Thursday, March 19, 2015

Loaves and Lives 

In February we said good bye to Byron’s mom.  I first met “Mom” when I was 23.  If I had had even the slightest thought that she would someday be my Mother in law, I would have seriously tried to make a good impression!  Thankfully, in spite of my lack of good intentions, she somehow saw something in me, and suggested to Byron that he pursue me.  Am I ever glad for a guy’s mom that knew her son well enough to see me and believe that he and I were meant to be!  Byron is still the man of my dreams.   

In recent years, Mom has become known to many people as an amazing bread baker. And truly she earned that reputation fair and square.  She developed some extraordinary sprouted bread recipes.  And alongside Dad, turned their garage into the cutest little bakery in the county, and spent countless hours there perfecting her recipes and creating the loaves that our FarmBox members and many others have come to crave and love.   Believe it or not, she was almost 70 when she got dusted with the bakery bug! For a few years she and Dad were the only ones to do the careful crafting of the breads and other goodies.  Then a few years ago, she began to teach a few others the fine art of sprouted bread making.   And now our bakers here at the farm are trying their best to follow In her footsteps to carry the tradition on. 

This year, as we went through the process of her short sickness, her sudden death and then the memorial service all of us were reminded again that Mom was so much more than the finest baker we knew.  We realized that her  baking was just her signature of her lifelong passions.   She had chosen to selflessly immerse herself into the task of raising her kids the best way she knew how.  And just as she relentlessly pursued creating the finest healthiest bread, her passion for raising kids that would love and honor God and make a positive difference in their world was all consuming.  That journey for her and Dad included carving out a homestead in the wilds of northern British Columbia  and roughing it without electricity, TV, or even phone.  Byron didn’t even use a telephone until he was 15 years old!  It included growing a huge garden, goats , chickens, mountains of mud, chopping wood to heat the house, sewing underwear from old flour sacks, and much more.  In those days, Byron and his four siblings thought it all a grand adventure to live deep in the woods at the end of a rutted sometimes almost impassible road.  It is only in hindsight that they realize that the temerarious life their parents provided came at great sacrifice. A sacrifice born from deeply cherished convictions about what their children’s true needs were.

 One sunny afternoon in late February, just a few days after the memorial service, Aimee and Pablo conscripted Immian to bake with them so that they could soak up some of his baking skills.  You see, baking is in our family and Immian has worked with our sister company, Silver Hills Bakery for many years.  By the way, that’s actually part of the story of how he and Kymbrelee met.  And to connect the dots further, really the roots for how Silver Hills Bakery started stem back to Byron being a janitor in college….  But now I am so far off track…  That’s a story for another day!

Back to the story – next thing they knew, the four oldest of the little girls had woken up from naps and begged to be allowed to go bake.  So once aprons and hair nets were somehow attached to  their wiggling bodies the fun began!  As I watched them perched precariously on stools smearing flour and dough around on the once gleaming stainless steel counter in the bakery that their great Grandma had started when most great Grandma’s would be sailing on cruises, or enjoying bridge games with friends,  I realized the marvelous potential those four little ladies had to make a difference in  their world.  A big difference.  One life at a time.  It made me so thankful for the choices that their parents are making to raise their kids in the country on farms with all the “hardships” that build indomitable characters.  And I realized that just as Mom had prudently shaped one loaf and one life at a time, parents today can still practice the art of crafting change one life at a time.

Saturday, October 11, 2014

The Fight Against Cancer

Recently  I was bustling into a grocery store, my mind many miles away making lists and notes when suddenly I was forced to ponder upon serious issues as I passed by a young lady doing her part to raise money for breast cancer research.

My mind zig zagged up to the present as I looked at her placidly sitting behind a well worn plastic folding table strewn with brightly colored plastic cups, mega sized bottles of root beer, and a frosty tub of ice cream.  Her sign summed up her mission: "Root Beer Floats. $1. For breast cancer research." As my mind careened around I wondered if she even had the dimmest notion of what she was REALLY accomplishing.  I wondered if she had ever heard of the devastating effects of sugar on the human body in general but especially on cancer.  Or  even more basic if she knew that sugar, food coloring, and a host of other nasties were the components  in the frothy brown jug and the frozen block that were impostering as treats on her table.

