Making it work: Money, magic, and happiness.

In between all the moments of living these days, I’ve been thinking a lot about this space here at Eating Buckets. It’s been nearly 11 months since I arrived here, opened up the first page, and wrote from my heart. At the same time, I started a Facebook page under the same name and added a worldwide post with a picture of our farm. I remember watching wide-eyed as the responses came rolling in: Within a few days, over 40,000 people had liked the picture of our farm, and soon after that a regular influx of people started liking my page and joining our lives here.

It has been incredibly inspiring to find all of you. I wish I could really explain what it has meant to me. Everyone can benefit from feeling loved. Taking the time to say kind things to each other and to see and be seen is what makes living worthwhile. I definitely needed you this year of all years, and I credit you for a lot of my own growth from then till now. I know I will spend many days of my life blogging here and finding great satisfaction in reading notes from around the world from beautiful people I’ve never met but have the joy of knowing through comments and photos.

Thank you. Thank you. Thank you.

You make the world go round over here.

I hope you’ll continue to visit and share your stories with me and any of us who join Eating Buckets for stories and spots of life. It’s the bravery and vulnerability and the celebrations that connect us and keep us inspired about this journey. Small dramas and successes are more delightful, and big tragedies and failures are easier to bear, when shared with friends.

If you ever want a more frequent drip of activity through photos and brief recipes, you can like my page over at Eating Buckets on Facebook. I try to post and share only the stuff that hits home for me: Recipes, brief moments of inspiration, self-care and self-help, something funny, ideas for living adventurously. But I don’t post all day long or anything; usually a few posts a week will bump their way into your feed. Anyway, perhaps it would smooth out the bumps in the road when I’m humming along with blog posts here and then you hear nothing from me at all for a month. At least over on my Facebook page there are a few spots of fun thrown in along the way.

E339A48A-A056-4992-A534-D0DD8FAE9C9BThe funny thing is, even though I haven’t been writing here, I’ve been chatting away with you the whole time: Oh, hey, look at this! I think you’d love this! Or–Oh holy Toledo check out this crazy-beautiful weather! Or, Oh my gosh, I wish you could try this soup right now. It’s good enough to heal your heart. 

I set up my flowers and my jar of salsa and think of you. Along with the embrace of my husband, and the hugs of my kids, and steps of friends walking side by side along leaf-littered paths, you’ve become the place I go to celebrate.

4AC39D69-80CA-4647-86B3-60481BF5B9ECThis past month I’ve been busy harvesting, canning, cooking, and living. I also had to go through a personal dip in the road as relics of last year reared up and made life fogged in and ugly again. The sky has cleared now, though, and I’m more settled into myself. All those broken bits are getting fastened together with gold thread and steel, and even the squishy vulnerable stuff can’t be destroyed because it’s as amorphous as water and impossible to contain. Join me. You can reform all the broken parts, too, and end up stronger and on the other side. I believe in you.

172452D2-8D1D-4935-95F7-13A87AFBF88AI’m working on some life plans right now; some of them so exciting it’s hard to even put them all down here. Do you know what I mean? The little things that tie into the bigger things until the lily pads start to form a path ahead and a grand destination that feels just right? Yeah, like that.

One simple plan is to write a lot more as the harvest season comes to a close and the temperatures drop–I’ll have more time to snuggle in my writing studio and visit with you. I’ll add in more videos and home restoration posts as the seasons become colder and we head inside more often. I can picture the snowdrifts in December and the fire in our wood stove, all the glimmering jars of food in my pantry, the hot coffee on rainy mornings, the heady beautiful red wine while cooking up a storm in our kitchen, the books I’ll read in bed on Sunday mornings. It’s the simple, tactile moments that make us feel our bodies and notice our thoughts ignite. Can you relate? What scenes do you picture in your future that give you great delight every time you close your eyes and imagine them?

I’ll get this guy to share some of his greatness with you all, too.

DBC74EB0-D01D-4D81-A8FC-70ECCEBBD4D2His heart is stable and his mind is creative and his body is strong and what I hope is that you’ll have a chance to spend a few minutes by the fire with him this fall and winter while he carves spoons or draws in his art studio, or in our basement while we restore a bedroom and workshop into a guest space dressed up in old farmhouse shiplap-and-windowpane style.

For now I’m still in the thick of it over here in harvest season. I planted some things later than others; the tomatoes, for example, are still ripening on the vine and on long, toweled tables in our house. One of our tomato plants, an heirloom variety, produced over 150 tomatoes on one plant. We have about 16 other plants under a hoop house, with hundreds more tomatoes ripening in the humid fall heat trapped within.

