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2013 March 1
by Rachel Turiel


I grow a fat vegetable garden every year, and people often ask me how I manage to pull this off. The only answer I can think of is that I’m fairly obsessed (fairly being a synonym for completely).

My first garden was a stovetop-sized plot at a college rental. I peeled back a strip of sod and plopped in two cherry tomato plants I had purchased on a whim at the Boulder, CO farmers market. The plants stretched away from the shady house, falling flat on the sunny lawn like religious seekers at the door of their temple. I harvested ten delicious cherry tomatoes before the frost came.


Far as I can tell, this interest in gardening sprang from some deep, hidden place within, somewhere molecular. The origins hardly matter, really. I could write an essay about how I’m in love with the whole process: from sinking a tiny blink-of-a-seed into cold spring soil, to plucking voluptuous tomatoes from the vine in fall. But, it all comes from being completely obsessed with growing food.


2013 upstarts!

There is energy in our obsessions. (I’m from California, so I can use words like energy). In the writing class I’m currently teaching, we’re mapping our obsessions, exploring the mysteries within what consumes our thoughts, letting the details spark the fire of our writing practices.

I want to say this: trust your obsessions. Follow them with the open mind of a child. Don’t worry about making  money off them, or what society says, notice the joy that pays off like maturing dividends. Maybe you’re obsessed with knitting, or running, or educating your children, or finding delicious ways to eat vegan…or pizza! (one of my students wrote about that first piece of pizza from the box, almost too hot and the cheese that leaps off in strings). No matter the topic, it belongs to you. Dive in, and enjoy.


Kati and Col helping to rack my brown ale into the secondary fermenter. I am also obsessed with midwifing edible chemical reactions.

Current obsessions on the homestead:

Rose competes daily in the one-woman, indoor jump-rope olympics. She’s leading in the categories: jumping with eyes closed, jumping backwards, and jumping while looking up at the ceiling. Her favorite rope is the hot-pink one she bought from City Market with her own money ($1). Her current highest count is 53, which she only reached once, but is still the trophy that sits on the high shelf of her mind.


Dan is updating his buck chart daily and has pretty much sussed out where the fraternity of neighborhood bucks can be found at all times. (Correction: Dan says he doesn’t know where they are at all times, and THAT is part of the excitement). Antler-dropping season is now (we’ve found 3 already, I say “we” because even I found one a block from our house) which has made “the chart” like a big algebraic equation: if  “tall-tines,” “big crab claw,” and “forky junior” all still have their antlers, but there’s one guy without antlers, is it “big 3 x 4” or “one horn forky?” Which, holy shit, I don’t expect you to understand any of that, it’s just to say that Dan’s in his late-winter element.


Updating the buck chart.

Col is making up for all that time he lived in an incubator, when we were only permitted to hold him for 1-2 hours/day. Seriously. If anyone is free from 6:00am – 9:00am, we could really use another set of arms around here.


Washing dishes and still baby-wearing at 8 yrs old.

Oh, and guess what? We’re going to Costa Rica for 2 weeks with my parents. I know, it’s not like me because it requires leaving the county. My parents are treating us to an eco-tour: volcanoes, boat trips (crocodiles), rain forests, beaches (Rosie-heaven), pineapple plantations (poisonous snakes), hanging bridges, wildlife preserves (monkeys), etc…(Rosie, curiously, is really excited about “rushing around all the airports.”) I’m unplugging for the trip so I don’t miss anything. I have a few posts lined up while I’m gone, mostly about good things we’ve discovered. Hopefully, they’ll actually post while I’m gone. Any problems? Call my assistant. If you usually get posts via Facebook, I won’t be updating there, so you may want to turn on your microchip, satellite IV settings, or something.

Also, sometimes I leave replies to your comments in the comments section, so check back, it’s almost like conversing.

Also, thanks for all your thoughts on what you know you don’t know. You’re all such smart and funny and lovely people and I’m grateful for your being here.

Also, what are your obsessions?

