Shannon Hayes works with three generations of her family to raise grassfed and pastured meats on the steep hillsides of Sap Bush Hollow Farm in Schoharie County, New York. She blogs about sustainable farming and cooking on The Radical Homemaker .
These words shock me as they shoot from my mouth on this steamy Fourth of July morning beside the edge of Mallet pond.
Ula’s back is to me, facing the water.
She’s been with her friends all week. She’s been with friends all summer. But they are not around at sunrise on the Fourth of July.
She came in to find me as Bob and I were getting ready for a morning hike. I was packing my swimming shoes and some snacks. My plan wasn’t to come back anytime soon. “I have an earache,” she reported.
She’d been swimming a lot and playing hard lately. A little earache might be possible. She could probably use a chiropractic adjustment. I studied the ear, but found little evidence of anything severe. “I don’t think it’s too bad,” I concluded. “I can’t take you to anybody today, because it’s a holiday.” I treated it with home remedies, then encouraged her to enjoy this day with nothing planned.
“You could go back to bed,” I suggested. At 11 and 14, Ula and Saoirse are always game for sleeping in.
“Can I come with you?” Saoirse heard that, and decided she wanted to come, too. Bob’s and my quiet skinny-dipping morning became a family outing.
This wasn’t the plan, but I never want to discourage my kids from spending time outside. And I’m a home-schooling mom. That means they come first in my life at all times, right?
So off we go.
Saoirse and I tok the lead while the humidity slowed Bob and Ula down. We were seated under some shade trees near the water, sipping our morning coffee by the time they reached us. Ula was in tears.
“What’s the matter?” I reached my arms out to her, offering a hug.
“I HATE Mallet POND!” She shouted at me. “My ear hurts!”
Her words sting. This is one of my favorite places in the world.
I pulled a small thermos of hot chocolate from my pack and offered it to her. In a display I’ve never seen, she threw it on the ground, where it leaked into the pine needles, then sat with her back to the rest of us, refusing to speak.
And so, here we are. Beautiful steamy morning. Inviting body of water. Lush forest. Herons and Ospreys. Good food. Nowhere we have to be. A real day off.
And this angry child.
I don’t know this person. It is as though Ula’s friends, good kids all of them, but who rarely go outside, and who employ communication tactics foreign to our family culture, have infected her with their behaviors. Because the Ula I know would never act like this.
Ula is the one who got me to fall in love with camping. Ula is the kid who, if you put her beside any body of water, will disappear in the shallows for hours, exploring every stone, frog, crayfish and minnow. Ula is the kid who never wants to stop swimming, who brushes off ticks and spiders as though they were mere flies; who will put up with leaches if it means she can sink her toes into wet silt and clay. Ula is also the kid who will do just about anything for a cup of cocoa; who, once assured she was out of imminent danger, wouldn’t let a little earache bother her.
I’m so confused. I’m more than confused. I’m pissed. I’ve been eyeing this morning adventure for two weeks. Finally! A summer day when I didn’t have to have my kids someplace by 9am. Finally! A day when everyone else is off, so my phone won’t beep and buzz at me. Finally! A moment to hang out with my family and groove on this beautiful world.
We all just sit there, awkward. Conversational attempts fall flat. Rhapsodizing about the beauty feels stupid. Bob surrenders first. He leaves to get the car. Our morning is ruined. And that’s when I say those strange and uniquely hurtful words:
“I don’t know how to parent you!” And the guilt shakes my body as I do it. What if she does need medical attention and I’m blowing her off? What if I’m being cruel and selfish in my child’s time of need?
My ego is invested in the compassionate, sensitive mother image. My love and connection with my children should be so powerful, I should know what to do at all times. I’ve spent way more time learning to parent farm girls than I have earning a Ph.D. And here I am, in the woods with a sniveling kid complaining of an earache, and my selfish inner godess of pounds her way out of my chest, shrieking BBBUUULLLLSSSHHIIIITTT!!!!!
It’s one of those critical moments in parenting — I don’t know if I’m calling my kid out on unacceptable behavior and making an important, lasting impact……Or if I’m inflicting major emotional damage. In the end, Selfish Inner Goddess makes the call. I need these woods, I need the skies and birds and Mallet Pond. I love this place. I won’t have it sullied by a bratty kid.
