a fire, a dinner, a clean house and the love of a community

Some of you may already have heard that our barn burned to the ground in the wee hours of Wednesday July 13th. the building was full to the tier poles of our farm and family’s necessities, it was a sobering moment to see it aflame.fireIn the minutes and hours and days that followed we walked in circles to find direction and muster up the energy to carry on. I loathe to admit, but i really have to, when i first looked at the burnt remains of the farm truck and the shell of our main barn, my initial thought was ” I can not do this”. I am far too busy already, my resources felt pretty darn scarce just yesterday, and heck, it’s the middle of July!! truckfire

and then life keeps going, nothing stops.  there are mouths to feed and squash to pick and flowers blooming. my family and community mobilized immediately. the outpouring of love and support forced me to count my blessings, rather than my losses,right away. we are fine. there was nothing, absolutely nothing, housed in that barn that can’t be bought again. Our livestock was on the other side of the farm, no lives were lost, no irreplaceable objects burnt. truly, despite this tragedy, i am so lucky.smilequickly saturday arrived. as with every other saturday over the past 17 years, we loaded the van and headed to the metro nashville farmers market. a long and exhausting day in the best of times, this trip was epic. friends and supporters swarmed us with help and gifts of all kinds. we were enveloped with the love of a community in a way that words can’t describe. 1q

 

i came home to a house that had been scrubbed. clean, as in really clean. my three children, who offer me plenty of opportunity to gripe, showed the best of themselves on that long saturday. settling in on a couch not covered in books and toys to sip a tea made on a clean kitchen counter. i actually had nothing to complain about. then came a knock on the door. it was our neighbors with a delivery:  a three course meal fresh out of the oven. friends,  i have been waiting for 17 years of saturdays for someone to have dinner waiting for me after the 16 hour market day! i guess i’m sorry it took a barn fire to have a clean house and a home cooked meal awaiting,  but what a delight.123

i hope this post offers each of you the opportunity to see the phoenix rising from the ashes. i have created a gofundme campaign to help us recoup our losses as we try and navigate rough rebuilding terrain. i remain surrounded by hope and light despite this loss. thanks y’all. xo

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.

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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.

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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.

 

horizontal and vertical

basilIt’s the smell of basil that does it to me. I feel grounded. My thoughts come in for landing. At the same time, I am uplifted. My spirit is full of light. I guess, overall, picking basil balances me. And that is how the various streams of thought that have been bouncing in my head all week finally coalesce. It’s the basil.

In the garden, the visual field of work is horizontal. Plants grow out of the earth, into the air. Ourselves and our various livestock walk on the earth with our heads in the air, more or less. We share the effects of gravity, the quality of the atmosphere. We share a horizontal plane.

But in truth, we are being influenced and are making waves in the vertical plane as well. The life beneath the soil has everything to do with what happens above it, as does the atmosphere above us, and beyond.bee flower

It is easier, simpler, to work horizontally and not think too much about the vertical plane. Don’t worry about the soil as long as the plants grow. Just slap down some NPK and carry on. Don’t think about CO2 emissions or the phase of the moon, just drive that tractor!

In the practice of Biodynamic agriculture, we are called upon to expand our thinking, and our work, in every direction. The life beneath the soil is of utmost importance, and we cannot see it. We have to rely on the evidence we find growing out of it to learn about it, and do what we can from up here to make a positive impact below. Likewise, we stretch our understanding upward, into the cosmos, and try to perceive that the soil, the plants, and all life, is influenced by the near and outer reaches of space. We even do things to try to help that relationship be healthy and strong. We cannot see it, but maybe, with time, we begin to feel something about it that we didn’t feel before.

I began thinking of this after attending church last Sunday. The visiting pastor spoke about a three fold way of forgiveness. It was a new one for me. He explained that as we come to understand, ask, and receive the forgiveness of a higher power, we grow in our ability to forgive others. This is laid out in the Lord’s Prayer when we say “forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us.” The unspoken third link is that by engaging in that relationship of forgiveness and forgiving, we become able to forgive ourselves, as well. It’s a very important third link, in my opinion, often overlooked, to the detriment of our well-being.

And it seems to translate into other realms of relationship, as well.

My parents are of the Baby Boomer generation. They had some rather severe differences with their parents, my grandparents, in both lifestyle and ideology. But, from what I witnessed growing up, they still respected their parents. By respecting their parents, they were able to respect themselves, and in turn became respectable people. And I respect them all the more for having watched it all go down.

I don’t know, but I suspect that when we lose respect for others, especially those older than ourselves, it becomes harder to develop a sense of self-respect, which in turn makes it more difficult to treat those younger than ourselves with respect. But how else will they learn? Surely, it’s up to us, each one to become a respectable person.

Verticality isn’t easy. Look to see whether you are sitting up straight right now. Your spine and all the internal organs around it work best when it is lined up, balanced, vertically. But many of us have a tendency to slump into the horizontal plane. When we sit back up, there is an instant of relief, a feeling of rightness, a deeper breath. That instant is followed by some tension, because we have made a habit of the horizontal slump. The habit has invaded the musculature of our backs, so it becomes more difficult to do what we were made to do.tree light

But it’s worth it to do it anyway. We can establish a new habit of sitting tall, and our musculature will adapt, and we will be stronger and breathe more freely. Likewise, if we practice making friendly and respectful relationships with people of all ages (and colors and creeds), our community will be healthier, stronger, and more enjoyable as we begin to appreciate all those people who share our world. If we accept and practice forgiveness, with others, with a higher power, with ourselves, our hearts will be lighter. If we grow our food in relationship to the soil and the air and the whole universe, seen and unseen, our world will be fit for life in abundance, in balance, in beauty.

There’s plenty to be said about the effects of letting ourselves slide into existence on a purely horizontal plane.  I don’t really want to say all that.  It’s easy enough to see, everywhere.  It seems more important to affirm that verticality is worth the effort.

At least, that’s how it seems when I am picking the basil.sunset cloud 2

I would like to give credit to some of my thinking today to the following:

Robert Bly’s book The Sibling Society.

Rudolf Steiner’s work in creating Biodynamic Agriculture.

And Pastor Jason Roe for his effective sermon.