92450B0B-844F-486D-87B4-93045785104DThe pickling cucumbers grew zealously, a good couple hundred of them are still keeping me busy plucking them from the vine and slicing them up with herbs and vinegar brine.

Hugelkultur, the method we use for gardening, is the solidified gold standard for producing giant sentient beings like these tomatoes that I wouldn’t believe were actually food if they didn’t taste so amazing.

167D13AB-0BE0-4B34-AAD1-44B722E3B720But even as we celebrate the fruits of our labor, often it’s the grapes on our vine and fruit in our trees or roses on our arbors that amaze me the most. I have done very little to deserve them. I didn’t plant them. I don’t water them or tend them. The plums, apples, pears, grapes, blackberries, boysenberries, and strawberries just magically arrive every season bursting with sweetness and flavor and beauty. It’s as if the whole of nature has conspired to give me a giant gift. I never forget to say thank you to the hands that planted them years ago. My heart is so full of gratitude it sings through my eyes and hands.

When I first began this journey into gardening and food production several years ago, I remember hoping that I could just grow food. Food that tasted good, food that I could gather and prepare and feed to family and friends. Then when I realized that food was so easy to grow–plant the seed, water, voila!– I started to imagine the endless possibilities, inspired by Barbara Kingsolver’s Animal, Vegetable, Miracle: What if I could grow enough food to feed our family all year long? And beyond that, what if we could produce enough food to give it away to people in need? That’s on the docket for next year, and I am really excited about it.

Finding this farm turned out to be the first essential step in that journey. Now, two years into it and really only a year into serious food production, I have a few things to report:

  1. We don’t spend as much money at the grocery store anymore. We eat with the seasons and eat what’s growing here, and preserve what we can’t eat for later. We go shopping, for sure, for all the things we can’t grow here, but it’s nothing compared to the buckets of cash we used to hand over every time we arrived for a few items at our local grocer. To be perfectly frank with you, I am too embarrassed to tell you how much money we spent on our food before. Maybe I’ll bolster up enough bravery to tell you in another post one day. Suffice it to say, it was a whole big bunch. Not anymore. I’m not enticed by the bottles of things on the shelves at the grocery store now that I know I can make the salad dressings, spreads, sauces, pickles, soup, salsa, marinara, pickled veggies, ice cream, sorbets, cookies, heirloom tomatoes, baby greens, and fruits and veggies that cost $5-$8/bag/pint/jar at the store. Even something as simple as making our own granola bars from scratch makes me more happy than buying something in a wrapper that will end up in garbage cans at the kids’ schools. And it feels good to say this, but even better to live it.
  2. Our food is delicious. Mind blowing, even. This is not a pat-myself-on-the-back kind of thing, because I’m not responsible for the taste; that’s up to the weather and the seeds, the soil and the bees. It’s the kind of flavor that settles on your tongue and sparks memory and makes your soul feel fed.
  3. I feel connected to magic, pure and simple. The process of watching something grow from seed to food for my family has cemented a lifelong love of plants and sunlight, rain and oxygen, rich soil, and the complexity of beautiful food.
  4. I love this lifestyle. It makes my heart happy. It’s not just about the taste, it’s about the process. It’s a lot of work, but I like the work. That’s something I’ve learned about myself, and I embrace it now and am seeing how it informs who I am, and how that is different from career-me or mama-me or writer-me.
  5. I wake most days with a clear and focused intent: Live my life, work hard, notice and feel grateful, love often, search for happiness. And make it all worthwhile.

Thank you again for visiting. Thank you for reading. Thank you for commenting. Thank you for sharing.

Happy Fall! More soon…

4 Comments Add yours

  1. Katy says:

    Holy cow, Melinda! So, my question–are you picking a lot of them green because something is getting them? Or are these just a green variety? Or are they ripening well picked? I’d love to be there helping you. 😊

    1. Melinda says:

      Isn’t it nuts?! So many. So, all of the tomatoes on the table are from one errant plant in a separate bed from where we were all able to put the hoop house. We picked them all to save them from the downpours we had in late September. Rather than risk losing them, we picked ‘em green. The other ones in the hoop house are ripening on the vine. I wish you were here for a day in the kitchen making marinara! 😍

  2. Kristine Barrett says:

    you are wonderful Melinda!

    1. Melinda says:

      Aww thank you for reading Kristine! ❤️

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