Sweet Summer Corn!

Friends visiting from out of town in front of ‘the corn’, sweet corn pudding with fresh blackberries, Bella-boo kitty peeking out from under the bathroom sink, and a butterfly on wild Echinacea.

As someone who has lived most of her life in small towns or suburbs, I have found living in the country agrees with me in so many ways. Besides the benefit of neighborly black Angus cows nodding at  me over their fence as I sit on my porch drinking my early morning cup of coffee, the freedom to raise farm animals and grow wild gardens without breaking residential codes, and the opportunity to see wide open sky and and tangled meadows growing along our wandering creek, I have found one aspect of living on a farm that I had not counted on: BARTERING!  The unspoken bartering system is alive and thriving in East Cornfield, Indiana.

For instance, when our driveway was covered in two feet of snow last winter, the farmer down the road plowed us a way out, and in turn we baked him several batches of his favorite chocolate chip cookies. A tree blew down in our backyard this spring and our widowed neighbor chugged down the road in his back-hoe and made short duty of removing it. He also received home-baked goodies and a meal or two. He does appreciate a home baked meal now and then.

So, when my 71 year old friend Joy Jean called me up one afternoon and asked if I would like some fresh picked sweet corn I eagerly said “for sure”! I could always use a few bags of corn. She told me her friend Sandy’s farm had a miraculous (raccoons hadn’t gotten into it) abundance of sweet corn and all we had to do was come get it. As we pulled into their driveway, Sandy met us out by their Gator utility vehicle and pointed into the back. The entire bed was filled to the top with corn. Bushels and bushels of corn. We filled Joy’s trunk bursting full and tossed several more bushels in her back seat. We knew we had our work cut out for us, but I was excited. Enough sweet corn to last all winter. And it is the best tasting sweet corn I have ever had.

As soon as we got back to Joy’s place, we set to shucking all of the corn. We sat outside near her burn pile and tossed husk after husk after corn silk well into the late evening. By the time we had finished, the moon had crested over the tree-line and we were ready to take a break. But, there is ‘no rest for the wicked’, or so Joy Jean says, and we got busy blanching the corn, stripping the kernels off the cobs with an old-fangled corn kerneler (that’s its technical name), and scooping serving sizes into freezer bags. By the time we were finished, we were covered in wet corn kernels, smelled of corn, and were hot and weary from our hard work. But we looked at each bag as we placed them into the freezer and smiled in satisfied, tired agreement. Sweet corn is good. Friendship is even better.

If there was some way to package the laid-back, caring, neighborly, sharing attitude of living in the country into freezer bags, I would make sure everybody had their very own.

I hope each of you is having a lovely Whimsical Moon sweet corn day!

 

Sweet Corn Pudding with Fresh Blackberries:

Ingredients:

6 ears sweet corn
1/2 cup milk
1/2 cup heavy cream
1/2 white cheddar cheese, shredded (I used a little bit more, I like cheese)
1/2 tsp cayenne pepper
2 eggs, beaten
2 tbsp maple syrup
about 1 cup of blackberries (any berry works here)
salt and pepper to taste

Directions:

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Grease casserole dish (or pie plate). Shuck the corn and cut all kernels off with a knife into a bowl, making sure to keep all of the runoff juice from the corn. Reserve. Mix together the milk, heavy cream, cheese, cayenne pepper, eggs, maple syrup, salt and pepper. Add in the reserved corn. Gently stir in the berries. Pour into casserole dish and bake for 35 minutes or until the pudding is set. (Still kind of wobbly.)

(This recipe is an adapted from The Neelys)

 

 

 

 

The High Season of Summer

 

It is the high season of summer here on the farm. Sweat trickles down my back as I walk out to the garden, the air heavy and damp. I notice another green tomato on our ‘mortgage lifter’ heirloom tomato plant and glance at the early morning tilt of the sun shining on the meadow flowers in the nearby field.

The chickens have dug themselves shallow nests in the straw next to the chunk of ice I tossed into their coop earlier, spreading their wings across the cool earth, not very interested in the lettuce and spinach I harvested special for them. It’s too hot to eat at the moment.

