farm. If at any point prior to Dave's death she had expressed that she needed to do something different with the Farm, she had more than ample opportunity to speak up to both of us. AND I would not now be in the position I find myself.

Our farm has always been Dave's "family farm" and we have never stated otherwise, to anyone. His mother is the one in control of it and  perfectly within her rights to do whatever she likes with it. I cannot and do not blame her for that. I do blame her for being such a coward for not speaking up when Dave was alive. I know it was because she didn't want to promise him that I could stay or that the Farm would go on.  She never "got" what we were doing there at the Farm so there is no surprise there.  She claimed at the time that she needed the money from the rental income which I can understand, but did she just realize she needed it 5 days after Dave died? I find that so very hard to believe.

Unfortunately, in addition to not speaking up about what she planned on doing with the Farm, Dave's mother also kept changing things on me and then I have to scramble to get yet another part of all of this done. About 2 weeks after telling me that she was renting the fields to someone else, she announced that he needed to get in the field by May 1, which means that I had to scramble to get everything out of the field by Apr. 30, which I did. It also meant I had to scramble to get something in the ground at the new place. Then it seems that the new tenant changed his mind because of the rain and won't need to be in the fields until July or August, maybe even September.

And so, I could have planted in the big garden after all which makes me very angry. I do not intend for this to be a diatribe against Dave's mother and I am sorry if it sounds that way. I just think that to understand what I am up against here, I need to make the situation here clear to everyone.

I am grateful that my parents offered me the use of their land (it will be mine someday, so that was logical) but it is simply a flat field at the moment. Nothing has been done to prep the soil, etc. That is why I came up with the idea of setting up the raised beds first. I want to raise herbs in beds eventually, so that seemed logical,too, to start with those. Dave and I grew a whole lot of stuff in a tiny garden space before and I know how to achieve that using intensive and square foot methods of growing. Not a problem...in theory. That is also why things are easily blown about, etc.

Raised beds have extremely loose soil and so the roots of plants do not have quite the anchor that they would if growing deeper root systems, etc. One other problem with moving is that I will be 58 years old in August and being forced to move in with my parents. Even though it will be temporary, it is still a bit of a struggle to get my mind around that one, too. I haven't lived at home since I was 18. To say that we have different ideas on most things would be the understatement of the century. They are great, though, and so willing to accomodate me. It must be almost as hard for them but things we do for love...

And then there is the emotional aspect of all of this. I am having to break up 16 years of our life together during a period of time in my life when I am grieving for the man I loved more than life. It took me three weeks to even be able to walk into his closet and then I just stood there and cried. Imagine having to pack up all of his belongings, basically the entire last decade of our live together, under such pressure and in such a short time. This has been gut wrenching for me but I have no choice but to move ahead best I can. I miss him but sometimes, I really need him here to help me figure out what to do.

The expense of this move has also been something that has been more of a burden that I could have forseen.  I moved an entire household and farm so storage of my belongings has been an issue. I rented a POD to move in and it filled up, so I had to rent another storage unit.  I have things stored in somebody's garage, in
another person's attic, in my mom's spare bedroom....I just hope I can remember where everything is if I ever find a place of my own to live in.

So far this journey has not been a pleasant one. It is like climbing a mountain. Just one thing after another...and another...and another... I am still trying to find for 3 of my dogs, which is like trying to find homes for my children. Dave's beloved dog, Jack, died not too long ago and that was very hard to take. I brought some of my cats with me, but I only found homes for some of the others, so I had to call someone to come and take the rest of them away.  No choice. That will haunt me forever.

I had to divest myself of my beloved Delaware chickens because there is no where to put them at the new place and I do not have the time to build a new coop. I hand raised them from hatchlings and while I know that they are "only" chickens to some people, they are not to me. The cats that I have rescued over the last 2 years will have to go to the pound because nobody will take them since they are not pretty little house kitties. I have so loved all of those furred and feathered creatures and now I have had to banish them to fates I have no control over. I think that might finishing breaking my heart completely in two.

So, with all of that said (and there is more, I am just sparing you anymore of this maudlin tale) I just do not think that I can go on with CSA this year BY MYSELF. I made a committment to you all, monetarily and ethically and I have thought long and hard about how to uphold that committment. I know that most of you signed on with me because of specific reasons and I know what most of those reasons are. I have found a couple of other small farmers in and around Lincoln County who are willing to partner with me, until I can finish getting moved and settled into the new place and get things rolling there or possibly all season if we want, to provide high quality produce for the CSA.

These are people that I trust and would buy from myself and those of you who know me know that I hold others up to high standards. There is also a meat producer, a honey farmer & a fruit farmer, that I might also be able to work with. It seems an equitable solution to the situation for now. Only problem is that I need another week or two to get everything arranged logistically, meaning that we would not be picking up CSA this Saturday. We will still get in the 12 weeks or I would refund for any missed weeks at the end of CSA. And so that is crux of the situation with CSA and New Moon Farm.

I know it is the 11th hours on this but I have been pushed into such a corner and this last week has kind for forced my hand. I am not making this decision, everybody will make their own decision as to wheter or not to participate.  This solution may not suit everyone and so if you do want to continue to participate in CSA under these conditions, I totally understand. I am sorry for your involvement in all of this. If I had my way and things were different I would not have shared that very personal tale with you all. It is my burden to bear.

Since it is affecting us all at the moment, though, I felt it was necessary to let everyone know what was happening and why. And so that is what is going on at the Farm. Thanks for your support. I totally understand if you want to opt out of CSA. And I can't apologize enough for this to be coming so late in the season. I truly thought that things were working out until the last couple of weeks and that I would be moved and all settled in by now.

Best to you all. Suzanne
Oh my!  I just looked at the last time I posted something here.  It has been like 6 weeks.  I have to admit that there is nothing much going on right now. I have had to postpone my readying of the raised beds due to lack of fundage.  That is something that is not easy to overcome, so I am just hanging in, putting it out to the Universe that I need a miracle to happen.  That was a veiled reference to the Grateful Dead for the uninitiated. Actually, I am waiting on some funds from the state of NC from Dave's estate....waiting, and waiting, and waiting......

Anyway, I have a new food blog, The Artful Omnivore, which I have been putting a whole lot of work into. I am basically moving my recipe index from my old website over to that one, plus a whole lot more information.  It is turning out to be quite a nice diversion, while I am waiting to get started on the beds.
Things are not going as planned....BIG SURPRISE!!!  When I started this venture, I think I mentioned that I had no idea how long it would take and I meant that.  I didn't mention, though, that I gave myself a year for a project that probably would only take a couple of months in a different set of circumstances. To think that things would go smoothly was my being totally optimistic about it.

