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Last fall I was going through a lot of soul searching about job stuff that I couldn’t really post publicly.  It was all consuming; which explains why my blog has been dry for so long.  I tried to write some vague posts, but they were bland.  

My friends and family listened to my decision making process, but it wasn’t the type of thing that I could alert my boss or coworkers to at the time.  I’m in a different (and better) spot now, and I’m more free to share some of the struggle from last fall.  The struggle of “what the heck to do with your life” is universal.  I’ll share now what I can, in hopes that it makes someone else feel not as alone.  

This post was written back in November.  

November 11, 2011

The Cylons spent most of the Battlestar series trying to figure out what it means to be human, just like us humans. (This is not a photo of me, just in case you were wondering).

Just like the Cylons in the Battlestar Galactica series, we all wrestle with the question:

What does it mean to be human?

Hmmmmm…

I’m almost 20 years out of high school, and I think I’m finally coming to terms with what it means for me to be human.

It’s not my job, or my hobbies, or my family, or my wealth.

It’s about a balanced life.

About a week ago, I went to the doctor.  She said that I was about 30 pounds overweight and that I should exercise more.  I almost cried in the office.  I feel stretched so thin (that’s a stupid phrase because when I’m stretched and stressed, I get fat) already, how on earth would I find time to go for a walk?

I spend almost 2 hours a day commuting back and forth to work, and another 2-4 hours per week, taking my daughter back and forth to her dad’s house.  There is laundry and cooking and gardening and pets and helping with homework and trying to get a small business up and going.

Meanwhile, my house is falling in around me.  I don’t have time to clean, take my car in to get fixed, or even time to stop to get a haircut.

Sounds like lots of people you know.  I’m sure.  I’m not alone.

I could cut out some things I suppose.  I could buy some frozen meals or give up gardening.

But those are the things that make me human.  I can’t cut those things out of my life because they strip away who I am.

I want balance.

Listen friends!  I’m stamping my feet now and throwing a mid-life tantrum.  I want…I want…I want my life to be in balance!

I want time to cook and clean; time to garden and freeze the food I harvest.

I want to help with homework and comb my daughter’s hair before school; to take the dog for a walk and sip hot chocolate in the evening with my honey.

I want to find a way to make some money to pay bills, and be home when the kids get off the bus.

My husband says I’m greedy.

But I’m greedy for time with the ones I love.

I’m greedy for wanting time to connect.

I’m greedy for wanting to spend time doing the things that make me human.

The last two weeks, I’ve started living more like a human.  I’ve been making time for some of the most important things.  But, it’s reshaping the way my life is going to look.  This may mean some financial changes, which can be sort of scary.

But I like finding out that this Cylon might just be human afterall.

I am back in the heirloom tomato plant business.  Years ago, when I had my farm, I grew about 50 varieties of tomato plants and fruit for the farmers market.

Even since selling my farm, I always seem to start too many plants for myself.  Also, this year, Prairie Farm won’t be selling heirlooms as she has closed her business.  Hopefully, this will fill a gap for some of the Goshenites that love a good heirloom.

The plants are off to a good start, and I’ve been doing a lot of transplanting.  Some of the varieties are very limited quantities.  I may even have a few pepper, broccoli, and brussel sprout plants as well.

I’m taking pre-orders.  Some of the varieties I have fewer than 20 plants.  So if you want to make sure to get what you want, you’ll want to pre-order by April 15th.  The cost is $2.50 per tomato plant.  If you buy 10 or more, it’s $2.00 each.  The other veggies will be $2.00 per 3 pack.

To pre-order, send me a message jennyfrech at gmail dot com.  You can either specify what type you want or send me your qualifications for plants (ie. 2 cherry plants for pots, 3 yellow slicers, and 5 good sauce tomatoes) and I’ll pick out some yummy ones for you.  I’ll transplant your order for you, and it should be ready by the first week in May.  You can pay when you pick up.  I am also open to bartering if you have an idea for a trade, let me know.

