Monthly Archives: June 2012

CSA

CSA stands for Community Supported Agriculture.  It is a way for farmers to get enough money together to pay the upfront costs of planting and to share in the risks of farming with the community.   The idea is that you buy a season’s share up front.  Then every week during the farming season you get a box filled with fresh produce from the farm.

CSA’s vary a lot in cost and production.  Some of the most convenient are highly production oriented.  The produce is washed and prepped as though it was going to a coop.  The boxes are consistent in their volume and the farm often includes a newsletter with ideas for using the crop.  Some of the most fun are smaller farms just getting started with CSA.  The produce comes straight from the field and needs cleaning up.  The farms are often experimenting with crops so the variety and volume can be limited or overwhelming.  The farms often include an offer to shareholders to come out and help with harvesting and packing the CSA boxes.

The milkweed patch that used to be my garden. There are still a few perennial herbs under there.

This year I have neither my own garden or a CSA.  I didn’t think I could justify all that produce (even a half share) for just me.  I also didn’t think (and I was definitely right about this) that I could manage a garden on my own this year.  I really miss it.  I miss opening the boxes and planning my meals around “this week’s harvest.”  I miss the connection to the actual growing season, even the oddities of weather and pests.

It doesn’t help that my local farmers market closed.  Not the big ones, there are plenty in the area.  But one of my neighbors families had a farm and they would bring in produce and sell it down the block.  They sold plants in the spring and produce through the summer.   They are delightful people and did a really nice job with every day vegetables like beans and tomatoes and zucchini.  Their corn on the cob was a treat I looked forward to every year.  But we all age and they decided to retire and sell the farm.

Someday this will all be condos. Talk about food desert!

Change is part of life and there are some things that require simple acceptance.  This is one of them for me.  It’s time to start really making an effort to get to the local farmers markets on the days they are open.  It’s a summer for more visits to the coop.  It’s the season for vegetables and I need to make sure I have them in the house since they’re not out in the yard.

It’s also time for me to start thinking about next year.  I may just buy another CSA anyway.  I can always invite people over for dinner.  I could even learn to can!  I know I’m spoiled, but I like my produce close at hand.  I like having vegetables that are fresh and local and lovingly grown.  I like trying new things and reading recipe ideas.

Sometimes the established CSA’s will start selling shares in the fall for next year.  It never hurts to take a look at what’s available.  Maybe you might try a CSA too.  It’s a great way for urbanites to make a connection to the cycles of the growing season.

Coop Vegetables. Not the same as opening the box.

Midsummer

Four days will quickly steep themselves in night;

Four nights will quickly dream away the time;

And then the moon, like to a silver bow

New-bent in heaven, shall behold the night

Of our solemnities.              

Wm Shakespeare “A Midsummer Night’s Dream”

The summer solstice will soon be upon us and it is also the week of the new moon.  It seems fitting somehow to return to Shakespeare.

I’ve always found it odd that the solstice’s are “mid-summer and mid-winter” but that they also the official start of the season.  It’s a confusion of science, climate, farming and mythology.   Those of you who are out haying this week surely understand the feeling of the solstice being midsummer.  Those of you with school aged children are just starting the season out and already counting the days until it’s back to school.

When I was a child midsummer was marked, not so much by the solstice specifically, but by the opening date of the municipal pool.  (Usually the same week that summer “officially” began.)  I had swimming lessons in the morning and then time for a quick lunch before the pool opened to the public.  We literally spent all day in the water.

I was a theater kid.  I did plays in school and went to any puppet show or children’s theater production I could get to.  Those were the days when our local children’s theater company did a summer production in a tent.  It was like going to the circus without the smell and with a real story line.  I loved it and was incredibly disappointed when they moved the program indoors and then lost the funding.

Midsummer Night was the first “grown-up” theater production I ever saw.  It was my first time at the Guthrie.  I went with my Jr. High School.  Technically this was a field trip for the 8th and 9th graders over 15.  I was not only in 7th grade but young for my class at only 12.   Luckily I had a friend in one of the upper grades who was too sick to attend.  (I think he broke a leg and got an infection) so I got permission to take his ticket and tag along.   I was truly enchanted.

