To Pops, the Farmer.

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I am sixth generation Californian and a first generation farmer. It would be easy to think that I’m the black sheep of the family, the unconventional organic farmer, the one who doesn’t have a ‘real job’ and is wasting away two College degrees. You would think that maybe my parents would be hoping that this is a faze and that I would one day get a ‘real job,’ invest my ‘extra time’ in having grandkids. So, in the spirit of Father’s Day, I wanted to dedicate this post to how these statements couldn’t be further from the truth.

I grew up in a tongue and groove log home. On any given summer morning, it wasn’t uncommon to wake up to the sound of a chain saw and NPR. The thought was always, what wall is Dad taking out now? There were closets that became bathrooms, extensions that became offices, and holes punched out to spontaneously add windows. My Dad molded my childhood home like it was a sandcastle, simply knock out A and add B, and repeat. Near the pool we had a small garden. I remember a cold frame from a sliding glass door, a compost pile that would essentially just attract the deer and always the attempt to grow the staples, tomatoes, corn and fair worthy pumpkins. I don’t remember us being that attentive with the garden, but it was there and every year as the weather warmed, my Dad’s attempt to grow Siskiyou County’s biggest pumpkins resurfaced along with the families of blue bellied lizards.

It was in this setting where I became an authentic product of my parents. It was the backdrop where they taught me how to create life, to use my hands and to use my heart to honor the hours in each day. To have action and interaction with life directly, to wake up, decide to take out a wall and put in a window, and do it. It was with these principals that my heart understood farming. Like a hypothetically sterotypical cavewoman, I thought: soil, water, sun, seeds, food, family, eat, good. These are the elements of life, I understood this from the beginning and wanted to root myself in it.

I know I am this authentic product, because my parents understand this rooting. They not only see the link, but they hold it dear in their hearts. That working to live is the point, because you can’t designate when you’r living and when your not, so live through your work and do the work that becomes your story of living. It’s been overwhelming to see the foundation that my parents have given me become played out in the fabric of this farm’s soil and in the deep soil stained grooves of my hands and to know that I’m doing them proud.

My Dad loves the farm. He visits with the composure of supervisor, always starting off with a walk into the fields, checking in on the tomatoes, the greenhouse and counting the chickens. He also meanders with curiosity, finding bird’s nests, catching snakes, diagnosing water leaks and identifying hawks. I can see a unlocking sense of excitement each time he visits and whether he knows it or not, it’s often his energy that can bring me back to being present with this overall project, which I sometimes just think of as truly exhausting labor. My parents have given me everything. I have always looked up to my dad, my soccer coach, my teacher, my deep hugger, joke repeater, cat lover, house builder, project juggler, car fixer, joke repeater and now farmer.

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Putting in new fruit trees.

Putting in new fruit trees.

 

 

 

Maybe we are at a new paradigm, where a sixth generation Californian, first generation farmer is passing the trade up, into the generations. A family farm that has been sown by youth, to take care of the elders that I love. To pass up the knowledge, to pass up the story and to pass the freshly harvest food around the family table. With all my love, Happy Father’s Day Pops!

Father's Day Dinner on the farm. Of corse, he found a snake!

Father’s Day Dinner on the farm. Of corse, he found a snake!

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Oh Deere!

Native flowers blooming on the hillside.

Native flowers blooming on the hillside.

Spring is here. The emergence. Buds and blooms, seeds and dreams, the stretching of green and opening of color. The swirling in and out of random weather. This is spring, the cusp debut, the quick bursts, the excelleration. To be present in this moment is to be a part of something very special! The farm has been present with it all. It has been present with the glowing greenhouse and the 40mph winds, the native flowers opening up to feed the bees and visions materializing- and boy are they ever!!

The greenhouse mid March.

The greenhouse mid March.