My farm Chihuahua, Winter, enjoys the sunshine on her back as she pleasantly stretches and tilts her head to the warmth, her eyes closed. The cicadas are churling their raspy  song, circling in the hardwood trees all around her.  Catbirds call back and forth as the farm cats lie sprawled all across the side porch, ignoring them.

We notice a bright yellow plane barnstorming the neighboring farmers fields, spraying the crops with fertilizer one hot evening, amazed at the finesse of his flying as he banks tightly to circle around and drops lower and lower over the crops. High summer flying.

The corn has reached heights well over eight to nine feet and the soybeans are lush and bushy, at least 3 feet tall. Each morning as the warm sun rises, a thin layer of fog stretches across the fields as the accumulated night moisture evaporates from the leaves, giving everything an eerie, spacey feel. Strains of Donovan’s “Season of the Witch” whisper through my mind and I look twice as a slight breeze brushes the corn, rustling the leaves.

This is the time of year I try to get all of my work done early before the heat leeches my energy. Chores, gardening, cooking, and repairs around the farm receive top morning priority allowing me to relax inside during the hottest part of the day. Piles of my favorite magazines are finally weeded through and I find time to crack open that summer novel recommended to me a few months ago. I drink gallons of refreshing sun tea with peppermint and point the fan towards my desk to stay cool.

The days seem long and hot, but I know they are slowly getting shorter as the sun moves towards the fall equinox. Soon enough, the days will get cooler and the first signs of autumn will color the maple trees. For now, I will savor the coolness of home-churned ice cream and the opportunities to catch up on my writing projects and my reading.

Here’s hoping you are staying comfie and cool and having a Whimsical Moon high summer season.

The Way of the Cottage Herbalist

 

“Those who dwell….among the beauties and mysteries of life are never alone or weary of life. Those who contemplate the beauty of the earth find reserves of strength that will endure as long as life lasts.”  –Rachel Carson

A Cottage Herbalist is anyone who honors herbs and has an inner desire to understand and share their healing properties. Spending time with these plants, growing, harvesting, even meditating with them, takes us to our Source. Time with Mother Earth is healing. You won’t find a dictionary definition for cottage herbalist, but I’m pretty certain this is pretty close to how I would define it. This is how I define myself.

I have studied medicinal plants, growing herbs and ethically wildcrafting, making herbal products, and crafting with them for many years. I began my herbal ‘career’ as a young girl when I planted my first herb garden in a scrappy, worn-out iris bed that mom determined would get plenty of sunshine and relieve her from further weeding.

My studies continued when I attended the Seattle School of Massage and found several herbal courses available as elective subjects. I enjoyed every single class. Several years later, I was ecstatic when I found Rosemary Gladstar’s “The Science and Art of Herbalism” course offered through her Sage Mountain Farm. Rosemary has always been my herbal idol and long distance mentor, and she said, “Whatever you choose to do, do it well, and do it joyously”, and I determined herbs, gardening, and crafting would always be my joyous work.

I have learned as I continued my herbal studies that nobody becomes an herbalist overnight. In fact, learning the healing qualities of plants is a life long process. It does require us to grow and harvest, make effective preparations, and then use them in our own lives as well as share them with others. I realized that discovering our own medicines in the fields and woods that surround us, and in our gardens, can be empowering.

Herbal medicine is about creating a deep relationship with the plants and ourselves, and not just about a jar of herbal supplements or a bottle of uncertain tincture we purchase from the shelf of the nearby big name mega-store. An herbalist begins with the healing plants growing outside their door, working hands-on with them, as well as learning from mentors, taking courses, and reading books on the subject.

I believe a Cottage Herbalist understands the everyday use of herbs, studies the traditional use of plant remedies, grows and ethically wildcrafts their regional plants, prepares plant medicines, and even teaches others the aspects of the herbal healing arts. Helping people discover the healthy possibilities for themselves is an important part of being an herbalist.

