No matter how sad we humans may become, the world keeps spinning and the seasons march on. After a mild winter, spring crept in on tiny cat paws before any of us could believe it. Here at SSF, all the trees are already bursting into bud, throwing caution to the wind and declaring it officially the growing season.
About a year ago, I wrote a post called the Age of Grief. It was a downer - not my usual "here's what's up on the farm and what I'm grateful for" post. Some folks were quick to point out that they found it depressing. Yup. It was about how in your 40s, dreams die. And so do people.
Well. Hold onto your hats.
It's February 2010. I'm a few months from being truly mid 40s. And here's what I know.
I have a husband who has battled cancer twice. I know personally 8 women who have battled breast cancer. I have a friend who is destitute and hopeless. I have a friend who tonight lost her partner to suicide. I have a neighbor who committed suicide 3 years ago on the eve of his young son's birthday.
Guess what? We're all exhausted. We're all emotionally spent. Somehow, in our 40s, it all comes to a head. Either we survive it or, I guess, we don't.
So, make no mistake. Our 40s/50s are a battleground for nothing less than our lives. And if you don't think that's true, I don't think you're paying attention. It's life or death out there.
Please. Make today the day you turn to your wife, or your daughter, or son, or you best friend, and you hug them tight and thank them for being on this planet.
Because, people, you are blessed to have them in your life.
One of the fun things about living on Vashon is the seemingly astonishing number of quirky traditions that have built themselves up over time in this small community. One that I stumbled into in a rather backwards fashion is the annual Burns Society supper.
All over the world, groups of Scots and Scot lovers, and poets and poetry lovers gather on a Saturday night near the end of January to raise a glass and pierce a stuffed sheep's stomach in honor of Robert Burns, the ploughman poet.
Now, I happen to actually be of Scotch decent, but I only came to find myself a guest at this table through the back door of Mark's musical abilities. Although unfortunately descended from the scurrilous British, Mark was nevertheless invited to sing at the lauded Vashon Burns Supper some five years ago now - and was instantly hooked. I heard about it for two years from him, then a third from both him and my mom who accompanied Mark his third year.
Finally, in 2009, I gave in to my curiousity and joined in the fun. And, I don't think I'm breaking any secret order rules by sharing a little about what goes on and encouraging any Scots or Scot lovers, or poets or poetry lovers to find or start a Burns Supper of their own. Kudos and thanks to Dan Brown for sharing his great photographs of a tough-to-photograph event!
The evening begins with a cocktail hour - 100 folks show up in either evening wear or some level of Scottish dress - we probably have 6 or 8 folks in full Scottish attire. A veritable army of volunteers have transformed our local hunting lodge into a fairyland of tartans, flowers, linen tableclothes, and candlelight. Other volunteers have prepared homemade appetizers traditional to Scotland, including delectable smoked salmon and Scotch eggs. Still more volunteers, musicians, provide instrumental sounds that float softly around the chatter and laughter. Wine and beer flow freely and conversation pauses momentarily at one point while we are treated to an exhibition of the Highland dance.
Then the gong sounds and it's time to find your name on a - beautifully decorated, of course! - plate down one of the four long tables. As the evening evolves, we diners are treated to one sensational song or poem after another, performed entirely by people eating alongside us. (It should be interjected here that the sheer volume of talent on this tiny rock is staggering). Hours pass and courses are served and cleared.
After the soup, it is time for the Entrance of the Haggis. Now, this is where I'm liable to lose a few of you, but I just have to state up front that before my first Burns Supper, I had managed to live a long and happy life 100% void of any meals involving sheep stomach. But. But, it's my duty to say honestly that it's not completely vile. Served alongside neeps and taties (that's just Scottish humor for turnips and potatoes), a variety of other goodies (including, this year, a nod to the vegetarians in the room!) and then the grand finale, culinarily, for me - for me, a non-sweets-lover at that - sticky toffee pudding. Bliss in a dish.
Nearing midnight, we stand, a single shot of scotch whiskey in our hand, and toast the life and loves of the man who brought poetry down from the mountain of weath and titles and gave it simply so that the simple man could own it too.
A treasured evening, inspired by an inspring if deeply flawed human, and brought about year after year by many, many people dedicated to his ideals of living life to the very fullest, in the very best of company.
Thank you Vashon Burns Society. See you next year.
Almost 19 years after stepping, blinking, into the unlikely Seattle June sun (not realizing he would meet his bride to be in less than 24 hours), Mark became a U.S. citizen.
Nana, Dylan, and I watched as his name, 9th out of 112, was called and he strode across the stage to receive his official paper yesterday afternoon. We almost missed it - he went in Tuesday morning for his final interview and they shook his hand and told him to show up in the auditorium at 2pm!
112 people from 36 nations joined our nation in that auditorium. They took an oath, they beamed, their families cried and took lots of photos. Babies cried and children fidgeted.
It's been such a wacky weather year all over the globe, one hardly knows what to think when it comes to the planting calendar. We had fine days last week, culminating in an absolutely balmy Saturday and could no longer resist the urge to play in the dirt. We mapped out the new beds we want to dig out in the veggie garden, then Mark rolled out nearly a 100 feet of black plastic to kill the existing grass and prepare the area for its new life as a food factory.
And, turning a blind eye to the date, I greedily thumbed through my seed packets, searching searching for anything that might weather a nasty late winter frost. We planted spinach and bok choi and swiss chard and broccoli in a bed that can support a cloche, so with a little luck we might be eating out of the garden as early as the beginning of March this year. Last fall's garlic has pushed up after its hibernation and is already 3 inches high!
Garden planning remains a challenge for both Mark and me - I still can't tell if we over-analyze it or just don't have our veggie legs yet. Maybe both.
But, it sure was fun to break up the dirt and get the beginnings of dinner in the ground. The chickens did their best to help and Middy informed us that nibbling blackberry bushes at the end of a leash is not her bag.
Let me know what you think of my little re-design! I figured it might just be time to shake things up a bit.
It's Groundhog Day all over the nation and here in our little spot in the upper left hand corner of the country, we finished the day in our traditional manner - moving heaven and earth and even homework to ensure that we squeezed in our annual Groundhog Day screening before collapsing into bed.
But, before that happy event, we spent a truly spring-like day mostly outdoors. It was positively balmy and our decrepit, ancient, and horribly neglected apple tree stood begging us to come hither with pruners, loppers, and saws. So, we obliged. 2 short hours later, we could stand back and admire the 20% of the job we had managed to tackle. Oh well - it's a start!
And it felt good, stripping away dead wood under the bright light of a benevolent sun. It felt like this year, Mr. Punxsutawney Phil might be prescient in his prediction of a desperately wished for early spring. Maybe, just maybe today is a harbinger of the good, new growth to come. Here, and elsewhere.
I am a 50-year old community engagement manager, wife, mom and sort of farmer with a passion for sharing life and love through vibrant and delicious food. I work to slowly (very slowly) build a place where people come to know their food and take pleasure in its journey. I am fortunate to live in a beautiful island community outside Seattle, surrounded by nature and exceptional people, especially my loving and supportive Aussie husband, our amazing son, and a small band of fiercely dedicated friends. This site is dedicated to sharing what I learn as I stumble through everyday lessons on farming, animals, growing healthy food, parenting, and what the future holds.