Food

As a child, family meals followed a very regular pattern, and there was very little variety. Meat, potatoes or rice, a cooked vegetable. Spaghetti once and a while. Vegetables were pretty much limited to peas, carrots (not together!), corn, zucchini or yellow squash, cooked broccoli, pea pods in the early summer, and the dreaded lima beans. Simple salads sometimes. Potatoes were mashed or baked french fries.

Then I got married, we became enamored of heritage vegetables, and the world opened up. Before I was married, I had never had beets unless they were pickled. The funny thing now? Beets are one of my favorite foods, but I hate pickled beets. I love raw beets, fermented beets, roasted beets, beets in soups. Then other vegetables! Kale, Swiss chard, patty pan squashes, winter squashes, radishes, pea pods, beans of all colors, dried beans, onions of every shade of color, leeks, broccoli, cauliflower, spinach, arugula, peppers of every size and heat, eggplants, cabbage! The varieties and options are almost unlimited. My favorite lunch? Raw broccoli chopped with carrots, beets, and a red onion, with a splash of sushi vinegar and some roasted garbanzo beans on it all.

Now I laugh as I watch my grown children fuss with their own gardens, looking for variety in the vegetables themselves, but then looking also for the beautiful colors that can be found in the heritage vegetables.

Fall is here!

This weekend fall arrived in Vermont. I don’t mean just the changing of the seasons with the equinox, I mean the changing of the weather, and the fall harvest season kicking into full gear.

This morning it was 45 degrees when I woke up. Last Sunday morning, it was 67. Big difference. This morning the laying hens were all standing together in a sunbeam, fluffed up, trying to warm up. Even Ellsbury was standing in the sunshine, like he was trying to collect its warmth.

With the cooler temperatures, we feel the urgency of finishing the fall chores. The chimneys, woodstove and fireplace have been cleaned. The garden is beginning to come down, we will plant our garlic in the next couple weeks.

Here is a picture of Ellsbury and Kahuna enjoying the pulled broccoli plants.

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With the end of the garden season, we harvested a rainbow yesterday for our dinner.

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We had red potatoes, a seedless cucumber, red onions, heritage beets, carrots, bell peppers, yellow squash, hot peppers and Swiss chard. I love the colors!

Then, after harvesting, cleaning, storing, I finally finished a scarf I’ve been working on, then washed skeins of our alpaca yarn for my next project.

 

After all of that was done, I went out to look at Sam’s maple tree. No sign of change of the foliage yet, but we know it will be soon.

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Now it’s time for some fall cooking for dinners this week. A chicken pie, then beef barley stew, and if there is time, butternut squash soup.

Thoughts About Loss

In the last weeks, people I care about have lost a child, and people I care about have survived the anniversaries surrounding their own losses. It has made me reflect a bit.

When someone I know, we know, loses a child, it is a visceral experience for me. I feel that ache for them, feel the sadness and rage that they couldn’t be spared that pain. It doesn’t matter how old the child, whether a tiny infant or a grown man, it makes my very heart ache, and makes me want to do something, anything, to help them. It makes me become even more hyper-vigilant about checking on our kids, just needing to know they are okay. That little sniffle? Maybe we should get that child into the doctor? That silly grocery request? Sure, I’d be happy to drive miles and miles to bring that item, but more importantly to see the faces of our children. It makes me remember again how awful those first days were, how it seemed like we wouldn’t survive.

But survive we did, and then we hit anniversaries. For me, I was completely convinced (partly because of people who hadn’t experienced such loss telling me it was true) that on day 366 after Sam’s death, the light would come back on for me. On day 366, I wasn’t going to cry, or want to cry, almost every day. On day 366, I was going to be able to see Sam’s stuff, like his buzz-cutter for his hair, and not fall apart.

And you know what? On day 366, 367, 483 and every other day since 365, it wasn’t that the light just came back on for me. Anniversaries still kick me, kick us, hard. But eventually I came to understand that they are hard, they will be hard, and it’s okay. I learned to accept that there are times when I can laugh so hard I can’t breathe or talk, but then have the tears come rushing in right behind. I learned that the light is there, it has always been there, if only I have the eyes to see it.

I also learned to look for the beauty in the world, no matter how odd the location. This is a picture of my garlic chives, which have flowered. I didn’t plant them for their flowers, I planted them as an herb, but yesterday they bloomed unexpectedly — I just needed to take the time to stop and see their beauty.

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Gratitude

As I have been working on pre-release activities for Of Grief, Garlic and Gratitude, it has made me think again about why the concept of gratitude is so important to me.

For me, gratitude is the core concept/belief of recognizing the good. After Sam’s death, I was so sad, so overwhelmed, it was easy to “grow a garden of grievances,” instead of recognizing what was going well, or how hard people (or animals) were working to support us. It was the changing of my own responses from being mad when the store clerk was rude to instead recognizing (and being thankful) when the other customer thanked me for helping her. It was recognizing when neighbors helped us round up the alpacas when they escaped, instead of being mad they (the alpacas) had jumped the fence.

