Mothering

I’ve been walking around my childhood farm with my inner child, helping her say goodbye to all her favorite places, and get used to the idea that we would never live there again.  Decades later, the loss is as palpable as the day I realized they meant it – we were really moving, selling the farm.  It hit me like a truck.  I never recovered.  I never mothered that girl through the mourning, until now.

Under the maple trees out front is where I met her, crying, saying goodbye to each blade of grass under the row of stately ancients, who have stood with this house for over 100 years.

We walked.  First, into the harvest room, with it’s cool brick floors, where we processed chickens and canned beans in the big double sink; out here is where we ground wheat for bread that Mom made every week.  These are the big windows we opened from the inside to reach into the raised beds, cold frames that kept tomatoes safe and that we could get to from inside; there is the well under the kitchen floor; and out in the barn, climb the stairs and climb the ladder up into the huge bin of oats in the loft, the one they come and pour hundreds of pounds of feed into each year, where we swim in the hulls; over there is the straw and hay we bale each summer and put up. We are careful not to break them and we make forts all through them; down there is where we make the igloos in huge piles of snow Dad would make with the tractor bucket, with rooms so big we could make fires in there and sleep.  Across the orchard is our huge in-ground pool where I have my pool party at the end of the school year.

We are farmers. My home is a big white 1850s farmhouse on a hill, with the biggest swing set anyone has ever seen because Dad made it out of telephone poles.  This s my pony who is so naughty, but she is mine, and one day I will have a horse of my own, who I will ride with my beloved riding teacher. This is where I am from; this is who I am.

To be away from my farm is to not be myself.  How could I ever leave? How could I ever live without this which is my essence, my self, my core, my identity. I am Celia from Flowering Rod Farm.  What do you mean we are leaving?  What will happen to me?  You are ripping me out of my soil.  I will be lost, forever.

Woods, fields, farm, flowers

You are my home forever

I’ll never forget.

Finding Farms

We now have three farms with land seeking farmers.  I, who always wanted a farm, seem to be collecting them beyond capacity to hold!  I didn’t know it would turn out like this; how ironic.  I do not own them fiscally.  Their titles remain someone else’s, so if you choose to pursue, please know this is going to be a walk that might or might not end up in your name.  Some of the landowners are open to that conversation.

If you choose to farm someone else’s property,  I support long-term leases, and lease-to-own, in general.  Each situation is thoroughly unique and every single relationship as tender and tenuous as farming.

Contact us at the address which appears, if you are a farmer interested in a long-term lease in Orange or Chatham counties.   One farm is just north of Hillsborough, a large multi-acre lot with garden in disrepair, fenced, with access to water and a garden shed.  Micro-housing could be an option, but is not provided.  Another is closer to Chapel Hill, just over five acres with a liveable microhouse/shed. The third is a bit over an acre and a half south of Siler City.

Farmers, we honor that your investment of sweat and time cannot be replaced, that your youth and energy, passion and purpose all add value.  We know you tend to be independent sorts, and are not to be taken lightly.  Our goal is to keep farms on the landscape.  We will nurture this relationship as you go forward, and support legal and long-term wise business structures for sustainable relationships with humans and the land.

We are so grateful for your good food.

Not farming, farms and farmers

Something snipped my zinnias at 12″.   Who does that?

You know what?  I’m not sure it matters.

Having zinnias makes me happy, but having farms on the landscape makes me happier.   I can lose my zinnias; I can’t lose my farm culture.  If the system of small farms fail, we’ve lost our local culture.   How can I help?  Right now, I’m working on the financial piece because that seems like a leg in the stool. That’s what showed up first.

Recently, a local farmer tried a new financial model for gifting her farm while paying off the mortgage. So many people found their dreams taking root, yet the funds did not roll in.  There’s a week left to apply (August 1 deadline).  I wonder what the farmer will do.  People are watching. I hoped this would start a trend, a new way to turn over the farm, a new farm transition model.  It may have.  The next one to try, the “first follower” might find it easy, and then a watershed may follow. But for Norma, who went first, it was all rock-moving, no tilling.

Hat’s off to her for hard work.

Ocean Water

According to my latest guru, sea minerals are the best biostimulant for your garden.  That is, sea water.   Makes sense, since all our runoff (including nutrients) ends in the sea.  1 cup of sea water per square foot of soil is the annual suggestion.  Many of you already know the benefits of using clean sea salt on your food. You can buy sea solids, or a concentrated liquid such as Sea Crop.  This product is diluted significantly, so you only use teaspoons at a time.

There are over 80 trace minerals in the ocean.  Compared to rock dust, sea water has significantly more minerals.

As for pollution in the ocean, yes, that is a valid concern.  Pristine, deep ocean water and living microbes make the packaged product possibly higher quality than you can gather on your own from your local coast.  But, I would support trying ocean water first if you can get some away from an impaired river mouth.  Those chickens we have grazing will benefit, too.

Original research done by Maynard Murray: Sea Energy Agriculture.  Additional research published by Dr Charles Water: Fertility from the Ocean Deep.

What a Group!