Of course, nothing drastic has happened. Just little niggling things like it being 95+ degrees for days and off the chart humidity. I do not like being hot. Since I didn't start out in the field early this year, I didn't build up a tolerance to the heat and humidity, so it really got me. Also, I am still working through some things from Dave's death (it will be exactly 5 months tomorrow the 24th) and that is holding me back some.

I thought that if I had a project to keep me occupied I wouldn't be so inclined to sadness but I am finding that working with setting up a new garden has done just the opposite.  I just miss him something fierce most days and that is slowing me down...a lot. Plus I am on a limited budget and it is taking much longer that I calculated for some of my funds to be released. That should be settled in the next week or two and that will make a HUGE difference.

Of course, the whole point in creating this blog is to relate the whole process of starting my life over again. That isn't just about setting up a new garden, either. It is about working through some butt kicking grief and setting my life back on an acceptable path.  Notice that I said "acceptable". At this point, that is all I can hope for. I have "re-invented" myself before and I know what that takes.  Luckily, I was relatively successful at reinvention after I was divorced back in the 90's and that gives me confidence that this time will work out okay, too. After all, I found Dave after that transformation, didn't I? Couldn't have worked out any better than that.

And so, I am still confident that the "right" path will eventually reveal itself to me. That hasn't happened yet and I am still searching. But, it should be cooling off in the next couple of weeks and I think I should be able to get to work in earnest on the new beds. For now, I am working on other things.

For anyone following this blog...

If you are interested in following my journey as I transition from Classic New Moon Farm to
the Updated New Moon Farm, I have several new blogs about specific chapters of this latest journey I am on.

If you are interested, here they are:

“You have to do it yourself, no one else will do it for you. You must work out your own salvation.”

Only a true Hillbilly both knows and understands the difference between a redneck, a good ol' boy, and po' white trash. 

Dirt Delayed, yet again....

Well, the dirt didn't come last week.  No biggie, I actually didn't want it to come because there was a big thunderstorm the afternoon before the delivery day and I didn't want all that dirt coming in soggy.  Probably would not have been that big of a deal, since it is already in a big, wet pile where it coming from and turning it over would probably have helped it dry out faster. But, I know me and I know that I would have been out there shoveling it as soon as the truck left and wet, soggy dirt is a lot heavier than dry dirt, so I called and said don't bring it until next Thursday. I know that there is a possibility of another big storm blasting through, but I am willing to take the chance that is will not.  If I am wrong, so be it. Maybe the delay will bring a little cooler weather when I do finally get to start shoveling.
Tomorrow I am getting a load of organic top soil delivered to my new spot. Even though it is more cost effective than some of the alternatives, it is still pretty expensive and I am only getting enough for now to fill in my raised beds so that I can finish off what I have already started.  I apologize for not being able to put up pictures lately, but my digital camera is not working at the moment. I have pictures on my phone that I can't take off just yet, so no way to use it, either. I should be able to get something up soon, though.

Anyway, I am excited about the dirt coming.  I priced using organic bagged topsoil and the price was around $8.00 for 2 cubic ft.  My raised beds are 48 and 60 square feet and to fill them to a depth of 6 inches I would need between 10-12 bags for each bed.  That is a lot of $$ for soil and the one I was pricing was actually being sold at Big Lots for well below the regular retail price at Lowes ($11.75). And this is Garden Soil and not meant to be used alone.

Potting soil is not what you want to use in the types of beds I am setting up. It is too light and will "settle" far too much to make it practical for my application.  I would have to add more soil later on and that would jack the cost up even farther. Plus organic potting soil is even more expensive than this garden soil and because it doesn't have any kind of wetting agent added to it, it is not very efficient for watering (I'll cover the why of that in another post). This Miracle-Gro Organic Garden soil has a lot of bark and other things in it that add to its bulk.  It is a good product, I guess, but not in this situation. 

The topsoil I am getting has been screened, solarized, and contains soil, creek sand, composted manure and other composted organic matter.  It is coming in at about $29.00 per cubic yard and that is a huge savings for me.  It will take roughly one cubic yard to fill the beds at the depth I mentioned. Obviously the difference dollarwise is worth the added cost of having the soil delivered. I checked with several suppliers and the cost for delivery ranged anywhere from per the number of cubic yards being delivered to a flat fee of around $85.00.  Factoring in even that cost, it would still be cheaper than bagged soils, if your beds were the size of these I am putting in. 

I have been saving newspapers to put down as a weed barrier and will get that down this weekend. Once that is done, I will put in the dirt, plant, water and mulch.  I will take you through that process sometime next week or as soon as I can get it up here on the blog here.

This is the soil I priced.

I have officially bestowed a new title on myself.
I shall henceforth be known as

"Suzanne, Mistress of the Dirt"

I will now be known as "Makawee Maha-Mistress of the Dirt"

In that last post, I mentioned that I lived on top of a mountain in a tent for almost a year. That is totally true and a great story.

Sorry about yesterday's rant. Today is a better day.

I was tottering on the rim of  Despair Canyon yesterday but I am back on solid ground today. Have recovered most of my balance overnight.  After the last couple of months, I was actually starting to feel pretty okay with my situation. I had just gotten settled into what I thought was going to be a comfortable, semi-permanent space while my new diggs are being rehabbed but then found out that I had to move yet again and I had 12 hours to do so. Had to pack up everything I had moved in and store it yet again.  Now I am living out of my backpack....oh well, I lived in a tent on top of a mountain for almost a year, I guess I will survive this, too.  I will survive this, I will survive this, I will survive this......
I think that this blog may be becoming passe.  There is no more organic farm for me to expound on and talk about how wonderful my life is.  My mother-in-law saw to that almost immediately after Dave died. I can't believe that the very people who were supposed to be my family could turn on me like that at a point where I was dealing with the most devastating blow of my life. Over 4 months later and the hurt from that is almost unbearable and I fluctuate between anger and misery at being treated so shabbily.

So, now I am living in as a virtual homeless person. Oh, I do have a roof over my head and people all around who love and support me but I have no place to call my own, not really.  And that is very depressing for someone who is and has always been, fiercely independent. Having to depend on others for everything is depressing and embarrassing but I simply have no choice. But I am so very lucky that I did have someone to turn to in my time of need that all I can feel for that is gratitude and love.  That does balance the negative energy from the other situation, but it is exhausting to be on such an emotional roller coaster. Until I can get myself together, nothing will change and so I am trying to hang on best I can.

