Monday, August 31, 2009

where the wild things are

i'm going to take a cue from erynn and add subtitles, so here it goes:

where the wild things are
(the upcoming film and my excitement)

now, this has nothing to do with farming
(at all, i'm talking whatsoever),
but this is my blogging night
and i'm tired
and at this moment, i am just way too excited about the upcoming film adaption of
where the wild things are to think about anything else.
we all read the book growing-up,
and we imagined ourselves running away when we were upset to
explore strange new lands,
become king (or queen) of a people and place that embraced
our rebellion, our inner "wild thing!"
and now, thanks to the BRILLIANT minds of dave eggers and spike jonze
we, the humble folks who frequent the local cinema,
will be given the spectacular opportunity to see this beloved story re-imagined
into a feature length film!
from what i've seen it looks like one of the more visually stunning films of all time
and the cast is impeccable
and the soundtrack features arguably the best arcade fire song
(i could go on and on)... so consider this an open invite,
for the midnight showing on october 16th.
please, come with me and celebrateremember the beauty and pain of childhood.
i just know it will be delightful.

where the wild things are
(the farming life)

whew! thank you for letting me share that joyous anticipation with
and now i would like to address issues that might be a tad
more relevant to what we over here at the abundant table farm are all about.

this last week, we started noodling in the garden
(and sarah bagge has posted photographic evidence of the event below
so you must not doubt me).
there is just so much life in that garden.
of course, there are the crops, some of which are thriving
and others that have had to leave us and begin the decomposition journey.
but there is so much life in decomposition!
there are bugs that eat the waste,
and animals that eat the bugs,
and the waste from both of those creatures
contains the seeds of the decomposing plants
that make their way back to the ground
where they wait until the season
when they will (once again), dig deep into the ground
take root, and bear fruit.
what wondrous life.
we held a composting event over here at the house on saturday,
and the humble interns along with a few local community members
learned quite a bit about the differences between
green (nitrogen rich)
and brown (carbon rich) waste,
and the combination of the two to create some
lifefull, lifegiving, lifeenriching soil.
compost is, in essence, waste (or some might call it garbage).
i used to throw the current contents of our compost bin
into the trash without a care,
without considering the life
those discarded scraps still had to live
and to give!
with this compost, we will transform a worn-out, beaten-down,
over-watered, backyard lawn
into a rich garden, that will help to educate children
and friends and family and each other,
about herbs and weeds and the beauty of getting dirty and meditation and solitude;
and it will feed us all.
life and life and life (from death).

in the past few years,
i have not known what to call God.
i have tried many different names,
MotherFather, Peace, Joy, Love...
but here, and now, the name that feels most accurate,
is Life.
so i would like to thank Life for creating life,
for being discernible and present in all that lives,
and for continuing to dwell in the living
even when one form of life comes to an end.
all things that live continue to give life
even in death.
what a promise!
how beautyfull.

Friday, August 28, 2009

I do not recommend blogging while jogging

Critical thoughts on 80's and 90's eating and dancing

So, last night my sisterfriends Cristy Rose, Sarah, and I went on quite the dance adventure in Santa Monica and Hermosa Beach. After a long day of labor intensive work (brunch meeting from 10 am-1pm, lunch meeting with Farmer Blair from Indiana who talked about raising chickens-he gave a graphic description of how to slaughter a chicken involving a clothesline, gallon bottle cut in half, pan to collect blood and...a knife, dude I was so into it. I can't wait to experience the beautiful, natural cycle that is raising animals in a respectful and loving way to then kill and eat them to sustain our bodies with their nourishment. The food-based meetings were followed by an afternoon of CSA, community outreach and educational planning emails).

