Letters To My Mother
Letters To My Mother Podcast
Allow me to introduce myself: I am Cecilia

Allow me to introduce myself: I am Cecilia

After three full months creating content here on SubStack, it appears that I am here to stay (wriggling down into the comfy country seat). SO it is time to properly introduce myself: I am Cecilia.

I am Cecilia. Just Cecilia will do. My last name, my sir name has no real meaning to me because being a woman and all, and a woman of a certain age, I was expected to give up my fathers name for my first husbands name when I was married to my first husband as a pregnant teenager. Now I am on my third husband and third name and it bothers me none what they call me.

I am still Cecilia. You can call me Celi.

I am a New Zealander. I come from the sea and am in fact a BoatBuilders Daughter. But I am writing and farming and living now in the midwest of Illinois, USA. Far far from the sea.

When I began writing here on SubStack back in late August I had intended to use SubStack to write long form essays and recollections about old fashioned Sustainable Living. Something I know a lot about. And I’ve done that and it is going great!

Using the stories from the story tellers of my past to help us navigate the future.

These stories from a simpler time that were anything but simple have proved really popular and there are so many more to come. But the writing led to podcasting. Now I podcast my writing here on SubStack because I love a good chat. And you can choose to read or listen. Because I publish the text as well.

And, lately I have discovered that people are loving hearing the sounds of the farm and the quiet of the country as well my voice, so I create 10 minute audio clips with pictures and these go out every week day evening at 5pm.

So, Here on SubStack I write and broadcast a podcast ‘Sustainable Sunday’ where I talk about stories from the old days on Sunday. The new publication is ‘SoundScape of the Farmy’, giving you a chance to relax down into the farm sounds and take a 10 minute break from the hurly burly. These goes out every evening at 5.

A little about me

I was raised as a child in a house at high tide in the great curving sweep of a bay in the East Coast of the North Island of New Zealand (which is just as atmospheric and beautiful as it sounds). By the time I was fourteen my mother took ill and I was raising myself and my little brothers and sisters. Across the scope of my working life I have been a cleaner, a geriatric nurse, a teacher, a married mother of five, a single mother of five, a waitress when they called us waitresses, in fact I was a teacher and a waitress at the same time, a PA for a film director and an artists model, a manager in a stone ground flour mill, a farmer. I have had husbands and lovers of course yet traveled alone since I was eight, when Mum sent me unaccompanied on a plane to go stay with my grandma. And I caught the travel bug. I prefer to travel alone, actually.

I have lived in the big white stucco house on the beach in New Zealand, in a home for unwed mothers with the nuns, in nurses homes, on farms in the hills with views across fields of sheep, deep in the city of London, out in a manor in Kent, on the coast of Amalfi in Italy looking straight out across the Mediterranean, in Rome and Paris and Prague. I have worked and lived in many places.

I have never honestly considered that I cannot just do whatever I please, much to the despair of said husbands and lovers. I have not asked permission from anyone, not since my Mum went to bed when I was fourteen. This may or may not be a bad thing. Sometimes I was the bad thing. Often times I make dreadful decisions. But I have always felt free. And will fight like a dog to free my friends.

And now I farm out here in the deep midwest of the USA, far, far from my own family and culture. I have fields of wheat and cows and pigs and chickens and a peacock called Mr Flowers. Right down in the country on the prairies. Miles from anywhere. Far from any culture at all actually. We dry our clothes on a clothes line outside, and heat with wood in the winter. I make my own laundry soap and home made bread and pasta. My compost heap is taller than me. The land is flat here, I can see for miles to a flat land horizon and the soil is heavy and deep and rich. My husbands family farm (I live on 80 of the family acres) is surrounded by huge conventional chemical based big company farms - corn and bean outfits. But I manage our farm and farm it organically. The family has over 400 acres in organic small grains now and a small home farm where I grow our food.

But I am days from the sea. And a million miles from my home. As an immigrant to the USA I feel this keenly. The differences in the culture in New Zealand where I grew up, and rural America in 2023 are raw and plain. But this helps my writing. It keeps me honest. And a little hungry. And I can always catch a train to the city. That city being Chicago.

When I was a young Mum in New Zealand we - the mothers and the children - popped in and out of each others houses on a daily basis. We almost always walked. Pushing prams. We never called ahead, Popping in for a cuppa. A wander about the garden nipping cuttings, and wrapping them in wet newspaper to take home. The cup of tea becoming lunch for the kids then later a gin and tonic in a patch of dying sun in the garden for us. Watching the children play outside. It was the same after school - we would pop in on the way home or they would pop in to my place. Not out here in the midwest though. You can be sure that no-one will pop in here - there is no need to have the housework done by 10 (the accepted time for visitors to begin) and cookies in the tin because people do not visit each other out here. It is different.

It makes me sad. I miss that connection. So I write. To you.

So who am I really.

A lover of the land. Yes. A gardener and farmer. Self taught but Yes. A guardian of the land. Yes. A child of the sea. Oh Yes. A rule follower. Nope. A transient. Maybe, we all are actually - transitioning through. A traveller. Yup. A creature of habit. Absolutely not. A cook. Yes - my favourite thing is to feed people food I have grown and harvested and cooked. An unapologetic older woman with a voice. Absolutely Yes. A scholar and a gentle woman. I like to think so.

