Feb 14, 2010

A Love List

There are so many new experiences, sad endings, exciting ideas and turning thoughts I have to write about, but not tonight.  I am headed to bed after a week and weekend working, but so grateful.  Grateful for my tired body, exhausted from hard physical work and staying up late laughing with new friends, and grateful for an emergent confidence coming from challenging myself in ways I've never imagined. So, before I fall happily into my bed, a short Valentine's Day love list:

1.  Joe.  Valentine's Day marked our second-year anniversary and it still seems surreal that I somehow found, or more accurately was found and relentlessly pursued by, this truly amazing and good, good man.  Joe took me out for Saturday morning brunch, a trip into town where he put a down payment on our wedding rings and surprised me with a slender gold bracelet he'd had made by the same craftsperson who is making our rings.  He also bought me some books from one of my favorite bookstores including a new collection of older essays by Wendell Berry called, "Imagination in Place."  I'm just now getting into the book and I can't wait to write more about it. 

For Joe, I made some homemade treats to please his sweet tooth.  Knowing that he loves pistachios and coconut I went hunting for a recipe that might include one of the two, but didn't have to look far before coming across a recipe for pistachio macaroons on one of my favorite blogs, eatmakeread.  The only thing I'd add to this recipe if you plan on making it is lemon zest and consider baking it in the 
 oven a little longer to get the right toasting effect.  

Green is the new red.

A little bubbly for the chef never hurt nobody.

Is there anything eggs whites and sugar can't do?

My satisfied sweetheart.

2.  My complicated life.  I love redefining my limits, my muscles, and (re)discovering.  Most of what I've discovered over the past year is how much I don't know; or more correctly, thought I knew but now know I definitely don't have a clue!  And I am grateful for the disillusionment, even though the lifting of illusion and acceptance of ignorance is painful and hard.  I'm just not always sure how to navigate it without becoming a little, oh, shall we say... jaded.  Or worse, closed off from others.

Like when very well meaning people over-romanticize what my life must be like..."Ah, the simple life...", or worse, carry with them a certain... I don't know what... internalized prejudice?  No, that seems too strong, maybe just a misconception, about what a life working with your hands, with livestock, farming, or doing "domestic" type work must be like....Simple! Relaxing! The "Good Life"!  Something they might do themselves if they didn't have a "real" job.

But I think the biggest misconception that bothers me is that farming, or cooking and working with food in general, is somehow easy and requires little to no skill or training. That it is something anyone can just fall into instantly and "become." I think that I used to think this too. And who can blame us?  We are fed narratives about individuals, families, couples, leaving behind their complicated big-city lives to get back to basics, find a return to the pure, their roots, to something a little more true and more authentic than before.  A return to that place, that time, to quote folklorist Robert Cantwell, "when we were good." And "poof" it just happens!  One minute, the disgruntled worker is sitting in his/her cubicle and the next they are in a field, a successful farmer!  A successful farmer- Ha!  I'm always reminded of hearing farmers at our local market joke about having to take off-farm jobs to support their farming "habit."  Sorry, that's my jadedness coming through.

It is a good story, it sells a lot of things. And it is true for some people, but there are also many failures.  And for those that do manage to craft a life as a small scale farmer, not originally from a farming family, what normally gets left out in the uplifting news story is just how much time and energy and money and frustration and learning went into the transition.  I don't know of any examples where it just happened.

Don't get me wrong,  Joe and I have made these changes in our life for a reason.  And I'm not upset with people who think I've somehow opted out of my former life or left the "real" world behind.  Maybe I'm more frustrated with my former-self for having internalized that kind of thinking.  And for not breaking out of a polarizing mindset sooner.  I love my complicated life.  I love doing things.  Making things.  Fixing things.  Being a producer.  Learning things in unconventional ways.  Tasting, really tasting, things.  Being proactive instead of reactive.  Creating instead of resisting.  Being present and taking care of people and animals and places.

But it is confusing and complicated and most of the times I end up feeling like I'm going backwards, every day being a little less sure about the line between what I know and what I have yet to learn, than the day before.

From Wendell Berry:

"When I am called, as to my astonishment I sometimes am, a devotee of 'simplicity' (since I live supposedly as a 'simple farmer'), I am obliged to reply that I gave up the simple life when I left New York City in 1964 and came here.  In New York, I lived as a passive consumer, supplying nearly all my needs by purchase, whereas here I supply many of my needs from this place by my work (and pleasure) and am responsible besides for the care of the place.

