“New Gleanings from a Jewish Farm”

NYT Home & Garden reports on what I’m doing in the fall:




(I’ll let you know if it’s got it about right or not soon) 


Tomato Fest!


Perhaps this is a preview (without the many hours of manual labor) of life at Adamah –


I traveled this past weekend with some friends to a “Tomato Fest” at the farm that I get a weekly farmshare box from in Capay, CA.  Some riding on tractors, some frolicking in fields, some tomato tasting and voting, some indie band jamming as we toasted in the sun.  It felt like summer.  And it made me excited to spend more time on a farm.  Highlights here:

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Evidence of drought - our guide said the water in this channel is usually MUCH higher this time of year

Evidence of drought – our guide said the water in this channel is usually MUCH higher this time of year


Our voting tickets! Tomato democracy for all!

Our voting tickets! Tomato democracy for all!

What I learned (or re-learned):

  • I legitimately feel more connected to my farmshare box after seeing the farm…and am much more fully appreciative of the work done across a large distance and many fields for that one box to arrive at my door
  • There are SO MANY more kinds of tomato flavors than I previously understood.  One kind we tasted even had “chocolate” in the title…and that wasn’t far off from what it tasted like
  • Babies running in sprinklers just WIN. At everything.
  • Wide open spaces = Ahhhhhhhh (refreshing)



some of my things being taken off to a friend's to store.  bye possessions! (we really don't need so much anyway, eh?)

some of my things in the back of my car being taken off to a friend’s to store. bye possessions! (we really don’t need so much anyway, eh?)

The first of my logistical transitions have begun.  I am packing up my things and storing them in various locations. 

While storing things, Lacy and I found a ginormous zucchini hiding in her garden.  A taste of my life to come at adamah???

photo 2


And, amidst the flux, I’m trying to take some moments here and there to slow down and soak in the beauty right here, right now.  


Sunset in El Cerrito, taken from a field in the El Cerrito open space.  Just, wow.

Sunset in El Cerrito, taken from a field in the El Cerrito open space. Just, wow.

Lessons from Improv

One of my first adventures this summer has been taking an improv class with BATS in San Francisco.

I already feel as though there are many rich benefits to reap from practicing this art form.  Here are a couple of them:

1.  Improv is practice in not being attached to outcomes.

I often find myself in situations, interactions, conversations, etc. quickly developing an idea of what I would like the outcome of this situation to be.  I then find that often halfway through the conversation or the next time I see someone, my interaction is often then dictated moreso by that idea of the desired outcome than what is actually happening in the present moment.  The security of holding onto a specific goal, a specific destination is nice; yet, it is often not real.

But in improv you have no idea where the skit/activity/scene is going.  You can’t plan it…or at least, you can try to, but your ideas might deteriorate in front of you faster than you can think them.  You can develop an the idea that you’d like to be riding an elephant through the town square, but that elephant might quickly turn into a man wearing a suit at the town fair, take a detour down the Mississippi, and end up at Mark Twain’s house.  The beauty of the scene comes in NOT being attached to any given outcome, but in accepting the offers handed to you by others in the scene and making something beautiful out of them.

Life, in a Buddhist-Improv-ian sense, is like this too.  And practicing non-attachment (to ideas, to outcomes, to particular agendas) can help us see the beauty that simply is.

2. “It’s like a polaroid picture – it’s developing as it’s happening.”  

Our teacher used this analogy in a scene in which 4 people each added something new to a room, building off what was there previously.  After she said it, though, I immediately thought – “Yes, life really is just like that too.”

Life is like a polaroid picture.  It’s developing while we are in it.  We may never be entirely clear about what is happening.  We may only be able to really see and understand what just happened after we are able to look back on a situation with some newfound wisdom and clarity. Much like Kierkegaard says, “Life can only be understood backwards; but it must be lived forwards.  We must, inevitably, learn to live in the messiness, in the muddled, half-developed polaroid of our own narrative as it unfolds before our eyes.

3.  I had a giggle fit in the middle of a round of a “telephone”-like game, where we imitated a gesture and sound from the person before us.  The person after me (and therefore everyone else after that) then imitated my giggle fit as well as the initial gesture + sound.  I was initially super embarrassed and felt like I had “messed up” the exercise, but it then became much more entertaining for all of us.  Perhaps are “mistakes” are not really what we make of them.


That’s all for now.  More improv life lessons surely to come (but why get attached to that outcome?).  


A poem for journeys

I was walking the streets of San Francisco several weeks ago with my friend Danielle who was visiting from out of town, and we stumbled upon a woman who offered to write personal poems on the spot.  All she asked for was a theme.

I asked for a poem about “journeys,” and this is what she wrote.  The product itself is nothing to write home about…but the process of having someone write a personal poem felt very loving, and the act of choosing a word for one’s own personal poem is perhaps a journey unto itself.

So, here is my custom-written poem about journeys…

It’s easy to follow the flock

But what a crock

Forge your own path

And don’t look back

Find yourself along the way

And you’ll be sure to say

You have no regrets

And kept your self-respect

You only live once

And now is the time

To make your mark

Create a spark

Explore and journey

Keeping friends in heart

No matter where you are

You’re never apart


Hello friends!

I’ve decided to start a blog to chronicle my various adventures this year.  First of all, a few points of order.

1. What the heck is “Shmita”? And what does it have to do with your blog name? 

“Shmita,” literally “release” in Hebrew, is the Jewish sabbatical year in the 7-yr agricultural cycle in traditional Jewish practice.  It just so happens this coming year in the Jewish calendar (starting in fall of 2014) will be an actual Shmita year, which nicely aligns with my personal year of a sabbatical of sorts, taking time away from teaching to pursue various other interests.

I am hoping to learn more about Shmita practices while working on the Adamah farm this fall!  Stay tuned for more info 🙂

2. What will I actually be doing?  Where will I be going?  Do I have a proper winter coat?  Should Jewish (grand)mothers everywhere be worried?

The planned “itinerary” as of right now is as such:

End of August – Beginning of December:  Adamah Fellowship at the Isabella Freedman Jewish Retreat Center (farming, sustainability, Jewish learning, high holiday retreats, Hazon New York bike ride…lots of god stuff)

Mid December – January:  Some combination of back in the bay area to visit friends, Chicago, Denver to visit family…hoping to fit a meditation retreat in there some where.  Then road trip to Moab (let me know if you wanna join!)

February – end of May:  

Spring semester internship with Community Rebuilds in Moab, UT.  I’ll be building straw-bale, affordable, eco-friendly housing for families in Moab.  I first met the folks who started this organization on my Bike & Build trip in 2008.  They were so rad that I decided to come back and give natural building a try.


Who knows!


In the meantime, I’ll be blogging about my summer of chillaxing in the bay in preparation.  Hooray. Mazel tov. Exciting.