I have magically been able to jump back almost two whole seasons to spring. Just as the fall in Martha's Vineyard felt like it might combust into blustery snow, I hopped a plane down south. I'm lucky to be living in bathing suits again, but in a way I feel like I cheated. Such is the nature of seasonal farming (and Martha's Vineyard, specifically.)

Fret not though, as there is plenty to be done. My moms towering bamboos have shaken loose almost all of their long leaves, making for hour-long raking jobs. The raised garden beds are ready and waiting for lettuce and peppers to be planted. I have déjà-vu fertilizing new dark soil and counting the days to the first harvest, although it's bananas this time instead of lilies. 

For as much as I've missed the transition into Winter that has happened in the northeast, an extended Florida layover has been nothing short of necessary. It's firstly, and maybe most importantly, a chance for me to catch my breath. I was in no way, after growing flowers for eight months, ready to be thrown into the Gravitron that is Manhattan. Also, those months that were to be spent honing my penmanship skills were happily lent to chasing barn kittens, pulling all nighters in the design studio, harvesting tomatoes and kale to then cook until midnight and waking up to fish before the sun came up.  It was the island summer I always wanted and I got it. I also collected stories, believe me. They just aren't on paper yet. 

So for the time being, while I'm home for longer than I have been since I flew the nest, I'm completely satisfied gardening barefoot, driving with the windows down and funneling all of my newly gathered inspiration into some incredibly rewarding storytelling. Chasing the sun again. Why not?

 

 

 

And just like that, summer is over. We made fall-inspired blackberry boutonierres this weekend, dahlia’s finally peeked out of their mud pit of a home and the throngs of chowder-obesessed tourists emptied out on this morning’s ferry. They say the island changes in September, and it’s serious.

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I’m wearing my white jeans today, for one because I just plain old hate the post-Labor Day rule but also because i’m not entirely ready for changing seasons. Summer here has been mild and easy, in a way that I have never known. In New York City, Summer is brutally steamy. The air is thick, trapped between towering concrete buildings and dirty, black macadam. Florida would be just as bad, if it weren’t for central air. 

On this island, there are endless dirt roads leading to water; oyster-flecked ponds, turquoise inlets teaming with wooden sailboats, miles of still ocean, flanked with painterly dunes. Breakfast is farm fresh eggs, lunch can be raw shellfish and steamed lobster on the dock behind the fish market. Some of us are working between all of the sunbathing, but even then it’s the sweet life - farmer’s market in the shade, trading flowers for coffee and blueberry pie. It only took through July to realize that a Martha’s Vineyard summer is the quintessential one. 

Today it’s 72 and clear, the kind of day that cartoons are made of. Tiny white clouds dot the horizon and the sun just barely warms your shoulders. It’s apparent though, that the air will only get chillier, the leaves darker. The few people left on main street have taken to wearing sweaters and drinking hot coffee, leaving the ice cream shops vacant. 

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But while there is a little sparkle of summer in the changing breeze, i’ll take my coffee iced and feet, bare. 

Above: Outstanding in the Field’s menu at Tea Lane Farm; Mid-summer’s swim with Katie. 

 

It started raining last week and forgot to stop. We ran from truck to truck, tucked tiny sprouts into muddied soil and watched, tensely, from the stone garage as puddles grew into lakes. Raking under the rain means an extra forty minutes of work, since the once loose, tilled dirt is now clay. We aren’t working today, because the rain hasn’t stopped. 

Farmers talk a lot about the weather. Especially about rain. An extra inch of water, or lack of one, is a scary thing for someone who invests their life into the soil. Plants rot when they are too wet, bake in the sun when they are too dry and sometimes there’s nothing we can do.

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It’s frightening to watch 3,000 young, spindly snapdragons quiver in gale force winds and fold under the hard thumping of a rainstorm. The same flowers that need to flank a dozen church pews, and rest, wrapped in satin ribbon, in a bride’s trembling, ecstatic hands. That’s the craziest part, that every bloom is anxiously anticipated. We wait and stare and plea with the clouds that they have mercy, so the anemone and foxglove and snapdragon can go to farmer’s market.

I now spend my mornings doing rain dances or hiding umbrellas and raincoats, warding away the swollen, grey signs of precipitation. I have to respect the weather now, like I never have before. Today i’m bargaining with the sun gods.

I was allergic to mango skin growing up, so I avoided the fruit all together. I was unimpressed with the very few floridian tree mangoes that were peeled for me, so I just scratched them off my list. Until last week. I had this strange hankering for mango salsa, so I wrapped my hands in paper towels and butchered the thing as fast as possible. And It was so good. No, it was life changing. I kept saying how piney the flesh was and not as sugary sweet as I remembered. All the stars aligned there after and not only did mangos go on major sale at the market but I discovered what is and probably forever will be, my favorite way to consume mango. 

