Tuesday, March 31, 2009


These represent just a few of the trays of "China Choi" (similar to Bok Choi) that were transplanted out of the green house and into a high tunnel today. It was beautifully overcast. I took lots of pictures of farming and of boys. They were trans-planting too, in their own way:

I have more tutorials and recipes coming soon to the farm blog. The tutorial will be created with pictures, not video, as my video camera battery charger has been transplanted into another realm. There is some kind of black-market in camera/video chargers going on in this house. More likely, there's a really bored ghost who likes to see me running from outlet to outlet, screaming and pulling my hair out over having lost yet another one! Just a few weeks ago I had to buy a new charger for my camera, and both my sister and Danielle may have lost their chargers here.

My friend Beth has a ferret that has been known to hide her husband's cell phone (as well as Jesse's yu gi oh card case last week) deep within the stuffing of a mattress . We don't have a ferret. We do have a cat that has been moved outside, so could have grounds for revenge. But how could she have unplugged the chargers from the outlets without electrocuting herself in the process - especially with all that spraying she was so fond of doing everywhere - when she lived inside. Besides, I think she likes her new post, from which she gets to scare away the birds and pounce on the frogs in our pond.She swallows them whole (when I don't get there first) and then spits them back out.

Yeah. Gross, and mean. I am a big lover of frogs.

Maybe it is her...

For less rambling and some good, practical, illuminating farm talk - see my other blog. It is far more respectable.

Sunday, March 29, 2009

A few amazing women

Last week, the kids, Nicolas and I went to see the annual Habima theater production. This year it was "Once Upon a Mattress". I think this may have been the best production yet. My friend (who also happens to be my father's looong time girlfriend and Gillen's Godmama) Dina Shadwell has been directing this group for nine years. She received a BIG Atlanta theater award a few years ago and for that occasion a video was made that introduces some of the Habima actors. Check it out here on the theater's web site. This group of "special needs" actors glow with pride and enthusiasm in every production I have seen. They always get all of us laughing and crying with joy as a result of their shine! I wish that I had posted about this earlier so that those who live in Atlanta could go (they just ended this year's run) but be sure to catch it next year. I am so grateful to know Dina and get to witness her magic as a director and as a woman. She brings out the best in everybody. She needs to run for office.

I also feel inspired right now by these two amazing artist/photographers - Stephanie and Jen. They have entered a contest to win money towards making their dream job assignment happen. Their idea is so beautiful that they have risen through the ranks of many applicants to be major contenders to win this contest! Their idea is about hope. Here is their video:
Shutter Sisters Dream Assignment: Picture Hope from LittlePurpleCow Productions on Vimeo

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Movie making in Newborn, GA

Until yesterday, I had not had a chance to use our new digital video camera (is that even what they are now called?). When we first got it, the kids made many skateboard and bike stunt videos and I helped them with those a bit. But I hadn't picked it up for my self before, with my own vision in mind, until last night. I taped our first film for the new farm blog and then spent much of the night learning how to edit. I went out again this morning and filmed some more. I'd like to just spend the next week doing nothing but learning how to make a video. But then I remember that I have children who need to eat and wear clean clothes and explore the world.

Though, I can't feel entirely selfish. This new interest of mine did provoke Jesse and a few of his friends to make their own movie, about an eight-ball and the way its answers lead them into doing all kinds of strange, mysterious things. They had their first brainstorming session in the fort at the farm this morning:They ran to find us, an hour later, filled with ideas and a filming schedule, and asking for a camera. Luckily, Logan has a video camera that he will bring next time so I didn't have to re-learn how to share, yet. Maybe we are all being inspired by the Hollywood film trucks and actor trailers that are presently taking over the tiny town of Newborn next to our farm. I took a picture of them while driving by. As you can tell, my eyes stayed on the road.Their movie is in a far different genre. They are making Halloween 2, starring freaky good Malcolm McDowall. I hope that Jesse and crew's "8-Ball" is a lot less horrific. I know my organic vegetable films will be.

Sunday, March 22, 2009

A Farm Blog

Finally. I spent the whole day starting a blog for the farm. It will have video tutorials on farming, recipes, lists of what will be available at our market and store each week. You can't tell that it took me all day. Whew! Moving in with a new web host was a lot more disorienting than I anticipated.