So, after a day of sitting and eating we were ready to dance our brains out. We witnessed a beautiful sunset while driving down the PCH to a free show at the Santa Monica Pier. We danced with Tomas ("a" should be accented in Tomas) and Mike, our Arts 4 Action friends. The band was made up of the surviving members of WAR (I think they were called The Lowrider Band-see upcoming Dazed and Confused mention). I think WAR is somehow related to the Chicano movement, but not sure. Hold on, I am googling this...According to WAR's website: "Our mission was to spread a message of brotherhood and harmony," states WAR founder, singer/keyboardist Lonnie Jordan. "Our instruments and voices became our weapons of choice and the songs our ammunition. We spoke out against racism, hunger, gangs, crimes, and turf wars, as we embraced all people with hope and the spirit of brotherhood. It's just as apropos today" They also played at the first Black Congressional Caucus and their song "Why Can't We Be Friends" (which will always remind me of the freshmen hazing scene from "Dazed and Confused" love that movie) played as a soundtrack to (quoting from the WAR site) "the first U.S.-Soviet space mission in which Astronauts and Cosmonauts linked up in the spirit of friendship." So, no Chicano movement connection that I found, but WAR soundtracking the astronaut/cosmonaut outer space love mission? Awesome. Oh wait, I found the connection. Check it out on a Mas (how do I put in accents on blogs? The "a" should be accented there) Magazine post I am totally digressing. Sorry.

The part of the blog where critical thoughts on 80's and 90's living and dancing really begins

After bootie shaking at the Santa Monica Pier we relocated to Pier Ave. in Hermosa Beach to check out a fantastic 80s cover band comprised of two good friends of mine from my college days at USC. Ryan and Nick put on a really good show. They put their own electronica, modern spin on 80's classics. I don't know if anyone else out in the blog void (love this term Katerina) had a childhood (uh, continuing into adulthood) obsession with David Bowie's "The Labyrinth" but Ryan and Nick do a stellar, stellar cover of Dance Magic Dance. So, as I (along with Cristy Rose and Sarah) was dancing with truly reckless abandon to all the 80s classics (reckless abandon like jumping and singing and spinning, but fully clothed) it got me thinking about the food lifestyles of the 80s and 90s. There seems to have been some generational, cultural shift in our approach to food. While I think there have been many major shifts in our socio-economic/cultural approaches to food, I come from a white upper-middle class family, so I am just talking about this sub-group here. This shift was brewing in the 70's (thank you major social movements, we are liberated! Liberated people are busy being liberated we must cook for convenience!) This shift seems to have exploded in the 80's and 90's. I know folks like Michael Pollen and Barbara Kingsolver (and many others as I have come to find out) have been writing about this exact thing, but I was thinking about this on a more personal level.

I was totally shocked at my mom's response the other day when I asked if I needed to dry the lima beans I had shucked off the lima bean plant Farmer Paul left (he left them for my mom! We are winning her over!). She said, "Oh no! Don't dry them! Lima beans are best fresh off the plant. I remember walking down my grandfather's lima bean fields and popping the fresh lima beans right into my mouth." Now, I knew my great-grandfather was a lima bean farmer, right here on the Oxnard Plain where our farm is, but I had never, in my life, seen a lima bean plant before moving to this farm. I had never even seen a fresh lima bean! The lima beans I was used to seeing (and declining to eat) were of the frozen, packaged variety! I was embarrassingly old when I made the connection that beans come in a pod and the pod grows on a plant that grows in the ground (I think this revelation came eating edamame out of the pod with Elizabeth at sushi).

My childhood eating memories are blurred with television ads. When talking about childhood eating experiences with other members of my generation we can all recite the jingles of push pops ("don't push me, push a push pop!"), tootsie pops (the owl asking, "how many licks does it take to get to the center of a tootsie pop?"), bagel bites ("pizza in the mornin', pizza in the evenin', pizza at suppertime! When pizza's on a bagel you can have pizza anytime.") Feel free to add other jingles blogfriends. Is it weird that my childhood eating memories are a weird mental montage of nice family dinners around the table with animated animals crunching into tootsie pops and little kids shoving bagel bites into their mouths after soccer practice?

Another result of my childhood eating is I am an expert at using the microwave. Yesterday I steamed a whole spaghetti squash in the microwave. It was awesome. Most things I microwaved as a kid did not come in vegetable form. (Did you know you can make an entire box of Kraft Mac & Cheese in the microwave, from beginning to end?)

Here is where I get into the generational shift.
I GUARANTEE YOU both my grandfathers have pretty much always known beans come from pods that come from bean plants that grow in the ground.

I GUARANTEE YOU both my grandfathers were not marketed by food corporations at a young age (yes I know there was marketing and advertising around in ye old times, but there was no Disney Channel and Nickelodean television market).

I GUARANTEE YOU both my grandfathers were not experts at making mac & cheese in the microwave. I would be willing to bet (not guarantee) that neither of them has ever eaten mac & cheese.