Sorry to tell you this, but if you didn’t come, you missed a great talk at a spectacular farm!  Or maybe it’s the other way around: spectacular talk at a great farm. …

In the comfort of an air conditioned barn classroom at the Newlin’s Peaceful River Farm, ten farmers gathered to get an overview of the work ahead.   In one hour, Tony Kleese summarized the entire structure and reason for a solid crop budgeting system that will keep your farm “in the green”.   Tony’s course will be held at Breeze Farm in Orange County over three evenings.  The course is $75  for nine hours of training.  All evidence and testimony from today point to the incredible value this will add to your work over the years to come. Thank you Tony!   For more about Tony,  visit Earthwise Organics. 

The dedication and depth of thought present in this group of small farmers left me in Silence.  Quakers practice Silence, and the Newlins come from a long line of local Quakers. Peace is a core value of Quakerism; Lee shared when we arrived how she’d just been sitting on the porch this morning and was once again struck by the peacefulness of her farm, saying that the farm is well-named.

When Larry shared that the river otters play in the Haw at the bottom of their farm, everyone smiled.  Such is the promise among us: to care for the land and leave it better for our having been part of the community of all beings sharing the space.  Add to that the minor miracle we heard when someone asked Larry if that fence was in any way deer proof:  “Oddly enough, the deer don’t tend to bother the garden.”  Now that’s a blessed farm!

They blessed us with their gift of time, space to gather, a beautiful setting to inspire, and delicious mint-lime-apple cider vinegar iced drinks.  Thank you Lee and Larry for such an enriching day.

July 9th Farm Financials Gathering

We have 8 people signed up so far to gather and discuss Crop Planning and Farm Budgeting.  Tony Kleese has generously offered his expertise for the meeting, and we are still nailing down a location near Saxapahaw.  The time is 11 – 2.   If you have room at your farm where we can sit for a powerpoint and chat, and maybe it’s in the shade (!) please get in touch.  Thanks and see you then!  Our email is farm@ this URL.

For other resources, try:   Small Farm Central

Gathering

July 9, at someone’s farm, we will gather again to discuss tough stuff, like making ends meet, or, culling losses we love.  The money works itself out when the rest of the picture works well.  Farm School cannot meet the needs of every farmer.   Only individuals can do that.  I am an unschooler, and as such, I see my role as facilitator, follower, resource-gatherer and believer.  I have faith in my children. I have faith in farmers.  I will follow your journey if you want me to, and provide resources as I find them, because I love farms.

Secondly, we will gather to clarify common purpose.  Again, Farm School cannot be all things to all people.  We can understand, walk in your shoes, see your world view and love you. But at the end of the day, as we watch the sun set, our moral core remains rooted deep in the earth and it’s well-being.  Projects in that spirit are the winds that move our branches.

Guest speakers have not been identified yet for this gathering. I’m open to suggestions.  Last meeting we were all on different pages and though the content was dense and good, the application varies as widely as the individuals.  I think it’s time for some small-group action steps. But first, we have to become better friends.  At times, as often happens, there was more education happening in the informal moments than the formal ones.

So join in, July 9th.  Email us:  farm@farmschool.com, and we shall see…

Becoming my Mother

I have become my mother, and I am proud.  In more ways than one, I am she. The woman who birthed me, the self-taught gardener, nutritionist, naturalist, raw-foodie who was organic before Rodale, and raw before healthcare ever heard of it, who raised us to have resilient bodies and minds – that woman  lives on in me, and I grow into her shadow and example. She cheers me on, over email and the phone, even as she fondly sifts the black soils of  her Wisconsin beds through 80 year old fingers.

But I have become my own mother, too.  I left my heart on a farm 40 years ago.  This year, I finally sat down with that girl and asked her what she wanted and how I could help. She’s been running the show all this time, and all this time she’s held fast to the farm while simultaneously resiliently, resistingly, refusing to take every step demanded of her as her shell grew into adulthood, through degree programs, through jobs.  She pulled and pulled.  The adult form kept dragging her along, but never succeeded in getting too far from the blood of life, beating back in those fields, woods, barns, flowers.

I thanked her last week, so proud of her, for keeping me close to home, close to Source, and I am now going to honor what she’s been asking all this time. Can we go home yet?  Yes sweetheart, yes.  We can.  You get to have your farm back now.  Thank you for being so very very patient.

Making a Living

Breakfast:  Our hen’s eggs (pay for themselves with surplus sales) with wild lambsquarters (free) on the side, raw.  Black pepper to activate.  Coffee (.50) worth of grounds.

Lunch:  Wild black raspberries (free), wild blueberries from the freezer (picked at a friend’s farm as a prize for volunteering for the Haw) raw egg, keyhole garden kale (about .05 worth of Johnny’s seeds), store-bought waldorf-based yogurt ($2) from the farm where my brother went to school, and banana (.15) smoothies.  Fed the family.

Drink: Cold catnip tea: muscle relaxant. Catnip (free), honey (.25 worth).

Planted more zinnias, nasturtiums, fall squash. Built bamboo walls on two sides of garden. “Weeded” a bit more. Put up motherwort to dry for tea.

Dinner plan: egg and kale omelette (our eggs, our kale) with garlic (wild) and cream cheese (.25)

That’s a grand total of $3.15 for food today and I feel splendid!

Making a living is about making a life, supporting life, not making a killing or killing the land or our bodies.  Work with a place, and it will work with you. But that’s easy to say on Georgeville series soil.  This land pours forth nutrition. Good soil, that’s the key. It’s all about the dirt we stand on. (Thanks, Bill Dow.)