The integrated life

Meet this week’s Mac veggies:

  • Parsley — A couple weeks ago we gave our parsley along with a simple recipe for a pesto-like sauce called Gremolata or Persillade. Casey made some for lunch today, and we ate it with roasted potatoes (in place of ketchup, I guess). So tasty, green and fresh! You can find that recipe on our blog’s recipes.
  • Sweet peppers — The peppers have long been picked and put into the cooler, seeing as how we’ve been through several weeks of frosts. But they’re still holding up well and we enjoy the splash of color they contribute to our fall cooking!
  • Chard
  • Brussels sprouts
  • Cauliflower OR cabbage
  • Delicata winter squash
  • German Butterball potatoes — Any vegetable variety with “butter” in the name has our vote. Fortunately, these potatoes live up to the name. They’re Casey’s favorite.
  • Carrots
  • Onions & garlic

A few weeks back, I was taking a shower and Casey popped his head into the bathroom to shout me a quick question about a restaurant order. Without skipping a beat (or interrupting my rinsing), I yelled back an answer.

This is normal in our house. What is also normal is having lunch with Casey, bringing Rusty out to say hi to the crew after his nap, doing the business books here in our house, and having friends who are customers (and customers who are friends!).

We live an ‘integrated’ life — a rarity in mainstream American life these days.

When I say ‘integrated,’ I mean that in the most basic sense of unifying disparate parts. All the ‘parts’ of our life co-exist, and the roles we fill overlap in time and space. So, Casey is farmer, husband, and father in one space and time. I am farm bookkeeper, wife, and mother in one space and time. And, I suppose that since my parents live next-door, I am also a daughter!

In fact, writing that last paragraph took some thought, because the way we live, the ‘parts’ aren’t really ‘parts’ at all. How could I begin to distinguish Casey’s role as my husband from his role as my co-owner of the farm?

There is a correlating word to ‘integrated,’ and that is ‘integrity’ — to me, ‘integrity’ is present in a person whose values match their actions.

I think that as most people live ‘disintegrated’ lives (that is, their roles existing in completely separate times and spaces — business man at work, father/husband at home), living with ‘integrity’ has become more and more challenging in American today.

I think of this often when I think about the owner and employees of the rock company that is trying to establish a quarry here on Grand Island. I have no reason to doubt that the men I have met from this company are wonderful husbands, fathers, and grandfathers. They may also regularly volunteer or attend church.

And, yet, I still struggle to reconcile their perspective on their business here on the island with my perspective of it. They claim that all will be fine; we see it otherwise. Perhaps this is simply a difference of opinion, but ultimately, we are the ones who will live with the real effects of a quarry on the island, because we live here, and they do not. I cannot help but be skeptical about claims made by someone who does not have an intimate real, regular connection to the affected place (or people or whatnot).

In contrast, we live where we work. Furthermore, we eat the food that we grow. And, we sell it to our friends and families. At every step of our farming enterprise, we are so deeply invested in the outcomes because of how they will immediately affect us and our loved ones. This integration of our life and work keeps us deeply conscientious and honest about our choices. It is a natural, inherent, and intense form of integrity.

In light of current events such as the Occupy protests, I often wonder what the world would be like if we could scale everything back down to human scale so that we could all be intimately connected to our work and our place in these ways. Obviously big businesses (and even sometimes smaller but disintegrated businesses) can so easily lose sight of people amidst financial reports and “business decisions.” When we are distanced by time and space from people and places, of course they become abstract and lose their reality.

How many times have we heard someone (in person or via the media) say something to the extent of: “Well, yes, this isn’t ideal, but this is business.” Why is business inherently at odds with values of family, the environment, and people? It can only because we have completely separated these two parts of our lives: the money making part and the living/loving part.

In a similar vein, how would we act differently at work if our partner or our children were always present, or at least physically nearby? Would we be more empathetic with our co-workers and customers? Would we be more concerned with fostering a positive work environment? How could a few moments of holding a baby in the middle of the work day change everything about a person’s attitude and immediate mental space?