I wondered what an immense difference it could have made to take the same well used plastic table, arrange a  decadent display of leafy greens like crunchy romaine and frilly kale, robust roots like carrots and beets, and mouthwatering fruits like sweet apples and juicy kiwi and then serve delicious samples of freshly made juices and smoothies from those tried and true cancer warriors.  And when people's taste buds got tickled with the legitimate treats she could have handed them a card containing recipes on how to make them and outlining the vibrant cancer fighting properties hidden in those very common treasures of the earth.

The story could have been different. The story should have been different. 

Later as I left the store I was still pondering the irony of it and feeling powerless and frustrated about the sincere misguidedness of so many people.  

But then it began to dawn on me.  I wasn't powerless!  Every bunch of curly kale, juicy cucumber, and sweet tomato that we harvest IS making a difference.  It left me with an even greater longing to cooperate with our Creator in tangible, intelligent methods to make the very ordinary brown clay soil of our farm produce an abundant harvest.  To learn better methods of enticing people to choose to purchase and eat our produce.  To learn and to implement better ways of meeting the real needs of our customers.  To make our farm  a place where at the end of the day our team members have a sense of satisfaction from their work that overrides their tired feet, torn blue jeans, achy back, and calloused hands.

That, I decided could be our part in this human fight against a host of cancers and other diseases that are threatening people's very existence. And not only will it provide a breadth and depth of legitimate flavors and textures  for many people's palates - including mine, it can be a shelter for change and refreshment in a world of odds and challenges.

Sunday, September 16, 2012

My Dad and Degrees

Monday September 10, 2012

I'm flying up to Seattle on an evening flight so that early tomorrow morning Kymbrelee and Arycia can pick me up to go see my Dad and Mom in B.C.

My Dad - my favorite and only Dad. My Dad who has always been a strong man in my life - in fact - THE strong man until he had to share that spot with my husband - is sick. Very sick. This is my fifth trip up there this year.

As i settled into the familiar blue and tan seat I was musing about how I wished the farm didn't tie us down so much because I wished I could go spend time with them more often. But in the same breath I realized that there were lots of people who don't have the luxury that I have had of being able to "pop" up to BC as often as I have this year. So I must be so grateful for the blessings I have!

That began a tumbled bouquet of thoughts about how thankful I was for a husband who lets me make his load much heavier so I can go see my Dad... Amazing kids who each step up to the task of covering duties for me... And in the mix came up thoughts of our farm family who love and care enough to shoulder a bit more of the load so I can go on a moment's notice. Come to think of it, I never did answer Jonathan's question about the cabbage. He sat waiting for so long. But I know when I text him in the morning he'll probably say , "no problem I saw you were busy so I figured it out." Earlier today when I told Azul I was thinking of leaving tonight - her response was in keeping with who she is - "I think we'll be OK Janice, you better go." The thoughts continued to tumble. I thought of Roberto's impromptu sales pitch to Grandpa Felix today convincing him to purchase the very last farm sweatshirt and Michelle's excitement about just watching "Forks over Knives" and Joanne's little comedy act about mice who get away with just eating the peanut butter. Then there's Jesus who always says "Mrs Janice you need to go see your Daddy. Tell him I love him."

As those warm thoughts relaxed me I opened up Southwest's famous Spirit magazine. My eyes fell on some fascinating thoughts on page 36. "A November 2011 study by Facebook and the university of Milan, which mined data from the social media site's 721 million active users, found that the number of intermediate links between two strangers - better known as degrees of separation - is, at 4.74... When considering another person in the world, on average, a friend of your friend knows a friend of their friend."

