Arms to Plowshare: The Roman Ideal of Citizen-Soldier-Farmer right here in Twin Peaks

 

The Thrasher Micro Farm on the cusp between June and July tended by an Old Soldier.

The Thrasher Micro Farm on the cusp between June and July tended by an Old Soldier.

The change from soldier to (urban/micro) farmer happened organically for me – no pun intended. I can look at my childhood and point to this gardener and that gardener that influenced my upbringing – mother, grandparents, neighbors, and friends of the family. I knew the taste of fresh tomato sandwiches in summer, the incredible sweetness of peppers from the land, and how strawberries mixed with fresh spinach from the raised beds were some of the best summer salads ever. Even as a soldier, I would have little mini gardens – a tomato plant, a jalapeno plant, maybe a strawberry plant. (I’m still angry that someone threw my pot of herbs off the barracks roof in Germany.) Once on patrol in Iraq we gave seeds to the citizens there and it’s some of my fondest memories.

As a soldier, especially during my reserve time, the idea of Citizen Soldier was very strong. The military functioned by its support by citizens and its citizens created the force. Many would argue, including myself that the all-volunteer force has eliminated the connection between military service and citizenship; but, the culture and rhetoric for it is still strong within the U.S. military.

Image by Jeffery Harbin.

Image by Jeffery Harbin.

The message driven into the servicemembers head daily is that you are a true patriot if you serve and forever have that moniker even when you transition from soldier back to citizen. When I hung up my combat boots and my government spokesperson flag pin, getting back to being just a civilian was hard. However, my desire to grow things was still strong. I started again with just an herb garden. Then there were the raised beds. Then we dug up the whole front lawn, added chickens and ducks, now there’s honey bees and fruit trees. Things are growing away.

 

Romantis: The ideal of the citizen, soldier, farmer.

Romantis: The ideal of the citizen, soldier, farmer.

Right about the time we expanded our growing space(s) at the homestead we purchased in Twin Peaks, I came across an ideal I hadn’t thought about since high school world history class:  Romantis. This was the ideal of citizen-soldier-farmer. Much like the ideals our rebellious founders embraced, Rome had a militia-type defense-force which could be called up in time of war and then disbanded during peacetime. This citizen/soldier/farmer ideal is exampled by Roman citizen, Lucius Quinctius Cincinnatus – Rome’s George Washington, if you will. Per Roman legend, Cincinnatus was tending his farm when a messenger arrived, telling him that Rome was under attack and that he had been elected leader. He was at first reluctant to go, but the Senate pleaded with him. He defeated the enemy tribe within a matter of weeks and, despite the remaining most of his six-month term as leader with absolute power, returned to his farm.

 

It all started with an herb bed outside the kitchen window.

It all started with an herb bed outside the kitchen window.

I would argue that once you taste combat, once you see the truthful ugly violence that is war (not this Hollywood  crap wrapped in a flag), being left to exist simply, grow food ,and be around those you love is all you ever long for the rest of your life. It certainly is true for me, and I’m finding I’m not alone.

 

Many of the vendors at my local farmer markets are also veterans. You begin to know the look of someone who has done time as a sister or brother in arms. Sometimes we talk about our service time; most times we’re talking about the lack of or too much rain or the best way to keep pests away (or main enemy combatant in our growing farming civilian life), or…you know, farming topics. Holding up our plowshares is how we serve now. There’s a peace in working the land you find nowhere else following your service time, especially if you’ve been under fire.

 

bd2eb99340ec84e2d663289aa72bb03cAs I have been working more and more with veterans to do writing as healing, is another place that I’m finding that many of us Vets have moved from combat boots to farming mucks. There are a variety of organizations that have the mission of exposing vets to the farming life – urban, micro, or big time. Such programs include:  Farmer to Vet CoalitionBeginning Farmers, and Veteran Farmers Project. Also, many states have local organizations encouraging urban farming, aiming their lenses at vets and youth, like here in Washington there is Ground Operations, which focuses on taking soldiers from the battlefield to the farmfield.

 

Many of my fellow Vets-to-Farmers got into it more organically much like myself; however, for those organizations helping others to find the peace of working the land, I’m boosting the signal so others can see their good work and support it, or use it, as they can and need.

 

Happy Farming!

When life throws tomatoes at you

Hello Fiction Farm fans.

I have been very absent.

Busy.

But absent.

Not absent in my life, but absent from here.

I am missing the interaction here and the outlet.

So here’s a brief update:

11642116_10207033045726901_1867241211_oThe farm is flourishing well, everything is planted and the fight against pest and disease is ever-constant.

We’re fighting new development surrounding us.

