moving earth

Well I came home to tulips doing sun salutes. The snow has melted, even in the always-shady areas of my backyard. The rich compost is turned and the rain barrels are open, ready to receive water. Barely visible, my spinach and lettuce will put meaty, sun-warmed salad on my dinner table in a few weeks.


I also came home to my giant package of High Mowing Organic Seeds! Oh the beautiful little promise rattles. Margot immediately grabbed the Matt’s Wild Cherry Tomato, her little mouth forming and ‘o’. Oh how she loves strawberry pillows. I find it thoroughly incredible that one priority mail manila envelope full of tiny freckles will feed my family for the next year.


Don’t forget to become a Virgin Harvester by trying something for the first time this year! So far, there are 43 participants doing very cool stuff. This is great and all, but, really people, come on and sign up for the fun. And, leave a comment here or on facebook for a CHANCE TO WIN your very own selection of organic seeds! (if you haven’t read the interview with HMOS, consider taking the time to do it. Good, inspiring stuff).

OK, Nici, how about your Virgin Harvest? Glad you asked.

  • My first time hunting. My uncle is taking me out this fall. This summer, I am taking hunter’s safety and holding a gun for the first time in my life. I will be writing about this more…I am looking forward to ethically and sustainably harvesting meat for my family.
  • My first time growing long season fruit and vegetables from seed for my home garden. When I worked on the farm, I started 3000 organic tomato seeds every March. But without a greenhouse or grow lights at home, my seed starts have croaked when transplanted because they were too weak and leggy. This year I am borrowing space in my friend’s greenhouse and doin’ it up!
  • My first time putting up enough produce to feed my family for the year. Sure, we will supplement but our everyday staples of carrots, beets, cabbage, peas, tomatoes, beans, etc. will fill my freezer.
  • My first time growing so many new varieties! I am expanding my plot into my boulevard, nearly doubling my space. I’ll post my to-grow list soon.


So, getting into the garden did my body and soul some great good last weekend. I had urges to just drop to my belly and roll around with worms in the thawed soil. Instead, I dug and turned and spread and sowed.

In this week’s mama digs, I write about seeking and claiming uninterrupted time for me. Time where I get to do one thing for longer than seven minutes.

My back was aching, I was so thirsty and I had so much else to do. But there I was, digging dirt like my life depended on it. Click here to read the rest of this essay.


27 Responses to moving earth

  1. Beth says:

    Your posts read my mind and are usually exactly what I needed to hear. Feeling so overwhelmed with all the demands on me (baby, house, husband, yardwork, volunteer job) , pulled between my current projects (knitting her new sweater, sewing her summer dresses, painting trim, digging a veggie bed) and my mind swimming with all my want-to-dos (books to read, things to learn, sewing and knitting projects, mastering perennial beds and pressure canning and fermented food and my new camera etc etc etc) and add a baby who refuses to sleep alone.ever. and a husband who works about 18hours a day……phew……my head spins and I spend 5 minutes here and there on a million different thing. A little focus would definitely serve me well right now….and a lot of patience!

    Love your blog and this column, love your beautiful pictures of your beautiful girls!

  2. Laura Daniel says:

    Beautifully written! My exact feelings! Have been wondering if it was just me and my lack of skills or does every momma go through this—just what I needed to read today! Thank you, thank you!

  3. Susan O says:

    Your first time mention of your first time hunting to come — it’s my last time on this blog.

  4. booksNyarn says:

    I envy your garden time, MA has gone back to cold and rain and I still am rebelling by wearing my sandals most days. My purple painted toenails will hide the blue tinge anyways.

    Loved Mama Digs today. I bet most mamas wonder why the music never stops in their musical chair game!

    Good for you with your firsts! I myself have never ended up hunting. Learned the skills (gun and bow) but I am not a “sit in the cold and wait” kind of girl. 😉 I hope that what my new garden beds bring will carry staples through a time.

  5. Susan,

    My family eats meat, dairy and eggs and we do our very best to make sound, humane choices. Most all comes from hunter friends and local sources (chicken from Hutterite farm just north of here, beef from a few miles down the road).

    In hunting, I am making a commitment to knowing exactly where my meat comes from. And I am looking forward to exploring the many emotions and challenges that come from, what I think is, a brave and educated choice.

  6. Susan O says:

    Those who believe that there is such a thing as “humane” meat eating are deceiving themselves. No animal wants to die, not anymore than you do. And, since you do not need to eat animals to live, like carnivores do, it is simply cruelty, nothing less. There is no real difference between a deer, a cow, a pig, and your dear pets.

