Saturday, June 15, 2013

A Message in an Envelope

What a nice surprise yesterday when I went to retrieve the mail.  I reached in the box to find a small brown envelope addressed to both of us.   The envelope had a return address with a name that was unfamiliar to me.  Curiosity led me to quickly open the package marked media mail to find a book inside titled, The Law of Physics Are On My Side written by Walter Haugen.  I bounced down the driveway reading the back and the dedication:

This book is dedicated to Toni Lyons -
crack editor, fellow weeder and best companion.
Every day she gets up and does something positive.
When that is done she does something else that is positive.

My emotions were as raw as meat waiting to be tenderized.  I can't begin to say how I felt while reading this.  Standing at the top of the driveway I was surrounded by trees and I felt hugged. 

I ascertained from the back of the book that Walter is a small farmer who makes a difference every day by feeding people and he wanted us to know that there are others who relate.  I haven't felt this inspired to write something for quite some time,  thank you Walter and Toni for thinking of us.

A gift shared from someone you don't know is like a breath at the end of time, one never knows if or when it's coming.  

Two weeks have passed since we put our property up for sale and I thought it would get easier.  Many emails have been sent to family and friends not only hoping to get the word out, but hoping to find a buyer who appreciates what it has to offer, very few replies have come back.    

Maybe too often I expect others to at least acknowledge the hard work that went into creating this sanctuary that feeds us,  though I remember my New Year's resolution was to give up my expectations and I begin to chastise myself for thinking.  

Walking back down the driveway I decided to hide the book that we just received and present it to my husband tomorrow,  as a "thank you" for all that he has done.  

Inspired by a thoughtful stranger, I sat down to write this letter that flowed out of me in less than 30 minutes.  For me inspiration is so strong when it feels so right.

The letter to my husband, reads:

We received this book in the mail today and I've only read the back and the dedication.  It put a bounce in my step as I wondered how the author had heard of us, but even more important is the fact that he felt a need to reach out when perhaps we needed to hear the message.

You especially have worked so diligently in building our small farm which we both know is going to be so needed if not by us,  then by others who can breathe more life into it.  If we sell, the feather will be placed so justifiably on the side of your cap.  

I think I've learned more in these past 11 years than I will ever learn and together once again we weather the storm and embrace what it is we need to, we always do.

I know you have said that you were not cut out to be a father but then I have to ask who is?  You have never been anyone else than who you are and authenticity is a trait that many strive to have but fall short because they would rather be liked.  I for one struggle with this and have learned from you that one of the most important things we can give and share with each other is honesty, without it, is a world full of lies and deceit which we see so much of today.

Wherever we have lived,  you have always managed to create a sanctuary of peace.  This one is not without sadness as so much of the surroundings are now dying.  Our maple tree that once served as a shelter from the rain is already shedding it's leaves now in June.  Nature is crying in pain and all we can do is watch.  But before me is a splendid garden tended by you with the love and interest of a child painting their dream of a lifetime.  

I look at this work of art and I know how it was mastered, one day at a time, putting one foot before the other.  Positive change can only come from the endeavor to face the truth and work with what you have, offering your physical strength and endurance to persevere through sorrow and pain.

No, I am not your daughter,  I am your wife.  I honor your love and friendship every day and I admire your honesty as a father who has been nothing less than honest with your children just as you have been to yourself.  

Thank you for taking the time to explain and teach most of whom has given you the opportunity.  You have gone from the player on the sidelines who listened,  to a coach in the game with a message.

Happy Father's Day from your wife. 

Monday, June 3, 2013

The Will To Go On

While planting peppers outside last Friday, we took pictures of our bigleaf maples and compared them to some pictures we took in 2011.  What you see here is happening every day before our eyes,  this is collapse up close and personal.
Bigleaf maple over deck 2011

Bigleaf Maples 2011 (one on right is above the deck)
Same one in picture above on left side 2013

Bigleaf maple over deck 2013

I've watched every year since 2007 the changes that have taken place to many of the trees around us, especially noticing the one by our deck.  What was once a big beautiful canopy towering majestically over us is now a mere skeleton.  The leaves (some of what use to be a foot across) are now about half that size.

Recently I read an article posted in the Eugene Weekly here: stating that it's a "banner year" for the bigleaf maples.  Today I emailed David Wagner to find out exactly what that means?

I remember when the tree over our deck served as a big umbrella, it's branches reaching almost to the ground from the weight.  When sitting under it,  we were completely shaded from the sun and it was quite interesting to look up and see nothing but green.
Umbrella of bigleaf maple by deck 2013
Working outdoors is a mix of bittersweet.  I feel as if I'm on a roller coaster suffering overwhelming feelings of despair and enthusiastic bouts of joy.  My gardens are filled with life this time of the year and I welcome the season of hard work as I remember the tastes of the rewards. 
Making Tomatillo sauce 2012

In 2002 we purchased a small 4WD diesel front end loader tractor with tiller and mower attachments.  I cleared an area of brush, wild blackberries and weeds and brought in a few loads of chicken manure from a local farm.  Along with the 50 yards of Blended Mint Compost we had delivered, we collected maple leaves and grew cover crops of annual clover which I worked into the soil.  This allowed us to grow food for a few years before reading Eliot Coleman's books, Four Season Harvest and The New Organic Grower. 

In 2006 after reading these books (which I highly recommend),  I decided to build all raised beds which would keep the costs low and make the garden easier to manage.  Our decision was based on the size needed for a small community of six people as this was our goal.  Since then we have found  most people don't want to work that hard for food and our community building efforts have failed.

For our design of raised beds, I tilled a large area and used string to mark each one 4' x 28'.  I heaped up soil in between the string and tilled and heaped again until the beds were 10-12" high.  This left a 2' flat walkway between them in which I planted perennial clover.  I continued this process tilling on each side of the finished bed I was working on until all 50 beds were completed.
Garden raised beds planted with onions 2013

Framed hoop house before raised beds, planted with perennial clover 2012

Framed hoop house after raised beds 2013

I have found that this system keeps the integrity of the beds intact (alleviating the need for wood), feeds the bees (which we really need to do), fixes nitrogen and is aesthetically pleasing to look at.  I keep the clover trimmed and use it for mulch.

The beds/garden have not been tilled for over seven years which allows the growth of microorganisms as well as increasing water and decreasing soil erosion.   This method also allows for carbon sequestering by increasing the organic matter that is kept in the soil. We use no chemicals and maintain by cover cropping, composting, mulching, companion planting and crop rotations and all maintenance is done using hand tools...manual labor.
Crop rotation chart for lower garden

Our wide variety of flowers and herbs help with pest management and our ducks are allowed in the garden at the end of the season to clean up.
Ancona ducks in Spring garden 2012

I sit under my skeleton of a bigleaf maple that is dying while I peer down into the garden that is full of life.  Even though the majority of the work has been done, I'm now 11 years older and even the maintaining has become too much to handle.  Our property is now up for sale;  such a great find for those who are not afraid of hard work and can appreciate knowing where their food comes from. 
Main garden below April 2013
Main garden 2012