The love of my life is no longer beside me and I am so lonely for him that some days I can hardly function.  I run on the adrenaline of the near panic that I feel at being in this situation. Everything I own jammed into a storage unit where I can find nothing.  I packed up our entire life in a haze of numbing grief and tears and now I can't recall  if I even managed to pack some things. (Many widows I have talked to have taken literally years to be able to part with things that belonged to their spouses yet I was forced into doing just that literally within the first weeks after Dave's death. I wasn't allowed the privilege of having even time to process my loss emotionally and that has taken a dire toll on my psyche.)

I know that I have to do something but the grief that I still feel at the passing of my best friend/husband is paralyzing me into non-action and I don't know what to do about it.  I spend all my waking hours trying to fill the void that his death left me with while I try to figure out what the next step I should take will be.  Some days I am jazzed about new directions I think I might take and other days getting out of bed is like dragging a 2-ton weight out with me.

Don't misunderstand this post today.  I am just venting some feelings, I guess.  I still feel hopeful for the future and I know that I will survive this.  I have had other tragedies in my life and I survived them. What doesn't kill you really does make you stronger sometimes, even though it really doesn't feel that way right now.  I have to get  back to the business of living...really living...or I am tossing away everything that Dave and I so firmly believed in. He left me with some powerful lessons about life and I just need to get to a point where I can act on those lessons again.  He wouldn't want to see me this way and I know that I have to live the best life I possibly can.  That is all he ever wanted for me and helped me to do that for 16 years.  I owe it to him and I owe it to myself.
Think that the heat might finally let up a bit this week and I will be able to finally get some of these plants in the ground.  I have 50-60 heirloom tomato plants growing in pots and to tell you the truth, they look better than most of the tomatoes I have planted in the ground in the past.  Probably because I have focused so much attention on them. I do have to tell you their story and why I lavished all my ministrations on them.

When I moved here to Lincoln County, back the first week of June (that was the final move week), I had several  flats of these heirloom tomato plants that were just about ready to set out for the season.  They were about 8-10 inches tall, robust and healthty.  My friend who was helping me move and I loaded the plants in the back of her truck and covered them with a tarp (it was over the top of netting and about 6-8 inches above the plants. The covering was to keep the wind from whipping the plants too much and damaging them.

Imagine our chagrin when we got to my new location, took off the tarp and were greeted by most of the plants looking like I had sauteed them in olive oil.  It was one of those blistering hot days and the heat under the tarp had literally "cooked" my plants.  It never occurred to either one of us that the heat under that tarp would be at such a level. I would have imagined that the slight breeze that did circulate around them would have kept them cool but no such luck.

Anyway, it was a huge setback but I was determined that they would survive and so I spent the better part of a month, nursing them back from near death.  They are big, healthy and starting to bloom as I am typing this entry.

That is true of people, too, you know. Love and some serious nurturing can make a huge difference in someone's life. That is the beauty of a living, growing thing, that it can be so close to death and then come back to health and vigor with some strong belief and some tender loving care.

I treasure these lessons that I learn from growing things. They are so simple and yet so profound sometimes.

Here they are, back from the brink. To get an idea of their size, they are planted in 3 gallon pots. You can't really tell from this picture (there is something wrong with my digital camera and this is the best and only picture I got) but they are blooming. All that pink you see around them are Crape Myrtle blossoms that are falling on them because I have them setting in the shade under a huge CM in the backyard.  It is so big, you can't even see the canopy in this picture.
Starting this week off with a bang (at least that is my plan).  Since I have been offline for a bit, with the moving and all and so I will try to play catch up on this post. Then we can press forward with the real intention of this blog.

For the last month, I have been in deep transition. I have gone from living and working on a 30 acre organic farm to living with my parents, having the majority of my worldly goods in storage and trying to keep from having as nervous breakdown. On all fronts, I am still here.  Battered, bruised and beaten on some counts but trying so very hard to start the healing process in all of this.

For anyone who hasn't read any of my other posts, blogs, etc. and so does not know what I am talking about, here is a thumbnail sketch. I lost my best friend, husband of 16 years and soulmate to kidney cancer in March of this year. I am 57 years old and he was only 50. Dave was diagnosed with renal cancer in January of 2005, went into remission for the next 3 years. From that crisp autumn day in 2008, when we realized something was not quite right again, our life was changed forever.  Mine will never be the same. But I am determined to make my life a testament to the power of the love and committment that we shared and so I am using this blog as part of my platform.

For anyone who hasn't experienced grief at this level my only advice to you is that if you find yourself in this dark place that you just understand that there is no timetable for how you will feel, no blueprint for what you will feel. There is no right thing to say to me but plenty of wrong things.  Most of the wrong things are said by people who have nothing but kindness and good intentions with their sympathies and advice, but until you walk a mile in my shoes, as they say....

And sometimes, the right thing to say is to say nothing, just to hold out a hand or put an arm around me.  Death is a part of life and so it comes to us all. When it comes, why it comes, how it comes is different for everyone and no one can truly understand another's pain or reaction. That is what makes this kind of thing so hard to deal with, I think.  We can't remove ourselves from the world, when that is exactly what some of us need to do and so we press ahead never fully healing or understanding what we are feeling.  Pretty much what I am saying is that all of this sucks and I am stuck with it. I am trying to deal.

So, now that that is out of the way, let me get on with it.  As stated in the blog, I am chronicling my experience. I have lost everything that I held dearest and so I am basically a blank canvas in the life department right now.  I was a blissfully married woman who got to spend nearly every hour of every day with the most amazing man I have ever had the pleasure and privilege to have known.  Now I am a widow and I am alone. I made my living as an organic grower (for the last 10 years). I lost access to the farm when Dave died (it was the "family" farm...some family) and now have no job, no income, no savings (his medical bills took almost everything we had saved).

Rebuilding my life from scratch at this stage is not going to be easy but I think I am up to the task. If not, then I guess my future involves shopping carts and a "Welcome to Walmart" badge.  That is strong motivation to succeed, trust me.

Finally back on line!!!

It has taken almost a month, but as of today, I am finally back online.  I don't have time to play catch up on the blog right now, but plan on doing all that tonight.  Things are going slowly, mostly because of this extreme heat wave we have been having for the last month.

No computer access for 2 weeks YIPES!!!!

Hello to everybody. I have sneaked a little time on a friend's computer, so I thought I would post something here today. I am officially moved and to tell the truth, the confusion just grows. I am now a displaced person and there are so many loose ends that need typing up I feel like Medusa's hairdresser.
Anyway, I am hoping to have my own computer back on line this week so that I can catch up with the blogs, website, etc. The going is slow and I hope to have a grip on things soon.
Thanks for following along with my adventures.

