Wednesday, November 18, 2015

Celebrating Family Traditions

I am an advocate of family traditions.  As I am getting older, it becomes even more important to me to talk about it, to teach it to our grand kids and to live by it-to be proud about it.  I am very proud to have my faith in God; I am very proud to be a wife, a mother, to have had a loving husband for over 47 years.  I am proud to be an American and to have been a daughter of a life time military person.
My New England family growing up, celebrated the Thanksgiving and Christmas holiday and made it the most magical time of the year with very little money; in very small living spaces; using what we had to make the time wonderful and memorable.  Frank and I started out our lives together with little and even though his memories and traditions of how he viewed Thanksgiving and Christmas were so different than mine, within a few years, he too was looking as forward to the holidays traditions as I was.
We have always decorated every corner of any house we lived in during our lives during the holiday season.  Living in the country meant that many times we would have more than one tree; loads of candles and lights; always hand made gifts; always surprises under the tree for every family member, sometimes even had gifts that the kids or us made or purchased for our cats and dogs.
We would have baked days and days; we made up trays of baked items for neighbors; for work people; for friends, for family.
We always planned on large dinners, over the years, tried different ways to cook turkeys with an occasional try at not cooking turkeys but a roast,yet always came back to the traditional oven roasted turkey.  Family members would bring every one's favorite dishes, which soon became part of the new traditions.  Even when we could barely pay our bills, people we knew, with no place to go or no loved ones to have them, they were invited to our table.  Our dinner numbers were fluid.  Sometimes our daughter would bring extra kids home with her from college; or old high school friends who came by who knew us for years and loved us as if we were their family. Friends without family became family.
Most years, the table talk was loud, laughing, eating too much.  There were a few times when all the family members would be together when topics got heated; people had too much wine, disagreements were voiced.  But all families have that, isn't that part of tradition too?  Part of the memories.
We have all known change and embraced what each new year and the challenges we have all had to face.  But my belief is that the foundation of our little family's tradition, gives us the strength of character to know who we are; what we are; what we love in this world and what gives us that warm feeling all over during this time of year.
Tradition to us is knowing that The Carli's home, Windmill Farm,  during the holiday will have a welcome mat for our friends, neighbors and family.  That our table will be decorated for the holiday,candles on the table; that there will be a large turkey in the oven; our traditional stuffing-made the same way my mother did and I have done all these years. That I will make cranberry/orange/apple salad; that I will make Caesar salad; deviled eggs; a relish tray (using ingredients the same as made by my grandmother and my mother); hot rolls; mashed potatoes; New England yams with melted marshmallows on top; green beans and carrots; gravy.  There will always be a pumpkin pie and maybe an apple pie too.  If I missed anything, I will be sure to hear about it. Probably burn the rolls, but I have learned to always buy extra, just in case. But that is OK, because my tradition has made an experience on all those that bless our table.
Tradition may seem out of date; or old fashioned. Maybe in today's world, dis-respectful of other people's belief.   But if a store doesn't want to have Christmas trees for decorations; or traditional Christmas music playing; I am sorry for the young people who go there and don't know the joy of what that feels like during the holiday season.  One of my most favorite memories was when a group of girl friends from college, took the Bay Area train into downtown San Francisco during the Christmas season.  Every store was decorated as magical, beautiful as any story book I had ever seen. The City of Paris had a 40 foot Christmas tree completely decorated with every imaginable item. Macy's front windows had Santa Claus and reindeer moving; there was Christmas music being played in the busy streets. I can't remember the florist store name, it was famous at the time in SF, because of their fabulous decorations.  They had 100s of Christmas trees each one decorated with a theme, some trees had fresh flowers as decorations.  We had to wait outside in the street in a line for an hour, to be able to walk through and see it.
It was a wonderland, it was magical, it was beautiful, it was memorable.   Yes it takes work, time, money and we are all so busy, but so rewarding, so important.  Be proud of your own traditions, make wonderful memories for your children and loved ones.  Look forward to the holidays, turn on the old fashioned Christmas music and get into the mood. Be happy, be thankful.  God Bless.