Creating an herbal livelihood within the context of a sustainable farm and community is important to me. Amanda M. Crawford, an herbalist, said,”Sometimes when technological medicine has nothing more to offer a person, we may find the deepest healing in a simple green blossom”. I wholeheartedly believe this, and I believe that our health, as individuals and as a society, is inextricably linked to that of the earth. Herbal medicine is nature’s ultimate ecological medicine.  Herbalists teach this Earth awareness and the nourishing good health that comes from the plants, clean water, fresh air, and the pursuit of your passion — and laughing often.

I enjoy sharing the adventures and antics here on Whimsical Moon Herb Farm as we continue to grow our herbs, raise our chickens, and scratch the farm cats behind their ears. I also intend on sharing my adventures as an herbalist and herbcrafter. I will alternate my focus on farming and herbalism in future posts, with a bit of everyday whimsy. Please feel free to comment or ask me questions as the seasons progress! I hope you will enjoy learning about the herbs – and healing with them – right along with me.  Have a most whimsical-moon day!

 

 

 

The Pulse of our Farm

 

“Those who dwell among the beauties and mysteries of the earth are never alone or weary of life.”  –Rachel Carson

I recently realized that we have been living and working on our farm for just over a year now. Fourteen months, thereabouts. And as I look back on this past year, I find that I have learned how to accept and work with the rhythm of the seasons and this land.

I have learned how to watch the clouds move across the vast sky, how to feel the differences in the wind, and how to smell the air for moisture or electricity.  Yes, you can smell a thunderstorm as it marches its way across the fields, with low rumbles and crackles of lightning. Our chickens know even before I do that a storm is coming as they make their way to the coop attic, they cluck softly and move closer together.

I have learned how to watch the methodical movements of tractors and plows as the farmers begin preparing the fields for corn and soybean in early spring. I wait and watch for the first bursts of grass-like shoots as the corn pokes through the dirt in their gently curving rows and often check their height as the corn grows quickly in the hot sun. When I notice the first combine (reaper/thresher) tediously make its way down our narrow country road, I know that summer is coming to an end and it is time to harvest.

It won’t be long before the air takes on a crispness like that first taste of fresh-pressed apple cider and the sun light mellows and softens. Pumpkins, nuts, and pears replace the berries, greens, and zucchini at the farmer’s market and I find myself wearing socks and sweaters again. (Barefoot or clogs is my normal footwear during the summer.) The frantic buzz of summer on the farm slows and outside chores reflect the quiet of the gardens and the calm preparations for winter.

The first few snowflakes trigger excitement and childlike glee (yes, I admit to crazy giggling when it first snows) as we scurry around the farm tightening doors and latches, turning over the last of the dried vegetable stalks, and covering the compost pile. We check the seals on the windows of this old farmhouse and make sure the propane tank is full for what I now know will be a long winter season. My pile of books next to my favorite reading chair grows almost as tall as my favorite lavender bush and I check my supply of herbal teas and soup stock. Time to hunker down for the season and nest.

Even though it is now a warm, muggy evening in July, I reflect on the cycles of this farm and find myself feeling a sense of gratitude and comfort in fitting in with the natural rhythm here. I watch Sweetums, one of our farm cats, stalking a lightning bug and savor the creamy, tartly sweet black raspberry ice-cream we churned from berries Mindy picked around the edge of our property. Mosey, our St. Bernard proudly guards his newly found tree limb he has been dragging around the yard, and I prop my garden feet on a stool as I relax and savor the calm.

“The ultimate goal of farming is not the growing of crops, but the cultivation and perfection of the human being.”  –Masanabu Fukuoka

 

 

 

Critter Crazy!

 

What is a farm without animals? For me, the chickens and the farm cats certainly lend themselves to my farm image, as well as our St. Bernard and two Chihuahuas. (Farm Chihuahuas, you know.) But I am finding this place includes many other critters calling this small herb farm their home.

Last week, while we were relaxing on the side porch just as dusk was darkening the sky, we heard the most interesting sound rustling from our nearby old Maple tree. We have watched red fox squirrels scamper across its branches, downy woodpeckers and nuthatches peck at its bark, and lightening bugs brighten its shadow, but this was a sound uniquely haunting. It took three of us several moments of searching with flashlights until we found a beautiful eastern screech owl looking agitated down on us. I’m sure we were quite a sight, gawking up at it with our mouths hanging open, dancing about excited at our discovery.

