Posts Tagged ‘community’

Bee Happy

Hard to believe, but it’s that time of year again when the beekeeper really starts rolling. We have an order arriving on Thursday which will contain two packages of bees and one extra queen, which will hopefully round out our small homestead apiary to four hives. Since I did such a poor job of updating you once my pregnancy hit me full force, here’s the rundown of our exciting bee-happenings from last year.

After we started making the honey, we realized we had a really good thing on our hands. We purchased a small hand crank honey extractor and harvested the surplus honey from our hive. All in all, we got almost 40 lbs. of surplus honey, plus plenty left over to feed the bees over the winter. Harvesting was sticky and fun, and through the generosity of our friends at Tangleweed Farm down the road we were able to sell some of our bounty. Here we are at the farm’s Open House selling our goods:

The sale of our honey was such a success that we had a whole email list full of customers. Our smaller, second harvest of the season was sold out before it even hit the shelves. This year, we’ve already had people asking about our honey, so we decided to make a go of expanding the business a bit.

In addition to the honey, I’ve started tinkering with beeswax products as well. So far I’ve made some basic lip balm and have just ordered some supplies to play with the recipe a bit. I also hope to try my hand at candles, soaps, and some healing salves–all using our girls’ honey or wax.

Of course, it’s tough to do this without mentors. There are no local beekeepers that we know of that can really show us how to do some more sophisticated maneuvers like rearing our own queens or collecting pollen to sell. So a lot of this is trial and error. But we’re reading everything we can get our hands on and luckily there is a large support system for small scale beekeepers on the internet. And we’re having a lot of fun.

Who would have ever thought, when we began dreaming of our own homestead, that I’d be a beekeeping gal who makes my own lip balm, collects eggs from the backyard coop each night, and gave birth in my own bedroom? Not me. But thank God for these blessings–I wouldn’t have it any other way.

Progress and rainy days

It’s a rainy day here at the homestead. We’ve had a wonderful week–during the day I’ve been working on the house and the land, and in the evenings we’ve been spending a lot of time with new friends.

For a surprise, I cleaned out the garage for Rob and laid out his tools so he can put them in order. Our garage had exploded into a mess of wood bits, sawdust, grout, paint, half-filled water buckets, and trash from our week of bathroom construction, and I knew that the mess was weighing on him. So I took a sunny afternon and cleared the trash (5 construction trash bags full!) up to the barn, swept, and put things in order.  After all…he works so hard to make this dream happen. I want to make his time here at home as calm and enjoyable as possible, because I truly appreciate that sacrifice. He’s quite a man, my husband.

I’ve also got almost 3 sides of our “gopher fort” dug, chicken-wired, and filled. I had to call off the digging today because the rains have settled in for a couple of days. But once they’ve passed through and softened up the earth even more, I’ll be back at it.

Speaking of our garden, our fencing arrived this week. Which means after the underground gate is in, we’ll be digging post-holes and setting up our cedar fencing. I’m excited about that. We also spent a lot of time looking through an organic heritage seed catalog and picking out our seeds. I’ll be ordering them in the next few days, although they’ll arrive throughout the year (some seeds and some seedlings) depending on what type of veggie it is.

Another exciting event of the week: the former owner of this house was watching his friends’ chickens while they were on vacation, and pulled me along for the ride. I got to meet 8 pretty laying hens, and we plucked four eggs from the roost. He let us keep them, and we were eating honest-to-goodness farm fresh eggs the next morning. I can’t wait until we have our own, but we have a lot of work to do on the coop and the fencing before we get there.

Our beehive equipment also arrived! We’ll be spending some time this raining weekend assembling it all. All the books I’ve been reading say that it’s a good idea to get everything assembled and ready a few months ahead of time–that way, when the bees arrive, all you have to worry about it getting them settled in. Since our bees are set to arrive April 16th, I think we’re right on schedule.

