Prairie Girl

Laura Ingalls

Thanks to a recent recommendation from a friend, I’m knee-deep in piles of clutter scattered all around the farmhouse, waiting their turn for an emotional evaluation. The funny part is, I’m not an especially clutter-prone person in the first place. And, this certainly isn’t the first time I’ve scaled down my earthly possessions in an effort to simplify my life. But since we’ve moved into this big old house, it seems all we’ve done is accumulate. For some reason simply having the space to store things means that you inevitably do. Well, no more. I’m about three weeks from a summer-long busy stretch and I’ll be darned if I’m not going into it clutter-free.

While sorting through the items in my office, I came upon my box of miscellaneous photos tucked in the back corner of the built-in bookshelf. I’ve always hated this box, one because of the hideous generic european wine print, and two, because it holds photographic evidence of at least 2/3 of my childhood traumas.*

A prom photo from the year I got pelted in the face with a softball two weeks before the dance. Pics from the first round of braces. And the second. A shot of the mullet I wore until third grade. The fountain of bangs held by a scrunchie as I grew that mullet out. The year I refused to wear anything but overalls. The days when butterfly-clip-adorned corn rows were all the rage. The years before I grew. The years when my nose grew first. Photographic evidence of friendships that didn’t last, crushes that never surfaced and events that hold all manner of embarrassing memories.

Though I’ve dealt with (or am currently dealing with, thank you very much therapy) most of the pain of my childhood awkwardness and humiliation, for the first time in a long time, going back through those photos wasn’t the most horrible thing in the world. In fact, this time, I was able to pick out a few photos I liked. Starting with the one above.

I’ve thought for a long time now that it took me forever to find myself. That I didn’t really learn who I was until my mid-twenties’ quarter life crisis. I was under the assumption that I’d had to quit my job, go to culinary school and start my own business to figure out what I liked and who I wanted to be. But as I looked through the dozens of photos this afternoon, and fondly picked a few out of the stack, I realized that so many pieces of myself I’ve come to love, have really been there all along.

Photos of my prized Laura Ingalls and Pippi Longstocking costumes and memories of hours logged in the woods playing pretend. A picture of Taylor and I taken just a few years ago, when we’d made it through a particularly rough patch, and I look happier and more loved than I ever could have hoped for. A couple snapshots of me playing in my plastic Playskool kitchen that my Mom handed to me when I graduated culinary school. A print of the last basketball game I ever played.

And something about that truth, something about the fact that who I am now has always been there in some sense, all of a sudden felt incredibly freeing. Like all of the leftover sadness and shame and pain I’ve carried from childhood, the fact that I always felt like the ugly duckling and the odd man out, the belief that I couldn’t ever really show my true self to anyone because everyone seemed to reject me when I did, all of those things were suddenly redeemed.

And I thought to myself, if these little pieces of me have been here all along, maybe I wasn’t such a misfit after all. Maybe it just took me a little longer to realize where I do fit in. Maybe, everyone else had it wrong. And that sweet, sensitive, ornery little girl who spent most of her days in a calico dress, running around a make believe prairie, ended up right where she belonged.

*Not ACTUAL traumatic events, just things that seem so as a child.

Down by the Creek

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I swear I’ve sat down to write at least five posts in the last few weeks, but nothing has felt quite right. I’ve been stuck inside my own head and trying to spend as much time outside as possible in this incredible weather, neither of which equates to writing productivity. But I’ve been working on some really fun stuff, and I wanted to pop in and share some of it with you this morning. There’s not much I’d rather see on a Monday morning than this sweet little family down by the creek.

I’ve known MJ since she was 18 years old. We played basketball together in college, and as the only two redheads on the team, we were thrown together immediately. We warmed to each other slowly, as most gingers do, but once we got to know each other, it was true love. I’ve been lucky enough to watch her navigate the muddy waters of college sports, family drama, unexpected life changes and becoming a Mom. And I can’t tell you what a joy it’s been to reconnect with her a few years out of school, and realize that we really have loads in common. She’s helped me with events, sent me fishing with her partner, Brett, and they even trusted me to hang with their little guy while they went to the hospital with little Lucy Mae, the newest addition to the clan. We’ve had many a heart-to-heart over fresh baked cookies or neck-deep in fruit salad, and I just adore her and her little family. Especially that Jack. He has my heart. They live life with such purpose and intention, and I always come away from time with them feeling so inspired to just be myself.

Thanks for letting me capture your beautiful family in one of your favorite places. Love you guys.

Cash-ing In: 5 Months

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Taylor mentioned the other day that it feels like over the course of the last month, Cash has slowly transitioned from puppy to dog. Of course he’s not nearly done growing yet, but he just seems older and more mature this month. His nap schedule has been totally jacked up the last couple weeks, and he is hard pressed to make it past 8:30 p.m.. We are guessing he’s at the front end of a serious growth spurt and I can’t believe how big he’s gotten already.

This month Cash started puppy school, joined us for a weekend trip to Mt. Hood with my family, made a trek around Silver Falls State Park and took his first real swim in a pond at Keeler Estate. His second swim came on a seven mile hike to Mirror Lake. Despite the fact that he drenches us with one shake, I’m pretty sure swimming puppies are the cutest thing ever. Last weekend we took him up to Opal Creek and he led the pack the whole way. He’s definitely an outdoorsy fella and we couldn’t be more thrilled. We made it through the baby tooth loss this month without any major damage, and only had to pull one of his teeth out of his mouth after realizing that the crunching coming from below our table was him chomping on it. He’s not a big snuggler, preferring to be independent most of the time, but in the evenings if you’re lucky, and he’s sleepy enough, he’ll drape a paw over your hand or lay his head on your feet.

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Things Cash loves: Ice cubes. Hiking (as long as he’s in the front). Dinner. Being outside. Any form of water. Walking through every single puddle in his path. Baths. Running up the stairs. Dinner. His Gryffindor snuggie. His Ariel blanket. Sticking his head out of the window in the car (finally!). Cardboard boxes. Grocery bags. Egg cartons. Bully sticks. Treats of any kind. Grass clumps. Carpet. Birds, bees and flowers. Running free in the grass field behind our house. Running away from us when we need to get him back inside.

