Wednesday, November 21, 2018

Happy 6th Birthday Anniversary, Garden Gallivanter and Happy 30th to Me!

A stroll in our backyard village of Puget-Théniers.

The best things in my life seem to happen during Fall, when the leaves are changing color, fire reds and oranges, when the air turns crisp and you can see your breath linger as your face tightens and turns red from the cold to the point where it’s hard to talk. It’s a time of baked pies, pumpkin and apple, of the sweet aromas of cinnamon, ginger, nutmeg and cardamom warming the house along with the crackling wood fire.

Fall is when new things happen for me and somehow my life changes course. This blog I began on a November Fall day 6 years ago. It was when I began to garden; and, it was also when I made my plans to intern at the Garden School Foundation, setting my life forth in another direction and leading me to meet amazing people.  In the past, I’ve  met other incredible souls who have shaped my life, or I made plans for grand solo adventures, like the one to France 3 years ago. This Fall, I married a beautiful soul, mon amour, Jorris. It was a milestone for us both. With that, I moved my life to a new country. This Fall, our farm cat Agata gave birth to 3 adorable kittens, and we are enjoying them so much. It’s a beginning of many new things.

A little crumbly, but oh-so-good with wild and organic apples.

From left to right: Bodhi, Sattva, Peaches&Cream (aka: The 3 little monsters)
Our yurt dressed in a surprising snowfall at the end of October. 

It’s a time of reflection, a time of transition, transformation, of quiet. The garden sleeps. Her bounty harvested, stored for winter meals. The yurt goes down. We move closer to the city but still live in the small village of Puget-Theniers. As the season changes, so does life, and so does our rhythm. Only since I started living close to nature 3 years ago did I start to really notice nature’s rhythm, and I have found that aligning my rhythm to hers makes me feel more whole, more at peace and in equanimity of my surroundings and of how I show up in my life.

Sometimes, I think that’s the best thing we can do. Just show up, everyday, with compassion, non-attachment, and love, for ourselves and for the world around us. With all of your heart, just as it is, whether that be full of joy for new kittens or full of stress from moving to a new place, a new country. Whether it be full of energy, or perhaps, a little laziness because it’s too rainy and cold outside to work. Those days are ok too; those days are important and also part of this beautiful thing called life. And, rather than being hard on ourselves for not performing at our “peaks,” what would happen if we allowed to ourselves full acceptance and unconditional love for how ever we showed up that day?

Garden treasures to be stored for winter.
Keys to new "apartment castle". 
I can wader the narrow streets of this village for hours. 

And just be thankful we were able to wake up to 3 kittens playing and bouncing around as we get coffee going in the morning, much needed coffee, since they were wild the night before jumping on our bed, the bed they already pooped and peed on while we were gone and so we had 2 blankets less and felt cold, so didn’t sleep that well and then our husbands wake up really early for work and we end up getting woken up too because we live in studio with no rooms. But we wake up, even though slowly, with gratitude and make our way to coffee and our day, and everything is good.

I have found that the same applies to yoga. With this approach, my practice has changed immensely. I have been showing up onto my mat everyday. Our studio loft is small, but we have been creative with spacing and so made our dining room table a folding one. It’s attached to the wall and folds down, remaining on the wall. In this way, I have room to practice yoga. When I show up without judgment of what I can do that day and just feel my way through, with curiosity and enjoyment, my body and mind just feels more receptive to expansion, physically and mentally. Also, one of the benefits of living in the village is better internet connection, so I can practice along with online lessons, but there are also some yoga classes in the village, which is wonderful, and I have visited. My personal practice is becoming deeper and so, I don’t feel the need to go to class really, but I like to, just to be in the company of fellow yogis.

My three little monsters. 
Entrance to our humble abode with folding table. 
Table folds so I have space to do yoga. 