Saturday, November 7, 2015

Dreaming of Being A Farmer?

When you dream to be a farmer, you look out upon your fields and there are no weeds; all the plants are healthy; your crops are full of blooms, produce, fruit.  The farm animals graze on green fields, healthy and happy, all the fences are perfect, their water is clean, there are no flies, fleas, mosquitoes or bees that bother you as you walk among all this splendor.The weather is great to be outdoors; and everyone wants to buy from you, whatever you grow or have to sell.
Yes, it is a dream and if anyone thinks that is what farming or ranching is all about, don't even think about being one.  But I have to say, each and every day when I look out around our Windmill Farm, that is what I WANT it to look like, That is what we strive to make it look like.
Today was an exceptionally beautiful day here at Windmill Farm.  The air was clean and crisp and I wanted to see these perfect rows of vegetables and beautiful blooming rows of flowers.  But the reality is nature was telling me it was time for a change.  The leaves on the fruit trees are turning colors; the grass between the rows is now brown.  Pretty much everything has either gone to seed or on its' last hurrah. I really don't want it to end, I have been putting off cleaning up the gardens for several weeks, but farmers have to think with our brain, unfortunately, to be realistic.  
I still have tomatoes red and green on my vines.  I still have egg plants blooming and the plants are full with small, medium and full sized egg plants.  The sunflower seeds that fell in August, found a good spot and started growing new plants that are 3 feet tall.  The watermelons are blooming again off the same plants that yielded great melons in August and September.  The lemon tree has ripe Meyer lemons that I have been picking but half the tree has blossoms.
And in my flower beds, the zinnias, dahlias, cockscombs, fennel, and Queens Anne Lace have bloomed again.
My heart wants to leave them all to enjoy them just a bit longer.  But the weather and my brain tells me today the weather makes it a great day to work outside and clean them up.  That means, cut them to the ground.  That means pull up the weed cloth and drip tape.  That means pull up the scare crows.  And it means all the tomatoes that are left, either ripe or green, need to be picked now before it rains again and they will all rot.  It means, get down dirty and hard work.
As I go through row after row, pulling, cutting, raking, I find a little treasurer nature has left me.  Little blooms of cockscombs, straw flowers, gomphrena.  I even found a row of beets that I missed pulling up.  And the tomato vines are still so green, lush, full of small to large green tomatoes that I will still need to pick every last one of them. One last time to smell that wonderful tomato plant smell on your hands, nothing better-or maybe fresh basil scent on your hand.  Each row I work on, the chickens are right next to me so happy that I have unearthed new soil for them to do their job.  Even our dogs Annie & Bella were right there with me digging frantically, they found some mice to chase.

Frank came out with the 1947 Ford tractor with the rock rake on the back to drag up the piles of dead plants I have stacked everyplace and take them to the compost bins.
As he was pulling the big pile of large plants next to the greenhouse, I spied a few straw flowers still alive and fresh.  I just HAD to cut them and bring them into the house.

My body is ready to have a few months rest from the garden work, but my heart doesn't want to give it up, mainly because the weather has been perfect to be outside.  Well, there is always raking up leaves, cutting the last of the hydrangeas blossoms, cutting the fall roses and we will have to start pruning all the fruit trees soon.
Dreaming of being a farmer, means looking forward to hard labor each and every day-nature doesn't have Monday-Friday work schedules with weekends off; or 8-5 times to work in.  Animals need to be fed, watered and looked after every day and sometimes several times a day.  You work all the time, every day because it needs to be tended and because you love it, you look forward to it, you enjoy the rewards, and sometimes the failures.  It builds character.  I think I am a better person since I have become a farmer, I know I have never met such wonderful people involved in our farming community.
I heard it is supposed to rain on Sunday.  I think I will get out my 2016 seed catalogs and start dreaming of what I want my vegetable and flower fields to look like next year.