Farming

11 Things I Learned This Spring

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Have you tried to actually sit down and reflect on what you’ve been learning? It’s not that easy. We go through life so much on autopilot without taking time to reflect. So I’m loving this new practice, joining in with author Emily P. Freeman to look back on each season and notice and name some of the things I’ve learned. Join me - I’d love to know what you’ve been learning too…

1) How to slow down time.

Oh, don’t we all wish we actually could? But I’ve learned a little secret while writing this post for Art of Simple that’s become my new daily motto: Today, I will log more moments in the present so time feels longer. The more moments we log in the present, time actually does feel slower - and more full of the good stuff. I still look at my two growing daughters (5 and almost 9) and see that “the little years” are mostly behind us (lump in throat), but I honestly don’t feel time slipping out of my hands. While we’re entering a new stage, I know I squeezed every drop of life I could out of the previous one.

2) “God will not let you miss your own future.”

HUGE exhale. This line is from Emily P. Freeman’s The Next Right Thing podcast (episode 76), and it’s one of the best things I heard this spring. It really is such a relief to know I’m not responsible for it all. I say I believe that, but to live like it’s true is another thing entirely. I’m working on doing more of that.

3) I prolly shoulda started farming at age 25 instead of 39. #ohmyachingbones

But seriously, I’ve learned this spring that it’s just gonna hurt and be uncomfortable, and the more I have that expectation, it’s a wee bit less hard. My husband Steven always says, “High expectations lead to much frustration.” So I’m setting the expectation: there’s gonna be mud caked under my nails. I’m going to feel gross and need to take like 10 showers a week. And to save myself some frustration later, listen to my gut next time and always add at least 2 irrigation drip lines to a new row, no matter what anyone says. There were some definite choice words involved in pulling up those rows and re-doing them. Oy.

4) It’s important to keep a childlike wonder, no matter my age.

Every single time a new seed sprouts, I have the same feeling of awe: it actually worked!

And a new discovery: apparently birds really like to nest in ferns. This may be old news to many of you, but this was my first time seeing it when I took down my hanging fern to water it, and I literally gasped.

The other evening, I was walking back to the produce washing station after feeding the chickens, and this sight of our barn with the almost-full moon literally stopped me in my tracks (look closely for my oldest daughter in the rye grass). The best part is that I texted it to my husband, and he said he didn’t even know where that was at first - sometimes we see our own surroundings with fresh eyes.

5) It’s good to accept others’ help.

A few weeks ago, on an ordinary weekday, my girls ended up staying the night at my close friend’s house. It was totally impromptu, and Steven and I found ourselves kid-free for the night at our own house, which we’ve actually never done. He finished his chef work in the barn kitchen, and at 8:30pm, we went on a random but much-needed date to one of our favorite local restaurants, Vanh Dy’s, in our little nearby downtown of Columbia, TN. It’s shocking how hard it was at first to accept that help, that another mom was willingly watching my kids all night while we got to have a date, but I realized how freeing it is to accept people’s help when they offer. It actually blesses others to let them help you - it’s done the same for me when I’ve been on the other end.

6) Sometimes God removes the storm, and sometimes He’s with us in the midst of it.

Photo by KT Sura

Photo by KT Sura

On the day of our spring Kindred Dinner for 150 people, it was predicting storms all evening. This was our 5th farm dinner, and we’ve never had to go with our rain plan. I was so worried, y’all. These people bought tickets and were expecting an amazing, memorable experience. In my shallow vision, I thought our best-case scenario was that it wouldn’t rain, but instead God wanted to show me - and so many others - how beautiful and intimate and nourishing breaking bread together can be in the very midst of a storm. I’ll hold this experience close for a long time.

More thoughts and photos on our Kindred Farm Instagram. My favorite part of this photo is all the umbrellas leaned against the side of the greenhouse!

7) Intermittent fasting is how I should eat most of the time.

I started the practice of intermittent fasting in January, thinking it would be temporary. It feels so good and freeing that I think this is a new longterm pattern in my life. I wrote all about it here.

8) But feasting is just as important.

I’ve learned that feasting is so much more meaningful when you’re not doing it all the time. We were made for both feasting and fasting - there’s a time to reign things in and go without, and there’s a time to let go and enjoy. One of the best things about a collaborative feast is that each person gets to bring something - so be sure and let others help even if you’re hosting. Here are some amazing feasts we’ve had this spring:

Easter Sunday with dear friends and alllll the colorful spring goodness...