Yesterday, I had the privilege of going to Marie and Samuel’s place with Philippe. They are our sheep cheese making friends, which I have written about before. They are a lovely couple and have a lovely growing family. They got some other village producers together and we all had lunch of incredible, exquisite food, seriously made for fine dining, without the fancy plates, just rustic and real. Pumpkin and squash soup, juicy and falling-off-the-bone oven baked lamb (their own!) with fennel, cous cous, variety of steamed squash (pumpkin, butternut) and rosemary; For dessert we had apple tart with caramel sauce (both homemade and best caramel I’d ever tasted), and homegrown/homemade pears cooked in red wine and cinnamon. The color and taste of that pear was just gorgeous.  My senses were all over the place and high on something! Real, homemade, homegrown food!! Everything was homemade or from the farm except for the flour in the bread and the couscous! Impressive and exemplary way of living, if you ask me.

The main reason we got together, apart from the exquisite food, was to make apple juice. This year was a fantastic year for fruit trees. These apples were organic and homegrown or wild. It was a day of apple juicing indeed! They had made 100 liters of juice before Philippe and I arrived, and with Philippe’s apples from his Mother’s house, we made another 100 liters! We brought home 95 liters. With this experience I have gotten closer to understanding where our food comes from, never will I drink apple juice nor see it, in the same way. Now I understand so much more.

This Fall has been particularly good for apples, so many apples!

Pasturizing 35 liters of freshly pressed apple juice. 
My mind, senses, and gut are exponentially expanding while here in France. I truly hadn’t tasted apple juice (I feel like that about a lot of foods I try here) until last night when I took a taste of what we had juiced. It was sweet, pronounced, a golden syrupy refreshing delight. It was real and pure juice, microorganisms and all. I did feel a little bubbling and gas in my stomach, but that just shows that it is a living food and that my body will get innoculated with more good bacteria and therefore my gut and immune system will be stronger. I will have some pasturization to experiment with tomorrow, to conserve the juice without adding preservatives.

It was a traditional juicing machine, made of wood and iron. It was gorgeous. You place chopped pieces of apple in, a lot, this spliced wooden barrel thing. And then with pressure from wooden blocks above, you turn this iron rod and the rod and screw pushes down on the wood and the apple pieces are compressed, so juices start flowing out. It’s pretty amazing. My phone died so I couldn’t take a picture, but actually, it was kind of nice, just living in the moment and enjoying the process of it all and the company of such kind people.

Today, is the 6th anniversary of Garden Gallivanter, this blog which I began when my heart struck a match with gardening and has fueled this fire of my life in the most profound, life-changing ways I never could have imagined. It has also burned down old habits, patterns of thinking, of being, old ways maybe not so good for me, people around me and the environment; I have been able to rebuild a new life of exquisite tastes and textures.  Like a phoenix rising from the ashes, I am reborn. It hasn’t been easy nor has it always been beautiful.  But I choose to keep remembering, to keep coming back to all that is beautiful, when it gets hard and desperate. I choose to embody the phoenix rising from the ashes. 

Village Street Art: Hold my hand and don't let go. 
Dinner party/housewarming with Daniel et Sylvaine.
Mon amour Jorris avec les petits chatons.
I will also be turning 30 in a few days. And, I really feel 30. It’s wonderful, to have made it this far. It’s wonderful to be married, to have moved to France, to be creating organic products I love and believe in with all my being. When I think about it, I think how lucky I am to have lived 3 decades, experiencing this crazy thing called life. That is a lot of years, months, weeks, days, hours, minutes and seconds I have had the gift of experiencing. And now, I get to share these experiences and hopefully make new ones with mon amour, Jorris. I know you're reading this, my fantastic Garden Gallivanter fan, and je t'aime. 

Most of all, I think of all my phenomenal family and friends who have been there for me and with me throughout my 3 decades of life, filling my life up with stories, with unforgettable memories, with unconditional love. I think of my mom, dad, grandparents, brother, aunties, uncles, cousins, yogi friends and garden friends. Without this kind of love, the kind that moves mountains and splits sea water in half, I can say without a doubt, I wouldn’t be here, at 30, married and doing work I love here in France. This goes out to all of them, my family and friends, near and far, who continue to love and inspire me. And of course, this one goes out to you guys, my fellow readers, near and far. Thank you for growing with me through all these years. Happy Autumn!

Beeswax candles I made with apples. 

*Photos by Tiffanie Ma

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