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.

 

Water Tone

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A New Year has crested and with it the days start to tell a story. A story of the present and tales of themes to come. We are the ones that define the new calender, its tone based on our goals, resolutions and resolve.

In my mind I’ve constructed hats, fashioned caringly and in detail, of which I’m striving to wear in balance this year. However, during these times in crafting what WE want, we are often overlooking the patterns of reality. How do we consult our shiny new goals of balance with the deck that will be dealt to us? What notes will be played, to ring out with realism in the bell of clear January days?

Predictable small talk this winter has comprised of winter farm happenings, holiday gatherings and the weather. Conversations warm up and then dominantly plateau about the sky and how it’s not falling, and because it is not, it feels like it is. We talk about the lack of rain in a cathartic way. Our voices come out strong, in hopes to hide the quiver. Our tones dip into fear, but sustain faith,  as if we’re conversing about a dear friend who is acutely ill. I’m at the point of exhaustion towards these conversations – parched, by the talk about the state of California and our declared drought. It can be felt on the roof of my mouth and it fills my eyes as I look at a fourteen-thousand foot mountain with a dusting more appropriate to August.

The conversations continues in my head, with less postured strength in my inner voice. The shallow depths of the water table a reality for life on this farm. Is this the year to establish perennials, will they get a big enough drink to sink their roots in? I comb through seed catalogues for ‘drought resistant’ and xerophytes and I revisit my hats.  In lieu of my personal goals I create a new hat. This one made of glass.  This is the hat that matters. It is the one that will keep me dry when the sky falls with rain, when the creeks rise and the trees take in their fill. Most importantly, a hat that will magnify the melody of rain in my ears. Each drop ringing loudly and filling me with relief and a true sense of balance for the year to come.

Water

I was born in a drought year. That summer

my mother waited in the house, enclosed

in the sun and the dry ceaseless wind,

for the men to come back in the evenings,

bringing water from a distant spring.

Veins of leaves ran dry, roots shrank.

And all my life I have dreaded the return

of that year, sure that it sill is

somewhere, like a dead enemy’s soul. Fear

of dust in my mouth is always with me,

 and I am the faithful husband of the rain,

 I love the water of wells and springs,

 and the taste of roofs in the water of cisterns.

I am a dry man whose thirst is praise

of clouds, and whose mind is something of a cup.

My sweetness is to wake in the night

after days of dry heat, hearing the rain.

Wendell Berry

A slight snow storm in December, freezing fog and some mild rain has been the only winter moisture.

A slight snow storm in December, freezing fog and some mild rain has been the only winter moisture.IMG_1912 IMG_1915

 

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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Carrots & God

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While thinning carrots this morning my head was wrapped around this poem. My friend Dan sent it to me last week. Intuitive of the fact that I would have hands full of roots?

 

Root Song

Picking carrots this morning

makes me think

of god,

the ceremonious unearthing

of roots

from garden beds,

the bright smell

that clings to the air

and to my fingers –

how, to die, for a carrot,

means being pulled up from the groung

instead of buried under:

dirt replaced

by lucid blue sky.

-Callie Plaxico

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The Farmer and the Sea

The heat has found this Northern California corner. The fires and smoke have welcomed themselves to our doorstep too. I guess it wouldn’t be a true passage through summer without a week at high 90’s and a haze dyed, bright red sunset. In this weather I want to sprawl out under the coffee table, like a cat, and sleep it out. When I lived in Germany, I would experience cold nights walking home with my chest cinched tight in all efforts to keep in every single molecule of warmth, so much so that it would be hard to breathe. On those bitter nights it seemed impossible to imagine being too hot, having too much sun on the skin, to be dry and parched and craving a chill. Now, in the stagnant mirage of heat I reremind myself of rain, of socks and breathing into chilled hands. If there was a down pour right now I would arouse my cat self from under the table, with out even stretching a leg or arching back, and drench myself in unfeline fashion!

This poem has always resonated with me and with this heat I can feel the spray of the waves. I’ve always felt this poem was more The Farmer and the Seed – and as I’ve been cleaning spinach, bok choi, dil and watermelon seed lately it feels nice to revisit it’s lines.

The Farmer and the Sea

The sea always arriving,

hissing in pebbles, is breaking

its edge were the landsman

squats on his rock. The dark

of the earth is familiar to him,

close mystery of his source

and end, always flowering

in the light and always

fading. But the dark of the sea

is perfect and strange,

the absence of any place,

immensity on the loose.

Still, he sees it is another

keeper of the land, caretaker,

shaking the earth, breaking it,

clicking the pieces, but somewhere

holding deep fields yet to rise,

shedding its richness on them

silently as snow, keeper and maker

of places wholly dark. And in him

something dark applauds.

– Wendell Berry

A full rainbow arches over the farm.

Because We Are.

A merry Meredith meal of radish top soup and kale salad — Thank you for sharing!

The CSA members this year are composed of such dear friends and vivacious families… one of them being the Merediths, Rick and Nancy. The Merediths shared this photo with me a while back and I’ve been meaning to incorporate it into a blog piece. The picture is so beautiful and as a sweet little touch, a heart shaped rock on its side being held up by the salt and pepper. Nancy is a collector of heart rocks and this one I found and gifted to her from the Himalayas. In my heart this makes it all come full circle, and in turn, becomes the fuel to continue and keep this beautiful circle in strong, prosperous and gleeming fluidity.

Another facet I’ve been wanting to share with readers: Literature. Summer time is not that of novel reading for busy farmers. Time is scarce and to keep track of a story plot, along with a growing garden plot has it’s difficulties. What summer time has meant for me in the last few years is short stories, essays and poems! It’s amazing what people write. How they take in through the senses and express out in the same words we often speak, but their arrangement and pattern in thought becomes authentically revealing and luminous. From the beginning, and in the theme of ‘full circle’, I’ve wanted to share a piece that is special to me. I came across this Rosalind Brackenbury poem in a book “You are there for I am,” by Satish Kumar.

       Because We Are.

I am because we are, the five-toed,

the elegant-fingered, the ones

whose brains flower like coral

whose dreams span earth and move out-

I am because we animals

love to rub and huddle, because

our tongues love to lick skin,

nuzzle and enter each other’s

mouths, clean milky young,

taste sweat from necks and slick

fur flat, lap water from clean pools:

because we love to swim, sleep, eat,

lie in the sun, move to the shade;

and because we are the fish

flying in ballets through shallows

and deeper, where the ocean floor

hollows and darkness begins;

I am because of centuries of thought

and centuries of dream, because of poetry,

grass, music, growing corn,

because of wine from grapes

and bread from flour,

because of a million hands

because of cave paintings

and the true line drawn,

the bison on the wall,

doe in the clearing, because

of shooting stars and sudden floods,

ships going out, footprints,

because of men and women

coming together, lying down

together, coming, again and again,

because of father, mother, brothers,

lovers, children, everyone making

enough love, because of skins, eyes, hands

and words, because of closeness,

because of breath: Because

of the touch in the night

the surgeon who saved me

because of intelligence

because of care

because enough people

loving enough people

for those centuries

forever, I am. We.

-Rosalind Brackenbury