The Watermelon Ritual

2melon

Chores, labor, monotony, routine, physical. All describe my life here at the ranch. Each morning we rise just before seven (a comfortable hour – yes: I know and am thankful) to feed the horses, sheep, and chickens. We clean out paddocks, change straw bedding, scrub water tubs – all before breakfast. As each day’s work comes to a close, again – time for chores. Before dinner, of course.

Some days are harder and longer than others, but all are built on and around the schedule that our charges demand. The animals and plants in our care depend upon this continued and regular attention, and it forms the backbone of our life here.

Often, words like “chores,” “monotony,” “labor” and “routine” enliven a host of negative connotations among disciples of the so-called modern day, eliciting responses as mild as “simple” and as harsh as “PEASANT.” It’s why you probably never heard your high school guidance councilor suggest that you explore farming as a creditable career. But what many suit-wearing, cultured sophisticates don’t understand is that within the confines of a life devoted to physical routine, there lies an invaluable opportunity.

And that is: watermelon.

Every day here, Emily (my housemate, colleague, and companion) and I get up together, do chores together, make breakfast together, ride together, clean together, study Spanish together. And each day, after a laborious and yes – monotonous – morning and early afternoon, at an hour that varies slightly from day to day, our keen awareness of the day’s progression indicates to our sixth sugary sense that it is time. We descend upon our little outdoor kitchen. One silently opens our modest, gas-powered refrigerator. The other reaches past the spiders for our single cutting board and only chefs knife. And together, we butcher four thick dripping triangles of crispy red watery goodness from the godly green egg of mother melon.

This is the power (or at least one of the powers) of routine. Because when routine becomes a lifestyle – not just a “workout” or “diet” or “happy hour” – it is transformed into ritual. And rituals have meaning.

Any myopic belittlement of the agrarian lifestyle on the part of academics, paper-pushers, suburbanites, or politicos does nothing more than belie any commitment to meaningful pursuits they’ve signed for in student debt, contracts, mortgage payments, or oaths of office. To claim one understands meaning in a human life without understanding the things that make that life possible – how a well-pump works, when to plant tomatoes, or what to do with a dead chicken, to name a few – is poo-diddly-doo.

Don’t get me wrong here – there are certainly many other non-farm-related routines that have the power to become sacred. But there’s something really especially powerful about a ritual that is so fundamentally entrenched in, well, fundamentals. Food, water, shelter. The true necessities of life.

It makes the watermelon all that much sweeter.

watermelon ritual

Full Disclosure: I’m not only living and working on a ranch, but reading Joel Salatin’s “Everything I Want To Do Is Illegal.” Hence the bitterness.

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Bugs on Bug Terms are Better than Bugs on People Terms

bees

The short of it:

Spiders are my friends because spiders eat flies. And flies suck.

The long of it:

When I was growing up, if a bee even so much as drifted within eyeshot I would alternately shut down completely or launch into a panic attack. Don’t ask me why – I’ve never even been stung or even near stung. Spiders? They’ve always made me sick to my stomach. I’m not a total weenie when it comes to creepies and crawlies, but I’m certainly a bit of city kid.

hornets

Fast forward to my current seat…suctioned to a white plastic arm chair by the inevitable build up of sweat beneath my thighs as I attempt to enjoy the still and sweltering evening while bats circle the patio at a right tear…and those days of radical emoting seem quite distant.

Here, the diversity and quantity of insect life is astounding. No mosquitos – thank god – but more spiders, bees, hornets, flies, ants, moths, scorpions, tarantula hawks (look that one up for a good time), cockroaches, and daddy longlegs than you could shake a stick at. Outside, inside, in between. They’re everywhere.

ant

And you know what? Of all those terrifying insects from deadly to creepy to invasive to downright disgusting the worst of them is one that I previously had no qualms with: the fly. Hands down.

Not something I would have guessed prior to this immersion course in the living with insects.

It really all came together for me when Emily (my Australian roommate and domestic partner here at the ranch) and I had endured nearly an hour of constant “zzzzzZZZZZzzzzzzzzZZZZZzzzzzZZZZZzzzzzzzz” from three incredibly obnoxious flies making desperate laps of our room nonstop since after dinner. A dinner which was half spent eating, half spent trying to get flies off of us and out of our food and drink. We made the decision that they had to go.

Easier said than done. After another thirty minutes fruitlessly beating the walls with rolled up newspaper, we stood on our beds facing each other, speechless and defeated, as the endless drone continued to taunt us.

I reached up to make one last swat at a passing shithead, when suddenly “ZZ—-“ – all went quiet. One of the eight or so spiders dotting the ceiling had yoinked the fly right out of the air and began digesting it silently overhead.

Finally. A moment in peace thanks to my previously least favorite bug.

spider

Spiders, well, they kill flies and the rest of the time they generally mind their own business. Scorpions are rather slow, and don’t often venture far from their hiding spots. Cockroaches are scardy cats – and hey, at the end of the day they’re harmless. Ants (well, most) don’t bother anyone. Daddy longlegs you can toss around like it ain’t no thing. Bees have no interest in wasting their stinger on you, and here they have plenty of other things to keep them occupied. Tarantula hawks just wish they could fly better.

