in it

we have been through quite a few springs together in this space.  for those of you new to this blog, you can read my annual spring musings  here and there . be warned,  they’re kind of a bummer. spring is a transitional time and as with all change, it can be messy.



these spring days are so full: our farm team is assembling, the greenhouse is jammed with plants, the high tunnels are busting out spring’s first wave of food, farmers markets are starting up, heck, the milk cow grazing on the green pastures again is giving so much milk, even my simple daily chores take longer.

it’s been three weeks since we have had a day to ourselves, a day off if you will. with guests and apprentices migrating to the farm with all of that seasonal excitement,  we have found ourselves with out a free moment. until today.

this past week we accomplished so much: new fence lines erected thousands of seeds started, maturing plants potted up, summer kitchen opened for the season, pigs sold, chickens given away (sorry cher, our loss is your gain, chuckle, chuckle). the list goes on. last night, as we all anticipated our first true sunday, the kind well earned from a week of hard work, we shared a great meal and smiled at the unfolding of the season before us.



today, the sun shines, the frost of last night is but a distant memory and spring doesn’t seem half bad. through sun and rain, warmth and frost, may this spring unfold flawlessly for us all!


photo credit mrb

i’m playing a bit more on instagram lately @hillandhollowfamily sometimes, when the days get long and my muscles ache,  a picture and a hash tag is all i can muster.



time in the garden

Regardless of whether we’ve ever held a trowel in our hands, we’ve all been sowing seeds, all the time.  They are the seeds of word and deed, and they’re tricky, because it’s hard to really know what you’re planting.  Often, we don’t know that we’re planting at all.  The garden of Life is a long term project.  The longer you stay alive, the more you find out exactly what you’ve sown.

Those early years of adulthood are especially fruitful, or maybe it’s more accurate to say “seedful”.  I guess that’s the time when we’re supposedly “sowing our wild oats”.  But it’s more than wild oats.  Sometimes we sow perennials.  If we sowed seeds of friendship and loving kindness, with luck we may reap generations of fruit.  Again, it takes years to find out.  I love surprises.orion me and melissa

Melissa and I met in college.  We were mutual friends through a housemate of mine in one of the rambling, experimental communal houses I lived in back then (note on communal living: it all comes down to who washes the dishes.).  We became very close.  After college, we began traveling.  We didn’t travel together, so it was easy to drop in and out of contact.  I never felt our mutual affection falter.  This past decade, we’ve both been busy sowing more seeds, carving out our lives, watching from afar in Facebook land.

Something stirred this season in the garden patch of our friendship.  Melissa’s thirteen year old son, Orion, developed a strong interest in food and gardens.  Being the engaged and capable parent that she is, Melissa has done what she could to help him explore his interest.  She took him WWOOFing in Mexico.  She has gotten involved with community gardens.  And then she dropped us a line.orion melissa homestead

We hosted Orion for two weeks, on his own. He arrived (his mother and friend brought him over and we enjoyed a sweet, brief visit) with a ukelele and small duffel bag in the thick of the weediest, sweatiest, busiest time of year.  We had no idea what to expect.  Neither myself nor my Fellow Man have spent much concentrated time with thirteen year old kids since we were thirteen years old.

The timing was good. Lulah went to Florida with some of my folks for a week, departing just as Orion arrived.  Orion softened the blow of losing her.  Without him to distract us, we would have been much more bereft.  By the time she came home, we were all getting adapted to each other.lulah florida 1

And I think we all did good.  Orion gave his best efforts.  We let him sleep (almost) as much as late as he might have otherwise.  He generally came along for the ride, pitching in every time we asked, and hanging around to ask questions.  He appreciated our food, and we found it amusing the way he held the hair out of his face to eat.  Orion became my right hand tomato-picker, an enthusiastic lawn mower, and adept at rough housing with Levon in the hammock.orion 1

orion 2orion 3I loved this moment: It was on a big harvest day, when we had packed the car full of veggies and I was hustling to get a shower and go teach yoga before making my delivery rounds.  Orion had weighed potatoes and sorted tomatoes and lugged baskets to the car, and caught  me as I headed back to the house, asking “Do you need me to do anything now?”.

“Not at the moment.” I said.

“Shucks.” was his reply.  Gotta love that.

We learned a little bit about communication while he was around.  Each family unit makes its own language over time.  It’s a reality check, of sorts, to add a new person and see if they understand the language.  A few times I was able to catch us.  My Fellow Man and I had done subtle communication about the day without laying it out in complete sentences in Orion’s presence.  I didn’t catch it a few times, too, and I’m sure he spent some time scratching his head and wondering how we get anything done.  We’re used to it.

He slept in a tent in the yard, then moved into the storage shed and slept on the massage table, which seemed like a major upgrade to him.  He tuned my guitar and sang old Grateful Dead and Beatles tunes.  He wanted to talk about rock and roll history (of which I was woefully ignorant), politics, philosophy, food, and simple living.  He was not attached to an electronic umbilical cord.  He prefers the present moment.  He is deeply devoted to his mother.  He is not your average American thirteen year old boy.  But I’m not surprised.

In Orion, I see the fruit of my friend Melissa.  I see her life, her choices playing out into another generation.  She has always been an artist, and the garden of her life is a beautiful place.  It is a delight to me to feel that our roots of our friendship still tangle enough, to this day, for her to share her boy, one of the fruits of her existence, with us.  He tested himself on our soil.  He learned a little about work, about himself, and about us.  He didn’t like the okra.  Cantaloupes are more his style.

My only regret was that we didn’t take him traveling.  This summer has proved a challenging one for that.  It would have been nice for him to see more of our local farmscapes, and meet more of our local farmers, and friends.  Hopefully, he’ll be back.  We would love to see how he grows.

It feels good to see the seeds of friendship grow into another generation.  With luck, the seeds we planted with Orion, seeds of information, and also of friendship, will grow into something altogether new in the fertile ground of his curious young mind and heart.  It will take years to see what he will plant, and grow.  Isn’t that wonderful?with orion


in it

there is nothing that screams “start” like the arrival of the season’s first apprentice

here in the hollow we begin emerging from our winter’s “rest” as the days really start to lengthen. usually in early february we actively start to work in the greenhouse. we slowly shift from a life focused almost entirely around the woodstove’s heat to one that eventually encompasses all of our farm’s acreage.  first with ordering seed then finding the notebooks to chart our our field maps, then in the blink of an eye it seems,  we have stopped hauling fire wood and started mowing the grass.


although sometimes it feels somewhat startling, the transition is really rather gradual. there is however nothing gradual about the moment when our first guest arrives. the winter is most definitely our time off from hosting. we focus inward on our family, our home, our personal projects. when the season starts to roll, there comes a day that we open our doors once again to folks coming here to work and learn with us.

we have hosted short and long term visitors here for as long as we can remember. each year is as different as the individuals that join us. one thing does remain the same year in and year out, once we have an apprentice on the farm the pace quickens, the schedule instantly becomes more rigid, and A LOT gets done. muscles already sore ache a bit more and we take a deep breath and face the season ahead.


we welcomed our first WWOOFer this past week. a horticulturist from southern california, she is a perfect match for our early season hosting. she keeps a great pace, knows her plants, and can mix concrete with an about to turn 4 year old assistant.

here we are, for better or worse,for drier or wetter, we’re in it.

here we go 2015. here we go.