Paying attention

Hey, look — it is most definitely fall! Now, how are we going to spend our time this season? Or, perhaps more important, how we will we allocate our attention?

Hey, look — it is most definitely fall! Now, how are we going to spend our time this season? Or, perhaps more important, how we will we allocate our attention?

So, at the outset, there’s some irony to me taking on this topic right now. Because, well, my attention is somewhat divided. Here I am on the computer, sitting at a picnic table at our beloved Grand Island pumpkin patch, while the kids play around on the big slides under cover. It’s a happy place to be on a rainy afternoon, when I need to get the newsletter written, and they need to work off some steam. But, it hardly makes for focus! (Not to mention the constant potential distraction here on my trusty computer — social media is always just a click away, and can I ignore it long enough to compose a newsletter! That is always a question!)

But, I want to at least bring this up, because for some reason it feels like an important fall topic. As we turn toward these darker, rainier months, it feels important to me to consider how I respond to all the shifts in my personal environment. As outdoor activities pull less on my physical body, do I let myself turn completely inward. Or, perhaps more to the point, do I let myself get pulled into the ethereal, endless, unreal world of the computer and like devices?

I think this is a big question for humanity right now. Perhaps The Question of our era. What are we paying attention to? And are we really paying attention to anything at all?

Does anybody else feel foggier, less focused, less present after time spent mindlessly scrolling? I, for sure, do. And, in contrast, I have always felt more attention shift and deepen from time spent outside. Colors become more saturated. I hear multiple layers of sound in the environment. My inner chatter eventually slows down.

I am sure that this is why I (and Casey too) gravitated toward a job that forces us outside every day. It’s not always physically comfortable work to do — especially in this season, when mud abounds and falling rain complicates even the simplest task. But there is this gift that comes from being outside — the gift of presence in the world. Of direct observation of so many fascinating parts of life that just aren’t shiny or loud or fast moving enough to be noticed if stuck in a post-screen, indoor-life fog.

In my ever-growing humility of experience, I no longer feel comfortable assuming that everyone responds the same ways to these kinds of things — that everyone walks away from a screen with a fog or comes in from a day of work tired but happily alert. Those are my experiences, and they have dictated the choices I make for myself and for our children, even though at times I feel like I am trying to hold back the tides as I carve out screen-free spaces and childhoods for all of us.

For the children, it’s actually relatively easy as a homeschooling family to simply set our boundaries and keep them (which for us means that the kids don’t use screens at home). But for me, an adult trying to live, communicate, and run a business in a 2016 world, forgoing screens just doesn’t seem like a realistic (or reasonable!) option at this point. So, I set boundaries for myself too — I use temporal and physical boundaries to keep myself from frittering away the day into fragments of lame entertainment and losing all my productive energy and focus. This can happen to me easily when at home with the kids, if I am not VERY intentional. So, I place limits, and then I pull up my big girl pants and work hard to keep them!

I had been pondering much of this after a friend recommended to me Reset Your Child’s Brain, a book about children but which I found familiar to my own experiences (both as a teenager and an adult). Then, just this month The Atlantic published an article about a Silicon Valley insider who claims that much of contemporary technologies are being intentionally designed to be addictive to users. “Oh!” I said to myself. It’s not that I am weak-willed! (Or any of us!) Social media websites are addictive! Intentionally so! Between the book and article, it has become clear to me that these technologies quite possibly affect us in [at times negative] ways that we may wrongly attribute to our selves rather than to our devices. It’s a potentially controversial notion, but an important one to consider. Does one’s mindless scrolling habit represent a weakness of will or can we instead see it as the 21st century equivalent to chain smoking? It sounds like some voices would strongly put mindless scrolling in the second category.

By bringing this up on our blog, I’m not really attempting to do anything with this questions but to just simply bring. them. up. It feels like it’s past time for us as a society to talk about the rapidly changing world of communication technologies — technologies that didn’t exist when I was a child but that are now mainstays in everyone’s homes (and pockets!). There are clearly so very many benefits — as a parent I love having a cell phone for safety and for coordinating plans with other parents when out and about. I am no luddite just wishing all technology would disappear (although I do love regular fasts from technologies when our family goes on trips!).

But I also think we need to move to a place of intentionality in how we use our time and our attention. What does it mean in 2016 to be present for a friend? To be present for our families? To bond with the people who matter to us? To set aside an uninterrupted hour or two to work on a creative project? How do we facilitate these things? For many people (myself included at times), the idea of uninterrupted time to create feels like an almost impossible proposition anymore!