The old duck – new duck integration has been painful. Ol’ one-eyed Joe just wants everyone off his lawn.

I had a sick chicken, Spock. She is doing well now.

My dad still has cancer and he’s still fighting it. More chemo, more surgery. More worry.

My children have challenges that continue to push my creative problem solving. #LifewithAutism not withstanding.

Thrasher Hive #1 as of June 1, 2015.

Thrasher Hive #1 as of June 1, 2015.

The bees are about to get a third brood box and honey super. Although, I’d like to move their location (this is a difficult task and may risk their happiness, so won’t happen just yet).

My Work In Progress is moving forward albeit slowly because I still need to do other editorial work to pay the bills. As usual, fiction farming is feast or famine.

I have good news coming, but I can’t say anything about it… yet. The waiting is painful.

The news headlines make me miserable. Why as a nation are we still so ignorant?

Tomatoes.

Life has been throwing many tomatoes at me.

I continue to try making sauce, salsa, or reduction sauce with it.

So, what’s new with you?

Bees: The Micro Farm Gets Its Own Pollinators

The author in her beekeeping veil.

The author in her beekeeping veil.

I mentioned last year that getting bees was going to be a priority for the 2015 growing season. And we did. I’ve been a bad blogger and haven’t shared it with you and for that I apologize. But, it’s just been so dang BZZZZ-eeE here. With the new chicks and ducklings and baseball season and growing season and well, yeah, I’m taking a class and writing a book. See? Swamped.

In February we invested in the infrastructure for native Mason bees and those started out in March gang busters. In fact, as of today, our Mason bee house’s little tubes are almost full. That means our fruit trees and blueberry bushes and early strawberries will have pollinators next year. So excited.

Mason Bee house. Mason Bees are very low-maintenance native bees for Western Washington.

Mason Bee house. Mason Bees are very low-maintenance native bees for Western Washington.

Honeybees were also added on April 17 and as of this past weekend, we added a second brood box. In a few weeks we’ll finally have our honey super and the road to home-harvested honey will not be far off. I’ve been stung twice. So has the Chief Engineer. Nothing like I remember as a kid. Fairly mild.

We still need to mark our queen and we hope to do that soon. We’ve attempted twice and to no luck. We are novices after all.

However, on any given day if you look around our property you can see the honey bees flying around and landing on the lavender and roses and daisies and hopefully soon the tomatoes and squash.

You have to register your hive here in Washington and King County. We are registered.

You have to register your hive here in Washington and King County. We are registered.

The way this hive is going we’ll need to split it by fall, which is an incredible thing. It makes me smile to think about the honey and all the good we’re doing to increase the honeybee population and have pollinators on hand for our Grow Foods, Not Lawns efforts.

Beekeeping can be kind of technical and mysterious and there’s lots to consider. I’m not sure where to start to share with you. So if you have specific questions about it, please comment below and I’ll answer them and maybe even do further blog posts on it.

Thrasher Hive #1 as of June 1, 2015.

Thrasher Hive #1 as of June 1, 2015.

 

Dealing with the Writus Interruptus

TheWritingDeskI’m giving myself a self-imposed writer’s retreat this weekend. Nothing fancy. No escape to a deserted isle. No fancy conference or sponsored writing weekend. Just me moping about my house without real pants, cussing about how that word doesn’t work, and how these scenes need connected, and well, writing. This weekend works well because my family, who I dearly love but who interrupt my writing time most days, is busy with all manner of other things:  baseball tournament, festivals, friends, and extended family. So here I am, holing up in the Thrasher Studios Writing Study and pounding out the words and revisions. My hope is that I will polish up WHEN A RAVEN PECKS OUT YOUR NORMAL – basically connect the disjointed manuscript with the connection chapters it needs — finish editing a client’s manuscript, and send off a couple of short stories.

10913633_10205734966435730_109658982_nThese are lofty goals. Whatever I get done is better than if I’d be doing the Memorial Day mini vacation many Americans attempt. The retreat started this morning with a writing café with my fellow writers here in Twin Peaks Valley. And I’ve been going gangbusters thus far, save for a bit of time where I had to deal with #LifewithAutism. Then after a complete two hours of uninterrupted time my brain seemed to implode. I haven’t had that kind of uninterrupted time in…well, I can’t even recall. So, my brain started interrupting itself so I could continue. I’d get up and look at the girls in Poultryville (the ducklings are so stinking cute!). Check and see if I trapped a rabbit (my micro farm has been inundated with a rabbit raiding party that I’ve slowly and surely been relocating via a live trap). Oh, right, now I need a drink. Maybe I should pet the dog a bit before I write this next scene…the self-interruptions went on for more than an hour straight before I sat back down and got about 1,000 words written.

being-a-good-writerThen I decided to do some editing. Less than fifteen minutes into it, I needed to get up and move around again, this time checking to see if I had a certain ingredient for a meal tonight. Nope. Maybe I should go to the store. Nah. I need to write.

