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.)

 

Farm Ecology at Work: Bumblebees

Bumblebees love motherwort.  The bumblebee is reported to be native, but motherwort is not.  Though non-native, are the plants truly doing harm?  Until I get the bees some other options, at least they have these blooms. The mint goes wild in our soil, and spreads madly.  So, we have dozens of bees per plant. The bees are non-aggressive and hard at work. They are pollinating, and they are thriving in our beds. That’s enough.

Weeding? What’s weeding?

I went out to clear the weeds away from the zinnias and sunflowers, and found friends.  I tried to pull them up, but that was wasteful and insulting. So I went back and got scizzors and some paper bags.   I still pulled them up, but I snipped the roots  to rejoin the soil, and bagged my friends. I know very few weeds – weeds are just plants whose names I do not know.  We had catnip tea to soothe our spirits after a very exciting day submitting our essay,.  We have lambsquarters for sauteeing and a bag of motherwort leaves to dry for tea.  There is nothing in this world like the gift of good soil.  Georgeville series abundance is ever-giving.  What an endless outpouring of blessing to have landed here.  Here, or there, I hoe, sow and grow while neighbors mow and blow.

Farm Ecology

When I coined the phrase and  started the camp in 1998, I wasn’t sure how to articulate what this meant.  Today I am only beginning to feel comfortable trying to form the words.

I knew this: the doe touching noses with my pony over the fence was it.

Like the Meadow Across the Creek for Berry, this image has been a touchstone of all that is good in the world, and in right relationship.

The natural world

leaning into the human,

the human leaning back;

finding connection,

mutual nourishment;

places to hide and thrive;

reaching out to touch, and be touched:

farm ecology.

If soil is gold what is good?

Good soil is indeed gold…but gold is only worthwhile if gold is sold. Gold in the hand does little good.   Good is the operative word here.  Does it do ‘good’ to sell the gold?  Is it accurate to say ‘I made good on that land’.  It makes money, but is that good?  Was there a better purpose?  Perhaps keeping the soil in place would allow it to grow in value.  Invest the gold instead of harvesting it. Perhaps you could find a way to live on the dividends instead of the principle.

What do you mean when you say, “That did me some good”.  Usually you mean it improved your lot in life.  Maybe your health, for example.  I would not deny you your health.  I want your health. I am glad that did you some good.  In this case, certainly we want what is good.  I have a feeling this is a more accurate use of the word good when talking about the land. Good land nourishes, heals, and sustains.

What about, “That apple is no good”.   Here, no good means it has no value, might even make you sick.  Here, health is at risk. But again we must be cautious.  To the speaker, perhaps, as immediate food the apple is not a good choice.  But a rotting apple has plenty of value and does plenty of good in the right place.

Suddenly Good is not such a simple word.  We should be very cautious when ascribing such an unspecific term to such a critical topic.

What is good for the land, and what makes a good farmer is an essential question.

Exchange happens.  Energetic inputs and outputs flow to and from a farm. Your soil provides the food, that feeds you and animals, who in turn feed you. It matters that we track the benefits and beneficiaries across the ecological community,

Chief Seattle articulated this.  What about not buying or selling the land?  What about not capitalizing on the soil?  What about letting the land feed you, but not overtaxing that delicate relationship?  What about, instead, keeping it in balance, allowing it to rejuvenate?

This goes beyond sustainability; this is about minimalist use. How much can you allow the land to be itself, while you belong there, too?   How fair can you be with your piece of earth that you call home?  How lightly can you live there?  Can you farm and leave no trace?

Forest farming has my attention.  Wild edibles do too.  There is a whole lot more nutrition, a whole lot less work, and a ton of innate resilience in the native greens some call weeds.  Sure, domestic greens do provide less challenge to the palate for some. Perhaps they can grow together.

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A good farmer, then, farms in relationship with the land, with minimal impact and allowance for the human’s right to be there also.  The good farmer recognizes they do belong to the community of beings in a place, and like the others, makes  a place where growing and thriving happens, just not to the exclusion of everyone else. Good farmers and good land give to each other, and belong to each other.

Belonging becomes the word. A good farmer belongs.

 

 

Keyhole Garden

We tried a keyhole garden last fall, and it did no more to keep out vermin than would using a screen for an umbrella. So, we surrounded it with fence, which made some improvement except for burrowers, and skinny rabbits. That season was a fail. Spring has been quite the opposite!  By adding a light cloth-like screening cover directly on top of the crop, we overcame the moths, allowed in the light, and deterred browsers. The kale seems delighted.

 

Universe Intentions

Sometimes I search for meaning.  Usually it’s when I am building up energy for a big endeavor.  That is happening now. Should it materialize, big is a fine word.

I was born in the decade Rachel Carson published Silent Spring, heralding the environmental movement and inspiring a generation. Her book title asks us to consider what these evenings would be like if we could not hear Pseuddacris Crucifer, Hyla Chrysoscelis, Pseudacris feriarum or Lithobates clamitans.

That same decade, William Albrecht  pointed out that the health of the soil affects the nutrient balance between proteins and carbohydrates in both feed and food crops, and concluded that only healthy organic soils with the proper balance of both macro and micronutrients could produce the complete proteins necessary for good human health.

The Universe delivered me into a time of voices telling powerful truths.

 

Field Trip and Musings

Next time I’m in Norwood, visiting the Fork, I am going to try and stop by Lazy Heron Farm.  How dreamy.

Lazy Heron Farm

 

What does it mean to live lightly on the land?

I do not like work, for work’s sake. I think manicured landscapes in suburban cul-de-sacs tend toward the ego,  and therefore away from honoring the whole, allowing the essence to grow up. Mostly the ornamentals provide little nourishment for biodiversity.

On the other hand, when everything becomes so overgrown that it goes to seed, nothing can thrive because everyone vies for the available resources. The strong (resilient, invasive, adaptive, common) out compete the sensitive, tender/rare/beautiful/endangered/historic for sun or water or pollinators.

When we do not work at all in the space we call home, the place grows over until there is no space carved out for a lovely life for ourselves.

The farm sits in the interface between the natural world and the human expression.  The farm is how the human works in relationship with the surrounding ecosystem, and the farm gives back.  The farm creates habitat for wildlife, and provides home for humans, too.

This truth brings up back to our own homes and habits, wherever we live.

When I ignore the laundry, or paperwork, my place becomes a mess, populated by those unruly ‘inhabitants’ (biological or otherwise) allowed to run ragged over that which would provide succor, nourishment, and peace to the soul.  A pile of dirty clothes wreaks havoc on my sense of peace, and place.

So, although I do love turning to a forest or field for food, and fear the drudgery of endless, backbreaking hoeing or weeding, I see the need for balance.  One must use energy to continually carve out a place of order so that which brings calm and structure can still breathe, drink, photosynthesize, create food, regenerate and propagate the rare, beautiful and health-giving ones.

 

I long for a farm, and I long to be.

A human, Be-ing.

Longing.

Belonging.