Simplicity

Thoughts on Returning Home

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I’ve been here in New Jersey, having cups of morning mushroom coffee barefoot with the Black Eyed Susans in my parents’ backyard while Steven holds down the fort back home at the farm. I so wish he could be here with me and the girls, because life is generally just more wonderful and exciting with him around, and my girls sorely miss their daddy.

But we decided to come anyway, because we haven’t been here in three years, and I wanted my youngest little gal to make some real, lasting memories in this place like her older sister has. I wanted her to know more about her heritage and have a visual of where her NJ grandparents live when they’re not visiting us. And, of course, to meet all of Mimi’s crazy, pampered cats - Brandon, Suzannah, and Melanie.

Returning to your childhood home is surreal. It can be great, and it can be weird. I notice how some things never change - like the collage frame of my yearly school photos from K-12 and the macrame plant hangers that have been in the living room window my whole life.

Yet, so much has changed. I’m not even close to the same person who took her first steps in this backyard, who played badminton under the oak trees so high you can no longer see the tops. At times, I feel like I can reach out and touch scenes from childhood and adolescence in this grass and driveway and along these neighborhood streets - a first bee sting on my foot at my best friend’s house, a first time jumping off the high dive, a first kiss in Summerhill Park. But really? Even though those things are all a part of me, they happened so long ago.

It’s okay. I know who I am now. I also know distinctly who I’m not. This trip has been low-key and freeing to know I can go back to my childhood home now and not expect it to fill me or complete me as a human being.

This quote by one of my favorite authors has inspired me so much over the last few years, and it continues to gently prod me as I face each day:

“The world will tell you how to live, if you let it. Don’t let it. Take up your space. Raise your voice. Sing your song. This is your chance to make or remake a life that thrills you.”
~ Shauna Niequist

Yes, I’m so thankful for the girl who began here on this New Jersey soil and for the faith and love of learning, beauty and simplicity it rooted in me.

And I’m thankful for where life has led me away, by way of Nashville and Houston and Dallas and back to Tennessee again to Kindred Farm where I belong. Where, finally, I feel completely and fully myself.

Summer Favorites

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I was inspired by this post to share some of my summer favorites with you. I love hearing what other people are into right now, so share yours too, pretty please!

Here are a few of my summer favorites:

  • Rainbow colored zinnias. Yes, I’ve taken approximately 8,000 photos of my zinnias this summer. Can’t stop, won’t stop.

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  • High rise button-front denim shorts from GAP. Yay for 40% off sales so I can replenish my jorts stash after my old ones were surrendered to “farm clothes” status. I got these button-front denim shorts in the vintage black color, and I’ve worn them almost every day. They’re perfect for tucking in shirts and are just the right length for me with the cuffs unrolled.

  • Birkenstock Gizeh EVA sandals. These pretty much haven’t left my feet since I got them in early spring. They cost less than regular Birkenstocks but are still great, thick quality. Mine are metallic bronze, and they’re waterproof but nice enough to wear with skirts. I slip them on to go swimming, or to check on things on the farm when I don’t need boots, or just whenever. They’re the only thing I wear besides my red Saltwater sandals.

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  • Harvesting calendula to make my own calendula salve. This is the one thing that helps my dry, cracked farmer hands. These bright orange blooms are currently bathing in Extra Virgin Olive Oil and will be made into salves at the end of summer.

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  • Against All Grain Almond Flour Zucchini Bread. For when you harvest zucchini as big as your leg (oops!). I added some Enjoy Life mini chocolate chips, and everyone in our family loved it.