Here are the varieties I have this year.  All of them have information online if you need more information.  ** means that these are in very limited quantities.

Heirloom tomatoes

Just a few of my tomatoes from my farmer's market days.

Canning:

Bonny’s Best

Rutgers

Cour di Bue

Polish linguisa**

Romeo**

Cherry Tomato

Riesentraube

Yellow Riesentraube

Jaune Flame (big orange cherry)**

Isis Candy**

green grape

grapoli di inverno (winter keeper)

Slicers/Multi-Purpose

Japanese Black Trifele

Rio Grande

Cherokee Purple

Gold Medal (yellow)

Green Zebra**

Aunt Ruby’s German Green**

Fantom du Laos (white)

orange minsk**

Amana Orange**

All You Need Is Love

I’ve been inspired to write by Single Dad Laughing and his post, “I’m Christian, Unless You’re Gay.”  Go read the post and the follow up responses, and then come on back.

The premise is that it doesn’t matter if you people are different or we disagree with them, that we should just plain love them.  We should stop throwing negativity at them and start loving them.  That’s what Jesus would do.

And I’m guilty.

Not of being unChristian to homosexuals, or the poor, or the disinfranchised.

I’m guilty of hating the haters.

My hackles go up when I hear a snotty tone of voice.

My patience wears thin when I hear biggotted jokes.

I feel like punching a wall when I hear small minded comments.

But, really, all of these people are hurting too.  Or maybe they just don’t understand the power of their words.  Shouldn’t I show them a little bit of kindness?  Be a friend?  Or at least be a good example?

When I was in Junior High, I went to school in a very rich district.  The right clothes and hair were very important, and I was teased a lot.  My only “friends” were the other kids that were also the outcasts.  We had little in common, except that we were all weirdos.

My parents worried about me, and I saw a counselor for a while.  I must have complained that the kids were snobby, because my counselor said to me,  “Maybe they think you are being a snob.”

Those words completely changed my life.

I’ve always been very shy, and I continue to be an introverted person.  But it certainly changed my perspective on other people.  It’s my own fault if I don’t reach out to others.  It’s not their responsibility to reach out to me, it’s mine to reach out to them.  Not only that, it’s my responsibility to be receptive to the love of others.

Grand to Be a Geeky Gal!

“Beanie, do you think you are the geekiest girl in your class?”

“Most likely,” she says with pride.

Me and The Bean

My daughter and I are alike in many ways.

We’re both curious about the world, good students, and a little self-conscious and awkward at times.  We both have big hearts, but can be taken as stand-offish.

I’ve always embraced my nerdish charm, but she wears hers even more proudly.

It stinks for her that her mom and dad aren’t married anymore.  But in another way, she’s very lucky.

She ended up with a great step-mom that helps keep her in line, and keeps the communication between homes seamless.

And, she ended up with a step-dad that has helped her inner geek blossom.

I forget how it all started.

Somehow my little girl got hooked on fantasy books.  She read books about princesses, then moved on to The Sisters Grimm, The Warriors, and has plowed her way through six Harry Potter books in the last three weeks.  She checks out books about Greek and Norse mythology, has read the Neil Gaiman books that are kid appropriate, and she loves the Bathroom Reader books for all the little bits of data.

Someday she will be the queen of trivia.

When I have to punish her, I do it by taking away reading privileges.

She’s joined chess club, loves her glasses, and can sit for hours imagining stories or watching the chickens.

Bean likes to play the zillions of board games we have stocked on our shelves, but she really looks forward to playing role playing games with the crew.

I think she’s growing into the big kid that she wants to be.

Bean has tons of fun with her dad.  They play video games, go swimming, and watch NASCAR together.

Bean and I have fun by sitting around talking, watching movies, doing crafts, reading together, or going for walks.

Bean has fun with her stepmom cooking together.

But Jeremy has brought out this whole other geeky dimension to her personality that could only be possible as an apprenticeship.