 

 

It has become glaringly evident that here in Siskiyou County our weather pattern is more of a weather beat. A pulse that moves around creating a song all it’s own, that may or may not have rhythm and has a heavy emphasis on wind section! As I’m learning the hard way, it’s a bit of a harsh climate and investing in season extension tools is nonnegotiable. The farming guru of efficiency and season extension is Elliot Coleman and it has been in his philosophies that I’ve been subscribing. ‘The New Organic Grower’ has long been a favorite publication of mine, now ‘The Winter Harvest Handbook’ has been rocking my world and has me dreaming up various tunnels. I can gladly say that I have Tunnel Vision, low tunnels, high tunnels, caterpillar tunnels – Grow Tunnels! Last week the first wave of brassicas and spring goodies went in and over them a nice little protective hops and some frost cloth. When the nights dip down, there’s a layer of greenhouse plastic that gets pulled over the frost cloth for added insulation. I think that tunnels like these are going to play a big role in the future of this farm, however, these last few days have provided a wealth of education towards this learning curve. The winds came up and of corse, took the frost cloth off. The winds have actually been so aggressive, that I now have the cloth pinned on the ground under the hoops for the time being, protecting the plants more from wind burn and dehydration than from freezes. When this weather ‘beat’ passes, we’ll stake in anchors, put the layers back on the hoops and run a cord over the cloth to hold everything together. We’ll keep fine tuning this concept and will hopefully strike a harmonious melody!

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Low Tunnels!

Low Tunnels!

And more March Manifestation Miracles – Say hello to new farm friend, Patrick Deere! You’re surprised? I’m still in complete shock! There have been many times when I’ve been coy in accepting that over and over again my life has been a overflowing bounty of blessings. But like this spring, I just have to remind myself to be oh so ever present with this very sweet moment. Work hard, play hard, give deeply and appreciate your Blessings with all your heart! Here we have it, beautiful tractor! Welcome to the farm family Patty!

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Oh Patty, you and my Dad are going to be BEST FRIENDS!

Oh Patty, you and my Dad are going to be BEST FRIENDS!

Big Bon-Fire Birthday

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A Year. Homeward Bounty Farm is officially a year old. The farm now can teeter from one season to the next on two strong legs, big dreams are starting to grow in and are able to sink their teeth into the meat of juicy ideas, the soil is building, and the land is recognizing and reidentifying – ‘I’m a farm.’ It’s getting easier to sleep at night as I know everything is going to be alright. I’ve had phases of worry and stress, probably natural for any first years farmer, but I’m realizing more and more that this farm is not wholly dependent on me, that this farm is truly being held up by a family, a community and a vision that is greatly deeper than my sole capacity can create, thank goodness!  I’m eager to be a midwife and support this project, as it develops and grows into something I believe will be sweetly rich and self knowing.

A mantra that surfaced during last year’s farm clean-up party was, ‘the farm provides.’ And it was true. You need a shovel? Look around and soon enough you would find one against the fence, a solitary tool that has stood the test of time, a patiently leaning relic of the last owners, or the ones before. Upon purchase, it was quite apparent that this property represented strata of hobbies from dwellers throughout the years. Anything I may need, and plenty I didn’t need, came with the farm.  The farm has provided, it has provided many trips to the dump and metal recycling, it has provided stray shovels, and loads and loads worth of fuel for bon-fires to keep us warm and in a festive glow.

This first year birthday was appropriately celebrated with one of the best candles yet! We tackled some worthy projects, cleaning out windrows of renegade tumbleweeds, dead trees, derelict fences came down and the mother load rotting wood pile traded its BTU’s with impressive ignition! And the farm provided and the vision shown true, as amazing members of the community came out for an afternoon of splendid productivity. This is how I know that as this farm grows it will not be from my hands alone and that this vision is creating itself. I know because it’s the younger brothers of my high school best friends, now men who came out with excitement. It was Paul’s uncle Danny, determined to tackle it all, the most loyal of CSA members that value the connection with the earth and have with out fail supported Homeward Bounty Farm. Three generations were represented, folks new to the community and neighbors…..and the farm totem, the wind, decided to hold off until the night hours, the rains came and the big birthday candle when out with the prayed for wish of rain. The farm provides! The farm provides! Happy Birthday and Many More!

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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.

Joy is a Taste

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Homeward Bounty fields mid July

Homeward Bounty fields mid July

The summer has been full. It has been a full glowing moon rising slowly and reaching with grace to watch over the fields like the eager tassels of the sweet corn, they both stretch and bless.  The summer has been full of heat, full of thought and study and work. My mind is running over, how to be present with the successes and the not unfoldings? My day is penciled with ‘dos’ and notes that continually expand and tumble, rolling into the days and weeks of the future that catch up the present quicker than I thought the sun could move.  It has been a season filled with bushels of questions, optimism, recognition, dedication, work and rework. There have been backpacks full too, oranges and chocolate, goggles and towel, wildflowers, wild vistas, plunges!

