You can’t make this stuff up…
September 25, 2015, 1:26 am
Filed under: farming | Tags: , , , , ,

My “weird sh*t that happens” moments are things that happen daily here. In my “old life” they were mild and few and far between.

Yesterday, I was salting a ram’s ballsac. Yeah, you read that right. If you are going to eat meat, then be as nose to tail as possible, right? So nutsac salting it was. Weird.

Today, my moment was at 12:30am, yesterday barely over…

Woken up by a chef calling (hi Sandy! ;). Hear a crash and the sheep running crazy outside the window.
The dogs barking, I’m thinking predator… oh God, no.
Open the window and listen.
Splash, splash, baaa, splash. 
Throw on clothes, grab a flashlight and run to the back paddock.
Yeahhhh. DAMMIT!
A sheep had fallen into the gray water well.
She’s floating, thankfully, because of all the wool.
Any idea how much wet wool weighs?
I do now.
I flatten myself on my belly, lay the flashlight on the ground and adjust my eyes to the darkness of the hole.
I see her face, she panics a little.
I talk softly, clucking and making kissy noises.
“Mama, come on mama”.
I got hold of her ear with my fingertips and float her toward me.
I grab her chin and tug a little.
She was heavy.
It smelled. Horrible.
My arms were stretched full length and I barely had her.

I tugged hard, let go with one hand and grabbed as much wool as I could in my clutched hand. My fingers hurt instantly. The weight, the burdock, the wool itself made me question my decision.
But I was commited. She stopped struggling. She was trying to help. At least that’s what I was telling myself so I’d continue to dig deep.

I let go with the other hand and grabbed more wool. I grunted and primally screamed into the dark using every bit of strength I could muster and trying not to laugh at the thought of what my neighbors might be thinking of the noise I was making in the pitch dark.

The rest of the flock sat watching, eating grass like this was a dinner show.

I took a deep breath and pulled…
Sheep, me, twisting, pulling.
Up on my knees, grab her front leg, then another.
Then we were stuck.
I was on my knees, I had two sheep legs in my two hands, in the dark.
And she was heavy.
So ridiculously heavy.

I somehow struggled to my feet, my muscles screamed, my fingertips burning, I twisted her halfway around and pulled. “RAHHHHHHHHHHHH!!” Like the final noise made just before birth. I’ve heard that sound from myself five times over and it surprised me to hear it once again.

But she was out.

I fell back on my butt, sheep legs still in my hands and I looked at her. She laid there for a moment, I let go, she stood then ran off, dripping and bahhh-ing her way across the field to the rest of the herd. And started eating grass.

What can you do but laugh?

Shower. You can shower.

So I did. And that was that.

So. So. Weird.

Crabby farmers
September 5, 2015, 4:06 am
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I get an unusual number of people that come to my stand and start in, with wrinkled noses and squinched eyes… “that farmer at (so and so)”, they’ll whisper, “I was *just* asking questions and they YELLED at me! I’m never going there again!” sigh. I digress…

It’s 10:51pm on a Friday night of a holiday weekend and I have *just* finished packing the bus to make the trek to the city. I started working at 9am and haven’t stopped. I am worried about how much customer traffic there will/not be, if i have forgotten anything, if the kids will stay asleep for the drive… did I pack (xyz)?… I am already spending money I don’t have for bills that keep coming anyway. Yesterday, it was 7:15a when the littlest decided she’d had enough sleep, so I got up and started working again. I stopped with my last email and text shortly after midnight. I think you may see where this is going.

I may catch a catnap on a school bus seat (yeah, let that sink in) in a rest stop, but otherwise, there is no sleep until sometime around 10 tomorrow night. Every. Single. Week.

Am I complaining? Griping, a little, maybe, but I do this job because I absolutely love it. It feeds my soul. I do it for my kids, my customers, my restaurants and myself… As are most of those crabby assed farmers you run into on a Saturday morning. They most likely didn’t roll out of a bed, well rested, after a week filled with lunchbreaks and a paycheck. Most are farming by choice because it feeds them. They are probably stubborn as hell and you should thank them for being so.

If not stubborn and soul fed by farming, I swear there would be no one left farming. It’s exhausting. There never seems to be enough money or time or things that aren’t broken. Crops fail, animals that become cannabalistic, the feed delivery – again – that is going to cost a bazillion dollars, again. But we get up, determined to get it right next time, tomorrow, next week. We apologize a hundred times a market day for the real, unsubsidized costs or raising and growing good for you food. And sometimes we don’t sleep. And sometimes we’re cranky. Stupid cranky.

