"What do you plan to do with your one, wild, precious life?" -Mary Oliver

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Only the warbler loves the jack pine

They send our white pine
down the river replant scrub
and call it even

Monday, January 26, 2009

The Good Farm

Seed catalogs are starting to arrive here at the farm. Luscious red peppers and gourmet greens, garlic bulbs as big as wine glasses and spears of dewy asparagus that quiver on the page like ballerinas on tiptoe are tucked into the mailbox. Catalogs adorned with pictures of gardeners digging in the dirt with straw hats to keep off the sun and marigold leis strung around their necks land at my doorstep, and I see myself with a bandana around my head working the ground. I have pages and pages of sun ripened tomatoes, summer’s first raspberries and the venerable strawberry to browse through as the snow falls. Michigan grows not only the best tart cherries in the world, but also the best raspberries, strawberries, and tomatoes. The difference in taste between our fruits and vegetables and those grown with irrigation lies in the mineral-rich rain that falls from the sky.

Winter may have a firm hold on the land, but now is the time to begin planning the garden. Here at Raub-Rae Farms we will again have a stand at the Rochester Farmer’s Market throughout the summer to supply those weary of factory farms and chemical-laden vegetables with organic eggs, chicken, and beef in addition to a wide variety of vegetables. This year we will offer a weekly newsletter at the market containing news and notes from the farm (everyone should have an idea of where their food comes from) as well as recipes and growing and cultivating tips.

Organic farming is farming on a sustainable level, one with the natural world and the inner spirit. Our lives depend on agriculture and seeds and we value our land and all that lives here. Raub-Rae Farms is not only a fourth generation organic farm, it is also now a Centennial Farm. My father completed the lengthy application process this past year, and our farm has just been approved for this honorable designation. When the ground thaws he will put up his new sign!

Come Spring!

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

The End of the Age of Indulgence

I woke up this morning to a buzz in the air. Yes, in the rural technological wilderness of Michigan's Thumb, the feeling of electricity permeates the air on this Inauguration Day. I threw on some sweats and my big fat slippers and opened the door to my living room and an absolute ocean of people on the National Mall. I've been glued to the television ever since, leaving only to refill my coffee cup. What is it about this man that inspires everyone to do better, to be smarter, and to try harder?

If you live on a farm, however, farm activities take precedence over all else. A truck came in this morning to take a load of corn out to market, and my husband is complaining about having to go out in the cold to upload the semi, but what he's really worried about is missing the swearing-in ceremonies that start at 11:30 AM. I plan to watch, if I have to go AWOL from the checkpoint to do so. They say there have not been this many people on the mall for an Inauguration Day since Johnson's in 1965 when 1.2 million people congregated in front of the Capitol, a record they expect to break today.

Much later tonight.... Hello again on this bone-chilling yet warm winter night. The Obama's just danced their first dance at the Neighborhood Ball and a new era begins. Less me and more we, an era of self sacrifice and national service. We kicked the can down the road for too long (starting with Reagan who bad-mouthed govt. yet ran up the deficit, turned the financial markets into a vast casino, and began his infamous trickle-down experiment), and now we're at the end of the road. And about that truck.....it flipped over on the Ohio Turnpike and spilled corn all over the highway. They might be able to save much of it but needless to say, it is no longer organic. Oh...and the crowd record? The Park Service estimates that two million people were gathered on the mall, the ellipse, and around the Washington Monument for President Obama's swearing-in ceremony.

So, are you hopeful or cynical? Me? I'm taking a leave of absence from political talk and concentrating on my writing! That's what hope does. It allows us to pursue our passions.

Friday, January 16, 2009

Medical Marijuana

I went to work even though I had laryngitis, knowing I couldn’t talk, but I quickly learned that most of what I say doesn’t need to be said at all.

Let me tell you a story. It has long been a bone of contention within the ranks of TSA (the ones who make you take your shoes off at the airport and x-ray your belongings)that our government farmed out the manufacture of our uniforms to Third World countries, instead of giving the business to the American garment industry, and we have long protested the shoddy materials, (my sweater vest developed a hole after one washing), but now we’ve found out that the fabric of our shirts has been treated with formaldehyde. Yes, we are draped in embalming fluid. Why would someone do this? To keep the creases in our shirts stiff? Our director is always nit picking about the length of our hair and our jewelry and tattoos, the crease in our pants and the shine on our shoes, but really . . . formaldehyde?

