A Grateful Heart


In times of difficulty, I have found it centering to focus on what I am grateful for, rather than adversity.  I am grateful for the apples we have; nutritious and flavorful.  More of the mid season apples are producing and for that I am grateful.  The people we meet, the conversations and connections we make are my favorite part of the orchard.

Happy people focus on what they have, unhappy people focus on what’s missing.

To combat a woe-is-me mentality, I have been guided to find ways to express a grateful heart and count my blessings.  I continue to see hearts all around and now Farmer B is finding them and pointing them out.  Even in the seemingly darkest of situations, there are things to be grateful for.  People have healed themselves from both emotional and physical pain using gratitude.

There are many benefits of incorporating gratitude into your daily life, from being more attractive to others to reduced stress levels and increased overall happiness.  If you need help getting on the happiness train, fake it til you make it.  It’s an age old trick that actually works!  Read here for more of the science behind forcing a smile and a fun study that proves its effectiveness.

Here are a few ways to express a grateful heart… Give it a try!

  1.  Gratitude Journal. Every night before going to bed, focus on three (3) things to be grateful for.  Even if it is a warm bed, or a pinky finger that doesn’t feel pain, there is something we can each be grateful for.  Focusing on gratitude is calming and centering, a great way to begin a restful sleep.
  1.   Sticky Note Challenge.  Carry a few sticky notes (and the pen!) to leave an anonymous note for someone you feel gratitude towards.  You can also write notes for situations you are thankful for and keep them around the house or in a notebook.
  1.  Handwritten Note. With the change in technology, most people do not send handwritten personalized notes, but when you do they become THAT much more special.  Send a handwritten note to tell someone you love them or just how much you appreciate what they have done.
  1.  Give a Positive Review.  So often a bad experience motivates us to write or verbalize a negative review.  Imagine how you’d feel if someone went out of their way to say how you positively affected their day!  Now go out and do that for someone else.  The feeling is contagious.
  1.  Give Back.  There are many ways to give back and it all comes back to you in one way or another.  A few suggestions include: Donate whether it’s money, time, or unused items, it’s all valuable.  Mentor someone in need, teach a new skill or simply share your experience.  Provide respite for someone who is in need of a break.  Provide companionship for someone who could use some attention and love.  

If you are looking for a little guidance to start bringing gratitude into your life, there are many guides to gratitude journaling.  Here is one that I found highly recommended.  

And finally, thank you to all who have touched my heart!  Each person who has crossed my path, has given me something to learn and grow from and for you I am grateful.

Love and gratitude,

Ali 🙂

Grief work

IMG_0935It hits me in the middle of the night.  The anxiousness, the sleeplessness, and the hollow feeling inside…  I’m grieving. It seems so ironic.  I grew up in cemeteries and later in funeral homes and volunteering for hospice.  I think to myself, friends have recently lost a parent, a spouse, and a cousin; yet here I am grieving the loss of an apple season. It may seem trivial to those who have lost a loved one, but the swimming thoughts that go through my head reveal the stages of denial, anger, bargaining, and the depression I am now feeling.

The winter was particularly warm.  We saw bud swell in January followed by a late freeze in April.  I denied any talk of a lack of apples in the spring.  I pushed forward with a CSA.  We are going to have apples!  I was even angry at the mention of there being a lack of apples.  And then, I saw it for myself.  Why me?  Why us?  We work so hard.  We care so much.  We are trying to cultivate healthy food and be good stewards of the earth.  So, the bargaining began… What if I tried harder?  I’ll try harder to manifest my dreams.  What if I shared more?  We can offer free seminars.  What if I helped more?  I’ll help with the farming more.  But it’s come to a head as we try for another week to put together apples for a CSA we already had to cut back on, and as we get calls from people who want organic apples.  People calling from Belfast, Kittery, Boston and even Texas.  People want to pay us, but it’s not for the work and expense of what we’ve already put in.  No, we don’t get paid for that.  We get paid for apples.  Apples that we don’t have right now.  