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Mermaid Farm’s Mango Lassi. 

It’s thick and creamy, with all the mango goodness you’ve ever craved. It’s cold and refreshing but at the same time feels like a milkshake, like you’re indulging. But wait! It’s just real wholesome cows milk and your favorite tropical fruit. Yes, please.

So unfortunately mangoes are no longer on sale, but if I have it my way the mango lassi will be in the farm stand all summer. Cheers, to mangoes.

The Constant Weeder: A growing playlist

The Constant Weeder // a growing playlist

Yes, we are still weeding. In fact that’s all we did last week. We didn’t seed or transplant and we surely didn’t plant any lilies. We pulled burdock root and clumps of grass the size of watermelons out of beds that will eventually hold flowers. It seems though we are near the end of major excavating and we will just be tending to tiny intruders from now on. I think.

Ellie and I are finding our groove out there and lately Pandora has been set to dance-y stations. It’s really entertaining and makes time go by a lot faster when you can sing along or do some modified dance moves - gardener style - while working. 

And let’s be honest, who can deny a Destiny’s Child remix? 

Source: https://soundcloud.com/cyrilhahn/destinys-...

Sometimes, it’s pouring down rain and the temperature drops to 48 and your dog, who was having a lot of fun playing in the mud with the other pups, decides she’s too cold to lay on the floor so she whines and shakes. And at that time, the only warm, soft spot you have to offer is there inside your sweatshirt. But you’re arranging flowers and tending to garland and sweeping fallen petals for a dinner party that’s happening in three hours in a space on the new farm that has never been gathered at, let alone eaten in. So there you are filling cut crystal cruets with numb fingers while your animal has her head shoved in your armpit.

I call it, flower power.

 Thank you for being my mama. 

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Thank you for always holding my hand, even when I was old enough to balance on my own. For making dinner, almost every night, for the last twenty six years. Thank you for being patient, even when we do really maddening things. Hopefully someday, when I have kids, you can remind me of that grace. Thank you for introducing us to the beauty in the world and for sheltering us from darkness, and always explaining the confusing or hard things about life. Thank you for listening to my fears and comforting my broken heart, reminding me that in time, we will all be okay. Thank you for trying to teach me to be organized, even though i’m still a little… all over the place. Thank you for celebrating our milestones and making even the most mundane of days, special. Thank you for pushing me toward my dreams, even when it meant driving for days and that i’d be living far from home. Thank you for showing us what it means to love, with your whole heart. For making our home the warmest, most peaceful place on earth and for being an amazing hostess. All of my friends consider you their mama, too. Thank you for encouraging all of my passions and weird ideas, even when you didn’t know if they’d work out or fall flat. Thank you for putting us first, even when you deserved that spot. For passing along all of your talents and gifts, and also for recognizing the ones I possess on my own. Thank you for listening to awesome music and giving me rhythm. Images of you and dad dancing in the living room to Marvin Gaye are some of my fondest memories. Thank you for giving, endlessly. Thank you for not just being my mom, but for being my best friend. I’m the luckiest girl in the world because I have you. Enjoy this day and know that you are my everything, 365 days a year.

I love you to the moon.

So that I remember // my first day in the field.

 

 

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I worked 9 until 7, planting 3,000 lily bulbs, lugging 40 pound bags of dahlia tubers out of, and then back into, a basement. I seeded twenty trays worth of larkspur (that a few days later, were eaten by what we suspect are mice) and when I made it home, could barely get through a shower. I fell into bed and tried to read, but couldn't focus. I went to make dinner and my back, my knees, would not let me. I was so achey that I was stuck. That night I didn't wake up once, even to pee or get water like I normally do. But it's a good feeling, working with your whole body. A new kind of tired.'

 

Above: Dahlia haul

 

I must have said a dozen times in the last few months, when questioned why I would leave such a ‘fabulous’ place that ‘promised so much opportunity,’ that city life, like a lot of other things, is as exhausting as it is gratifying. To win in new york city means to put up a good fight, constantly, but the champion in me didn’t always feel like having my dukes up. The victories grew farther and farther apart and I was left feeling like I was fighting hard in a losing battle. I know many people who have found a balance, but I wasn’t getting that. For me it was a lot of stop-and-go, highs and lows. The last four years have been some of my greatest, but the recent months shed light on my wanderlust and by early fall I felt like I had already endured a long winter. All I kept asking for was warmth, sunshine, newness. My city, once full of luster, was pallid.

 I love this place, but i’m starting to resent it. 