Once this leaked out they told us we could apply for new, all cotton shirts and return the old ones. But I recently discovered that nothing is that easy and sensible for the Dept. of Homeland Security’s poor stepchild, TSA. Now the official line is that we have to get a doctor’s statement saying we are allergic to formaldehyde (is this like saying you might be allergic to asbestos or lead?) and then we have to fill out a packet of forms ½ inch thick and then apply to receive cotton (untainted) shirts from our Third World supplier. But I wonder . . . what strange additive will the fabric of these so-called cotton shirts have? Where is it grown and under what conditions and with what chemicals, herbicides and pesticides?

All this brings to mind the fight here in Michigan over Medical Marijuana and the growing of this amazing ancient herb. (And what about the growing of hemp, a wondrous, natural fabric that isn’t made with petroleum like polyester is?) Michiganians voted overwhelmingly in ALL counties to pass a Medical Marijuana bill in November, and it is now up to the Michigan Dept of Community Health to draft the rules under which this new law will be implemented, and it is within their power to make it easy or hard. Sadly, in direct repudiation of the will of the people, they have chosen to make it hard. Rather than adopt the rules that are working well in other progressive states, they are drafting draconian regulations, making ill people and their caregivers keep elaborate records of amounts grown and used, subjecting them to face-to-face interviews, and recording the names of other users on registration forms, and so on. What are they afraid of? Marijuana has fewer side effects than most of the drugs foisted on us by the pharmaceutical companies; it is cheaper and far less toxic, and people can grow their own independently of outside interference. Maybe that is what they are afraid of.

We didn't learn anything from the Prohibition era, as proven by our failed war on drugs, so we are rightly doomed to repeat our history. We wouldn't be so foolish as to try and outlaw cigarettes, yet any doctor will tell you that no substance is more addictive than nicotine. Al Capone was put out of business overnight when Prohibition was lifted. The drugs are not the problem. The illegality of drugs is the problem. And as the violence in Mexico threatens to spill over the border, this truth is becoming ever more evident.

Monday, January 12, 2009

The Art of Doing Nothing

How do I describe this winter morning… Ground fog is heavy and surrounds us in a surreal whiteout. The full moon is still high and bright in the western sky while the eastern sky is pink with the rising sun. The treetops are visible above the fog and all is still. My camera malfunctioned…..a 35mm with old school film. There were two pictures left on the roll so I snapped them of the moon and the field and the trees and the fog. When the reel is used up, it is supposed to automatically rewind and it sounded like this was what it was doing, but when I opened the film compartment, much to my chagrin, it had only rewound halfway, so the film was exposed and is now ruined.

The fog is thinning and the woods are now completely visible, the moon growing dimmer as the sun rises. A beautiful winter morning that I will now have to commit to memory. What did people used to do? They painted landscapes, whether they were any good at it or not. They wrote letters and descriptions of places and times in diaries and bibles. And because they wrote a lot, many people were quite good at it. When was the last time you got a hand-written letter in the mail? Why have I resisted buying a digital camera? There's something about the development process,the surprise of seeing what you have when you look through your photos. I’m trying to remember all that was on that roll of film . . . The turkey that had accidently hung himself in the crook of a tree down the road a pace, the pond in the sunset, the swing hanging empty from the crooked pear tree, friends and family around the snack bar . . . all lost.

A winter poem about time and place:
State of Alone
The mercury outside my window is slick with ice
Even the inside of the window is glazed.
I scrape the frost off with my nail;
it falls into the sink.
The furnace drones without pause
and the house is quiet.
My summersick dog lies on the heat.
We both feel a draft run through the house;
it sets chimes ringing and makes her nervous.

I inventory things not to do.
It’s in a book—the art of doing nothing.
Meditate and you can see things that aren’t there . . .
brandied cakes and a bottle of wine
set out on a sideboard as if for a friend.