I am grieving and feeling the bleakness that comes with it.  I knew there would be a year where we would lack apples.  I just thought we’d be in a better place and more prepared for it.  After last year’s abundance, we learned we needed to be able to utilize our whole crop and processing into cider, vinegar, and hard cider has been our goal.  But as we prepare the infrastructure for it, pouring lots of capital into it, my heart is sinking with this year’s devastation from the combined one-two punch.  On top of the warm winter and late spring freeze, the apples that we have are aborting from the stress of the prolonged severe drought.  And again goes the anger.  I am mad at the weather, flooding Louisiana and leaving us in drought.  I skip over the denial and bargaining and go straight for the depression again. How long can we keep going?  

I know the next stage is acceptance, but I’m not sure when that will come.  The only thing I can do right now is accept how I am feeling in the moment, own it and work through it.  That is why I write this post.  Although I doubt you are grieving the loss of an apple season as I am, my hope is that even an untraditional form of loss can be recognized and honored in your own life, giving yourself permission to go through the stages of grief and allow the processing of it.  Grief is work.  One without a timeline.  In my case, I can see there are silver linings, lessons to be learned, and I’m still holding onto the hope that the apples we have will hang in there.  I am working through it and, at the end of the day, I know we will come out stronger on the other side.  

Thank you for your continued support.

With love and care,
Ali 🙂           

Seeing Hearts


FullSizeRender (8)While I haven’t seen a lot of apples early in the season, I have noticed the appearance of hearts in nature showing up for me occurring more frequently in the past few weeks.  The more I saw them, the more I felt it wasn’t just coincidence.  I don’t actually go looking for them, they just seem to appear…  in a paint splatter, a mark on a flower, the shape of a rock, an old balloon that melted on a brick paver, and even a birthmark on my youngest son and the heart shape on our cat’s nose.  Here are a few pictures I have taken.

IMG_0134 FullSizeRender (6) FullSizeRender (7) IMG_0902 IMG_0335

I wondered if others see hearts too, and what it might mean, so I looked it up.  There was no one answer, but the common thread was that seeing hearts means whatever is significant to that individual person.  It might be that the person is going through a tough time in their life and needs the reassurance from a loved one that’s passed on.  It might be a sign to open your heart to an opportunity for new growth- a chance to travel, a new job, a new romantic interest.  The message is really in the eye of the beholder.  One interpretation I found interesting involved raising the collective vibrations around the heart (sorry if I lost some here).  The media focuses heavily on dividing us with fear, but I don’t believe that is the prevalent experience amongst people.  I believe people are inherently good, kind, and loving.  Rather than focusing on the things that divide us in our mind, whether it’s politics, religion, race, country of origin, etc., we can instead focus with our hearts on the things that unify us, love.  It’s been said, when you are looking for an answer to a question, ask from your heart instead of your head to receive an authentic answer.

In terms of the spiritual centers of the body, the heart chakra is the fourth chakra at the center of your chest.  It is located in the middle of the upper three chakras (throat, third eye, and crown) and lower three chakras (root, sacral, and solar plexus), balancing and integrating the parts of the body.  It is represented by the color green signifying growth and abundance.  The balanced heart chakra provides forgiveness and abundant self love.  When the heart chakra is out of balance health issues arise in this area: heart disease, high blood pressure, circulation issues, tightness or constriction in the chest or between the shoulders.  To bring balance, one method is to meditate using a heart affirmation for personal growth in this area, such as the video here: Heart Affirmation Meditation.  Another way to balance the heart is the Hawaiian forgiveness prayer, Ho’oponopono.  Yoga also has many poses that work to open the heart center.  

Seeing signs, whether it’s hearts, numbers, or anything else that appears seemingly out of nowhere, is there for everyone.  It’s just a matter of being in tune with them, kind of like when you get a new car and then you notice all the other cars just like yours on the road too.  They were always there, you are now in tune and able to notice them.  For me, I’ve started noticing hearts around my home, so to me it’s giving me a loving reminder that the place I am in is the right path for me.  I wonder who else is seeing signs around them and what significance it has for them?

Blessings to you,
Ali 🙂


Discovering Your Purpose

IMG_0886I remember as a little girl, laying on the couch playing with the feeling of levitation.  Still feeling attached to the couch, the floor seemed so far below as I looked over the edge.  It was fun!  In these moments, I remember pinching myself on the arm wondering, “Why am I in this body?  Why do I exist?”  Basically I was wondering my purpose in life.  We all go through phases in our life when we quest for our identity and purpose.  The teenage years, trying on new identities to see what fits.  Seeking direction for an area of study or career path to follow.  Midlife crises.  An end of life review.  Our current culture does not value self-awareness.  Busy lives filled with consumerism keeps our attention elsewhere, long enough to look up and see our kids grown, a spouse we barely know, and an image reflecting back that lacks purpose.