The two of them talk about parallels of mythology and the fantasy books they’ve read.  Jeremy helps her create characters for role playing games; so she can fly spaceships as a one-eyed hawk, or fight giants as a fairy.  He waits patiently as the kids get way off-track in their story telling.

Jeremy helps her dig deep into the meanings of her drawings, and never tells her that her ideas are preposterous.  He plays off of her ideas, and helps her explain them more clearly.

I see my little girl embracing herself, and that’s pretty cool.

I think having so many adults with so many interests and personalities has given her more opportunity to discover herself;

and like the person smiling back at her in the mirror.

photo by betsyjean79 on Flickr

Some days you step in it.

Some days you find yourself on the bottom of the shoe.

We have a tendency to look at people and think they have all of their poop together.

I look at the lives of some of my friends and acquaintances and feel sad that I don’t have what they have:

Charisma.

Freedom.

Successful careers.

Kids they don’t have to send away every other weekend.

A house full of people that greet them with hugs.

First marriages that worked for them.

An idea of what they want to be when they grow up;

and a clear idea of how to get there.

I see people with big groups of friends that get invited to parties;

and people that actually like going to parties.

And the lucky few that have cats that don’t leave poop outside their door to step on.

Where do these people come from?  How do they pull it all together?  How did they learn to make such spiffytacular decisions? Are some people really that lucky?  Are they just super-talented?  Did they get a secret book of life instructions?

Sometimes I get so frustrated with blogs, because “successful-we-have-our-crap” together folks are telling me the top five steps for helping me fix what’s wrong with me.

I’ve stopped reading the most annoying ones.

There’s nothing wrong with me.

Am I stressed?

Yup.

Overwhelmed?

Sure thing.

Under-appreciated?

You did hear that I’m a teacher and step-mom, right?  That’s my middle name.

Here’s my truth:

I put a lot of stuff on my blog that makes me seem like I have Beautiful Steve’s (he’s the cat that hates me) poop tied up in pretty little packages.

At the moment, I’m wrestling with major life decisions and challenges.  Every time I sit down to write lately, the most pressing matters on my heart, I can’t write about.  I wish I could share the ugly stuff more, because I think it would help a lot of people.  The problem is that it could hurt my kids, or the exes, or my chances at becoming president some day.

The ugly stuff.

The stinky stuff.

The stuff you quickly throw into a pile and hope the unexpected visitor doesn’t notice.

My life is full of joy, and good ideas, and love.

But there is stinky stuff on the bottom of my shoes.

Are you finished with that stick?

Can I borrow it?

I haven’t yet taken any time to talk about some of my favorite blogs.  I mention them from time-to-time, but I’d like to do a formal introduction.  That way you don’t miss out on important, useful, or useless but funny information.  I follow several, but we’ll start with these…

Jennifer by a table that Steve made for her (photo from The Common Milkweed)

The Common Milkweed

This is a great site for gorgeous photos of nature and gardening, for getting ideas of how to repurpose your junk, and to watch the transformation of a little rundown country house into a dream homestead.  The posts are simple, full of great ideas for living simply and green, and for inspiration.  They’ve linked back to my site, and I get daily traffic from them.  If you enjoy my blog, then you definitely need to head over to check out theirs.

I met Jennifer and Steve exactly one time at a teeny craft sale where we were selling our wares.  We became facebook friends, checked out one another’s etsy sites, and started following one another’s blogs.  Even though we only know one another through the blogs, I’m pretty sure they’re part of my tribe.

Photo from Chicken Nugget Lemon Tooty - Visit this site for a smile 🙂

Chicken Nugget Lemon Tooty

This is a blog that features the artwork of children.  Their dad is an artist that encourages his kids to be creative, and creative they are.  I was introduced to this blog through the friendly rock street art his kids were doing.  It’s a joyful little blog that makes me happy.

My daughter also likes the shadow puppet theatre that his kids performed for the book, When the Mountain Meets the Moon.

