Weekend Coffee Share: Orchard Opening, Grad School, State Fair, and more!

If we were having coffee, we’d likely be sitting outside on picnic tables overlooking my family’s apple orchard.  Please excuse my cat, Pip, who has no concept of personal boundaries.  He has most likely climbed on your lap and is demanding snuggles.  While you pet him, we look over the orchard to the St. Croix River valley in the distance.  Isn’t the view great?

At the moment, I’m enjoying a few days of calm before the craziness that is fall hits.  The library was absolutely dead this week, which (while boring) was a nice break.  My patrons are all getting ready for school, going on last minute vacations, and harvesting their gardens.

This week, I DID get to go to the Minnesota State Fair for work!  It was Read & Ride Day, put on by the library system in the Twin Cities area.  Fairgoers could get discounted admission with their library cards.  As a worker, I got in for free!  My shift was three hours long and I ran the game Plinko.  My coworker for the day and I were given a massive amount of prizes (color changing cups, temporary tattoos, pens, bags, flashlights, etc.) and told that they needed to all be gone by five.  So we were VERY generous to all who played our game.  “Everyone’s a winner at the library!” we told everyone who stopped by.  It was a lot of fun!  After my shift, I spent the rest of the day wandering around the fair with library colleagues from my own system, who had worked earlier in the day.

If we were having coffee, I’d tell you that I start graduate school this week!  I’m pursuing my Masters in Library and Information Science through the University of Wisconsin Milwaukee.  I’m kind of nervous about being back in academia and balancing school and work.  It really helps that everything is online and I can fit it in with my schedule.  I think I’ll be fine… I’ve always been a bit of a Hermione Granger when it comes to school and started reading one of my textbooks already.

My family’s apple orchard is open for the season!  My parents and brother worked really hard to get everything together.  Dad has been overseeing the harvest and getting the outside presentable.  Mom organized the store and is training all our new seasonal employees.  I’ll be helping out on Sundays this fall during the peak of our season, but with grad school and having my own job, my involvement will be fairly minimal.

That’s enough chit chat from me.  How are you spending your last weekend of the summer?  Anything exciting going on this fall?  What would you share over coffee?

Weekend Coffee Share is hosted by Part Time Monster. 

Be sure to check out the weekly Link Up to see what everyone has been up to.

Weekend Coffee Share: 5/14/17

If we were having coffee, we’d be sitting on a blanket in the sun.  Spring is finally in full swing here in Minnesota and I am loving every moment!  I’d be sipping my usual mocha–what would you be having?

May is quickly slipping away… I can’t believe the month is half done already!

Today is Mother’s Day!  My parents have been away for most of the weekend enjoying fishing opener at a friend’s cabin up north.  They’ll be coming home later this morning.  My siblings are home for the weekend and we’ll be enjoying a nice brunch.  It’s not often that we’re all together.  With vacations, work, one brother doing an internship in North Carolina for the summer, we probably won’t be together for a while.

My family’s apple orchard is in full bloom!  We’ll be opening it to the public for a special Mother’s Day walk later this afternoon.  I hope lots of people come–it’s one of the prettiest times of the year.

It’s been a pretty quiet week.  I had shopping plans with a friend yesterday, but she cancelled, so I decided to go alone.  I spent WAY too much money… but really needed a new dress for all the weddings I’m attending this summer.

At work, I’ve been busy getting ready for our Summer Reading Program.  I’ll be away on vacation when the program officially starts, so I’m getting the pieces together.  While I know it’s going to be a busy summer with kids coming in, I’m excited for all the fun programs.  I’m doing preschool storytime, a marshmallow engineering event, a stuffed animal sleepover, and am starting a Lego Club.

Aside from family time, I plan to spend the rest of my weekend soaking in the sunshine.  I’ll be mowing the lawn this afternoon and will hopefully go for a hike tomorrow (I don’t work on Mondays).

That’s all I’ve got today… what have you been up to this week?  Do you have any Mother’s Day plans?  What would you share over coffee?

This post is part of the Weekend Coffee Share link up, hosted by Nerd in the Brain.

Weekend Coffee Share: It’s Not All Rainbows and Sunshine

If we were having coffee, I’d tell you that it hasn’t been the best of weeks.  Nothing horrible has happened… things could definitely be worse.  But they certainly could be better.