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Then a trip to Martha’s Vineyard, which quickly turned into five, led me to find a dreamy farm job. It’s one of those long-time fantasies that I never acted upon, because it seemed too romantic to be possible. But there I was, in the door-less threshold of an abandoned farmhouse, on a blustery February day, asking a fellow floridian if she needed help in the spring. Over the next month I packed and moved out of my Red Hook apartment and left for a new island, far less populated and much richer in soil. Now instead of prepping photo shoots, I plant dahlias and practice bow-tying on church pews. I know, I can’t believe it either. 

 But here I am, in all of my muddy-jeaned, sunny-cheeked glory, as happy as an oyster in the Tisbury Great Pond. That warmth I needed? Was in taking care of myself. And that sunshine? It’s beaming.

I’ve somehow, miraculously, manifested a bucolic life.

 

 

 

My mom was right about March, ‘In like a lion.’ And now? pretty lamb-y.

It even rained yesterday like it was April. A good ol’ morning till night, howlin’, blowin’ rainstorm. And all the while it was 55 degrees. I reveled in the murky puddles, unsuccessfully using my canvas bag as an umbrella and waiting for the crosstown bus with fifteen other soaked-to-the-bone commuters, most of which were rammy kids. 

With all of its Spring-like symbolism, Red Hook is blooming into a lively neighborhood again. We got Kevin’s, Lobster Pound and Fairway back all within the same week. Homemade has been back to semi-regular hours. It looks like the old Dry Dock space is coming along, but by the grace of some libation lords, they’ve been in a temporary space since early November. I’m not sure what post-Sandy would have looked like for me without their whiskey and Nebbiolo. I’m not kidding. It was sedation, medication, therapy. They supplied me with ‘thanks for letting me and my dog crash here, for two weeks’ wine. They sold Sandy-ruined bottles for 20% off, so I got a Barolo for 21 bucks with this really great soggy, melting label. 

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Big changes are around the corner for me and I swear meditating on this blog brought some crazy dreams to fruition. I feel that i’ve grown more in the last year than I have in ten, and in some ways feel I’ve outgrown my current shell. Details, in the form of a breathy story, soon.

For now we are soaking up the changing of seasons, O.D.ing on This American Life, starting to drink iced coffees (too soon? too soon) and spending lots of time with good people, out of doors. Oh, and eating sprinkle cake for breakfast. 

Summer can’t come soon enough.

 

I’m so ready for bare feet, eating outdoors and getting some sun on my cheeks. Warmer weather also means Frankie and I get to run around the park a lot more than we do now, although this week has been mild and allowed for some off-leash time in the grass next to ikea. That’s what we do here in the city, we find patches that are unpaved and run around in them, including the muddy sod in the parking lot of a furniture store. I’m beyond ready to live in a bikini and find the beach, and for the first time in a long time, i’m excited to open all the windows and be warm hot.

I’m listening to a podcast about poultry, having a second cup of coffee and getting ready to go to work. Pretend as I might in the morning, I don’t have Sundays off. 

A lot of us don’t. We work at restaurants, take freelance jobs, man theaters and run shops. Clanking from boiler repairs downstairs reminds me that plumbers and electricians are just as busy on Sundays as they are any other day of the week. It’s Monday for the ship crew at the end of my block, setting sail for someplace warmer. This past week I realized that farmers don’t get Sundays either. Holidays? Not really. Animals don’t care that you’re tired or hungover or that it’s Christmas. 

I try to relish my days off, which tend to be midweek, but no day feels as simple or slow as a Sunday. I daydream about spending this sleepy day reading by a fire or wandering a trail with Frankie. Someday soon, I hope. 

Hats (name tags, aprons, boots) off to all of you plugging away today. 

February isn’t exactly a fruit harvest. Our produce isles transition up here and heartier vegetables take over most of the shelves and bins. Berries sky rocket in price and the few apples, pears and peaches are grown out of the country or forceably, out of season. For some reason my greens obsession subsided for the hour I was at Cronig’s last week, and all I could do was stare at the basket of plums. I felt all of them, and they were rock hard. Well, one was tender, but only because It had fallen into a box of mangos and i’m sure that wasn’t its first tumble.

I just couldn’t walk away. The purple, scarlet flecked skin, so plump and perfectly round. Against the woven brown basket, they looked like a still life painting. I decided to take three home and figure out what to do with them in the morning. 

Reaching for some homemade yogurt for breakfast, I remembered the plums. I cut into one and was sadly reassured that indeed, they weren’t ripe. Before I had time to pout about how sad my perfectly tart yogurt would be without a sweet counterpart, I had a flash of my favorite stewed pears from The Smile. Simmered in sugar with a heap of orange zest and probably a few shavings of ginger, they were my favorite summer snack. I think I trekked to Bond Street twice a week in late summer, just for those soft, aromatic pears.