Our evenings were spent at the houses of our new friends. It’s been quite a blessing to have only been in town 8 weeks and already have people with whom we enjoy spending our time.  I’m also beginning to appreciate the gift of knowing people that are different–different beliefs, different lifestyles, different values, different hobbies. Many of my friends from college and grad school were people who were strikingly similar in our core belief systems and interests. I’m not sure if that was just dumb luck or if being involved so closely with LMU Campus Ministry shaped it, but there is was. This was a blessing to me at the time, because it helped me to become more comfortable with my newfound place in the church, in my faith journey, and in my own self-confidence as an increasingly independent woman. But now I find myself appreciating that I can share my life (and faith and values) with people who don’t necessarily share them in the same way. I can appreciate where they come from and why they see the world a certain way. Being in seminary really  began that part of my journey, and living in Tehachapi is continuing it.

Finally, the big news on the homestead: we’re hoping to trade in one of our cars this weekend for a truck (well, kind of a truck). We’ve been looking at different trucks and have our eye on a Ford Expedition that is in our price range. It has the power and (hopefully) the room of a truck, so it can haul a small animal trailer or have a few hay bales stuck in the back. At the same time, it has plenty of room for what we hope to be an expanding family. So we’ll see how it all turns out. If we like the test drive and like what they offer us for the car, we’ll have a dependable four-wheel drive for our next snowstorm.

Blessings of Bounty

IMG_5981

I’ve talked before about getting food from a CSA (Community Supported Agriculture). Here is some of our seasonal bounty, along with fresh baked rosemary potato bread. Shortly after we baked the bread, we spread some of our homemade butter over two (or three) steaming slices.

One of my favorite parts about getting food from a CSA is the challenge and surprise of seasonal eating. I love it. I probably would never have bought sunchokes or persimmons, and yet here I am eating them with delight.  Autumn is no longer the time for cucumbers or peppers (and certainly not asparagus!), although you’d never know it from walking into a supermarket.  It’s no wonder that eating seasonally isn’t a mainstream practice; it’s hard to even know what that means without being pointed in the right direction. All of the choice that is available to us in the grocery stores have actually stripped us from understanding the natural limitations of the seasons. We’re actually quite spoiled when it comes to our food choices, but we don’t know it–to most it’s just “normal.”

This is one of the beauties of eating seasonally–we become more attuned to the rhythms of the earth. No…we participate in the rhythms of the earth. We become part of it. We appreciate it.

And we are grateful.

Communal Hope

IMG_5416Rob and I spent some time chatting with LMU students last night about Creation Care. Officially, he and I were speakers on the topic for a “Theology on Tap” gathering. But, as seems to continally be the case, I found that as we ministered, so we received blessings tenfold.

These young men and women were mostly seniors in college–about seven or eight years younger than me. They are filled with a vibrancy and hope that inspired both of us.  I am finding that as I speak to more and more people, it becomes clear that the ideas are out there. The motivation and desire exist.  Most people just need one or two things: a little direction, and the knowledge that they are not alone in their journey. This is why I am so passionate about speaking on Creation Care–not because I have an abundance of knowledge to impart, but rather to give people a reason to come together. As we share ideas, talk about what one another is doing, and make connections, we build a network of support for one another.

Which leads me to comment on the thought that has been turning over and over in my head throughout the last three weeks of this quarter: the lynchpin of all sustainable Christian movements is communty.

True community is sorely lacking in many of our most foundational Christian gathering places.  We seem to get very comfortable in the way things have always been, and are anxious when we consider things being different. What if we really knew the people in our parish–really knew them? What if we extended our boundaries beyond Sunday Mass or meeting with fellow parents in the school parking lot, and decided to try to model the early Church of Acts? I’m speaking mostly to my Catholic brethren now, because this is the community with which I have the most familiarity. My experience at Fuller has taught me that there is much we can learn from some of our brothers and sisters in certain Protestant denominations.