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Then, a heavenly little outdoor charcuterie board feast with friends on a Saturday evening, where we just cut up a bunch of pretty things and put them on cutting boards (no cooking!). Add some wine and sparkling water, and you have what feels like a very fancy dinner with no cooking. Bonus for fun patterned tablecloths I got over a decade ago in India, twinkle lights overhead and fireflies all around.

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And here’s something different…we put a little propane tabletop grill in the middle of our dining room table and had some friends over for a Korean ssam (lettuce wraps) feast where everyone got to grill their own meat and assemble unique, colorful lettuce wraps to their heart’s desire. All the lettuce, cabbage, Asian greens, and radishes were harvested from our farm a few minutes before. And I’m pretty sure we used every plate, bowl, and pair of chopsticks in the house.

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9. I still know every word to all the classic NKOTB songs.

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My 11-year-old self would have completely passed out to be this close to Joe McIntyre and New Kids on the Block, but 30 years later it was just a lighthearted blast of a night with my best college gals (and New Kids on the Block, Debbie Gibson, Tiffany, Salt N Pepa and Naughty By Nature!). We sang every word to all the classic NKOTB songs like “Please Don’t Go, Girl” (this was played at every middle school sleepover), “Tonight”, and of course, “Hangin’ Tough.” I reminisced about recording mixtapes from the radio, Aqua Net hairspray, claw bangs, BOP Magazine, posters in my locker and plastered on my bedroom wall, and Electric Youth Perfume.


10. It’s best to relax a little and give my girls space to learn some things on their own - this works better than pushing.

After playing Monopoly on and off for several days, my oldest daughter is a master at mental math and being the banker, and my 5-year-old just learned how to ride on two wheels on her own at my friend’s house in her gravel driveway. I so often try to control and feel like everything is my responsibility. Letting go - and seeing that everything is okay - helps me grow so much in this area. I’m also learning to let them help more, even if it’s not how I would have done that particular thing. Plus, I don’t want to miss out on hilarious sights like these:

Well, that’s ONE way to seed a new row of beets…

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11. My husband is an incredible podcast host.

I knew he would be. This man is one of the most compelling communicators I know, with an ability to cast a vision and share stories like none other. Check out Steven’s brand new The Korean Farmer podcast here or on iTunes, where he shares meaningful conversations about life, business, food, and everything in between. We record right here on Kindred Farm in our barn studio…and maybe we’ll be doing an episode together in the near future! :)

Photo: KT Sura

Photo: KT Sura

YOUR TURN! What are some things you learned this spring? I’d love to hear!

Intermittent Fasting, Feasting, and The Perfect Pesto - For The Art of Simple

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Today on the Art of Simple, I’m sharing my thoughts about intermittent fasting, the beauty of feasting, and a spring pesto recipe! Writing this piece helped me appreciate all over again how much this practice has been healthy for me in so many ways. Have you ever tried intermittent fasting? I’d love to know your thoughts!

“As we sat down to eat and I held the hands of my family as we blessed this very-special-for-no-particular-reason meal, I realized something important: feasting is so much more meaningful when you’re not doing it all the time…” Continue reading

Perfect Pesto Recipe

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My amazing chef husband gave me permission to share this recipe in celebration of spring - yay! Now, you can wow your guests with this gorgeous sauce. Oh man, I can’t wait for all of my basil plants to grow so we can make loads of pesto this summer. Fresh basil = absolutely one of the best smells ever.

Perfect Pesto

courtesy of The Korean Farmer

2 cups fresh basil, packed

4 cloves garlic, minced

1/2 cup shredded Parmigiano Reggiano (this is authentic parmesan cheese made in Italy, found at all normal grocery stores)

1/4 cup neutral-tasting oil, such as grapeseed oil

1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil

1/2 cup blanched almonds, toasted (in a pinch, you can use regular almonds, but blanched is best)

Add all ingredients except olive oil to a food processor and process. Add a little water if you need to make it smoother. Remove from food processor and stir in olive oil.

To toss with pasta (even better, with fresh pasta!), add pesto an empty bowl, then the pasta. Add a couple ounces of leftover pasta cooking water. Toss until glossy.

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And that photo above that I took a few years ago on our back patio in Dallas? It stirs something deep in me. Maybe it's the beauty of simple food - Texas-grown produce made into salad in the Polish pottery bowl given to me by Steven’s Gran on our first North Carolina road trip. Or the fresh green of that pungent pesto that I can smell through the photo. Or that it was all eaten outside that spring evening with friends and wine atop the tablecloth I scored at an outdoor market in India 15 years ago.  So many favorite things, all in one little square.  