I am down to the wire on moving. Have hit a snag because, among those who have offered to help me move,  I can't find two burly men and a truck that will help me move my appliances. So now I am going to have to hire Two Men and a Truck to move these final items.  Along with my dogs.   Can't move the dogs without the dog lots. Can't move the dog lots without moving the dogs. Can't move the dogs until I move me. This one is getting tricky.  So, as I try to unravel that puzzle I am finishing up on little details that you don't think about when you are moving.  I forgot that I have to back up everything in my computer so I don't lose anything when it gets turned off for however long it is going to take to get it back online.  I have 2000 pictures stored on this sucker and I already filled up 4 flash drives and most of my camera card with just photos and other graphic images I need to keep handy.  (Why?  I use them for my website designs and some of them are irreplaceable.)

So, anyway, I hope to be blogging about settling into the new situation soon instead of this interminable move.
Tonight I decided it was time to get back to posting on this blog. I am going in about 20 directions at once and most of them seem to be in a grand circle.
Been VERY busy with finalizing the move. Haven't had time to do much else with the new garden spaces, hence my absence.  I will officially be moved this weekend and will be starting in earnest on the new spaces first of next week.  I am still excited about this new chapter in my life, although it is incredibly hard and incredibly sad to be closing the last chapter of my life with Dave.  He is with me in step I take, so I am not leaving him behind. Just lots of memories here....

See you next week with new pics, etc.!!!
Been very busy this week other places besides the new digs this week.  I am in the final stages of moving and I have been almost totally focused on that.  I have nearly everything done except for odds and ends. All the drawers and closets are cleared out now and I am packing the last of my personal items this weekend.  If all goes according to my plan, I will be moved out by next week and I can breathe a sigh of relief.  I can also
start to focus on important things at the new place.  Stay tuned....
The rain has slowed me down this week. I can not believe how many times it has rained in the last 2 weeks. Of course, if I wanted it to rain, it would be dry as a buffalo chip. Anyway, haven't slacked off on things, just working on some behind the scenes stuff right now that is not all that interesting at this point. I am going to post some info about how much this is costing me so that people will have some idea of the cost involved if they embark on a similar project.
Here are some of the things that I have carted over from the old place. Fence panels will be used for trellising tomatoes and that roll of smaller wire is used to for cukes, snap and snow peas, etc. - in other words plants that are not quite as robust at tomatoes. These panels are just about indestructible. We used these for at least the last 7 or 8 years. Way more efficient than wooden tomato stakes and much more sustainable in the long run. I will take you step by step into installation and how to make the best use of them shortly. You can barely see but there is a pile of soaker hoses behind the fence panels.

More pictures of Ground Zero

Here are some more pictures of the new location, Ground Zero, meaning that I haven't done a single thing to the ground yet in these pictures. This first picture was taken standing about midway of the mowed section looking back toward the road. The next view is directly the other way, standing pretty much in the same spot as the previous picture.

Down toward the end, it is just grass. That little narrow spot is deceptive because it opens up around the corner. The next shot is taken after walking about 20 yards closer.

The final shots are of the Grassy Field, where the in ground garden space will go eventually. The blueberries will be planted along the back edge in a long row and the beds will be laid in on this wonderful flat, grassy area.

New Location, Starting at Ground Zero

This is a short angle view of the new location, so that you can see the trees, etc. at the back edge. The property is cleared at the front, but there is still a good bit of vegetation at the rear. Lots of honeysuckle, which is good for attracting bees and other pollinating insects and wild blackberries mingled among them. This is the area where I will be establishing the first beds.
Unfortunately the angle I took this picture at doesn't have much perspective so it looks much smaller than it actually is.

These are my 4 year old blueberry plants, which with the help of some wonderful friends, we dug up and transported to the new location. There are 46 of them in all. There are 4 different varieties, Premier, Tiftblue, Oneal and Climax, all having different harvest dates so that my harvest ranges over about an 8-10 week period.
These will be planted along the very back edge of the plot where the beds will be placed. They survived the move quite well and are loaded with ripening berries, even in these stressed conditions. I am excited about that because I was not totally sure they would survive such a traumatic event, but we did a good job!

Not a very good shot, but those are my grapevines. I bought those last year but because of Dave's illness they were never properly planted. I just "heeled" them in (that means we just laid them down & covered them with dirt to protect the roots). They survived the entire winter. They started bearing new leaves at the same time our in ground grapevines did and that was pretty cool. Plants are sometimes hardier than we give them credit for so if you have something you think might have died but you aren't quite sure, give it a little care & the benefit of the doubt and you might be happily surprised. We just potted them up & they were off to their new home.

Closer view of the rear buffer zone. I love the fact that this property is buffered on several sides and with small barrier (drainage) ditches. If I plan properly, from an organic standpoint, I can avoid having any runoff problems arise.

This is the long view of the property, taken from just about the center of the plot. The grassy area at the very back will eventually be the in ground garden, if all this works out like I have planned. These pictures are kind of deceiving because of the angles I am taking them at doesn't give a very good perspective.
Since this area looks a lot like someone's backyard, that might be a good thing because it will be easy to imagine how one could apply my info and methods to a landscaping situation.

To get a little better perspective, I walked down the the roadside edge of the property and took this picture to give a little more of an idea of the size of the trees,etc. That is one of the water towers for the city of Lincolnton. It is HUGE but I can't see it over the trees down in the area where I will be planting.

Beds to be installed

This is an example of a really well done yet simple raised bed. This is a stock photo, not mine, but eventually, the beds I put in will look like this (or better, I hope)!

Another stock photo of an excellent example of what we are shooting for at the new place. I love this oval configuration. I am planning on the perennial herb area to be decorative, as well as functional. I hope to plant a traditional "physics" garden, which is basically a medicinal herb garden. I am very excited about this project and plan on making it my #1 priority for the next year.

Basil - From Seed to Transplant

These are tiny seedlings planted in flats back in February. They were started under grow lights.
I use a really fine organic seed starting mix and simply scatter the seeds over the top of the flat and pat them
into the soil. The seed starting mix is soaked with water before any planting is done so it is wet before I apply the seeds. Seeds that might blow away get a light covering of soil sprinkled on top. Flats are covered with saran warp and placed under the grow lights for several days, until I see seeds starting to sprout. The covering keeps the moisture in and prevents me from having to water too much & disturb the seeds. Wrap comes off once seeds are up.

Same flat of seeds 2 weeks later. It is now time to transplant the seedlings into their individual pots. These plants will be for sale and so are transplanted into 3" pots. Transplanting seedlings that are this tightly packed is a delicate job, but if you are patience you should have no problem. Obviously, the average gardener is not going to plant like this and I posted this here for illustration only. To transplant, I use a sharp knife and carefully cut tiny sections of the soil apart, keeping the seedlings and their roots intact. This is kind of like planting rolls of sod. I put the entire block of soil in the pot, tamp down the dirt and water. There will be 3-4 plants in each pot.

