The Cold Muse

The happy high tunnel ecosystem!

The happy high tunnel ecosystem!

The cold muse sauntered in unseasonably late this year. Summer flew away on the wings of staggered chevron teams of Canada Geese.  However, there was no haste to their migration. They didn’t tug at the warmth of the sun or take the flowers with them and we didn’t get morning fields, held in freezing fog, from their exiting draft. They would call, as geese do, their gossip perky, echoing on dry, unwintered, mountain tops.  The geese have migrated with prediction, unpredicted has been lettuce, cabbage, even the stray tomatoes out in the field, that have continued to seize the mild weather and sustain their growth in the moment.

The cold muse’s tardiness allowed for unprecedented extention of our Siskiyou County harvest window. September tumbled into October, and October into November, as months in single harmony. The end of the season sprint kept curving around the bend with no noticeable ending.  The cold mornings usually play their roll in taking the season away, the dutiful farmer in turn tills it all in and sows the closing of the season and cover crops, until spring ground is broken.  But this has been the fall of perpetual harvest, can one really lament? It’s been an extended season of bounty, fresh salads and soups, more sharing and lengthening of connection to the harvest. The Mt. Shasta Harvest Connection for example.

Jonathan kept me together at markets!

Jonathan kept me together at markets!

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The cold muse has been late this year,  and with it so has my reflection of the season, this cold morning by the fire to write, ponder and absorb. Now, with snow on in the Eddies, on Goosenest, Black Butte and a white Shasta, the season can begin to close and go in. An eminence of blessings and thanks for another powerful season of growth can radiate out.  In MANY ways this was the most challenging season yet, with the heat and earwigs taking the farm into a deep hole for the month of June. July and August were kind and our mega-late summer kinder still. Homeward Bounty Farm’s Fourth Annual Harvest Dinner, yet again, held special space and was visited by an auspicious lunar eclipse. The high tunnel is teaching me volumes and produced the most stunning cauliflower crop I’ve have had the honor of growing. This beautiful community, my Siskiyou County home, continues to support, value and connect deeper with the local food experience! This land continues to find connections in family and friends. People who want to give to this property, this farm, to the earth and plants, to step into the pattern and cycles. Farmer and farm couldn’t be luckier and happier or more honored.

4th Annual Homeward Bounty Harvest Dinner

4th Annual Homeward Bounty Harvest Dinner

Garlic starting to pop up. 2016 already in the works.

Garlic starting to pop up. 2016 already in the works.

Lettuce still growing in the field. One of my favorite varieties, Drunken Women.

Lettuce still growing in the field. One of my favorite varieties, Drunken Women.

Brassicas growing happily.

Brassicas growing happily.

The cold muse that has finally brought a slowing ease to the season, did indeed come later than expected and with it I’ve delayed my favorite poem of a season’s close.  A poem that usually comes in with the geese and frost comes in now, mid November. May we have a defined wet winter and a poignant start to spring and continued seasons of bounty.

The Summer Ends   By Wendell Berry

The summer ends, and it is time
To face another way. Our theme
Reversed, we harvest the last row
To store against the cold, undo
The garden that will be undone.
We grieve under the weakened sun
To see all earth’s green fountains dried,
And fallen all the works of light.
You do not speak, and I regret
This downfall of the good we sought
As though the fault were mine. I bring
The plow to turn the shattering
Leaves and bent stems into the dark,
From which they may return. At work,
I see you leaving our bright land,
The last cut flowers in your hand.

 

The Seed That Grew a Village

Field of barely growing in Ladakh, India.

Field of barely growing in Ladakh, India.

In 2009 I embarked on what would be an amazing adventure. I’d set out for international travel before, but there was something symbolic about this journey, as if the location was pulling me in, that there was something I would find there beyond cultural exchange and photographic experiences. I was told by a healer friend that she saw this trip for me as a sunrise, golden rays encompassing the entirety of the sky. I held on to this image as the airplane headed east, stretching halfway around the world to India.

