farm

My Best Life

Shooting on farm with sunflowers and toddlers...this is my best life.

Shooting on farm with sunflowers and toddlers...this is my best life.

Right now, I am living my best life.

Wait...I take that back.

I am living my 95% life.

The reason for the 95%...because I always hope there is room for improvement. I hope there is always space in my life for the phrase, "I can do better." If I think about it, that IS my best life. Always striving for something greater. Otherwise we become complacent, right? We become comfortable. And that is where we stop growing.

I have had an amazing year this past year. I have worked in situations I only thought would exist in my dreams. I have worked with clients who share my vision and style. I have worked with missions that I truly and whole-heartedly believe in. I have photographed things I only fantasized over. I have told stories and taken photos of people, places, and things that make me pinch myself in hopes that I really won't wake up from this incredible dream.

I never thought the possibility was real for me to live my best life. Somewhere along the line, I stopped believing. I believed I wasn't enough - good enough, strong enough, thoughtful enough, skinny enough, pretty enough. But somewhere deep in my soul, I believed there was more waiting for me. There was a little ember of hope burning on my belly, not put out by the wet blanket of self criticism. I believed those dreams could actually happen. I stopped hearing the voice that said "give up...you can't do this." I leaned in to trust. I leaned into the fear. I pushed through. I gave it one more try.

Every day I wake up and am happy to do what I do. Don't get me wrong, this is still a job. It has it's moments. And it has come with it's own set of massive sacrifices (ohhhhh...the sacrifices). But I am happy...at least 95% happy.

It has taken a long time to get here. I have made mistakes. I have lived with crippling anxiety and depression. I have failed miserably...wow, have I failed. But all of that has brought me to this place where I can appreciate the complexity of what makes life feel good.

Will I screw up again? Most definitely. Will I be afraid and paralyzed? Absolutely! Will I know how to get up and dust myself off again? You can count on it!

Today, I am opening myself up to possibility. The possibility of hope, failure, success, despair, highs, lows. All of it. Because without all of that, I am not growing or challenging myself. I am not changing. I am not moving forward, knocking off that last 5%.

But if I have to be honest, I will be happy to settle in where I am... Always pushing. Always dreaming. Never settling.

 

 

Lately

raised beds

I have been more quiet than usual this fall and winter. I have been working on some exciting projects and new ventures. Thankfully, quiet = busy… at least for right now.

One of the projects I have hit the ground hard on is a book on saving seeds I am working on with my good friend Julie of Julie's Garden Delights. I liken this project to a type of step by step for seed saving gardeners which has taken me literally from Spartanburg to Charleston and everywhere in between. I have learned so much on this project - not just about seeds and gardening, but about myself and my work. I love when a project comes along and changes everything, don't you?

Here are some images for you to see. I have no idea what's been rejected, but images of vegetables never disappoint! Special shout out the the folks at Charleston Parks Conservancy for my all access pass to their gardens!

sprouts
chopping
carrots
seeding
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Cultivating faith

A shot from the newly cultivated crops out at  Compost In My Shoe .

A shot from the newly cultivated crops out at Compost In My Shoe.

Cultivating a crop takes patience. It takes time and repetition. It takes weeding, observing, watering, and watching. And sometimes it doesn't go as your careful plan. Pests get in. Frosts hit. Rain washes away your hard work. It's a precarious game making you anticipate Mother Nature's next move.

This can be said for a lot of things, too. Raising children, starting a new job, or even creating something new... like art. It's a balance of patience and grit, of testing and trials. You await for the outside influences to come and hope that you have some semblance of a plan when it all hits. 

But after the battles and the hardships, you are left with new soil and a fresh, new place for seeds take root. New growth come. And the crops that were taken out during the heavy rains, pest invasion and frigid temperatures have made way for fertile ground to sprout new ideas. 

And along the way, you realize that ultimately it is all a test to cultivate a crop of faith in yourself to handle it all.

 

Trust the outcome

Jim Martin. Compost in my Shoe. Farm shoot, Fall 2016.

Jim Martin. Compost in my Shoe. Farm shoot, Fall 2016.

You have to do the work...

Work the land. Plant the seeds. Till the soil. Weed. Water. Mulch. And watch with patience as things develop.

The good stuff takes time and love and reckoning with things you might not be prepared for. But the rewards are great.

Take your time. Do the work. Trust the outcome.

Foraging

Foraging from our backyard loquat tree

Foraging from our backyard loquat tree

He's cooperating, but very unsure.

He's cooperating, but very unsure.

I spent my summers slightly sunburned, running around outside in the fresh air, chasing fireflies, and picking perfectly ripened blackberries for my mom behind the watertower at the top of the mountain. We never heard the word foraging. We just did it. I lived in a neighborhood edged with forests and farms, so foraging for wild berries and wildly growing culinary treats just sort of happened.

When we moved to the south during my teen years, everything was different. We lived on a barrier island on the coast of South Carolina that looked more like a lush, tropical forest than the woodlands and farms I was used to. Everything looked exotic and exciting. And a little bit poisonous. And honestly, as a teen, I had better things to learn than what was yard berry was edible and what I should fear. So I stayed away from most things thinking I would suddenly die upon ingestion. 