I know elements of food convenience, food marketing and advertising, and food tech advances are vital to our daily lives and can actually make us happy and healthy eaters (I reserve the right to take this back). I am not advocating we overthrow all the advances made in food production and consumption. I think I am just critically reflecting. Are all these food changes, which mark differences in how my grandfathers and I eat food, really advances if I discovered as an adult that beans come from pods that grow on plants that grow on the ground and do not, in fact, come from frozen, cardboard, microwavable containers?

Homesteading in the 21st Century #2
As Katerina and I discussed, since the inception of farming folks have probably been better at farming/gardening than others. I imagine folks in the days of old would confer at town gathering or barn raisings and discuss crop problems or trouble shoot growing problems with village elders. We here on the farm are experiencing similar crop problems. Unidentifiable bugs are in our 2 acres. Our cucumbers in the intern veggie patch are looking sad. We also have village elders who help us troubleshoot (our elders are Mike Taylor and Susan Crespi!). However, we also troubleshoot with internet chatrooms and websites! A whole world-wide-web village of town elders!

Info about me #2
I grew up with a wonderful great dane named bluebell. When I was a child she fulfilled both my little girl dreams of having a dog and a pony. She was like both in one. I always knew that the comic strip Marmaduke was about a great dane. I just learned last weekend at Liv's going aways party (she went to Cuenca, Ecuador to teach at the same school I taught in!) that Scooby Doo is ALSO A GREAT DANE. This blew my mind. How did I not know this?

Casey is wonderful
Thank you Casey for being my 21st century tech troubleshooter/elder (you can be my computer elder even though I am technically older). The past two (and only) times I have blogged, in cahoots with my computer has done some weird freezing thing. This resulted in me freaking out. Like really freaking out. Casey, your calm knowledge of computer language and behavior helped remedy its ills and I could successfully post my blog. Thank you. Thank you.

Update! Cristy Rose

Yesterday I took a morning walk about the land, and (sigh)it was good. I've just returned from an intensive program in Women's Spirituality at a school in San Francisco, the California Institute of Integral Studies (CIIS). By the end of the program -- being in class from 9 to 5 everyday! -- I was thankful to be returning to the simple farm life with my sisterfriends and farm family. Some things I learned from school and want to share with them, include:

dancing and spirituality
herstory in judaism
composting/recycling everything!

Some things I learned from my life (readings, conversations with fam/friends/meditations) while in SF, include:

the power of speaking aloud our desires/the power of prayer
the realization that I am in love with potential/dreams

It's exciting to be able to have an outlet to share the knowledge and experience I've gained! It'll be interesting to see how we continue to bring ourselves together in this communal living throughout the year, no?

That's all from me just now.

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

what we're actually up to

Over the past couple of days I've gotten multiple phone calls, emails, and g-chat messages beginning with inquiries into whether I am all sore and blistered/toned and tan from spending all day in the fields tending vegetables and reciting Wendell Berry poetry with my sisterfriends. As I began to compose this post in my head yesterday, I decided to set the record straight. We've actually spent most of our time on our computers or in meetings getting the CSA going and plotting our farmers' market debut. Yesterday I had not yet pulled a weed or lifted a hoe, shovel or trowel. I thought this post would be an account of a typical day spent emailing, perusing CSA sites, and reading how-to books on subscription farming.

The moral of the story is, don't start writing your blog post before it is your day to blog.

After spending the last two weeks on very important but less than typical farming activities, we interns made a break for the outside this afternoon. While the corn, radishes, beans etc. on the 10 acres are not yet mature enough to receive our ministrations, we do have a wonderful experimental patch planted by our extern Kyle in the avocado orchard. This afternoon we decided that, having harvested our fair share of zucchini and cucumber from his garden, we should do a little something to help with its upkeep.

Problem is, other than Kat, we have minimal gardening experience. So it was time for a lesson. Here is the result:

Kyle gives a lesson. Kat says she already knows all this, can we start farming now?

Hard at work. For a little while at least.

After an hour or two, we were a) done planting salad mix and b) in the possession of some very large (and therefore marginally edible) zucchini...

Uh oh.

Moral of that story: if you want to get your zucchini across the road, throwing underhand is best.

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Zucchini Bread Recipe!

