The Red Shiso Harvest

This time of year we watch our Red Shiso crop with the vigilance of a beloved canine guarding a bone. As the foundation for every one of our Flower Essences, Red Shiso is the one plant we grow that we can’t do without it.

Red Shiso is also extremely frost sensitive, so we need to get it harvested before even a mild frost.  The rub is that the longer Red Shiso grows, the deeper the maroon color and the pinker our Flower Essences, and we like them pink.  So we are always weighing the danger of frost against a too early harvest of not so red leaves.

Late September is when we almost always harvest the crop.  Sometimes I have miscalculated about frost danger, and we have had to harvest in the dark of night with frost expected in the early hours of the next morning. Sometimes we have harvested until midnight then covered the remaining crop with frost cloth.  Sometimes after a sleepless night of plummeting temperatures, I have gotten up at 3 or 4 am to get sprinklers going on the crop.  The water can warm the Red Shiso just enough so that it doesn’t freeze.   No matter the scenario, we ask the Elementals to help, and they do what they can. Sometimes what they can do is say, “GET CUTTING!”

This year it looked like smooth sailing.  The weather forecast late last week was reassuring with its promise of mild frost free nights for a ten day period.. We thought we might get to October before harvesting the crop.

This year’s Red Shiso was grown around a spiral of Dahlias with a central fort like structure of Kikinda squash .  All of us have spent happy hours inside the Kikinda fort surveying the Dahlias against a backdrop of gorgeous maroon.

And so it was that we were blissfully enjoying the glory that is this year’s Red Shiso garden when Jim came home from his day job as a sixth grade teacher to report that local weathermen had revised their forecast to suggest frosts could be expected in colder spots on Saturday night.

I would like to pretend that we are not in one of those frost sensitive colder spots, but we are. We get frosts weeks earlier than folks on the other side of town whose farms hug the Connecticut River.

Typically frost rolls off Morgan Hill to our north then meanders through the Cherokee Trail of Tears garden then on through the main vegetable garden to settle right where this year’s Red Shiso was sown.

It was Thursday afternoon when Jim rang the alarm bell.  We headed for the Red Shiso field  STAT.  Vicki, Sam, Jen, Sarah, Lizzie and I began to cut the beautiful maroon stalks and pile them on waiting sheets.  Baby Henry was settled on a blanket in the nearby grass and six year old Grace was given a job of carrying the cut stalks to the waiting sheets..  Everyone was needed. As dusk fell we hauled what we had cut to our Red Shiso building to hang bundles to dry.

We cut and hauled and bundled and hung into the evening then had to wait out a rainy Friday then cut again all day Saturday.  By Saturday night we had most of the Red Shiso harvested. We sat with the Elementals to ask for their protection to what remained in the field.

Saturday night came with its promise of frost, but a fog developed at dawn to protect the Red Shiso from the predicted cold.  I was grateful for the reprieve but also grateful we had begun the harvest when we did.. It always takes longer than I expect to harvest the crop.  In fact,  only yesterday, Wednesday, Sarah and I cut the last of it.

Now the Red Shiso is all safely in its barn. We are tired but grateful. Mixed into with our  gratitude is a reverence for the cycles of nature that connect us to dear mother Earth and to each and every person who has ever been part of the harvest cycle.  There is such a feeling of sisterhood and timelessness when we all are in the Red Shiso barn tying the bundles to the rafters.

Sarah and I have talked of late about how we can sometimes venerate the light over the dark, so we have decided to make an effort to relish all the great things that happen in the dark. Today I relish that the Red Shiso needs the dark to hold its color as it dries. It is the complete darkness inside the Red Shiso barn that preserves its beautiful color, so our Flower Essences can be their beautiful cherry pink..

Our nights grow darker each day now, and I look forward to being thankful for each gift this darkness brings.  Thanking the darkness that preserves the Red Shiso feels like a great place to begin this new practice of being grateful for the both the light and the dark.

I would also like to thank all the lovely women who have helped us with our Red Shiso harvest over the years-

In vaguely chronological order, Thank you to the women whom I have been privileged to harvest and hang Red Shiso with: Teddy, Adrienne, Jayn, Sue Dam, Lynn, Catherine, Catherine, Kathy, Cindy, Lizzie, Liz, Patricia, Vicki, Emily, Jane, Deb, Sophie, Lily, Alli, Molly, Thembi, Laura, Emily, Kelly, Sarah, Sarah, Lauren, Jen, Sam and Grace. I salute you!

Taking Care of the Hive

One of my mother wounds is rarely feeling free of tension when I say No.  As a child, the only way I could come up with to deal with my raging alcoholic mother, even when she was sober, was to stay small, stay compliant and say yes to whatever she wanted from me.

