Guest Post: Gratitude on the Farm

To close out this month of gratitude, I asked my dear friend Jess of Working Hands Farm, just outside of Portland, Oregon, to write a guest post for me on gratitude. She and her fiancé Brian have been running their farm for a few years now, but just recently moved onto their own land and are in the process of building their dream farm, and dream life together. Because of this, I thought she’d be the perfect person to share a few words on gratitude—and I was right. Enjoy, and thank you Jess!


“And the world cannot be discovered by a journey of miles, no matter how long, but only by a spiritual journey, a journey of one inch, very arduous and humbling and joyful, by which we arrive at the ground at our feet, and learn to be at home.”  – Wendell Berry

Life on the farm (and in general) is full of opportunities. Everyday that you wake up they are there – some of them may be routine, some of them may be new or scary, some may even be hard but if you look at them as opportunities you will always see the best in each situation and feel grateful for something.

Growing up on a little homestead in Marstons Mills, Mass nature was always at the heart of the world around us. My parents were the greatest teachers and gave my sister and I a deep appreciation for the little things, the big things and the basic necessities of life…to be self sufficient, to take care of yourself (emotionally, physically and spiritually), to appreciate the World around you and to be open to all possibilities. It’s no wonder that after college and a move out of the country that I would find myself reflecting on the importance of being connected to my community, nature and my surroundings. Being far away from that idyllic world I grew up in made me hungry for that connection to nature and community, and to that accomplished feeling of being self sufficient. It didn’t take very long before I was back in the states pursuing my love of all those things…

Back in '88...

Back in ’88…

So, fast-forward a few years (8 to be exact) to where I followed my dream all the way across the country to Hillsboro, Oregon where I met someone just as crazy about this way of life as me.

As CSA farmers – my partner and I work for ourselves. Each day we have our routine chores (feed the cows, chickens, pigs, check on the seedlings, walk the dog, collect eggs, cook food etc), the unexpected opportunities that arise (frozen pipes, broken pipes, runaway pigs, wilting plants, floods, pests…you name it), and the goals we plan to accomplish for the week (the list is constantly growing and is always keeping us on our toes).

The CSA is at the heart of our farm. The community, the support, the encouragement, the gratefulness all lend to balancing the hard work, long days and productive dedication with happiness, fulfillment and gratitude. We feel blessed and inspired all through the day. We get to grow food (healthy, nutritious and delicious food) for our local community and there’s nothing better than that.

Maribelle, our sweet jersey calf in 2012...

Maribelle, our sweet jersey calf in 2012…

A lot of people say, “I can’t believe how hard you two work,” or “How do you keep up with it all?,” or even “Don’t work too much…” The funny thing is, it isn’t work to us it’s what we love to do. And it starts with seeing it (all of it) as opportunities for living healthy, happy and productive lives.

We’ve adopted a philosophy over the past few years that sums it up in a nutshell (and is easy to remember throughout the day)…the trick is to say, “this is what I get to do today” not “what I have to do today.” Everything rides on those two verbs. No matter how long the list gets. Everyday is precious.

Practicing gratitude is a way of life. It’s important because everyday that we wake up it’s not always the obvious things that we are grateful for on the farm. The unexpected things, the hard things, the things we don’t really want to do — those are the moments where being grateful teaches you to be grateful for all things. That through choosing to do the hard things you learn more about yourself. Whether it’s how you react to a stubborn animal, how to build something you’ve never built before, a confrontation or a hard decision to make, or the hardest of them all, believing in ones self…all things come back to becoming a better person and it’s easier to let things go and move on because there is always another opportunity waiting for you there to learn, improve, and make forward progress…

Transplanting the third round of summer crops last season...

Transplanting the third round of summer crops last season…

Every time we grow a new plant or invest in a new animal, we read all the books, we get all the tools and materials that we need to care for that animal, or to grow that plant, and then slowly overtime we figure out what works and what doesn’t and at time’s it can be a steep learning curve.  There’s a funny idea about farming that makes you believe you have to do everything yourself in order to have some semblance of control…but what time and trust and being in tune with nature and your senses tells you is just this…stop and look. Observe an animal, know this animal, understand it. Your senses are heightened when something is off and you notice those things more quickly and you are far more in tune that you ever imagined. Over time we learn what it is that the animal or plant needs to thrive. And sometimes the most surprising findings as a farmer are the things you learn about yourself along the way. This keeps everything moving forward in a positive way. When I stop and look each day it gives me a clear reflection of myself and all things (for better or for worse). Being open to those lessons that life has to teach you is the gift of gratitude. To keep a good perspective on all the things that we get to do and get to learn about (in this very short life!)