Things Cash does NOT love: Being hooked up to his new “run” in the yard while we do fun things like yard work without him. Having his nails clipped. In fact, he just hates the very sight of the nail clippers. His new harness. Trying hard not to jump on new people. Getting caught when he steals a towel from the kitchen. Being told not to lick the garbage can. The vacuum cleaner. Being left in the car. Being left anywhere.

This month he’s proven he’s completely potty trained, is pretty good about listening and with some helpful suggestions from our trainer at puppy school, should be mastering more obedience tricks shortly. We’re not big fans of the dog park, preferring instead to hang with Cash’s “uncle” Chase who is teaching him the art of chasing chickens and peeing with your leg up. Buddy also gets about 10-15 minutes of party time with other puppies at school on Sunday afternoons. I felt proud as a peacock watching him play with all the other babies last week. He got mauled by a few more aggressive dogs and sniffed a lot of “parts,” but was basically a perfect gentleman. It was kind of the cutest thing ever.

One of my favorite things he does is when he looks back at me during a hike or walk to make sure I’m there and get the okay to keep going. Sigh. I love him. We are both so looking forward to the adventures we’ll get to share with our sweet boy this spring as weather improves. Thanks for the sweetest fifth month, Cash Martin! We’re obsessed with you!

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A Day in the Life

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When Bird is the Word moved from just a glimmer in my eye to a living, breathing part of my everyday life, I promised myself I would start an interview series. A series that follows some of my favorite people around for a day, chronicling their lives, their work and their beautiful spirits. And I’m making good on that promise. We’re on to our sixth Day in the Life interview today, and I’m so excited to share this beautiful person with you! See the other interviews, here.

Everyone knows Beth. Despite the fact that before this interview I’d probably never had more than a two minute conversation with her, I feel like I’ve known her for years. She’s everywhere. With a hand in everything. She’s kind, and talented and the kind of person who just embodies the very essence of community spirit.

She’s worked with Friends of Family Farmers, spent the last two summers at Yamhill River Farm, been a mainstay at the McMinnville farmer’s market and serves as a huge advocate for agriculture in Yamhill County. She’s a life-long learner, passionate activist, and now, after years of supporting other young farmers, has become a farmer herself. With the help of partner Erik Grimstad, Beth has created Even Pull Farm, a small, three acre farm just outside McMinnville which will support a CSA, make a weekly appearance at the farmer’s market and work with local restaurants.

Last year Beth and I worked together on a sustainability workshop at Linfield College. The food was donated by a local farm and I was tickled pink to be able to make seasonal dishes I loved from ingredients harvested just miles away. Though public speaking is not my forte, I was thrilled to be able to talk about supporting local farmers with my business decisions and share tips and tricks with the students. And after I get done, feeling pretty proud of myself, Beth gets up there and just knocks all our socks off.

She has spent so much time and given so much of her heart to understanding the ins and outs of the local food system. I was blown away by the knowledge she had and the research she had done. And the most impressive part to me was her deep seeded hopefulness. In an industry where it’s very easy to be jaded about the status quo, Beth projects a bright hope for the future, believing the best thing we can do is take it one step at a time. I so enjoyed spending a morning with her capturing the steps she’s taking and I can’t wait to go back this summer and see how things have progressed. Without any further gushing, let me just go ahead and share with you A Day in the Life with Beth Satterwhite.

Who are you?
Farmer Beth! Which is great. I love it. I guess you could say I’m pretty quiet, a private person. I like to work hard, which is a good thing since I also love to eat. Physical labor makes me feel better about the world.

I like to have my work be just like my life, guided by the values of responsibility, sustainability and community. I try to embody that. It’s important for me to have work that’s tangible. I need to be genuine- walk the walk, as they say. It also helps me monitor my perfectionist streak.

Where do you live?
McMinnville. I went to Linfield and never left. The first couple of years were hard. I didn’t know anyone except Erik. But we love it here. We’ve built a great community, which has made our business possible!

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What do you love most about where you live?
I really love the agricultural landscape. But mostly the people. We’ve met so many wonderful people. Everyone here is so community minded. They look out for each other. We found a truck just by putting the word out there. It’s pretty amazing.

It’s so nice to live in a place where we’re known, not just an anonymous face. I’m so grateful for this tight-knit community.

What does a normal day in your life look like?
It varies a lot seasonally. Right now I get up, answer emails and do computer work. I try to be out at the farm pretty early to check on everything. Then, I work on the farm and usually eat much too late. I do the watering, check on things. Lately it’s been a lot of infrastructure. Building our hoop house and a wash station. Getting comfortable with the new equipment. Come mid-April we’ll be focusing more on planting, irrigation, etc.

I try to get home at a decent hour and cook real food, when I can. I still have a part-time job, though it’s ending soon, and I’m looking forward to diving fully into the farm.

It does seem that the work is endless though. Take photos, write down records, look ahead a week or two. Once harvest season comes, that’s what we’ll be doing most of. Winter season is mostly planning and seed orders, crop amendments and equipment maintenance.

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How did you get into what you do? 
Well, I thought I wanted to be a nurse. But then I really hated my science classes in college, got frustrated and landed in sociology and environmental issues. Which naturally led me to food and sparked my interest in community and caring for the earth.

I did my thesis on CSAs and spent a year interviewing farmers to learn about their history and community. It was the first time I’d really talked to a farmer. I think this is what first made me realize farming could be a career.

After school I worked a few random jobs, which was good for making connections, then I ended up doing a food assessment for Yamhill County. It opened my eyes and made me see that I didn’t want to work for a non-profit. The more time I spent there, the more I realized I wanted to farm. I started talking with farmers, met Aren at Yamhill River and worked with them for two seasons. I ran their market booth, wrote CSA newsletters and got to try out the various aspects of CSA. I also met the girls who farmed our land before us and the rest is history.