All of those memories serve as color and background to my understanding of midsummer as a Wiccan Sabbat.  A high holiday on the calendar that I find gets marked in very odd ways.   I have done midsummer rituals based on Shakespeare, inviting the fairies to come romp and do mischief.  I have done midsummers that were more about the time in the pool than the ritual.  It’s an odd holiday because it’s too hot to be serious and too important not to take seriously.

The summer solstice is the longest day of the year.  From this point onward our days get shorter and our time in the backyard without the arrival of dusk and mosquitos more limited.  Often the mythology around the Sabbat involves the honoring of the sun at the height of its power.  The celebration of sun worshipers around the world.  It’s a very inclusive, a rumpus with roaring and sometimes gnashing teeth.  A celebration of “Wild Things.”

June is commonly the wedding month.  So in mythologies where the God and Goddess are a more traditional couple sometimes the midsummer celebration becomes a celebration of their union.  These rites range from very formal affairs to (rumor has it) occasional orgies.  The people who love to decorate the space, make bowers of flowers and deck themselves out with garlands and ribbons get a lot out of this kind of celebration.

The full moon in June is the honey-moon (pun or maybe entomology intended.)  The brewers celebrate this Sabbat in fine form.  The mead making parties are quite popular and so are the parties where everyone opens a bottle from the year before and compares results.

I think my ideal summer solstice celebration might just be sitting in a pool with a glass of mead making a toast to the sun.

Happy Solstice!

Respite

There comes a time in most parents’ lives where they get to take a deep breath and say “What do I want to do with my free time?”   Sure there are breaks where you get a babysitter, but that’s not quite the same.  It’s not even the time where maybe a weekend trip without the teens is conceivable, although you continue to check in and worry about what you’re coming home to.   No, I’m talking about the kind of freedom that means you don’t have to be accountable for your actions to anyone but yourself (maybe your partner) and the law of the land.

I’ve certainly seen and heard the horror stories about adult children returning home.  Most of the time even that doesn’t curtail the freedom to come and go as you choose.  Even when there are grandchildren involved, usually there is still an option to opt out for a night on the town.

Orion

I recognize that we still parent our adult children.  We still worry that they are eating right, paying their bills, gainfully employed and in good relationships.  We remain “on call” for any and all emergencies real or imagined.  But on a day to day basis, once the kids are out of the house, arranging our lives to accommodate their needs kind of stops.  Unless you have a child with special needs.

I adore my son.  He’s a joy to have around.  He’s easy going, stays out of trouble, and pretty much keeps himself entertained.   He likes being out and about and enjoys meeting new people.  But he’s 23 and I still can’t leave him home alone.

As much as I’d like to see Orion become independent the reality is that’s highly unlikely.  If he would work to maintain his relationships on his own (and with Facebook he’s making some improvements in this area) I could see the possibility of his finding a roommate who’s abilities complemented his own.   Orion would like to get married and have a family and a wife could certainly take on some of the responsibility, if finding one was as easy as friending someone in social media.

My reality is that I will be Orion’s primary caretaker for the foreseeable future.  I don’t get to have a “post child-raising” life.  What I do get is an occasional weekend of respite.  A set period of time where someone, family member or a special facility, takes on Orion’s daily care.   I still have to be “on call.”  I can’t fudge the edges of the agreed upon time frame.  I still have the responsibility of the overall health and well being of my son.  But I get a deep breath.

Respite is incredibly important for anyone doing 24/7 with a kid.  When your child has special needs, the night out with a babysitter becomes a much more involved process.  When your special needs child becomes an adult, the available pool of “sitters” becomes smaller and harder to screen.   I have to find a place that can accommodate Orion’s needs, a staff that is relatively competent and at least trustworthy, and something that he’s going to enjoy.

I am incredibly fortunate in this regard.  Every once in a blue moon I can convince my ex to take his son for an overnight.  It’s not the best choice.  Orion is often not given a bath, he is hugely limited in mobility and the over all environment can be extremely frustrating.  But chances are good that for 24 hours Orion won’t starve or get hurt and the ex at least knows the Doctors if a medical emergency arises.

My parents have also been a resource for respite.  Orion loves it there and they do take good care of him.  The problem is that it’s a 3 hour drive there and back on either side of whatever time I need.  I enjoy the visit too, but when you have a limited amount of vacation that extra time really cuts into the “time off.”  My parents, like all of us, are aging and as easy as Orion is, dealing with his needs can be physically demanding.  As Orion ages and respite opportunities decrease, so do my parent’s availability.

