Conservation Corridors

I lost one home – my beloved farm – and I don’t intend to lose another.

NC does not have to look like the northeast. We can see where that led – everyone’s leaving and coming down to NC because,  “NC is nice!”

It sure is. Let’s keep it that way.  It’s slipping between our fingers, one DOT highway and expensive subdivision after another. Is this really the size of our dream?  We can dream bigger!

Our work is ALL connected, and if we get connected, on the land, place to place, neighbor to neighbor we can greatly influence – steer the ship – toward our common goal. The resilience and restoration of NC habitats, the health of our state, is in our hands, every one of us – not in policies or taxes or legislation, though also there, but equally or even more so, in our own yards, neighborhoods and open spaces.

Every Environmental Educator, every school, every open space can participate in habitat restoration, recovery and resilience, building spurs and trails for wildlife and wild neighbors to move across and through the landscape.


Working separately, we cannot save NC from development, highways and destructive economic forces. If we are not all working toward this goal together, we cannot get there.  It will take everything we have, and more people after us, to keep the forces of extraction, and capitalization from paving paradise into a parking lot. The song hasn’t changed, just the geography.


I want us all to own this goal, together. There is nothing, nothing, that I can do beyond my own yard. That’s not even mine, but it’s my place, it’s where I live, and I steward it.  The rest, your yard, and yours, and yours – is up to you. What will you do?  Will you dig into your values, dig into your soil, your “soul”, and become a member of the community of all beings who share that place?  What can you do, this Fall, this year, this lifetime?


Traditional Wreath-making

Registration opens in October for the Winter Wreath Workshop. We will focus on apples, magnolia and boxwood. These require meticulous work, offering elegant, traditional results.  This workshop will be offered remotely. Supplies can be picked up in baskets for members by appointment.  Preservation of materials begins in the Fall.

Magnolia Apple Wreath


Preserved Boxwood Wreath



Goodbye Ichor

The cool of Fall comes in pulses.  The rabbits are digging.  They efficiently eat the yard, and their range expands accordingly.   Thistle popped through above ground, and I used a wire grid to patch that hole.  Her wee warren stretches under her cage and out the other side now.  Gypsy and Zero are future mates, and sleep next to each other all day, separated by a fence and a few inches.  Scent and familiarity will grow over the coming months and with Spring he will be ready.

We lost Ichor to fly strike. Horrific as it was, she went in my arms after hours of tender care, and she seemed to know we had done all we could to save her. Ichor and Thistle are too old to breed now.  She went so fast. The day before she was peppy and eating, looking fine.  When it comes, it comes with a vengeance. The name is apt.

Zero is enjoying his expanded pen, and I continue to play with pasture scenarios.  My plan is to master this skill and share the results.

The kids and I walked Screech Owl and Bynum today.  A nest of seed ticks got Rufus at Screech Owl; I so despise them.  The mine was loud, and the road was being dug up as we entered. Always in pain, never beautiful, I struggle to find a way to embrace that place.   Bynum is covered with pawpaws all along the road. We walked to the festival site.  The bridge is covered with graffiti: profanity and politics; the underbelly of Bynum showed itself and we all felt better going home.  As they dragged their feet to their desks, I added a post script to the trip that if either of them decided not to go to college, they could become farmers with me! They declined and got to work on Algebra.

Virtual Life

What is it like to be raised in a time when your friends set up a virtual bed next to yours for a sleepover?   What is it like to create instagram lives, play remote games with people you may never meet in person, wearing skins that resemble them only in imagination, texting conversations instead of watching their eyes?  It is a lot of fantasy.

We were already prone to weaving stories. What ‘a tangled web we weave’ now. I worry for their authenticity. I admit my own history of big ideas, big views of self, while welcoming the ‘smalling’ that comes with mid-life. The youth seem to see everything as possible, strive for lives heretofore unattainable by their parents, and watch as digital lives create wealth; if that becomes the goal, Heaven help us all.

All I can do is head outside, drop to my knees, and pull weeds. I can sit on the sofa holding a buck rabbit, share photos of horses helped by neighbors who know them not but came to the rescue because community comes together in crisis.

…I can show them real.

Love always,

Your Velveteen Rabbit

“Real isn’t how you are made,’ said the Skin Horse. ‘It’s a thing that happens to you. When a child loves you for a long, long time, not just to play with, but REALLY loves you, then you become Real.’

‘Does it hurt?’ asked the Rabbit.

‘Sometimes,’ said the Skin Horse, for he was always truthful. ‘When you are Real you don’t mind being hurt.’

‘Does it happen all at once, like being wound up,’ he asked, ‘or bit by bit?’

‘It doesn’t happen all at once,’ said the Skin Horse. ‘You become. It takes a long time. That’s why it doesn’t happen often to people who break easily, or have sharp edges, or who have to be carefully kept. Generally, by the time you are Real, most of your hair has been loved off, and your eyes drop out and you get loose in the joints and very shabby. But these things don’t matter at all, because once you are Real you can’t be ugly, except to people who don’t understand.”
― Margery Williams Bianco, The Velveteen Rabbit


Staying put

The fires are raging outside Portland, near Salem, and Beavercreek. Amber evacuated her animals. Her horses are safe and her dogs and cats with her.  One draft horse wouldn’t load. They spent hours. The ashes and heat got so bad they had to give up, and it was long past time to go.  Clare, over in Gaston, is taking in more animals every hour. She has 10 horses in the barn already, six more on the way, and just set out to pick up 25 sheep. Thank God for neighbors.