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It has been a patient year. The bounty unfolding with a tease of anticipation. How eager I am for a plate of sun ripened tomatoes, a smile of watermelon, to hydrate while working in the fields by crunching into the watery cells of a lemon cucumber! I can see the fields playing now, and not just hard to get. Fruits are growing heavy and full, the dawn of the much anticipated Bounty! In these last hot breaths of July our taste buds start to excite as color and beautiful flavors grace our plates. Doesn’t it make you feel alive?

The Plum Trees

Such richness flowing

through the branches of summer and into

the body, carried inward on the five

rivers! Disorder and astonishment

rattel your thoughts and your heart

cries for rest but don’t

succumb, there’s nothing

so sensible as sensual inundation. Joy

is a taste before

it’s anything else and the body

can lounge for hours devouring

the important moments. Listen,

the only way

to tempt happiness into your mind is by taking it

into the body first, like small

wild plums.

Mary Oliver

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40 Acres and a Girl

Bob Swanson captures a nice view of Homeward Bounty Farm

Bob Swanson captures a nice view of Homeward Bounty Farm

Welcome to a bright new Homeward Bounty chapter dear readers, fresh Siskiyou grown food eaters, wealth of supportive radiant friends and deeply loving family. This is it; be careful what you wish for, as I officially have a 40 acre piece of property to call my lifetime stewardship project. How speechlessly unidentifiable. How quietly humbling, a calling that rains down from the mountain and up from the fertile Grenada soil. A true commitment to HOME and ROOTS – I’m not going anywhere any time soon folks, you now know where to find me!

I’ve been subliminally taught the O’Brien mantra of Rescue and Hard Work. As you drive up to the property, these are two words that are called out loud and clear. Within that mantra the key is to hear what is chanted next;  trailing behind those words, the farm sings a soft song of Potential, Growth and Love. The O’Brien magic is to set your rhythm to that song, work is a dance, create something beautiful.

When the property closed, we sang the working song of this new farm like mocking birds.  An overwhelming crew of dedicated friends came out to clean, organize, demolish, burn, collect, drink, arrange, create, eat, rip and dance. It was a farm mob frenzy!

Some major highlights:

John Tannaci, saving the day on his tractor.

John Tannaci, saving the day on his tractor.

John Tannaci, my new neighbor and owner/grower at Hunter Orchard, drove his tractor up the driveway with a smile and a mission. “You’ll be needing to get things in the ground soon Kate. Do you have a field you need ripped?”  YES! Through this thoughtful and extremely generous act, John has opened the soil to this season and graced 2013. Potatoes are going in this week! I can not thank the Tannaci’s deep enough for their truly kind spirits and support.

William Wareham’s boat vision: What do you do with endless amounts of junk? Well, you convert some of into art! Who else would have the tasteful and creative eye, but Bill. On the property was an old fiberglass boat (doomed for the dump), until Bill had a vision to clean that baby up. Fueled by the power of an artists ascetic and a Dodge Hemi, he drove it up to the top of the hill and perfectly perched it. It now rests on the hill and has become the ideal destination to sit and watch the last rays of light stretch out across the Shasta Valley. All abroad the Sunset Cruise!

Annie Moore made the kitchen sparkle! The Demo team was a pack of wild hammers, crow bars and will! Ron Presley was one of the first to show up and worked even through lunch. My sister drove three hours north, and brought with her two hard working

Bill on a mission.

Bill on a mission.

farmers.  Jonathan filled his truck up to the brim with debris. Bob and Jack documented. A friend from old soccer days, Shannon, proved what teamwork means (ten years later). Kate Bachman fired up her chain saw and Celtic salt was gifted to bless the new home, thank you Marian. Sweet baby Magnus even made the trip, with his amazing Jenny Mae mommy.

I could have spontaneously burst in joy, leaving behind jewels of love and blessing. My heart ached. My cheeks were sore. My gratitude swelled beyond and beyond. Here,  what we grow is infinite.  In many life endeavors it takes a village. Thank you for being my village, my family, the rich soil to my roots.

The Demo team

The Demo team

So much junk!     
So much junk!

"The beds will be this big."
“The beds will be this big.”

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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