I sit down to write and I’m like, this is crazy I can’t think straight because the house is too quiet and still. Why are you complaining? I ask myself. This is what you wanted. Peace. Quiet. Writing Time.

keepcalmNow I have it, glorious unfettered access to writing time,  and I am intimidated. What if I don’t get it all done? What if no one likes the words? What if I’m wasting my time? What if. What if. What if.

So, I wrote all this out to perhaps make the self-interruptions stop and real work to get done. A writing spell, if you will. It’s time to stop being afraid of what I’ll accomplish and get it done.

How do you distract yourself? Why do you stop writing when you could be writing? Apparently my creative brain is so used to distraction and interruption, I’m unable to clearly focus when I actually get some quiet writing time.

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#LifewithAutism: What Autism Awareness Month Meant To Us

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Today is the last day of Autism Awareness Month. I don’t know if the world is any more aware of Autism than they were 30 days ago. I am aware that my #LifewithAutism continues on. That advocating and caring for my son takes up the bulk of my day (is it a wonder I even get to blog or work on my other writing projects or the microfarm?). But, this is what I’m here for, I know. So I strap my Mama Warrior armor on and do battle via email, in person, and on the phone (even though those are painfully hard given my hearing loss). You do it all not because your some superhero, but because you love your child and you do whatever you can do, while getting them to do as much as they can, too.

You sometimes have to be a Viking Shieldmaiden to be an Autism Mom.

You sometimes have to be a Viking Shieldmaiden to be an Autism Mom.

I’ve been battling this Autism Awareness month, like I do any month, every day for my son to have the highest quality of life he can. I’ve been battling the discrimination that’s been bred by people not knowing this disorder or unfortunately thinking they know what it is and that my son doesn’t have it. The later is wholly more frustrating.

I write letters to Senators and Congress persons. I email legislators in our state to fund facilities and programs – which is 48th in the nation for mental health care, which encompasses often anyone getting care for ASD (Neuroscience is only a small part of it – at least for us. Remember, ASD is a spectrum.) I read and research everything I can get my hands on to learn from others’ experiences or the new studies and sciences…grasping for anything I can.

I’ve spent the whole month helping him battle the sensory overload and the ongoing anxiety this creates. I’ve talked him down off the brink of self-harm too many times to count, just this month alone. This month we’ve changed doctors (again), and meds (again), and are battling for his education (again), and battling the insurance company (again), and still dealing with the railroad of injustice he’s dealing with (for which I can’t say anything here because cases are still pending). But, let it be said that the wheels of justice turn only with big, big dollars, of which this working poor family has none. Yet we battle on.

This month, I again, answer “Yes,” to those who say, “Have you tried this?” I’m still open to suggestions, but, trust me I’m constantly looking and trying…everything!

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I’ve also spent the whole month celebrating the victories – even though by neurotypical (NT) standards they are small. They are huge in our world. Victories this month include going on his first solo bike ride in more than a year, as short as it was, it was still solo. Of course, he won’t get off the bike, because someone might be able to catch him and hurt him. Bike riding used to be something he loved and did often and all by himself; but, as is the case often with Autism, it’s a cha-cha. Something they did yesterday, or last year, may just suddenly stop, as the noise in their head takes over. My son also has been so much more affectionate to his family, handing out hugs and compliments, with ease. This is huge. He’s been a counsel to his younger brother. This was epic! I’m still living off that moment. He’s been more self-aware, telling me when he feels even more abnormally anxious. He also found a way to participate in a big social thing within the confines of his abilities and he is happy about it. Happy. A big smile on his face any day is huge, since my Bean’s default is defensiveness, worry and future-tripping*.

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This Autism Awareness Month, therefore, has been like any other month for me, for hundreds of thousands of persons and families living with #LifewithAutism. So, I’m issuing a challenge for those that know me, know my son, Bean, or know any family struggling with the challenges this disorder creates, to talk to someone about Autism. Tell them what you know. Tell them that 1 in 68 people will be affected by this in our nation. 1 in 68. We need to find treatments. We need new facilities, programs, and for goodness’ sake, understanding. If you are reading this and you’ve not ever met or known someone who has or deals with Autism, learn what it’s about. If you know, ask how you can help. Sometimes they just need an ear. Or a quiet smile of acceptance.

Please.

 

*future-tripping:  imagining the worst case scenario for everything and then getting anxious about it and worrying even more than your default setting. Not being able to be right in the now.

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