Can you imagine?  I can’t.  I wasn’t home when it happened to us. Ironically, when Screech Owl burned down, I was in Portland. That was 2009.  It’s been just over a decade now, and still she stands, waiting. We have a few more years of schooling and then the time will open up, to return, repair, and restore.

Unlike the dry west, it rained all summer here after we enjoyed a long and glorious dry Spring, with Covid keeping us home- an extremely beautiful Spring. We were the lucky ones, appreciating the opportunity to stop, slow way down, and just be together.  Not all enjoyed that luxury of course. Many, like Colette, gave countless hours.  I spent a good many myself, at the sewing machine throughout April making masks for law enforcement. The officers were so gracious and grateful, that repaid every moment spent in spades.

Officers. What a tragic year this has been in so many, many ways.  I do wonder how the children will share the tale in hindsight. The phrase will never be the same.  Neither will we:  not my job, education in general, race relations, the economy, the dollar, the food system, our country, our culture.

The list goes on for me personally. My friendships have changed. My goals have collapsed.  One friend is dying of cancer and choosing not to call it by name. Another called me racist and kicked me out of her life. She might be right, and ‘yet and still’, we all need to learn tolerance. I think she and I will mend, in time, as the earth grows back after fires. As for the other one, she may rise like a Phoenix as well – faith needn’t falter.

My priorities have clarified and narrowed intensely.  The only purpose now is to know and love the earth,  live well with her, and celebrate the gift of Creation – yes, with a capital C. Someone is the progenitor. This is no accident. Living in gratitude, increasing in competence and sharing what’s available, we walk into the next decade for Farm School, staying put where we’re planted.


Spring, New Beginnings

The motherwort in full bloom called for grey goose and tinctures.  The lemon balm called for hot water immediately, and more for drying. The nettles made great omelettes and jars of tea. Kale came in abundance, spring yard salads decorated the table, the march of the flowers steadily brought the warm breezes out of the chilly frog-voiced nights, starting from the yellows of daffodils and forsythia into the blues of iris, violets and bachelor buttons.   Now the roses crawl the fences and barn sides, and I am glad to know my home soil.  The asparagus sprouted, potatoes are peeping up, tomatoes and blue berries setting, blackberries forming, and raspberries setting their canes further into the overgrown yard. I am of here. I belong. This is home.


My efforts to add to the pool of work to produce local food were called into question a year after beginning, when someone else started offering the same gift, for a fee.  I tried to contact them to find out if their effort had been a success. If so, I would not compete, offering free financial workshops, when they might need to make a living and farmers were willing to pay.  I backed off.  I waited to see if anyone contacted me. Months have gone by and no one has stepped up or reached out.  I do not feel the offering was focused enough.  The goal was collaborative supportive community.  What I found was a lot of wanting to do the work but not a lot of deciding to track the numbers.  The numbers are just a hurdle.  They’d be better off if I choe a few I could just do the books for, or if i found accountants willing to donate their time. That would be helpful!

Sacred and Profane

We use our land like a bank.  We whore out our own mother. I am angry.  These systems – the banking system, the economic engine of housing, the tax breaks for clearing all the land and planting monoculture trees.

Do we not know quality?  Do we have no sense of value?  If we fancy ourselves aware of a quality life, then why do we allow this use-job?  Why do we sell out?  We use the land, and once we put a house there, we use it again.  We borrow on the house to pay for other immediate needs, or because colleges demand the ‘equity’, and in so doing we tie the place deeper to a hopeless future.

Every time we cash out our land, we make it less and less possible that the bit of soil we know can remain free to breathe.  There’s no way to maintain a home place if it’s in hock to the bank.   In the end, the land will have to be put up on the block and sold to the highest bidder because, like the giving tree, it is asked to give every last bit of itself for our greed and need.

We buy and sell the land.  Chief Seattle was right.  (Actually, apparently he never said those words, but the phrase is still  right.)  That’s where we went wrong, the buying and selling.

Private property?  Private is nice.  But property?  We all know what’s happened to women and others who have been property.  The story of the soil is a story of rape, abuse, use, entitled privilege and a mystic veil of cultural heritage.  I am not so sure this legacy is anything but shameful, just as our other stories of property.

This land is not yours to use as you wish. Pimps! Take your profits and go, go away from here, away from the land I love, honor, cherish and respect.  You have no relationship to this land, you objectify and see cash.

Go make an honest living.


Carol Hewitt Made the Day!

A dozen small farmers gathered in the warmth of Dawn Breaker Farms’ living room, as late winter rain poured down outside.  Carol Hewitt shared stories of  requesting and gathering funds, from hundreds to a few thousand, for that tractor or roll of row cover.  “The last check you write should bounce”, she quipped.  Carol has a philosophy about money and it’s not about accumulation and the next generation; her legacy advice has more to do with using money like seeds and soil: regeneratively, creatively, to grow more resources.

I drove away thinking of others in the community whom I might call upon, and the thought emerged that I need to bring in our mentors, our ‘elders’ who have put in a few decades at the small farm game.  Maybe Alex or Cathy will come next time.  I will ask them.

What a privilege to spend time with people of substance: people who have chosen a path and walk it well. I am sinking into this community. The roots that bind me here have held strong, and as the wrinkles begin to line my face, I feel my core softening.  As my wood turns dowdy, I will gladly fall in place with the hope that somehow my being here brought a bit of fresh air to those with whom I’ve had the gift of growing alongside.

Be well, beloveds.