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What do you like most about it? What inspires you?
I like a lot about farming! Happily. The most exciting thing is it’ll always keep me engaged in learning. It’s something I can do for a long time and always be learning new things, or refining, or creating a new system. It won’t become so much of the hum-drum, daily routine. I love feeling challenged by the work I do. I’d be really frustrated if I had my job dialed.

I also love that it gives me an opportunity to care for a little piece of the world, enrich the natural environment, improve the soil, retain more water and achieve some of my lofty environmental goals. I’ve always been interested in changing or fixing things in the world, but often it becomes so overwhelming. I can’t fix poverty. I can’t fix global warming. It’s just too big. But on a three-acre farm, you can create that change and solve things you see on the macro, in the micro. It’s a small enough thing to tackle, you can have a pretty good affect. You can feed people good food so they can feel better and do more! And I get to eat good food forever.

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Favorite thing to grow?  
Lettuce. It’s the flower of the vegetable world.

I’m also super excited about our flower operation. I find such joy in growing something so beautiful. That feeling is always there on farms, but flowers are such a nice creative outlet. And I’m excited to see how they work business-wise.

Favorite farmers?
Brian and Jess of Working Hands Farm, of course. They’re just so wonderful. We met them at a raw milk workshop. It was such a natural friendship. We care about the same things. They’ve been wonderful mentors.

Pitchfork & Crow. They had no farming background, but they just grow the most beautiful food and are such great, unassuming people.

Jello Mold Farm. Provider Farm. Local Roots and Floret in the Seattle area. Local Roots has been such a great resource online. They are really good about posting videos of their systems and teaching. It’s always so fun to see what other people are doing!

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What do you like to do on a NOT so normal day?
Reading, writing and photography. Reading things that aren’t educational. I would love to have more time for poetry and essays. Using my film camera around town or the farm. Give myself permission to just get in the zone. Drink coffee. Eat good food. It doesn’t take much to make me happy.

Thank you so much Beth, I’m so looking forward to visiting Even Pull this summer when things are in full swing!

If you are interested in doing a Day in the Life interview, please get in touch.

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A Wild Ride


Somewhere, amongst the stress and pressure of my senior year of college, the seemingly endless schedule of basketball games, the impending doom of graduation and, oh yeah, studying, I lost myself. Any semblance of the person I might want to be when I growed up got buried deep in the muck of trying to survive that year of my life.

As you can imagine, this was not an ideal time for my sense of self to go missing. I was about to make a bunch of BIG decisions and knowing what I actually felt about them might have been helpful. In just one year’s time I found myself getting engaged. Choosing a career path. Moving. Getting married. Changing jobs. Moving again. Buying a house. And the list goes on. And I was just as confused on the outside as I was on the inside. I tried bangs. I got highlights. I went through a red lipstick phase. I spent all the money I earned at Anthropologie, buying ruffled dresses and printed tights and an obnoxious amount of blouses with tags that said “dry-clean only.”  Trying so desperately to find something that made me feel beautiful, authentic, real. I took photos of my outfits and posed for daily “what I wore” shots in my backyard. I tried my hand at being a fashion blogger and even attended a national blogging conference in Chicago. No matter what I did, or said, or wore, nothing seemed to suit me at all.

I took a corporate job doing something I wasn’t formally trained in, but the paycheck was enticing and I convinced myself that grown up, married people had desk jobs. Shortly after realizing my boss was a lunatic, I took another corporate job in another town and without thinking, we made the move. You know what they say, mo’ money, mo’ problems. I trudged to my windowless, basement office day after day, rotting away in front of a giant computer screen, 40 well-paid hours a week.

And I sunk deeper, and deeper still, into the muck.

Besides my miserable job, I also loathed the little house we had bought. I’d felt a little shanghaied about the whole ordeal and deeply regretted the purchase. It was a 45 minute drive from everyone I loved and I was completely alone, still trying to wrap my head around what it meant to be a wife. Frustrated and looking for someone else to blame, I started to look at the boy I’d loved from first sight with resentment and mistrust. I felt completely out of control of my life and miserable at the thought that the rest of my days might be spent like this. I was anxious all the time and deeply dissatisfied. I wanted out. I wanted to get away. Run away! Far from everything my life had become. And so, being the go-getter that I am, I decided something had to change and I forged ahead, trying out one crazy idea after another.

I considered going back to school to get my masters and teach English. I thought about quitting my job and working at Anthropologie. I spent all my money there anyway, might as well get a discount, right? I applied to Fashion School in LA and convinced myself I desperately wanted to go. I’d stay up all night researching LA neighborhoods and taking virtual tours of apartments in Koreatown. I entertained thoughts of leaving my husband when he said he wouldn’t go. It was the first time he’d ever told me “no,” and I hated him for it. I begged him to make a career change, too. To take a job overseas so we could escape all the decisions we’d made to get ourselves so stuck. And I woke up every morning with an ache for the day we’d sell that damn house.

Throughout these miserable months, the only thing that brought me any comfort was watching a cooking show here and there. When I lived alone briefly in the months between graduation and our wedding, I’d watch the Food Network in the middle of the night when I couldn’t sleep. It made me feel calm, and serene, and hungry. Watching Ina Garten make roast chicken after perfect roast chicken made me feel like maybe the world wasn’t such a nasty place, after all.

High on the tiniest bit of reprieve I’d found, I started inhaling food culture like it was my life. Watching Ratatouille, Julie & Julia and No Reservations on repeat. Buying full seasons of Giada at Home at Target. Reading Bourdain’s Kitchen Confidential, and every book on Julia Child I could get my hands on. Eventually I came across Mireille Guiliano’s French Women series, which totally changed the way I thought about life, food and eating. Mireille, we’re on a first name basis, preached that life, and food, were about pleasure and enjoyment. Finding our bliss in what we make, eat and do. Her words resurrected my soul and I felt my head rise out of the muck, just a little.

