How to Slow Down Time

Many of us suffer from an overactive life where time just whizzes by at light speed. The more active we are, the longer our to-do list, the more often we realize that time passed us by. Our attention is so frantic. Our minds just can’t keep up.

I’m 100% in this camp. I get on a work treadmill that takes me from farm work to my dayjob to my work with Manna Co-op, and, oh, shouldn’t we try to clean the house sometime? Weeks have gone by like this and I realize it’s already August. We’re already at week 7 and next week is the half-way mark through the CSA season! This has been the pattern for the 12 years I’ve been doing CSA and the experience of many in Minnesota – as soon as the summer starts, you can already see the end. That’s natural.

The problem is that this same pattern plays out across longer time periods. My oldest child, Sylvia, is now 13 years old! I’ve been married 17 years and graduated 23 years ago! What happened? I honestly don’t like these realizations, especially when I conclude that a fevered focus on work has left me with nothing but a blurry recollection of time. I was just moving too fast to soak anything in.

So, how does one slow down time? Presence. This one simple concept is so meaningful and will only grow in importance in our era of distraction (yes, I’m talking to you Facebook user). Our attention is really all we have and I have actively tried to shift mine over the past two years. For me, it’s a practice of getting out of my tunnel vision and redirect my presence on each person or moment. But it is also a practice and I keep on working on it (I didn’t say I was good at it).

At Lida Farm, as example, no matter how much work remains on the list, we take the kids swimming about every other day in the summer. I jump in and cool off for about 5 minutes and then just sit and watch them play. I don’t check email, I don’t try to multitask anything. I just sit there and pay attention to the moment. These hour breaks won’t cause the farm season to fall apart, but they will make the moments which make life worth living.

So, turn off notifications on your phone right now. Drop all un-necessary tasks – do you really care about what your neighbors think about your lawn? Pay attention or you too may realize that life happened quicker than you wanted.

In the box:

  • Sweet corn
  • Tomato mix
  • Bunch of carrots
  • Green Pepper
  • Islander Purple Pepper
  • Zucchini: We took a couple week break from zucchini, but after a little time off, maybe you’all are ready for another.
  • Red Potatoes
  • Eggplant: Most of you got Japanese eggplant (long, slender type), but some got a traditional Italian style.
  • Sweet Onion
  • Leeks
  • Thai Basil: This has a bit of a liqorice flavor and great in a lot of Asian cooking such as a curry or Thai.
  • Kale

Instead of dumping a single recipe here, I suggest you’all check out this about uses for Thai basil: There is even a great-looking recipe for that uses both the eggplant in the box with Thai basil. Check it out.


Farming isn’t Wholesaling

The world we live in today has what I call hyper-surplus. Lots of shopping happens in large big box stores with products piled 30-feet high or online where the likes of Amazon has virtually unlimited supply of anything. It’s been well discussed that, in this environment, we’ve all been trained to get whatever we want whenever we want it – myself included.

Over the years I’ve found that these expectations have bled into my own little business as well. I’ve gotten more incredulous reactions from people at the farmers market or on the phone when I tell people, “Sorry, I can’t supply 50 lbs of beets…or, 5 bushels of tomatoes…or, 30 lbs of salad mix with a day’s notice.” It isn’t that I’m keeping the good stuff all stored away in a warehouse and just choosing not to sell; that would be foolish. Indeed, if I had a warehouse of produce, you’re darn right I’d sell any product at any quantity possible. But, this is where farming and wholesaling diverge – farming in general and Lida Farm in particular have very real limits. One, farming takes time. Two, land has limits of production, no matter how much agro-chemical companies try to tell us otherwise.

Time: If a store run out of a product, it’s simply time to re-order. If we run out of a vegetable, it’s impossible to manufacture on the spot. I made the decision about how many celery plants to grow 80 days before harvest and there’s no going back in time to fix it. The other time constraint is simply what it takes to harvest and prepare a vegetable. Today’s salad mix, for example, took about two hours to harvest, wash, and bag – and this is just one of 12 crops in the box. Combine with juggling a farmers market and three farm stands, and it’s a wonder we’ve been getting these boxes out mostly on time at all.

Land: We grow produce on the four acres of tillage land which would actually work for vegetables on our 20-acre farm. We can certainly always do a better job of weeding and managing crops, but, let me assure you that no matter how well managed, an acre of produce can only produce so much stuff. Even with a very successful potato crop this year, we have at best 1,200 lbs left. Once they are gone, they are over until 2018. Even if we did a perfect job weeding, cultivating, and managing the crop, we might have 200 lbs more.