Sometimes it’s hard because you work long days and you don’t always allow yourself to stop and look and appreciate. Some days it’s “go, go, go” but if you can sit at the end of the day and be grateful that’s important. I know this is something that I need to work on throughout the day. To stop and look. And go.

The bounty and the beauty of the growing season...

The bounty and the beauty of the growing season…

Nothing is final on the farm.  Everything moves in a circle – just the like seasons…and it’s a great reminder that there is always another opportunity waiting for you. The more experience and knowledge that you have the more you grow, learn and work smarter.

They say that happiness stems from gratefulness – it’s not the other way around. It’s not, ‘happiness makes you grateful,’ it’s when you are grateful, that you are happy. It means you are connected and open to all the opportunities that each day gives you.

I have a partner who is pretty much the most – one of the most, maybe THE most – grateful person that I know and because of that he has no fear.  We all have our harder days but he’s pretty much my biggest inspiration for practicing gratitude every day and for keeping a positive and healthy outlook on the world. Because of his outlook, all of the opportunities he’s had/taken, he’s met each one with vigor and excitement and he’s learned a lot. In my book that makes him incredibly successful. He enjoys each and every day. Which is really important because life, again, is too short.

We all kind of start out that way – being kids we approach all things with “child-like wonder” which is kind of like being grateful for all opportunities.

The bees have a lot to teach us as farmers... and it's been one of our favorite projects yet!

The bees have a lot to teach us as farmers… and it’s been one of our favorite projects yet!

It’s hard to feel the highs without the lows and if you can keep it all in perspective I’d say each day is pretty darn good. It can start small too…my mom likes to tell the story of a friend who was in her 80’s-90’s and when she woke up and saw the ceiling in the morning she knew it was going to be a good day. Just goes to show…perspective is everything and on the farm there is always something to learn.

Gratefulness has everything to do with it (i.e. living life happily!)  The more you practice it the better you’re perspective and the more often you will be happy…no matter what pops up in life. Seek out all the “opportunities” that come your way and see them through and you might be surprised with what you find….happiness is just a ‘stop. look. go.’ away.

-Farmer Jess

dirty hands, clean hearts

You can find our more about Working Hands Farm on their website and also their  Facebook page and Instagram account—both of which are always chock-full of absolutely gorgeous images.

Memory #10: Stash Sistahs

In the summer of 2009, I got laid off from my first “real” job after college and simultaneously decided to end the near decade-long relationship I had been in since I was teenager. Woah…

In the very beginning part of the “Holy Crap, What Just Happened To My Life” phase, I logged onto Facebook one morning (as any good unemployed person does) and saw a status update from my friend Jess Powers (my favorite farmgirl) that read: “Anyone have a few weeks to drive cross country with me?”. “Yep”, I replied, and within an hour I had bought myself a one-way plane ticket out to Portland, Oregon to meet her for our journey.

Although my friends and family were pretty sure I had literally lost my mind, I knew myself, and I knew that nothing would give me the clarity and space that I needed like a road trip would (18 hours a day in a car will whip you right back into shape, I swear). I needed a few weeks away, I needed a few weeks to think, and I needed a few weeks to let the dust settle—and really—a few weeks to breathe and just be. 

So, in the late Summer of 2009, Jess and I departed from Portland, OR and camped our way across the United States until we crossed the Sagamore Bridge back home to Cape Cod, MA. On our way across, we stopped in at a Labor Day rodeo in Helmville, Montana, took in the beauty and splendor of Yellowstone National Park, camped under the stars in the Badlands, realized we were cosmic sisters and reveled in the power of the universe—or “Uni” and we like to call it—at a campground in rural Minnesota, braved the eerie late-night roads of “Mistconsin”, rolled down the giant sand dunes of Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore, took in the natural wonder (and undeniable kitch) of Niagara Falls, and harped on every opportunity to take photographs of ourselves dressed as our alter egos, Ted and Danta (don’t ask), wearing fake mustaches at every national landmark that crossed our path. We were the “Stash Sistahs” and I’m forever indebted to Uni for bringing us together at a time when we both needed it most.

This one’s for you Stashy, xoxo always

A few stashy shots below and here’s a link to a previous blog post with scans of some my film photography from the trip that got amazingly distorted from sitting for 2 years in the heat of my 3rd floor bedroom:

Ted and Danta

Ted and Danta ready for action



Mt. Rushmore

Yep, that’s Mt. Rushmore in the background

Sometimes we took the mustaches off...

Sometimes we took the mustaches off…

Ol' Niagara

Ol’ Niagara