not people

As I was picking blackberries this morning, I was startled by a little snake.  She was suspended in the blackberry thicket, maybe finding the air more pleasant than the wet ground, maybe hunting the frogs that inhabit the ditch below the berries.  For just a moment, I was an Eve – thinking about fruit, but temporarily captivated by the beauty of this creature, her slender muscularity, the elegance of the racing stripes down her back.  I reached out to touch her smooth scales and she slipped away.  The fruit of the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil has long been among us.


this isn’t her, but a beauty nonetheless.


Outside our bathroom window there is log where the skinks and lizards sit to catch some morning light.  A young one, with a bright blue tale, creeps out to bask for a moment.  The moment is brief because an older skink, twice the size of its kin, emerges and chases away the freshie.


kids 2After the excitement of the birth of our first goat kids here, we were astonished to find that the mama goats want nothing to do with each other’s kids.  If anything, they appear disdainful of them.  Given the chance, they butt them or nip the little one’s tails if they come too close.  We have even witnessed the does go out of their way to jostle the other’s kid while it was nursing.

What kind of survival tactic is this, we wonder?  Surely the herd would thrive if they were kind to one another’s offspring?

It’s disappointing.

It’s also a little bit terribly poignant.


elder flowerThe national and international news reel of the past couple weeks has been brutal.  I feel bruised at the soul every time I turn on the radio.  This is a reminder – the concept of humanity as a unity – the concept that we are all HUMAN and more alike than not – is a relatively new concept.  And it is fragile.

I’ve never had a problem with thinking of humans as animals.  We are animals with extraordinary brains, however, and it’s obvious that we have intellectual and spiritual potential beyond many (I won’t say all) of the creatures with which we share the world.  Surely we need not be bound by the same blind territorial instincts as our relatives.  I can only hope and pray that enough of us, striving against our lower instincts, can hold a peace.

Fear and Greed, and the Anger and Violence that abet their motives, are our enemies,           not people.



“Change can change back. (We can go from conservative to liberal, from disciplined to undisciplined…) Change is volatile. Transformation is completely different – though sometimes it is called change. Transformation never makes the past wrong. It transforms it. It doesn’t deny it. It honors it in a way that you can move forward without making anything wrong, and having the past somehow now become complete, rather than wrong. Transformation has a permanence to it – where once you transform, once you awaken, once you see the stations you didn’t see before, you can’t go back. Transformation has the ultimate power of time, and what the world is crying for now is transformation, not necessarily more change, though some change may be a part of it, the route to transformation. Transformation suddenly makes the past make sense, and new futures open up.” ~ Lynne Twistcomet and hickory

Our two goats birthed healthy kids in the past 10 days.  There’s nothing like birth to illustrate the power of transformation.  comet and pepper

Pepper the goat, who came to us as a sweet little kid about a year ago, is now an attentive and worried mother.  The bulge that has slowly grown in her belly over the past five months is now a perfectly beautiful little doe (Comet Wood).  Our other mama goat, Annie, had an equally beautiful, but much larger, buckling (HickoryNut White).hickory portrait

I can’t watch those births, and the growth of those kids, without thinking of our (human) processes, as well.  I remember my children as sweet little bald-headed toothless infants.  They have transformed into walking, running, bike riding, sweaty-headed children with opinions and talents all their own.  And they are far from complete.  Day by day they will grow into adolescents and adults, and if they (we) are so fortunate, they will have children of their own and even become elderly.

We have all been many people, haven’t we?  Most of us cannot remember being infants, and we cannot know exactly who we will become as we continue to age.  We are capable of great change, great transformation, one breath, one heartbeat at a time.

Is transformation ever complete, or never complete?  I suspect the latter.mother and child

The continuum is evident in the garden.  I’ve been watching the garden with different eyes this year, knowing it will be our last growing season at this little homestead.  Twelve years ago, when we landed here, the land, the soil, was rough.  It was hard growing.  With our care and effort and loving attention, the land has transformed.  We can grow a beautiful garden here now, and there’s still room for improvement.  As we come to the point of finding a new steward for this place, I will be seeking someone who will continue to apply the loving care necessary to keep the transformation moving in a positive direction.

Here’s the thing.  I won’t pretend that all transformation is positive, because it isn’t.  People neglect and abuse their land, and what was a once a pretty nice place transforms into a washed out and infertile wasteland.  When people fail to nurture, love, and provide for their children, those children have a harder time making a healthy transformation into the full bloom of adulthood. We be will all be transformed, whether we are paying attention to the process or not.  And we all take part in the transformation of ourselves and those near to us.  lulah and comet

I think it is one of the special gifts of being human, the choices we have in our own transformation.  And though we are deeply swayed by the forces of instinct and hormones, we are not completely ruled by them.  We can allow the bumps, jostles, and upheavals of life harden our hearts and minds, or not.  We can, do, and shall overcome. It is up to us to make our transformations healthy and positive.