This is the end result, after transplanting. These were trimmed back to 1-2 plants per pot, choosing the largest and/or healthiest ones to remain.
To allow the plants to become nice and fully, I will "pinch" the tops out of them, just above the leaf node and they will start to spread out from there.


Getting ready for 2010 growing season

Apology to anyone who reads this blog

Still not posting much to this blog. I am working on a new blog about the creation of a new growing situation where I am moving to in my hometown. I have not gone live with it yet but when I do, I will post the link here. I may end up focusing some of my blogging energy over there for a while.

At the new place I am basically starting totally from the ground up and I thought it would be the perfect teaching opportunity. So many people ask me for advice on growing their own food, organically, that I am going to post step by step exactly what I am doing at the new location. Because it was too late in the season to get the inground garden going (too much work to do on that to get any meaningful crop in the ground this late in the season) I am going to start with my raised bed and herb garden area. That should be a great way to start for me and it will give me the opportunity to post information that someone who wants to do a backyard garden can use.

Thanks for following along here and look for the link to the new blog. I had hoped to have it up by this past weekend but too busy with other projects. Soon, though, soon....

Been very, very slack with the blog lately. Simply have too much going on right now so hang in and I will get back to business soon as....Moving sucks, by the way.
Wow! didn't realize it has been so long since I posted anything. Right now, I am just trying to keep my head above water. Between the move of the Farm and everything else going on, I have been a slacker/blogger. I have posted a couple of things at my farm Facebook page (it is just easier that logging on to the blog) so if you want to see what's been happening at the Farm, check
New Moon Farm Organics over at fb. I linked my fb page to my Twitter, but haven't linked up the blog yet...least I don't think I did.
Are you as confused as I am?


Since my husband passed away several weeks ago, many things have changed here at the Farm. The main thing is that I have discovered that I simply cannot remain here without him. It is intolerable on many levels and for many reasons.

After a lot of agonizing consideration, I have decided to move New Moon Farm Organics back to my hometown, back to my own farming roots. I have access to a fine little piece of property and it will suit me well, eventually. I will be closer to my family, which is what I feel like I need right now. My parents and my son are really my support group at this moment and I just need to be closer to them. I just kept thinking, and wrongly so I might add, that New Moon Farm was about this particular piece of land. I find that is not so true as I imagined. The spirit of the Farm is that two incredibly dedicated people had a wonderful dream and made it into a reality. I carry that spirit inside of myself and so no matter where I might be, that will not change.

This move will not affect my May-July CSA, nor my participation in the Davidson Farmer's Market. I might have to shift some things a bit, but overall, it will hopefully be just a minor hiccup if things don't go as planned. I still plan on following through with the plans Dave and I made together before he died. Just in a new location. There is a longer, more detailed missive about all of this at my website New Moon Farm Organics so if you are curious, you can check it out.

The logistics of making this move are daunting and I am going to have to call on those folks who have graciously volunteered to come help me out. I will be posting a page here and also on the website with a "Wishlist" of things that I will need help doing and so hopefully, potential volunteers can choose what they feel they are able to help out with. I need to make this move quickly or I will lose some of my window of opportunity for planting some things for early summer.

Help Stamp Out Food Snobbery

This is a reposting of an article from this blog from about 3 years ago. I thought I would put it back up because I recently listened to something on NPR about things people pay big bucks for that are not the real thing...caviar was one of those things and there is something about that in this post.

I think that it is time that I do my part to bring attention to the issue of food prejudice. Since I am so in touch with food, I am going to address the food snobs of the world here on my blog today. That's right, it is my blog and I can say what I want to about whatever subject I am inclined to write about....mu-ah-hahahahahaaaa.I love the power of the blog!! Okay, I am getting a power high so I better get back on subject. This just has to be said.

My simple definition of food snobbery: Refusing to even try or consider trying a particular fruit, vegetable, regional or local dish for any reason at all. If you are a food snob, let me help to set the record straighter on a couple of things:

Sushi versus Chitlins
I went to a Sushi restaurant in Japan once where there were a bunch of fish swimming happily together in a huge tank. We ordered and the next thing I know, the chef is screaming like a ninja and grabbing a live fish out of the tank and flinging it down on the table in front of us. When he pulled out a cleaver and hacked the head off right in front of me, I almost fainted. Needless to say, I didn't eat sushi (or much of anything else) for a while. Chitlins on the other hand are quite civilized by comparison. I have seen them being cooked before but that is it. Chitlin preparation has the good manners to stay out of the public eye as much as possible.

Grits versus Polenta
Grits and polenta are the same thing. If you let your grits simmer too long and they get really thick, you have made polenta. In Northern Italy, where polenta is a staple dish, it was first made when maize or corn was brought there by explorers. It is cooked down more than grits, but there is not much difference except for the seasoning and serving methods. Of course, grits can be pretty bland and boring if you buy those wussie white ones at the grocery store or you don't know how to cook them. I buy stone ground, organic yellow corn grits. Fortunately, I do know how to cook them (Granny taught me) and mine are delicious.

Livermush versus Blood Sausage
Do I even need to explain this one? Yes, I guess I do.
Livermush is decidedly Southern and Blood Sausage is decidedly disgusting.
Livermush probably had its origins with German settlers to the Southeastern areas of the US from Pennsylvania. Blood Sausage never quite caught on here in this area although I understand it is popular elsewhere. My best friend growing up moved to the US from Europe and we helped her mom to make BS at their house once. I repeat, ONCE. And I never ate any that I am aware of but sometimes when I ate dinner at their house, I was a little confused as to exactly what I was eating.

Okra versus anything
I already wrote an entire blog entry about okra, so refer back to that post from August 16th, to read up on okra. One quick note about okra: it is NOT indigenous to the Southern US (it just loves our climate); it is native to Africa; is an edible hibiscus; and is eaten all over the world.

Caviar versus Catfish Roe
I have eaten caviar once or twice myself, but don't remember particularily liking it. It tasted a little fishy. And speaking of fishy, there are people willing to pay $50+ an ounce for Beluga caviar yet look down their noses of folks who catch and clean their own fish and eat the roe. Joke is on them. Back in the late 1990's, the FDA busted a caviar "importer" who had been packaging and selling catfish roe as Beluga for years. Took DNA testing to determine that the roe in question was not from sturgeon, but in fact from the lowly Ictalarus punctatus or the common channel catfish.Nobody noticed the difference because, lets face it, who eats caviar on a regular basis? Do you know anyone who does? Neither do I.