I look behind doors and pause at the stairs
come full circle to see myself sitting there,
in the chair with the wings.
It’s a special friend. I settle for that, out of window’s black view.
I don’t like my back to a window.
Night blankets the house in a mantilla of doubt.
Only cold comes in from under the door.

Tuesday, January 6, 2009

More Private Than Blood

All writing is good, but about suffering they were never wrong, so tell the truth but tell it slant.

What if you saw a bug on your keyboard that wasn’t really there? Or a spider on the wall, or the shadow of a movement outside your writer's window, which was really just a shadow after all? What kind of hell does the hallucinogenic suffer? The brain is a mysterious organ. Look at . . . let’s call her Mary. Gone stark raving mad after a stroke, or was it really her man falling off a ladder to his death, and to think that I was 25 feet up with a paint can and a brush and a strong wind out of the west, hanging on with one hand and stretching with the other to reach a corner with the tip of my brush. What about brain injuries? You know . . .like falling on the ice and cracking your skull open. That sure shakes things up and does a CT scan show all? Tell all? Nothing is 100pct. Except death.

Poor Mary. Her son once told me he had to transport his hated son-in-law’s ashes and he wasn’t sure where to put the urn. In the back seat . . . didn't seem quite right. In the trunk . . . worse. In the front seat? It seemed the only civil thing to do, and he put him on the seat beside him and talked to him all the way to wherever they were going. And when they got there he didn’t hate him anymore. He was sorry he hadn’t tried to help him but he was such a drunk and hard to be around and hitting people and the sorry son-of-a-bitch drowned in his own puke.

I know I’m going to die, but I don’t want to die seeing bugs on the ceiling and walls, and I don’t want to drown in my own puke, and I don’t want to fall off a ladder and I never again want to hear the sound of my skull striking cold November asphalt. My frozen pool of blood a sideshow at the terminal.

Sunday, January 4, 2009

An Otherwise Bleak Drive down I-75

You read to me
and traffic stopped
doesn’t matter anymore.
Rain, staggered flares, and flashing lights
are only there.

You read to me and now I see
doors filled with unwashed children
whose hungry eyes swallow the impatience
to either side of me.
Time goes the way of clouds over the moor
as we consider Swift’s solution for making societal use
of the too many poor children.

You read us down from three lanes into one—
into the line of red taillights heading
for the horizon, black with December snow.
And lifted on the lilt of your voice,
we arrive.


To my daughter, Melissa

Thursday, January 1, 2009

Times Square

I wish Dick Clark could find a way to gracefully retire. He comes across as a freak with the dyed hair and taut skin of a plastic surgery addict and now the stroke-induced speech impediment adds a pathetically sad postscript to his otherwise illustrious career. He should've gone out in style five years ago instead of putting us through this torturous yearly event.

Las Vegas is still trying to steal the show from New York with redundant escapades by leather-clad motorcyclists, while New York thinks the rest of the world wants to watch the Clintons kiss in Times Square. Where was the ball? Hidden behind dozens of neon ads and Toshiba billboards, we never saw it drop (maybe it doesn't do that anymore) and the channel we finally settled on didn't even have the countdown. We would've been better served by staying at our card table with our euchre game.

After ten minutes of television commercials and the afore-mentioned trivialities, we went back to our game, our homemade bourbon balls, and our cask ale. Visible through the picture window, Orion was taking down the house, and even the slip of a setting moon on the opposite side of the sky outshone Times Square. Frost coated the windows and kept the beer cold on the porch and nobody even pretended to make a resolution.

Patty’s Bourbon Balls
2 ½ c. vanilla wafers (finely crushed)
1 c. powdered sugar
2T. cocoa
1 c. pecans or walnuts (finely chopped)
1/3 c. natural coconut
3 T. corn syrup
½ c brandy or bourbon
Powdered sugar.

Mix the first five ingredients well. Add syrup, brandy and mix well. Roll into 1 inch balls, then roll in powdered sugar. Do not bake. Store in an airtight container in a cool place and they will taste better after a few days. Brandy balls improve with time.