If we were having coffee, you would know that two out of the past five days have been rainy.  I love, love, love rainy days… there are few better things than curling up in a lumpy sweater and reading a good book.  When you work on a farm, though, rain gets in the way.  We were sent home early twice this week because it was simply too wet to do any of the field work that badly needs to get done. Although the extra free time gave me the chance to catch up on much needed around-the-house tasks, I need the pay. Continue reading

Apples & Writing

Lately, I’ve been embracing my identity as a writer.  I currently live at home and work on my family’s farm, so writing and agriculture have been on my mind.  I’ve been learning that writing and farming are more similar than one would think.

My family’s business is apples.  In the spring, apple trees bud and blossom.  Alone, these flowers are beautiful and fragrant, but fleeting.  It takes external forces, namely bees, to preserve their beauty.  Once the flowers are pollinated, fruit sets in.  But that’s not the end.  It takes months and months of growing and care for the fruit to grow.  Even then, it’s not always ready when you think.

This process reminds me of writing.  As a writer, I have universes in my mind.  Thoughts, feelings, ideas, entire novel length stories exist between my ears.  Sometimes when I sit down to put these sentiments to words, I find myself unable to speak.  Like apple blossoms, bursts of inspiration alone aren’t enough.  It takes external forces–life experiences–to give the inspiration the depth and meaning it needs to bear fruit.  Even then, sometimes the words aren’t ready.  It takes months and months of bouncing around in the back of my mind to grow and take shape.

We have field trips at our orchard and one of the things my mom tells the kids is actually really important: Just because an apple is red doesn’t mean it’s ripe.

It’s the same with words.  Recently, I’ve found the need to write bubbling up in my spirit and bursting forth at unexpected moments.  But just because words are building at the tip of my toungue does not mean they are ready yet.  It doesn’t mean they’re ripe.  I’ve got an ever-growing list of post ideas, but not all of them feel quite right yet.

So I wait.  I mull over the words and scribble drafts.  I put down my pen and let the world around me pollinate my ideas.  I wake up in the morning, go to work, read books, spend time with friends, and wait.

When the time comes for the words to burst forth, I’ll be ready.

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Weekend Coffee Share: Life is Looking Up

If we were having coffee, it means I’m emerging from another hermit stage.  In all the changes over the past month, I’ve become a recluse, hardly seeing or reaching out to anyone besides my parents.  I’ve definitely been tossing my blogging schedule out the window, but I just didn’t have the will to sit and write.  Plus, I didn’t want my readers to drown in my negative attitude.  So, although I continued writing in private, my posts have been limited.

Thankfully, things are looking up.  I’m here again in the metaphysical coffee shop with you, ready to talk.

If we were having coffee, you’d know that orchard season is finally over!  Yesterday was our last day.  In many ways, it was a wonderful season.  All our records were smashed–we had the biggest crowds, biggest harvest, biggest sales.  My family is really thankful for all the people who came out this year, but oh boy…  We are exhausted.  It’s been a long haul, working six days a week for the past three months.  I’m really looking forward to having normal weekends and a manageable schedule again.

If we were having coffee, I’d tell you that my birthday on Tuesday was an absolute blast.  Although I spent the first half working, I took the afternoon off.  My mom and I went shopping at the Mall of America, where we both spent WAY too much money.  It was good, though.  I got new pants, a sweater, and some really pretty scarves.  We had dinner at a fancy restaurant, where they gave me free cake.  At home, I unwrapped gifts, which included a vintage typewriter!  The ribbon is very faint, so I can’t use it at the moment, but what a perfect gift for a blossoming writer.  I’m excited to put it to good use.

If we were having coffee, I’d tell you about how my new job as Interim Director of my local Chamber of Commerce is going well and there is an end in sight.  I finally have the day-to-day tasks figured out and the chronic anxiety is ebbing.  We had a Board of Directors meeting last week, where everyone was really kind and encouraging.  Despite feeling under-qualified and constantly stressed, I seem to be doing a good job.

That being said, we’ve been interviewing candidates for the Executive Director position and I think we’ve found the perfect one.  If all goes well in the hiring process, I will pass the torch over to her in December.  Which means there is light at the end of the tunnel on my end!

If we were having coffee, you’d learn a secret: My next big adventure might be just around the corner.  No decisions have been finalized, but I’ve been exploring international possibilities.  If things go well (and people actually return my emails), returning to Europe might be closer than I ever dreamed was possible.  I’ll give more details as plans become solidified.