I can relate to the search for purpose more than ever with my own life change.  My husband has found passion in farming organically.  I love our life at the orchard, yet I know there is something more I have yet to accomplish.  It relates to the feeling I get from our orchard, a feeling of peace and tranquility.  I believe that feeling is magnetic, drawing in others and evoking a sense of reflection and purpose.  When I look back and examine my own life, I have always known myself as a teacher, caretaker, and spiritual seeker.  Now, with guidance, I am asking myself soul searching questions such as:

  1. What do others say I am good at?  (We are our own worst critics, so phrasing this question in this manner is illuminating!)
  2. When am I most happy and have a sense of pride and inner peace?

The purpose of human life is personal and spiritual growth.  Asking yourself questions, such as those above, can help define your own personal path to finding purpose and lead an authentic life.  Tony Robbins, the amazing motivational speaker of our day, is noted as saying, “… life happens not to me, but for me.”  How many have had the experience of a hardship that has directed their life on a whole new course creating purpose in life?  I’m willing to bet most people wouldn’t want to relive that experience, but wouldn’t change it because it led them to a higher state of being.  These experiences are designed for us (and by us) to promote growth.  Earth University.  You’re getting your degree!


Ali 🙂

The unexamined life is not worth living – Socrates

Our First Year in Review

IMG_0859Entering our second season, we have much to look forward to!  At the same time, I think it’s important to also look back and review our past season.  What a whirlwind adventure this first year has been!  I call it our “learning year.” To think where we started: having no idea what varieties of apples we had, where they were, and when they would ripen.  We called it “Apple Clue.”  My kids love playing my old board game, Clue, and this has been much the same process… I believe it was Miss Paula Red, in the front orchard, with the red skinned flesh that made the applesauce turn pink!  We had a partial list of the varieties from old advertising on the internet, but finding which trees (or parts of a tree!) belongs to what variety has been quite a discovery process.  We’re still learning, but that’s part of the fun and excitement.

My favorite part in discovering all the apples was when we started our tastings in the farm store.  Cutting into the apples, seeing what they looked like on the inside, and tasting them is a large part of the identification process.  Having tasted not more than a handful of varieties before we moved to our orchard, I was in awe of all the different flavors and textures, along with learning their heritage.  Moving our apples into the farm store was a big change for us, transitioning mid year from pick-your-own.  The orchard had been PYO before us and without a good farm plan for picking, storing, and selling apples, we headed in the same direction.  However, we quickly realized that the orchard was not established to be PYO friendly.  It was designed with permaculture in mind, alternating varieties so as to disrupt the spreading of disease from one tree to another.  Good for our trees, but not so good for people trying to figure out which trees to pick from.  P.S. An unripe apple sucks the spit off your tongue!  There were many more reasons to bring the apples inside the farm store, but the decision was made when I got a call one Friday afternoon when I was at Common Ground Fair volunteering with my boys.  It was a stressful day for Farmer B to handle the orchard by himself, but a bus load of kids under 7 with very little supervision was enough to end PYO decisively.  One thing to note: we have poison ivy on the perimeter of the property and if you’re not sure if you are allergic to it, I do NOT suggest you deliberately rub it all over you to find out!

The word to describe last year is ABUNDANCE.  We walked into a bumper crop year with apples literally dripping from the trees.  We were not in any way prepared for the abundance of apples we got.  Watching apples hit the ground only creates very costly compost.  In order to grow a healthy business, we need to be efficient and utilize our whole crop.  That is where we are starting off this year, preparing to move forward into more processing.  Organic raw cider, cider vinegar and small batch hard cider is where we are focusing our efforts with the investment in renovating an existing barn into a cider processing facility and new high yielding cider equipment.  In addition, we developed an apple CSA that we will continue to offer each year before the start of the season.  New this year, the farm store will feature tea, coffee, baked goods, soaps, herbal preparations and other items from local vendors, and the loft will be opened as a lounge area to further enjoy your visit.  As the season progresses, we look forward to holding seminars and workshops at the farm as well.  

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With gratitude,

Ali & Family 🙂