So, less farm, more kids and more unschooling rambling to come here! Sound fun? Or will you all abandon me for that farmer's wife over at the farm blog? ; )

Friday, March 20, 2009

Farm Tour

The Georgia Organics conference is happening in Decatur this year, only 45 minutes from our farm. So seventy of the conference participants came on a bus to our neck of the woods for a farm tour.

For the first time in years, I watched Nicolas' whole tour. He is quite a speaker. And he looked good - talking about his Belgian roots, his hoop houses, his asparagus, and general farming advice, under a cloudless sky. He had put on one of his least-worn button-up farm shirts for the occasion. When Gillen went with him to the farm this morning I heard him ask Nicolas why he was so dressed up. :) Here he is at the asparagus bed.Tom Stearns, who owns High Mowing Seeds (and whom we drank lots of wine with at Terra Madre) is in the red plaid shirt and vest to the left. He's created a hugely successful business by simply growing organic plants for seeds. He is also one of the guys talking and writing about Slow Money.

In a few weeks, Nicolas and Jesse are going to work with a big Atlanta chef on a cooking demo at our Atlanta organic market. The audience will be elementary school kids. I'm so glad that Jesse wants to do this. He's really excited. I had to take a picture of them today for publicity:Gillen also led a tour, in which he talked about his turkey business, the hoop houses and the worm farm. He speaks (maybe :) even better than his father. I hadn't even known he knew all that! Very cool. Here he is explaining about the worms:And after being asked what they look like:Tonight, Nicolas and I are going to a small Slow Food dinner that will include Michael Pollan. He is in town to speak at the Georgia Organics conference tomorrow tonight. I hope I don't gush - through my mouth or arm pits. I'm really impressed by his ability as a writer and am grateful that he got so many people talking about factory farming, organics and eating local. Though I am not as enamored as my friend Helen (whom I really hope gets to meet him tomorrow night), I did put on lipstick; and I am going to put my telephoto lens on my camera so as to capture him from afar.

Thursday, March 19, 2009

Lemons to Lemonade

Heart Rockin'Mama , a new-to-me blogger (whom I'm glad I'll get to meet this summer at the New England Unschooling Conference) passed me this award. I like the spirit of making lemonade out of lemons, a lot.

Here are the rules:

1) Put the logo on your blog or post. 2) Nominate at least 10 blogs that show great attitude or gratitude. 3) Link to your nominees within your post. 4) Let the nominees know that they have received this award by commenting on their blog. 5) Share the love and link to the person from who you received your award.

So, here are the blogs I would like to nominate (I did less than ten, just to spike the lemonade a bit with my ornery ways. I was too sweet for too long. O.K. So, I just felt most moved by these and felt like stopping...)

1) I am excited about being able to pass on the award to Angie, who has had some serious lemons falling on her over the past three months. With her spirit, she just can't help but make lemonade, even when they're really sour.

2) Also worthy is Vicky whose husband had a horrible work accident recently but they have overcome and are soon going to be back on the bus, unschooling on the road.

3) Gail is always so positive.

4) The Pile Of O'Melays keep making not just lemonade but all of their own clothes and food and farm buildings. They are irrepressible, despite many challenges.

5) Alecto is another one. Her perseverance is inspiring. Her latest blog post is about the time when her parachute didn't open! She survived that, at sixteen, and has survived much bigger challenges ever since.

6) Jen Lemen taps into the world's sadness and transforms it with her amazing art, and as a witness to those who are overcoming great challenges in Africa.

7) Kelli has great attitude.

8) Mindy has great gratitude.

Wednesday, March 18, 2009


In this case, not the pirate sound, but the name for a semi-annual gathering of autodidactic learners in cabins at Roan Mountain, TN. The kids and I went for the first time this weekend. There were no speakers or much of a schedule and it was so relaxed. On the last night, Jesse declared, emphatically, that we need to go to every ARGH from now on. I think that would be swell. To think, I almost let some torrential rain keep me from making the drive. It was Jesse who convinced me that I must persevere. I like when they persuade me to jump outside of my comfort zone.