Cow Peas versus English Peas
Cow Peas- A drought tolerant and warm weather crop, cowpeas are well-adapted to the drier regions of the tropics, where other food legumes do not perform well. It also has the useful ability to fix atmospheric nitrogen through its nodules, and it grows well in poor soils with more than 85% sand and with less than 0.2% organic matter and low levels of phosphorus. In addition, it is shade tolerant, and therefore, compatible as an intercrop with maize, millet, sorghum, sugarcane, and cotton. This makes cowpea an important component of traditional intercropping systems, especially in the complex and elegant subsistence farming systems of the dry savannas in sub-Saharan Africa. English peas are just a cooler weather, slightly different cultivar of Fabaceae or Leguminosae, or the legume family. There is nothing sophistocated or gourmet about English (green) peas. In fact, if you compared the common field pea grown in the South to the English pea, the English pea is by comparison a thin and pale relative, as far as adaptability and usage.

Water Cress versus Creasy Greens
If you ever watched the Dobie Gillis show back in the 60's, you most probably remember Mrs. Chatsworth Osborne, Jr., Resident RB&S, who was forever giving parties where they served watercress sandwiches. This is probably about the silliest food affectation I know of, in all of my culinary experience. Watercress on buttered slices of bread with the crusts cut off was supposedly the height of snooty cuisine. Somehow the idea of a weed that grows along the sides of the road, in ditches where there is standing water pasted onto a tiny piece of white bread doesn't really impress me all that much. And why couldn't they even have a "big boy" sandwich with the crusts still on...did those rich people have weak choppers or just still long for mama? I don't get it.

I don't remember my Granny even planting "creasies", a delightful little spicy, edible green plant, but she certainly got excited once it showed up in the corn field in the fall. It grows in a rosette, kind of like arugula. Today, you can buy creasy green seeds (Upland Cress is how it is sold) and plant some for yourself, but in the foothills and mountains of NC, they were/are considered a wild, uncultivated food, not to be taken for granted. I think maybe planting creasys would not set well with some old timers. Creasy greens are cousin to watercress and the name "creasy" is probably an Appalachian mispronunciation of cress. They are peppery and add a little spice to other greens.

There are lots more foods I could mention, but my fingers are tired and I have to go feed chickens. My break is over and I need to get back to some real work. Hope you enjoyed my little tongue in cheek (Really? Maybe.) missive today.

Older posts chronicle drought, growing seasons, winter doldrums, etc.

Just looked back thru some of my older posts from back in 2007, 2008 and 2009 and realized that there is quite a chronicle of farm life there. So that it wasn't so hard to find them, I changed the archive to a pulldown menu to make it easier to read thru these old posts.

Cold nights, Jack Russells and Heirloom Veggies

We had a pretty chilly night here last night. Had to bring all 5 Jack Russells on the back porch. Any night time temps under 45 degrees get them a warm bed, in their kennels. When it is warmer, they like to be outside, in a puppy pile in the doghouse. But I have talked about that in older posts and so I will just leave it at that.

Everything in the greenhouse is still gorgeous this morning. It was about 75 degrees yesterday and so I wet down the floor of the greenhouse and left the doors closed tight all day. That kept the heat in. The evaporating moisture from the floor raised the humidity and so the ambient air was warmer after the sun went down. It wasn't cold enough to do any real damage in the greenhouse but you never know when the forecast might be wrong. We are generally at least 2 degrees colder than whatever is forecast and sometimes a little more, so can't be too careful. I babied all those plants for far too long and they look far too good to lose them in one cold night.
I plan on taking some pictures of them and posting here but my camera battery is dead and I can't remember to charge it at night.

In addition to my tomatoes, peppers and basils, I planted another several hundred squash seeds in flats this week. The varieties are my specialty ones, mostly using seeds directly from the regions of Italy and other places, where they are favorites. Regional varieties of zuchinni, peppers, eggplant, tomatoes, basils and other herbs,winter squash and pumpkins abound. Most all of the ones I grow are heirlooms that have been grown in their respective regions for over 100 years. Regions like Cambria and Tuscany have favorites, small villages have favorites. The Italian people are passionate about their food and so they are equally passionate about having the freshest and best ingredients to start with. Many Italian cooks believe that if you don't have the specific variety to make your recipe from, it won't be the as good. I love that concept!

I also love the idea of growing a food plant that is growing somewhere else in the world. It is very cool to grow from seeds that came from a particular region, grown just the season before. Makes me feel globally connected to people in other parts of the world who are just like me...farmers, growers, land stewards, whatever we are. I am especially enthralled with Italian varieties, obviously, for the reasons I already stated and because they are fairly accessible, if you know where to look. But I also love more elusive cultural food plants like African, Asian and South American varieties, which are a little harder to find, but it is ultimately rewarding when I get my hands on something new.

And for as much as I love my international heirlooms, I am passionate about Native American heirlooms, many of which are in danger of disappearing from the planet. Several dedicated orgainizations are currently seeking to establish heirloom seed banks to preserve this heritage from our own indigenous peoples.

What The Heck Happened to Earth Day?

This post is gonna get me a lot of flack, but I call them like I see them.

I don't acknowledge Earth Day any more. I have become a little jaded about the whole concept. Back in the 70's, I was a little hippie chickie with granny glasses and flowers in my hair and I cared about EVERYTHING!!!! Earth Day was a huge deal to me at that time. It was a chance for the citizens of the Earth to come together on something we ALL have in common...life on planet Earth.

Margaret Mead said it:

"EARTH DAY is the first holy day which transcends all national borders, yet preserves all geographical integrities, spans mountains and oceans and time belts, and yet brings people all over the world into one resonating accord, is devoted to the preservation of the harmony in nature and yet draws upon the triumphs of technology, the measurement of time, and instantaneous communication through space.

EARTH DAY draws on astronomical phenomena in a new way – which is also the most ancient way – using the vernal Equinox, the time when the Sun crosses the equator making night and day of equal length in all parts of the Earth. To this point in the annual calendar, EARTH DAY attaches no local or divisive set of symbols, no statement of the truth or superiority of one way of life over another. But the selection of the Equinox makes planetary observance of a shared event possible, and a flag which shows the Earth as seen from space appropriate."

That is the Earth Day I celebrated. What happened? Last week I heard an ad for an Earth Day Celebration at a water/amusement park in the local area, inviting everyone to come to the park to celebrate Mother Earth. Yes, let's drive our cars, make more trash, waste water and pay our money in celebration of Mother Earth. I just don't get it.

