I’ve spent the first week of the new year probably like many – thinking of what next steps might look like over the coming months and changes I’d like to make. I need a clear space to work and think. So, I’m also cleaning things out and organizing. A friend once gave me one of those funny cards that said “A clean house is the sign of a wasted life.” I love my friend but I totally disagree with this thought. A clean house, space, apartment, room or closet is the sign of being ready. Being ready to begin the next step. “Mise en place” is a perfect concept – a French term for cooking where everything is in its place and measured and ready to begin and as it should be. It has nothing to do with a division of labour between men and women whereby cleaning is somehow women’s work – men and women alike create clean and organized spaces.
A few years ago, my daughter Carlyle was at university and asked me to find a document for her. I literally tore the house up looking for this piece of paper. After a week of looking everywhere, I told her it was gone, missing, just not here. Two months later, I was organizing some files and found that I had created a file for each of the girls and in the folder marked “Carlyle” was the document. How had I not realized I actually was organized enough at one point to create those folders; that I assumed there wasn’t one? Ug. I now joke that if I can’t find something than it must be in the Carlyle folder, i.e. in its place, where it should be. I read once in Newsweek that we spend a lot of time looking for things – 55 minutes each day or 12 days a year trying to find our stuff. (Newsweek Magazine, 2004). We need a Carlyle Folder for everything. Last year my brother gave us all the tiles that you can put on things to track if you lose them. (I may have lost my tile.) I’d rather basically just keep things in order, get rid of what I don’t need (HA!) and live more simply. So would we all I’m sure, it’s hard not to get bogged down by the clutter.
It was about eight years ago that I started Farm Flavours – the original business of South Pond Farms. I made prepared food for others. It was the second week of January. This month for me and probably for others is a time to reflect on life. I was out of a marriage with four young daughters and in a new place having just moved from the city to the country. I needed to work but I wanted desperately to be available to my daughters and I wanted to do something creative. I was too old to go back to an investment world that I lived in before children. I took stock of my skills and I knew I could cook and grow things and I had an abundance of ideas. I remember so clearly at that time the feeling like I needed to “pivot” my life, make drastic changes and turn things around or “run fast and break things…” (I listen to Masters of Scale regularly- a podcast by Reid Hoffman where I learned about this concept).
This was how things started for me and evolved into the business I now have. I decided over lunch with my girl friends on a Monday to make a change and on the drive back to the country thought up the concept of Farm Flavours. Some of my friends spent their weekends at ski retreats and looked for ready made food to take with them. I sent out a newsletter to about twenty people that I knew and said I would deliver weekly, Weekend Baskets to Go – a ready made meal for four – and began delivering the “baskets” on Friday of that same week. The girls and I were sitting around our “family” computer and literally screamed in excitement as we watched orders come in. I had no idea where things would go or where they would lead. I took a chance and made a change.
Farm Flavours began with help from all my daughters – even Aubrey Rose who was only 6 at the time. I cooked a lot of food and my network of friends sustained me by referring me to others. It wasn’t until I met Shawn and he restored the barn for me a year later, that South Pond emerged. Instead of catering for others off the farm, I was able to stay on the farm and cater to myself offering events here. It wasn’t always that easy. There were regulations that needed following, investments to be made and what seemed like hurdle after hurdle all the while juggling my desire to be the best mom and not let my new life get in the way. Ultimately, that is a hard balance and one that I try hard in keeping.
Unpacking the first batch of dishes I collected for events held in the barn
That is one of the reasons I love this month. I actually love cleaning and organizing and knowing that it may lead to new paths. I feel that it clears the mind to take on new challenges. I am hoping to take on a new challenge this month and finally begin writing my cookbook and producing some videos about our workshops and recipes. People ask me all the time when I will have one but every year I get sidetracked. I’m determined that this is the year I will do it. It’s been on my mind since that first year I started with Farm Flavours.
I have a little office space that I used up until last year. Now I work with the others in our main office (or former family room now converted office space). Yesterday, I transformed the small former office into my craft area. A place where I can bead or create whatever I want and have all my tools around me and not have to dig things out of the basement or a closet.
I love it. I can start a project and not have to finish or clean it right away since it’s an out of the way space. I’m looking at different ways I use the spaces I have in my home. Things change, we change as a family. As the girls grow and leave for longer stretches, the spaces adapt to suit us better. I’m ready for a beading project and I’m ready to start writing my book. I wish you luck on your own cleaning and organizing adventures.