In the meantime, it feels so good to have a sense of direction again!

Now it’s time to pass things over to you.  What would you share over coffee?

This post is part of a link-up at Part Time Monster

Weekend Coffee Share: Best Apple Orchard in Minnesota

If we were having coffee, I would, right away, ask if you’ve heard the news.  Well… actually, if you’ve seen the news.  Because, oh boy, is it exciting!  One of my state’s top news networks does a “Best in Minnesota” feature and their most recent focus was Best Apple Orchard.  My family owns an apple orchard!  We found out about the contest a couple of weeks ago and, right away, launched a social media campaign to get everyone we know voting.  I kept the news off WordPress, but was fairly obnoxious with my Facebook posts.

Anyways, we WON the competition and can now say that Pleasant Valley Orchard is the best in Minnesota!

My family's apple orchard, taken at sunset last Saturday.
Panorama of our orchard, taken last weekend at sunset.

On Tuesday, a reporter and videographer from WCCO came out and shot footage for a story on our farm.  I took a class on visual journalism last year and watching them work was fascinating.  They clearly came with a vision for the story and, right as they popped out of their vehicle, got to work filming.  My entire family was there and we showed them all around our farm, telling them the history, and sharing stories.  We were all interviewed, which was fun.

If you’re interested in seeing the story, hop along to the WCCO website!  When it aired, we watched it three times in a row. It really is a lovely story–it captures the essence of who my family is, what we do, and where I come from.  My interview didn’t make the cut, but no tears were shed over that.  I’ll leave the spotlight to my parents and brothers.

If we were having coffee, I’d tell you that being the Best Apple Orchard in Minnesota also has negative consequences.  As soon as the story aired, we had a significant increase in traffic.  Friday had crowds like a slow Saturday and I worked for ten hours straight assembling bakery products, packing apples, and mowing as much as I could before the sun set.  Yesterday (Saturday), I worked in the store all day and now understand what it feels like to work retail on Black Friday.  It was the busiest day we have EVER had in the 23 years we have been open.  Working the cash register, I did nothing but smile and crunch numbers for eight hours straight.  We were short-staffed and, as a result, didn’t get lunch breaks.  Our bakery products were gone by three and we sold all of the 700 caramel apples that had been made for the weekend.  (Our baker had to work extra to make more.)

Before we opened, I prayed to Jesus and asked Him to make me an extrovert for the day.  It didn’t work.  My brain was total mush by 2 PM and my stomach growled most of the day.  At one point mid-afternoon, I turned to my coworker and declared, “I want to die.”

Nevertheless, I’m still alive and so are my parents.  It took a couple of hours to get all the post-closing chores done, but when they were, we went out for fancy steak dinner.  Because we deserved it.

If we were having coffee, I’d let you know that, even though exhausted, I was awake from 2:30-5 AM simply because my body was so wired from the day’s work.  Instead of rolling around for hours, I climbed out of bed, made a cup of hot cocoa, climbed back into bed, and watched Netflix.  I would have preferred sleeping, but Netflix is good too.

It’s now my day off.  THANK GOODNESS.  If I have my way, I’m spending the entire day in my pajamas, indulging in more Netflix, cleaning my room, and catching up on blogging goals.  The sad thing is, I’ll probably end up having to work.

Enough of my complaints.  I’m turning things over to you.  How has your week been?  What would you share over coffee?

This post is part of the Weekend Coffee Share link up at Part Time Monster.

Weekend Coffee Share: Goodbye Socially-Awkward Hermit Amelia

If we were having coffee, we would be meeting at a local coffee shop because I need to get out of my house.  You’d enter the shop, order a drink of choice, and then would find me huddled over a table with my head in my arms. It’s been that kind of week.  A mug of English Breakfast tea would sit steaming in front of me, but I wouldn’t touch it until you sat down.

If we were having coffee, I’d tell you about work.  At any place of employment, there are all kinds of little behind-the-scenes things that need doing before and after hours. When you live at the place you work, it becomes your task to work extra and get those things done. I put in three ten-hour days in a row. On Friday night, if you drove by our orchard around seven-thirty, you probably would have seen me on a lawn mower cleaning everything up before the weekend crowds hit.

Since I basically work all the time, I keep forgetting to eat… which is something new for me. I’ll go for six hours at a time with only an apple to get me by. Lunches are a hurried dash of grabbing whatever is fastest (usually yogurt, salad, and an apple) and getting back to work. The other day, I went over to a friend’s house for a bonfire (after I finished mowing) and my first words to her were, “Do you have any meat?” She didn’t, so I settled for almonds instead.