As the years passed, I found myself longing for those blackberry bushes I foraged in my youth. For some reason, they seemed like a treasure that nobody knew about for years but us...like our own secret garden right up the road. It was a treat saved for a few short weeks every year. And although I loved eating the plump berries right off the bush, my pudgy fingers stained purple from their juices, I was always excited to bring them home to my mom to see what magic she would make with them - cobbler, pie, preserves. It was the stuff dreams were made of. 

Somehow this unfamiliar territory made foraged foods seem harder to come by in South Carolina. But as I learned more about the culinary south, I realized there was a whole slew of foods at my disposal right here in my own backyard. I moved into my current house about 11 years ago. On that day, I noticed a bush dripping with what looked like tiny apricots against a backdrop of fuchsia azalea blooms . Golden yellow in color, I had seen these bushes around the south for years. Little did I know I had a loquat tree right in my own back yard. The very start to my own little backyard farm.

This year is my first year harvesting these babies. They are tart and juicy and have a great texture - sort of peachy. So we will be experimenting with drinks, preserves, foods and maybe even a desert or 2 over the next few weeks before our quickly ripening bush goes to the hungry wildlife of the neighborhood.

I can hardly wait to see what goodness comes out of it all!

 

#knowyourfarmer

veggies

I am lucky enough to get a farm share from one of the best farmers I have ever known - Jim Martin of Compost in my Shoe. His food is grown with love and heart that you can certainly taste  in every juicy tomato and in every spicy leaf of basil. It's magical food.

I wish every farmer - big and small - could provide this for the world. Maybe when we get back to the smaller farms, the quality instead of the quantity, we can all have a chance at eating good food that is good for us.

Good food - grown with sunshine, water, and love.

#knowyourfarmer

Mr. Lettuce - getting his bath.

Mr. Lettuce - getting his bath.

Today, I got to spend a little time on my friend Jim's farm. We are working on a project together and it makes my soul sing for many reasons that I won't go into here. I have always loved a bit of gardening. But the fantasy of having my very own small scale farm is something I have dreamed about ever since I transplanted various seedlings in the forest behind my house growing up.

I have spent some time with Jim before. Documenting him, his plantings, and parts of his life in his new venture. But, today I really got it. I mean - it clicked on a level I can't express in words. The care he has for his plants and the love he has for this craft is no joke. I can assure you that every single seed is planted with care. Every crop harvested is done meticulously by hand. Every plant is processed with love. There are no pesticides. There are no chemicals in site. Just a few guinea fowl and a lot of mushroom compost and mulch.

To give you and example, each of the farm shares he has are harvested by hand. They are then INDIVIDUALLY bathed in a gentle water bath and precariously placed in coolers until delivery - which is typically the next day. This is not done for just the lettuce, but the bok choy, the carrots, the early garlic, the herbs, the potatoes, the kale, the onions, the spinach and the rest of the share. Each share is packaged immaculately and delivered TO YOUR DOORSTEP each week.

Not only is it remarkable that they grow delicious, fresh, wholesome produce from seed and deliver it to your doorstep each week. But the process of harvesting and packaging each item is done with such care you actually can tell the difference. I promise - you can taste it in the butter lettuce and the Russian River Kale. Each bite is a unique experience that takes you beyond the refrigerated aisles of your local Publix.

So next time you reach for that bag of packaged spinach - think again. Where did it come from? Who has handled it? Was it loved? Was it treated with gentle care? Who grew it? Do they really love this food? Do they actually care about what is going into this?

Get to know that farmer. I promise, it'll be the best thing you ever did.

The Road to Authenticity.

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Sometimes you find yourself wondering how it is you ended up in the place you have landed. Maybe your dreams were different or bigger than where you are right now. Maybe you imagined yourself halfway around the world by now. Or maybe you just are stuck with a beat-up old life that you are dragging around behind you.

If you stop for a minute to soak it all in - I mean, REALLY soak up where you are and where you have been and where you are standing right now - you will come to find that you are, in fact, EXACTLY where you were ever meant to be in that moment.

When that all sinks in - no matter how good or bad the spot, you will eventually find that you are really on the very road to discovering something you never even knew existed. And the overwhelming excitement of that alone is one of the best parts of not knowing where you are or where you are going. Because this is the sign...the BIG SIGN. This is the very sign that tells you that are on the road to living the most authentic life you could ever imagine.

Enjoy the road. Enjoy the ride.

Planting seeds

seeds

I am pretty sure that planting seeds is the most important part of gardening. Without the seed, there is no life. Sure, there is water and sunshine and nourishment and love that come into play, but nothing happens without that little seed. It's amazing how much power one of those little babies holds in it's tiny, dried up shell.

Every seed has potential. They just need special care to flourish as they were meant to. Sort of like ideas, thoughts, dreams. They need a place to grow. Someone to tend them. Nourishing those seeds is a full-time gig though. It takes hard work and perseverance. But it also takes love and light. Gentle care. With that, the seed sprouts and grows into something.

With the right care, all seeds become what they were destined to be.