Who knows what I would have wanted to be or wanted to express outside of her environment, but I grew up within it as a people pleaser, and more specifically, someone fine tuned to try and please my never satisfied mother.  She just never liked me.  It started off poorly at my birth when she was disappointed I was a girl and went on until her death when she disinherited me.

Needless to say, the wounds from this mother have been a source of a lot of deep sorrow but also a lot of growth. Taking back my power has been exhilarating as well as painful.  Not being compliant, not toeing the line, not stifling my truth, not staying small: each act of defiance has helped heal the wounds that generations of women in my family and every family carry.  Each act of defiance has released me into a greater sense of self.

Defying my family of origin and my mother in particular took me into my own resources, that deep well within us all, and took me to the God within.  I am so grateful for this.

And yes, I feel compassion for my mother who was carrying her own immense mother wounds.  But this compassion lives inside me alongside the conviction that it was not okay what she did to me and I do not have to deny this truth to cover for her failings.

One thing that took a long time to address was the mother wound of self care.  My mother left me no room for self care.  She couldn’t even be bothered to hold the bottles that fed me. She propped them with pillows and left me to it..  My parents would laughingly tell stories of the doctor telling my mother that I was not gaining enough weight and was too polite a baby. I learned early to stay small and make few demands.

But I was a person, as we all are, with needs and wild, fiery life flowing through me. As I got older, I realized I could have a secret life  of doing what I wanted as long as I was home in time to do my chores before dinner. I wandered the forests and imagined a different life. Sometimes I lived it.  Completely unsupervised in my secret life, I learned to drive a car when I was nine.  My best friend Lynn and I would drive her family’s old Studebaker up and down a strip in her back field,  We could get “Old Foolish Carriage” up to 30 mph down one straightaway.  I am sure it was the act of a loving God when the front axle broke, and the car died.

As life unfurled, I continued to balance out the expression of my inner zest better than my need for self care.  Life at home felt like a coffin, but away from home I explored things that I was truly passionate about and committed to them fully.  Later I declared my truths to one and all and stood by them even as there was intense criticism about my choices.  My spiritual search started in earnest when I began my own family in my twenties. My father thought my spiritual choices and life work meant I worked for the devil.  My mother just called me crazy.

By the time my family of origin devolved into the new low of my youngest drug crazed and violent brother threatening to kill me and my children while the rest of my family of origin looked the other way, I found my mother and father’s behavior dark but not unexpected.  I had patched together my own way to live my life and go for my truth.  I grieved at what I had never had from them- love or even safety- but I continued on, not looking to them for help.  I followed through on the cultural taboo of breaking off with them completely in order to use what energy I had to protect myself and my own family.

Some mother wounds were a bit more slippery to see and resolve, and self care was one of these.  When I look back on the orthopedic injuries I have had- I broke my left arm and wrist into dozens of pieces in 2012 and then did the same thing to my right arm four years later- I see that these were opportunities to heal the original drama of having parents that did not care for my physical being when I was a child.  I may have mentioned this before, but when the orthopedic surgeon looked at the x-rays of my break in 2012, the first thing she said was that I had broken my arm previously, and it had not been set properly.  When she said this, I had some deep awareness that this happened when I was four. It didn’t set right because I was not taken to a doctor.  I also have broken ribs and broken bones in my feet that healed wrong. It pierces me with sorrow that little Molly navigated broken bones all alone.

With the more recent arm breaks, my recuperations were a chance for me to receive love and care from the people around me now and also learn to slow down and inner mother myself in my recovery. It was also a chance to let go of the kind of self vigilance I have had since birth and learn to trust that in the life I had created for myself I had surrounded myself with people that would care for me when I couldn’t care for myself. AND THEY DID.

I am in my sixties now and through my second Saturn return.  For me, the territory of this Saturn return was a return to the concern of  self care.  The last few years have called me to pare away more lingering “a nice daughter does this” ie “a nice daughter doesn’t have time to take care of herself because she is busy taking care of everyone else.” The paring away means I am free to follow through on what I believe to be my purposes here with more reverence and more discernment, more joy and more space.

Life gives us so many opportunities to examine what it is we believe is important and what needs to be discarded.  The old dragon mother dialog of shoulds becomes increasingly unhelpful,  but mercifully, life constantly highlights these old chestnuts and helps us to discard them. No is always a vital word for women and a sentence in its entirety, but this comes home to me more and more as I am aware my time is not infinite as Molly Sheehan.

Yesterday was a small victory for me and my ease with the word No.  A fellow beekeeper came to my door wanting me to contribute honey from our two hives so she could fulfill a contract she had with a local organization.  I told her I did not have the honey for this.  I could have added nor do I have the interest as this organization has been a patriarchal bastion of pain and suffering for all of my family.  She pressed me, saying it was bee sisterhood and the bees could give more honey now.  This is way past when I harvest honey from our bees.  At this point in the season,  my whole focus is on getting the hives through the winter and this means ample honey for them.  I felt my niggling old mother wound of being nice, sharing at my own expense, but it was exhilarating to just say No.