  7. Beth says:

    I think energy could be better spent educating people who don’t understand the problems with mainstream factory farming and eat mountains of meat without thought to how it reaches their plate….I think it is brave and educated indeed, bravo to you Nici. Every hunter I know respects the life and sacrifice of the animals that feed their families, I see no cruelty in them.

    Touchy subject maybe but as with everything else I say respect should be given to personal choice.

  8. Beth says:

    PS, count me in on the Virgin Harvest. I have no blog but have dug a raised vegetable bed for tomatoes, peppers, hot peppers, garlic and peas…and container gardening herbs!

  9. Melissa says:

    it’s so funny. i always picture you accomplishing so much during your own windows of time. it’s easy to idealize someone else’s experience! (or judge it in any way, really).

    so glad you got your time in, hoochy jeans and all.

    and i’ve been meaning to thank you for the link to 6512 and growing–good stuff! xoxo

  10. FinnyKnits says:

    I feel all-powerful when I hold that envelope of seed packets in my hand knowing that a year’s worth of fresh produce is *right there* waiting for me to grow it.

    Then I feel all-stressedout because I have to then grow it, but that’s OK. That feeling fades. And it’s completely gone by the time I’m canning tomatoes for winter.

    So happy to be gardening along with you another year. :)

  11. When I read your description of your “window” I felt like you’d been watching me through MY windows! Perfect description of my (perfect) mom life.

  12. Chiot's Run says:

    This sure is an exciting time of year! I saw my first tomato seedling on Sat in the grow area in the basement – elated!

    I’ve got radishes and spinach in the cold frame and a whole raised bed of peas. I get so excited about fresh veggies from the garden this year.

    I really want to learn more about winter gardening so we can harvest some fresh veggies throughout our cold winters here in OH.

    Such great skills for your kiddos to be learning from such a young age! Loved the baby on the seeds, hurrah for organic pesticide, GMO free food to nourish our families!

  13. Aunt Deb says:

    Hunting and Montana go together like peanut butter and jelly. If the game were not hunted and harvested in our state there would be an over population and many would starve and not make it through our harsh winters. The Fish and Game study this extensively and know how many need to be harvested to keep the species going. Having lived with a hunting family for the past 40 years the hunters I know respect the game, follow the game laws, do not waste the meat and provide their family with a source of protein unlike any other-along with keeping the species in check and ongoing. Nici, I will be celebrating your new venture and your first deer- hopefully with your Uncle Skip. I will babysit! Love, AD

  14. Loved your Mamaload essay today. I can totally relate to needing to find that uninterupted time. Great writing!

  15. sarah says:

    Hunting should raise ethical and moral questions for all who think about it. While it’s great that many of you know people who hunt for food, and “use all of the animal,” that’s a small percentage of hunters. Many do it for sport. Many. And, the reason that there are a lot of deer in most places is because of “wildlife management” programs, funded by the government – this often involves removal of predator species, as well as feeding. So, if hunting were banned and these “management” programs were ended, nature would work itself out and there wouldn’t be overpopulation or animals starving to death. Further, accepting something ethically contentious like hunting out of hand because “it’s been done for years” isn’t a valid line of argument (if that were acceptable reasoning, slavery would still be legal). (Caveat: I’m a law professor and tell my students things like this frequently!) BUT, Nici, I am interested to see how your experience goes. I know you are someone who cares about animals, and the suffering of sentient beings. I wonder how you will feel looking into the eyes of an animal that you have wounded, that is not yet dead…I am sure that will be hard for you. Each person has to set his or her own lines when it comes to what they find to be ethically and morally acceptable for themselves. But I agree with a commenter above that, although (as a vegan) I think it would be great if everyone were vegetarians, I think an individual killing his or her own food is better than the factory farming system that predominates the diets of so many Americans today. But, I also think it’s a fallacy to believe that hunting is somehow “humane.” Especially bow-hunting, which results in non-fatal wounding of more than 50% of the animals shot. These animals feel pain and suffer when they are shot. Death by hunting is not instantaneous. But, is it better than animals being raised in confined conditions, only to then be driven 500 miles to stand in a line while their friends are slaughtered and screaming right in front of them (sorry, graphic)? Probably.