Inspired by all of the food I’d been reading about, I began to cook. First, I made all of Mireille’s recipes. Baguettes and omlettes. French toast, pasta with prosciutto and leek soup. I botched a few things along the way, but mostly I felt like a natural in the kitchen! I started drinking a small glass (like literally a tablespoon) of wine every night while I chopped and prepped, and strictly followed her daily dark chocolate regimen. I spent my previously dreary work days looking forward to dinner, and used my days off for browsing the aisles of the local natural foods store. I reorganized my pantry, putting everything in pretty, labeled mason jars, and shopped for dry goods in the bulk aisles. I was still unhappy with my life circumstances, but the absolute misery had begun to recede.

Second, I learned about eating seasonally and locally. I read how my body craved warmth and sustenance in the colder months and realized eating what was growing then actually made me feel more satisfied. I bought new and exciting ingredients I’d never heard of before. I took my first trip to the Farmer’s Market and tasted my first farm fresh eggs. Gamechanger. I lost the weight I’d gained from a mix of unhappiness and eating out, and my hair grew out, long and healthy. I felt better about myself than I had in years. Ascribing to more of Mirelle’s advice about life, I started to follow the French beauty regimen, less is more and natural is best. I cut my morning routine down to a quick, five minute schtick, and suddenly looked more like myself than I ever had. I purged my wardrobe of ruffles and lace, ditching the brightly colored frocks in favor of simple, neutral pieces, and I also said adieu to the contacts I’d worn since fifth grade, deciding I liked the way I looked in glasses.

After almost three years of feeling like I wouldn’t recognize the person I was if I ran into her on the street, I could finally feel myself being pulled from the muck, limb by limb. My relationship with my husband became fun again. I let go of my unjust hatred for our poor little house and decided instead to embrace the place, painting the walls white and finishing our backyard. We planted hydrangeas and lilac bushes and I felt so proud as they bloomed. I planted my first garden and froze berries, canned peaches and filled my house with potted herbs and fresh cut flowers. We ate meals I had cooked on a little bistro table in our backyard and ate grilled veggies I’d grown with my own two hands. My circumstances hadn’t changed, I’d still made some choices I regretted, but the crushing misery and hopelessness were gone. Despite the fact that I still really, really wanted to move on from my job and our house, I’d somehow become rather content.

They say that just about the time you start to get comfortable somewhere, that’s when everything finally starts to change. Once we made the painstakingly analyzed (and over analyzed) decision to send me to culinary school, we set in motion a chain of events and it was basically one thing after another. Two dizzying years filled with a crazy commute to school, my first kitchen job, Taylor starting grad school, my second kitchen job, finally selling our house and moving into a tiny apartment, and starting a catering business. 2014 was spent simply trying to catch our breath.

And when we did catch our breath, six years into this marriage business, both having gone back to school, both managing to find a version of ourselves we were happy to wake up to in the morning, we started to think…what’s next!? We’ve done what we set out to do. We’ve faced our demons and come out the other side better for it. Where do we go from here?


The other night, while I was reading through some old journal entries, trying desperately to come up with something interesting for the next installment of Our Story, I stumbled upon a conversation we’d had just a few months into our relationship. It had started out as a talk about our exes, you know, the traditional who you’d dated, and how long, and how fresh you’d been with them, sorta thing. It was a conversation I’d dreaded, knowing my number was larger than his and also realizing my past relationship history painted a not-so-flattering picture of who I was at the time.

But the talk was much less painful than I imagined it would be and quickly turned towards our future instead of the past. It was the first time we’d talked of “our,” future. We were only a few months into this “our” stuff, after all. And just because I’d been sure were going to get married since day one, didn’t mean I expected a normal person him to feel the same way. I had been very busy prematurely panicking over what I’d do after graduation, I mean I was getting an English degree for goodness sakes. A degree which told me nothing about my life except, “hooray, you can read and write!” I was obviously going to go broke, end up homeless and labeled a big fat failure. In typical Taylor fashion, he listened to my irrationality, providing some practical insights, and comforting me with the thought that he’d be there to support me, no matter what. A truth which, at the time made me feel week in the knees, but now makes my heart just swell with gratitude.

And then, though it didn’t seem strange to me at the time, he started to talk about what he wanted to do. Which now, knowing him much better, I realize was quite out of character. You see, Taylor is gifted with the unique ability to live in the present and doesn’t usually waste spend a lot of time trying to micromanage his future. He goes with the flow. Makes decisions when he’s faced with them, leaves the stressing to me. Yet for some reason, he sat there that night, at 19 years old and pretty clearly, laid out his plans. He saw himself doing some sort of counseling for 5-6 years and then looking into what it might be like to help manage the family farm.

My brain kind of exploded when I read that this week. Here we were thinking this farm business had come out of nowhere! That we’d never really been interested in the path of agriculture. That it had come upon us so recently and unexpectedly. When all the while, Taylor had predicted the whole thing at 19 freaking years old. When I read the journal entry out loud to Taylor, he just grinned widely and said, “well that’s pretty cool.”

You can say that again. Cool indeed. Over the last six years, while I was busy having a quarter life crisis, doubting everything I’d ever known, trying desperately to find myself and changing jobs about 47 times, there he was, just doing his thing. A constant. Working slowly, deliberately, intentionally towards his goals. Going through just as much change and transformation as me, being grown and stretched and pushed, just doing it a whole lot less dramatic-like. That’s kinda how he rolls.

Today is my husband’s last day of work at George Fox. His last day at a place he’s loved so much I’ve often felt jealous of it. His last day in his role as an admissions counselor, athletic recruiter, student guider, parent adviser and coach mediator. He has single-handedly recruited more students to George Fox than any other admissions counselor, ever. And he has changed lives, you guys. In the span of his six(ish) year tenure, he has received more emails, and cards, and letters, from students and families than I can count. He is beloved by his coworkers, and respected and admired by all who know him. The intentional, patient way he does things has significantly impacted both the admissions and athletics departments, and made a whole lot of people’s lives better. He helped recruit the university’s first football team in 60 years and was still, a mere week before his departure, spending his Sunday evening answering emails so no one felt overlooked.