One of the highlights was having the blogger/author Patti Digh talk and read to us from her book, Life is a Verb - 37 Days - essays about the question of what she would do differently if she knew that she only had 37 days left to live. I bought the book. It is filled with amazing art and provocative,inspiring ideas. She too grew up a red head, in awe of her library and of Pippi Longstocking. For this, and so many more reasons, I was smitten. Here she is with (the also inspiring) Kelli:Mindy and Gail, just two of the many wise, generous unschooling women that I get so much out of seeing: It's also fun to see the ageless men:and non age-segregating kids (especially the teens):There was henna, beading, knitting, pool, table tennis, nerf gun battles, Bananagrams, Yu Gi Oh, football, In a Pickle, Catch Phrase, a pot luck...Here was the setting, as captured by Gillen on the last morning. He was on his way back to our cabin having generously agreed to venture out and retrieve my camera from another cabin - far, far away - where I had left it the night before. Both of my guys were so generously helpful, and so happy to be on this trip that I feel capable of traveling even further with them alone in the future. I will overcome any fear of fatigue. Argh! I am adventurous woman.

Just look at how humiliatingly foolhardy adventurous I can be. Jesse asked me to jump into the talent show with him at the very last second, and I did, attaching us together first like this - and then leading the patient talent show crowd in "chair yoga". (There's no one more encouraging or patient than an unschooling talent show audience).Thank you Laura and Ren for putting it all together.
Actually, in the picture, they are Ren and Laura. Both tall, beautiful, Converse-wearing , artistic, loving mamas, TN-dwelling and goofy, whatever order you put them in, I think that they are meant to create things together.

Friday, March 13, 2009

Farm Gifts

From Gillen - wild peach and plum blossoms with the unique addition of straw. I love this boy's bouquets.
The following picture is from tonight. The farmers brought home the season's first asparagus. In Nicolas' hand is the farm's first ever cilantro! I wish that I could post the invigorating smell. Nicolas is trying to recreate the look he had in this picture, from last year, when he brought me asparagus for the very first time. My gratitude was immense.
If you get some asparagus this spring (and I so hope that you do) please try roasting it, with olive oil and coarse salt. Oh! Green ecstacy. For me, this is the taste of spring.

Thursday, March 12, 2009

Visionary Dinner

Last night, Nicolas and I were guests at the annual visionary dinner. It is put on by Southface, a non-profit organization that promotes sustainable living, particularly sustainable housing. I learned from the keynote speaker, Bracken Hendricks, that housing accounts for almost half of our total energy needs. Wow. That is a lot. Imagine if we just changed all future housing (and renovated current housing) to safe, carbon efficient or carbon-neutral what an impact that would have on our future? Imagine the jobs entailed in doing this? Hendricks' emphasis was upon confronting the economic crisis and global warming with hope and vision, seeing crisis as an opportunity for change. He quoted Martin Luther King - "Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that." Nicolas and I have been working towards reducing our carbon footprint, but could do so much more. Our dryer (yes, all winter I used the dryer) is starting to die so there is my crisis that will create positive change. I just need a better clothes drying rack situation, in the light and out from under our bug filled trees.

We have been to these dinners before but this was the first time that we were seated at a front table. Nicolas' arugula and green garlic were used by the brilliant Iron Chef winner Kevin Rathbun in his short ribs main course and Nicolas and I(!) were asked to stand. They even showed the audience the video that Whole Foods had produced about Nicolas, as well as a few about other local sustainable meat farmers whose food we were eating. It was exciting to see emphasis placed upon the whole, big sustainable picture - from the food we eat to the houses we choose to build, to the policy we choose to support. We were seated at the Whole Foods table and I was impressed by how much they are doing to promote more sustainable practices, particularly more humane animal farming policies. The event took place at a ballroom in the Georgia Aquarium. We ate next to the Beluga whales on one side and the whale sharks on another. They are magnificent. I admit to feeling a little bit conflicted about these big guys' indoor housing as well as about the fact that Coca Cola won an award for promoting sustainability. But just a very little bit. It was a delicious, hopeful night.

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Citizen Nicolas Pierre Aglae Marie Joseph Donck

We spent much of the day today in the Atlanta Homeland Security Office, where the kids and I witnessed Nicolas going through the last step of the long process of becoming a U.S. citizen. Well, mostly we sat in a waiting room. But then finally, after three hours of playing hang-man and twenty questions and lots of talk about hunger (we hadn't expected it to take so long and had not eaten) we entered the "ceremony room" and got to witness the swearing-in of Nicolas and 120 other newly approved citizens. There were 52 countries represented. A lot of people had many friends and family there to celebrate this rite of passage with them. Although Nicolas chose to get his citizenship mostly due to his father and I nudging him to do so (I wanted him to be able to vote, and his dad - to have the same passport as the kids and I when we are overseas), it was a very big deal for most of the people in that room today. I don't think that we should take ourselves so seriously, as United States citizens, but also, I never want to take the privilege of what it represents for granted.