I had a class last quarter with a young man (he couldn’t have been over 24 years old) who had formed a group of about fifty people within his church. They decided to be a type of “emergency ministry.”  Any time a person in their congregation had a personal emergency–a woman’s transmission suddenly blew out, or a father lost his job unexpectedly, or a family didn’t know how to pay for a child’s school supplies–they went to this group of people. Everything was out in the open and nothing was secret. The person would talk about the problem with the group, and they would find a way to help. The natural checks and balances within the community kept the system sustainable; since everyone saw eachother at least once a week, people could continue to see how the person was doing as the emergency passed. Likewise, the person knew two things: they could depend on the community and that they were responsible for how they responded to the gift. The young man described great success with this program and told us that it did bring the church community much closer in their support of one another in time of need.

I tell you this story because I believe it shows the importance of community in our Christian lives. Often we look at the problems of the secular world and feel overwhelmed. How do we counter a culture of overconsumption and spiritual starvation? The answer, I believe, lies in community. We must break free of the idea that we need to “go it alone” or accomplish everything as individuals. In community we are stronger, and in community we can accomplish more through our combined gifts than we ever could on our own.

Back to the idea of our experience at LMU last night. Forming a small community–even for a moment–was just one example of how we might support one another as we seek change in our world. I think that every opportunity should be taken to do this. It may be for one night, it may be for a whole year. But forming community and supporting one another is essential. We cannot live out Christianity in solitude. That’s just not how it works.

Thank you, LMU students, for giving me more to think about–and for giving me more hope. I am continually amazed and grateful for the potential that God has placed in each of us. Think of what we can do with that potential….together.

Never the Same

Photo credit: www.lmu.edu

Photo credit: http://www.lmu.edu

I’m sorry I haven’t been on for a few days. I, along with the community of Loyola Marymount University, am mourning the loss of one of our most beloved family members: Sr. Peg Dolan.

Sr. Peg was one of the best mothers I knew, and she never had any biological children. She remembered the names of students who had graduated thirty years prior–along with the names of their spouses, children, even parents. She was always in high demand on campus, but never was too busy to sit over a cup of steaming tea to talk with me about my latest spiritual dilemma. I’m sure I wouldn’t be alone in saying that she epitomized a living saint. Everything she did or discussed was rooted in deep devotion to God. And yet I never knew her to judge or deny anyone based on their personal faith struggles or perceived failures.

One of my favorite sayings of Sr. Peg was, “Pray from where you are at.” She didn’t expect someone to be comfortable with leading spontaneous prayer if they had grown up only saying Hail Marys or Our Fathers. Likewise, if one’s only comfortable way of prayer was casual conversation with God, it was perfectly fine with her. Or if it was song. Or even the unspoken groanings of the heart. It didn’t matter, she said–as long as it’s connecting with God, it’s enough.

I will miss Sr. Peg. A lot. I know heaven is throwing a party for her, and she is now face to face with the God she loved so much. But I’m feeling selfish. I feel sad for us. I can’t imagine a world where people can’t talk to Sr. Peg. I can’t imagine that students will no longer be able to hear her wisdom. It just doesn’t make sense to even write that she “was” a breathtakingly beautiful woman. The world truly will never be the same without Sr. Peg in it. And that  makes me sad.

Thank you, Sr. Peg, for enriching my life. I can only pray that someday I will make a fraction of the difference you did in this world. You inspired thousands–literally, thousands–of young men and women to love God more deeply. I am one of those women…and I will be forever grateful for the gift of your love in my life. I can’t wait until we have tea in heaven someday. Keep the water hot until I get there. 🙂

Dream big. Big enough to fulfill God’s dream for you, a perfect human being. Make the gift of your life become a masterpiece each day, that you will help make your life better for you and all you meet in your life journey–no matter where you are, or what you do.  

–Sr. Peg Dolan, RSHM

Farmer’s Market Morning

IMG_5105

Saturday morning is one of my favorite times of the week. Not because we sleep in extra late, or even because we have a special breakfast now and then. No, my favorite part of Saturday is always the Farmer’s Market Frenzy.