And because I am a feminist who loves the art of cooking (and eating well), I'm adding to my previous post. Here is my mother’s zucchini bread recipe, as requested by a friend of the Abundant Table:

2/3 c. oil
1 1/3 to 2 c. brown or white sugar
4 eggs
3 c. zucchini (shredded, unpeeled)
2/3 c. water
3.5 c. flour
2 tsp. baking soda
1 tsp. salt
½ tsp. baking powder
1 tsp. cinnamon
1 tsp. cloves
2 tsp. vanilla
2/3 c. nuts, chopped

topping: 1/3 c. flour, 2 Tbsp. sugar, 2 Tbsp. br. Sugar, ½ tsp. cinnamon, ¼ c. chilled butter

Heat oven to 350. Grease 2 loaf pans. Mix sugar and oil in a large bowl, then add eggs, zucchini, and water. Blend in flour, baking soda, salt, baking powder, cinnamon and cloves with vanilla. Stir in nuts, then pour in pans. Top with topping if desired. Bake until wooden toothpick comes out clean, about 40-50 min. Cool slightly, loosen sides with butter knife. Remove from pans and cool completely before slicing. Keeps 10 days in fridge.

Note: I like to use almost all (about 3 cups) of whole wheat flour, often with a little flaxseed meal mixed in for a more “breakfast” bread rather than a dessert bread. Also, you can use less sugar, no topping, and 1/3 c. applesauce substituted for half of oil if you want a healthier bread.

If you like food and cooking as much as we do here, I recommend the movie ‘Julie and Julia,’ which Sarah and Casey and I saw last week.

"What do you want, a sex change?"

I (or maybe you) just fell for the trashy title trick. Caveat: This post is going to be a little long and reflective, which will definitely not always be the case for my posts … I’ve shared some conversations in the past few days that stirred up gender issues that I am really concerned with, hence the direction of this post.

My parents’ current home church, where I spent four years (and a few summers) of Sunday mornings, is a non-denominational Bible church surrounded by a stand of pine trees in the foothills of the Sierra Nevadas. The pastor of this church baptized me as a follower of Jesus in a cold stream that runs through these pines, and the church nourished my faith in many ways. At the same time, this church falls short of the equality promised in the Bible to those who believe in the gospel of Christ.

The church recently held a meeting to elect elders. There are no women elders, and there are not any women currently represented on the board to elect elders. The pastor and assistant pastors are men. I recently submitted a question for a Sunday night q & a time. My question asked why women never read scripture in front of the congregation. At the forum, the men leading the event answered questions that were submitted about church structure and Bible history. They even answered questions about the occurrence of dinosaurs in the Old Testament. In the end, they regretted not having enough time to get to other questions.

That was not my only question that remains unanswered or unheard. As I sang with the church, I wondered why women always sing the echo parts in songs (“We will follow. We will follow. We will listen. We will listen. We will love You. We will love You…”) Why are our voices restricted to choir echoes and the nursery rather than reverberating through the sanctuary from the pulpit/lectern?

Two nights ago, my mother told me that she was beginning to ask some of these same questions again (she thought a lot about them while she attended seminary). Because of these questions, a person jokingly asked her, “What do you want, a sex change?” I don’t think she laughed. The message is clear: positions of authority belong to men. To be male is to be in leadership. If a woman wants to be in a position of leadership, logically, she wants to be a man. Get a sex change! Or at least a pulpit-power-suit, woman! At least try to look like a man.

I am convinced this is not how it was supposed to be. Women don’t have to be men to serve the church in positions of leadership! I know this from experiences and through being in churches with women who are obviously natural leaders and immensely gifted. As a professor of mine once said, (paraphrasing) the Holy Spirit doesn’t go peeking under skirts and pants before deciding who to gift.

Most recently, I was refreshed and reminded of the free and unbiased gifting of the Spirit of God through our first Sunday night worship service. Julie, Farmer Paul’s wife, is an Episcopal priest in the area. She led our first liturgy and worship time at our Abundant Table fellowship gathering at the farm house (Julie, Paul, and family used to live in this house and were kind enough to lend it to us interns rather than college student renters). In addition to us interns and Julie's husband and their lovely daughters, three other couples were present, one of them with young children, as well as three young adults connected to CSU Channel Islands. I loved the service for its intimate, familial atmosphere, for the time of questioning and commenting on the scriptures read by women and men sitting on couches surrounding the sacred/ordinary communion/coffee table. I especially loved our time of Eucharist that flowed into a potluck feast.