Sundays are my only days off and I am determined (after cleaning the house and getting on top of my blog posts for the week) to lie on the couch reading fun books and watching movies. It’s going to be glorious.

If we were having coffee, I’d tell you that I have written more in the last week than I have since college ended. I love it! Writing 101 has been challenging, but not in the ways I expected. The hardest part is finding time in the day to sit down and write. I I’ve been squeezing time in the morning for most of my posts, although occasionally they have to wait until later in the evening. All the assignments have been fantastic so far. Each one is simple, to the point, and offers a source of inspiration. Every day brings something different.

Since starting this course, the posts I’ve written have gotten at the heart of what I’ve always wanted Keep Your Feet to be about. It’s just taken a year and a half on this site, but I’m starting to find my voice here. Each post offers different pieces of myself as I transition into adulthood—working through why I write, making a list of things I love about living at my parent’s house, discussing the insecurities and perks of my nonexistent love life, random musings about Thoreau, and what it means to learn. I’m very proud of the work I’ve accomplished this week and, if you’ve take time to read it, I’m extremely thankful.  I’m eager to get started on this week’s assignments!

As part of Writing 101, I’ve also been working on engaging with other bloggers.  I’ve loved reading everyone’s assignments and finding new sites to follow!

If we were having coffee, I’d tell you about all the plans I’ve been making. Socially awkward hermit Amelia is a thing of the past (for now, at least). In the past week, I’ve had movie nights at two people’s houses and attended a bonfire. Tomorrow night, I’m meeting a friend for dinner. Next weekend, I’m going to the Minnesota Renaissance Festival with a friend one day and attending a concert at a club in Minneapolis the next. I’ve also stolen the Fall Arts Preview of the newspaper and hope to make a list of all the things I want to see and o in the upcoming months. I know all of this probably doesn’t mean much to you, but I’m really looking forward to spending quality time with friends and doing things that fill me up. Plays, concerts, art galleries… I want to soak in as much as I can.

During this time of business, I’m going to have to be extra careful about fitting in introvert time so I don’t become a raging monster and get crabby with everyone.

With all the things on my schedule these days, our coffee conversations are about to get more interesting.

I’ve done enough talking… it’s your turn!  What do you have to share over coffee?

This post is part of the Weekend Coffee Share link-up at Part Time Monster

Orchard Moments: The Open Sign is Out!

After two solid weeks of wiping, washing, digging, painting, picking, sorting, stacking, pricing, arranging, mowing, and so on, my family’s apple orchard is open for the season!

Now that we have customers everywhere and staff behind counters, my summer hermit ways are a thing of the past.  I enjoyed the solitude of working alone (minus those six hours deep cleaning the kitchen), but have missed seeing people.

We’ve got a wonderful crew of people on staff this year, from the retired men who pick apples to the high schoolers who wash them and the kind-hearted ladies who staff our store.  One of my old church friends bakes for us four days a week, which is an absolute treat.  It’s a pleasure to laugh and make jokes with someone that isn’t my parent or sibling!

Stop by this time next week for more about what it’s like to live on an apple orchard.

Closed for the Season

Well, friends.  Strawberry season has come and gone.  Thank goodness.

IMG_5118-0I’m not going to lie, I’m happy to see it go.  Although it was our shortest season yet (clocking in at two and a half weeks of picking), it felt like my family’s pick-your-own patch was open forever.  For two weeks, I was in the fields every day without break.  Although things slowed down significantly after the 4th of July passed, I got really sick of making small talk and trying to find pleasant ways to explain why the berries at the end of the season were smaller than those at the beginning.

Now that we’ve closed, it’s back to full-time fieldwork.  We’ve been hard at work during the non-open hours  over the past few weeks fighting what I affectionately call the Battle of the Weeds.  Now that we don’t have customers consuming all our time, a few days of solid hoeing should help us finally gain ground in our newer strawberry fields.

Now that we’ve closed, I get an extra half hour of sleep every night.

Now that we’ve closed, I hope to spend less evenings crashed on the couch and more on my bike.

Now that we’ve closed, I ACTUALLY need to figure out what I’m doing with my life.  (But more on that later.)

Here’s to the end of a short, but good season!  If you need me, I’ll either be sleeping or pulling weeds.