  • The perfect summer smoothie = bananas + peanut butter + almond or coconut milk + hemp seeds + stevia (or honey or maple syrup) + kale + 1 drop doTerra peppermint oil. The secret is making sure the frozen fruit sticks out a little above the liquid - this makes for the best consistency. I can’t think of anything that tastes more nourishing after I’ve been working outside all morning. My girls love it too, with a little twist…I sprinkle some Enjoy Life mini chocolate chips in the bottom of the glass for when they get to the bottom. :)

  • Blasting my “Top 40 Songs of All Time” playlist while singing at the top of my lungs and driving country roads. “Galileo” by Indigo Girls, “Hold On” by Wilson Phillips, and “Sky Full of Stars” by Coldplay are a few on my list. Have you ever tried to whittle down your favorite songs into a Top 40? It’s so hard but so delightfully nostalgic.

  • Swimming in waterfalls + lakes + creeks more than pools. Rock Island State Park has been a favorite this summer with its multiple waterfalls, rock jumping, and magical swimming holes. P.S. It’s made our lives so much easier to have a swim bag packed at all times, for either pool or state park. It always has shampoo, conditioner, hairbrush, towels, clean swimsuits, bug spray, sunscreen, goggles, sunglasses, and a wet bag to store wet things until we get home. Gamechanger.

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There’s still so much summer left - let’s soak it up while we can without trying to look ahead too quickly to fall. What are some of your summer favorites?

11 Things I Learned This Spring

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Have you tried to actually sit down and reflect on what you’ve been learning? It’s not that easy. We go through life so much on autopilot without taking time to reflect. So I’m loving this new practice, joining in with author Emily P. Freeman to look back on each season and notice and name some of the things I’ve learned. Join me - I’d love to know what you’ve been learning too…

1) How to slow down time.

Oh, don’t we all wish we actually could? But I’ve learned a little secret while writing this post for Art of Simple that’s become my new daily motto: Today, I will log more moments in the present so time feels longer. The more moments we log in the present, time actually does feel slower - and more full of the good stuff. I still look at my two growing daughters (5 and almost 9) and see that “the little years” are mostly behind us (lump in throat), but I honestly don’t feel time slipping out of my hands. While we’re entering a new stage, I know I squeezed every drop of life I could out of the previous one.

2) “God will not let you miss your own future.”

HUGE exhale. This line is from Emily P. Freeman’s The Next Right Thing podcast (episode 76), and it’s one of the best things I heard this spring. It really is such a relief to know I’m not responsible for it all. I say I believe that, but to live like it’s true is another thing entirely. I’m working on doing more of that.

3) I prolly shoulda started farming at age 25 instead of 39. #ohmyachingbones

But seriously, I’ve learned this spring that it’s just gonna hurt and be uncomfortable, and the more I have that expectation, it’s a wee bit less hard. My husband Steven always says, “High expectations lead to much frustration.” So I’m setting the expectation: there’s gonna be mud caked under my nails. I’m going to feel gross and need to take like 10 showers a week. And to save myself some frustration later, listen to my gut next time and always add at least 2 irrigation drip lines to a new row, no matter what anyone says. There were some definite choice words involved in pulling up those rows and re-doing them. Oy.

4) It’s important to keep a childlike wonder, no matter my age.

Every single time a new seed sprouts, I have the same feeling of awe: it actually worked!

And a new discovery: apparently birds really like to nest in ferns. This may be old news to many of you, but this was my first time seeing it when I took down my hanging fern to water it, and I literally gasped.

The other evening, I was walking back to the produce washing station after feeding the chickens, and this sight of our barn with the almost-full moon stopped me in my tracks (look closely for my oldest daughter in the rye grass). The best part is that I texted it to my husband, and he said he didn’t even know where that was at first - sometimes we see our own surroundings with fresh eyes.

5) It’s good to accept others’ help.

A few weeks ago, on an ordinary weekday, my girls ended up staying the night at my close friend’s house. It was totally impromptu, and Steven and I found ourselves kid-free for the night at our own house, which we’ve actually never done. He finished his chef work in the barn kitchen, and at 8:30pm, we went on a random but much-needed date to one of our favorite local restaurants, Vanh Dy’s, in our little nearby downtown of Columbia, TN. It’s shocking how hard it was at first to accept that help, that another mom was willingly watching my kids all night while we got to have a date, but I realized how freeing it is to accept people’s help when they offer. It actually blesses others to let them help you - it’s done the same for me when I’ve been on the other end.