My point is that when one passes from any abstract order, whether that of the consumer economy or Ransom's "Statement of Principles" or a brochure from the Extension Service, to the daily life and work of one's own farm, one passes from a relative simplicity into a complexity that is irreducible except by disaster and ultimately is incomprehensible.  It is the complexity of the life of a place uncompromisingly itself, which is at the same time the life of the world, of all Creation.  One meets not only the weather and the wildness of the world, but also the limitations of one's knowledge, intelligence, character, and bodily strength.  To do this, of course, is to accept the place as an influence."

- Imagination in Place (2004)

3.  The people I work with.  I love 'em! From listening to slow jams and singing along in the cheese room with Mary and Caitlan to working dinners and hanging out with Brooke in the kitchen, I'm incredibly grateful for the other people I work with at Celebrity Dairy and to Brit and Flemming for giving me this opportunity. And of course- I love my goats!  It's a joy to be a part of such a talented and fun community here on the hilltop.

This photo by David Polous.  More of his pictures of Celebrity Dairy at: www.CamerArt.com.

The Milk Maid

A Postscript to my blog entry:  Reading over my post this morning I feel like I do sound jaded. Sorry, I'm working on that.  I just wanted to reprise my thoughts by saying that ANYONE CAN DO THIS!  It's what is great about taking control of your life and why I love the diy movement whether it be about crafting, farming, baking, bikes, gardening, creating community, art or music.  What I get frustrated about is when I feel like people consider what bakers, cheese makers, food artisans, farmers, etc. do is somehow an escape from the "real world" or something that is simple to do.  Something a little less than serious intellectual, important or activist pursuits. 

Some of this I attribute to more domesticated pursuits being designated as "women's work." Wendell Berry writes about this beautifully in his essays on the "country housewife" and in a defense of his own wife's work.  Friend and former employer, April McGreger of Farmer's Daughter, did a great blog post about this that I often return to when considering these things and in need of a little inspirational push on days I feel like I must be crazy for pursuing my dreams.

I think much of this though, admittedly, is about me and untangling myself from years and years of being pushed to achieve, to spend all my efforts on academic and institutional learning.  Anyone can become these things and should!  Even if it just means baking your first loaf of bread or making your own yogurt.  I know, it's terribly uncool and cheesy to proclaim such idealistic values as this, but I believe in our personal and collective power to create social change in our everyday lives.  I believe that every step we take away from our consumer-based lives is a political act of love.  I fully support anyone's efforts to follow their dreams of "the simple life."  You will be met with moments of total disillusionment, and find that simplicity is actually incredibly complex.  

Last night as I lay in bed, I thought about this some more and for some reason the Wizard of OZ came to me as a good metaphor for the process of following one's dreams, meeting the truth, and in the process coming to terms with fears, expectations not met, and finding strengths we've had all along: 

(sorry, youtube won't let me embed these videos!)

Trust that there will be love, joy and openings to new possibilities of being returned for your efforts.  And just like Dorthy, you might just find that there's no place like home.


  1. Lora, thank you. Happy Valentine's day to you too!

  2. Thanks, Jennie! I hope your journey is going well- I need an update soon, please.

  3. Wonderful post! I do think so many times we take things for granted. We don't realize how hard our ancestors worked, but I know with that work came appreciation for the results. I think in so many ways that is what modern society lacks. Not all the time, but with many things. Our first garden was not amazing. Tons of zucchini, squash, and cucumbers. No corn and little potatoes. Got enough carrots. We learn. That is the amazing part. I could go on and on,but I won't. ;)

  4. I agree, K! And thanks for reading- your blog is always a huge inspiration to me.

  5. I am so happy to have come across your blog. You don't sound jaded rather you sound honest and sincere and have a real inspiring beautiful voice with your words. I look forward to more. I also couldn't help but smile as you mentioned Wendell Berry...I too am a big fan and just purchased two of his essay books titled "Bringing it to the Table: On Farming and Food" and the one you mentioned "Imagination in Place"! Although I live in the city, I grew up in the country and can understand how much work and effort goes into this type of living. Education comes from so many sources and it's not always in a classroom. Wonderful, wonderful post.

  6. oh wow, thanks alexandria! i follow little postcards and am a big fan!