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.

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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.

Heartvest Dinner

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Another season to honor. One to name and define, to catalogue. Wedges of present moments strung together under concise themes: a day, the moth of August, a row of tomatoes , but contain truly nothing that can be defined in such simple ways. In reflecting on this, I guess the challenge lies in remembering each memory as pixilated as possible, the quality in every dot that makes it a whole, to remember and feel the authenticity of moments.

This year, not yet done, but cresting, has had many truly authentic moments and has been a season unlike any I’ve experienced before.  It was Green, not exclusively in the eco sense, but in its young tenderness, it’s vulnerability and wide-eyed wonder. We were novices, the soil, the seed, the farmer. Playing in an environment where a little beginners luck would be welcomed and the learning curve proved steep.

The season brought together Home and Bounty, as was manifested through its namesake! The family grew this season, extending to encompass yet more and more lovely smiles, warm hearts and willing to work hands. A community, with a deep appreciation for community, for local vibrant food and an even greater passion to share meals with ones dear! At the heart of it all it truly IS about eating! About making beautiful meals that make you and the ones around you glow. Each individual bite one to savor, like each pixel that makes the whole. The way the white lights caught the smiles amid animated conversations over a Harvest Dinner table. The zinnias shining out, the rain hydrating the cover crop seed, a night and a season beautifuly and richy authentic.  Thank you all for this wealth, this support and the pulse of a farm famly bond, the beat of anther successful Heartvest!

The spread - YUM

The spread – YUMIMG_1552IMG_1546 IMG_1558

Welcoming a beautiful rainbow.
Welcoming a beautiful rainbow.

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A storm rolls in.

A storm rolls in.

In the Groove

CSA Basket - Week #12

CSA Basket – Week #12

If a farming season is like a marathon, then I believe we’re somewhere around mile 19.  Yes we, as the runner may say in third person…. ”Come on legs, we can do it!”  Here on the farm it truly is a we, the soil and elemental unfoldings, the bellies and pocketbooks, the seeds and leaves and fruits, the calloused farmer hands and worn farmer feet.  “Come on gloves, (which look like they’ve already reached the finish line, but have been begged to keep on going) we can do it!” It’s at this mile where you’re pooped, but also very much in the groove. I’ve never run a full marathon, but after a few farm seasons you get the true sense of stamina, pace and drive. To know how hard you’ve worked and know, that now in August, you’ll be asked to pick up the pace, to get up at the same time you did in July, even though the sun is getting to sleep in, to maintain and even, accelerate. You pick up the pace, kick a little harder, because it’s harvest time and the bounty has arrived. Volume! You may think you’re a giving person; now, consider the humble zucchini! They say that wood warms you six times. I feel the same about zucchini: the bed prepping, planting, weeding, nurturing, harvesting and harvesting, hauling out of the field, and warmth of the kitchen as one zips around finding many yummy ways of getting it into your belly.

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It’s mile 19, the BEST part of the season! The beginning of the season opens with jaw-dropping -color-centerfolds. Oh yeah, seed catalogs baby! Now, in the heart of abundance, it’s a succulent recipe treasure hunt of salivating salvation. It’s finding gems like Sweet and Sour pickled Red Onions and Zucchini Bread with Lemon and Thyme.

It’s the time to honor and identify the season too. This year will be marked with eggplant dishes and okra. Last year there were tomatoes abound, salsas and sauces. Moving the abundance into bags and jars, extending the season, you encapsulate the year, define it, and give thanks.

Rolling up my sleeves to clean yet another squash, to reach tongs into a boiling bath of water, to spend extended hours on tired feet (tapping around a kitchen floor), long after the work day is done, in the name of preservation is exhausting. But it’s fuel, it’s drawing out the abundance to have lasagna in the winter months, pickles as the snows thaw and sweet fruit as spring arrives. Another season’s work ahead, one of beauty and paced rhythmic breaths. Feeling out the cadence and getting excited for mile 19 and zucchini! As you lace up your shoes and stretch,  a whisper from the fields, ”On your marks, get set, go” and you’re off!

Zucchini Oatmeal Cookies

Zucchini Oatmeal Cookies

Pickles!

Pickles!

Arugula Pesto Aurora

Super Moon rising above Mt. Shasta

Super Moon rising above Mt. Shasta

I keep thinking that this is an odd season, but what season is normal anymore? Will we learn to be the most flexible and diverse generation of humans living on this Earth? Will we start to understand change as normal, be easy-going and learn to purely live in the moment, as the future becomes increasingly unpredictable? Will we have to select for and breed varieties of vegetables to mature in smaller and shorter windows, because the weather tomorrow, weeks and months ahead will continue to consistently weave in and out of elements? Will we find the stability in the unsuitability?

       In a heat wave! I get the feeling that this heat is eagerly waving ‘Hello’ and I wave too; also eagerly, ‘Good-Bye,’ but it doesn’t seem to pick up the subtle cue. It took my cloths approximately 15 minutes to dry on the line the other day. 100 degree weather and a slight Southern breeze left them stiff and dry and wishing to be folded up and quickly placed in the cool dark closet of my room. I wanted to fold myself up with them, to be organized with the sweaters and to come out only when they were beckoned.