And yes, this post's title does include Nicolas' legal name. It is made up of his godparents' names and, humorously, the parents of Jesus. He has no idea from whence this tradition sprung - whether it was family or religion or Belgium. He doesn't give things like this much thought. He is busy thinking about how many potatoes he needs to get in the ground when he finally gets back to the farm. He is the salt of the earth, citizen of this planet. I'm grateful he is here in this corner of it with me.

Monday, March 09, 2009

Gillen's Farm Tour

Today, maybe inspired by his outfit (my cowboy boots and one of the worker's hats) Gillen was all about showing me the farm. I wish I'd had the good camera, but it had run out of battery. At least I had the old point and shoot. It was definitely a day to remember.

He showed me the giant worm farm that he and Nicolas recently created with cement bricks and a tin cover. He showed me that the Saw Tooth Oak trees that he planted last fall are finally taking root in their pots:
Here, while shooting my tour guide cowboy, my focus wandered to the left of his hat - do you see it? That eery black hole in the hoop house plastic? A barn cat created this hole while sliding down off of the hoop house roof after a sun bath. Because really , what are all beds, hoop houses, toys, bath mats and walls for but to hold (and receive the spray of) cats. Yes, my nights are still punctuated by the hourly Fracas vaudeville show...But, back to the light of day, and the sweetness of spring.

For this next part of the tour, you must travel through time with me to the year 2013. Gillen is just months away from turning sixteen. In preparation for getting his learner's permit, he is practicing driving the farm truck - the Isuzu Pup. Gotta love a pup. Notice it isn't the "Isuzu kitten".
Here he is, in that speck of a truck in the distance, driving his trusting little brother over creek and dale to the back fields. To think, just minutes ago four short years ago, he was only eleven and couldn't have done this. Thanks to the magic of time travel, all arrived safely and took a break at the creek.There was much more water than usual. In the recent heavy rain and snow, one of the beaver dams was broken. Not only do we have a much more forcefully bubbling creek, the beaver pond (that had been expanding through the woods for many years) is much reduced. Gillen pointed out the break in the dam.Behind farm-touring Jesse's hat (looking appropriately touristic with that label poking down) are the grasses of what used to be (and probably will be again) the water-covered wet lands.
We then travelled by truck (with me as a truly impressed passenger) to the farm's "rock beach" where we spent a few hours swimming, reading, catching crawfish and finding rocks. We have decided to do this a lot more often. It was so peaceful. With "the pup", it is such a quick, whinge-free journey. And maybe Gillen can teach me to shift (it's true, except for perspectives, I don't yet shift). We vowed to earn the watering hole privilege by doing a bit more sweating on the farm next time with this guy, first.

Sunday, March 08, 2009

Song Title Meme

Using only song titles from ONE artist (your choice), cleverly answer these questions. Not that easy...try it. Or not. I saw this on Frank's blog.

Mine are from Cat Stevens

1. Are you male or female: Hard Headed Woman

2. Describe yourself: On the Road to Find Out

3. How do you feel about yourself: Oh Very Young

4. Describe your ex boyfriend/girlfriend: Pop Star

5. Describe your current boy/girl situation: I’ve Found a Love

6. Describe your current location: Miles From Nowhere

7. Describe where you want to be: Home

8. Your best friend is: I Love Them All

9. Your favorite color is: Morning Has Broken, Moon Shadow

10. You know that: It’s a Super Life

11. What's the weather like: Silent Sunlight

12. If your life were a television show what would it be called? Changes

13. What is life to you: But I Might Die Tonight

14. What is the best advice you have to give: If You Want to Sing Out, Sing Out

Did we just have nine inches of snow?

Just last Sunday, I was hunting for gloves and parkas, was helping frozen boys thaw out by the wood stove and was making hot chocolate.

Today, I brought Jesse out the easel and paints. He mixed up bright blues and pinks, suddenly over his "love of Goth".

Nicolas and Gillen did some spring deck cleaning and painting.
We kept throwing off our shoes.
And instead of snow balls, there were water balloons.


