This little farm or…How can I save the world?

 

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Earth image from Nasa.gov.

“Each of us feels some aspect of the world’s suffering acutely. And we must pay attention. We must act. This little corner of the world is ours to transform. This little corner of the world is ours to save.” –Stephen Cope, from The Great Work of Your Life.

I recently read this quote in one of my favorite yoga magazines, and I was like….WHOA! Pulled me up and shot me down. Listen: you have received a small plot of land with vast possibilities…whatcha gonna do with this?

My first response was: Hell if I know. Give me a clue.

I am an herbalist. Practically from birth. So, I’m gonna grow me some herbs. And maybe a few vegetables. I landed on this little farm through default. My room-mate grew up here, in East Cornfield, Indiana. We came home to help her dad die. We knew when we sold our home in Virginia we were coming ‘back to the farm’ to assist in a most important mission to let her dad go ‘home.’ Once I got here, I knew I had a purpose.

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The last good-bye

As I make my way here on the farm, I consider all of my  dreams and expectations. I believe all of us, individually and as a society, are affected by the Earth’s welfare. And we do have the power to make changes, even little tiny ones, that can impact it. We pulled up to this farm on a whim and a dream. And I realized, I could make a tiny impact. I can grow an herb farm. AND, I can save the world, one little mindful step at a time.

Each of us, individually, are affected by the Earths’s welfare, and we do have the power to make changes, even little ones, that can impact it. This is my plan to change my world!

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Sunset on our farm

Listen up:

  1. Recycle your sh*t. All of it. I live out here in the middle of a cornfield and we recycle every little thing. We have a row of bins lined up just outside our kitchen door and we toss plastic, glass, and cardboard and we haul all of it to the recycle center in town. Unless we can reuse some of it…we recycle it. I know that most cities and many towns have a recycle center or pick-up service, so there is no excuse. Recycle your sh*t!
  2. Let’s talk about food. Grow your own, buy local, eat simply. What? It’s simple. Actually, just simplify. If you have room for a garden, grow some vegetables. If you have a balcony or porch, grow a few potted herbs, tomatoes, even peppers. Not interested in growing your own, check out your local farmer’s market, CSA (Community Supported Agriculture), or neighbor community garden plot. Many neighborhoods have community gardens…get involved.
  3. Begin eating with the seasons. Lettuce, peas,  and spinach in the early spring, zucchini, corn, tomatoes mid summer, and squash, pumpkins, and my favorite apples in the fall. And maybe consider reducing meat consumption. Yes, it seems we have deemed ourselves carnivores, but we can reduce our meat consumption by a meal or two. I am not gonna go into the cost of growing that perfect T-bone, but letting go of our ‘meat and potatoes’ diet can actually make a difference toward our impact on our health and the environment. Specifically water consumption and methane production. What is that? Big huge cow farts and poop. It is just fine to replace all that beef  with responsibly harvested fish/seafood, organic chicken, or ‘shut your mouth’ TOFU. (I have tasty recipes, give me a hollah if interested.)
  4. Let’s talk about energy. And gasoline. Can we get by with one vehicle in a family? Maybe walk or bicycle to work? Share a ride. And turn off lights in the house. Turn down the thermostat. Toss the TV. ( I know, sacrilege.) I am fighting tooth and nail on this with my room-mate, so I get it. Even though all we have is local broadcast, she insists on watching Mystery Science Theater 3000. (Can you feel my pain?!?)
  5. How about we all just spend some time with nature? Get your ass outside. Go play! Seriously. Take a hike, sit next to a river, hug a frickin’ tree (okay, yes, I do commune with trees), ride your bike, swim in the river, listen to the ocean lapping against the shore, spend some time outside!
  6. Okay! This is a big one for many people. How about just simplifying? Give away all that stuff you don’t use any longer. I’m pretty certain all of your unused ‘stuff’ will be happily adopted by somebody else that needs it.And if we are simplifying…how about living in smaller homes? Less stuff, less space to heat or cool, less furnishings, just less! Unload what you don’t NEED and give it to somebody that will appreciate it.

Yes! I am a Mother Earth hugging, Lola Granola, Birkenstock wearing, unapologetic passionate creative and I believe we can change the world. One tiny corner at a time. We need to consider our environmental stewardship, our thoughtful consumption (I hope), our involvement with our community, (neighbors and our world), and our responsibility as fiscal earth dwellers. Consider your impact each day, and let it inform your actions in this world.

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Suburban garden

This is my ‘take over the world’ manifesto. It is simple and direct. This is how I intend on occupying my tiny corner of the world and growing my farm and my cottage business.

These Here Parts: Ol’ Nessie

The Pond and Ol’ Nessie

Nestled within a thicket of hardwood trees in the middle of the farm is the Old Pond, the nature-claimed remnant of a small gravel pit which was filled and stocked over a generation ago. If you move slowly, crouch down, and stay silent, you might see red-eared sliders sunning on a downed trunk, blue-gills or sunfish splashing out of the water after skimmers, or a great blue heron preening in the afternoon light. Crickets and cicadas chirp and buzz, and wood ducks quack softly on the banks of the nearby creek.

Even though the mosquitos are harassing you and whining in your ear, you stay still, because you see bubbles break the lichen-covered surface of the pond. Two eyes and a nose push up from the water, set on a triangular face no bigger than four inches across. It stays there for a couple of minutes before disappearing. Then you see the bow-wave rippling across the pond and the depression behind it as the water rushes close over a long, curved carapace.

The small face appears again, this time near the shore. The creature hauls itself up the gentle incline one halting inch at a time. The face becomes a stony olive head at least seven inches wide, with a horned beak and bulging jaw muscles. The carapace is so overgrown with moss, you can’t see the three rows of spiked plates arising from its back. The feet and legs bear heavy olive scales and move in measured, deliberate steps that indicate the burden of the massive body.

This is Ol’ Nessie, your alligator snapping turtle friend. Nessie’s gender cannot be ascertained from a distance. Its shell is approximately three feet long, and its mouth is wide enough to accommodate your entire hand, so you’ve learned to live with the gender mystery. Nessie has been in this pond for all of your life, and likely a generation before. Members of her species may live up to 200 years, although nobody really knows for sure. No matter if she’s 120 or 180, you get the feeling that you’re looking at living history. This reptile has managed to survive through at least one and possibly two world wars, years of industrial-age pollution, predation and hunting, and all manner of weather extremes, to peer at you from the edge of the pond. Its motion, and its stillness, give you the impression of stepping back into the Mesozoic Era.

Ol’ Nessie hears a twig snap as you lean to see over the undergrowth. It turns its hulking body around and slips back into the water, leaving a swirl of lichens in its wake. You’ll return again to visit soon.

-Writing and photography contributed by Melinda Hall

 

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 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!