Don't you think Mother Earth would be better served if that amusement park hadn't covered her face with asphalt. Maybe if they had left the trees and plants? What if all the wildlife that lost their habitat had been left unmolested? That sounds like a celebration of our Mother to me.

Doesn't it kind of defeat the purpose of having Earth Day if you have to drive your carbon footprint to get the the celebration???? Shouldn't Earth Day be about staying home and taking stock of all the blessings that our planet bestows on us every day, not just on one day in April?

I guess, as with every other holiday we have in this country, somebody has found a way to make money from Earth Day, so the true meaning has pretty much flown out the window for most Americans. If you would like to read about what the original intent and purpose of Earth Day really was, you can visit http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Earth_Day .

More cool Earth stuff:
http://www.nasa.gov/topics/earth/index.html Nasa site for pictures of Mother Earth
http://earth.jsc.nasa.gov/sseop/efs/ Astronauts Views of the Home Planet
http://hubblesite.org/gallery/ Astounding pictures from the Hubble Telescope Not Earth, necessarily but WOW!!!

Moving on with life

If you have been reading this blog lately, you know that I have been dealing with the death of my beloved Farmer Dave. Dave was my best friend, husband, mentor, teacher, spiritual guide, counselor , alter ego, companion, confidant, comrade, helpmate, playmate and my soul mate. He was my kindred spirit, my knight in shining armor and the heart of my heart. I miss him so fiercely that it is like there is a fire burning my soul to ashes and I am helpless to stop it.

But, stop it I must, because I know that he would want me to get back to the business of living. To do otherwise discredits the things I learned from him over the years and it dishonors him for me to be wallowing in self-pity about being alone. Because I am not alone. I carry in my heart and memory 16 years of the most incredible journey. Without him, I would never have experienced most of the things that I did over those 16 years.

I have always been amazed that he so loved me and chose me to stand beside him. Not that I feel that I was unworthy of his love, but because I was given the opportunity to be loved by someone like him. When Dave and I had only been together for about 6months, I told the Universe that if I was only allowed to have 5 years with Dave, it would like a lifetime with anyone else. The Universe chose to gift me with 16 years and I am profoundly grateful for every second of those years.

Now, I will try to focus on the future and how I plan on moving through it. You may have to indulge me once in a while, since I am sure there will be some anecdote or story I will have to tell you. Dave was involved in everything I have done of any value for the last decade and a half, so it would be hard not to include him in most of my tales. But, I will try to keep my grief to myself and to refrain from waxing poetic about the enormity of our love for each other or how perfect our relationship was/is. I say "is" because the relationship still exists and always will. Death can not remove Dave from my heart and he is in every fiber of my being. So, if you take me on, you get him, too.

Shamanism is not religion

Shamanism is the about being connected with nature,

understanding that we are earth-based.

The real and living knowledge is then used for balance, health and right relationship,

as well as success, in all that is that we do.

-Taken from Earthkeeperway.com-

"We define the practice of Shamanism as a family of traditions whose practioners focus on voluntarily entering altered state of consciousness in which they experience themselves or their spirits traveling to other realms atwill and interacting with other entitles in order to serve their community. This definition comes from Roger M Walsh, MD and PhD, from his book, The Spirit of Shamanism . Recently in a presentation to a group of senior medical students from the University of Maryland I was asked, "Is Shamanism a religion?" My answer to their inquiry was that Shamanism is not a religion. However, it does seem important to compare and contrast "Shamanism" and "religion".

Four major components of a religion are, a history with a salvific individual, a theology, the holy text, and ritualistic practice. When we examine major world religions such as, Christianity, Judaism or Buddhism, we can identify the leader of each of these religious movements. The leader gathered a following of disciples or students that brought support, structure and further development to their religious beliefs.

Shamans, by contrast, do not have a following. A Shaman is interested in practicing their spiritual healing techniques but generally is not interested in forming a group of people to perpetuate a theology or religious structure.

The presence of a holy text is easily identifiable in many world religions, such as the Bible, the Koran and the Bhagavad-Gita. Shamanism does not honor one definitive divine source document for its beliefs. Traditions of spiritual healing practices have been handed down usually by word of mouth throughout generations. As with the major religions, Shamanism was developed and practiced long before there was written word. Many Shamans in the recent past did not write down their practices.

Another aspect of religion is theology. Religion has a system of beliefs and "talk" about the divine which forms the basis for beliefs. Sometimes these beliefs spring from the holy text of the religion and in other situations they are manifested in other forms. The system of beliefs lead to the practice of religion, the final component of religion.

The practice of religion is the internal and external regular organized ritual expressions of the religion by its practitioners usually with an identified leader of the religion presenting or presiding over ceremony. Some examples are mass, marriage ceremony, and ordination of the religious leaders. Like many religious leaders Shamans are generally called in a spiritual encounter, and initiated by themselves or others to practice the rituals/ceremonies that come from the theological beliefs of the traditions.

Though not a religion, Shamanism is an application of beliefs. These beliefs are spiritually based and applied to the Shaman's healing work This is perhaps its greatest commonality with religion, as most religions also have an element of spirituality which propels one to help others. Shamanism is an application of religious tradition which has some religious elements but it does not contain the essential components of religion."

The Story of Us (told as a fairytale)

Once upon a time, there was a little girl with big, beautiful blue eyes. She had a very big heart and was touched by things that other people seemed not to even notice. She sometimes dreamed that animals would come to her in the woods, that birds would fly to her and that rabbits would eat from her hand. Once she found a baby bird that had fallen from its nest. She tried to put it back but it was too hurt and it died in her hand and she cried for days. The girl wanted the world to be a place of only love and happiness, where people and animals all lived together peacefully and nobody was ever mad or upset with anyone else.

She told lots of people about her dreams but most everybody laughed at her or told here that she was wasting her time wishing for things that would never happen. Even though her parents loved her very, very much, they, too, discouraged her from thinking that such things were possible. This seemed very confusing and strange to her, but, since people she loved and trusted told her that her dreams were silly, she tried to stop thinking too much about them. Because her parents, her teachers and her friends all wanted her to stop acting foolishly and be like everyone else, she settled into being the girl that everybody seemed to expect her to be. But the more she tried to be good, the more it seemed she struggled. All around were people who wanted to push her this way and that way and to make her believe in things that she had never even thought about before. Sometimes it made her angry and sometimes it made her scared, but mostly it just made her sad.

As the girl grew up, she began to forget about many of the things that she had dreamed of when she was a little girl. Still, sometimes she would have wonderful dreams about the birds and animals and she would awaken with her heart full of love but it never seemed to last very long.