6) Sometimes God removes the storm, and sometimes He’s with us in the midst of it.

Photo by KT Sura

Photo by KT Sura

On the day of our spring Kindred Dinner for 150 people, it was predicting storms all evening. This was our 5th farm dinner, and we’ve never had to go with our rain plan. I was so worried, y’all. These people bought tickets and were expecting an amazing, memorable experience. In my shallow vision, I thought our best-case scenario was that it wouldn’t rain, but instead God wanted to show me - and so many others - how beautiful and intimate and nourishing breaking bread together can be in the very midst of a storm. I’ll hold this experience close for a long time.

More thoughts and photos on our Kindred Farm Instagram. My favorite part of this photo is all the umbrellas leaned against the side of the greenhouse!

7) Intermittent fasting is how I should eat most of the time.

I started the practice of intermittent fasting in January, thinking it would be temporary. It feels so good and freeing that I think this is a new longterm pattern in my life. I wrote all about it here.

8) But feasting is just as important.

I’ve learned that feasting is so much more meaningful when you’re not doing it all the time. We were made for both feasting and fasting - there’s a time to reign things in and go without, and there’s a time to let go and enjoy. One of the best things about a collaborative feast is that each person gets to bring something - so be sure and let others help even if you’re hosting. Here are some amazing feasts we’ve had this spring:

Easter Sunday with dear friends and alllll the colorful spring goodness...

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Then, a heavenly little outdoor charcuterie board feast with friends on a Saturday evening, where we just cut up a bunch of pretty things and put them on cutting boards (no cooking!). Add some wine and sparkling water, and you have what feels like a very fancy dinner with no cooking. Bonus for fun patterned tablecloths I got over a decade ago in India, twinkle lights overhead and fireflies all around.

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And here’s something different…we put a little propane tabletop grill in the middle of our dining room table and had some friends over for a Korean ssam (lettuce wraps) feast where everyone got to grill their own meat and assemble unique, colorful lettuce wraps to their heart’s desire. All the lettuce, cabbage, Asian greens, and radishes were harvested from our farm a few minutes before. And I’m pretty sure we used every plate, bowl, and pair of chopsticks in the house.

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9. I still know every word to all the classic NKOTB songs.

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My 11-year-old self would have completely passed out to be this close to Joe McIntyre and New Kids on the Block, but 30 years later it was just a lighthearted blast of a night with my best college gals (and New Kids on the Block, Debbie Gibson, Tiffany, Salt N Pepa and Naughty By Nature!). We sang every word to all the classic NKOTB songs like “Please Don’t Go, Girl” (this was played at every middle school sleepover), “Tonight”, and of course, “Hangin’ Tough.” I reminisced about recording mixtapes from the radio, Aqua Net hairspray, claw bangs, BOP Magazine, posters in my locker and plastered on my bedroom wall, and Electric Youth Perfume.


10. It’s best to relax a little and give my girls space to learn some things on their own - this works better than pushing.

After playing Monopoly on and off for several days, my oldest daughter is a master at mental math and being the banker, and my 5-year-old just learned how to ride on two wheels on her own at my friend’s house in her gravel driveway. I so often try to control and feel like everything is my responsibility. Letting go - and seeing that everything is okay - helps me grow so much in this area. I’m also learning to let them help more, even if it’s not how I would have done that particular thing. Plus, I don’t want to miss out on hilarious sights like these:

Well, that’s ONE way to seed a new row of beets…

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11. My husband is an incredible podcast host.