My grief was so strong, so deep, that it would have been easier to just slip below the waves of the grief and drown. I, we, made a conscious decision to not drown, and the only way I could find to keep my head above the waves was to actively look around me, and find the positives, and then to openly give thanks for them.

No matter what, no matter how complete the darkness, there is always something for which you can be thankful.

 

Our Trip — new places, loved ones, and laughter. Lots and lots of laughter!

As I shared last week, we recently had the opportunity to go to Indiana to see family. We have a really, really small family, so we hold onto our family relationships with a fair amount of ferocity. This trip was a joy because it was just plain because we wanted to be together for love and fun — not for the sad times we have historically been together most often as adults.

In Indiana, we got to see small towns, larger cities, ball parks, football, schools of varying sizes, Amish farms and families, a town fair, lots of billboards, and trains, trains, trains. We don’t really do trains in Vermont, so seeing the trains with hundreds of cars was fascinating. We also saw billboards, which of course we have seen before, but you may not know that Vermont is the only state in the country which has never allowed billboards. Nope. We don’t have them. It ruins the natural beauty, and they were banned decades ago. So when we go somewhere with billboards, I spend a lot of time reading them. Some in Indiana were funny, some dull, some pushing religious views that made me uncomfortable, but all were interesting. Interesting, but I’m glad we don’t have them here.

Besides the billboards, I took a lot of photos. Many were family pictures, but some were of the scenery or things we saw. Here are a few:

The first was of all of us, soaked to the bone, after the Purdue football game. The second? A sign you don’t see in Vermont. The third, a gorgeous sculpture tucked in the heart of Fort Wayne.

 

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We went to see where the Tin Caps play, and had to stand with Johnny Appleseed, and then we got to see one of his (Johnny Appleseed’s) burial sites.

At the town fair, we wandered through a great shop, and saw this pillow, which made me smile as many years ago I was in Music Man, and sang that song night after night.

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As we traveled, we laughed, laughed, laughed — some times the tears were close behind as we were talking about loved ones who are gone now. But we laughed in a way that has been rather rare since Sam died — laughing until we couldn’t breathe, until my voice was squeaky as I tried to talk. What a great feeling that is, and one that I have missed a lot.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Tomatoes!

Yesterday we spent the day catching up on chores after being away last weekend. The house needed a good cleaning, the coops needed to be cleaned, water buckets needed to be scrubbed, and the recycling needed to go to the town shed. After all of that was done, we had a great dinner.

Today, we needed to deal with our tomatoes. We spent almost an hour picking them, and in the end we had three five gallon buckets full of them. We washed, sliced and pureed them, now they are boiling down, so we can can the sauce tonight. The most perfect ones were set aside to be frozen whole, and that is done as well.

It’s funny, I was grumbling as we picked them today, not wanting to spend hours on tomatoes, but now that we have just the canning left, I am so glad we did it!

The Full Cover!

I am absolutely thrilled to share the full cover of Of Grief, Garlic and Gratitude!

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The cover uses all of the original photo of Sam, taken by our amazing friend Allie, as part of Sam’s senior photo adventure. Normally, you’d call it a photo shoot, but since they climbed mountains, etc., it was more of an adventure.

The cover then shares the “blurb” of the book, as well as the back cover being graced by Sam’s favorite Tree of Life, the tree is the same one as we have in our memorial tattoos.

The blurb, in case you can’t make the image larger, says:

When your life is shattered in an instant, can conscious and deliberate gratitude and connection to nature help you find joy and hope again?

When Sam Francoeur died on October 9th, 2013 from an accidental drug overdose, everyone he loved was irrevocably changed. Of Grief, Garlic and Gratitude shares his mother Kris Francoeur’s journey through grief from the first Facebook posts announcing his death through the next thirty months as she struggled to keep sane in her bottomless grief while trying to support the rest of her family and continue with her professional life.

At times raw and uncomfortable to read, Of Grief, Garlic and Gratitude is a brutally honest first-hand account of the pain of losing a truly special child, and how the conscious practice of expressing gratitude, unconditional acceptance of others, and keeping a very active connection with nature helped bring light and joy back into Kris’s life. Her story helps grieving families feel that hope and joy will return, no matter how devastating and permanent the loss.

While Kris will grieve forever, Of Grief, Garlic and Gratitude shows readers they can find light and joy again—no matter how great the darkness.

Fall

Fall is arriving in Vermont. We have had a warmer than normal start to September, now it is getting a bit cooler. As we drive through the local area, you can see the corn turning yellow. That is a sure sign that it will be chopped for animal feed soon. The vegetable gardens look droopy, plants ready for pulling and composting. Our garden plants never make it to the compost pile, the plants and vines go to the alpacas. Ellsbury loves squash vines!
 
As fall arrives, I look forward to the smell of the leaves as they decompose. I eagerly anticipate the smell of wood smoke as we (and our neighbors) start using our woodstoves. I can’t wait to visit the local orchard to get a bag of tart apples for snacking. Actually, the apples are a bit of a ruse. Really, I am going to the orchard to get some of their incredible cider donuts. I can’t wait for football games under the lights, bundled in a sweatshirt.
 
Soon the majority of the leaves will start changing their colors. We will have the fiery colors of the maple foliage — I can’t wait!