It brings me joy to watch the new goat kids stretch in the morning light.  Their skinny newborn bellies are already fattening up with their mama’s good milk.  The garden, soft and  wet with rain is stretching upward toward the swelling moon.  Our children, bursting with the excitements of summer, berries and creek time and fireflies and all, seem to be growing taller and more full in themselves each day.  Joy is a transformative power.  Taking joy in all these growing lives, these transformations are also mine.  I share them with you, so they can be yours too.

I hope you will go find (or make) some more goodness, and share it.  comet and levon



fringe benefits

moonWe waited out the last of the “little winters” with our little greenhouse getting a bit too full of plants ready to go in the ground.  The moon was nearly full, in a nice earth sign with rain in the forecast for the next day.  We hustled and got it (almost) all planted.

Doing this change, this year, scaling back the gardens – it’s strange.  We only planted seventy tomatoes.  My Fellow Man and I stood on the edge of the field, looking at the rows and wondering…  could seventy tomatoes possibly be enough?  How could seventy tomato plants possibly NOT be enough?  It’s been ten years since we’ve grown anything less than one hundred tomato plants.  Our season has been organized around hundreds of row feet of just about everything.  It feels very strange, and sort of unsettling, to be growing less.tomatoes

Part of the weirdness is missing our people.  Year after year, I have considered our customers as we plant.  Thoughts along the lines of: “This family loves this variety of pepper, let’s make sure to have plenty of it!”  Or “This person always wants extra orange tomatoes.” Or “I can’t wait for her to see these purple radishes”.  Sharing the garden was such a large part of growing it.  I miss our people, and I still think of them when I’m out there.  No doubt, there will still be plenty of food sharing going on.  It’s just changing.

Another part is figuring out what we, just our family, want to grow.  After a decade of trying to grow EVERYTHING, the question this season is – what do we want to eat, and how much?  Mostly, the answer is still EVERYTHING, but the proportions are changing, and it feels funny to consult only ourselves, not our larger marketplace, in the decisions.  We have grown mostly paste tomatoes this year, with canning in mind.  The watermelon and cantaloupe bed is smaller, more narrowly defined by our personal tastes.  I’m having a hard time believing that we will survive with anything less than a seventy five foot long row of basil.  It’s just not worth the risk!  But some things, like spinach – we can have a small bed of spinach and be wonderfully satisfied while we wait for the cucumbers to bloom and grow. It won’t be long until the excesses of the growing season will be fully upon us. basil

The topic of “how much is enough” is a big one.  We live in a culture that glorifies excess.  We are raised on it, and in it.  The “average” American child consumes the same amount of resources as thirteen of its neighboring children in Brazil, or thirty-five children in India (source).  The numbers are nothing short of absurd, but I don’t doubt their veracity, because I feel it right here at home.  Here we are, trying to live “simply”, trying to produce instead of consume, and still we are over-run with matchbox cars, legos, paperback books, not to mention the constant demand of the fuel tanks, needing to be refilled.  I’m not into inspiring guilt, in myself or others.  I am very much interested in inspired personal responsibility, in myself and others.

While hustling the garden into place this week, I thought about doing my best, and continuing to learn to do better.  I don’t do this – this gardening, this thinking, this writing, because I feel guilty about our excessive use of resources.  I do it, and advocate for it, because it feels good to strive for better.  It feels good to learn, to change, to grow on the inside.  In fact, it is much more satisfying to learn and grow than to buy more stuff.  It’s just a little more enough

And I believe we can take steps in a completely different direction by looking at what it is that we can make MORE of for the goodness of the world.  Love, of course, is the most obvious thing.  Friendship and understanding, love’s counterparts – can’t have too much of those.  There don’t seem to be too many clover flowers, so I think it’s safe to make more clover.  Flowers in general – especially the ones still attached to their roots. We can use more flowers.   Then there’s the other stuff, like tomatoes, for instance, and lettuce (sweet potatoes, too, and cilantro, arugula, garlic and onions, butternut squash – can’t have too much of these things).  If we can’t eat them, or given them away, the chickens and goats will enjoy them, and we will pile up their manure, let it rot, and spread it on the garden, which leads to another good thing – compost, and fertile soil.  Anything that anyone of us can do to enrich the life of a piece of ground (and I’m talking about earthworms, not Miracle Gro here), THAT activity is a service to all life on earth.   The fact that we gain incredible natural beauty, high quality food, and good health from that service?  That’s just fringe benefits.