I can’t tell you how proud I am of the man he has become in these last six years. Especially since I was already pretty proud of the boy I married in the first place. Especially since I was pretty busy trying to steal the limelight most of that time. He is so deeply kind, wise and discerning. He has learned how to stand up for himself and when to put his pride aside for the common good. He is an incredible leader, excellent decision maker and one of those obnoxious people who is usually right about anything and everything. He is unafraid to express his emotions and make himself vulnerable when others wouldn’t dream of it. He’s risen above countless obstacles and adversities and refuses to sacrifice his standards to get ahead. He still cares as much on his last day as he did on his first and I know he will be dearly missed. Although he says he’s ready to move on, I know he will always feel a deep love, appreciation and responsibility for the well being of George Fox and it’s people.

I also can’t tell you what it felt like to read that journal entry this week of all weeks. To realize that, although it’s taken six long years of feeling completely lost and broken at times, this whole thing has come so perfectly full circle. To recognize how we’ve come back to the people we were in the sweet early days of our romance, and at the same time become these brand new, hard fought, better versions of who we once were. To feel like we’ve completed at least a small part of the good and perfect will of the one who orchestrated this whole thing. To know that in a week’s time, as my husband slips into his new work boots and hops on a tractor, we’ll be setting off on a brand new adventure. To know that if this one is half as good as the last, we’re in for a wild ride.

Photos by Gabriel Boone Photography.

Spinach Pasta Salad

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Row after row of tables heaving with steaming casseroles and crisp salads, platters of crunchy fried chicken and potato salad, slow cookers filled with little smokies bathed in barbecue sauce and vibrant bowls of punch speckled with frothy scoops of sherbet. A sea of tables has transformed the carpeted church gym and nothing can be heard but the dull roar of churchgoers chatting over their sagging plates. While you wait in line you plot and ploy, anticipating the dishes you love and strategizing how to maximize the space on your always-too-small paper plate. You make your way through the labyrinth of pyrex, piling your pillage high and trying so very hard to obey your mother’s instructions not to sneak a bite in line. You praise her for her contributions and make sure to taste her dishes, whether or not they are your favorites. And when it’s all said and done, you hit the seventh level of heaven, also known as the dessert table.

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This my friends, is the glory of the magical, mythical church potluck. I was lucky enough to grow up in a church that still practiced the art of potlucking. I remember some of the dishes with delight, and others with disdain, but the affair itself, well there’s just nothing quite like it.

Since we’ve moved out to the country, and week after week drive by dozens of country churches, I’ve been thinking about doing a blog series on classic church lady/potluck recipes. There’s something so beautifully nostalgic about the potluck tradition and I always drool a little, imagining all of the delicious things being consumed inside those churches as we drive by. All of the Grandma Betty’s secret sauces being savored. All of Aunt Becky’s almond bark being devoured. So I decided it was high time I live up to my new role as a farmer’s wife and dive deep into the wealth of potluck history. Take some of the old favorites and put my own fresh, seasonal spin on them, all the while paying homage to those that have gone before. I’ve done some pretty intensive research, consulting many a church cookbook and a few relatives, and I think I’ve come up with a pretty good roster of recipes. Join me in my exploration of potlucking lore, won’t you? This is going to be fun.

My first recipe comes from one of my very favorite church ladies of all time, my Mother-in-law! This salad has been made quite a lot in our house over the years, especially in our newlywed days when I was less than adept in the kitchen. Taylor still loves it to death and I just knew I could give it a fresh twist. I made a homemade, herbed buttermilk ranch instead of using bottled dressing and threw in a mix of heirloom spinach and baby kale to liven up the salad portion. I boiled some organic pasta I had on hand, and chopped up a nitrate-free chunk of ham and some extra sharp cheddars, both white and orange. Though I’m not a huge fan of olives, my husband is, and they add such a nice pop of color, I decided to add them anyway. I threw them in whole to add a little depth and texture. I sat down with a little bowl of this stuff for dinner and quickly decided I’d be proud to take this to any potluck I was invited to! Which I hopefully will be soon…

What are your favorite church lady potluck dishes? I’d love to know!

Spinach Pasta Salad, Church Lady Recipes | Bird is the Word (15 of 16)

Spinach Pasta Salad
  • 2 tablespoons minced shallot
  • 2 tablespoons chopped basil
  • 2 tablespoons chopped chives
  • 1 tablespoon chopped parsley
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 2 teaspoons teaspoons lemon juice
  • ½ cup organic mayonnaise
  • 1 cup buttermilk
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
  • Smoked paprika, pinch
  • 10 oz Pasta, cooked (I like corkscrew for soaking up the dressing)
  • 6 oz fresh Spinach
  • 6 oz Fresh Baby Kale
  • 8 oz Extra Sharp Cheddar, cubed
  • 8 oz Extra Sharp White Cheddar, cubed
  • 1 can whole, pitted Black Olives
  • 6 oz nitrate-free Ham, cubed
  • 1 Tbsp chives, sliced
  1. Chop herbs, shallots and garlic and combine with other dressing ingredients in a pint mason jar. Shake to combine.
  2. Bring a small stockpot full of salted water to a boil and cook pasta, adding a little olive oil. When cooked, drain and let cool. Toss in a little olive oil so it doesn't stick together.
  3. Meanwhile, prep the salad ingredients. Chop chives, wash greens, cube ham and cheeses and drain olives.**
  4. When pasta is cool, combine ingredients and toss with ranch dressing.*
*I like to store my salad without dressing and simply add it to individual portions. The salad stays fresher that way if you don't happen to be heading to a potluck anytime soon.Great for lunches!
**Would be lovely with some diced avocado added in!

Life on the Farm: Vol. 2

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I took my camera for a walk today. I intended to take my dog, but after he spent the first three hundred yards repeatedly clotheslining himself on his leash, I decided to leave him at home. It was a good decision. I walked without purpose, simply letting myself be drawn towards what I thought might make a pretty picture. I’ve been really inspired by my camera lately. Being able to capture life, whether in food, flower or human form, just makes me really happy. And so, I set out to capture Life on the Farm just as it is, before the place becomes not just our home, but also our livelihood.