Day in the Life of a Strawberry Field Hand

These days, the alarm goes off at 6:45 AM.

It sounds like church bells.  No, not the kind that play pleasant hymns or patriotic songs.  These bells are unpleasant–a discord of clanging and bellowing that is all too effective in waking me up.

The first thing I do is reach for my study Bible.  I roll up my shade and the early morning light helps me blearily make it through a couple of segments of Ezekiel and 1 Timothy.  (I like to always be reading something from the Old and New Testaments simultaneously.)

Next, I cautiously make my way from my bedroom to the kitchen.  As I heat water for tea, I go through routine stretches, pulling my body to smooth the stiff ache of sleep away.  If my older brother is around, he knows better to talk to me.  If he tries, I shoot him a sullen look and shake my head at him.  It’s not that I’m crabby in the morning.  I’m usually not.  I just need time to wake up before I’m ready to speak to anyone.  By the time I’ve consumed a bowl of Rice Krispies and a cup of tea, I’m ready for conversation.

By 7:20 I’m done with breakfast, have shuffled through my social media accounts on my phone, brushed my teeth, thrown on the same clothes as yesterday (red t-shirt with black running shorts), grabbed my lunchbox, and have left the house.

I cross the road and move one of our several golf carts to the service door of the shed.  By this point, my coworkers have also arrived.  Together, we dart in and out of the barn, filling the back of the carts with picking boxes, electronic scales, bottled water, and a large box containing an assortment of pens, fliers, and garbage bags.  Once this is done, we slowly drive through the orchard and to the back fields where the strawberries are.

We spend the next ten minutes getting everything in place–folding boxes, making sure scales are level, and applying sunscreen.  Usually, a couple of people scout the rows we’ll be picking in, walking up and down covering up any deer poop that has cropped up during the night.

At eight o’clock, my dad drives one of the golf carts to the entrance to pull the chain.  He then leads a stream of cars through our driveway, waving them into parking position with bright orange flags.  Some mornings, there are only three cars.  Others, there are thirty.

There are three main jobs one gets to do throughout the day: Man the stand, ferry customers, and run fields.  I usually do the first–greeting customers, weighing their berries, and checking them out.  Ferrying is easy–you just drive to and from the fields picking up and dropping off customers.  My least favorite is running the field.  Here, you stay in your assigned section.  When customers are brought out, you place them on rows, give them instructions, and make sure all is well.  If you have spare time, you carry around an ice cream bucket and pick up any rotten berries customers leave behind them on the straw.

On weekends, we close at noon.  This means that, around twelve-ish, my dad changes all the signs and phone message to “CLOSED”.  We, however, usually stick around much longer–waiting for the current customers to finish, cleaning up the fields, and offering the pre-picked berries my little brother spent all morning picking to any people who arrive before we can put the chain up.

If it’s a week day, we will be open longer into the afternoon.  When the customers are gone, we grab hoes and spend the rest of the afternoon making war with the weeds that threaten to take over the newly planted fields.  If it’s a weekend, we re-load the golf carts, put everything back in the shed, and I trudge back up to the house.

This is when I crash.  Whether a weekend or weekday, I slump on a couch and exhaustion slowly seeps throughout my body.  It’s a good kind of exhaustion–the kind that makes limbs go heavy to the core and a bleary haziness fall over my mind.

Even though I’m off work, strawberry season is unescapable.  The phone still rings off the hook.  Customers still show up in the parking lot across the road.  My dad darts in and out of the house, doing this job and that.  His work goes on long past the rest of us are finished.

The remainder of the day is pretty much useless.  Sometimes, I actually do things.  I put in a load of laundry.  I mow the lawn.  I bake cookies.  But when I think about actually doing the things I want to do, the things that bring me life, I simply feel more tired.  I think about reading, about painting, about working on some blog posts.  But, usually, any attempt stops here.  It just seems futile–reading makes my eyes want to shut, blogging brings forth nothing but a muddled jumble of un-publishable words, and paint dribbles aimlessly on paper, my mind is to out-of-it to know where it should go.

The evening passes by quickly.  Dinner with family, watch the news, cuddle with the cat, watch a movie.

By ten o’clock, the day has sapped all my energy.  I slump to my bed, falling asleep almost as soon as my head hits the pillow.

At 6:45 AM, the alarm goes off and I do it all again.

Just two weeks left until strawberry season is over.