I knew he would be. This man is one of the most compelling communicators I know, with an ability to cast a vision and share stories like none other. Check out Steven’s brand new The Korean Farmer podcast here or on iTunes, where he shares meaningful conversations about life, business, food, and everything in between. We record right here on Kindred Farm in our barn studio…and maybe we’ll be doing an episode together in the near future! :)

Photo: KT Sura

Photo: KT Sura

YOUR TURN! What are some things you learned this spring? I’d love to hear!

A Day In The Life - For The Art of Simple

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In my latest post for The Art of Simple, I’m sharing a typical day in my life right now as a homeschooling mom, wife of a chef, writer/creative, and organic produce farmer. If you’ve never taken the time to record a typical day in your life, I highly recommend it - it was quite an eye-opening experience!

“Recording my day in the life helped me recognize that slowing down time is important to me, as much as it’s in my control. The more I pay attention in the little moments, the more I’m able to pull back the reins on time. So, after I wrote this, I came up with a new daily motto that I’d like to share with you…”

Continue reading…

Simple With Tsh Oxenreider Podcast Episode 178: Loving Our 40s

This was a super fun chat about Loving Our 40s! Tsh said it well in the podcast intro: “Growing older is a privilege denied to many people; it means we should celebrate the gift it is!” Join both of us 41-year-olds as we talk about how to celebrate birthday milestones (particularly turning 40 since that was most recent for both of us), and hear about Tsh’s new skin and hair routine since turning 40.

You’re Never Too Old To Color

Here’s one from the archives, originally posted on my previous blog in March 2009. I’ll be regularly sharing with my readers some of my favorites from the past that I feel are still a huge part of the overall story. Enjoy!

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On Saturday afternoon, I took one of those naps where you wake up and have no idea what day or time it is anymore, and you've slept on one side for so long that your hair is smushed into a conehead and, more than likely, there is a pool of drool on the pillow. You know that kind? It was so refreshing. And the first thought that occurred to me when my eyes peeked open was, "I am going to color now."

It was a strange thought, considering that up to that point, my Saturday had been filled with a very adult-like and responsible task: hauling compost back and forth, back and forth, between the huge mound in the driveway and each individual tree stump and veggie sprout and plant base in the front and back yard. It felt so "homeowner." It was great functional exercise though {all those squats and bicep curls with the shovel and wheelbarrow}...and I actually liked working with the compost. You might think it's smelly and full of flies, but compost actually feels fresh in an earthy kind of way. The only unfortunate fact is that it’s so powdery that with a light Texas wind, it seeps into any crack and crevice of your skin that is not covered with an article of clothing. I didn’t realize this until I heard Steven singing, “It’s A Hard Knock Life” from Annie, complete with flamboyant hand gestures, as I passed by with the wheel barrow for the umpteenth time.

Uh-oh. I went inside to check myself in the mirror, and it was not a pretty sight. The white tube socks that I had pulled up to my knees and over my workout pants were now black. My hair was frizzed almost to the point of no return, and dirt had caked on my face and formed so many visible lines and smudges that I looked like a coal miner...or perhaps a street sweeper from the movie Oliver...or, admittedly, one of the kids from Annie. Maybe compost-hauling doesn't have to be so adult-like after all.

I took a very welcome hot shower and scrubbed myself from head to toe with my honey-mango shower gel and then collapsed into bed for that perfect, drooly nap. I don’t know what happened in my dreams, but when I woke up, all I wanted to do was color. You're never too old to color, you know. In my craft room, painted “Rain Washed” by Behr, I found my box of Crayola State Collection Crayons and a butterfly coloring book that Steven got me as a surprise at the Mennonite grocery store. I set out for the back yard with my supplies tucked under my arm like a little girl on her way to kindergarten.

Outside, Steven’s phone rang. It was my dad calling from New Jersey. Steven answered it, they exchanged greetings, and then there was a pause on our end of the conversation - my dad must have asked what I was doing.

Steven answered nonchalantly, "Oh, she's coloring."

{"Coloring??" I imagine my dad must have asked in his brash Jersey accent.}

Steven answered again, "Yeah, she's coloring...with crayons."