What luck that I didn’t ball up and seek solace amongst the wools and fleeces, for I would have missed last night’s party of lights! Lightening chiseled into the horizon, with a flash and low rumble boom! The clouds around us playing aurora tag with every imaginable color. Not a time to be a sweater, a time to soak in the elemental moment, be present, stable and to know of change.

With the lamenting of the heat I share with you this summery meal that I whipped up last night – served best with CHILLED white wine!

Arugula Pesto –

1 bag Arugula

1/4 olive oil (more if it’s not blending)

1/2 cup parmesan cheese

1/2 cup nuts – I used walnuts and like to toast them in the oven a bit to bring out a roasted flavor. Brazil nuts are great in pesto as well!

1/2 of a lemon – squeezed for the juice

3 cloves garlic – or a bulb and a half of this week’s CSA share of mini fresh garlic

salt and pepper to taste

Directions – Put All in a blender and blend. Adjust different elements to taste. This pesto comes out nice and earthy. It has the taste of spring, but the influence of summer, as you can almost convince yourself there’s basil in it.

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Almost forgot the garlic!

Almost forgot the garlic!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Little Black Dressing –

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The first CSA distribution has come, can it be so? Exciting comes to mind, but it’s deeper than that, truly. It’s the entrance of life and food. Meals shared, meals given. It’s the pattern of harvest, sinks full of crisp greens and tables of beets waiting for a spray down anointment, then to be polished and grouped, cheeks together squished-up smiles- CSA BASKET! MARKET! GRUB CLUB! They’re off!

The fields are REcovering from last month’s frost. With some crops there has been a complete loss, a row of proud peas still fairly stunned, stalled and burned. Many of the beds however, are coming back, their confidence a bit shaken, but  it gathers momentum as the days prove their warmth over and over again.

One of the farm frost-free champions has been the lettuce bed, which now glows and I’m not personifying this one! Salad time! A farm fresh salad is one of my all time favorite foods! Big leafs of lettuce crunchy and hydrating, not the typical ‘soul food,’ but you can’t tell mine otherwise.

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My dear friend Kate Sanderson helping with harvest! She's a super star farmer from the days at Green Fire Farm!

My dear friend Kate Sanderson helping with harvest! She’s a super star farmer from the days at Green Fire Farm!

 

 

 

 

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Here are some lovely ‘go-to’ dressings- Little Black dressings if you will, the dress I never actually understood; why wear black when you could be in color! ENJOY!

Lemon Thyme Vinaigrette

*Make a jar full and keep in the fridge for up to two week.

Ingredients:

3 Tablespoons of lemon juice

Lemon zest from half a lemon

1 small garlic clove, finely minced

1 teaspoon fresh thyme or lemon thyme, minced

3 teaspoons honey (or a bit more if you have a really sour lemon) – Meyers are wonderful!

2 teaspoons white balsamic vinegar

½ cup extra virgin olive oil

Salt and freshly ground pepper to taste

Instructions:

1. In a small bowl whisk together all of the ingredients except the olive oil, salt, and pepper.

2. While you are whisking, add the olive oil in a slow, steady stream. Continue whisking until the vinaigrette is emulsified. Correct the seasonings (sometimes I add a bit more vinegar or honey) and add salt and pepper to taste.

Ashley’s Sweet Miso Ginger Sauce!

This recipe is from my dear friend Ashley of Root and Wings Jewelry. I’m pretty sure we put this on everything that special summer in Arcata.

Ingredients:

1/2 cup olive oil

1 tsp toasted sesame oil

2 cloves garlic (or more)

2 tablespoons ginger

1 tablespoon apple cider vinegar or lemon juice

1/4 cup honey or maple syrup

2 tablespoons miso paste

1 tablespoon tamari or Braggs

1/8 teaspoon cayenne to taste

(Makes 1 1/2 cups)

Blend in a Food Processor or whisk until creamy! YUM!

Food well loved – 2012

The year has turned and I’ve become resolute with resolutions. I know that I don’t need the significance of a New Year to inspire turn-inward reflections and analysis of a year past, in order to approach fresh this next go around the sun. It’s always argued that one can find inspiration for growth and change with every rise of every day, of that I have no doubt. I do however, find something grand and poignant with the beckoning of the New Year. Winter solstice has passed, and with it the daylight stretches out longer and our O’Brien Opas! become later. The cycle of the season has shown true this year. The winter weeks of resting farming bones are numbered, a green house to clean, crop plans to draw out, onions and cool weather crops to sow and hands grown soft begin their introduction to soil once more. Winter’s important role in recovery and rest, transitions into a tone of reinvestment as a new season whispers.

With the closing of 2012, I would like to share photos of loved food and loved friends, the glowing images of the bounty of love, laughter and satiated bellies that grew in abundance during Homeward Bounty’s first year. The support that carried this year will fuel many seasons to come. I greatly thank you, beautiful community, with the entirety of my heart!!

This upcoming year I wish you all vibrant meals of kale, aching smiling cheeks, arms grown strong with work and hugs and many, many adventures!

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