'Zucchini Moments': When Too Much Hits You all at Once, Just Take it One Step at a Time

The Mountain Farmgirl is feeling a bit overwhelmed this week as she experiences a ‘Zucchini moment'. She has a pile of chores staring her in the face and doesn’t know where to begin.  Is she making a mountain out of a molehill?  Find out how she copes with some very overwhelming pressures and deadlines, as she puts one foot in front of the other for this steep uphill climb.

Staying on top of it all is something I’m usually good at; most women are. Multitasking is our middle name as we juggle family obligations, our homesteads, work responsibilities, church, community service, and (if there’s any time left over), our own hopes, projects and dreams.  Sometimes though, like stars in alignment, everything converges at a single point in time and we feel very small and unequal to the tasks at hand. Confronted by a mountain of responsibilities staring us squarely in the face -- all equally demanding of our time and attention -- it’s sometimes hard to take the first step and know how (or where) to begin. And there I’ve found, usually lies the answer: One Step at a Time … something often easier said than done until we actually take that first step.

Last time we spoke, I think I was sitting in the river sipping a tall glass of cold tea. Well, the intense heat has broken – several times now – with cool nights returning, followed by daily temperatures that rise to a fevered pitch. Good gracious, I’ve never known such a stretch of hot humid weather in New England. But this week things are a bit different. Much as I’d like to, I can’t sit in the river … and heat or no heat, its time to get back to work!

I know I’m not alone in feeling this way; summertime is busy for everyone and we all have to make hay while the sun shines. By now we’ve planted all sorts of seeds, we’ve cultivated, nurtured and watered them, and the harvest is beginning. This metaphor applies as equally to our farms and gardens as it does to our everyday lives. Doesn’t it seem like everything is ripening at once? I’m experiencing a ‘zucchini moment’ today: Too much demanding my attention NOW…  and there just isn’t time to tend to it all!

So what’s going on that’s so all-fired important and stressing me out a mite? Well, in addition to needing to find time to pick the ever-ripening tomatoes (mmm, gazpacho!), water my herbs, weed the flower beds, and cut the growing grass at my cabin, I am dealing on a daily basis with a very mischievous bear, a colony of bats and some flying squirrels that have taken up residence at my cabin, recently making me aware that I am intruding into their space.

I am also an innkeeper in a very busy destination mountain village. Like farming, it’s seasonal, but summer is one of our busiest seasons and there is just no rest for the weary. Doing it right (is there really any other way?) demands us being there 7-days a week, often putting in 18-20 hour days in season. With 32 rooms, one tiny house and full occupancy most evenings, there are a myriad details to attend to … from serving the breakfast I bake for up to 100+ guests each morning, to managing a busy staff, writing a daily blog for our website … and everything in-between. As chief cook and bottle washers, we have to wear many hats! In addition to this, there is of course, the bedrock of my life: my family. I have a dear mother and a precious aunt who live 7 hours away and whom I would like to see more often. There’s also my husband, a daughter finishing up a program at an art school this weekend, three boys, (two of whom are planning weddings), and some future in-laws to meet for the very first time in a week or so. (They’ll be staying at my cabin along with the bears, the squirrels and the bats).  No pressure there!!

THEN … there is the huge open house we are having on Sunday for one of Jay Shafer’s tiny Tumbleweed houses, which will be residing at our Lodge for the next year.  I have LOVED these tiny homes on wheels for more than a decade now, and I won the opportunity to host their Fencl at our Lodge in a national contest that Jay held recently!  (It’s all about following your dreams … and I’ll write more on that in the future). But anyway, I’ve spent the last two weeks furnishing this 130 square foot baby, and talk about fun … I’ve been making shutters, planting flower boxes, and I’ve outfitted it farmgirl style, complete with an apron in the closet, where any one of us would feel right at home! As a result, I’ve been bombarded by the press and have had interviews and articles written about it. I’ve been giving tours left and right; and on Sunday I’ll be hosting a BIG open house so that folks from all over the northeast can actually see one up close.  We’ll be renting it out starting August, so for the last few days I’ve been involved with two big photo shoots for website media shots.  Whew! I am really excited, but it comes at a time when I am feeling pretty swamped just trying to get it all balanced.


And then there’s the mountain. The REAL mountain in my life this week: Mount Washington.

On Saturday, July 24th, I am signed up to participate in an annual fundraiser called Seek the Peak, which is a hiking event to raise money for the Mount Washington Observatory.  This privately funded, non-profit weather station on the rocky, windswept summit has been monitoring the elements at this extreme location since 1932. You may have read about it in the February 2009 issue of National Geographic. Mount Washington’s weather is legendary. At 6,288-feet it is the northeast’s tallest peak (don’t laugh at us, Rocky Mountainites!) … because what we lack in stature when stacked up against the mightier peaks, we make up for with bitter cold, dense fog, heavy snows and record winds! It is the home of the world’s worst weather … one of our claims to fame until a lustier gust blew our world record away last year!