I walk her up to the road where Bob meets us. She climbs in the car. I don’t.
I walk home, sobbing. With Saoirse, there were the books: the ones that outlined all those hippie parenting philosophies: Keep them away from screens. Minimize the number of toys. Teach them to make things. Let them take the lead in their education. And they all worked.
With Ula, every day requires a re-assessment of whatever was done the day before. What works for a child who can see and move about her world with ease doesn’t work for a child who must navigate with her heart more than her eyes.
I get home and sit down in my office to do bookkeeping, dropping all pretenses that this is a day off. A few moments later, Ula walks in and tosses a folded pink piece of paper on my desk. She slips out before I unfold it.
I am very sorry about how I acted. I didn’t feel comfortable saying it out loud, but…I wanted you to feel sorry for me. I feel really bad about how I ruined your morning, and I’m sorry I didn’t drink the hot chocolate. (I feel really bad about that.). And I didn’t mean to make you feel like you don’t know how to parent me. I love you. Ula.
A few minutes later, she comes and stands in front of me, her need for honesty and connection more powerful than her fear of my anger. I look up into her eyes. “Where’s my Ula?” I whisper. “Because that wasn’t her back there.”
And she starts to cry. “I don’t know where she’s gone!” She laments. “And I don’t know how to find her.”
But she is there. She’s standing before me with that amazing, honest, powerful heart that guides her through everything. But that also, I suddenly see, can get her into trouble.
And that’s when I remember another girl who made friends easily, who connected to every heart she met, and found words and language to break through any barrier, entering into as many poisonous and toxic relationships as she did fruitful and loving ones. That girl saw all people as good, plain and simple, and picked up there ways and habits just by being with them.
And I remember another mother, raising this daughter on the farm, trying to shake this open-hearted child free from all the other poisons she picked up as a result of connecting so deeply with everyone she met.
She found me. Sometimes she upbraided me with a tongue-lashing. Sometimes she had to physically remove me. One time she had to drag me onto an airplane and take me far away until I could find my own voice again. But most of the time, my mom just talked to me. She kept reminding me of who I was, and of who I wasn’t, because in my early years, with all that connecting and very few filters, I got pretty confused.
I pull Ula into my arms, relieved that this fast-growing body can still fit into my lap. I cradle her to my chest. “Your family knows how to find her,” I tell her. “That’s our job. And when you have a gift to connect like you do, it’s a super-power. But super-powers come with weaknesses and struggles. Getting along with everyone means it’s easy to forget yourself. And you’re going to have to fight that battle over and over again if you’re going to keep your super-power. But we’re here to help you.”
“My ear feels a lot better.”
And I thank Selfish Inner Goddess, who shrieks loud and reminds me of who I am and what I need and what I am free to reject. She took such a long time to grow inside of me; but she’s there in my hour of need. May she grow strong in my own daughters.
Sap Bush Grassfed Lamb, baby limas, roasted red peppers & our own herbs & crispy walnuts, topped with Cotton Hill Creamery Goat cheese & a red wine vinaigrette. Served over a bed of fresh greens from Barbers.
Fresh Cornbread w/ Grassfed Butter
Homemade pie & whipped cream
GF & Prix Fixe 19.95
As usual, we’ll open at 9 with our full coffee & breakfast menu, as well as fresh croissants & gf pastries. Brunch service begins at 10:30.
“Kids! We gotta be in the car in 15 minutes! Let’s MOVE!”
“But Mom!” Ula lobs her words from her pillow, over the stair railing and down into the kitchen where they land, smoking, at my feet. “You have to make our smoothies!”
Imperitives don’t sit well with me today. This is an invitation to war.
“But MMAAAAAAUUUUUMMMM! You have to make our SMMEEEEWWWWTTTHHHHEEEEESSSS!!!! But MMAAAAAAUUUUUMMMM! You have to make our LLLLLUUUUNNNNNCCCHHHH! But MMAAAAAAUUUUUMMMM!! You have to make our DDIIIIINNNNNNNNNEEERRRR!!!” My words shoot up to the rafters and ricochet through every room in the house, raining schrapnel down on my children and their sleepover guests.