And that began a whole new tumble of thoughts. And recurrent amongst them all was that I am keenly grateful we get to grow food for people who care enough to try to get even closer than 4.74 degrees to their food! That led to thinking about our upcoming FarmDay and how fun it's going to meet "our people" ....

And that landed me back on a spot somewhere near where I'd begun ...
I thought of how much my Dad would love it if only he would be well enough that we could fly him down for our FarmDay. He doesn't ever know strangers so he'd be in a farm full of instant friends. And oh the great conversations he would have. Of course I know in my heart of hearts that he won't be well enough - and that's not an easy thought.

But then I realize that in a larger part than I realize, I owe my passion to be connected to the people who eat our food, to my Dad and his insatiable love for people and connections. If there was a way, my Dad would make sure that there were never any degrees between him and anyone - ever. And that thought reminded me of the land my Dad and we his children and grandchildren look forward to. And truly there won't be degrees of separation there.

Monday, September 3, 2012

Our team

I actually wrote this in September of 2011 and that's when it should have been posted... But every once in awhile life catches you on the side and whips you along and it takes so much focus just to keep up and make each day count that the extras don't always fit in... So sadly, this tribute to our team didn't make it onto the pages of our blog when it was supposed to. But here it is now, a year later when we are again harvesting spaghetti squash. Hopefully you can step back in time and "be right there" with us at last fall's harvest...

Earlier this year we were flying to Albuquerque on business. The airport was jammed with people going home from a big game. A couple of guys ahead of me in the security line were swaggering along bragging about "how great we did". Turned out they'd flown all the way from New York to watch their team play. As I overheard them reliving all the great plays of the game I began to ponder.

I find it a little ironic that these
celebrated sports stars get such admiration, applause, and enormous paychecks. I'm trying to think what real effective good these famous sports stars contribute to our society. I mean honestly, if they werent playing their games - could we continue to function as a society? We sure could. And since I am not coming up with any ideas on what lasting value their feats accomplish - let me tell you about our team.

A few weeks ago we harvested over 500 bushels - that's over seven tons - of Spaghetti Squash in one day. Of course for an automated factory farm that wouldn't be any great feat. But our team consisted of 3 guys who did it all by hand. Translate that - 3 guys got 15,000 pounds of spaghetti squash off the field and into the cooler in one day. I want to dare any sports star - or you for that matter - to work all day in the field picking, boxing, and lugging that much weight around in the scorching sun. You think that football players work hard - hmph - you oughta see our team! First off football games don't last all day and during the game the players seem to spend half the game either huddling or standing around watching the other team huddle. Our team doesn't have time to huddle - they know the urgency of getting the squash out of the field and into the warehouse. And they are constantly bending, lifting, throwing, catching, hoisting, and carrying to meet that goal.

And if you think sports stars are coordinated - well I wish you could see our team! It is spectacular to watch them. They toss those squash so fast that no one dares to miss a beat. And in the same instant that you catch one squash you've got to be carefully putting it in the box while you watch for the next squash shooting your way. And there is no pausing in the pace.
Then there's the guy who tosses the bushel boxes up to the other guy on the Gator. Yeah they just toss them on. Ha! Imagine keeping up a rapid pace of tossing 30 pound boxes through the air. Or how about the catcher - he has to catch them, set them down squarely on the pallet, and be poised to catch the next box. All in one blink. I'm sure it would only take one thunck of a box landing in my arms to flip me off the side of the Gator.

But they do it. And they keep up the pace all day. There aren't any cheerleaders dancing in the sun with them. Not one of them has ever made it into sports illustrated. And, trust me, no one on this team gets super sized paychecks.

This is the real stuff of life. These are the real heroes who are growing and harvesting real food - substantial sustainable food. Food that has a story fraught with the commitment and sacrifices that our teammembers made to help get it to our tables.

So the next time you hack open a spaghetti squash or crunch into one of our crisp cucumbers or get squirted by our juicy tomatoes - remember that you too have bragging rights. By choosing our food, every bite you take cheers us on!

On behalf of the team - Thanks for joining us on this productive
journey to better health.