(Mine are: writing, growing food, local plants, kitchen chemistry, and raising Col and Rose)

Have a wonderful start to your March. March. How lovely does that sound?



ps: new favorite Google search term leading to 6512: homeschool in her undies. Fair enough.

42 Responses leave one →
  1. March 1, 2013

    What a great way to put it, to trust your obsessions. I’ve actually learned this from my kids. They are purely themselves, easily giving over to their passions. Some of them are long term and some of the moment. The obsessions that have been with me since my earliest memory is that of peace-making. It stirs my soul and I see elements of it everywhere I look, always have. That informs my life. Obsessions that keep me enlivened include writing, reading, gardening, preserving food, cooking, making gifts, teaching myself about posture and movement, being mindful, and of course, drollery.

    • Rachel Turiel permalink*
      March 1, 2013

      Peace-making! so beautiful and needed!

  2. Nasha permalink
    March 1, 2013

    Sigh… good. What a great blog to launch me into the weekend. xo

  3. March 1, 2013

    Oh, Rachel, I so hear you on the growing food obsession. That’s exactly what it is. And I keep trying to find a way to turn it into something more than simply feeding my family (as if that weren’t the highest purspose, anyway), by selling at market and offering a few CSAs, which in turn burns me out a bit…You offer some wise words, lady.

    And I promised myself I wouldn’t start any tomatoes just yet…but the photographs of yours are making my heart beat a little quickly :)

    Have a wonderful time on Costa Rica – sounds like it will be wonderful!

    • Rachel Turiel permalink*
      March 1, 2013

      Even though *harvesting* tomatoes is still so far away, *starting* them is almost as exciting. xo

  4. March 1, 2013

    Boy am I with you on the gardening, and food in general. I saw an ad once (Organic Horizon, I think) that said; first, grow your own; second, buy direct from the farm; third, buy from a co-op; fourth, buy organic from a big box store. And I thought YES! When someone asked me recently where I wanted to be in 5 years, what immediately popped into my head was “I want to be a mentor”. So I guess my other obsession, other than all things homesteading, would be to teach those skills, so everyone can start with “first, grow your own”. So excited about Costa Rica for you!!!

    • Rachel Turiel permalink*
      March 1, 2013

      That is so great Jennifer! People are looking for homesteading mentors. Such important and empowering skills.

  5. March 1, 2013

    hello my dear!

    have fun in costa rica! i am very jealous and i will miss col and rose!!!

    just fyi, Facebook will post automatically for you,every time you hit ‘publish’ …it’s a simple setting.

    • Rachel Turiel permalink*
      March 1, 2013

      I’m a little scared to let FB have access to my blog while I’m not around, but I’ll have my assistant take a look at that. (Just kidding, Marybeth. I just wanted to try out saying that). xo

  6. March 1, 2013

    You know when I read this post I was like yes! I have learned this lesson only recently. Do what you love and the rest will take care of itself. How long I neglected the things I loved seeing them as less than compared to what others thought I should be doing. I am embracing this wholeheartedly now and it has brought me so much happiness. I’ve started art classes, I’m cooking again (my hubby is so good I kind of opted out) and I’m throwing myself into gardening with gusto. I have never been happier.

    Have fun on your trip it sounds amazing x

  7. March 1, 2013

    gardening!! like serious obsession/therapy for me!
    my children of course!! wow the joy they bring me!
    permaculture, learning..
    nature. I am definitely addicted to nature, without it I am lost!

    • Rachel Turiel permalink*
      March 1, 2013

      Following our obsessions IS therapy, so cool how that works!

  8. Erin permalink
    March 1, 2013

    Thanks for this today Rachel. It feels like a sweet little reminder to me to rekindle those flames that light up my life. Sometimes I feel like being a mom is ALL I have going on, and my passions are sitting on some old shelf collecting dust. It even takes a bit to remember what they are, and reconsider, as some of them have lost their attraction while others have come into my life brand new as I grow and change. I am finding out how very important it can be as a mom (stay at home, particularly) not to loose sight of the things that bring me joy, the type of joy that satisfies my soul. Some days it might be just hanging with the kiddos and others it needs to be doing my own thing. I am hearing this one loud and clear today though! Thanks!
    p.s. have an awesome time in Costa Rica! I loved it there when I visited.