This four month trip indeed seemed to open my future up like a seed, germinated by the glowing sun. I was introduced to truths, many deeply beautiful and many tragically hard. This trip was indeed the sunrise to my future in farming, seed saving, community integration, dedication to sustainability, and stewardship.

This journey led me high up into the Himalayas, to arid Ladakh, with its high elevation and towering white peaks that felt protective, rather then forbidding. It reminded me of home, the steep of Mt. Shasta. While in Ladakh, I participated in a program run by the International Society for Ecology and Culture (ISEC). The program’s goal is to pair individuals with Ladakhi families and to create a multifaceted exchange that addressed development, globalization, cultural traditions, sustainability and subsistence agriculture. Before the road was built in the 70’s, linking the villages of Ladakh with greater India, Ladakhi culture rested on the foundation of the community. As the global world drove in, and currency glowed richer than a field of dried barley, the youth left, the men left and communal foundation started to be chipped away into private islands of individual identity. A people, become many entities vying to wear never-before-delineated badges of economic status, material goods, formal education, and autonomy. Through my experience living there, the juxtaposition was glaring. Among many of these contrasts, was me, a westerner traveling halfway around the world to learn from Ladakhi culture what ”traditional” living is like, to find that the younger generation had left home to earn money for their parents who are only ”poor farmers”. My heart felt some kind of healing with time spent in these ”poor villages”, where work was done communally, where your day was expressed in cycles that felt intuitive: milk the cow, make butter, put butter on your morning bread and in your (what would be one of many) cup of tea, hand wash laundry, pray, pull weeds in the barley and collect to feed to the cow in the morning when you milk her, help a neighbor with apricot harvest (along with everyone else in the village, as they’ll travel to every household to help with harvest), and so the days went. I was welcomed to be a part of the pattern, to be in the braid of a cut field of golden barley, in the weave of a woolen tunic, the living story of butter as it melts in tiny cups of black tea. This strong earthen house of community was my sunrise into a humble and different way of living, one that felt authentic. It was the journey into something deep within me, passed on from many grandmothers.

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My host mother, making butter. A task that was done every morning.

My host mother, making butter. A task that was done every morning.

The matriarch of the family, pulling weeds out of the barley crop.

The matriarch of the family, pulling weeds out of the barley crop.

 

 

 

 

 

Hauling fodder back to the house for the cows.

Hauling fodder back to the house for the cows.

 

 

The seed that was given fertile elements to grow in India has been planted at Homeward Bounty Farm. There are times however, when I feel the sunrise, but in its corse it does not always send out as many embracing rays. To be a single farmer on this land can at times feel cold, a woolen jacket made purely of single strands, where the wind finds its way in. It at times feels very unintuitive to be doing a job that ancestrally belonged to everyone. It’s ironic in many ways, this ”American” way of running a farm, doing it all by ones self, an individual seeking out their dreams and succeeding through hard work. But agriculture is the work of many!

And so I sowed the seed from India with the knowledge that from one seed will come many! I sowed the seed in hopes that it would grow a village. My folks have become farmers by my side and my neighborhood friends a community that works together. This amazing community is creating a farm that is theirs, it’s coming together to grow and harvest more than just food crops, but a fundamental  structure of our common abundance together and recognition of our bounty.

The inspiration to travel back to my memories of Ladakh came this weekend while harvesting onions. Together, CSA members, family and friends rose early and came into the field to work. Soon everyone was at ease, indeed tapping into our grandmothers, pulling onions, trimming up their tops and roots and placing them into boxes, our village putting-up food for the winter. We sat in the field, talked about fishing, weddings, sisters and daughters. We made jokes and laughed and enjoyed a more lively beverage than tea, beer. The field of onions changed from representing hours of work and was replaced the  an intuitive act of gathering around food for communal benefit, much like in the barley fields of Ladakh. The transition of wealth at that moment shifted from ”what we’re worth hourly,” into baskets of colorful onions that have a communal story of hands and hearts that will provide encompassing nourishment.