The Marvelous In Nature

If you love nerdy nature notes, then this is the blog for you.  Seabrooke Leckie is an author and illustrator for Peterson Field Guides.  She just finished a new guide on moths. Her blog documents her daily walks.  Her curiosity leads the reader into new discoveries.  Recently, she has shortened her blog posts, but still worth reading if you are a nature nut like me.

Stay tuned for more blogs that I love!

“If people let the government decide what foods they eat and what medicines they take, their bodies will soon be in as sorry a state as are the souls of those who live under tyranny.” ~Thomas Jefferson

Pastured Pig © Jenny Frech 2010

If you’ve been reading my blog for a while, you know that sustainable agriculture is an important issue to me.  I worry about the state of our food systems, not just in the U.S., but all over the world.

Last December, Congress passed Bill S. 510 the Food Safety and Modernization Act, and President Obama signed it into law in January as Public Law 111–353.  As a supporter of local agriculture and food choices, I tracked it down online.

It doesn’t sound too bad.

Basically S. 510 gives the USDA the right to inspect, require additional paperwork for traceback purposes, and regulate all farms and hold them to a set of standards.

Luckily, The Tester Amendment passed along with it, which leaves some provisions for small farms that sell directly to the customer.  My biggest concern with this law is some wide open wording which could allow the USDA to regulate seed savers as well if they choose to do this.

It’s very confusing, and I read a lot about this stuff!

There are mixed reviews.  Some say that this regulation will hurt small farmers, some say it will help.  Some say that this regulation will keep people safer, others think we will lose some of our rights to food freedom.

Sure, I want my food that I have to buy at the grocery to be regulated and watched.

I’d love to be able to know if the food I’m going to eat is free from pathogens.  But food is biotic (meaning it comes from a living thing).  Living things have bacteria and pathogens.   Sometimes we forget that not all bacteria is bad.  I’m not sterile on the inside, I’d prefer my food to not be sterilized by bleach or other sterilization techniques.

We stand a better chance of pathogen free food if our food passes through fewer hands, travels a shorter distance, and goes through fewer processing steps.  I’d like to maintain the choice of buying as much of my food locally (from smaller producers) as possible.

This law doesn’t add to my confidence level about the future of our food.

I worry that:

1. big agribusiness will have the upper hand after this law is signed.

It’s easier for corporate farms to swallow the costs associated with the new regulations.

2.biodiversity of our food system is at stake.

Reading between the lines, some food biodiversity advocates are afraid that the USDA will be able to restrict seed savers. In Iraq and some places in Africa, it is illegal for farmers to save the seed they’ve grown for decades because it doesn’t meet the standards set by the government, which forces farmers to buy Big Ag seed.

3. our food choices will be reduced.

I’m not trying to say that everyone needs to run down to the farmer’s market every weekend, but I sure like having the right to do so.  Farmer’s markets are even starting to help lower income individuals eat healthier nutrient dense foods in the form of WIC vouchers, community based garden plots, urban farms, and donations from farmers.

4. the USDA is contradictory.

They give farm subsidies to grow corn for high fructose corn syrup, but yet, we have a generation of obese children.  I’m not sure that I completely trust them in the area of making sure that the food we eat is not detrimental to our health.

5. GMOs are polluting our ecosystems.

Once GMO DNA is out in the environment, there is no cleaning it up.  This has been devestating for Mexico that depends on the wild Maize to cross pollinate its crops.

6. I might lose the right to save seeds from my garden, and buy seeds from my favorite small seed catalogs or from other small growers.

I feel like we are moving to a synthetic food system, one that encourages us to eat tasteless, nutrient-deficient food.  In just a few generations, we have forgotten that chicken really does have it’s own flavor; egg yolks should be bright orange, not yellow; tomatoes come in all shapes and colors, and should not bounce; and baked goods made from wheat should be brownish with texture, not white and fluffy.

Like Thomas Jefferson, I don’t want some stuffed shirt to tell me what I can and can’t grow, buy, or eat.  

I want fresh, unadulterated food, Darn it.

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