I’m sure there will be moments in the heat of summer when the hours run long and time spent with my husband runs short, that I’ll fail to see the beauty in all of this. I know the romance of waking to the golden sun rising within the panes of my bedroom window every morning, and the brilliant corals that illuminate my backyard every evening, will diminish. I bet when the fields of green grass currently bursting with life, turn golden in late summer, I’ll find it less uplifting to walk their rows. I don’t doubt that some of the glory of this bucolic life will fade away as it becomes our reality. But the joy I find in this place comes from deep within and I doubt that it will every truly leave me.

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I’ve been thinking a lot about how we got here. As I poured over old journals earlier this week, attempting to write an installment of our love story, I came across an entry that chronicled the conversation we’d had about “our” future. At the ripe old age of 19, Taylor had told me he intended to spend a few years doing some form of counseling and then get involved in the family farm. We’d both long forgotten this conversation, telling ourselves this past year that the farm plan came out of nowhere, but as I read the entry to him last night, we both smiled. From the beginning this whole thing has been so very perfectly orchestrated. Somebody up there knows what they’re doing.

I’ve been thinking a lot about how I got here. To a place where waking up in a hundred year old farmhouse, surrounded by nothing but grass fields and walnut trees, is my idea of bliss. I’ve been thinking about my journey, especially the last ten years, how figuring out what I wanted to do with my life really meant figuring out how to find myself and that what I actually did on a daily basis (or for work) wasn’t really the point. I’ve been thinking about the person I am today, the person I want to be tomorrow and the hopefully, much improved person I’ll be ten years from now.

I’ve also been thinking a lot about what it means to be a woman. I scrolled through dozens of posts about National Women’s Day on Twitter and Instagram last week, and after much deliberation, posted one of my own. Feminism, female-ness, womanhood, whatever you want to call it, is something I’ve spent a lot of time thinking about in the last year or so. Honestly, I think I’ve been pretty bad at understanding this whole female business. Perhaps it’s a bi-product of a lingering misogynistic culture or something scientific like that, but I really think it’s just me failing to see the whole picture.

Never wanting to be accused of throwing like a girl or anything along those lines, I’ve always wanted to be one of the boys. Seen as strong, tough, driven and smart. Able to “hang,” with the dudes, perform perfectly in crunch time and be generally thought of as a bad ass chick. Desperately wanting to be respected, listened to and have my opinions valued. I’ve felt uncomfortable with the word “feminine,” for fear of not being taken seriously, and have dreaded ever being considered overly emotional. Looking back, I think I really handicapped myself and missed out on a lot trying to be something I wasn’t.

It’s taken me nearly thirty years to realize that the things I held up as aspirations just weren’t where I was naturally gifted. My strength doesn’t lie in my ability to perform perfectly or not make mistakes. In fact, I thrive most when depth of experience is my motivation, rather than measurable success. I’ve never enjoyed competition and I don’t wear ambition well. Instead, finding beauty and meaning and gaining understanding brings me the most fulfillment. Not only am I not unemotional, I feel things very deeply and though I still struggle with it, would like to get to a place where I can express those feelings (joy and sadness) freely. I’m creative, romantic and whimsical, and though I consider myself a fairly practical person, am not especially interested in living in a practical reality. I like good news and sappy movies, children’s books and gardening. I still have a big, fat smooshy crush on my husband and I feel happiest when I’m helping people. And, at the risk of totally ruining any remaining shred of my “cool” reputation, I LIKE BABIES.

It’s taken me nearly thirty years to realize that being a strong woman, a feminist if you will, simply means knowing yourself and being proud of who you are.

And that’s how we got here folks. On this third generation berry farm ready to jump into a life of agriculture. Because the person I’ve become: a strong, emotional, romantic, uncompetitive woman, wants the freedom to raise her (future) babies with the man she loves, make beautiful things and enjoy a life of love and meaning. And gosh darnit, I like that person.

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Keep an eye out for more Life on the Farm.

Willamette Valley Pie Co.

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A couple of weeks ago I had the pleasure of doing some styling and food/product photography for Willamette Valley Pie Company. The company holds a special place in my heart as it was started in 1999 by my in-laws, who were looking to take control of wildly fluctuating berry prices. They banded together with local farmers to start their own processing plant and a few years later, absorbed a local pie business into the mix. It’s changed and grown exponentially since I’ve been around, and I’m so very proud to be associated with it in any way possible. I also happen to live on the very same street and have to practice large amounts of self-discipline not to end up there on my morning walks. The scent of pies baking drifts all the way down to my house on occasion, beckons me in for a delicious, fruity treat.

On the day of the shoot, aside from picking up a load of insanely gorgeous pies and other products, I also got to raid the pie company store for styling props. They do such a wonderful job stocking the place with local products and adorable, rustic housewares that just so happened to look pretty perfect in my turn-of-the-century farmhouse. I even ended up buying a couple prints that went quite well next to the new hutch.

Once I got home, I gathered all of the props I already had and piled them on the table in my prep room, along with the goods I’d pilfered from the store. I hauled all the pies, loaves, turnovers and scones into my house and arranged them all neatly into piles. With a long shot list and a whole day of beautiful light, I set about my work with the glee of a kid in a candy store. Or a pie shop. Heh. I spent the entire day shooting, completely forgetting about lunch, and couldn’t wait to load up all my photos on the computer at the end of the day. With a piece of pie in hand, of course.

I’ve always loved arranging things so they look pretty, and more recently have really fallen in love with photography, but never in a million years did I ever imagine I’d get to do both as a part of my job. The shoot was a dream and has confirmed to me that I should continue to pursue styling and photography as a part of this whole Bird is the Word adventure. So consider this my formal announcement. I’m throwing my hat in the Food Styling + Photography game. If you’d like to work together, just get in touch! For rates and more information, click here.

Thanks WVPie! I hope you love your new photos!