I am in my early 60’s which means as well as being full of the energy I am also full of experience. This is a wonderful age; if I might say so myself. I have all my own teeth, a good head of hair, I can still split firewood with an axe and throw fifty pound bales of hay up into the loft, I am just as comfortable in work boots shovelling shit out of the barn as I am in three inch heels sipping champagne in a city bar chatting with strangers or speaking in front of large crowds. I am in rude health and have the constitution of the proverbial ox, though a rather small ox.

As well as being full of experience I am full of hope. My sixty something years of experience and mistakes and recovery have given me hope. I will lend you some of my hope if you need a top up.

You and I can be all this and ALSO be a woman in leggings with too much hair that has not seen a brush in days, our bare feet on the dining room table, drinking home made margaritas, listening to loud music, using foul fisherman’s language and laughing out loud at inappropriate stuff with the wrong men. We can be that too.

How would you describe you. It is hard right? We are all contradictions and they tell us to stay on BRAND! Merciful heavens. Don’t be bullied. Slide off brand any time you feel like it.

I believe that we are guardians of the land, of the planet, us - you and me - we live with the land not on it, even that little piece of land that is in a pot of herbs on your deck. I believe that we are here for only a short time and I feel committed to making a difference in that time. Even if it is only to help you do without paper towels or tissues. I aim to grow all my own food, avoid over planting and over crowding my little patch of land. And feed the four families that came with my present husband and teach them how to do the same. Some years I get really close; for months at a time I can eat off the farm - then I climb on a plane to go talk to some people and blow it all.

But my greatest goal is to teach you how to do this too. Teach you how to create your own systems, to design your own environmentally sustainable lifestyle, to create food security and preparedness for you and your family. Though don’t get me wrong - I am not a survivalist. Just a realist. This is my passion.

By the end of summer there is beef, chicken and pork in the freezers - enough to feed the four families. There are baskets of apples and potatoes and onions in the larder. And jars of summery tomato sauce on the shelves. We grow our own wheat so we have flour, and the eggs come from our own chickens. The glasshouse is filled with herbs and greens and chilli plants at this time of the year so we don’t get scurvy during the winter. The woodshed is full of split firewood harvested from the floors of the forest as we keep it cleared.

I try as hard as possible to be plastic and single use paper free. I think this is an important thing to know about me. It is easier to be single-use paper free than plastic free, that’s for sure. Plastic is invasive. But I can sustain life on this farm and reuse any plastic that comes in. And I carry my little pottery coffee cup when I leave the farm.

But there are still taxes (land taxes are so high and going up every year with no explanation, small farmers like us are having real trouble paying taxes on the land that feeds us) and health insurance and car insurance, stuff like that. Though I have not been to a doctor for over thirty years. I can’t grow avocados or lemons or olives for olive oil, or coffee, and there will be vet bills. I am not milking this year so there is no milk or cheese or butter, I buy it from a local farmer so I write here and elsewhere to help buy these things. Hence the Paid Subscription option.

It is a curious life we writers and content creators and creatives lead - writers like myself who write about our lifestyles and get paid a little for it. My lifestyle writing is all about living an environmentally sustainable life both in our food sourcing and in our homes and writing about this life to encourage and empower others to do the same. Which puts me squarely in your sights. I am using my own stories, and our grandparents and great grandparents stories to work with you to sort stuff out. I say work with you because I am not in a position to tell you what to do or to lecture you or to shout about what is right and wrong. Life is way too convoluted for that. The planet needs our help and we are all in this together. But we can only do what we can and that has to be enough. The world might feel different and anxiety is ratcheting up but I think it is much of the same. I have seen global events happen before, but we have the addition of a catastrophic change in the climate and war is the most catastrophic environmental and humanitarian disaster of them all. The damage is monumental. But I cannot fix that all my myself so I choose something within my grasp, something I can change and sustain and work on. I keep it simple.

You should know this about me.

I believe that the smallest movement or action or paragraph can have widest deepest consequences. Which is why I say Be the Butterfly.

Wars. Waste. Cruelty and Mass Murder is old - old as mankind. This rendition of a changing climate is new to humankind. We need to work with it, take personal steps and mitigate the damage we do.

So if you do choose to spend the equivalent of one beer or wine a month and sign up for the Paid Subscription you can be assured that I am going to be round doing what I do and writing about what I write about for a long time yet. And I would LOVE your support to keep going. I would LOVE your support for my little farm and the writing.

My name is Cecilia and I am a sustainable lifestyle writer and storyteller. I write and talk about my self sufficient and sustainable farm and home and lifestyle. I have a Sustainable Sunday Podcast that you are listening to right now. And I send out 10 minute farmy sound bites at The Farmy SoundScape every week day at 5pm.

And there is more coming. Watch this Space.

The Farmy SoundScape is going to be FREE all this week so please share and lets get the peacefulness of the farm out to as many people as we can.

You can read more about the farm here at The Kitchens Garden Farm Blog since 2011.

Have a glorious evening.



Letters To My Mother
Letters To My Mother Podcast
Cecilia from The Kitchens Garden reads about growing up in a Simpler Time.