    • Rachel Turiel permalink*
      March 1, 2013

      Yes, it’s hard to remember our passions when we’re so immersed in motherhood. The amazing thing is that those passions are always there waiting for us, patiently. Hoping you get some time to rekindle.

  9. March 1, 2013

    Hi Rachel! I found your blog via Kelly’s and I was so inspired by your writing and your precious family! I am one of the people who helped ‘break’ your blog. ;) I have been immersing myself in these beautiful snapshots of your life for the past few days, lurking around, trying to gather up the courage to comment. So, here I am. My husband I are going to start our very own garden this year. It will be very small, but I’m so excited to begin. Thanks for giving me the courage to just go for it! Hopefully, it will be a success (even a meager harvest will tickle me pink, for sure.)
    Have a great time in Costa Rica!

    • Rachel Turiel permalink*
      March 1, 2013

      Yes, even a meager harvest can feel like a huge celebration!

  10. Kathy permalink
    March 1, 2013

    My niece found one from a 14 point buck and one from a 6 point buck, presumably on the back hill. They are there allright!
    My passion: my Durango family history. Lately I have received so much encouragement about writing… I just need to sit down and do it!
    Thanks for reminding me to follow it with the open mind of my inner child.

  11. March 1, 2013

    i love this. especially the buck chart and the code that probably only the four of you understand. it’s one of those things that makes your family, YOU. and all the more loveable.

    my obsessions: writing, reading, finding the perfect pizza dough recipe.

    enjoy costa rica!

  12. Molly permalink
    March 1, 2013

    I’m obsessed with food, for one. I am trying to recalibrate my preferences toward fresh vegetables and fruit and away from Cheetos. My strategy, in part, is to bring healthy, whole foods to work and wait until I am so hungry that a banana or an apple or rice and greens sounds delicious. But I just love food and do things that seem elaborate to other people to get good versions of it. Not to you. To other people.

    I’m obsessed with my daughter, who also loves Cheetos but who also has an affection for lettuce with olive oil and salt. We are both proud of this. She tells me the definition for illuminate, and then eliminate. She loves rolling downhill on bicycles as much as I do.

    I’m a little obsessed with not using lots of plastic, especially the single use virgin kind. I have an impressive non or minimal plastic re-usable container collection. This is a subcategory of a larger obsession, containers, which leads me to being interested in ceramics, small home design, and forms of gardening that involve containers of any kind. Or else the nonplastic thing is an incestuous love child of my fraternal twin obsessions, containers and the planet. But my planet obsession is largely a subcategory of my obsession with my daughter, who I am hoping will have one to live on.

    Many of these obsessions have significant overlap with the Biggie, which is Making Things, which I do a lot. I have a silly video about it, which I will now share: I made this in a video making class.

    Enjoy Costa Rica!

  13. March 1, 2013

    I looove your garden! Thanks for the input in the email, btw. I will prioritize with a veggie garden, and hopefully it will resemble the verdant one in your photos. It’s hard to not get caught up in all that I want to do, and have patience with each season.
    I am obsessed with local foods, and connecting with others that are interested in this, too. I also obsess over my house and yard, always wishing they are bigger and better! And I obsess about sending my child to kindergarten….or not!
    I never commented on the other post, but I know that I don’t know how to make all my hopes and dreams come true. I am a mom that puts her life on hold while the kids are young. Maybe in my next life it will be easier…

  14. March 1, 2013

    Shed hunting! So cool! My dad has led my brothers and I on antler excursions through deer-filled cemetery fringes in seasons past.
    And on the subject of obsessions: the best way to be obsessed is find other people who are obsessed. Or, if none are available, drag them in with you. My passion for gardening spilled over to my best friend, and then in turn her interest in herbs and their uses spilled over to me. I taught her to knit, she introduced me to the BBC miniseries Little Dorrit (yeah, that’s an obsession all its own…). The internet is just perfect for sharing like that… And seeing so many pictures of your fabulously wild garden definitely feeds my gardening obsession too!