Watching Airplanes


Well, I know it’s been a while since I’ve posted an installment of Our Story here, but we’d come to a point that seemed like it would make a pretty good ending if it needed to, and life circumstances dictated that it did need to, at least for a while. So, I took a break to focus on the present instead of burying my head in the past. And then we moved. And then we didn’t have internet for a month. And then work started to come in. And taxes. And you know how these things happen. All of a sudden I felt completely overwhelmed trying to keep up with the present and plan for the future, let alone diving into the past.

A couple weeks ago I read this post by the author of one of my favorite books about that “itch,” you get when you need to write. And while I totally resonated with it, because she really hits it on the head- you don’t always know what you have to say, you just know you need to sit down at the computer with an open heart and let it all flow out- I also thought to myself, “you know, I must truly be done writing Our Story because I just don’t feel that itch anymore.” Well…wouldn’t you know, I woke up this morning feeling extraordinarily itchy. It’s time. I’m back. So here we go.

WARNING: This posts includes kissing. Lots of it. If that embarrasses you, well, feel free to avoid eye contact the next time you see me. I’ll know why.

This post is part of an ongoing series about how Taylor and I met and fell in love. To get back to the beginning, click here. And thanks for following along!

Last we checked in, I’d been dramatically kissed by a boy so determined to plant one one me, he hadn’t noticed I wasn’t wearing any pants. It was just before Christmas and we had exchanged our first gifts as a couple, both feeling a little awkward about the whole thing. He gave me a Thesaurus (pure romance in the eyes of an English major), the second season of Gilmore Girls and a gift certificate to Powell’s. He already knew me well. And I’d spent most of my Thanksgiving break making him a fleece blanket for basketball roadtrips, and a Photoshop masterpiece with the only photos of us I had, complete with the lyrics of his favorite Johnny Cash song. After swapping presents, we parted ways, each going to our respective homes for the holiday, which, thanks to the fact that we both played basketball only lasted a few days. Before we knew it, we were back on campus and back where we already knew we belonged, together.

He’d picked me up at the airport, a big relationship step at the time, and taken me back to his parent’s house before I had to head to Newberg for practice. We’d spent the day with his family, playing games, cracking jokes and enjoying a spaghetti dinner- my least favorite food of all time, though I didn’t let on- before Andrew, Melissa, Taylor and I all piled in the car and drove to the gym. The boys, who lived in dorm style housing, were locked out of their place so they decided to crash in our living room for the night, which felt totally scandalous at the time. A bunch of us watched a movie together, Chocolat I believe, and then the crowd scattered, leaving just the four of us. According to my journal we stayed up until 5:30 a.m. I’m not sure what Melissa and Andrew were up to all that time, I think they went on a “walk” somewhere, but as for me, well…

We hadn’t kissed since the door throwing incident. Part of me was kind of insulted, you know? Who wouldn’t want a piece of this? But part of me was relieved. All I had to do was a little bit of math and I quickly realized too much kissing, too soon, would not be a good idea. I mean, we were young. I had every intention of making it to my wedding day without letting anybody up in my business, if you know what I mean. But that day was a long way off and since I practically turned into jello anytime the guy reached for my hand, I knew if he started in with the kissing business, who knows what would happen to my resolve.

Well start in he did, in fact. As we sat on the floor talking late into the night, he made his move. I was no stranger to being kissed, I’d done my fair share of what the kids call “making out,” in my day. But something about kissing this boy was so very different. I felt simultaneously thrilled to my core and terrified. I’d prided myself on kissing for sport in my former life, but with him, I felt like a southern belle one step away from needing some smelling salts. It wasn’t that he was the best I’d ever kissed, or the most experienced. In fact, I’d later find out he’d only ever kissed one other girl. It was the terrifying fact that one month into this brand new relationship, I knew I loved him. And I’d never been kissed, really, properly kissed, by someone I loved before.

My journal entry from the next day is full of all sorts of hesitation about all of this happening too fast. Too soon. Terrified of where it might go. But I remember shortly after writing it, hearing a knock at my door. One look at that gorgeous face and all my worries were instantly washed away. I was whisked off to the store to buy ingredients for dinner, which we made together, dancing around the kitchen talking about our futures and who we wanted to be. It was every bit as casual as the night before had been serious. And as terrified as I was to admit that I was madly in love with a boy I really barely knew, everything about being with him felt perfectly right. Something in me knew a relationship with this boy would be a wild ride, but I couldn’t help myself. I wanted in.

Despite the fact that I’d stalked the guy for over a year, I’d managed to play it pretty cool so far in our relationship. Hadn’t showed too many cards. Taken things in stride. Sadly, it wasn’t meant to last. One day in mid-January, after a particularly rough week of basketball practice, and a long tearful call with my parents, I was feeling pretty blue. I set my AIM status as “Grrrr…” and naturally, Taylor texted me to ask what was up. I tried to brush him off, saying I was just upset about basketball and I had to head to class, but shortly after I sat down in my classroom, completely drenched from the walk and still choking back tears, my phone began to ring. I rushed out into the hallway to answer, kicking myself for not setting it to vibrate. Taylor was on the other end.

“Where are you?” he said.
“I’m in class. Why?”

Ten minutes later he showed up at the door of my classroom, soaking wet, rain dripping from his nose, holding a steaming Starbucks cup. He had the biggest grin on his face and was looking at me with such care and concern. It was the most beautiful sight I’d ever seen, and it took all my willpower not to burst into hysterics in front of the whole class. Blushing as everyone looked at me, I excused myself from class and followed him out of the room. We sat down next to each other on a bench in the hallway and tears streamed down my face. He didn’t say much, he didn’t have to. He held my hand as I drank my coffee, and with every sip I felt just a little bit better. It was a bittersweet moment; I lost my facade of “having it all together,” of being cool, calm and collected, but I also got to experience the sweetness of having this guy in my corner. And suddenly, I couldn’t think of anything that could trump the fact that he was mine.