Hungry for Change

Recently we watched a great documentary called "Hungry for Change". It is definitely a worthwhile watch. It reminded us again that the effort to grow fresh sustainable food that carries its flavor right onto your plate is definitely worth it.

The documentary outlined the change that has taken place in North America over the years. Wow what changes there have been! And certainly not for the better.

But the good news is that now that people have experienced first hand the devastating effects of industrialized agriculture -- change has been happening again. This time it's a good change. A change that is sweeping into communities across North America. And it's a change that makes us recognize and deepky appreciate the life changing value of real food grown by people who care.

If you get a chance watch the movie - I think you'll be glad you did. And like me, it may deepen your resolve to be Hungry for the Changes that make our lives and the lives of our neighbors better.

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPhone

Location:Bell Ranch Rd,Willcox,United States

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Stray Sunflowers

Late yesterday afternoon as I walked past the Zucchini patch on my way home my thoughts jumped around as fast as the grasshoppers on the dirt in front of me. It seemed like at the same time that I was gratefully thinking about my wonderful plight of being married to a farmer and living in such a quiet place I was looking at the zucchini and wondering how soon it would start harvesting and thinking that it'd be great to eat supper on the lawn. Pretty unrelated and random eh?
As I walked through the trees into our yard I suddenly spotted two beautiful dwarf sunflowers tucked in beside a bushel basket that I'd left laying on the rocks from weeding a rose bed at least a month ago. It seemed like they had literally popped up out of nowhere - in an instant. Intellectually I know it wasn't instant - because instant and plants dont really belong in the same wagon. It just seemed that way. Their brilliant and seemingly sudden appearance swerved my thinking to ponder their story as I went inside to chop onions and sweet potato greens for supper.

In late April of 2007 our daughter Kymbrelee, and son-in- law-to-be, Immian, decided that they wanted to have their July first wedding on our lawn. Our yard was just barely waking up after the last frost and according to the calendar we had about 67 days till the wedding. I grabbed the Johnnys catalogue and looked for fast color. Marigolds and Dwarf Sunflowers were among my top picks. I did an expedited order and we began planting. Thankfully, true to the genetic make up of the seeds - the yard was in full bloom ready for a romantic wedding by the evening of July one.

The sunflowers were incredible. The striking effect of hundreds of beaming sunflowers bordering our expansive green lawn was perfect. Their plump yellow faces were a bright contrast to the more delicate petunias and the splashy marigolds. But in spite of their tremendous impression on us that summer, I've never planted them again.

I am crazy about flowers. My therapy is to plant them, weed them, pick them, and spend quiet time in my yard so I can enjoy them and the gazoodles of butterflies and hummingbirds they attract. My flowers nourish my soul. But since the farm claims most of my time planting and tending my flowers has to fit in the left over cracks. So I choose flowers that will give me beauty for the longest time. Sadly, sunflowers do not meet those criteria. But in spite of the fact that I've never planted them again since that summer, every year I get a few persistant volunteers popping up here and there in our yard. And sometimes in the most unlikely places! Those two were growing in rocks on top of a weed barrier where there wasn't even regular irrigation! Perhaps a bird or the wind or both had dropped the seeds there where they lay dormant until one day the conditions must've been perfect for those two little seeds to germinate, grow and burst forth in those flamboyant blooms that fed my soul as I hurried into the kitchen to make supper for my hungry family.

It suddenly sobered me to realize the long lasting impact of the things that I allow into my mind. A scene from a movie, the lyrics to a song, a talk show host's comments, a magazine article, and much more are seeds getting tossed onto the soil of my mind. At some point given the right conditions they will spring up into more thoughts, words, or actions. The harvest will depend on the type of seed planted but it will happen.