Although these limits keep us from a few more sales, that’s fine. I remind myself that we can only grow as fast as soil builds, which is quite a bit slower than our modern world generates pixels or robots manufacture goods. I also remind myself that I’m a human organism, which also has limits of time and energy, even a season not unlike plants. We should all remember that in this 24/7 world, our limits are not something to bemoan, but accept and celebrate because they make us humans, not machines.

In the box:

  • Snap Peas: Edible pod…yes, these made their fall comeback
  • Beans: Most received green, but some got yellow
  • Canteloupe
  • Delicata Squash: Yellow-striped sqaush. Good baked in oven dry.
  • Acorn Squash: Great for stuffing. Try doing a stuff with breadcrumbs, the sage in the box, and bulk pork sausage.
  • Russet Potatoes 
  • Cherry Tomato Mix
  • Fresh Sage
  • Red Onion
  • Yellow Storage Onion
  • Eggplant: Some received long Asian style, others traditional Italian style
  • Salad Mix
  • Poblano Peppers: Yes, these have some heat, but not much.

Your Size is Not You

First, let me say, I love the U.S., but I feel we have a problem in this country.

Our culture loves big things: big cars, big yards, big businesses. I suppose it’s not the bigness itself that’s the issue, but this palpable sense that what’s big is successful. Ladies over coffee fawning over another woman’s kid whose billable hour is huge drop phrases like “Wow, hasn’t he made a name for himself.” Neighboring farmers gawking at the 1,000,000 bushel bin put up by the ambitous guy down the road give their best Midwestern compliment, “Boy, he must be doing all right…” We judge places and organizations the same way. We’re attracted to new development, more businesses of a growing community. We’re dazzled with a store’s bigger inventory, more products, and more and more and more.

West Otter Tail County Fair with New Barn Quilt

This thinking is quite natural. It’s part of our biology to seek out abundance, just like our hunter-gatherer ancestors sought out huge berry patches. The problem, however, is how we internalize this thinking and apply judgement to our lives. I’ve felt this a lot in my adult life. Our 4H club is small – we’re failures. Our school’s enrollment fell – we’re failures. Our sunday school attendance is down – we’re failures. Our business is small – we’re failures. I’m not alone – negatively judging ourselves in comparison to others is a pervasive and ugly epidemic in the 21st century that brings friends to antidepressents and rural communities to despair. Dollars flow to big box stores and local stores close. Everybody wants to be part of that big exciting congregation and rural churches suffer. That big school in the regional center offers more opportunity, so let’s take our kids there and our district’s school falls behind.

If you know me and read this blog, I don’t let these feelings affect me or second-guess the direction of my life. I put my energy into the small but beautiful things that feed my soul and our community regardless of the wider world: a tiny farm, small 4H club, and small sunday school. I also log hours on the board of MANNA Co-op in Detroit Lakes, a tiny store starting up in the next couple of weeks in the age of big box grocery. If we step back, I think most of us realize that these images of bigness and success are often mirages – they’re fake. If I’m feeling cynical, these images of success are part of a big con game that multinational corporations are playing on us to consume more of their stuff or show their dominance to scare off competition; I certainly won’t let some corporate exec in NY define me. So, what to do? Let’s let go of all of this envy and baggage and dig into the work and love of our daily lives. It’s exciting to see where it takes us.

In the box:
Fresh Fennel: See recipe
A Couple Onions: The red one is a Tropea Torpedo Onion and the white is a sweet onion
Norland Potatoes 
Swiss Chard
Greenleaf Lettuce
A Cucumber
A Couple Summer Squash

Ryan’s Organic Pizza Hotdish
A pint of canned tomatoes
Fresh Fennel
Mozzarella cheese
Olive oil
1 lb of penne pasta
1 cup of stock (chicken, beef, vegetable)
Finished hotdish
This is my organic take on my mom’s pizza hotdish, which I love. I took a bunch of pictures like those food blogs with about 30 pictures before you hit the recipe 🙂


Sylvia with combined sauce and penne

Heat oven to 350 degrees and put on salted water for pasta. Make a sauce by sauteeing equal amounts of chopped fennel stalk and onion in olive oil. When fairly soft, add minced garlic for about a minute before adding tomatoes, chopped parsley, 1/4 cup of wine and about 2T on anchovy paste (if you like the flavor). Let this simmer. Take penne out of water when almost al dente (leave will finish off in the oven).

Applegate uncured pepperoni with Organic Valley Mozzarella for topping pasta

Combine pasta and sauce and put into a 13 x 9 baking pan, cover with 1-2 cups of shredded Mozzarella, top with pepperoni, and put into oven until top browns a bit.

As a bonus, you can take some of fennel fronds and combine with basil and lettuce for an herbed salad. I topped mine with caesar and Hakuri salad turnips.