I slam back into my office as I begin to hear stumbling and fumbling upstairs in response to my canon fire. Am I behaving like a child?
I replay the scene in my mind, checking off the fundamental skills I should have taught them by now. Those kids are 11 and nearly 15. They should know how to get out of bed on time. Check. They should know how to tell time. Check. They should know how to pull their shit together. Check. They should know how to make their own damn breakfast. Check.
Bob leaps up from the computer and rushes past me to the kitchen, his gaze intentionally non-reactive to my fury, his eyes not making contact with mine. I can read that look. He’s not engaging in a confrontation on this. But He thinks I’m behaving like a child. I disagree. I’m behaving like a 44-year-old woman.
I’ve learned to streamline my summers. I focus on two things: the family business, and getting my somewhat isolated homeschooled daughters out to the social activities with their peers that avail themselves only during July and August.
A few years ago, this summer morning would have looked different. I’d have packed the bag lunches, having invested a week’s worth of prep time to make sure they were appropriately nutrient-dense, diversified from day-to-day, sufficiently palate pleasing, and portable. I’d have had a breakfast plan mapped out, the water bottles filled, the car loaded, and a carefully timed-out schedule balancing desk work that could be done pre-dawn; with phone calls and computer work that could be handled on-the-go; and the requisite drop offs, pick ups and special one-on-one time that is all part of digesting summer days.
Today, I’ve handled the desk work. I’ve grabbed a few random foods from the fridge and hurled them into a cooler, and I have my hiking boots and the dog. Saoirse has her stuff ready. If Ula and her friend can’t get moving, I conclude I’ll get Saoirse to the lake, then I’m headed to the woods for a morning hike. I’ll spend the rest of the day at the water’s edge ’til she’s ready to come home. If the others get their shit together to join me, great. If they’re still in bed when I need to pull out, I simply don’t care anymore. Something inside me has changed.
Dad started warning everyone about it two Thanksgivings ago, after I turned to my brother at the community turkey supper and informed him, in front of all my family and neighbors, that he was no longer to use a certain tone of voice with me. Dad’s Ph.D. is in reproductive physiology. Faced with my brother’s bafflement and a father’s fervent a desire to keep his family on speaking terms, he fell back to his science as a way to cleanse and sanitize a sticky life problem. With me safely out earshot, he explained to the rest of the family a perimenapausal woman’s estrogen and progosterone cycles, and the hormone changes that would be taking over my body (and presumabably my mind) in the coming years.
Mom reported this to me after the incident, as though I should be thankful that excuses could legitimately be made for my behavior.
“Or,” I countered as she worked to re-stitch the peace between us, “My brother was being a shit, and for the first time in twenty years I had the courage to stand up to him.”
“It’s just the hormones,” she argued. “They make you crazy.”
I’ve heard this a lot.
And I have to ask: What is crazy? Because I’m the happiest I’ve ever been in my life. I laugh more than I’ve ever laughed. I love more, find my kids and family more interesting, and I even keep my house (a little) cleaner. Better still, more than ever, I can take happiness from others’ happiness. When I hear Saoirse laughing with a group of teenagers, tears of joy well up in my eyes. When Mom announces that she and Dad are taking a vacation from the farm, I feel a little thrill. When Bob wants to spend three hours at a rest stop on a road trip trying to fix his old camp stove, my happiness as he puzzles things out and solves problems is genuine.
At the same time, deep inside me, I feel big questions bubbling up to the surface of my conscious. I always thought I was completely free: that I did whatever I wanted to do. But as I work my way through this decade, I am bearing witness to a complicated discombobulation between what I’ve wanted, what has been expected of me, and what I’ve expected of myself. They’re a mess of knots in my belly.
Do I want to take Ula and her friend for a hike? Or do I just want to be in the woods by myself? I think I want their company. But I don’t want to babysit and mollycoddle them through breakfast and morning ablutions, and I am realizing that, while this may be expected of me, I no longer have that same expectation of myself. That’s just the tip of the iceberg.
