Around here.

I can't believe it's been over a month since I last wrote here. Well, that's not entirely true. I write a paragraph here and there all the time and then get interrupted by one thing or another. By the time I make it back here, whatever I wrote seems outdated.

I feel like I'm learning big life lessons all the time. I don't really know where to start. I guess just with what we're up to! We tapped our maple trees again this year. Last year we didn't even get a chance, the season was so short. Wonky weather and all.

As always we're learning as we go, and making lots of new mistakes. This year we tapped a little too early (we were anxious not to miss the season all together like last time), and that caused the trees to split a little and leak. Thankfully we sought help and got advice from someone who had lots of experience. We were so worried we had lost our chance. We got some older sturdier spiles (the things you put into the hole) and tried again. It's been working!

(The tree decor? That's thanks to our housemate, Lindsay- the city's resident "yarn-bomber". They are all over town and I love them.)

Jeff was inspired to really reconfigure the "shop" (our garage that has only ever been used for woodworking and such), and he's done a great job. It's the most organized I've ever seen it, and I'm already seeing how much more efficient he works in that kind of a space. That's a big lesson we're learning together, actually. Simplification and organization are really way more important to us than we realized. We're both sort of naturally inclined towards a bit of organized chaos. It's only been recently that it has stopped working so well. It's just because we now have so much to do- jobs and kids and healing and meals for everyone (not to mention the whole starting a farm and everything)… the basics just have to be in real order so we can have a little fun and ambition, you know?

Anyway, one of the big things we wanted to figure out was how to heat the shop. Jeff really needs to be able to do projects out there year-round, especially since we have a little more time for those projects in the winter. He found this old wood stove on craigslist and now we have a solution!

He's thrilled, I'm thrilled, and now we're cooking maple sap down in the garage. The last time we did the boiling down we did it outside on a turkey fryer with a beach umbrella for cover. It was all a little crazy. Now we have the amazing smell of chimney smoke as we walk across the yard. That smell of wood and smoke and iron!! Like a piece of my heritage waking up, it's so amazing to me.

The taste of this beautiful tree and its sugar will never get old for me.

I haven't properly introduced the newest members of our family! Meet the cats, Mew Mew and Mango. They lived with the Englishes at their house, but when they moved in with us they were left behind. We are at the other house every day, so it didn't seem like it would be a problem. They couldn't move in since Jeff is horribly allergic. But the cats were mad, and they peed everywhere to let us know. So we did a little research and found a way to get them here.

Mew. She's so sweet and purrs as soon as you pick her up.

Mango. He's already become the neighborhood cat. I see strangers cuddle him and watch him go into people's backyards like he knows just what he's doing.

Anyway, we found that if we could keep them in a space for just a couple of weeks they would reorient themselves and stay with us at our house. So we adapted the wooden playhouse that Jeff built and created a little enclosure with chicken wire and tarp. They stayed in there for two weeks, and then we let them out. They are very happy! I think they really love being outside and we love having them. I've always wanted cats, but with Jeff's allergy it just didn't make sense. Now it's like we have our barn cats… minus the barn.  πŸ™‚

Felix. He's their dog that came along. He's big and dopey and wonderful. He also tears up the yard and gets into garbage. But he's still a growing up and learning, it won't be long until the destructive phase is over. He's so sweet and loyal, I love him.

And my darling Maya, so patient with everything. She's had some health problems- first with the leg injury and then later she started nipping people and then she had some eye issues. We had no idea what to think! We asked our vet what could be causing all the problems and he didn't seem to think they were related. Then we took her to a specialist who seemed to think she just needed to be put on a low-fat diet… I got so frustrated that I decided to search the internet. All it took was five minutes research and I found that she likely had a thyroid issue. So we took her back to the vet and requested the test, and sure enough, there it was. Everything- from the torn ligament to the behavioral issues and the stuff with her eyes, it was all because of that. And I found that it all was likely caused by an adverse reaction to a vaccine… which of course doesn't help me make up my mind about vaccines. Oy vey. But thankfully she's been on medication and is doing so much better! We have our puppy back! I don't know what to think, though, when five minutes of my time on google brings up more answers than a couple of years asking actual doctors. Not to mention the problem probably originated with a medical intervention. Ugh.

Work is ramping up. Thankfully I seem to be getting better just enough to meet the demand.

Lots of seedlings started. Leeks, onion, lettuce, chard, collards, kale, broccoli, brussels, cabbage… This week I start most of the rest that need to be started indoors.

Lately I've felt really grateful for my job. It's challenged me in ways that I really need to be challenged, and it has given me the opportunity to really work to change something important. I mean, working with an organization to change the way they get their food and eat is no small task. This year I'm working to get fresh veggies to about 250 people on a regular basis… such an amazing opportunity!

Another thing I realized about this job is that it's so important that we (food activists) do work outside of our own backyards. I mean, it's one thing to grow food and take it to market and sell it to people already in line with the local food movement anyway. I love doing that, and I will still work to get my own family's farm up and moving- if only to free us from other kinds of work. (I should also mention that our city's farmer's market does a great job creating access to lower income folks and is really pretty great in that regard) But what about really getting in there and feeding people on a larger scale? What about those demographics that really are so far removed from their food source that it's going to take some real change to get fresh healthy food in people's bellies? I mean, I love giving food to foodies! I am a foodie. But some of the clients I've worked with out at the treatment center didn't even know what some vegetables were or that a tomato isn't always red. I was happy just to slide some veggies into their mac and cheese! I guess my point is that I feel really privileged to be able to work towards that end. Good food, good people, good health. That's what it's all about. I don't want to forget it.

I'm going to try to write here a little every day for a bit. I need to get back into the habit.


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