howdy fella

it was just about a year ago when our 2013 apprentice asked if she could return for a second year of farmer training. it might not sound like much to you, but for us it was a big step . we have a 15 year old, well curated, fairly defined single season apprenticeship program here and hadn’t really embraced advanced training in all of our years of mentoring. last wintry winter when we met and talked and planned for the 2015 season, we decided to take the plunge and welcome her back: challenging all of us to reach beyond our well established comfort zone.



it was later that spring, right when the season started to unfurl rapidly, when i got the phone call. our soon to be second year apprentice  was unexpectedly pregnant. “could i still come? “she asked. large decisions, an unknown future, and no partner  “would you still welcome me?”

“with open arms” i said, “no matter what.”

so the hill and hollow 16th season began. what unfolded here on our farm in 2015 is a tale to be told.   it is the tale of a young woman trying to make tough decisions. it is the tale of myself and my family attempting to support that process.  it is the tale of a rocking community of folks gathering in the fields to listen, advise and welcome (and manage those fields that feed us all). it is the tale of one special midwife. it is the tale of people coming together in support of each other. it is the tale of a diverse group of folks taking paths not easily taken, making commitments from our hearts.  

today i am proud. proud of my family, my friends, my greater community and proud of deanna. she remained steadfast in her commitment to her self and her babe now just hours old. while cultivating and composting and planting and harvesting and putting up hay and moving sheep the weeks passed into months. she was envisioning herself  as a farmer, as a shepherd, and as a single mom.


a new life has begun in the crazy hills and hollows of south central kentucky.  deanna’s journey into motherhood has begun and we can all welcome a little boy.


four, a retrospective (and introducing thunder bullet)

We recently celebrated one of those great big birthdays.  All the fingers of one hand.  Five years old.  Wow.

Levon and Lulah shared a birthday celebration in Canada - hence the extra candles.

Levon and Lulah shared a birthday celebration in Canada – hence the extra candles.

It only seems right that I am only able to reflect on Levon’s fourth year now that it is over. It has been an amazing and wonderful ride. This year, he has mastered himself in new ways. He began to write his own name, and doodle letters. He wipes his own bum and changes his own clothes, most of the time. He is the master of the tricycle, and can pump a swing. He sleeps in his own bed, which doubles as the couch during the daytime. He has made rapid-fire progress out of the world of toddler and into full swing boyhood. He is rambunctious and loud. He is also sweet and very helpful when he has a mind to be. He sits on my lap and gives me “too many kisses” while I pretend to be overwhelmed. Could I ever really have too many kisses from this little guy? Nope.levon sweet 2

But one of the most interesting parts of Levon’s fourth year has been the awakening of Bunny Rabbit and Thunder Bullet. Bunny Rabbit showed up soon after his birthday last year. She is a girl, not a bunny. Bunny Rabbit is just her name. She resembles Lulah in some ways, but she has long silver hair that changes colors and magical powers. Thunder Bullet is her father. He has magic too, of course. Their family, including two brothers named Kraut and Fish, and two more sisters named Katie and Katelyn, and a mother, Gold Leaf (we don’t hear much about her), live in New York City, which is just over the western hill from here, if you ask Levon. Looking at a map, he puts their house on a far northern island in the Nunavut Province in Canada. They may well be closely related to Saint Nick, and they spend lots of time with Levon whenever we’re not around (in other words: in the privacy of his own head).levon sweet

Bunny Rabbit and Thunder Bullet are happy in the city. They have a big barn. All their vehicles have four wheel drive and plenty of hydraulics. Nothing slows them down, and their adventures are endless. Really, endless. At home, we hear about them all the time.  And by that I do mean ALL THE TIME.

Anything we don’t have, Thunder Bullet and Bunny Rabbit have, in spades. If my Fellow Man bags a deer, Thunder Bullet gets a bear. When we’re piling compost with the front end loader, we hear about Thunder Bullet’s veritable arsenal of tractors, and did I mention that Thunder Bullet has hydraulics? Oh, does he

One hot summer day, I had a job to do in the upper garden and Levon had no choice but to accompany me. There was no shade and he was tired and peevish about having to leave the cool hollow play space. I was tired, too, and my primary desire was to finish the job at hand and head back into the shelter of the trees. Levon was babbling along beside me. I wasn’t paying a great deal of attention to his narrative until he began to ask me questions. I still wasn’t very attentive, and I don’t even remember the question he asked that sparked this interaction. He asked some kind of normal kid question that can easily be either over-answered or brushed off, like why hot peppers are hot, or why dogs like to dig. In my busy and somewhat inattentive state, I gave some kind of unsatisfactory answer along the lines of:

I don’t know Levon. I guess that’s just how God made them.”

I remember now his little sweaty brow furrowing as he stared at me and said,

Thunder Bullet can kill God.”

It was one of those parenting moments. I wanted to laugh, but pulled it in. I wanted to give him a hug and press rewind. I wanted to have a long talk about goodness and light and love and eternity. But I had to think fast and make the most of it, somehow.

God wasn’t born, so he can’t be killed.”

Levon’s eyebrows shot up. “Hmmmph.” he said.

Thunder Bullet didn’t make any more appearances that day. Levon was chewing on new concepts in that vast and ever expanding head space of his, and I had a whole new appreciation of Thunder Bullet’s powers.

rendering of Thunder Bullet by Lulah, with Levons directions.

rendering of Thunder Bullet by Lulah, with Levons directions.

It would be easy to feel inadequate in the presence of Thunder Bullet and Bunny Rabbit. Clearly, Levon is translating his perceptions of the world around him through these characters. He is trying to justify the world he meets with the world he knows (now that I think on it, it’s a lifelong process), so there are all kinds of explorations, longings, and frustrations at play in the process. And though he has some of his own ideas filtering through, I think it’s fair to say that many of his perceptions are sponged straight off of us.

Bunny Rabbit and Thunder Bullet have taught me to mind the tone of my voice when I speak about what we want and need. They have taught me about contentment and the importance of voicing contentment to the children. Yes, there is always room for improvement. And YES, what we have and where we are is already very good.levon birthday

It is interesting to me that Thunder Bullet and Bunny Rabbit take a break when we’re out and about. If the environment is new and there are unfamiliar things going on, that part of Levon’s brain (the New York City and Nunavut part) is otherwise engaged. On vacation, we didn’t hear about Thunder Bullet until we were about to head home.canada levon cap

One day, these fantastic characters will dissolve into the expanding pool of Levon’s life experience. His perceptions and ways of perceiving will change and change again. We will be lucky to remember any of the multitude of stories they have brought to our household. They have been wildly entertaining stories.

It is bittersweet to see this fourth year go. It has been such a sweet year. As Levon picks up speed, it takes a heartfelt effort to keep up with him. I’m sure he won’t be slowing down anytime soon. He is a growing boy. I’m excited to see what he does with his fifth year.levon carrot

bye bye basil

i was sort of ridiculed at a gathering this past weekend when i expressed my jubilation at the first killing frost that had occurred around my region the night before. i looked about the room for some support for my excessive glee. sure, i am sorry to see the passing of summer, but if you haven’t had your fill of pesto by now, well, no comment.

life is wild on a family farm during the frenetic summer months. honestly, with the coming of winter we look ahead with such joyful anticipation of the longer nights, the warmth of the wood stove and a wee bit more free time.

so, happy frost y’all, we have had 3 nights in a row and around here, we are celebrating!


all good things must come to an end.