As these hormones do whatever they’re going to do, I see that mess of knots and snarls more and more clearly. It took me 42 years to finally notice them. And now, with the help of some hormone changes, I’ve spent the past few years working at the untangling. Sometimes that means establishing new boundaries with loved ones. Sometimes that means dramatically changing the family business. Sometimes that means announcing to the rest of the household that someone else can make the damn breakfast smoothies.
Hormone changes don’t make me crazy. They make me see more clearly than I’ve ever seen.
I don’t think much of the Westchesters who own the vacation house next door. But I think a lot about their pond. My bedroom windows are up against the state forest, and as I fall to sleep at night, they channel in the songs of the thrushes. The clerestories above me face south, and capture the bullfrog chorus from the Westchester’s pond. Together the bullfrogs and thrushes create the solstice symphony that sends me into blissful sleep.
The Westchesters were up last weekend. We worked all day Saturday, and didn’t see much of them, save for listening to their ATVs run up and down the dirt roads that run through the State Land. We thought it was strange that the bullfrogs were quiet that night. On Sunday, Ula figured out why.
“They’re dragging something out into the water,” she came running up the road from her walk to tell me. She dove into the house, preparing for what she expected would come next. As the door shut, the explosion from next door rattled our timbers. Dusky and Nikky ran to hide under the beds. I went to the window and saw smoke rising from the pond. Apparently they were firing at tannerites, legal explosive targets. A few minutes later, the automatic rifle fire ensued.
For an hour, the house rattled and shook. Bob’s jaw clenched tight as he sat on the porch with Ula, trying to help her with a buoyancy experiment without losing his temper. I laid down on the bed and tried to snuggle the dogs through the onslaught. Saoirse stormed and paced, her fury shaking our rafters more than the gun fire.
“You need to do something!” She screamed at me. “They can’t do this!”
“The law says they can,” I kept my voice soft, conscious of alarming the dogs, cautious not to raise the stress level in the house to the point of Bob’s anger forcing an unpleasant confrontation with the neighbors.
As long as the Westchesters discharge their weapons at least 500 feet from my home, there is no authority that will interfere. The pond is 500 feet.
“You have to go over there and stop them!”
I kept my face placid, but inwardly I winced. Because in that moment, Saoirse was discovering that I’m not the superhero she thought I was.
I would not confront the neighbors. “We don’t want conflict with them,” I tried to explain. “Because then, whenever we come home and they’re up, this will be a war zone, and not a place of peace.”
“They don’t have the right to do this!”
“They’ll get bored soon.” I walked away to the kitchen and began putting lunch together. She stormed up to her room. The explosions alternated between tannerites, shot guns, automatic weapons, and then, I think, a few fireworks thrown in for good measure. By the time lunch was on the table, however, our mountaintop had fallen silent again. Yup. They got bored.
But the bullfrogs didn’t sing that night.
A few days later, we put packs on our backs and trek off into the state forest behind our house. We go down to Mallet pond and pitch our tents, celebrating the start of summer beside the water’s edge for a few days. I take joy that those bullfrogs are still going strong.
On the day of the solstice, we take off on a trek with an unknown destination. We follow the dirt roads and trails through the state land until we get up to the holding ponds above Mallet. There, we see that the Westchesters must have had a busy Saturday. On Friday, Bob and I had hiked to these ponds, and they were serene as ever. But on the solstice, we see the damage from their ATVs. They’ve broken the bank of the larger pond, flooded the trail, performed donuts in the mud, created small flooding rivers. We follow the ruts further into the forest, and any place the winter storms laid down a tree across the path, they rammed their vehicles into the woods and over the stone walls built by the settlers here in the 1840s, grinding them down into the forest floor.
Our solstice celebration is turning into a mourning for our public land. Saoirse’s fourteen-year-old sense of outrage and justice rings through the woods. “We have to catch them at it! We have to take them to court!”
And, once again, I have no words, no plans, no ideas to salve this teenager’s outrage. Bob engages both girls in reading the forested landscape around them. He momentarily distracts Saoirse from her fire and fury by urging her to decode history from the clues around her.
And I go into myself, marveling at my sense of powerlessness over this problem; agog that so few people can do so much damage in so little time. I wallow in Bob’s and my impotence. We teach our daughters to stand up for what they believe. We urge them to live their lives based on their most deeply-held values. And then, we stay quiet while the neighbors trash our state forest. But we cannot win this battle.