This sight from Sunday stays with me, soothing my frustrated thoughts on our patriarchal church history and church present: Julie stands in front of our fireplace, very much a woman, with two daughters beside her and breaks the homemade bread that she and her girls baked. “This is my Body,” and then she pours the wine, as Jesus did for his disciples, saying, “This is my blood.” The Body of Christ, bread of heaven, formed and given through the hands of a woman.

This time, my questions about gender arise from delight rather than anger and frustration. I wonder at the new meanings of this Eucharist. How does a woman priest’s breaking and passing of Christ’s body fill out our understanding of the feast? For me, being fed by Christ through Julie, a mother, brought a sense of nurture and tenderness that I had never before experienced when taking the bread from a male priest. I recalled a memory from a book called “God’s Advocates,” in which the feminist theologian, Sarah Coakley, observes that the addition of woman priests (and pastors, I’ll add), both enrich and challenge our understandings of a God who sacrifices the Godself, giving God’s own body and blood so that we may have abundant life. She points out that when the officiant’s pronouncement of Christ’s blood shed for the world comes from a woman, this adds a dimension to our understanding of sacrifice, that it becomes life-giving rather than defined by death.

I could go on for a while about how we can understand God better through women’s participation in church leadership, but I’d like to know what you think! I’ll take a cue from Erynn and open this thing up to the blog-o-world. Are any of you bothered by the “priesthood of all males” in many churches? If you’re a guy, I don’t think you’re the problem, but that the issue extends beyond to encompass and affect both genders, and can only be solved by men and women working together for greater freedom and true “Biblical” love for one another. Do you disagree on anything I say? What about those who were at the worship service (or others with woman priests)? What stands out to you?

Okay. Got to sleep now.

Good night,

Monday, August 24, 2009


there's obviously a lot that can be said about food
(but it's likely that i won't be addressing many of those things).
mainly i just want to write about all of the delicious food that we cook and eat in this house.
i have to warn you that by the end of reading this post,
you will likely be hungry
and kicking yourself that you did not apply to be an intern at the abundant table farm project.
consider yourselves warned.

last monday at our house meeting, we decided that each intern would have a night every week where she cooked dinner for the house.
sarah cooked tuesday.
i cooked wednesday.
erynn thursday,
and katerina finished the week off on sunday.
oh, and boy did we cook.
we dined like international royalty.

on sarah's night,
she decided to use the ample amounts of peanut butter that we had in the house
to make an indonesian peanut curry sauce (known as "gado gado"),
which she mixed with brown rice, sesame seeds, green beans, carrots, and chunks of fresh apple.
i don't really have words to describe how good that meal was.
maybe "otherworldly" or "heavenly" or "divine" or something along those lines.

then for my night, i decided to rummage through the good ol' vegan cookbooks,
take a cue from my bolivian friends,
and tackle a cold quinoa salad with tomatoes, basil, scallions, and yellow bell pepper.
then i stumbled upon another recipe to use up some excess vegetables
that involved a citrus-ginger marinade, 
which i threw on some sauteed asparagus, green beans, and carrots.
i sliced a few apples to finish it off,
and i would like to think that all left the table with satisfied bellies and smiles on their faces.

on thursday, erynn prepared a meal that was as good as sarah's tuesday concoction,
which is high praise indeed!
she spent all afternoon in the kitchen,
and ended-up presenting us with ecuadorian cheese breads called "pan de yucca" (much like bolivian cuñapes),
as well as some delicious mexican-inspired lentils,
and a fresh arugula salad with beets and goat cheese.
uh, yum.
(am i right?)

oh, and you know, friday, saturday, and sunday afternoon were filled with cold cucumber dill soup, homemade hummus, left-overs(!), delicious yogurt/fruit/nut breakfast combinations, freshly-picked produce at farmers market, zucchini pupusas...
clearly, life was pretty rough.

but then came katerina to save the day!
she started preparing her minestrone sometime friday night (if i'm not mistaken),
and had finished a double batch by the time our potluck came around sunday evening.
and. this. minestrone.
it had spaghetti squash, zucchini, golden squash, onions, garlic, tomatoes, lima beans (that she shucked herself!)...
ah it was so good!
then some of our guests brought over chicken molé, elaborate fruit salad, tortellini salad with sun-dried tomatoes, and vegan cookies.
balance was once again restored.
and life was truly good.

if these descriptions don't make you want to visit our home and share a meal with us,
i worry for you.
but if they do sound intriguing to you (if not absolutely mouth-watering),
then please come over!
sarah's cooking again tonight, and she hasn't let me down once.
you still have time.
so stand up, run away from your computer screen, out to your car/bike/roller skates,
and make your way to our table as fast as you possibly can!
i can almost guarantee that it will be one of the best meals you've ever had.