But no matter … every day round the clock, the crew of the Mount Washington Observatory braves these still-incredible elements to observe and report on the mountain's extreme conditions, conduct important scientific research and provide one-of-a-kind educational programs on and off the summit. I live about 10 minutes from the base of this mountain and I’ve been to several of these great programs. I’ve even had the opportunity to stay overnight a few times on the summit at the Observatory.

But as I was saying, for the last 10 years hikers of all ages and abilities from   across the nation have converged here to participate in this Hike-A-Thon fundraiser. It has grown to become New England's premier hiking event, and this year there will be approximately 500 of us hiking our way to the top. This will actually be my second climb, and so far the event has raised over half a million dollars. Not too shabby!

And so, looming before me this week in addition to everything else, is a 6000-footer … and I will tackle it like I do all the others, by ‘dividing and conquering’ the challenge, taking it one small step at a time. Most times we can’t choose our ‘mountains’ … we either need to climb them when they unexpectedly confront us, or we can take a detour and hike around them. Other obstacles, like my Mount Washington, are pinnacles of our own choosing, and sometimes they are as difficult and challenging as any other.  I’m not out to set any speed records, ‘just want to reach my goal, enjoy the journey and take in the views. Note to self: Relax, B-R-E-A-T-H-E deeply, and ‘go for it’! If, like me, you’re facing some mountains in your life, or a ‘bear’ of a problem, I’m with you in spirit, my farmgirl friends. I hope you all have a wonderful week. See you next time on the other side of these challenges.


Mountain Farmgirl Cathi Belcher


By: Denise
On: 07/25/2010 19:41:17
When life is that full, I make shorter list but, more of them. I know all will turn out well. Women have that trait too.Life, bring it on.
By: Martha Cook
On: 07/25/2010 22:47:05
Cathi, sounds like you have your hands full this week (and most of the time!)Take care on the hike, with all the heat.
One of the things I think that every woman needs is a ready list of "who can help me in a fix?" resources;for instance, does a neighbor teen need a $5 job helping me dust or pull weeds, before a guest arrives, or can my son make a cake or cookies while I vacuum, or is there a cleaning service that I can hire JUST for two hours to do a "once-over-lightly", when my schedule is too tight to tidy up the house. It is like knowing the number for the AAA Towing service if I get a flat, or knowing which grocery has a deli, or keeping at least one set of "go to town" blouse & slacks ready to go, or years ago, who is willing to babysit at the drop of a hat. In any volunteer work, I try to keep in mind someone who could pinch hit for me, if I have a sick child, etc. There are some "management" things we've all learned to do, some "grave-saves", covering our back, etc. I love it if I have time to take a few hours each week, checking home supplies, keeping a guest room or area ready, stocking up on light bulbs, handsoap liquids, etc.
I love your articles! Would like to see your Inn.
By: Jennie Watkins
On: 07/25/2010 23:00:22
Dear Cathi, Your post was the perfect thing for me to read as I am heading to bed at 11pm (just finished dinner!), knowing that I have a busy "Zuchinni" week ahead! Keeping the garden watered, picking the food and getting it to customers before it gets too mature, keeping the animals fed, tackling the rats at the barn (my version of bears) etc was starting to feel overwhelming. Your advice to take things one small step at a time is so obvious but I so often need to be remined to do so. Good luck with all of your adventures over the next month! I enjoyed reading your post very much and think your inn would be a great place to stay.
By: Claudia
On: 07/26/2010 04:06:11
I live in the Adirondack mountains, off the grid, foster children, and I am trying to make a go with a Equine retreat. "AKA-Wolf Pond Stables" I have many of those zucchini moments....The heat has been fierce up here also, but a few days ago the nights have gotten cooler...THANK GOODNESS.
Love the cabin, could you send me some information on them?
You take that deep breath and have a super week also.
By: Pam
On: 07/26/2010 04:13:48

I woke up this morning fretting about all of the "things" I had to get done today. Somehow those things seem so small now compared to a day in your life.

So I will go pick my small crop of zucchini and tomatoes, straighten the house, throw a load of wash in and then get to my home office. And yes, there are some pretty large mountains in my life today, but I will take them one at a time and I will breathe as I go.

Thank you for a different perspective and a little 'virtual' kick in the you know what!

Enjoy your day.