We’ve tried seeking justice in the past. It doesn’t work. DEC officers cannot be in all places at once; we can’t predict when people will set out to destroy our lands; and the officers cannot convict based on our observations alone. Instead, I try to get the girls to understand the despair and lack of imagination that fuels this destructive behavior. “No one taught them how to be in the woods,” I often say. “They don’t know how to simply enjoy it.” “They’re too restless inside to accept the quiet.” “They just know how to buy whatever’s sold to them; and then smash and destroy.” But on this solstice, my oft-repeated words ring hollow to my oldest daughter.
Saoirse wants to wish upon them injury; something to stop them from their actions. I remind her of the rule of three: whatever you put out in the universe comes back to you three times. Instead, I urge her to wish for them inner peace and quiet joys.
We follow the trail deeper, to a point where the Westchesters must have grown bored yet again, as the destruction comes to a stop. We stay on it until it brings us up to another dirt road, and that leads us past a swamp, rich in loquacious bullfrogs to counsel my soul. Just beyond the swamp is the old grown-over graveyard that my parents used to bring me to as a child. We choose to go in and visit our quieter neighbors; to rest on their stone walls for water and a snack.
As we do, Saoirse begins to wander among the tall weeds, pushing them aside to read the names carved into the rocks. Hamm. Hadsell. Becker. Her eyes light up.
“Mom! We know these names!”
The dates on the stones are all from the 1800s, but in my own life, I’ve known the family members of many of these people.
I remember wandering these back roads and hillsides as a teenager with Sanford, my surrogate grandfather and farming neighbor up the road, who’d stumble into these hidden places with me while we were out picking berries. He would use his cane to thwak away at the overgrowth, taking just a few minutes to restore a few graves and share a few stories about the deceased before pushing on to find more fruit for his pale.
I amble down the path and greet these old friends. And as I look carefully at each stone, I realize that while we can’t win this battle, we are winning the war. The fact that I am standing here with my family on the solstice, loving these stones and this land, investing the entirety of my life into this community is evidence of that. Sanford’s grandfather was one of the original settlers of this town. He walked this place with me until I loved it so much, I could make my life nowhere else. And Bob and I walk this place with our daughters, instilling the same passion.
Saoirse is entitled to her anger. At fourteen, it is a manifestation of her love for our home.
“Saoirse!” I grab her arm as she catches up to me. “Do you see these stones? You’ll never find a Westchester here.” She gives me a sideways glance. I stumble forward, trying to make it all make sense for her. “People like the Westchesters come and go. But all these people stayed, and so many of their children stayed, because they all love this place. That’s how we stop it. We love it. Look how many more people are here who have always loved this place compared to the people who trash it.”
I don’t think she’s listening. I leave her with her thoughts. But in my mind, I can tally how many Westchesters have come and gone during the forty-plus years I’ve called this town home. But so many of the names carved into the stones have stuck around, working day in and day out, always making things a little bit better, always keeping the natural world sacred. And slowly, this love of place becomes our culture. And that culture attracts newcomers who share that love. The destructive newcomers eventually burn themselves out. But the ones who fall in love stick around and make it home. And when people fall in love and around, time is on our side.
Saoirse links arms with me as we leave the graveyard and head back to the forested path. “I’m so glad we’re here,” her voice has softened, and the smile across her face is broad and true. She is suddenly loving her day. We find our way back to the woods, then hook around to come up the other side of Mallet pond. There, we stumble on an extensive trail of fishing line choking the passage and the saplings. Quietly, she works with Ula, Bob and me as we trace it out and remove it. We find the discarded bottles, and pack them away in our pack. The graveyard has melted everyone’s anger, replacing it with love and an eagerness to express it through cleaning and tending.
We return from our three days in the wilderness and I am happy for a hot shower and a soft bed. I’m also happy to lie underneath my windows, listening to the thrushes. And then, that night, just before I drift off to sleep, I hear it:
Jug-a-rum, jug-a-rum, jug-a-rum.
The bullfrogs have resumed singing in the Westchester’s pond.