So maybe bring a coffee to your favorite, bags under their eyes, farmer. Say thanks, if you don’t already. Think about how to pose your question (but please still ask!) just a little more gently at 8am. And maybe you could cut just a little slack to Mr/s Crabbypants farmer because you may not know what they’ve done to get there to bring food to you.

And maybe approach all your life that way. That distracted driver, the grocery store clerk who wasn’t as pleasant as you would have liked. Very few people begin a conversation of niceties with, “my best friend has cancer” or, “my newborn cried all night”, or “I don’t know if I want to wake up tomorrow”.

We’re human, we have faults and problems and trials. You have the chance, everyday, to choose how you react and your reaction just may mean more to someone than you ever imagined. 😚

This boy is growing…
September 3, 2015, 4:10 pm
Filed under: Uncategorized

“Mama!, can you pass me a screwdriver?”
Clang. Clang. Grunt. Mumble. Clang.
“I got the problem. It’s this wire.”
Peeks out from under the bumper and very seriously said, “Can you start the truck?”


Being there
September 2, 2015, 3:55 am
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“Lillianna!  Come back down”.

“No!”, she yelled from behind the tree line, up the hayfield a ways.


“No!”. She is a formidable opponent in a battle of stubbornness and is remarkably confident. Exhaustingly so.

“Trev, can you get Lil?” I asked from the rooftop of the van while I picked the day’s apples. He trotted up the hill engrossed in a running story he was creating of pirates and trolls.

“Yanna!” he called out.

“No!”, she shouted defiantly.

“Bud, just take her hand.” I watched expectantly, ready to take a hike up and carry her from whatever perch she’d claimed.

“I got her!” he replied matter of factly. They emerged hand in hand from the tall grass down the path, wrong hands joined so they spun in circles , taking turns, one forward, one back, then swapping again, jabbering away incoherently.

I had to stop picking to mark that exact moment with a photo of them at 1 and a half and almost 4. A tangible reminder to them of how precious they should be to one another. To always have each other’s hand, and back, no matter what their bickering may be. And, yes, they bicker like champs.

I lost my sister last week. Suddenly, unexpectedly, in her sleep at 50. I’m still processing all the feelings that go along with that. And I am trying to continue to learn something good everytime I experience something heartbreaking. So I have learned, and am learning, a lot over the past few years.

I am learning to tell people more how much they mean to me. That I love them. That I am proud of them. That I am here for them, how they need me. That even if I cannot be beside them right away, I always have their hand and their back.

And I hope that you all – Cakes, Ems, RooRoo, TT and Yanna Yanna pink pajama – help each other out of the woods, offering a hand to each other when it’s needed. And I’ll be here doing the same for as long as I have left.


August 25, 2015, 4:13 pm
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I am writing this to you here because, well, I suppose I no longer have any choice – I’ve nowhere to send it anymore. I was feeling drab this past week and was in the bathroom two-toning my hair. You’d probably be shocked at I’m the type of person that colors her hair half purple/half red – but you’d probably have loved it and touched it while we caught up the happenings of the last 17 or so years. Because, yep, it’s been almost 17. The last time I saw you, my oldest was just a fat little baby on my knee. Now he’s 18 and graduated high school. Imagine that! And I have 4 more and a farm and I try to keep in touch with your kids, too, because they haven’t been dragged through the twisted maze of beautiful facades that you and I were… I have said a thousand times in the last 5 1/2 years, since I “left” the family, that I needed to get back in touch with you. To call, to stop in. Instead, life’s constant busy and the overwhelming thought of having to wade through the accusations I’m sure you heard kept me from that. I thought, once they were gone, we’d have an easier chance. You were, afterall, only 50. And then I got the call while my hair was piled in wet colors on my head. “Mary Louise, I didn’t want you to find out on Facebook… Lauri passed away in her sleep last night”. My heart sank.

I remember you when I was small – you got stuck with me a lot and I remember a time when you were so mad, you kicked me in the shins with those ugly assed thick soled shoes from the 70’s. I remember crying, I remember you getting in trouble but I also remember you dancing with me to Michael Jackson and laughing delightfully because I knew all the words. You were child like, sweet and kind and sometimes fiery. You had your own Series of Unfortunate Events that led to anxieties I can’t comprehend. You were preyed upon by monsters, at times, but you stayed kind and sweet and fiery. I learned that from you. To stay you, no matter what is thrown at you. I’m trying.

I remember when you were going to court for your kids and, when my mother came home, she said in disgust how you “didn’t even fight”. I can now say that when I was doing the same, that same woman told my children my brain was sick and that I abandoned them… so I am sorry I didn’t know enough to speak up for you. I didn’t realize so many games were at play, with all us as pawns to get a desired outcome. I’m sorry I didn’t realize for so long how we were all vying for a position of love – how quickly it was given and taken at will and decision.