Friday, August 21, 2009

I did not blog in clogs.

So, I have had some serious blogging anxiety throughout the week. I have never read a blog so needless to say I have never blogged. But, today people, I am a blogger. I am a bloggerrrr. So, what does this make you people? My bloggees? My blogents? Bloggowers? (I realize I am probably so, so unoriginal in my attempts at poking fun at the blog genre) And, by the way, I am feeling rather uncomfortable with this whole unknown internet universe of people who might be reading these thoughts from my brain. Maybe we could make this blogging a little more interactive so you bloggees aren't as passive in this process. I say we inter-blog. So please introduce yourselves and let's blog-talk.

I might be supposed to introduce myself here in this blog. But, so many profoundly exciting things have been happening since I have moved into the farmhouse, I have decided to talk about these things and maybe weave in a little about myself. I have been told that in blogs you can talk about whatever you want. So, I am.

Farm swimming

I am in a whole new current here at the Abundant Table Farm Project/Join the Farm farmhouse. I can feel myself swimming (well, technically I am just living not swimming, but I love metaphor and imagery so I am going with the water metaphor here) faster, lighter, more excitedly, and more at peace supported by a current of people looking to live in a more sustainable and connected (and I mean connected in a very specific vague way).

In my previous current, I was trying to live in these ways also. I was also connected to others who wanted to live in these ways also, but I was much more isolated than I am now living with my intern sisterfriends. It can be an overwhelming and a sometimes guilt inducing process trying to make conscious decisions on your own (actually I wasn't really on my own, my mom was very supportive). Examples: I acquire reusable bags (oh jeez, did these bags come from a plastic product which comes from (gasp) oil?) I forget said bags when I go to the store. I put reusable bags in my car. I still forget to bring into the store. I put reusable bags onto the front seat. I bring reusable bags into the store, slightly more than I used to. I buy organically (when it is convenient for me). I don't eat a lot of meat products (except when people I love prepare it for me. I like this exception-it's staying). I ride my bike (when it doesn't involve me having to wake up earlier than I want or go farther than I can go comfortably in a dress). I was doing some things and feeling guilty about not doing enough or not doing things consistently. But, as Julie and I discussed, guilt really isn't a particularly helpful emotion. What has been helpful in this new current is a support system. Finding others who are interested in sustainability and living lighter on our earth, interested in sharing knowledge, and interested in acting in ways consistent with our beliefs. We want to try new things! We are composting! We put a tub in the sink and we are saving water (and using biodegradable dish soap) to use to water our plants and trees. These two things, specifically, are goals we set and are accomplishing. So, like Julie said, we are starting small and doing. When a tub of water goes down the drain, I still wish it went to our plants, but we are trying and doing more than we aren't. And I love that.

Homesteading in the 21st Century #1

On my way back from a run I found a certain intern (I didn't ask for her consent to mention this story, so she shall remain anonymous as I don't know about issues of consent when blogging) weeding in the veggie patch Kyle planted. She was chatting on her cell phone and seriously getting down on the weeds with a hoe. 21st century weeding or pioneer communication?

Turns out I didn't weave much personal information at all. So, I guess I will be weaving personal information throughout my Friday blog series.

Personal Info #1

My name is Erynn.

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Why by Cristy Rose

I'm just so grateful for this opportunity to live in a farm house with four amazing women, work on a 10 acre certified organic farm, and be living in this great place called oxnard/camarillo. Choosing to be a part of this community, as my sisterfriends have already shared, has been a process, and I feel I've organically grown into this year at our abundant table.