She grew older, as is the way with such things, and the girl became a woman. She married a man that she loved very much and for a while they were very happy. Then one day she came home to tell him the most wondrous news, that she was going to have a baby. She was filled with such a glowing inner light that she was almost ready to burst at the seams. But when she told the husband the wonderful news, he glowered at her and told her she had tricked him and stormed out of the house. It was the first time she had seen him so angry and it hurt her so much that she cried and cried. When her husband came home, he was distant and cold and something had changed in him. He stopped telling her that he loved her and her heart was broken in two.

For many years, the woman and the husband continued to live together but their love was never again like it had been in the beginning. For years, because he felt guilty about breaking her heart and he tried to make it up to her but she could tell that there was always something inside of him that he held back and didn't share with her. This made her feel very bad and she was very, very unhappy. She tried many times to talk to him about what was wrong but their conversations always turned into bitter arguments, with accusations and hurtful things being said and so she stopped even trying.

Then, one day the woman came home and the husband was gone. He had moved away and left her alone with their children. He simply left her a note that said he was sorry but he had to find the life that he wanted to live and he wished her well and hoped that she and the children would be okay. She loved her children very much and she knew she had to be strong for them but still something inside of her just broke. She thought back to when she was a little girl and how she had wanted the world to be filled with love. What a joke! All love had ever gotten her was a broken heart and many, many tears. Everybody had been right. And so, she made a wall around the hole in her heart to keep the hurting inside. She didn't realize that it also kept love from getting in.

After the husband left, the woman threw herself into her work and her children. Everything that she did was for them. She knew that she was doing the right thing and she was proud of the fact that everyone praised her for her selflessness and dedication. Yet even though on the outside it appeared that things were very good, that place in her heart was cold and numb. She could still feel the ache of it all the time. She tried to fill the empty place with other things, things she had to buy. Only the more things that she acquired, the more alone she felt.

Early one morning, the woman was standing in her bedroom, admiring a new outfit in the mirror. As she stared at her reflection, it all began to blur and suddenly, before her eyes, the little girl she had been once was staring back at her. The little girl's big blue eyes were no longer beautiful, because they were filled with so much pain and sadness. Then, in an instant, the vision disappeared and she was again looking at her own reflection. When she looked at it this time, she saw something completely different and she knew what she had to do to set her life right again.

Almost immediately after seeing this vision, she made a plan. She talked to both of her sons and it was decided that she and the younger one would take a long trip. The older son had his own life and was happy, so she knew that he would be fine while she was away. Her family and friends didn't understand why she was going away and she gave them no reason. She just said good bye to them all.

She and the younger son drove a long, long way, across the country and they saw many wonderful things together. It was the first time in many years that she felt truly free and happy. As they drove across the country, they shared many hours of conversation and companionship. Even though she had been a good mother to the boy, she had never really spent time like this with him and it was glorious! The trip eventually took them to a very beautiful place. On a lonely beach, with the ocean wildly crashing on the shore, the wall around her heart shuddered and she felt something give a little in its foundation.

In this beautiful place, she met an even more beautiful man who had the same blue eyes as she. And when she looked into those eyes, she could see into both of their souls at once. He had come to the wild place with a heart full of his own secrets. But he was a magic man , who could ride the wild waves or go flying over them. He showed some of his power to the woman but never told her his secrets.

The woman would sit on the beach and watch the man and her son together and she knew peace for the first time in many, many years. After a while, she became friends with the man and they spent many hours talking about things that she hadn't talked about in a very long time. It made her feel good to know that there was someone else who believed the same things that she believed in and who didn't think she was foolish. Then one day, he told her of his own broken love and she truly understood how he felt. Deep inside of her, that cold, numb place in her heart was filling with warmth and the wall was becoming weaker and weaker.

The man and the woman became lovers and for the first time in her life, she felt what it was like to love a man without reserve. Even though she had once loved the husband, there had always been something between them that kept her from feeling completely free in her love. With the man, it was different, perfect. Everything they did felt like pure joy! From an accidental brush of the fingertips to a lingering gaze, a tremor of love would course through her that was unlike anything she had ever experienced. Their connection was so deep that she began to feel like she was part of him and that he was part of her, that their souls were linked in some unexplainable way. She knew that the man was special because he would show her a little bit more of his magic every day and she began to have magic of her own again. In time, her dreams came back to her.

For many years, the man and the woman lived together, first as lovers and then as husband and wife. There was something else unique about the man, besides his magic. He always told the truth, even if the telling of it was not always so kind. She loved him for his intelligence, his honesty, his gentleness and his strong heart. She always felt safe with him and most importantly, really and truly loved. She tried hard to be a better person because knowing that if someone as special as the man loved her, then she needed to be the person who deserved that love. It was hard for her sometimes, because she did not possess the same kind of magic as the man and sometimes she would fail. He laughed at her trials and at her frustrations, but never in the way of malice or derision, so that she knew that even in her weakness and failure, he loved her still. Her
heart was so filled with his love that the last of the wall crumbled into dust and she felt its weight no more.

One day the man became very ill and the woman was beside herself with grief. She screamed and cried that God could not be so unfair as to take this good and gentle man away from her. But her cries to Heaven did no good. She decided to put away her selfishness and wished only to make the man happy but she didn't know how to go about doing it. Everyday, she tried to think of ways to bring some joy into his life, but failed at every attempt and she grew weary with the trying.

The man, too, was very sad much of the time and his pain began to take a toll on him. His face became pale and gaunt, but no matter how much he suffered, his clear blue eyes always shone with his love and the woman took heart in the fact that the man loved her still. She could not take away his pain but she could give him all the love in her heart, boundless and complete. The joy of her boundless love did make the man happy and they spent many hours in simple contemplation of that love.

For a long time, the man was sick and no matter what anyone tried to do, he began to fade away.Even with all the magic he possessed, he could not stop the disease. One day, when he knew that his time was growing short, he called the woman to his side and told her once more how he loved her, how they were one and the same and how they would be together always, if not in this earthly realm, then in the next one. They both truly believed that they were soul twins, destined to be together through eternity and linked forever and ever and she took her comfort in that.

His love had made her whole and complete and she was afraid she would be lost without him. She cried and cried when he finally left her but that place in her heart, the one that he had healed with his love, was bursting with warmth and light, like a tiny sun inside of her. Her grief overwhelmed her at first. The grief and pain was greater than she had imagined it might be. Soon, though, she came to realize that his magic was now inside of her and she knew that everyone around her could see his light shining through her, for all the world to see. She was again filled with his love and grace and vowed to live happily ever after, until they would be together once again.

(This is my own true love story.)
Dedicated to my sweet husband,
David William Ballard
December 15, 1959 - March 24, 2010)