Rob and I have several farmer’s markets that we can go to around here. Heck, in LA, there’s between 2-5 every single day (except Monday) in the vicinity. But we definitely have our favorites. And the one that tops that list is the Saturday morning Santa Monica Farmer’s Market.

It makes me laugh, now, that only a few years ago going to farmer’s markets intimidated me a little bit. There were no published prices, everyone seemed to sort of know what they were looking for, and the sheer amount of fruits and vegetables was overwhelming. Often I would see things and have no idea what I was even looking at. What’s kale? There’s such a thing as a purple carrot? You mean there’s an actual herb called “savory”?

Some of you may laugh, but I was a pop-it-in-the-microwave kind of girl. I didn’t make anything from scratch, and I thought that using a cake mix could be considered a “homemade” dessert. So seeing raw milk and goat cheese at the farmer’s market opened up a whole new way of thinking to me.

Nowadays, Rob and I have made it sort of a Saturday morning ritual. We’ll often wake up early, have our coffee and a little breakfast, and try to arrive just after everyone has set up so we can beat the crowd and have some time to talk to each of our farmers. Some of those relationships are growing; others are still in the early stages of getting to know produce, philosophies, and business practices. Of course we always buy from Kathy and Ken to get our bison. Then there’s the Ha family, whose apples are grown in beautiful Tehachapi and taste like candy. Victoria from Healthy Family Farms has given us some great pointers on how to use whey to preserve our homemade mayonaise (made from her eggs, of course). The Kennedy Farm is new to us, but they have a friendly lady who sells the best dang peaches ever. Munak Ranch sells heirloom tomatoes that can’t be beat–my favorite is the Cherokee Purple, and Rob loves the Green Zebra. And if you ever need the best melon you’ve ever tasted, just head over the the Weiser Family table. They’ll take good care of you.

The farmer’s market isn’t as intimidating as I once was; actually, it’s quite the contrary. Here we can actually build relationships with those who put the seeds of our food into the ground. Here we rebuild and heal the disconnect that has been woven into the habitual fabric of convenience in American culture. Here we form relationships–in fact, here we have made friends.

I encourage anyone who has yet to visit a farmer’s market to give it a shot…the summer produce is still good, and some farms are even beginning to get their fall squashes on the table. It supports the local economy and builds a stronger relationship between you and the living fuel that you eat. And if you are a farmer’s market regular, try getting to know your farmers by name. Tell them what you like about what they are providing. Give them feedback. It will feed more than your stomach, for sure.

The Post That Made It

Today I’ve written about 5 unfinished posts. None of them really seemed to “fit” today. Perhaps the’ll end up weaving their way back to the forefront, but for today, this is the post that made it.

There’s so many things swirling around my head. So many questions, so many possibilities, so many things to think about and to consider.  I’m struggling–I feel like I know what God wants us to do, I just don’t know how to do it. Sometimes I feel like I have the courage to just take a deep breath and do what needs to be done–along with the associated scary parts–and sometimes I feel like it’s impossible. I know that the Bible tells us that all things are possible with God, and I believe it, but I would be a hypocrite if I didn’t let you in on my human emotions surrounding it all, too.

There are so many aspects to our dream. Building community. Sharing our knowledge. Creating a place that pomotes sustainability. Simplifying our lives. Tending the land. Increasing our practices of Sabbath. Creating a space for retreat. Caring for animals. Teaching. Guiding. Informing. Sharing.

Ministry.

Sometimes I wish that we still lived in a world where one could retreat to the desert, live on honey and locusts with nothing but a burlap sack for a garment, and still have people consider you a prophet and not a loon (that’s John the Baptist, by the way).  Not that I would necessarily live on the locusts, but at least I’d have some encouragement that it was possible. Living in Southern California, even living in the desert is too expensive.

So I feel a little discouraged and wonder how it will ever happen. I pray daily that God will help direct us. I know we have gifts that could help people, that could help make the earth healthier and make humans better stewards. And I have to continue having faith that if that is supposed to happen, a way will open up for us.

But today, I’m still left wondering how.