I was encouraged by the number of people who showed up to Saturday’s sold-out Maple Sugaring Festival at Mass Audubon’s Moose Hill in Sharon, MA. Friends, families, and a few couples like us.
Snow on the group, sap rising, and the sugar house was steaming maple smoke.
Due to climate change and invasive pests, folks claim these woods are endangered. Spying the maples at Natick Community Farm and Moose Hill has been bittersweet. As a kid, having never seen them, I’d envisioned sugar maples as stately and smooth. I’ve since learned they’re more tall and gnarly, holding in their veins a thin, silent treasure.
Although I’ve already signed up for my household’s CSA (community supported agriculture) share this year, I couldn’t resist dropping by the fourth annual Farm Share Fair. I’d been hearing about this event, originated by theMove*, a nonprofit that organizes volunteer workdays on farms for young citydwellers in and around Boston.
When my companion and I first walked in, we were impressed by the number of farms and vendors present. We enjoyed a leisurely stroll among the tables.
Shortly, the crowds arrived. It was inspiring to see so many people invested in and excited to support local farms and get their hands on the delicious, healthful, and beautiful veggies, fruit, eggs, meat, grains, and everything else.
After squeezing my way down a packed aisle to sign up for an egg share with John Crow Farm, my friend and I look leave of the fair to free up space for all the other enthusiasts. Lucky for us, the evening held one last treat . . .
*EDIT: I just learned that the event was presented by Mindy Harris Communications, in connection with theMove. Thanks for the correction, Mindy!
Many years ago, visiting friends in Manhattan, I got my first taste of a non-growing season farm market.
You know how the wind whips around New York City?
Well, that was going on. December. I remember I was out by myself at the time, just drifting, and I chanced upon a market where some streets came together to create a place were people could be together. In this small stand of stalls, there were apples, greens, roots, and a fish vendor. I was impressed. I was jealous. Man, I wish we had this sort of thing back in Boston!
Home: the years marched the way they do and I observed the formation of a collection of winter markets via our area’s robust farm-to-table and food justice scenes. I heard rumors of this organization and that, trying to bring indoor markets to the old, cold city.
Enter Jamaica Plain.
Egleston Square, to be more precise. Despite spending many hours at a cafe just around the corner, I hadn’t been quite aware of this neighborhood-within-a-neighborhood.
But now I know of a lively farmer’s market that sells, among other items, outrageously delicious salsa by NoLa’s Fresh Foods, a Main Streets program, and a neighborhood church served by a well-spoken and thoughtful pastor.
So, New York, we’ve caught up. Now what you got?
Like many people, I write down goals to keep them fresh, away from the landing-path in my head where thoughts clutter if they aren’t attended to. I’m not sure when “homemade laundry detergent” made the list, but I can certainly describe how the idea sat around, un-done, for years. It was even included (but never realized) on my 101 Goals in 1001 Days list.
Seemed it wasn’t to be until, at the Central Branch of the Cambridge Public Library, I bumped into 365 Ways to Live Cheap: Your Everyday Guide to Saving Money by Trent Hamm, whose blog The Simple Dollar leant me much inspiration and energy to work on my finances (and blog-growin’.) Reading through the neat little book, I noticed a blurb about how easy and inexpensive it can be to whip up laundry soap.
I’ve been spending $12-14 a pop on some gorgeous stuff I pick up at a farm stand in Maine, or discover here and there in at natural products shops. And then there’s my old favorite – Ecover – and new favorite – Biokleen, both over $6 at my local grocer on a good day.
So, fine. I bought some Borax, washing soda, and a bar of the well-loved All One (at three different stores, admittedly, but biking cut my carbon emissions.) And I made myself some laundry detergent. It was a lot like shaving carrots and mixing flour to make muffins. Except no muffin bumping around the inside of my washing machine did much for a week’s worth of soiled kitchen towels, and my new soap worked out fine.
This time we were prepared.
Because you can’t just walk into such an exciting winter market and expect to leave with your wallet intact. It’s important to have a plan of attack (and a budget.)
And it’s important to being open to seeing people you know (and like) ’cause at the Cambridge Market the mood is sunny, and the sun is streaming through the tall windows of the Cambridge Community Center gymnasium. There is no ducking behind a tall stack of Oreos!
Soup’s on the stove. Cat is in his basket. Sade’s on the player. And outside the window of my home office: snow, snow.
Amazing that, three days ago I was admiring the subtle tones of autumn in the mountains of Maine.
Water was flowing, but I bet now it’s ice.
A friend said: Is that snow on the mountain over there? And I denied it, claiming sky.
But it’s true the plants were packing up, headed towards the season of sleep that drives us wakeful ones indoors.
Today, taking a break from writing, I wandered the Arnold Arboretum. Now, I’ve long known about the metal identification tags attached to most of the trees, imparting information about the species, Latin names, all that. However, this afternoon I discovered the key to reading those labels and lo, behold! Suddenly I have access to a whole new way to experience the collection.
Thirty-four years, meet one-hundred and twenty years.
My favorite kind of learning is the sort that sneaks up on you. You think you’re going to discover one thing and, because you’re receptive, the Universe seizes the opportunity to hand you another. And another. Sometimes the Universe really likes to cram it in.
This summer I’ve taken temporary leave from my job as a Community Liaison (writer, organizer, webmaster, photographer, event planner, project manager, etc.) to complete a novel for young readers. The novel and I have been courting each other since 2006. We dance around the idea of being “done,” and what better place to wiggle our toes than in a space devoted to the form?
Earthdance is many things –learning center, community space for dancers and others who practice contact improvisation, garden/orchard, peaceful oasis-in-the-woods- and retreat for art-types and peace-makers looking to temporarily escape the distractions of everyday life.
Hoping to finally discover the conclusion to my novel, I arrived fully prepared to spend my days whittling away at hundreds of pages of notes containing two separate drafts, and seven years of revisions suggested by myself and members of my Boston-based writer’s critique group.
Earthdance’s lessons were easy-to-miss, so I’m glad I arrived with the intention to listen, to sit quietly, and to treat myself with kindness.
I learned how to share space with a spider . . .
And a butterfly (admittedly, living with the butterfly was easier!)
I learned what it feels like to wander into a garden and come out with fixings for lunch, fresh from the soil.
I discovered the impact of choosing to begin and end each day with gratitude (more specifically, sleeping in a wonderfully wood-scented dormitory bearing that name.)
I learned sometimes it’s necessary to move your body in order to move your mind.
I learned, to dissuade a deer from munching the garden, running outside and clapping your hands works just fine.
I learned that, although we serve different communities, the vision, staff, and mission of Earthdance is ever similar to what I’ve grown to enjoy and deeply respect back at work in Cambridge.
I learned to trust that, if I sit quietly enough, watching the woods for creativity’s approach, it may arrive peacefully, timidly, joyfully on delicate feet.
Or it may not.
And both are okay.
Thank you, Earthdance. ‘Til we meet again . . .