  16. Jodi Zak says:

    So true! This is exactly what my days feel like! I almost always try to do to much. I constantly need reminded to only take on one project at a time so that I don’t get overwhelmed and actually enjoy and finish it, which in turn makes me full totally satiated! And know that all the other things “I need to do” can wait and will eventually get done!
    Your blog rocks! Thanks.

  17. jen says:

    I have started setting the timer, and saying “GO” when I have those spare minutes that I could fill a million different ways. I pick what I want to do the most, and adjust the time accordingly. It is helping a bit with the balance but it is still hard to choose!

    Your column makes me smile, in a twisted “I understand” sort of way, but also because of all the WONDERFUL interests and hobbies you have. Sometimes wearing lots of hats means you will never be bored, but also that you are gifted with fabulous styles (interests) to choose from.

  18. TRB Holt says:

    Love that little “seed” among the seed packets!

    Susan, I respect your opinion but humbly disagree, and I am sorry you will no longer be a Dig follower.

    I also disagree with “Death by hunting is not instantaneous”….. very often it is. Especially when you take the time to learn the art of hunting and respect it for what it is.

    Here’s to good, healthy, informed conversation!

  19. Darn. Last comment got swallowed.

    Love the line about no one competing for your seat in musical chairs.

    I wonder if balance is a myth for mothers of young children. I also think having two young ones and a trillion other things I want to do helps me squeeze enormously full minutes out of my little blocks of time.

    And, as you know we are a hunting/roadkill gathering family. This practice has taught us (and our children!)much about respecting our food, about the cycles of life and death and about protecting the habitat where these animals roam.

    As my husband says “we all kill to live.” Even if it’s the farmer who shoots a deer in his soybean fields, the same soybeans that go into a vegetarian’s tofu-burger. No one is immune.

    I wish you great success and deep meaning in your hunting endeavors.


  20. amykate0323 says:

    Your blog is terribly addictive, and the Virgin Harvest challenge is beginning just as I am attempting to grow lettuce, spinach, cucumbers, and an assortment of flowers from my itty bitty college apartment… for the first time of course! Count me in!
    –Amy from Mississippi

  21. PS: If our mountain lives weren’t separated by the wilds of Wyoming, we’d be great friends. But for now, cheers to the internet!

  22. Sage says:

    Nici, I am so glad you have such grand plans to feed your family… branching out into hunting is really interesting to me, that you want to, let alone feel you are up to it, is going to be such an interesting experience for us all to read about. It is not something I think I would consider doing myself, but who knows what the future holds (I like to think I am open to a life that doesn’t box me in, but is open to new directions.)

    I am really impressed with how much thought you put into what you eat. It is sad to me that some of your readers take such a personal attitude to decisions that you are making for yourself, not for others. It is too bad that we can’t all respect that what is “right” for some of us, is not “right” for all of us. However, it makes for really interesting blog reading…

    That is one thing that I love about this blog, it is thought provoking and encourages different perspectives…. thank you for sharing your virin harvet with me… I am so glad you are who you are.

    Cheers! xoxo

  23. Gramomster says:

    I totally applaud your choice to hunt, and agree it is very very brave. Not at all sure I could do it, yet I am a meat eater. I have been vegetarian, have tried to be vegan (not an easy task in Michigan, which also goes with hunting like peanut butter and jelly)and those are simply to limiting for my family, and I just simply cannot maintain the lifestyle. Of course, having a pizza-addict husband, and an almost 4 year old grandson who will not touch a vegetable to his lips currently doesn’t help. I refuse to become a short-order cook. I too do my very best to choose wisely, and be thoughtful in what I do.

    Good luck! I’ve always enjoyed shooting, but never done it for anything other than target plinking.

  24. Kelly says:

    Good for you for taking time for yourself! When you take time to “sharpen your saw” then you’re a better wife, mother, friend daughter and all around awesome person! Keep inspiring! xoxo

  25. Cindy S. says:

    “I play musical chairs. Except nobody is competing for my seat.”

    Awesome line. I plan to steal it.

  26. Jodi says:

    Wow, this really rang true for me. I really have so many things I WANT to do. All very similar to you, gardening, sewing, cleaning, reading, photography, etc. Of course there is never enough time. I have serious ADD when it comes to all of them and my follow through is lacking. Then the time comes where I feel so overwhelmed because everything comes to a head, when it all needs to be done at once. I need to take your very approach to sit down or (stand up) and finish the ONE thing for that day. Hmm….let’s see if I can try and do it. Thanks again for your inspiration. Love your writing style.

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