I looked up at him and smiled. Then I went back to busily coloring my butterflies as the real-life ones hovered above the flourishing lavender bush.

December-ing

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2018 is almost over. How is that possible?

This is the first December we’ve truly celebrated advent, after so many years of wanting to make it a yearly practice. I also finished my Christmas shopping a solid week before Christmas, which is really saying something. We stretched out the holiday season as long as possible, and it was a sweet time. Here are some things I’ve been engaging in this December…what about you?

Reading…

Well, I still haven’t finished many of the books from my November list. Here’s my current reading list…

  • All the Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr

  • Almost Everything: Notes on Hope by Anne Lamott

  • Boundaries With Kids by Henry Cloud & John Townsend

  • Book Girl by Sarah Clarkson

  • The Complete Guide to Fasting by Jason Fung

Watching…

  • Here are some favorite Christmas movies we watched this month - Emmet Otter’s Jugband Christmas (if you know about this movie, we can be friends), Holiday Inn, White Christmas, It’s A Wonderful Life, All I Want for Christmas, Home Alone, Miracle on 34th Street (new one), Elf.

  • My life is so complete since they put Bob Ross on Netflix. Both my girls watch it too, enamored. Right after an episode is over, someone inevitably asks, “Oh pleaaaaase can we watch him paint just one more winter landscape?” We’re an artistic family, we can’t help it.

  • Mary Poppins Returns. We had a little family fun night a few days before Christmas and surprised our girls with dinner and a movie. Any Mary Poppins fan was understandably nervous at how the sequel would hold up, but I had a permagrin the entire time. It was delightful. The ending gave me the same wonderful, buoyant feeling as at the end of the original. So many creative parallels & cameos in the story as well. Dying to see it again!

Listening…

  • I loved the Advent playlist from Tsh Oxenreider’s Simple Advent Guide.

  • The Mary Poppins Returns soundtrack. Again, delightful.

  • Andy Gullahorn’s album, Everything As It Should Be. The song “Different Now” could be my own words. I love this whole album.

Cooking…

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Discovering…

  • How much I love power tools. I made the above advent candleholder using some salvaged driftwood and a spade drill bit, and now I want to make holes in everything. I’ve always left the drilling for my husband (translation: begged him to fix things for me) but there’s so much freedom and fun in learning to do it myself.

  • How much I love and need winter. Maybe it’s just a break from bugs and sweat and a chance to have smooth hair for a change. But the more I live by the seasons, the more I realize how much I need them. There’s absolutely a beauty to winter that I don’t want to miss.

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Seeing…

  • My home through different eyes since reading Cozy Minimalist Home by Myquillyn Smith last month. We did a huge purge in my girls’ room, and there’s breathing room now, with much more space for doing the things they actually love: playing dolls and Lego’s and crafting. I’m about to tackle the mud room next, which is currently piled up with coats and dirty farm boots and completelydrivingmeinsane. The biggest thing I took away from that book is that I don’t have to wait for things to be perfect in my home to love my space now. There are plenty of things I can do with limited funds to make each room one we truly love being in.

    What did your December look like? Anything to share? I’d love to hear!

Ode to Dirty Fingernails

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Everyday, here on Kindred Farm, we witness the circle of life in all its beauty and brutality: orderly rows of lettuce heads resembling giant green and purple roses, the excitement of new baby chicks arriving, the sweet smell of dirt-covered rainbow carrots straight from the ground. Then there are dead chicks, dead chickens, dead mice and chipmunks left at our doorstep. One morning, we spent hours trying to reunite tiny baby mice with their mother, who still had one attached to her nursing. We’ve had 4/5 of a litter of kittens lost to predators and a beloved farm cat buried after being hit by a car. My body has been pushed to its physical limits by using muscles I didn’t even know existed to lift soil with the broadfork, hammer stakes, and use “the farmer walk” to haul full buckets of water on each arm up a hill. Second to naturally birthing a baby, this is the hardest I’ve ever worked.