The short story is that I set aside this past year to breathe/pause/selah before I began a PhD program in English and figure out, just the first step, in "letting the beauty [I] love be what I do," as Rumi says, or as Mary Oliver says, in "let[ting] the soft animal of [my] body love what it loves." I was teaching English and working as an Episcopal chaplain at CSU, Long Beach, and I spent the year applying to various schools/seminaries in the bay area and the l.a. area that would let me study what I like to call MY Spirituality; I needed an extended retreat and a supportive community to delve into the questions/concerns/issues/fears/insecurities I carry around with me all the time.

When I was accepted into the schools/seminaries in berkeley and san fran, I thought, "hey, this is it!" and decided that if I was going to move up to the bay area, I needed to live in l.a. proper before I moved. So, sometime in late winter, I moved to Highland Park with as little possessions as possible and my dog, Oliver. The time in HP is well documented, and you can check it out at my blog: if you are at all interested. It was altogether a great time in my life filled with many conversations with my l.a. friends.

One of these convos was with my good friend, Sarah, who just happened to be starting this here abundant table organic farm project. After a bit of thought and feeling, I decided that the farm was for me, particularly because Oliver could come along!

Now, I'm proud to say that Oliver is a farm dog (pictures are coming!). Overall, I'm really looking forward to and am at the same time terrified of grounding myself in the earth, being authentic with my sisterfriends, and developing things such as solitude, hospitality, and prayer. Salud to the farm!

so I thought I'd be spending a year in D.C....

While I won’t start the story of what brought me to the Abundant Table centuries ago, it does begin on the other side of the world. After growing up in Nairobi, Kenya and three years at Wheaton College outside of Chicago I chose to spend six months doing interning in Phnom Penh, Cambodia as part of my major in International Relations. Though the focus of my work was on land rights and non-violent resistance to forced evictions, I found situations closer to home captured my attention as I began to understand the dynamics of the Cambodian community I lived in. My host family were garment factory workers in a poorer neighborhood sandwiched between two sweatshops. Systems of production and consumption and the infrastructure that supports them that had been largely invisible to me growing up in more affluent neighborhoods became very obvious. I started to think much more about where things came from (did I really want to eat the morning glory picked in the contaminated marsh behind our neighborhood?) and where they went (what would I throw away when I knew the trash bag was tied up and thrown in the pond in the center of the community?) My new neighbors and I dealt daily with the consequences of not only these local systems, but also a supply chain that stretched thousands of miles – back to my neighborhood in Chicago and countless other U.S. communities. The factories that the women I lived with worked in were producing clothing for stores in the U.S. like Gap and Old Navy where I had once shopped.

While the factories did provide jobs with relatively decent conditions and brought economic growth, it came at a significant price. The chemicals emitted from the factory behind my house were eating through our metal roof, and many of my friends and neighbors began experiencing unemployment as soon as the U.S. recession again. As I returned to the U.S. for my final semester at Wheaton, awareness of the unsustainable relationships between producer communities such as the one Cambodia and consumers in my Chicago suburb guided the lifestyle choices I hoped to make after graduation, but had little impact on my post-graduation job search initially. Trying to eat locally/seasonally, fostering face-to-face relationships between producers and consumers, living mindfully of my environmental impact, and being a part of a spiritual community committed to social justice were things I hoped to fit around work in research or advocacy in Washington, D.C. When the Abundant Table Farm Project description came my way, I was caught off-guard by the opportunity to take 11 months to focus on those themes. At first, spending a year working on an organic farm/CSA in southern California was so different from what I expected to be doing that I couldn’t even bring myself to read the entire internship description. It sounded too good to be true, a possibility that would distract me from my job search. Obviously my self-restraint was less than absolute – I did allow myself to open that email again, and five or six months later, I’m enjoying the beginning of many good things, starting my post-college life on the opposite side of the country than I expected to be and in an occupation I never would have predicted for myself, yet somehow in just the right place.

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

It all started during the Reformation... [or, one of the reasons I'm farming]

“Well, back during the time of the Reformation…,” I began. All of us interns were sitting in the ‘Family Room’ sharing about how we wound up here with the Abundant Table Farm Project. We joked that we could probably each trace our decision to be a part of this Project all the way back to first grade. It is difficult to pinpoint and express the specific events in our lives that brought us here, since we are all people made up of many unarticulated, interwoven events and histories. That is why, both laughing and partly serious, I began long before I was born, at the beginning of one of my histories.

