A "CAKE" FOR JUNE + HONORING GRANDMA

 
swedish scones

For the last week I've desired simple food — broths and lemony rice and jammy-buttered scones. This morning I enjoyed a rare moment of pause in the milk parlor to squeeze goat milk into my cup of coffee. Sustenance of any kind is welcome, but especially the simple sort. This diversion from my love of spice and onions on everything is not from nowhere; I know exactly where it comes from. Last week my grandma died. Her impossibly warm embrace is no longer ours for the taking, as she's left for a new life.

I've been recalling my Uncle Jay, a beloved family member of superhuman proportions who passed away several years ago. He would famously say, "Love to stay, but got to go."  And in those words I find my grandma, too. Because, truly, she would have loved to stay. She would have enjoyed nothing more than to hug her family and pray her daily rosary and have her morning oatmeal. In the last years of her life that's precisely what she did, and she cherished it. I know this. I grew up five minutes from her and spent every day of my youth at her house. I was blessed to live with her for a year before Mark and I were married, and in the last year of her life we became pen pals. And now, I miss her terribly. But then there's the second half of Jay's saying, "but got to go." . . . She did. To experience a natural death after a long, deliberate, marvelous life — who would I be to want for a different outcome?  I talk to my mama every day (my gram's youngest child of seven!), and we reiterate over and over that there is no despair in her death, only sadness.
Mourning, yes. Grief, yes. Despair, no. Imagining where she is now, I am filled with joy.

So, back to food. One of the ways I am coping with mourning is through eating—and even imagining—foods that remind me of her. Let's just say there was no coconut oil, almond milk, or chia seeds in her pantry. She drank whole milk her entire life and did not bat at eye at buttering a muffin. A muffin. My queen. This morning I made a very basic, shaggy Swedish scone (svenska) recipe that is less of a scone and more of a biscuit that came out shaped like a cake. Thus, in honor of my grandma's simple kitchen, it will sit in as June's Cake-of-the-Month. Food is, without question, the way I honor the ones I love. And I loved Mariellen Zaleski a lot. There is much honoring to do. Cheers to many simple buttered recipes in all of our futures. Anyway, love to stay, but got to go. 


—S

BACK (DOWN) HOME

 

It is hot. It is so hot. Our thick Vermont blood was nary prepared for this. With the snap of Mother Nature's fingers, the slow, plodding spring turned suddenly, trading its gentle and cool breezes for the humid, utter stillness of summer. It feels... like Ohio. Convenient, because we're headed back to Ohio. One of life's funny ways.

We didn't exactly see it coming, though we'd be fooling ourselves if we espoused that moving home hasn't always been a Real Possibility. We are Midwestern to our core. Whatever it means to be so, we are it. Last night we were defining aloud the idiosyncrasies that make a Midwesterner middle-western, a New Englander northeastern. While hardly an expert of New England, it surprised us to feel pretty familiar with its kind. For all the reasons we have loved and needed this adoptive landscape, now we need Home more. Sojourns here and explorations there, the taproot of our heritage remains rooted in Ohio. Sam's great grandparents immigrated to Ohio from Poland one hundred years ago, and in Ohio their offspring remained. Though the branches of Mark's family tree are more far-flung, Ohio is, and always has been, home.

And, come August, home will actually be home again. When that oppressive late summer heat wraps itself around us, it will be a familiar (if unpleasant) embrace: a welcome back. Like a casserole dish of cheesy potatoes or a whole Saturday spent watching football—it might not be for everyone, but to us it just feels right. 


—M&S

LATE SPRING FARM HAPPENINGS

 

I think this goes down as the longest stretch without a new post on our blog since its inception. Life has been admittedly full and busy, maybe a bit more-so than seasons past. It's all been good timing, though, as our previous post about spending five hours in Quincy deserved a few weeks front and center. To those of you who felt touched, enjoyed the post, or reached out with words of love for our family and for Erica, thank you. I am positive that Erica's greatest hope is that we all experience, deeply in our hearts, connection with her. Now, onto what's been happening in farm land . . . 