And so I did.

I’ve got my M back!

Mmmmmmmmmmmmmany, Mmmmmmmmmmany Mmmmmmmercis to mmmmmmmy mmmmmarvelous Tech Fairy who mmmmmeandered mmmmmost mmmmmmmedmorably through mmmmmmmy blog and mmmmmost mmmmomentously mmmmmmade mmmmmmincemeat of mmmmmmmmy mmmmmmmmmmechanical mmmmmmmmalfuctions.


A Keyboard’s Last Hurrah

In the office the computers are all newly upgraded with improved networking and the newest Filemaker programs to keep our files purring along.  A man came for two days to sit and watch the swirly buttons swirl while things were upgrading.

I never imagined a life where I would use any of these words including the really imprecise ones like swirly buttons.

Meanwhile in my little office area, tucked a bit out of the fray in a corner of the original office building, there was trouble in Denmark.

Way back in the beginning of the growing season, the keyboard on my computer stopped making “m”s.  In a bemused sort of grandmotherly way, I wondered what Grace or me, had spilled on the keyboard.  Snacks are the price to pay for having her fix computer things for me.  She is five and already has an advanced degree in computer science.

Being a bit of a disorganized thrifty person, I thought it would be manageable fun  to see how much auto-correct would correct when I typed without an “m”.  Not that much, as it turned out.

I also tried to play a game of sending emails and doing FB posts that didn’t have the letter “m” in them:  Tweaks like changing, “Happy May morning” to ” Happy Spring”. That sort of ridiculous management of a problem that from the start required a new keyboard.

When I was growing up, I was frequently told this story about a family group who were wringing their hands trying to solve the problem of what to do with a cup of coffee that someone had inadvertently put a teaspoon of salt into.   When everyone  failed to solve the problem of the salt in the cup of coffee, “the lady from Philadelphia” suggests throwing out the cup of coffee and getting a fresh cup. This was the full story, I kid you not.

I never really got why this story was told so often. And who the heck was the lady from Philadelphia?  But maybe had I cracked the secret wisdom of this story, I would have grasped sooner that there was only one solution to my dying keyboard. And a simple one.

I needed a new keyboard.

Sadly “simple” did not end up being the right adjective for what came next.

Now committed to a new keyboard, I started to bug all of the other members of the household to buy this new keyboard.  I could have gone to the computer store myself, but I never seem to have the necessary details or know what I am talking about.  I am happy to pay, but someone else needs to translate my confused requests.

No one was biting.  They had their own lives, after all.

I was growing a bit testy desperate as more keyboard letters were fritzing out, and it was harder to work around the gaps. The letter “u” was gone and so was “7” then mainstays “s” and “r” flew the coop. Each day fewer letters worked.  What WAS it that Grace or I had spilled?

At long last, St. Jim went to the computer place to get a new keyboard for me, but HE WAS TURNED AWAY.  My computer was too old for a new keyboard to work on without some system upgrades. Perhaps I had been ignoring those upgrade notices in the right hand corner of the screen a bit too long.

Five year old computer = dinoasaur.

Weeks passed.  There were always other things calling besides FB or blog posts.  Weeds for example.

And let’s face it.  People dodge and run when they see me coming at them with a computer problem. Our webmaster, Ben, for example.  He probably wakes up every Monday with that Monday morning feeling because he knows that Monday mornings = list from his mother of computer glitches to fix ASAP- Happy Monday Ben!

Anyways, when I did pin down a tech diva or two (you know who you are), they told me things like, “It may be too old for these upgrades to make a difference.” My response, “Well let’s find out.  Won’t one of you sit down and push the necessary buttons.”

I know I should learn how to upgrade things myself.  It’s sort of like changing a flat tire.  I kind of can do it.  I have actually done it once, maybe twice, but really, isn’t that enough? Do I really need to know what to do with those messages that keep flashing on computers, phones and every gizmo I encounter with upgrade options.  How long can I click “Remind me later” and have things keep functioning?

Can’t you get it dear gizmo? I’m needed down by the compost heap.

Then we began to receive messages on the office email: Was everything alright at Green Hope Farm? Where were the FB posts? Someone even wanted to know if I was dead.

No, just technologically impaired by volition really

The only thing that needs recycling/burial right now is the keyboard.

Anyways, that is where the situation sits today. If anyone in my family is reading this post, won’t you please upgrade my computer? Then I can access all the photos living on my computer and decorate blog posts like this one with photos of things other than technology.

I may let FB go, but I like posting photos on the blog. Please dear tech saavy relatives, please upgrade my computer. I will even give you credit. Here.  With a gorgeous photo of the Flower of your choice if the deer have not eaten them. Please? Someone? Hello? Hello?