This weekend was none of above.  I live in a county with a program for people with special needs called “weekend ventures.”  They take a bunch of young adults for the weekend, put them up in a hotel and take them on an activity.  This weekend was ValleyFair Amusement Park.  Orion loves seeing his friends and being away with peers.  I love having a weekend off.

Distance makes the heart grow fonder.  Having a break, a sleep in, and a night on the town makes it easier to go back to our daily routine.  I can’t tell you how grateful I am for the respite.  The thing is, most of the stuff I did, Orion would have enjoyed too.  Go figure.

Coors car from BBQ and Blues fest

Parties

Summer may not be “officially” here, but given that Memorial Day is behind us and the weather is warm the season has begun.  Certainly the summer social season.

Minnesotans like to claim that we get out and do things in all seasons and in all weather.

Rockefeller Center photo from wirednewyork.com

That’s kind of true.  We do have winter parades and a winter carnival.  The Twin Cities is a theater town and most of those seasons have a winter arc.  But on a purely social level it’s just not the same.

Think about an ice skating rink.  Bring into your mind all those movies you’ve seen with shots of Rockefeller Center and the ice skaters under the big tree.  Everyone goes around in a mostly orderly fashion.  Most people are skating on there own or as couples.  Sometimes you see a sweet family grouping of three.  There are small clusters on the sidelines watching and waving as the skaters go by.  It’s almost pastoral.

Now think about a water park.  Everyone is screaming.  There is no order.  You can’t tell who is with who.  The poor swimmer who actually wants to do solitary laps struggles to maintain the single roped off lane.  Even the sunbathers on the side are lined up like sardines row after row.  This is a social event.

Bunker Beach pool photo from traverlerhubs.hubpages.com

The same thing is true with the neighbors.  Sure there is commentary and support around shoveling, but you can’t really talk over the noise of the snow blower.  On the other hand gardening and backyard BBQ’s expand the opportunities for neighborhood gossip exponentially.  There are also the walkers.  I have a neighborhood where people walk for exercise, walk the dogs and walk their small kids to the park.  In the winter we wave, usually with one of us in the car.  In the summer we might stop and chat for a bit.

So all things social happen, pretty much all at once, in our short summer season.

I’m up for a good party every now and again.  It’s interesting to flit from conversation to conversation and meet new people.  It’s fun hanging out with a crowd.  But for me it’s also a lot of work.  I much prefer my small social groups.  I don’t need to know everyone.  I do just fine over dinner at the corporate banquet, a social scenario that is terrifying for many.  I guess I like to be social without too many distractions from the actual socialization.

Maybe this is why I have never been great about throwing parties.  I live in terror than no one will come and I also live in terror that everyone will show up.  When my kids were little and I was still willing to do birthday parties for them I made a point to plan them around a particular activity so I wouldn’t have to “entertain” them.  It’s entertaining that I really don’t get.

My folks throw a great party, good food and good conversation. I can manage that as well, but my mix of people and topics of conversation aren’t always a good match.  Political conversations have gotten harder in mixed groups as the political discourse of the country has become so polarized.  Conversations about religion or spirituality are fascinating for me.  I don’t particularly care which one we’re talking about.  But speaking from the heart doesn’t necessarily correspond with editing for public consumption.  Sensitive topics at parties kind of require that editing.

I’ve got all kinds of other jargon based topics for conversation up my sleeve.  I can talk about the education system and special needs kids, but that excludes the non-parents.  Those conversations can become surprisingly contentious with parents of school aged kids as well.  The emotional content is higher than you might expect.   I can talk about medical issues.  This makes the older folks in the room happy, and any of us with chronic stuff can join in, but it puts a damper on the party.

More than a family meal

I’ve resigned myself to the fact that my best parties are of the old fashion dinner party variety.  5-10 people especially chosen around a dinner table.  I’m not so strict that I need matched pairs.  Sadly I no longer have the table and chairs to accommodate this kind of party.  I guess I’ll just have to go out.  But I’ll be happy to bring a hot dish.

What do you think makes a good party?

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