What Gathering Around the Table Has Taught Me

Photo: Sarah B. Gilliam

Photo: Sarah B. Gilliam

On a warm October evening, eleven long tables were set end-to-end to form one big, long table down the center of a meadow. Dressed in white tablecloths, mismatched fabric napkins, clear glass plates, flickering candles and lanterns, magenta and orange wildflowers in turquoise Mason jars, and twinkle lights draped overhead, the table shined like a beacon as dusk started to settle on the Tennessee hillside.

A young man played guitar in the background. In the pasture near the table, without any electricity, chefs created a makeshift kitchen using fire and iron grates and grills. Over these burning coals, they cooked the finest seasonal, farm-fresh fare: fire-roasted squash, potatoes, and beans, fresh bread and desserts, homemade pasta with Bolognese sauce, and porchetta from pastured pork that had been happily raised in the adjacent pasture.

As this fresh and rich meal was being carefully prepared, 88 dinner guests slowly began arriving. Everyone was chattering excitedly; no guests were in a hurry. As they passed over the crest of the hill encircled by blazing autumn trees flickering at the edge of the forest, they saw the long table set for them, waiting for them, and their eyes widened. Each person chose a seat with friends they already knew - or perhaps, they were brave to sit next to someone new. They sat and talked and awaited the first course, and soon, wooden salad bowls piled high with buttery lettuce grown in the field just down the hill were placed before them.

This scene is real - it’s from the first farm-to-table dinner we hosted on our organic produce farm in October 2017, and it was absolutely life-changing for me. This surreal night of gathering both old and new friends on our own farm at a long table under the stars and twinkle lights, was a dream literally years in the making. Even so, I had been slightly nervous about welcoming people we didn’t know to a dinner on our land just steps from our house. Would this feel invasive? Would it go smoothly? These people were purchasing tickets and trusting we would deliver. But my husband and I moved forward with the clear vision He’s given our family to gather people around the table on this beautiful land He’s entrusted to us. I’m so glad we did.

Before we even got to the feasting part, the behind-the-scenes preparation and anticipation of gathering around the table brought unity. Every friend, farmer, chef, and artisan involved in the event offered up their God-given gifts and abilities, and with each person doing his or her part, things went smoothly. A close friend offered her time and expertise as our event planner, and without her, we would have missed many important details.

Others came over and hustled to finish constructing our barn, paint a mural on the side, hang signs, and cut tree stumps to hold lanterns. Our photographer/farmer neighbor grew and picked the wildflowers that would dress our tables and agreed to capture photos during the evening so we could sear it into our memories. For the bonfires and cooking fires, her husband delivered trucks of firewood from his own woodlot, selecting the most fragrant varieties so you could walk past the fire and smell the sweet perfumy wood scent perfectly intermingled with the savory smell of food. The chefs spent hours developing and collaborating and prepping an exquisite menu.

And we did it because of one reason...it’s the biggest thing that gathering around the table has taught me: The table is for everyone.

There’s something about gathering around a physical table that unites us.  No matter who you are, where you’re from and whether or not you recognize it, feasting together is something human beings were meant to do.

In Scripture, God repeatedly compares the Gospel to food and drink and welcomes us to this feast of all feasts. “Taste and see that the Lord is good. Oh, the joys of those who take refuge in him!” (Psalm 34:8, NLT)

In the book The Lifegiving Home by Sally and Clay Clarkson, they share a quote from author Leonard Sweet that’s a perfect analogy of the table:

“The first word God speaks to human beings in the Bible - God’s very first commandment - is ‘Eat freely’ (Genesis 2:16, NASB). The last words out of God’s mouth in the Bible - his final command? ‘Drink freely’ (see Revelation 22:17). These bookends to the Bible are reflective of the whole of the Scriptures: Everything in between these two commands is a table, and on that table is served a life-course meal, where we feast in our hearts with thanksgiving on the very Bread of Life and the Cup of Salvation: Jesus the Christ.”

Clarkson goes on to detail the importance of “tableology” in the Bible and how an actual, physical table draws people together. Clay Clarkson says the table creates unity and interaction with other people who you look at face-to-face and becomes a physical anchor where people sit and stay for awhile without wandering. “It creates a physical unity - all who sit at the table become, in a sense, one with the table, and so one with each other while at the table...And that in turn helps to create koinonia, which means fellowship or partnership with others.”