We just got two gorgeous beef back from the butcher in time for July 4th grilling. Our freezers are packed with the widest selection of steaks that we’ll see all season, from chuck eyes, skirts & flanks, to porterhouses and filets. That means we have cuts and prices to suit every budget and every taste…Trouble is, where is the sweet spot for each customer? Here’s a quick guide to grassfed steaks to help you make the best choice for you and your family:
Filet Mignon (aka Tenderloin): This is the most expensive cut on the entire beef. That’s because it’s super tender, and because it makes up less than two percent of the carcass weight. It is very lean, but also very easy on the teeth. If tenderness is your number one priority when choosing a cut of meat, then pay the price and don’t look back. Grassfed tenderloin/filet mignon has the added benefit of being far more flavorful than a grain-fed steak, with all the great mouth feel.
That said, if flavor and heightened texture are more important to you, read on….
Porterhouse & T-bones: Porterhouse and T-bones are typically the next most expensive cuts on the animal. That’s because a piece of the filet is nestled in one corner, and another semi-precious cut, the top loin, is nestled in the other side of the big T bone that divides the steak. What makes a Porterhouse different from a T-bone, you ask? The size of that filet piece. If the filet portion is larger than a U.S. quarter, it is designated a Porterhouse. If it is the size of a quarter or smaller, it becomes a slightly less expensive T-bone. Both steaks give you a price break from the filet, and an added flavor boost. Both cuts are also lean and tender (although not as tender as the filet).
NY Strip (aka Top Loin Steak): Next in price comes the NY strip, that same piece of meat that appears on the long portion of a porterhouse or T-bone. This top loin muscle is very lean and easily over-cooked, but when handled gently, will have great tenderness.
Rib Eyes & Delmonicos: If tenderness is a nice attribute, but flavor and marbling are more important, Rib Eye & Delmonico Steaks are your better choice (Rib Eyes have a curvy bone along the inside; Delmonicos have the bone removed). They are usually less expensive than a NY Strip, and they are judged and priced for their marbling. Yup. That means fat. If you complain to a farmer that his or her Rib Eyes are “too fatty,” they’ll probably look at you like you’re crazy. Fat on a Rib Eye is a sign of the farmers’ skills at managing their livestock and pastures. And the grassfed flavor — that mineral-rich, sweet herbaceous flavor that people seek, shines through.
Sirloin: All right. I hear you. You value flavor, but you just can’t get into the fat thing. Maybe it’s a texture issue, or maybe the low-fat craze of the 1980s and 1990s really just got too ingrained in your psyche. But still, you like some flavor and juiciness.… But you’ve got a lot of mouths to feed. It’s time to look at the sirloin steak. Sirloin, which is often boneless, is a great please-all cut. With fat around the outside to add flavor, but plenty of tender lean muscle, it lets fat-lovers and lean-lovers sit down at the table together with a high-flavor cut that should fit into most budgets.
London Broil/Top Round Steak and the Sirloin Tip Steak: While the London Broil was once taken from the hanger (a cut that hangs from the diaphragm and is quite rare in dry-aged meats because it often disintegrates during the aging process), the London Broil is now usually cut from the top round, and the sirloin tip comes just ahead of it, closer to the sirloin. If you like flavor and don’t want a lot of fat or bone waste, these are good cuts. Better still, if you like to season your steaks with a marinade, these are your cuts. I never let a customer purchase a more expensive cut if they plan to marinate their steaks, as the more tender muscling gets mushy in the acid. Also, the Londons and Sirloin Tips stand up well with their own rich grassfed flavor. You can taste the marinade and that signature grassfed beefy flavor. And the price? Very affordable. We often recommend these steaks to families with lots of mouths to feed on a tighter budget.
Skirt, Flank, Flat Iron, Chuck Eye and Denver Steaks: Are you the sort of omnivore who delights in ripping into a cut of meat, savoring intense flavor and juice while you revel in the experience of chewing your food? Me, too. Look no further. These are your cuts. These are the high-flavor, high-texture cuts. They can stand up to marinades, they have intra-muscular fat to keep them juicy, and they have the most intense beefy flavor. If you like to cut your beef with a butter knife, you will not be happy with these cuts. But if you come to your plate armed with a good steak knife and a set of canines eager to chew, you will be in steak heaven….And your wallet will thank you, as these are among the least expensive steaks on the animal.