  15. Marlene permalink
    March 1, 2013

    I can’t even see Rose’s skipping rope. All I can see is the handles. That’s crazy.

  16. March 1, 2013

    Hmm, my obsessions… hiking is at the top of the list. Figuring out my existential depression and thinking about other spiritual topics. Knitting is in there. Unfortunately, I feel addicted to Facebook many days. Eating a clean diet (healthy, gluten-free and corn-free) takes a lot of time, and I do feel that I spend an inordinate amount of time making food from scratch for every meal. I obsess over figuring out the perfect curricula to use in our homeschooling. Birds top my list pretty much every day, and I have been known to drive 3-4 hours one way to see some I have never seen before. But here I am back to hiking again, which is just one way of getting out into nature.

  17. Emmanuelle permalink
    March 1, 2013

    Dear Rachel, this post that seems to draw interlocking and overlapping circles over the family’s current obsessions. As if, mysteriously, patiently establishing a buck chart was connected with jumping 53 times without a break, giving hugs non-stop, or gleefully growing tender sprouts.

    The very fact that the four of you have all this energy (yes !) to put into your personal passions (and the space and time for them) is a testimony, and a nourishment, to this intuitive art of loving each other for what you are.

    Which is one of the things I love most in you all :o)

    Happy adventure into Costa Rica’s nature !

    • Emmanuelle permalink
      March 1, 2013

      One word does not belong into the first sentence (which had a different structure at first) – it should read: this post seems to draw interlocking and overlapping…

      And I forgot to say how reading about Rose’s current passion put me right back into my 8 to 10 years old self, addicted to skipping rope! Not all the time (reading was even more addictive) but I can perfectly remember the sensation of the rope rhythmically hurting the ground again and again, as if alive in my hands, and I was lifted up at the same time without having to think – about it, or about anything else. A child practice for meditation!

      I have been looking for the right skipping rope for ages – adults’ are too long for me, and the kid’s version is slightly too short ;o)

      • Emmanuelle permalink
        March 2, 2013

        oops ! I meant of course: rhythmically hitting the ground… (Hello Dr. Freud ! I guess skipping rope has therapeutical virtues as well) I should be careful when writing comments in English around midnight ;o)

  18. March 2, 2013

    I love all of this so much. Especially Col there in your sweater! Have a great time on your trip…. and I’m still dreaming of ways to get you out to see me for a garden primer in my new place. We’re looking at places with about a half acre….. HUGE right? I’m so excited….

  19. Melissa permalink
    March 2, 2013

    have an amazing vacation!!!

    i am recently obsessed with our new vitamix and finding ways to blend all kinds of yummy, fresh, green stuff to drink . . . and soups, and sauces, and dips. it’s fun to have a new obsession!

  20. March 4, 2013

    When I have a moment of anxiety or insecurity, I check in here. You always manage to deliver a sentence or two that push me in the right direction. Today, I am trusting my obsessions.

    They are: writing, growing food, mothering, making things, running, arranging my home.


  21. March 4, 2013

    gardening, sewing, parenting/unschooling, the ocean/dolphins, to name a few. i got to dig a bit yesterday, such a therapeutic treat!

  22. March 6, 2013

    Thank you for your clarity and compassion! I had just finished a post in which I was kind of feeling down on myself for my current reigning obsessions, and reading this presented me with a completely different perspective on my wants.

  23. March 11, 2013

    Wow! I needed this part in particular: “I want to say this: trust your obsessions. Follow them with the open mind of a child. Don’t worry about making money off them, or what society says, notice the joy that pays off like maturing dividends.”

    After years of making excuses I think it’s time to just trust my life-long obsession (writing) and follow it where it leads and show it the respect it deserves with a place and time in my life.

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