Immediately following our visit to Boston, my mama, my sister, and her four children came to stay with Mark and I for several days. If you're wondering how eight humans did sharing our tiny house and all sleeping in one big room, the answer is: great! It was a true taste of our family commune dreams. I've oft wondered what a big family in a small house would be like; now I know. The kids loved the farm (especially the baby goats) so much that they refused to go anywhere else, so we didn't leave! Settling into a farm rhythm ended up being a gift. My sissy milked the goats with me while my mom got the kids dressed for the day. Mark would set out on farm chores and the kids would meander up to the kidding barn to cuddle the babies. After milking, all of us (including the kids) would herd the goats down to pasture, while my mom would head home to cook breakfast. The rest of the day would follow suit, with adventuring, farming, and mama cooking for all of us. I learned that children are happy as clams with huge puddles to jump in, cow bones to check out, and coloring pencils. A favorite anecdote of mine happened when my nephew jumped into such a big puddle that water poured into his rain boots. With tears quickly filling his eyes, someone told him that "wet socks are part of being a farm adventurer!" He smiled, jumped into another puddle that flooded his boots, and said, "see? totally ok!" Ah, the magic of children.

Other farm happenings include: awaiting the arrival of our bees, who will hopefully flourish in this valley of meadow flowers and organic pasture; closing the books on kidding season, and opening the books on pasturing the kids we're keeping on the farm; preparing for the pigs to farrow, which will reintroduce piglet mayhem; praising the return of our CSA and the best tasting vegetables our money can buy; foraging and cooking some morel mushrooms and eating endless ramps (wild leeks); moving the chickens in their movable coop every few days so they can do the good work of spreading nitrogen-rich manure around the fields; digging holes for building projects and fixing fence lines to keep the animals from escaping. Haymaking is about to start, and with that the farm officially gets thrown from Spring into Summer.

All of these photos were taken with our iPhones as part of our 'Photos From Afield' series.


—S

FIVE HOURS IN QUINCY

 

Last Sunday, our entire immediate family — 15 of us — flew or drove to Quincy, Massachusetts to surprise Erica, Sam's oldest sister. She entered religious life with the Daughters of Mary of Nazareth in July of 2016 and is currently in formation. She was gifted a five-hour long "family day" and was incredibly excited to know that we were coming with Sam's parents. She never dreamed that all 15 of us would be waiting for her. We rented a house and hugged and laughed and cried and ate pastries and soaked up every blessed minute of those five hours. Everyone had a verbal present for Erica — be it song, poem, letter, rap, or in our case, a blog post. Below is what we read aloud to her. Mark took all of these photos. It's a gift in itself to be able to relive the radiating joy which, if you ask us, was probably making the house physically shine. To everyone who loves Erica, we hope you feel like you were there with us, with her. In spirit, you were. —m+s

Currently, 15 of us are under the same roof, either asleep or awake, but no matter the case, there lives a deep and familiar sense of anticipation. Earlier today, all of us were en route to Boston for a two day Rendezvous Of The Highest Order. By way of plane, train, and automobile, our caravan has arrived. Because, as perfect timing would have it, our sister— the one who lives in a convent and is becoming a religious sister — has been given five hours to be with her family, us. And as perfect timing would have it, this week we all found ourselves journeying from Colorado, Ohio, and Vermont to make this given gift a reality. Can't say how we all managed to pull this one off, only that we have and that a reunion of this sort has us intoxicated with gladness.  

When we tell people we have five hours to be with Erica, they tend to be shocked by what sounds like a lack of time. Understandable, sure, as five hours isn't much time. But, ah! It is! Let us shout it from the rooftop, It is enough, It is enough, It is enough! Last summer, when having a nun for a sister felt impossibly hard for Sam to adjust to, Erica wrote that maybe it would be a cathartic and healing process to put into words, here on our blog, what she, Erica, might be thinking and experiencing. It was inconceivable that either of us ever be able to do this. How could we imagine, much less put into words, what Erica— spiritual gangster, brilliant beyond reason, and hilariously lovable Erica—would be thinking? Impossible. Impossible until this evening.

Of all the nuggets of wisdom, of all the emotions felt, of all the letters exchanged, I feel assured that the thing that Erica would want us all to experience is, really, quite simple.
To want what we are given.
That's it. That's it and it's everything.

She would want us to let this truth that says that happiness is Here + Now ring out like a joyous symphony in our hearts. She would want us to know that the Lord she has devoted her life too is Generous + Unceasing in love. She would want us to embrace the reality that what we are given in life, by God, is All Gift, as she puts it. She would want us to feel freed of the bondage of wanting for more, just as she is free in the convent despite a life that, from the outside, must seem terribly Un-Free. She is free and so are we. 

And this is how five hours can be just enough. 
A morning update: Very shortly we're heading to get our Eri. It's an enormous surprise. The 15 of us are in various states of readiness — especially the 15th, a tiny baby girl, no bigger than a mango, who is hard at work growing inside her mama's womb (blog note: that's my future sister-in-law, not me). Today is everything. When you want what you are given, 5 hours is Totally + Completely enough. 


—M&S