The Stars and Birds in the Sky

Snow and Stars-1

Photo courtesy of JS

This time of year the farm is dark, like a new moon. Work is being done deep down in the soil, worms and micro organisms break down the season that was tilled in. The green cover crops cover lowly. Soon they will start to jump in response to the longer days, but Green hasn’t dominated yet. The farm is dark; it is brown soaked earth. Everything seem so be quiet, the straw colored field of last year’s growth, the reaching brown bare branches in the orchard, the seeds still call it night as they lie dormant. The new farm, like the new moon, always present but masked in darkness, is unassuming and lets others shine. At the time of the new moon you see the bold Milky Way flying directly over head, as each individual stars sing their song, Pleiades circles and shooting-starlings dive across the sky.

As the farm lies quietly working, up ahead a show takes place too. Raptors have taken over the skies as song birds fill the empty space with their melodies. This valley is home to so many birds and in these dormant months they fill it with life. Their wings span the horizon, taking up effortless flight, finding density in air that is so thin and unsuspending to us.

I’ve been filled with deep gratitude for this avian company. Their shadows traveling along the farm as they look for ground squirrels that may have been coaxed out by the spring like light and warm afternoons. There’s a Bald Eagle pair that can be found dancing about, and will even perch in the tree right outside the kitchen window. The flickers streak their under-red, Meadow Larks their yellow and little browns bounce all about, from orchard to lilac hedges, to junipers and dot the elms. I’m learning to look close, to know names and personalities. My friend Jim is teaching me how to identify wing patterns, flight, song and making the connection of habitat and season of the farm’s bird population.

Soon, we’ll honor the last of the dark new moons and the Celtic day of Imbolic, which recognizes the first signs of spring and falls between Winter Solstice and Spring Equinox. With it Green will start, the cover crop will begin to reach up, the greenhouse will glow and the dancing pair of eagles will build their nest and peacefully start their family, as Orion bends low in the horizon.

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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.

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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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

 

Yogic Onions Starts

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The season is starting to grow! It seems yet too cold to utilize the lovely greenhouse that my Dad built last year. The saving grace glass house, built from 10 sliding glass doors, has been highly utilized and appreciated. Unfortunately, it is not perfectly air tight and with consistent frosty mornings and days, where pine needles and human bones struggle to thaw, I opted for an indoor kick-start. Here, on an old metal shelf, I’ve towered trays of onions seeds. I have heard no cries of unsatisfaction, as the sun shines in. Mt. Shasta smiles through the frame of the window and the ambient house warmth keeps soil hospitable and encouraging.

After a very positive response towards last year’s fresh and cured onions, I decided to increase the crop this year. Scattered in these trays are future French Onions soups, sweet crunchy rings of the Siskiyou Sweet, elegant purple torpedo shaped Tropea and the patiently cured paper skins of red and yellow varieties, for 2014 storage.  Yes, the yummy year begins.

Green energy starts to fill the house as the first seeds germinate. They’re yogic presence is rejuvenating, energizing, calming, these happy little lights already representing such gratitude. From delicate charcoal-like seeds, the onions seedlings start to emerge. They slowly rise up and stay suspended, stretching themselves out in a new life welcoming: downward dog. As many of us could, they stay there, looped with the soil, relaxed, breathing. Slowly they rise, bring their heads and arms up, welcoming the sunny day. They take a look at the mountain and offer up a gift, their hollow seed pod.

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Onions stretched out in a relaxing downward dog.IMG_0396