Tag Archives: work

So I took a break

You may have noticed that I haven’t been around for a while. There have been no recipes, insights or reflections from me for nearly a month now. Somewhere along the line a week’s long break to get things in order here ended up being a month (or more). So where have I been and what have I been doing?

Well, I started a new job.

I am now the market manager at Schenectady Greenmarket. It’s only been a week, but what a week it’s been! I’m trying to get into the groove of balancing my new role with my writing and family and friends and all the other things that make up my days.

For those of you in the area, the Market runs on Sundays from 10 to 2 on Jay Street in Schenectady. Stop by, say “hi” and enjoy all the wonderful food and wonderful people the Market has to offer. I’ll see you there.

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True north? Maybe not…

As soon as the sun begins to shine and the snow stops falling, my job requires that I am on the road visiting farmers. I love this part of the year…and I loath it. There are two fundamental truths I have discovered over the last few weeks:

  1. I live in an amazingly beautiful, breathtakingly beautiful area of the country.
  2. Despite printing up and following directions, I will get lost.

I told this to the Lemon Drop yesterday afternoon as I asked him to talk me out of the maze of back roads I was on in Rensselaer County. He just laughed and laughed. What makes the entire experience even more funny is that I have a master’s degree in geography.

It isn’t my fault though…

Sure, I have no sense of direction and I second guess any kind of instructions no matter how simple or exact. No, the problem is not on my end, it is with the directions themselves.

Why take me down six back roads when I could easily take a main route the entire way and then a left onto the desired street? Why aren’t roads marked? Or signs twisted so you think you are on the correct road only to realize 3.7 miles later you actually aren’t?

The only thing going for me is that I am not required to find my way around at night. I once had a 1.9 mile night-time journey take me an hour and a half because I missed the one and only left turn I had to make. Yes, a GPS would make my life simpler and my bitching wane, but I don’t think about it until I’m in the middle of nowhere on mile 4.2 when I was supposed to find Barton Road at the 1.6 mile mark. And I’ll forget about everything by the time I hit the road again on Friday.

My faults are many, I’ll admit. I have a problem with any kind of authority (shocker, I know). And I don’t like having to hand control over to anyone or anything (even directions) – I’ll do it, but grudgingly and I am always poised to snatch that control back at the slightest moment of weakness (huh, maybe that’s my issue with men?).

Is that why I keep getting lost? I don’t know and I’m not convinced. I still think Google Maps has it out for me.

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Rhythm of the season

Spring has finally (kind of) made an appearance in Upstate New York. The Winter was cold and bitter and even snowy…but it was also long. Why is it that we spend all year complaining about the season we’re in? Winter is too cold (or too warm); Spring is too short, too rainy, too cold or non-existent all together; Summer is too hot, too wet, too dry; Fall is too short, too warm, too stormy. I’m just as guilty as the rest, I complain right along with everyone else.

To me, Spring is always about transformation and transformation is never easy or smooth. Transformation, instead, is about stormy emotions, destruction of the old, birth of the new. Muddy paths and windy nights; turmoil and chaos – that is what Spring brings. It is an unsettling of routines, souls and perspectives. It is scary and beautiful all in the same breath. It is about surrender and acceptance.

Spring in Upstate is also the time when fields are plowed and planted. It is the time when farmers emerge from their workshops rested and repaired with a curse on their lips and a prayer in their hearts, prepared for the marathon that is about to begin.

Farmers are always in a tussle with Mother Nature. Last year it was a record warm Spring and a devastating Summer drought. This year, it is the continued cold snap and flooding. We need to get seed in the ground so that it can mature in time and be ready for harvest but we also need the ground warm and dry enough to get into the fields.

For many of us who have a supporting role on farms or in farmers’ lives, planting means saying “goodbye” for a solid six (or more) weeks. I had my goodbye chat last night, planting hasn’t started, but it will in the next few days. There may be a quick call from a tractor cab here and there, but I’m not holding out a lot of hope. After seven years in the country, I’ve gotten used to the rhythm and the calendar that farm men live by. I’m not saying that I like it, I’m just used to it now.

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Perky?

I’m in the process of getting back into the groove. I was in Vegas for a conference last week and I’m now off to another conference in Syracuse tomorrow. The only thing that seems to be getting me through the daylight hours is caffeine – a lot of caffeine.

Lucky for me, I just received a “new” coffee maker. Actually, it’s an ancient relic. A glass percolator that’s 6-cup designation is more like only 2 1/2 cups. It is beautiful, all gold and black and grandma-looking. I think that it was an unopened wedding gift from the 1960’s that somehow found its way to me. I am in love with my percolator, though I’ll admit that there have been a few issues along the way. Brewing a morning cup of joe in a percolator is more of an art than a mindless act of flipping a switch.

For example, if you let the water come to a full boil then you get a mess and a cup full of grounds. Actually, no matter what I do there is a small silt layer at the bottom of the pot every morning. I think that I need to purchase a larger ground coffee than the black-dirt richness that I bought for my other love – my silver one-cup espresso maker.

