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!

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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Many Muddy Hands

“The mind has exactly the same power as the hands; not merely to grasp the world, but to change it.”
Colin Wilson

Hands have translated, in grasp, many visions on this farm. I’m amazed at how much dreaming and learning the brain can do, and to have it all come out in the palms, the building and sculpting of neuron fire.  To think of all the incarnations this property has had, from pastured cattle, standing fields of alfalfa and rye, a once young orchard, buildings for chickens and racing pigeons, even a certain Sativa Illegalis. You pull the past out of a place, a sun bleached cow’s tooth found on the hill side, a rusty sythe and feathers shed. Fences laid out, working hands once setting boundaries that held importance in someone’s, now historical, present; a vision that has expired, but the fence lines still hold.

And what of this year and all the work done? Adding to the story, the visions, and of hands building a life. Each little seed was a project this year, germinating and growing into tasks that needed to be done, tending to life. But, when I think about the work of hands this year, my mind will be drawn to ones covered in mud and faces wearing white smiles. Work blurred with play, as clay binded with sand, and straw bales met earthen plaster from the same geographic region they had grown in. Insulating this shed with R-Max and store bought materials would have potentially been less money, less time (a weekend’s worth of work), and less joy. It’s not often that we put money, time and joy on a scale against each other. We’re taught that the math is simple and that money and time trumps. But, I’ve learned that on a farm the scale shifts and money and time become nebulous when weighed next to joy, food, family and the cycles of nature.  I didn’t know what I was getting into, ‘Insulating a Shed with Straw Bales and Applying an Earthen Plaster,’ the internet search results came in lean, but the concept felt healthy and strong for the life of this farm.  With a lot of faith and some substantial information gleaned from Dancing Rabbit Ecovillage and “The Straw Bale House” by Steen and Brainbridge, the shed is shining in it’s new insulating layer of local straw, local earthen plaster and layers of work by loving hands.  Thank you deeply, to all those who built, shaped and played with this project! An old shed, built from beautiful Siskiyou County straw, earth and family; Homeward Bounty’s new vegetable cold storage!

Buying a farm, 'as is'! Shed in the back ground.

Buying a farm, ‘as is’! Shed in the back ground.

The shed all cleaned out.

The shed all cleaned out.

Working on extending the roof line and including a vegetable washing station.

Working on extending the roof line and including a vegetable washing station.

Roof complete!

Roof complete!

40 bales of locally grown straw!

40 bales of locally grown straw!

Stuffing straw in the gaps of bales and sewing it in with wire to keep it strong. We also attached wire to the foundation and roof to keep the bales from falling down.

Stuffing straw in the gaps of bales and sewing it in with wire to keep it strong. We also attached wire to the foundation and roof to keep the bales from falling down.

1st coat - A mix of clay and water applied with a texture gun.

1st coat – A mix of clay and water applied with a texture gun.

2nd coat - a mix of 70% sand to 30% clay, fresh cow manure and a gluten paste.

2nd coat – a mix of 70% sand to 30% clay, fresh cow manure and a gluten paste.

Gaps were filled with straw soaked in clay and water.

Gaps were filled with straw soaked in clay and water.

Good thing we had a dry place to set up for the harvest dinner!

Good thing we had a dry place to set up for the harvest dinner!

3rd coat, one month later! What a dedicated crew!

3rd coat, one month later! What a dedicated crew!

Land – Love – Greenhouse

If you think about it, it takes a village to do just about everything. There are always players involved. We all need, we all participate.To breathe we need trees, to write we need teachers, to eat we need seeds and to grow a farm I need the assistance from numerous, numerous elements. The cast of Homeward Bounty is vast and throughout the season I’ll highlight and give thanks to various players.

The Copelands –

Homeward Bounty Farm has manifested out of the wild hope that moving home, finding a piece of land, and growing beautiful, local and organic food for friends and family, could be a possibility. This vision has been able to transpire thanks to the generosity of Dusty and Bob Copeland who have lent me their support, access to water, and a half an acre of gorgeous land, coveted Gazelle loam.

My Parents –

My parents are two of the most amazing people I know and as a couple their love, joy for life and deep drive to rescue and nurture is exponential. I couldn’t dream of having two better mentors, supporters or parents. The level at which they participate and interact with life inspires me daily. I feel so blessed that I have their endless support with this endeavor. Thank you for always playing!

The Greenhouse –

Last summer my folks replaced all the sliding glass doors in the house. This may not seem like a big project when regarding most houses, but with their’s that meant four sets of doors equaling eight panels of seven foot high glass. It only took one afternoon of talking about the possibilty of building a greenhouse with the materials for my Dad to start drawing up a design. He dove into the project like any other, slightly unorganized and extremely efficient. When you’re young you think your Dad is superman, that he can do everything. I still think my Dad is! The greenhouse is up, and continues to stand even in the aggressive Lake Shastina wind.  It’s living up to its name as well, the inside is full of green.