fifty

i really love to plan a party. i am also not shy about planning one to celebrate me. needless to say, i had all kinds of ideas in the months leading up to my 50th.  fabulous ways to ring in my next half century. then my barn burned down. then a friend passed away. the wind got knocked out of my party planning sails as my birthday drew nearer.

birthday

it has been many, many years since i joined in on the festivities at long hungry creek farm. in the years since that summer paul and i called red boiling springs home, attending the biodynamic conference seemed like such a difficulty:  young children, friday harvests  and long market days make an autumn’s weekend gathering pretty far fetched. this year was different. with no CSA delivery and no clear idea how to celebrate my birthday weekend, last week it became incredibly clear that the 30th annual biodynamic celebration was actually my 50th birthday party.

a virtual kiss to each of you for making me feel so celebrated and alive. i imagined there would be no better way to celebrate than to be with my best friends conversing with the most admired of our region’s farmers. i sensed i would find it amazing to be away from my farm and family for one night. i was totally confident that dining on fine farm fare that i din’t have to cook was going to be worth it all. what i didn’t know as i pulled out of the driveway alone with the rising sun, is how absolutely perfect it truly would be. friends, old and new, i love you deeply. thanks for singing to me and dancing with me. thanks for the home grown, home made, hand crafted, beauty you bestowed upon me. thank you, deeply and most importantly,  for sharing with me this wonderful life.

right now :: recovering, exhilarated

For twenty years, we have held a gathering of eclectic, “holistic”, “alternative” farmers, gardeners, and homesteaders at Long Hungry Creek Farm.  It’s a sort of a family reunion where new folks are always welcome.conference 3

I’ve probably attended more than fifteen of those twenty years worth of gatherings.  (We call it a “conference”.)  And usually the weather is great.  Sometimes, it gets cold that weekend.  Sometimes it rains one night, or part of a day.  I cannot remember that it has ever ever rained so much and at the same time been so cold for the weekend of our get-together as it was this year.

I was completely unnerved.  This is an outdoor event.  We put up an extra tent in the yard – a big tent.  But I knew it wasn’t sufficient.

Truth was, it didn’t matter.  As soon as the people began to arrive, my apprehensions began to melt.  The people who attend this event are wonderful people.  Some went to town and got rooms at the local B&Bs.  Some camped in the rain.  No one complained.  They drank a lot of coffee and hot tea.  They ate the warm meals with gratitude.  They may have even attended MORE of the workshops than usual, because they were held in protected locations.conference 4conference 2

Both Friday and Saturday were cold and wet.   Sunday, the clouds broke and the sun warmed us, through and through.

We celebrated the goodness of another season past.  We exchanged our thoughts, and our laughter.  We delved into the mystery of the living soil, the good and beautiful earth that we share, and the simultaneous struggle and victory of being human.  This is the new agricultural revolution.  It is populated with good company.conference 1

I am grateful to everyone who took part in the weekend.  I am still sleeping it off.  And I am still exhilarated.

preparations

BD flier 14

This year marks the nineteenth year that a group of eclectic, interesting, earthy people has gathered at Long Hungry Creek Farm to share their knowledge, inspire one another, and celebrate the passage of another season.  If my math is correct, I was about twenty-one years old the first time this event happened.  As I remember it, I was just finishing college, full of fun, in love with the freedom of the farm and just a fledgling in the ways of growing good food, biodynamically.

I still consider myself a fledgling in the ways of biodynamics, but the muscles I use to help make the annual Biodynamic conference (we call it a Celebration, but the educational component is still strong) at Long Hungry happen have gotten stronger as the years have passed. Even though there’s still a long list of things to do here at home, I’ve been spending more and more time getting ready for that wonderful weekend event.  There’s a lot of preparation that goes into it.

photo credit: Katie Phillips

photo credit: Katie Phillips

The herb and animal based formulas used in biodynamic agriculture are commonly called the “preparations”, or “preps” for short.  I don’t remember reading any particular source for WHY that word is used to describe them, but it makes sense to me.  Each individual preparation has its own special rhythm and recipe to follow for its creation.  Most involve long periods of time either hanging in the sun and air, or buried in the earth.  There is a preciousness to the process of making each one, and the personal ritual is valuable to the grower seeking to grow her intimacy with the land.  But the preparations in and of themselves, are just what we call them: preparatory.