Gathering around the table in community is something that’s innate - it’s how God wired us. I’ve experienced it firsthand over and over again...

Growing up in suburban New Jersey, some of our best Thanksgiving holidays were those where people we barely knew from the community accepted my mother’s invitation to join us. She always opened our table in a cramped dining room to anyone she would meet at church or the grocery store or just in town. “Do you have anywhere to go for Thanksgiving?” she would ask. If they said no, she would invite them without stipulation, and most Thanksgivings, several new friends would show up. We added chairs and all rubbed elbows while we reached for spoonfuls of mashed potatoes, stuffing, and cranberry sauce. We welcomed people into our small, humble home and family traditions. It might have been uncomfortable at first, but once we sat down around that table, it just felt right.

Our farm dinner took months of preparation, a small army of friends volunteering, and the talents of some of the best chefs around. It wasn’t thrown together but was carefully planned down to every last detail and aesthetic. But it’s just one example of a feast, because we can prepare any kind of “feast” in our homes using any kind of food or table. It doesn’t have to be fancy - it just has to be welcoming and created with love, offering a taste of what Jesus ultimately has to offer us as we nourish people’s souls and bodies. I’ve written some practical steps on how to do that in this post: How To Engage Your Family in Sharing Meals Around the Table.

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I hope for another table...except this one will be filled with every single person I know and love, and it will go on as far as the eye can see. The feast will stretch on for hours, and no one will have any food intolerances or restrictions. We will never be full. Our souls will be satisfied in a way we could not even fathom now if we tried.

One day, it will happen...

“In Jerusalem, the Lord of Heaven’s Armies will spread a wonderful feast for all the people of the world. It will be a delicious banquet with clear, well-aged wine and choice meat. There he will remove the cloud of gloom, the shadow of death that hangs over the earth. He will swallow up death forever! The Sovereign Lord will wipe away all tears. He will remove forever all insults and mockery against his land and people. The Lord has spoken! In that day the people will proclaim, ‘This is our God! We trusted in him, and he saved us! This is the Lord, in whom we trusted.  Let us rejoice in the salvation he brings!” (Isaiah 25:6-9, NLT)

Until then, I’ll keep remembering the tiny glimpse of heaven’s feast that we experienced on a warm October evening, at a long table in a meadow under the stars.

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This post was originally written in November 2017 as a contribution to JellyTelly.

Simple With Tsh Oxenreider Podcast Episode 188: Analog Living + Reading Classics

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In this episode, I share about how to “slow down time” in the midst of very full days in my life as a farmer, homeschooling mom, wife of a chef, and writer. I also share a story about how I delightfully misplaced my phone a few weekends ago. I learned so much from Tsh about reading the classics, and it definitely convinced me to pick up a few new ones I haven’t read yet!

You can also check out my Day in the Life post on Art of Simple that inspired this podcast episode. Drop me a comment here or on the AoS site, and let me know your thoughts!

A Day In The Life - For The Art of Simple

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In my latest post for The Art of Simple, I’m sharing a typical day in my life right now as a homeschooling mom, wife of a chef, writer/creative, and organic produce farmer. If you’ve never taken the time to record a typical day in your life, I highly recommend it - it was quite an eye-opening experience!

“Recording my day in the life helped me recognize that slowing down time is important to me, as much as it’s in my control. The more I pay attention in the little moments, the more I’m able to pull back the reins on time. So, after I wrote this, I came up with a new daily motto that I’d like to share with you…”

Continue reading…

And The Two Shall Become One, Separately - For The Art of Simple

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Here’s my latest post for The Art of Simple - And The Two Shall Become One, Separately. For some reason, this is one of the hardest things I’ve ever written. Maybe because the topic is so important to me, it’s a crazy story to weave together, and our marriage really has been hard-won through a lot of challenges and trials. But I can honestly say today I couldn’t be more thankful to be a on a team with the Steven Bailey and also for the ways we are wired completely differently.

People often ask how we’ve been able to handle working together in addition to the challenges marriage brings. But the practices that help us work together successfully are the same ones that bring freedom to our marriage—we strive to be a team, and we celebrate and respect our separateness within the team.

Keep reading…

I’d love to know your thoughts!