I’m most sorry I won’t be there at your funeral. I won’t be there because it will become a “thing” and take away from you. I would want to be there only to say goodbye to the sister I feel a bit robbed of by circumstance – so I’ll instead take a moment here, away from the drama, and send these words today and my love on the day you’ll be laid to rest. I’ll find a spot somewhere on this farm that I wish you could have visited and maybe I’ll put on a little Michael Jackson and some ugly shoes and dance with you.

Thankful For Turkey
November 29, 2014, 7:10 pm
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Thanks to John for following along our Thanksgiving turkey farming adventures…

AP Images Blog

Photos by John Minchillo

On a cold and rainy November morning, farmers Mary Carpenter and Paul Dench-Layton waded arm-in-arm into the large soggy paddock that’s home to their Broad Breasted Whites, nearly 250 gobbling, barking, and bumbling Thanksgiving turkeys.

View original post 536 more words

Another year gone…
April 30, 2014, 6:03 pm
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39. I’m winding up my 4th decade over the next 365 days. My head spins a little when I look back at what I’ve done and where it’s led me… I am no where I thought I’d be and everywhere I should and growing and changing everyday. I still stumble, I still make mistakes but I can say I’m sorry and admit I am wrong or, at least, that there is the possibility that my “way” isn’t the only way. I know that people have their negative opinions of me but that nothing I can say matters to those who choose to hold those opinions like pitchforks and torches. I am loved. I am doing good in the world. I love my children as the people they are now and who they will become, whatever it is they choose. I know *they* know how much they are loved and that all that matters to me, and them. They are proud of me, and I of them – every single day. I am still passionate and creative and terribly stubborn. I have found a level of love from my partner I didn’t believe could exist, an open-mind I didn’t inherit and a peace and strength in knowing I get back up every.single. time. I am resilient, I know my worth, I am fertile (Good God am I fertile). I have created life, I have created food, I have created a home over and over and over. It has taken me 39 years and countless lessons to create a life where I am still honing my skills at content and happy and fulfilled. And it’s kind of awesome 

All things wild

The best therapy I can get puts money in my pocket.  I discovered foraging a few years ago when my nerd was aroused by a trip with a friend through the forest with my kids.  I take that back. I discovered foraging when I was moved, as a kid, to the top of a mountain in Maine.  No neighbors and no friends left me wandering the fields and forests that were my backyard.  I found blueberries, apples, blackberries, raspberries and even a few cranberries nestled in something a little more than a puddle. I thrived on those outings, gathering edibles to share for breakfast or a boredom snack that, I’m sure, entailed some fantastical tale in my lonely head.
Fast forward… I RE discovered foraging on that walk with the kids on a mushroom hunt. Mushrooms? Crazy talk. They’re poison! Don’t eat wild mushrooms, DANGER, DANGER, DANGER! Mushroom collecting was for hippies or those with a death wish. Then I encountered the science. Family, species, spore prints… my geek salivated. And I sucked it up like a sponge. 

I am lucky enough to have an outlet to share, as I did my childhood blueberry pancakes, in Manhattan each Saturday with our customers and to many NYC restaurants. It feeds me. The quiet of nature while I search; mushrooms, berries, wild edibles happily weigh me down physically and I shed the tonage of stress, worry, sadness. A good trade, I believe. 

So I’ll get my therapy and some of you will get to taste the love that is renewed in each berry, each sprig of chamomile, every bunch of pungent mint or funky fungus we find. And


Mother Nature will take care of us both.

On the farm…
May 10, 2012, 3:35 pm
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March 24, 2012, 12:19 am
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Sometimes settling is our worst fear; settling for a dull life or an unfulfilling relationship, wondering if the grass is truly greener. Sometimes settling conjures up feelings of contentment, the warm and fuzzies; settling in, settling down.

We, Paul and I, even the animals, are settling in.  We are merging our sugar bowls and linens, the sheep are restless for the grass growing outside their door, the pigs are constructing their new homes wallow, the chickens lend us the neverending Easter egg hunt amongst all the bales of hay and the 17 ducks parade the grounds, clamoring and staking their claim to the new ‘cool’ spots.  And Trevor wakes


up from every night and every morning and smiles his giant, toothless grin that stretches to his eyes when he looks from me to Paul and back again.

Are we complete? Nope. Not yet. But that, too, will come.  Have we settled? Not one bit. We have home and happiness.  We are settling in and settling down.