photo credit: Katie Phillips

photo credit: Katie Phillips

They set the stage for the real work to take place.  They invite the soil microbiology, the forces, near and far, invisible to the human eye, that enliven and enrich our compost piles, our garden soils, the atmosphere of our homesteads.  When all those forces come to play on and in the land, they impart a goodness and a greater vitality to the plants and animals that live and work in that place.  The preparations set the stage for this synergy, an alchemy of sorts, to take place.  When the harvest is brought to the table, that vitality is evident on the plate, and it also goes to work in our own bodies and minds.

Even though the job of preparing for the Biodynamic Celebration can be hectic at times, I love the work of it.  The conference is special to me, and I’m willing to work to keep that specialness alive and spread it around.

There have  been a few times in the past nineteen years when I couldn’t make it home for the weekend.  Sometimes I was out of the country, sometimes just too far afield to get back, but I always heard about it when I stopped back in for a visit.  Who was the keynote this time and what crazy thing happened in the kitchen.  In those early years, I spent most of my time in the kitchen.  It’s a great place to learn.

These more recent years, I spend most of my weekends somewhere between a meander and a mad dash from one place to the other, gathering helpers for the kitchen, re-stocking TP to the outhouse, giving each speaker a gentle gesture that will hopefully indicate to them that they should wrap up the talk in five minutes or so.  I ring the bell when the speakers change sessions and watch people move around and mingle on their way to whatever is next.  I love this event so much.  Even when it gets crazy busy, it’s hard not to smile in the thick of it.

photo credit: Alan Powell

photo credit: Alan Powell

I love the speakers.  Many return, year after year, bringing whatever they have to share from another season of work, study, and life.  They are quirky folks, some serious, some shy, some funny.  This year, there are farmers, gardeners, university professors and employees, esotericists, anthroposophists, permaculturalists, graziers, homeopaths, and osteopaths.  We will cross paths on a farm, share meals, stories, knowledge and understanding, and our worlds will become brighter for our efforts.

I love the helpers.  The beautiful kitchen crew who hustle up amazing abundant meals for the crowds of hungry people who stand in line, relishing the thought of the butternut pies waiting at the journey’s end.  There are the main chefs who return to us year after year, working in this unconventional farm kitchen, cooking to their own tunes while the attendees flutter around the rest of the grounds, applying their minds to the food while the chefs apply their hands.  Then there are the volunteers, of all ages and walks of life, asking what they can do, and then doing it with so much grace and joy.  I love them as I have been them, in that lovely service.

I love the friends who come, year after year, and bring their children.  I love that these children have grown into these peculiar friendships, where they look forward to seeing each other for one weekend of each year.  They love each other, too.  I relish these times of comparing notes, catching up, sharing joys and commiserating losses.  Many of us see each other in the flesh only this one time each year, but I would miss them sorely if they did not show up.

photo credit: Katie Phillips

photo credit: Katie Phillips

I love the newcomers.  Some are visibly excited, some maybe a little hesitant, or cautiously curious.  I love pointing out the basic quarters – facilities around that side of the house (outhouses – yes – really) with a hand-washing station beside, line up for meals on this side of the house. Park in the middle of the field, camp on the edges.  Speakers meet in the house, in the open shed, or down in the barn.  Vendors are out in the big tent.  Take a schedule please, and don’t hesitate to ask questions.  I love watching them warm up and make connections with the folks around them. I love seeing them enjoy the meals that come pouring out of the kitchen.  They delight in the good air, the good food, the natural light, and the basic human sharing that we do over the weekend.

All the preparations we’re doing now are for that end result.  That we may all share in a common experience of whole life, quality time, and full goodness, together. We’re making the house and land ready to welcome them (you).  We’re contemplating the schedule, planning the meals, trying to account for each detail, so that when we have all arrived, the stage will be set for our combined synergy, the alchemy of this regional community, together again.  It is always worth preparing.  It is always special.

photo credit: Katie Phillips

photo credit: Katie Phillips

Please, feel welcomed to join us.