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I used

1/2 cup brown sugar

, when most recipes called for atleast a cup. I was afraid of making them too sweet and losing any plumy nuances (and they were in there!). Stewing fruit seems to be up to interpretation, with vanilla beans, anise, lemons, honey and a myriad of other ingredients to choose from. I stuck to what I remembered of The Smile’s fruit, and what was already in the cabinets. I was in sweatpants, chin deep in Valentine’s projects and a blog post, and had no interest in leaving to go shop.

1 tbsp. of orange zest

 felt like enough for simmering, and I saved about 

1 tsp. for garnish

 at the end. Without ginger, I used 

a dash or two of clove

, which aren’t as spicy but have the same warming effect. I added

1/2 cup of water to the sugar

, or just enough to cover half or three-quarters of your fruit. It’s a balance of steaming and low-boiling to bring out the flavor of your fruit. I covered them while on a 

medium-low heat

 and kept peaking and poking, to make sure they weren’t falling apart. when the skins no longer resist fork prongs, they are good to go.

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By the time I finished making (and photographing) my plums, I had polished off the previous nights roasted vegetables and a huge piece of naan, so I saved them for later. I knew their syrup was just as valuable as the fruit itself, so I ladled it into a separate container as to not turn the plums to mush.

Woah, were they good

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 I ate some on homemade vanilla ice cream, on yogurt the next day and with ricotta cheese on toasted baguette the following morning. I drizzled each serving with the remaining liquid, and when the plums were all et? That raspberry colored, gooey deliciousness became pancake syrup. Ah-mazing.

Last evening right after sunset we threw together some of Sohail’s now-famous Flashlight chili and ran across the street to the Yoga Barn. I have been out of practice for a while but after seeing photos of this space I figured it would be absurd not to go while I was in town.

Correct. It is in fact a barn, with a soaring wooden rooftop and beams, panoramic windows and all the fields and sky you could ever want to gaze upon. Paper lanterns gave off just enough light to find your blankets when you needed them. 

I forgot until I was in tree pose how much our bodies need balance. Our lives, too. You forget while you’re constantly in motion, constantly working and chasing dreams. Or at least I forget. The class last night emphasized finding a focus beyond the immediate need to stay upright. I can relate to that. I also realized what a number 2012 did on my body and my focus. Yoga has this way of beating hard-learned lessons into my brain, and although I usually walk away feeling a little sore, I always leave saying ‘I’ve got to do this more.’

First resolution of 2013: Don’t just fight to stay upright, find what roots you. 

Oh and also: Do a lot more yoga. Even if it can’t always be at the Barn.

 I’ve had to be very self-promotional lately.

It’s an awkward position to be in, especially as a writer. Although most of my material is non-fiction and I talk about the things around me all the time, the words don’t usually flow as easily when I have to be the wise and fearless main character; I like that I don’t always have the answers, tripping over myself and trying to find the humor in my mistakes.

When you apply for jobs though, you’re supposed to be the smartest, the fastest, the wittiest. The best at everything. I have faith in myself and my capabilities. I don’t have it in me to write a cover letter that makes me sound like Wonder Woman. I was taught to do that, but it doesn’t ever sound right.

After many, many phony sounding introductions, I penned one that feels appropriate. It was finding that balance between ‘I’ve got this’ and ‘I’m still learning’. Anyone else who feels like they’re terrible at compiling these types of letters should realize that telling your story is the best way to sell yourself. I no longer believe in forcing out a laundry-list of award worthy accomplishments as promotional material. It felt so comfortable to instead, speak about where i’ve been and what i’m passionate about doing. And yes, I included all of the things I didn’t know yet, but was eager to learn.

Now that i’ve been preachy, I hope this method proves fruitful. If it works, I promise to post the letter, start to finish.

I'm grateful to be spending the first few days of the new year far away from bustling Times Square at this serene beauty, The Grey Barn.

She’s a small-scale, certified organic farm on Martha’s Vineyard raising the sweetest Dutch Belted cows, grumbly Gloucestershire Old Spot pigs and some happy, clucking chickens. They are also turning out the first rounds of Prufrock, their pungent, washed rind cows milk cheese.

To know me is to talk farm. The lifestyle, the animals, the food production and the ability to self-sustain. Old ford pick-ups, overalls and barns. Oh, the barns. I’d sleep on hay and eat out of a trough, just let me live and work in a barn.

Unfortunately for my pastoral instincts, i’m still living in Brooklyn. I can’t be too upset though, as the opportunities to be swept out to pasture are limitless, with the northeast chock-full o’farms.

For now i’ll be a day-tripping farmer. A shepherd to all us country cats living the city life.