Mindy was able to snap a few photographs of our visitor before it got too dark. We felt blessed at this rare sighting as it flew silently away towards the back of the property. I have always loved owls since I was just knee high to a grasshopper and was pleased to have had this visitor.

The next evening when Mindy got home from work, she noticed the cats slowly circling around an object on our porch. She turned on the porch light and began excitedly yelling at me to grab the gloves and high-tail it over there. A very frightened, fluffy and angry baby screech owl was clacking its little beak at the cats as it was trying to find a safe place. Mindy gingerly picked it up with the leather gloves on and placed it in our critter cage while I wrangled cats away from the sweet baby.

We found a quiet, dark corner in our pantry safe from the cats and called the non-emergency sheriff’s department number. A kind operator gave us the phone number for the Department of Natural Resources who then guided us to the Indiana Raptor Center folks in Brown County, Indiana. The next morning, Mindy was able to deliver the baby owl to a knowledgeable veterinarian fairly close to us who would take care of it until the Rescue folks could pick it up. Last time we checked, the baby owl was doing fine with only ruffled feathers and a hearty appetite for filet of mouse. It was housed with other rescued owls and will be released as soon as it was mature enough to fend for itself.  We are proud owl caregivers.

We are also proud to report that we were able to watch the first gawky flight of the young robins who were nesting under the eaves of our porch. A few weeks ago we had suspected they were getting close to fledging and had kept the cats inside for several days until they were safely independent. Mastering flight is an amazing thing to witness!

We’ve spotted baby bunnies taking their first tentative forages beyond their nests (some of them straight into my vegetable garden), baby tree frogs clinging to herb pots on our front porch, and deer frolicking in the cornfield just to the west of us.

The chickens  continue to mature and fill out and we are looking forward to their first eggs sometime in late August early September. Dolly Madison, one of our Buff Orpingtons, keeps a close eye on all of the farm shenanigans near her coop.

I hope you are having a most whimsical day and enjoy this summer season!

 

 

 

Summer Daze!

 

It seems like we moved from a chilly, wintry April right into a hot, balmy Summer with only a shy nod at Spring. And with the humid, muggy heat of Summer comes the unexpected thunderstorms. In about the time it took me to feed and water the chickens and spread fresh straw in their coop, the sunny sky turned ominous and the wind began to whip out of the west. As I stood and watched the dark clouds move quickly across the cornfields, I noticed a slow circular momentum and decided it was time to high-tail it into the house.

I grabbed Kayla from her bedroom and moved her into our enclosed pantry and rousted Mindy from her nap. She noticed the locust trees practically touching the ground as they were bent over from the force of the wind. By the time we gathered the animals into the pantry the rain began pounding on the roof and hail was bouncing off the country road.

In the space of a few worried moments, the storm had moved through the area and the quiet of the gentle rain was a relief. We made our way outside to assess whatever damage may have occurred. The chickens were fine, although hunched tightly together in their ‘attic’ quietly bawking, and the two cats that were still outside had rode the storm resolutely. Their tails looked like bottle brushes, but they were unharmed.

We were fortunate as we only had a few trees down and piles of broken limbs and branches. Other homes in the area were not so lucky with damage to their roofs, fences, and large up-rooted trees.

The sunset that evening was breathtaking and glorious. We are often reminded of the beauty as well as the power of the Divine, momma nature, and our earth.

The next day we had plenty of help from the farm cats cleaning up the mess and even discovered a blooming wisteria vine that had been uncovered from the canopy of a fallen tree. Pookie-poo supervised from the comfort of her hay  bale and we now have a burn pile that rivals that of the Burning Man festival. Here’s hoping the wicker man doesn’t get any ideas.

Whimsical Moon Herb Farm is looking forward to the bounty of summer as the black raspberries ripen and the sweet corn and tomatoes continue to grow. The herbs enjoy this heat and I am thinking I may need to begin cutting some of them back and drying them for our herb crafts.

Check back with us again soon as we continue to grow our farm and our herb business. Have a most whimsical moon day!