The sun continues to rise, the rays stretch out and this farm grows, for our village and because of our village. Thank you to everyone who’s embraced and become of a part of this journey.

Community harvest of barley in Ladakh.

Community harvest of barley in Ladakh.

Harvesting onions at Homeward Bounty Farm.

Harvesting onions at Homeward Bounty Farm.

The First & The Last

An askew view of spring.

An askew view of spring.

Spring is here, but it hasn’t been one I’ve been  hungry for. The dormancy of winter was never pulled down deep. The weight of snow, and dark and deep toned clouds didn’t encompass the past days, or weeks, or months. There wasn’t that moment of movement, when the sun pushed the clouds way, and how they oblige, to see the earth below bask in the rays of warmth. A moment of complete and utter presence for us all, human, animal and plants. No, the farm didn’t  have that. We’ve had Mediterranean, we’ve had the sound of lawn mowers and the indelible smell of fresh cut grass. The heavy winter coat has been on the hanger for months, the frost cloth has been stored since fall, the heater in the greenhouse rarely gets asked to perform. The orchard is in bloom, the daffodils laugh, the lilacs are budding. We’ve had rain and mosquitoes, we’ve had rainbows and colorful butterflies. That sudden moment of transition to spring has been under-clouded by constant warmth, and all is inspired to just go on growing. We’ve had a procession into summer, a parade that has been given the sunny green light, to go marching along.

Last basket of 2014 onions.

Last basket of 2014 onions.

Our vacation to Steep Ravine Cabins near Stinson Beach.

Our vacation to Steep Ravine Cabins near Stinson Beach.

Cleaning up the farm! Oh, the last load of metal recycling!

Cleaning up the farm! Oh, the last load of metal recycling!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Spring usually vaults fourth with juxtaposition and edge.  The delineated distinctions from dark to light, dormant to vibrant signs of life, are monikers of our accustomed seasonal patterns. The first and the last, beginning and end, cold and heat falling on their appropriate time line, not all mixed together to form patternless webs. The firsts and lasts are still noted, but are on a timeline of chaos. The last of the stored onions and winter squash are being enjoyed, the last of the daffodils have shown in bloom, the last seeds orders have come in, the last multiple day vacation, and the last (hopefully) scrap metal pile has been recycled! The first cucumber beetle was found feasting on the Napa cabbage, the first transplants were planted out in the field, the fist bales of frost cloth have been unwound to prepare for an April 1st tease freeze. The first phlox and yarrow have opened up in texture and color, the first porch hosted dinner was pleasantly enjoyed. The first harvests of Fall planted herbs and brassicas  happened weeks ago, as they grew this winter with little resistance from Jack Frost.

Chard, kale, cabbage, Broccoli, cauliflower get transplanted out on a warm sunny weekend of spring!

Chard, kale, cabbage, Broccoli, cauliflower get transplanted out on a warm sunny weekend of spring!

We are steadily learning that out of sync is now in sync. That to be farmer and farm in this paradigm is to not only be in tune with nature’s cycles, but to know that these cycles can be more like coils, a scatter plot graph, a Rorschach Test. One way of looking at it is that we’re experiencing heightened diversity, and how we love and celebrate diversity here on the farm! Diversity in species from our animals and plant friends. Diversity in soil life. Diversity in our community which grows strong with local food. And how we embrace diversity in this unorganized system of weather, in this lion and lamb walking hand in hand through the gate of spring. The diversity of the firsts blending with the lasts. Welcoming a spring that nested itself in winter. To a season and farm and farmer that’s constantly, ever changing.

Tucking starts in for the night as the nights are going to dip down to freezing levels.

Tucking starts in for the night as the nights are going to dip down to freezing levels.

 

Dormant Seed

Rain, a loyal seed companion.

Rain, a loyal seed companion.