By: Patricia Yellename
On: 07/26/2010 04:52:34
Timing is said to be every thing in life. Thank you for your inspiring words this morning. My husband and I (we are in our mid 70's) are faced with the decision to close our store due to 3 floods followed by a sinking economy, and a government who has forgotten about the "little guy". Needless to say, I have been feeling mighty blue, but your words lifted my spirits this morning, and I am going to take it "one step at a time". Who knows where the journey will take me. Thank you, and good luck with your hike and fundraiser. I absolutely love the little house on wheels - what a wonderful idea!
By: Tammie
On: 07/26/2010 05:06:56
Wow, I love your post! and... I really miss the mountains.
You have hit the nail on the head with your metaphores. Divide and conquer indeed. Thank you for the lovely pictures as well.
Congratulations on the extention of your family. I'm sure your future in-laws will enjoy the bear, the squirrels and the bats. They are a small price to pay for sharing such a wonderful spot on earth.
B-r-e-a-t-h....and enjoy. :)
By: Lucinda Ann
On: 07/26/2010 05:25:03
And I thought I was busy. I love your Cabin on Wheels. It is so cute and you have done it proud with your decorating! Cannot imagine the work that has to be done at your Inn, but it must be so rewarding to provide your guests with a special place to enjoy the countryside. Thank you for taking the time too share with us. I marvel at what some "farmgirls" are able to accomplish and only wish I had half the energy!
By: Diana
On: 07/26/2010 06:23:31
You make my piddly little problems seem just that! I only have to worry about my little fiber farm and our new property, our small business and our "wayward children"...I feel better knowing that someone else is having a "zucchini moment" as well :) Good luck in your climb to the top of that mountain!
By: mellee
On: 07/26/2010 06:40:46
what a wonderfully bountiful life you have. while all the endeavors in your life may seem too much for one person, they are all so positive and soul-repleating that i don't know how you could give up even one! i do hope the heat wave breaks in time for your mountain climb; it was 110 here in virginia yesterday. but it sounds like no matter what the obstacle, you are the kind of woman that will overcome it.
By: Sally
On: 07/26/2010 06:42:29
Thanks Cathi for inspiring us to be able to tackle our problems. I have two that I am facing right now and your advice, one step at a time, makes sense and helps me to feel that I CAN do this.
God bless you and thanks again,
By: JoAnn
On: 07/26/2010 07:08:32
My goodness you are a busy woman! After reading this I have to go lie down: ) JoAnn aka Mountain girl
By: Janice K.
On: 07/26/2010 07:14:57
My goodness! You put me to shame..I thought that just keeping up with the watering was stressing me out!?!? The cabin on wheels is fantastic. My dream is to downsize and this would be proper practice. Your decorating style makes me want to move right in..
March on!!!
By: Pam deMarrais
On: 07/26/2010 07:21:41
Wow, you get to host a Tumbleweed home! I am such a fan of them, and the tiny house movement. You have done a great job of making the tiny house warm and inviting, yet uncluttered.
You bring back fond memories...I climbed to the summit of Mount Washington [in a car, mind you] on my honeymoon in 1979. I am amazed to read that you have tackled this journey by foot a number of times!
You zest for life is inspiring, and I look forward to each of your stories. I will remember to take life "one step at a time".
By: denise
On: 07/26/2010 09:02:36
Girl, I feel your energy. Yes the heat is terrible, yes the garden is on in force. Sometimes I think the more we have to do, the more we get done with so much more creativity. I love what I have seen of the Tumbleweed Home. Ca-uuuute!!!Good luck with your endeavors. Great Work!!
By: Kathryn
On: 07/26/2010 09:10:06
It sounds like an amazing setting. I'm so excited to hear where Jay Shafer's Tiny House will be. We took an awesome workshop with him in Austin, TX (we live in the Dallas area) last January. Love hearing about your (too) many wonderful activities in your beautiful setting! One breath, one step at a time.
By: nameCharlotte Nail
On: 07/26/2010 09:14:07
I love your mountain farmgirl blog. It is both inspiring and exciting. I know you are busy but just thank your lucky stars that you have all the surroundings that bring the good life to you...thanks for sharing.
By: Debbie
On: 07/26/2010 09:45:38
Goodness Gracious Cathi! That's some serious can-do spirit you've got going on up in them there mountains!!!

Whew! I love it! I'm also a big fan of Tim's Tiny Houses. We first learned about them in Natural Home Magazine years ago while researching Straw Bale House Design for our land ( off grid ) out west. I love seeing his path has been successful! Hmmm??? I'm thinking this might be just the thing for a self- contained Bunk House at our beach cottage!

Thanks for the inspiration and keep at at it... One step at a time...

ps. Bears, bats and squirrels' OH MY... good luck with the critters and the new In-laws!
By: C Harvey
On: 07/26/2010 10:11:01
Love reading your blogs but I must say, you exhaust me, haha! I don't feel quite as bogged down with work when I read about all you do. Thanks for being such an inspiration and apparently tireless!
By: carolj
On: 07/26/2010 12:34:52

I was just having a cup of tea, a cookie or three, and a few moments rest out of my "zucchini moment." Does it seem to you that no matter how we plan, everything still comes at once? This is my last week of summer vacation; teachers report to school on August 3, and my mind is whirling with projects I had hoped to finish and all the ideas that need developing for school. I will take your much needed advice to "divide and conquer" and take one step at a time. Thank you for speaking peace to my twirling soul.