I don’t know how these lessons can translate into most people’s lives, which are by seeming necessity disintegrated — half of waking hours spent in one place with one activity goal and one set of people and the other half spent in a different place with different goals and different people.

Personally, I am frustrated by the extreme separations in our world, since standing outside of them I can see how they force us apart rather than bring us together. But, I am “tilting windmills” I suppose in hoping that such a strong trend will change itself soon.

Even people who love their work and do valuable things still often have a fairly distinct separation in how they spend their time and where. It is so rare for children to be welcome at work!

I am, however, deeply and daily grateful for the depth of integration in Casey and my life. Wanting to work together was one of the big reasons that we started farming, and now that we have Rusty in our life we are even more aware of the blessing brought by our farm life. Not only do we enjoy the time spent together, but we love that Rusty will grow up experiencing and participating in our livelihood!

Not that it’s always easy. There are times when Casey really does need to put his head down and work, even if Rusty thinks its playtime. But, for the most part, there is rarely a moment when there aren’t a few minutes for a chat or a hug in the midst of work. And, even with our employees, there are moments for laughter and conversation too. And even extended weekly lunches of delicious farm food. The work day is part of life, not just the thing that funds it.

For, in the end, the work we do is an integral part of our life, whether it is directly connected beyond our paycheck or not. Perhaps for everyone else, the lesson is to live as though there are not separations, to be a whole person who lives her values in every moment, and to attempt (as much as possible) to see connections everywhere.

Of course, living in a smaller town/city, such as McMinnville or Newberg, helps too — because here most people are connected in many ways. For many people, co-workers are neighbors, and teachers are friends, and customers are family, and so on. We live in a great place for being human!!!!

Enjoy this week’s vegetables!

Your farmers, Katie & Casey Kulla

~ ~ ~

Holiday Harvest!

Hey Mac CSA members! Want to order some special items for storage or use in your upcoming Thanksgiving meal? Select from below and place an order via email ( by the end of next Sunday. Please clearly list what you want and the amount you want. We will harvest your veggies and bring them next Tuesday to pick-up! Here is what is available, including storage information:

Salad mix — store in fridge, 1-2 weeks ~ $7/lb
Cabbage — in fridge for weeks/months ~ $4/head
Chard — in fridge in bag for up to two weeks ~ $2/bunch
Kale — in fridge in bag for two or more weeks ~ $2/bu
Parsley — in fridge in bag, 1-2 weeks ~ $2/bunch
Brussels sprouts — in fridge in bag, 2 weeks ~ $3.50/lb
Celery root — in fridge in bag, weeks/months  ~ $4/root
Pie pumpkins — cool, dry place for weeks ~ $1/lb
Delicata squash — cool, dry place for weeks ~ $1.50/lb
Orange Dawn squash — cool, dry place, weeks ~ $1/lb
Butternut squash — cool, dry place, weeks ~ $1/lb
Beets — in fridge in bag, several weeks ~ $2.50/bunch
Carrots — in fridge in bag, several weeks ~ $2.50/bunch
Potatoes — in fridge in bag, several weeks ~ $2.25/lb
Cooking onions — in cool, dry place, months ~ $2.25/lb
Leeks — in fridge in bag for several weeks ~ $3/lb
Garlic — in cool, dry place for several months ~ $7/lb

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One Response to The integrated life

  1. Nadya says:

    You said this so well!
    I feel so much the same – spending mornings w/ my granson Zander, gaming lunch w/ my daughter (most veggies from you, my garden, or my other farmer/ %frends) then “going to work”, giving massages to more friends, and sharing stories & GF goodies w/ my friends / co-workers …. Going dancing (ballet to ballroom to square) w/ more friends
    My time at Breitenbush & w/ extended family taught me much about a life of integration – as you say, small town life helps!
    Thank you for all you do!

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