“There are several words for thank you, there is no word for please.” I am reading Braiding Sweetgrass*,and Robin Wall Kimmerer, a citizen of the Potawatomi Nation, is talking about table manners in her native tongue. “Food was meant to be shared,” she explains. “No added politeness needed; it was simply a cultural given that one was asking respectfully.”
This is the paradox of my existence, I think as I underline the passage. My life is rich with gifts that need to be shared: chickens, eggs, lamb, beef, pork, turkeys, wool…..and words. And yet I live in an economy that relies on money for nearly all transactions.
My daily calling is to steward, shepherd and cultivate those gifts until they find their way to my customers and readers. And while the margins are frightfully slim, society allows me to ask money for a chicken or a pork chop. That money pays the farm taxes, pays the labor, pays the feed and insurance bills.
But then there are the words. I make sense of my world through my words. There isn’t a day that goes by when I don’t escape into the deep recesses of my mind to consider how best to spin my thoughts and questions into words so that they may be shared with you.
Bringing my writing to the public comes at a cost, including hosting fees, design fees, domain fees, and the time spent writing that could be applied toward a more profitable venture. I don’t ask the farm side of the business to cover those costs. The writing should support itself.
I need to write. I need to share it. I could put a paywall on my weekly essays, or accept the advertising dollars and “guest post” solicitations that I receive repeatedly, but I feel those things violate the spirit of the gift I’ve been given.
The essays appear each week during the growing season as my gift to you. In the winters, when the blog is dormant, my words continue at a faster pace. I write every single day, working on books that may or may not make it to the public eye.
And like the Potawatomi, you don’t need to use the word please to partake.
But I sure as heck enjoy expressions of thanks.
The monthly patronage and one-time donations that come from my readers help to offset the web fees; and in the winter months when cash flow slows tremendously, those accumulated donations keep the lights on for my family.
A few of you have come forward with extremely generous monthly patronage, helping to keep this blog in place for the thousands who enjoy it. Thank you. Please don’t stop!
But the work is not sustainable if it relies on the extreme generosity of only a few people. It needs to be broadly supported. So this month, I’d like to initiate an Itty Bitty campaign: a (hopefully) painless way for more people to lend their support and help me keep doing what I love. As an expression of thanks for the writing, I’m hoping all of you will two things for me:
If you aren’t a patron already, please consider offering a tiny ongoing monthly donation, in the amount of $1-5 per month. If everyone came forward with small amounts that they wouldn’t feel in their monthly expenses, my costs would be covered.
Please help my readership to grow by forwarding the weekly emails to folks who’d enjoy them, and please re-post to your social networks. As you are all aware, I’m not-so-keen when it comes to major publicity. I’ve turned down major television spots, refused a number of radio interviews, and take public speaking jobs with great reluctance. Publicity interferes greatly with my responsibilities to raise a family, educate my children, run a business and still find enough quiet time to reflect and write. Your efforts to carry the work forward to new readers are extremely valuable.
I fantasized about writing this piece to you and, in the Potawatomi tradition, avoiding the use of the word please. But I’m a Western girl, deeply in love with the English language, and I am asking you to help me keep those English words flowing into your inbox…..please.
Ps: Some of you prefer to avoid using your credit cards online. I am more than happy to accept checks! You can mail them, payable to Shannon Hayes, to 832 West Fulton Rd, Suite 2, West Fulton, NY 12194. I’ll send you a note to let you know I’ve received them. THANK YOU!
Made with local and organic vegetables, our pasture-raised chicken and homemade bone broth gravy
Summer Squash Slaw
GF & Prix Fixe 19.95
Chicken pot pies tend to sell out! While we don’t reserve tables (one will eventually open up, we promise), we can reserve portions. If you want me to hold for you, email me at firstname.lastname@example.org. We will also have some packed to go home into your freezer.
As usual, we will open at 9am with our breakfast and fresh pastry menu. We’ll begin serving the brunch at 10:30. As long as you’re in the door by noon, you will be served with no rush.