By: Tana
On: 07/26/2010 13:15:58
I think I can, I think I can, I think I can, until it becomes I know I can, I know I can, I know I can....
This is my chant when it all caves in on me and the hills become mountains and the summit is not in site. As you stated one step at a time, one foot in front of the other and by the end of the day it is amazing how far you have climbed up that mountain. Hang in there and I will be thinking of you when you start your hike this next week-end. Your writing is inspiring and makes me take long looks at things happening in my life. Thank you for your time as you send us these remarkable blogs. :-)
By: Tammy
On: 07/26/2010 18:30:14
my goodness as I sip my tea, I am exhausted reading your list. I make shorter lists. I just started a small herb garden. I have never planted anything but I have decided this is something I enjoy doing and that is playing and talking to the plants. If they don't make it I will try again. I have found after I have a bit of time with them, I feel ready to tackle my lists and as I am getting ready to go back to the classroom, my lists are long. HOpe you get your things done. Love the little house on wheels. so lovely
By: Cora Jo
On: 07/27/2010 11:09:35
Cathi, What a treat! I missed your first blogs, but, am catching up. I live in the Whites too...8 miles north of Mt. Washington in Gorham. Glad to know someone here is like-minded! Lovely pictures, great blog! cora jo
By: Chris
On: 07/28/2010 04:37:14
Whew! I need a rest just thinking about your busy life. Sounds like such fun though! I saw New Hampshire for the first time a couple of years ago (California farmgirl here), and I loved it. I must plan to visit again. I know just the place to stay...

P.S. I'm another fan of Tumbleweed Tiny Houses!
By: Brenda
On: 07/30/2010 17:17:57
You are a very busy lady! There is so much to get done in the summer months here in Michigan also that I do understand how time seems to creep up on you and there is just not enough time in one week let along one season. I do have a zucchini recipe to share with you though that I posted just today that might help you use up some of your overflow.
By: Shery
On: 07/31/2010 20:48:26
A cabin on wheels...What A Concept...and are they ever COOL. Great post!
By: Cindy
On: 08/04/2010 05:38:28
Oh my goodness! I couldn't believe it when I saw the Tumbleweed! I love these little houses, and the way that you have decorated it is just adorable! How great!
By: Brenda
On: 08/08/2010 17:48:43
Love what you wrote and even in the busy times you seem to be enjoying it, The pictures shows the beauty around you. You make me want to get busy on my list. you are blessed.
By: Jan Ogden
On: 10/07/2010 08:34:26
Hi Cathi,
Writing to you from Revelstoke, BC, Canada. If it's any sollace to you, we have had a "Bear Problem all summer" Just didn't want to take the next step to shoot him. This has kept me inside more than I would like this summer. He and his partner bear ate the last of the strawberries, tore the rasberries down and even the windshield wiper off our RV. I wont' go out without hubby. Thank the Lord you have Zuchinni and Tomatoes etc. Our garden didn't do well this summer. Planted several things 3 times, but all the rain didn't get them off the ground this year. Got a bumper crop of carrots and green beans. I love love your magazine/Blog etc. You are a girl after my own heart! Love to hear about your adventures. You are an amazing women! Just don't let all of these things bring your health down. Know when to say "NO" and delegate. Thank you again for all you do to make our lives more interesting. Hugs, Jan

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Cathi Belcher

Cathi Belcher,
an old-fashioned farmgirl with a pioneer spirit, lives in the White Mountains of New Hampshire. As a “lifelong learner” in the “Live-Free-or-Die” state, she fiercely values self-reliance, independence, freedom, and fresh mountain air. Married to her childhood sweetheart of 40+ years (a few of them “uphill climbs”), she’s had plenty of time to reinvent herself. From museum curator, restaurant owner, homeschool mom/conference speaker, to post-and-beam house builder and entrepreneur, she’s also a multi-media artist, with an obsession for off-grid living and alternative housing. Cathi owns and operates a 32-room mountain lodge. Her specialty has evolved to include “hermit hospitality” at her rustic cabin in the mountains, where she offers weekend workshops of special interest to women.

“Mountains speak to my soul, and farming is an important part of my heritage. I want to pass on my love of these things to others through my writing. Living in the mountains has its own particular challenges, but I delight in turning them into opportunities from which we can all learn and grow.”

Column content copyright © 2010– Cathi Belcher. All rights reserved.

Mountain Bounty

“Keep close to Nature’s heart ... and break clear away once in awhile to climb a mountain or spend a week in the woods, to wash your spirit clean.”
– John Muir