Casey and I still both cling to our “old fashioned” cell phones — the kind that make calls and texts but don’t allow us to connect to anything more. These are distraction enough in our busy farm and kid-filled days. But I am trying to move more and more toward focused periods of time, where all I am doing is what I am doing — whether that is sitting to read with the kids, helping Casey harvest, or cooking lunch. Even just this fall, I feel like I have made some profound changes in this area (thanks to my self-imposed computer limits!). I feel like I am rediscovering parts of myself that were buried in a fog at times.

Moms, especially, can fall into the trap of being online a lot. And this is complicated topic, because of course in a post-village/ideal ’50s neighborhood world, online is how moms can connect with each other most easily today. (In fact, the current Orion magazine has a very thoughtful article in its current issue that attempts to untangle the complexities of the new mom experience and isolation and online temptations — I would include a link, but it’s not on the website yet!)

Like I said already, I don’t have answers. Mostly I have observations. Observations about myself — both today and in my past. Observations about my kids. Observations about what I see happening in lives around me. It’s not all bad. But could it be “better”? That’s a question to perhaps ponder these dark fall days in your own homes. As you chop vegetables for dinner, are you really there, chopping those vegetables? Can we only find that kind of presence when we’re in yoga class, or can we bring it home, bring it to our relationships, bring it to our endeavors of all kinds?

I really wonder … can we? I hope you will join me in this 21st century challenge.

And, of course, do so while enjoying this week’s vegetables!

Your farmers, Katie & Casey Kulla

P.S. Yes, I’m happy to report that I resisted the urge to check social media or my email while writing this week’s newsletter! A minor victory for me!

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Important Grand Island related hearing next week! A few weeks ago, I mentioned that there was a new chapter coming up in the very long work to keep a gravel quarry from the south end of Grand Island. Long time CSA members will remember that much of 2010 year was taken up with community organizing meetings, the reading of long application materials, and preparing to testify as a gravel quarry company applied to change the zoning on a 224-acre parcel from farmland to aggregate use. Eventually, Yamhill County did approve the zoning change, and in the intervening years things have been relatively quiet on the issue, as the gravel company has continued their slow permitting process with the state.

But this fall, things picked up again, as they put in their flood plain permit application to Yamhill County — another step of many for them. However, for us concerned Grand Island farmers and residents, it is another opportunity to speak out on a particularly important topic! Namely the possible affects of a large quarry on the south (i.e. upstream) end of the island!

So, here we are again, meeting after work hours to discuss a new set of paperwork (as well as digging through the old stuff). We’re getting prepared to present our thoughts on the matter at a public hearing before the Yamhill County Planning Commission next Thursday, November 3 at 7 pm. The hearing is in Room 32 at the Yamhill County Courthouse, 535 E 5th St, McMinnville, Oregon. I’m telling you about this now, because I know that some of you have watched the process closely over the years. If you’d like to come and be a warm body in the room in support of Grand Island farmers, please join us! We would be so heartened by your presence!

~ ~ ~

And, more important upcoming dates:

  • Thursday, November 17 — The final CSA pick-up for 2016!
  • Tuesday, November 22 — Thanksgiving Holiday Harvest! Place your order by end of Sunday, November 20. Pick up between 3-5 pm on Tuesday. (The list of items available for order will be in the final newsletter of the year)
  • Tuesday, December 20 — Christmas Holiday Harvest! Place your order by end of Sunday, December 18. Pick up between 3-5 pm on Tuesday. (I will email the list of available items the week beforehand.)
  • Thursday, February 16 — The first CSA pick-up of 2017! 2-7 pm at our storefront!

~ ~ ~

Meet this week’s vegetables:

  • Apples
  • Pears
  • Brussels sprouts — Ok, they are here this week! (Sorry to have tempted you prematurely last week!) They are on the stalk still (for our ease of harvested and delivery). To prepare, begin by “popping” them off with your thumb and then prep as you would any Brussels sprouts!
  • Delicata squash — We also have pie pumpkins and spaghetti squash to choose from as well! At this weekend’s open house we had a fun winter squash tasting, with cooked samples of all our types available for trying in one sitting! It was super fun to see them all side-by-side and compare the different textures/flavors. They differ widely from type to type! (That’s on purpose, of course. We figure that if we’re going to grow several different kinds of squash, then they should be different!)
  • Fennel bulbs
  • Cabbage
  • Sweet peppers
  • Chard
  • Kale & collards
  • Beets
  • Carrots
  • Potatoes — Both red and yellow this week
  • Garlic

And this week’s extra goodies from the farm:

  • Ground beef — The last beef from our farm for the foreseeable future! $10/lb
  • Lamb — Also the last lamb from our farm for the foreseeable future! Chops are $14/lb; roasts/shanks are $12/lb; ground lamb is $10/lb; organs and bones are $6/lb.
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