That evening as we lingered around our weathered picnic table I sat back and basked in the glow of the tiki torches and the buzzing conversations of the bugs and of us. As our conversation bobbed from the health benefits of sweet potato greens to Bella's penchant for fresh juicy tomatoes to why opposites attract and whether or not that really works in marriage my mind strayed back to my musings on my way past the zucchini patch and how truly blessed I was to live on a farm and be constantly surrounded by the workings of nature and be immersed in wholesome hard farm work. It's the kind of life that leaves you so bone weary at the end of the day that quiet evening conversations with family and close friends are more exciting and meaningful than an amusement park or a thriller movie. It makes you learn to see gold in the dirt under your fingernails and in the inconvenience of getting drenched by a popped irrigation hose. And best of all, every day in almost every corner of the farm there are cause and effect lessons to learn about the deep things of life. The seriousness and depth of the lessons keeps a person grounded in the real things that make up the very substance of life. Today a couple of stray sunflowers were my teachers.

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPhone

Monday, August 15, 2011


So this is our third year to grow watermelons and a myriad of other shapes, sizes, varieties, and flavors of melons. I love melons! And at the immense risk of sounding like I've got an ego the size of one, I'm going to say that we grow amazing watermelons. Really though, we can't take all the credit - it's just a great combination of our cool nights contrasted by sunny hot days, good choices of seed varieties, careful veganic organic growing practices, and most of all the blessing of God. Back to the melons. To put it in Chuck's words - he's the produce manager at AJs in Scottsdale - he says we grow “dynamite melons."

This year we have encountered a new challenge to our quest of getting our "dynamite" melons onto people's tables - coyotes. They love the thrill of eating fresh juicy watermelons on a moonlight night. Truth be told, they eat them whether the moon is out or not. It seems that just as fast as they ripen, the coyotes eat them.

This season, knowing we were starting our FarmBox program, we intentionally planted small succession plantings of “Little Baby Flower” watermelons. They are bursting with intense watermelon flavor and are just the right size for FarmBoxes. And boy oh boy, do the coyotes ever love them! And better yet, they love it that we have planned a steady supply for them all summer long. Sigh.

Recently it dawned on us that perhaps our issue is that late last summer Andy, our beloved Redbone Coonhound of many years and Cheetah, Grandpa and Grandma’s Great Pyrenese, both died. Perhaps the absence of big dogs on the farm was creating an open invitation to our Coyote Watermelon Bar. So we decided that perhaps we needed to find another big dog to join the farm. Aimee spent an entire afternoon in Tucson visiting with dozens of eager dogs at the Pima Animal Shelter. Bit by bit she narrowed her choices down till finally she settled on Bella.

Bella really caught Aimee’s attention because she seemed to be exceptionally intelligent and observant. In addition she had remarkable people skills, and good manners with the other dogs. Only Bella knows her full story and why she was there, but the sketchy information that the shelter was able to provide is that she is a 9 month old German Shepherd that a friend of the owner had dropped off. So we adopted Bella. Right from the start, Bella seemed to be immensely grateful to have been chosen to be a member of the family. She is poised, beautiful, loving, and obedient and has been trying very diligently to learn all the family rules and we already love her.

There is only one ironic flaw to our happily ever after story. Last Friday morning Bella came out with Byron and me to the watermelon patch to survey the night’s Coyote damage. Imagine our surprise when she started eagerly gobbling up the remains of partially eaten watermelons. That was a little disconcerting. Then picture our shocked dismay, when she moved over and selected a nice melon still growing on the vine and proceeded to start to nibble on it! Thankfully, “Bella, no!” was all Byron had to say and she happily went back to the half eaten ones. I stood there, my jaw hanging down while Byron broke out in gut busting laughter. I should have known that would be Byron’s response to this latest turn in our quest to save the melons. If there is one thing I love about him, it is his ability to think the best of every person and every situation. “Well,” he said after his laughter subsided, “She may not save the melons but we sure do have a swell new pet out of the deal.”

The question remains, “Will Bella do her job and keep our melon patch safe from the coyotes?” We don’t know yet. But like my husband, I think that for now, I better choose to think the best of this ironic situation and of our delightful new family member, Bella.

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPhone

Location:E Gaskill Rd,Willcox,United States