But by making this new life and pushing through my fears, I’ve truly found my unique self and clarified what I have to offer the world. God is healing the wounded part of me that said my voice wasn’t important enough to be heard. It’s not a perfectly polished platform, but it’s mine...it’s my voice.

I can also laugh at myself now when I completely fail at something, because seriously? Life is just too short to try to be perfect anymore. Here’s a favorite story from my first month of farming last April - go ahead and laugh at me!

We had gotten our first batch of chicks in the winter and now they were big enough to be moved out of the shed into their new “Henstream” (the mobile chicken trailer where they would lay, roost, and sleep at night). My husband Steven was gone for the evening at his personal chef job. So I was in charge of checking on the girls at dusk to make sure they all made it inside the automatic chicken door. No big deal. I strutted out there. At first glance, all looked fine. Then a lone chicken caught my eye who was still roaming around. I chased it around until I finally caught it and stared at the door of the Henstream to figure out how to unlock it in the dark with one hand and without disturbing the freaking biggest spider you’ve ever seen. I took a deep breath, wrangled the door open, squealed like a 12-year-old girl, and shoved the chicken inside as it squawked. Phew. But it wasn’t over yet…as I was leaving I noticed something looked strange at the chicken door. Oh no…is it? It couldn’t be… Yes, there was a chicken head/neck hanging completely limp out the chicken door while the rest of its body was inside. I frantically called Steven and told him that one of our chickens got decapitated and it was all my fault. I told him that HE was going to handle it when he got home. Fast forward an hour…he went to take care of the dead chicken and came back inside laughing, “Um, it wasn’t dead! It was just frozen in shock. I opened the door and nudged it a little and it popped its head up and walked away.”

You’re welcome.

We’re privileged to be in a community with so many hard-working and inspiring farmers, both male and female, who are out there everyday in the elements, doing hard and valuable work - caring for animals, growing beautiful and healthy food, advocating for sustainability, stewarding the earth. Here’s to you! Here's to the bug bite scars, the sore muscles, the constant need for a shower, the frustrating moments when you can't figure out why something isn't working. The self-doubt and the victories and the breathtaking moments at sunset when you can't imagine doing anything else - those are all a part of the journey. Those dirty nails aren't going away anytime soon, are they? Good. Because in sifting the soil through our fingers, we become more connected to our roots, to who we are as humans.

Farmers or not, we can all do our part in redeeming the earth, little by little. Because once you've held that privilege and joy in our hands, you can never go back. In the best possible way.

Simple With Tsh Oxenreider Podcast Episode 140

Hey friends! Just wanted to share that I'm on the podcast Simple with Tsh Oxenreider today, talking about Kindred Farm and all the ways farming has personally changed me. It was truly a joy talking with Tsh and sharing my/our story!

"I had all these fears, but it’s actually been the complete opposite of everything I was afraid of. I’ve actually found myself in a lot of ways since becoming a farmer that I completely did not expect...Farming has pushed me physically and emotionally and helped me learn what I’m capable of as a woman."

Listen to the whole thing here or in iTunes - it's episode 140...

"Homeschooling On An Organic Farm" - For Wild + Free

I'm so honored to have a piece entitled "Homeschooling On An Organic Farm" in the latest Wild + Free bundle called "Wander." Wild + Free is a beautiful homeschool community that has inspired me like no other - it's full of diverse yet like-minded mamas all across the world who want to provide the space and time for our children to explore, engage with the world, and have the freedom to become who they're meant to be as childhood is preserved and slowly unraveled. Each month, they release online bundles chock full of articles and tutorials to inspire homeschool mamas, or really anyone who wants to parent more slowly and intentionally. The monthly subscription includes a gorgeous print magazine as well. You can subscribe to the monthly bundles here

Here's a little sample...