My family traces its spiritual and ethnic roots back to areas that are now part of Germany and the Netherlands. The Anabaptists began as a group of radicals that started a small church reformation movement separate from the Protestant Reformers and separate from the Catholic state church (separate from pretty much everything, actually). They distanced themselves from State religion in a number of unruly ways, such as baptizing adult Christians rather than babies, thus subverting the way that baptism had become the State’s way of keeping track of its population. For this reason, they came to be known as the Anabaptists. One group of Anabaptists that sprang up was called the Mennonites. My ancestors were Mennonites who suffered years of persecution for their beliefs before many fled to Russia and the U.S. to build their separatist communities around farms, churches and schools.

So what’s all that about and what does it have to do with me being here? After my ancestors came to the U.S., they were farmers up until my grandparents’ generation. My maternal grandmother’s parents arrived in California just before the Great Depression, penniless immigrants who did not understand English. Like the Latin American immigrants that work in the fields surrounding our home here in Oxnard, they worked as itinerate farm laborers. Opportunities arose for their children and grandchildren that offered alternatives to the hardships of farming, and so my parents and grandparents became doctors, nurses, pastors, and pilots.

Despite this “upward climb” away from farming, something of the land remains in me. After moving over eight times during my childhood, I long for the connection to a place that farming offers. I am attracted by the profound simplicity and contentment that comes from working with my hands, from being connected with all the steps and products of my labor. In addition to these things, I am compelled by deeper connections and questions, those of my own heritage and faith roots.

I wonder how did/does our traditional Mennonite connection to the land impact the community and our theology? Is something lost when, increasingly, we follow the cultural trend in the U.S. and separate ourselves from farming?

I hope that during my time here, I will continue to discover more about my Mennonite roots, a part of my story that I've only been able to take as my own in the past few years. I can't help but think that with this community, I will come into connection with deeper Mennonite and, more fully, Christian values. I already feel an openness to stories of suffering and a sense of vulnerability that is present here. We're all excited about practicing hospitality (and doing some plain good cookin' (sorry, but no grease-ified German sausage, grandma)), deepening our faith through worship, as well as joining work for peace and justice through internships dealing with farmworker and immigrant rights.

So yes, all that church history and explanation to say: I am here, and it will be a good place to set down roots for awhile.

Monday, August 17, 2009

my name is...

so over here at the abundant table farm homestead we decided that in order to regularly update the blog we would assign one weekday for each house member to update.
lucky me! i got monday!

and "who is she?," you might be asking yourself?

well, my name is casey lynn hopkins.
and i grew-up in chandler, az,
though i have spent the majority of the last five years
attending azusa pacific university
working towards my now completed bachelors of arts in global studies!
(hooray! schools out for summer! schools out forever!)

it was a long and rather convoluted process that led me to the abundant table farm,
but it all began with a desire to better understand food
where it comes from,
the work that goes into the cultivation of it,
the care of the land
(and of the folks who tend the land)
involved in the entire process.
and so during my final semester at apu
i began looking into traveling and doing farm work exchange programs through WWOOF
(World Wide Organization of Organic Farmers).
however, i was also interested in living in a community or companion house
focused on living honestly and openly together,
studying the Word, worshipping, growing spiritually as a house,
and 'reaching out' towards our neighbors.

then one day, while all of these thoughts were running through my head,
i met my dear friend frank romero-crockett for a cup of coffee.
(frank, incidentally, happens to be a board member at the abundant table farm project)
at the end of our meeting, he mentioned having met recently with sarah nolan,
and handed me a piece of paper describing the internship opportunities at the farm.

(i think i may have hit him in a momentary fit of modern femininity:
"SHUT UP!" ::punches person in the arm:: "I DON'T BELIEVE THI... HOW ON...? SHUT UP!")

needless to say, i was quite excited about the possibility of becoming involved.
i rushed off to get all of my documents and recommendations ready for submission,
had a lovely, multiple hour phone interview,
and was offered a position here!

which brings us to the present
where i am living with five rather remarkable women
on a farm
seeking to learn as much as possible
about growing delicious, healthy food
that is good to the land, good to our bodies,
and good for the development and creation of community.

i know that i am not alone in being excited about updating you all
on how the farm and our other related projects are coming along.
so please check back with us this week
as each house member will be sharing the story of how she got here!

your interest and support are an ongoing encouragement.
just so much love.

*casey lynn