Coyote Song Farm & Forest

Ojiisan's Onions

April 7, 2022

Onions. Lots of baby onion plants. I haven’t much experience planting them from seed and last year found the allium starts a bit tricky. I’m learning though, and the little seedlings are coming along well. Onion plants go back a long way in my memory, back to my first farm experiences just outside of Chicago in Crystal Lake, Illinois. My mother was born onto a farm in Washington State. Her parents were “truck farmers” growing vegetables for market. They were forced to leave their farm and the house their community helped them build during the second world war when they were put into prison camps because they were from Japan. Many years later my uncle was able to purchase a hobby farm in Illinois and my ojiisan (grandfather) was able to grow vegetables and tend to a few chickens again at the end of his life. I loved the farm. Uncle Shuji would push me in the wheelbarrow through the fields and there was food growing all around. This city girl couldn’t believe that food happened like that. One day I was walking by myself through the fields and I saw an onion in the ground. It was an onion! It looked so onion-y it had to be ready to pick, so I pulled it up and ran back to the house to show everyone. Well, apparently it wasn’t ready at all and there was some scolding. I haven’t forgotten the excitement of seeing that onion to this day (or the scolding!). I didn’t see the trajectory between my ojiisan’s life and mine clearly until recently. I did not see myself as a descendent of farmers when we decided to start this farm, strangely enough. I think it took my mother saying how much Ojiisan would appreciate what I am doing for me to recognize that farming is indeed in my blood. What an unexpected path life has taken. It warms my heart to be able to provide my mother with farm fresh vegetables and flowers all summer so that she can taste the freshness of the field again as she did when she was a child. I am exploring Japanese varieties of greens, squash, eggplant and other crops hoping that something will be familiar to Mom and take her taste buds back to childhood and the farm that she was so unfairly torn away from. Thank you Ojiisan for the love of the farm that you have passed down to me. I hope to do you proud.

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January 6, 2022

A year ago I was the poster child for resilience. Media outlets looking for a happy story of strength and perseverance picked up and ran with “...and now I’m a farmer!” A quick turnaround from loss to new life to give people hope during dark days. A year later as this pandemic is rapidly morphing into something new I find myself on the couch feeling heavy and not up to my poster-child image. In the early days of the pandemic I was fuelled by adrenaline. The shock of the loss, the panic to figure out how to survive and my ever-present problem solving response took over and helped me make a new plan and forge ahead. Now almost two years in, the buried feelings are emerging as I watch other restaurant owners facing the prospect that I faced, making very hard decisions, and wanting to hold tight to their staff. I feel their pain and anxiety deep within myself. The resilience story line glosses over those hard parts. To be demonstrating residence you have to have suffered much loss and hardship. And as for all grief, the path of recovery is not linear. Some days surrounded by seed catalogues and immersed in plans for this year’s flower fields and veggie crops I am energized and excited. Others the couch wants to consume me as I scroll endlessly through social media feeds offering glimpses of other lives and worlds I feel so cut off from. I do want my story to give people hope and suggest the possibility of bouncing back from adversity into a new, unexpected and meaningful life. We are all struggling one way or another as the pandemic drags on. The isolation and loneliness I feel is shared by many, some suffering far more profoundly. If strength is to come from suffering I think we need to acknowledge the hard parts for what they are - not deviations from our path of resilience but necessary steps to be traversed with care and attention. This spring I will plant more seeds. I’ll watch them grow every day. I’ll marvel at how nature wants to live, pushing the littlest green sprouts to withstand the winds, rain and scorching sun. And sometimes I’ll find weeds taking over, seemingly overnight trying to push the little seedlings down. I’ll help the seedlings out, clearing space for them to grow. But I’ll leave some weeds to flourish and admire them for their persistence too.

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