But flies.

They’re a menace.

Who knew?

Sometimes, more of a bad thing (along with other bad things) is actually a good thing because it puts all the bad things in perspective.

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Today’s Moment of Gratitute: Openness

In an effort to identify one thing each day that I have gratitude for: today I’m grateful for openness.

If your everyday practice is open to all your emotions, to all the people you meet, to all the situations you encounter, without closing down, trusting that you can do that – then that will take you are far as you can go. And then you’ll understand all the teachings that anyone has ever taught. -Pema Chödrön

It was during a conversation with a close friend who has a strong aversion to experience that I started thinking about just how lucky I am to have been graced with some degree of natural openness from birth.  Without this, how many things that I love in my life (be it oysters, yoga, south africa, my boyfriend…) would I not have right now because I was too worried or indolent or anxious or frightened or some combination thereof to experience them that first time?  Probably a lot.  And I love the things that I love, so today, I am grateful for all those first moments of openness, when I set aside the bull shit and said “Let’s do it. I’ll give it a try. What do I have to lose?”

Because the only thing I ever stood to lose was ignorance.

Foundations in Epicureanism

I’m determined. A change will come soon to All Trees Have Roots.  No – not a change…an alignment.  That sounds better.  It’s time I sat down and really focused.

So what is the central thread here?  This is sort of what I’m thinking, on the “theory” end of things:

“I am really all that I’ve been looking for…your life will only be just what you want it for.”

http://soundcloud.com/liminal-kitsch/matthew-dear-deserter

Grow Your Own Sprouts, Dummy

I want to dedicate this post to a one-time co-worker from back in my Whole Foods days. Through his willingness to overstep boundaries, call me names and tell me like it was I learned never to buy those wickedly overpriced prepackaged sprouts again.

Because growing your own sprouts is as easy as (if not actually easier than) 1-2-3.

Not to mention it’s cheaper than a crocus in March.

All you’ll need is:

  • Seeds — Alfalfa or bean (such as mung and garbanzo) are perfect for first-timers. The latter choice will yield “crunchy” sprouts and the former those delightful long strands you may know so well. Your best bet is to pick these up from bulk bins at your local natural foods store. For alfalfa you’ll only need about 1/4 cup for 1 batch. For the others, about 1/2 cup. It’ll likely set you back about $2.
  • Mason jar or comparable container
  • Cheesecloth or mesh
  • Rubber band

This time around I kept it at alfalfa.

The first step is to soak your seeds. Place 2-4 tbs of the alfalfa seeds (1/2 cup for beans) in the bottom of your jar and cover with cool water. Soak for roughly 6 hours (beans can sit for 8-10):

The second step is to drain your seeds. Place two layers of cheesecloth over the jar and secure with a rubber band (you’ll only need one layer for larger seeds). Find a place where you can keep the jars upside-down to allow the seeds to drain. If they’re on a solid surface, be sure to remember to lift them to remove excess drippage when you can:

The third step is to rinse your sprouts twice a day. Just fill the jar with water, drain and replace.

The final step is to watch them grow. Seriously. That’s it.

DAY 1:

DAY 2:

DAY 3:

There is one optional step — place your sprout-packed jar by a window for a few hours and BAM:

Chlorophyll is a wondrous thing. This is a great way not only to beautify your sprouts, but also to enliven them. Exposure to sunlight increases their level of chlorophyll, and while claims are contested, many agree that this life-giving molecule may offer fauna some of the same power it lends to basically 99% of the floral world. So why not. Use your window.

As if this whole process wasn’t already the simplest and most amazing thing ever, just wait until you unload your jar. With just $1-2 in the game, you’ll come out with about $25 worth of prepackaged alfalfa sprouts:

They don’t last too long in the fridge, so definitely plan on a few days of sprout-related meals in a row, but really – who’s complaining?

So next time I see you at the Whole Foods checkout line trying to hide your $10 plastic container of sprouts in shame, I’ll be the one calling you out. GROW YOUR OWN SPROUTS, DUMMY!

Occasionally Music is Better than Food

Occasionally I find a song that makes me think for a moment that I’ll never need to eat again because the high of life is all the food I need.  Like some straight up Buddha shit.

Yesterday I found two.

One to lift up (john talabot feat ekhi – journeys):

And one to ground down (wah! — yes, “wah!” — heart sutras):

Surviving on Shavasana

NOT my butt. close, though.

Following up a perfect Sunday dinner of warm pumpkin soup, hot buffalo wings and steamy greens n’ beans at Royal Tavern with a little bicycle side-trip into a trolly track doesn’t make for a very nice Monday.  Or Tuesday.  And probably not Wednesday either.

Every bit of my left side from ankle to elbow is either bruised, abrased, scraped or swollen.  Ouch.

I know I should be happy that I’m just banged up and not broken or concussed (thank god for helmets) – but it really truly stinks when the only yoga pose you can manage is shavasana.

At least I can listen to this while I shavas: