Monthly Archives: May 2015

Queen of the Garlic

By Mary

Doc Menn loves to collect things. He collects circles of family members and friends. He collects farm houses, land and decrepit rental units, he also collects old cars, well bred horses and western memorabilia. And he is notorious for collecting new business ventures and projects.


I think that it is more than fair to say that I have been collected by him. I’m his daughter’s best friend, his son-in-laws sister, his extra hand working cattle on Saturdays at the ranch, and now I am The Queen of Garlic, or so I am labeled under the contact list on his cell phone.


The title as a Queen of Garlic has come from one of the most recent projects that Jeff brainstormed. The history behind it goes back several years to a specific piece of land that Jeff bought about 7 years ago and has been interested in using to grow produce on. Last August we decided that we wanted to put the piece of ridge-land into something sustainable that has the potential for a solid profit. After about a month of research, spreadsheets, and phone calls, I decided that garlic was indeed the right pick for the project. In October I shelled about 300 pounds of hard neck cooking garlic that got dropped into cold furrows of ground before the snow came. Those planting days were busy ones with I felt like were too short and too cold. However, in November the last of the seed garlic was dropped into the earth and covered.


After lying dormant all winter the garlic is up. It’s a vast project to say the least because it spans over an acre of ridge soil under layers of old mulch.


I have been out weeding this last week while juggling the care of my sister-in-laws 5 kids as she takes a three day vacation which she does about once every 11 years. It’s been a delight to spend hours weeding, thinning, and uncovered shoots of garlic from thick heaps of mulch. The neighbor kids who live next to the field like to come out and help.


They don’t weed nearly as much as they talk, but all the same they are enjoyable company while I work.


Spending so much time outside gives me time and space to watch the sights that surround me. Sometimes I see Amish horses and buggies pass, at other times I catch a glimpse of brightly colored birds swooping about, or a vole and a dog playing cat and mouse. My mind tends to wander a lot as I muse of internal thoughts, ideas and questions that I often reflect on.

The other day I came up with a question that I will have to ask Jeff: If I am really the queen of garlic, doesn’t that mean I should have an legion of servants to carry out my work?!

Until next time!


Once Upon a Time…

By: Colleen

Once upon a time…there was a little girl who grew up barefoot among the hills of Western Wisconsin.

baby colleen

And, 1000 miles away, there was a little blond boy, growing up near the bustling metropolis of Washington, D. C.

baby joe

The little girl and the little boy grew up, each growing taller and taller by the year. By high school, they each thought they were pretty cool…

cool Joe Cool

But, mostly, they loved to laugh and smile.

chris and colleen Joe

The boy was named Joe, and he liked bow ties.

Joe bowtie

And the little girl? Well, her name is Colleen, and she liked wearing pretty dresses.


Joe and Colleen both liked to run.

Joe running tracksenior year

And when it came time to choose a college, the Midwestern girl and the East Coast boy both looked to the South…


Freshman year of college came and went. Joe played chess.

beels and beatty

And Colleen studied and went to dances.


He played Frisbee.


And she just kept on running.


And on one fateful autumn night of their sophomore year, Colleen took Joe’s hand and taught him to polka. And he didn’t let go. They danced the night away. They suddenly realized that they happened to like each other…

Time passed, and there were symphonies to be seen.


And soon, without really realizing it, this boy and girl had become a part of each other’s lives.

He made her laugh. And she really loved to laugh.


And so when he pulled out a ring and asked her to be his wife, heart beating fast up on top of the Blue Ridge Mountains, she said yes.


“June is a beautiful time of year for love,” they thought. And so, the next June, they were married, the ridge girl and the adventurous city boy.


They left Wisconsin in a tiny black car, piled high and higher with love and wedding gifts, to start their life together in the big city.

She’s a teacher now, and he’s the most charming accountant you’ll ever meet. And their story is far from over, despite her lack of blogging on the subject.

This Saturday marks the third anniversary since Joe turned Colleen’s claddagh ring out under the big Texas sky, and what better way to celebrate than to return to the place where it all began? Tomorrow we board the plane Dallas, and I am so thankful to have this man by my side.



By Kate

I sat beneath an apple tree in bloom the last time I nursed my firstborn daughter. Sunlight streamed through petals and tears streamed down my face. In May, in Wisconsin, the world is in bloom. Spring comes with a particular force and sweetness after the long harsh winter. That year I feared the shift in seasons, watching the snow melt away and knowing that the beginning of spring meant the end of my pregnancy and the arrival of the parents who would adopt my baby.