Ode to Dirty Fingernails

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Everyday, here on Kindred Farm, we witness the circle of life in all its beauty and brutality: orderly rows of lettuce heads resembling giant green and purple roses, the excitement of new baby chicks arriving, the sweet smell of dirt-covered rainbow carrots straight from the ground. Then there are dead chicks, dead chickens, dead mice and chipmunks left at our doorstep. One morning, we spent hours trying to reunite tiny baby mice with their mother, who still had one attached to her nursing. We’ve had 4/5 of a litter of kittens lost to predators and a beloved farm cat buried after being hit by a car. My body has been pushed to its physical limits by using muscles I didn’t even know existed to lift soil with the broadfork, hammer stakes, and use “the farmer walk” to haul full buckets of water on each arm up a hill. Second to naturally birthing a baby, this is the hardest I’ve ever worked.

But by making this new life and pushing through my fears, I’ve truly found my unique self and clarified what I have to offer the world. God is healing the wounded part of me that said my voice wasn’t important enough to be heard. It’s not a perfectly polished platform, but it’s mine...it’s my voice.

I can also laugh at myself now when I completely fail at something, because seriously? Life is just too short to try to be perfect anymore. Here’s a favorite story from my first month of farming last April - go ahead and laugh at me!

We had gotten our first batch of chicks in the winter and now they were big enough to be moved out of the shed into their new “Henstream” (the mobile chicken trailer where they would lay, roost, and sleep at night). My husband Steven was gone for the evening at his personal chef job. So I was in charge of checking on the girls at dusk to make sure they all made it inside the automatic chicken door. No big deal. I strutted out there. At first glance, all looked fine. Then a lone chicken caught my eye who was still roaming around. I chased it around until I finally caught it and stared at the door of the Henstream to figure out how to unlock it in the dark with one hand and without disturbing the freaking biggest spider you’ve ever seen. I took a deep breath, wrangled the door open, squealed like a 12-year-old girl, and shoved the chicken inside as it squawked. Phew. But it wasn’t over yet…as I was leaving I noticed something looked strange at the chicken door. Oh no…is it? It couldn’t be… Yes, there was a chicken head/neck hanging completely limp out the chicken door while the rest of its body was inside. I frantically called Steven and told him that one of our chickens got decapitated and it was all my fault. I told him that HE was going to handle it when he got home. Fast forward an hour…he went to take care of the dead chicken and came back inside laughing, “Um, it wasn’t dead! It was just frozen in shock. I opened the door and nudged it a little and it popped its head up and walked away.”

You’re welcome.

We’re privileged to be in a community with so many hard-working and inspiring farmers, both male and female, who are out there everyday in the elements, doing hard and valuable work - caring for animals, growing beautiful and healthy food, advocating for sustainability, stewarding the earth. Here’s to you! Here's to the bug bite scars, the sore muscles, the constant need for a shower, the frustrating moments when you can't figure out why something isn't working. The self-doubt and the victories and the breathtaking moments at sunset when you can't imagine doing anything else - those are all a part of the journey. Those dirty nails aren't going away anytime soon, are they? Good. Because in sifting the soil through our fingers, we become more connected to our roots, to who we are as humans.

Farmers or not, we can all do our part in redeeming the earth, little by little. Because once you've held that privilege and joy in our hands, you can never go back. In the best possible way.

Simple With Tsh Oxenreider Podcast Episode 140

Hey friends! Just wanted to share that I'm on the podcast Simple with Tsh Oxenreider today, talking about Kindred Farm and all the ways farming has personally changed me. It was truly a joy talking with Tsh and sharing my/our story!

"I had all these fears, but it’s actually been the complete opposite of everything I was afraid of. I’ve actually found myself in a lot of ways since becoming a farmer that I completely did not expect...Farming has pushed me physically and emotionally and helped me learn what I’m capable of as a woman."

Listen to the whole thing here or in iTunes - it's episode 140...

"Homeschooling On An Organic Farm" - For Wild + Free

I'm so honored to have a piece entitled "Homeschooling On An Organic Farm" in the latest Wild + Free bundle called "Wander." Wild + Free is a beautiful homeschool community that has inspired me like no other - it's full of diverse yet like-minded mamas all across the world who want to provide the space and time for our children to explore, engage with the world, and have the freedom to become who they're meant to be as childhood is preserved and slowly unraveled. Each month, they release online bundles chock full of articles and tutorials to inspire homeschool mamas, or really anyone who wants to parent more slowly and intentionally. The monthly subscription includes a gorgeous print magazine as well. You can subscribe to the monthly bundles here

Here's a little sample...