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.)

 

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.