I wanted to stay pregnant for as long as I could, holding tight to the intense intimacy and ability to care completely for my child within. I sang lullabies, read aloud and cried. I prayed. I played music. I spoke to the child within constantly, telling her how much I loved her and the reasons I had decided that adoption was the best, albeit hardest, decision. I asked her to forgive me. My due date meant the end of my pregnancy and felt like the end of the world.

On my due date, I was weeding peas on the hillside of my parent’s ridgetop farm when I went into labor. I gave birth to a baby girl that night. She was perfect, of course, in the way all beloved children are. I was raw, stunned, and in awe.

The adoptive parents flew across the country to meet their new daughter. We, the birth parents, had one week to meet her and to say goodbye. I stared hard into my child’s eyes as I nursed her, pondering the mystery between us.

The adoptive couple, who were and are extraordinary people, gave me space and brought me roses. They walked hand in hand with my youngest siblings across the farm fields, broke bread with us, gave my parents a tree to plant. We didn’t know what open adoption meant, exactly, but we knew that we were doing something new, planting the seeds for a new and different relationship. Our lives were growing intertwined, tentative and soft like the tendrils of pea vines.

A week passed and the court date arrived. We stood up, birth mother and birth father with baby between us, and spoke the words that renounced all claim upon our child, removed forever our legal role as parents in her life. We fought hard to speak clearly, to keep tears at bay. We wanted so badly to retain our dignity. We left the courthouse and drove to the concrete block office where we would give our daughter to her legal parents.

Outside the office was an apple tree, where I sat in sunlight on the deep green grass, with apple blossoms cascading as I nursed one more time.

Then we went underground, to a basement office which was dull and stuffy and so prosaic a place to do something as vast as handing your child to another couple. There are pictures of that moment. They are hopeful and strong, joyful and united. We are broken. We all clearly, fiercely, love that child.

We climbed those stairs back into the light without a baby, bereft. We walked away somehow, and kept climbing. We found the highest hill we could. Somehow it was still spring. The world was still beautiful, still in bloom. It seemed impossible. We looked out over the town and the world, feeling a vast emptiness. The enormity of our grief was beyond believing and yet, we shared a strong conviction that we had done the right thing. We had passed the test. We simply could not offer our child the life we wanted, so badly, for her to have- and those hopeful, faithful, and incredibly generous people holding our daughter at that moment? They could. They did.

The first year after the adoption was a blur of grief and darkness. Light returned slowly to my life. At first it was like the visible beams of light you see streaming down from dark clouds, sun piercing through shadow. My daughter was a constant presence in my mind and in my life. There were pictures, letters, and eventually visits. I saw their home, their family growing, and the trees they tended in the desert. They returned to my parent’s farm, braving a blizzard to do so. We gathered with our whole extended family around the table. I watched my daughter- our daughter- singing in the choir of our country church, snow falling softly outside. The roots of the relationship we were building, the family we were created, continued to grow.

Time passed and light poured in. I fell in love with tall and handsome man with an extraordinary soul. We met in the beginning of May. Our romance quickly blossomed, and a year later we were wed in the country church on the ridge. As we emerged onto the stone steps outside the church a group of girls threw blossoms in the air. My daughter, attending the wedding with her family, was one of them.

I believe in grace. The story of my adoption is beautiful. It’s also a huge part of who I am, intertwined with my life and being. The presence of this part of my life has become much more natural over the years. My husband and I have three beautiful children. The couple who adopted my daughter have seven. They are a continual inspiration to me.

In an adoption, something is rent, and mended in a way beautiful beyond imagining- but oh, there are still moments where you feel the tearing. The thing about grief, though, is that you can’t outrun it, or hide from it. A wise woman once told me that sometimes, you just have to be sad.

Each May when the world is in bloom, the world celebrates Mother’s Day, and I celebrate the birth day of the daughter that I gave away. Each year, I struggle.

This year, I was sad. Then a gift arrived- a picture of a beautiful girl, with blossoms in her hair, dressed for the May crowning of Mary. She is graduating from eighth grade and full of grace, suddenly blossoming into a beautiful young woman.


The picture was a reminder that the story of my adoption is not about what was lost but what has been made whole, in a manner beautiful beyond my wildest dreams. It filled me with gratitude for the blessing and generosity of God who made the blossoms and the fruit trees, gnarled roots and spreading branches.