The rest of January is mostly a blur of basketball practice, games and trips. We went on another group date, and Taylor brought me the first of many bouquets of flowers, but before we knew it, we’d arrived at our next really big relationship milestone, Valentine’s Day. I’d never had a particularly good experience with the holiday. In fact, I’d only made it through the many February 14th’s of childhood thanks to the annual heart-shaped ice cream cakes from Baskin Robins my Mom “surprised,” us with every year (thank you Mom). All that to say, I had no idea what to expect.

I remember waking up that morning, realizing what day it was and taking a deep breath. Reminding myself not to get my hopes up, laying in bed attempting to reason with the crazy expectations that seemed to pop into my head every year. I readied myself for the slight taste of disappointment I always had in my mouth at the end of the day. And then I stepped out the back door, and very nearly on to the bouquet of red roses and goofy little poem Taylor had written and left on my stoop. My heart exploded.

I daydreamed through my classes, and most likely basketball practice, counting down until our date that night. We had dinner at McCormick and Schmick’s, a local steakhouse, before heading to our top secret destination. He’d told me were going to dessert, and I figured we’d hit Rose’s Deli, who served our favorite chocolate orange cake. But when he drove past the restaurant with a smirk on his face, I was puzzled. Half an hour into our trip he asked if I knew where we were going, and I confessed, much to his delight, that I didn’t.

Smiling, he said, “What are those lights up ahead?”

He pulled off onto a side road and quickly turned around to back up to a fence that lined the area with the lights. I remained confused until I heard the undeniable roar of an airplane landing very nearby.

“Are we at the airport!?” I asked, craning my neck to see the giant, roaring plane.

He just smiled, hopped out of the cab of the pickup and began to set up a dessert picnic in the bed of the truck. He’d brought our favorite cake, hot chocolate, sparkling cider and an array of other sweets and treats. He spread a couple thick blankets and we climbed in the back, cozying up under a few more. I can’t remember a moment in my life that has been quite as perfect as that one. Even still. Every disappointed Valentine’s Day I’d ever spent was redeemed in that one night. My hope was restored in humanity. Something about all those planes coming in, people reaching their destinations and the people they loved, was so terribly romantic. We sat in the back of that truck, watching planes, talking and snuggling until 11 p.m., and it took all my willpower to tear myself away.

While the night had already been pretty incredible, it wasn’t over yet. Jaime and I had spent a long day the weekend before filming a pretty hilarious Valentine’s Day video for our boyfriends and had planned to sneak into our team room with sparkling cider and chocolate covered strawberries to celebrate it’s premier. Once Taylor and I got back to campus, we snuck into the gym and all sat together, cracking up over our crazy antics and ridiculous impressions. As we walked back to our apartment, re-enacting our favorite scenes, I thought to myself that Valentine’s Day should always come to an end surrounded by good friends.

The early months of our relationship are so fun to remember. So sweet and easy. Our innocence, our awkwardness, our ignorance of each other. Learning how to be ourselves when we were together, celebrating little milestones and sending each other increasingly sappy emails. It was a pretty special time and I lived in a daydream for a solid three months. Though we’d passed each other’s tests, and I’d even gotten the thumbs up from his family, he hadn’t yet met mine. And all bets were off until we visited them in March.

To be continued…

Spiced Plum Rice Pudding

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Okay, so I know I harp endlessly on eating seasonally, and well, plums aren’t exactly in season. In fact, it’ll be summer before we start to see any of those beauties around these parts. But, all I’ve been able to think about lately is this rice pudding with spiced plums, so when I saw some in the produce section at the grocery store, it could not be helped. Sometimes the heart what it wants, or so says the great Selena Gomez.

All jokes aside, this rice pudding has haunted me for years. First, out of curiosity, since I’d never been a fan of anything with the word pudding included. And then I made a holiday variation of the recipe for an event in December, subbing in cranberries instead of plums. I got to taste the dish, but wasn’t able to really sit down and bury my face in a bowl of the stuff like I would have liked. So, since it seems this faux spring is here to stay, I decided this must be the week for me to indulge in one final, albeit tardy, fall-winter dessert.

Being that I’m a bit dairy sensitive, I decided to make this recipe with almond milk instead of the recommended milk. This was a mistake. Go for the real stuff. And honestly, I think next time I make this recipe, which believe you me there will be a next time, I’ll go for an arborio rice instead of basmati. The basmati just didn’t have enough body for me. I’ve made a few other alterations to the recipe, but left the spiced plums untouched, and they were truly divine.

If you are looking for one last warm, rich, indulgence before the season of light and bright food begins, take this one for a spin. I guarantee it won’t disappoint.

Spiced Plum Rice Pudding | Bird is the Word (13 of 15)

Spiced Plum Rice Pudding
  • 2 cups milk (or half and half if you're feeling saucy)
  • 1 cinnamon stick
  • 1 cup arborio rice
  • 1 vanilla bean, seeded
  • 4 cardamom pods
  • ½ cup sugar or maple syrup
  • ¼ cup flaked almonds
  • ¼ tsp salt
  • 4 plums
  • juice of ½ orange
  • 2 star anise
  • pinch of cloves
  • 1 tsp ginger syrup (can be found at Whole Foods)
  1. Pour the milk into a heavy bottomed pan with the cinnamon stick. Bring it to the boil and stir in the rice and scrape seeds from vanilla bean, also adding beans to infuse.
  2. Simmer on a very low heat for about 30 minutes, making sure that you keep stirring so the rice does not stick to the pan.
  3. Crush the cardamom pods in a pestle and mortar and extract their seeds. Throw the pods away and add the crushed seeds to the sugar. Season with salt.
  4. When the rice looks like a soupy milky risotto but still has a little bite, stir in the cardamom sugar or maple syrup and cook for another 5 – 10 minutes on low adding more milk if it starts to get dry.
  5. Spiced Plums
  6. Slice the plums in wedges. Place in a pan with the juice, star anise, cloves and ginger syrup – heat on low until the plums are slightly softened and the flavours have infused. Do not stir the plums as they will lose their shape. This is a slow process, be patient! Once you have a nice syrup in the bottom of the pan, the plums are done. Let cool.
  7. Top the pudding with the plums and almonds. Enjoy!