Friday, March 06, 2009

Survival of the kindness or How to stop a Fracas

Fracas : to argue, a brawl.

This was probably not the smartest thing to name our cat.
I am a dog person. There was one notable exception in my history with cats, a calico named Celimene who would sit on my shoulder while I weeded or picked vegetables (yes, I really used to weed and pick). She was an amazing cat. She proved the nine lives theory to be true as she was always coming close to death and then making a dramatic comeback. Once, I even found her surrounded by buzzards and was told by two vets that we should put her down but the third vet knew cat-acupuncture and she was brought back from the brink, yet again! Should I now assume that I have told this story nine times and lay it to rest? O.K.

I am a dog person who likes big, mostly barkless dogs. We always had german shepards growing up so I like them a lot but then there are the many fantastic mutts, like this one we've had for seven years.

Ah. Tuki! This is her favorite post, hips on the platform of our deck, front feet on the second step, waiting for Larry, the bachelor down the street, to take his daily walk. She always keeps both his house and ours in her vision. She is getting older now and usually barks at Larry (and at us) for a minute until, having come right upon us, she realizes that we are indeed from one of her two true family loves and wags her tail in embarrassment. This just makes her more adorable.

But cats? I'm discovering, yet again, that except for Celimene (and those cats that I visit in other people's home, where they do the litter cleaning) I am not a cat person. I want to be one. I want to be the kind of generous person who can take in all the needy children and animals. Unfortunaely, I can only keep up with the few.

Over a year ago, Fracas just showed up. She looked exactly like my mother's cat (the original Fracas) and was very sweet and lived happily outside. A year later it was brought to my unobservant attention that she has no front claws and should really be an indoor cat. We bought a litter box. For several months now, I have been waking up throughout the night to the sound of the Fracas derby - lots of running, lego batting, fierce thudding of her entire side and even of her spray (she is spayed, what's with the spraying?) against the walls. In our house, there is no getting away from this sound. Ear plugs could be an option but that wouldn't solve the other issues - that she walks on my head in the night and spreads her litter, deliberately, with her paw, all over the ground.

So, as of an hour ago, I have stopped fighting Nicolas' pleas to put her outside. She lived outside, happily, for a year. She is a survivor. The theory is that with the added hours of sleep and the reduced wall and floor cleaning, my kindness will remain intact. But I am feeling seriously challenged by the guilt, and by her unbelievably cute self through the window pane.

Later: She got back into the house in the night (after getting back in and hanging out with Nicolas and I for a while before that too). I am not the cold-hearted cat hater I want to be. I will learn to cat nap.

Tuesday, March 03, 2009

Where I'm From

A mad/lib type meme from this template after reading Julie Persons' poem first.

Tag, you're it.

Where I'm From

I am from short spiral notebooks with thick green covers in a Harvard Square bookstore, from Clairol Herbal Essence shampoo and Bonne Bell watermelon lip smacker.

I am from the old brownstones of a Back Bay neighborhood where moms brought out lemonade while we all played four-square on the side walk, surrounded, innocent. The ancient gargoyles carved into our apartment buildings were deliciously alive.

I am from Avocado trees grown inside from pits, the bubbling creek.

I am from passionate debates over dinner, from fall down funny, from Jill who came from Simone who came from Georgiana.

I am from the need to say it all and the too big emotions.

From ‘To Thine Own Self Be True” and ”Give me the answer for a Mars bar”.

I am from agnostics who then found God outside of church and a southern Baptist who mellowed after years of bible ranting.

I'm from Russia, France (by way of Canada), the deep South and New York City (though mostly I’m New England), lobster on a Boston roof and sweet tea brewed every day.

I am from the typewriter that my mother got a deal on through her mother’s gallery, for her writer boyfriend, a typewriter that got her kicked out of her mother’s gallery in NYC and into a new life in Boston; the vintage La Salle car that my father gave as a tip to a valet; and the red-headed inventor who was mysteriously murdered at a stop light when his daughter, my mother, was thirteen.

I am from the black boxes on the bottom shelf in our new art room that contain many of the pictures and scraps of my mother. This year I will bring them into the light and share them with her grandkids so that they can know her.

Monday, March 02, 2009

Still white

It's been like seeing snow for the first time. I feel like a hobbit, buried cozily under so much white.

This morning, Tuki was so excited to discover that Jesse had also come outside for a walk in the snow.