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


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:, 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.