To lie dormant is to still be active. A seed in the ground is never lazy, is never undoing it’s place, but storing, planning, absorbing, is stable and purely patient. I would like to say that I have not posted on the blog due to dormancy, that I’ve been succeeding in the challenge of seedism, of being anchored and to be still with simply being, to be abiding by the energy within and the patience in holding, to know when to rise up. But, I’ve not been a dormant seed. I deeply know I have a lot of wisdom to glean from the germplasm that buzzes with perfection in place. I’ve been rising too much, a novice, a puppy, always going, doing, beyond-being antics and I have not made use of the beautiful resource of time. Time to sit, time to write and speak for the farm during these handful of months.

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Seeds at a market in Thailand

Seeds at a market in Thailand

Although I have not been a stoic seed, they’ve been squarely on my farming fore front. While on vacation to Thailand, in the fall, Jonathan and I came across many open air markets, the heirloom grocery store. The produce was stunning, truly a treat for plant lovers and flavor dreamers. The rices, greens, fruits I never knew could exist, fish, meats, and at one market we found a sweet woman selling seed. I also brought some packets of seeds from the farm and using only speaking the language of seeds we exchanged with each other, not only hundreds of plants to be, but a maternity for the land and a reverence for something that in the present reality is small, but in the dimension we both know well, was more expansive than description.

This is also the time of year to visit the farm’s seeds, packed away, undisturbed in cool corners. The evolution of the farming seasons, this will be my sixth, can be quantified and represented by the size of the vessels that hold these seeds. From shoe box, to tubs, to the present three large Rubbermade bins. It’s a fun ritual, spreading it all out, placing packets in the future fields. These seeds will tell the story of this season. They will feed the CSA, customers at the Farmers’ Market, patrons at local restaurants and grocery stores. These seeds will thrive under the elements and farmer and will also die off from these two roots. Saved seed lots from 2014 were tested for germination and packaged up to feed locals in a different way. These packets of seeds that will travel to homes to be planted out in backyards and containers. Sowing future family meals and opening the story book of connection with seed, food, and our culture of agriculture. Throughout the seasons chapters may even be added to this book, or rekindled, as this is the story of our ancestors. It is a story we all already carry. We are the story of seed! And seeds are a story of who we are.

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Winnowing Ruby Streaks Mustard seed for Siskiyou Seeds (www.siskiyouseeds.com)

 

Cleaning Black Turtle Bean seed.

Cleaning Black Turtle Bean seed.

Homeward Bounty Seeds! Seed colors and textures continue to amazing and inspire me!

Homeward Bounty Seeds! Seed colors and textures continue to amazing and inspire me!

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A burgeoning revolution is here. Not the hijacked tone of the Green Revolution, an honest uprising of a trinity of voices: our ancestors, the seeds and ourselves. The conversations about food are abundant. The education is saturating, the lexicon of knowledge and the desire for more knowledge is increasing. People are curious to know if the food is local, non-spray or organic and every once in a while I hear is what I feel is the gem, “Is this a Torpedo onion?” “Is this Red Russian kale?” “Is this Genovese basil?” And here, is why to my farming ears (to my ears that have a deep love for education and the passing on of stories ), this is a gem. People are getting to know their food! In German, there are two meanings for the word ‘know.’ One know is the verb wissen; wissen is if you know where the closest bookstore is. And then there’s kennen; the verb kennen is used when you know someone or something personally. You know their energy, their feel. Kennen is knowing beyond knowledge, the realm of the brain. Kennen is that you know something in your heart. When someone asks me the specific variety of a vegetable, they are knowing (kennen) their food by heart. My desire in this revolution is that we start to ask deeper. To ask where our food is grown and the practices by which it was grown, to call food by its name, to ask the story of the seed the story of the variety! To ask who grew the seed, how was the seed grown and what’s the story map of the seed?

It is the time of year to open the book, to read the seed story, our story and to learn. To sit with the seed. To be, be still. To be anchored. To know when to rise up and authentically stretch out in growth.

Onions growing in the greenhouse in January. The first stretches of green for the 2015 season.

Onions growing in the greenhouse in January. The first stretches of green for the 2015 season.