But regardless, I do not care. Good, bad or silty – my ancient percolator makes me think of breakfasts of scrambled eggs, bacon, toast and grapefruit served in pretty breakfast nooks full of sunshine…even when all I have time for is a rushed cup of coffee in my car on the way to work.

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Fresh eyes and a male voice

I am about to embark on one great big, holy crap adventure – and I’m kind of terrified. The terror isn’t going to hold me back, in fact it is pushing me forward, but the fears of failure or success or getting hurt along the way – all these things are beginning to knot together in my tummy. You see, next week I am flying to Las Vegas for a national conference where I am going to be part of two panel discussions about farming, women, and communications. It is an amazing opportunity – one that I reached for and grabbed. An opportunity I plan to take full advantage of…but that doesn’t mean I’m not scared to death.

The other morning as I was stirring my coffee and staring at the clock, I realized that all grand adventures are, in some way, kind of terrifying. Adventures aren’t smooth and easy and always full of fun. That’s a vacation. No, adventures are full of tough treks and scary moments and amazing payoffs. I’m ready for the adventure – and the happy ending too.

I’ve been practicing my presentation (about farming, women, and communications) for a few weeks now, but I felt like I needed a fresh perspective. I called my friend, the Lemon Drop (sour and sweet all at the same time) over for dinner. The Lemon Drop realizes that there is no such thing as a free dinner where I am concerned. When I come a-callin’ he can expect a delicious meal, a lot of questions and very likely a blog entry the morning after.

Anyway, I think the best part of the evening was listening to the Lemon Drop reading my presentation about farming, women, and communications. Hearing him say things like “It’s called being a woman, right?” with sincerity made me giggle. A deep, gravelly voice – one that can be grumpy and pumpy at times – talking about the strengths women have, well, it made me see the presentation with fresh eyes and a pretty light heart…and I wasn’t so scared anymore either.

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Which would you choose?

Last night I had one of my best friends over for dinner. I needed to pick his brain and get some advice. His support, guidance and insight are things I treasure – even when I don’t agree – and any chance to sit around the table and chat is a good time. We might come from different backgrounds, but we share a similar passion: agriculture…or farming.

You see, we both have strong opinions on what the best term to use is. He prefers agriculture, I like the word farming. We had a “discussion” on why the other should change their mind. Neither of us won…but were were both right in a way.

My friend is a fourth generation farmer with an ag degree. He works on a large dairy and raises hay. He is a leader in the ag community. Farming, to him, conjures an outdated picture. Today’s agriculture is far removed from American Gothic. Agricultural professionals raise our food, wear suits, are involved in their community and civic organizations. They are educated, forward thinking, business leaders and (some) are even tech-savvy.

All of this is 100% true. And I agree that farmers are far from the romantic ideals so many of us hold on to. Sure, there’s likely to be a pick-up truck and a farm dog riding shot-gun, but it’s just as likely that there is a GPS in the John Deere tractor as they plant a field of corn.

I still prefer using the terms “farming” and “farmer.” As a marketer and communicator, I want to evoke the positive, warm feeling American Gothic and the like elicit. A familiar image or idea of farming is a great place to start a conversation. Got that happy picture in your head? Good, great! Now, here’s how today’s farming – big and small – hold onto the ideals, principles and culture that antiquated picture represented. Farming is still about family and community, no matter how the size of the farm. Today, the family has a degree, marketing skills, financial forecasting experience. The community in which the family farms is likely o be diverse, eclectic and contain more people living and working off the farm than on.

To me, when you use “agriculture” or “agricultural professional,” the image that comes to mind is big business and science. True or not, accurate or off-base, this isn’t the place from which I want to start a dialogue so I choose “farming.”

Which would you choose?

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There are so many things

I’ve had a phrase rolling around and around in my head. Every time I go to put pen to paper the phrase fills my brain and pushes all the good thoughts out.

There are so many things…

That’s it, nothing more. So what are these “things” and why won’t they leave me alone? I have no idea. I think that these days I have so very many ideas, thoughts and concerns on my mind that I can’t quite focus on any one. It is like cleaning a closet. You have to first pull everything out of it. From a small space comes a great, big, overwhelming, insurmountable mess and you just don’t know where to start – So you go to the kitchen for a sandwich and leave the mess. To avoid. To adjust.

Saturday morning I sat at my work-table with a cup of tea, a pen and a pad. I was going to write but the phrase came instead. So I wrote “There are so many things” at the top of the page and then I pulled from my emotional closet. There are so many things…That scare me. That I excel at. That I want to try. That I want to leave behind. That I want to be better at.

There were so many things – that I filled two pages. And, just like cleaning, I’m a little overwhelmed. Bit by bit I’ll reorganize, readjust, toss or keep. I’ll put the important bits back, I’ll get rid of the bits that don’t work anymore and I’ll make room for new things too – experiences, people and successes.

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