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.

 

long time coming

Twelve years ago, when we were making our plans to leave the paradise of Maui and return home to Tennessee, we had a vision. We imagined creating a beautiful farm entity, well rounded and full of life. We imagined grazers eating grass, leaving their manure to make the pastures and gardens greener. We imagined fruit from trees and vines. We imagined clear running water and tall trees, abundant gardens and living soil. We saw children with room to roam and plenty to do in the living world.woodside high field

And the place that came our way was this sweet little hollow land with a cozy red house with a blue tin roof. It was a perfect place to land, and the price was right. Our daughter was born here and we set to work clearing trees and making room for gardens.

As soon as our daughter took her first steps, we saw the need for more space, and so we built another room onto our house, but that wasn’t the whole picture and we knew it. There were many projects that we just couldn’t do in these four and a half deep, low acres. The ground was improving, but not much could stop it from being low and wet and unsuitable for orchards and large hooved critters.

We started looking around at land. We saw some pretty places. We learned a lot about what we were really looking for, and we learned that it was hard to find.stream

Here were some of our requirements:

1 – enough open high ground with good light and air circulation for animals, gardens, and housing.

2 – clean running water for home and farm use, and ideally enough to play in during summer’s heat.

3 – privacy. This usually means plenty of trees, but also implies LESS road frontage instead of more.

4 – some kind of structure in place – a live-able house would be nice but a barn would do.

5 – other details: dark nighttime skies, and good distance from nearby corn/soybean/tobacco fields.

Include the budgetary details in there, and suddenly it’s a lot of requirements.

We saw old, worn out farmsteads with rutted tobacco fields and eroded streams. We saw sweet, ancient farmhouses that made us sneeze. We saw beautiful places with hardly any trees. We saw beautiful places that sat right on a big busy road. We saw beautiful places with 3,000 square foot houses that we couldn’t afford and didn’t want to live in.

Then we had another baby. Both my Fellow Man and myself developed chronic respiratory sensitivities directly linked to the cold damp creek-bottom air. We knew that we needed to find higher ground. We adjusted pace, and we kept looking.

While we looked, we kept growing. We kept loving our little place, as it sheltered our children and provided our food and a good chunk of our livelihood. Our sense of urgency ebbed and flowed with seasons, but it never completely abated. Our dream kept changing, just like us, but the dream still included elements that just didn’t fit in this hollow.

It is difficult to write about this, because I believe in contentment and I don’t like to sound like I’m complaining. It isn’t easy for me to explain the reasons for wanting to leave our home of nearly twelve years. That’s why I’m only sharing it with you now, that we’re finally beginning to do it.

We just bought a new farm.woodside barn

It is in our same county, nearer to the county seat, but still close enough to our “neighborhood”, so to speak. It’s 64 acres. A tiny bit of county road frontage. A big barn in need of repair and another old barn beyond repair. A large enough creek spanning a long border. About forty acres of woods, kinda cut over but there are still some giants on the steep hills and the deep hollows, and twenty-some acres of open land, ten in the bottom and the rest on the hilltop. The land is not lush and fertile. It’s a little over-used and neglected. Like almost all land here, it’s a rehab project. But there is life in the land, and it feels good. I’ve been surreptitiously posting pictures of it for the past few weeks, as we waded through this decision and the process of making it real.

It has been an eight year process, at least. Maybe it’s been a life long process. And just like so many living processes – this is surely not the end but just another beginning.  Maybe that is why we don’t feel like popping a bottle of champagne or making a big to-do over it.  It feels like a natural culmination of these years of searching, learning, and growing.  It feels like it was just supposed to be this way, finally, now.

Extracting ourselves from this place will take awhile. There is no house on the new farm, so we will be building. That will take awhile too. The eight years of searching was just the beginning.  There will be so much to share. I look forward to sharing it.  I hope you’ll come along for the adventure!woodside 3

inner space

The cost of simplicity is not less than everything.” – Anthony Blake, playing with T.S. Eliot’s “The Four Quartets”.  (Chew on that for a little while if you like.  I am.)wowee

That’s what he said last weekend.  I only attended a couple hours of the seminar.  This is one of the snippets that was given, and received.

If you have, like me, exposed your mind into the workings of Anthroposophy, then you understand how thick reading material can be.  It’s not easy reading.  The works are G.I. Gurdjieff are similarly dense literary material.  Similarly rare, somewhat strange, and esoteric.  Similarly profound in possibility.

I only dipped my toes in, last weekend.  It was an interesting dip.  I came away with some thoughts I hadn’t had before.

The esoteric, the inner teachings, workings, wisdom of any and all paths, necessitate a certain amount of internal space.  There were spaces between Anthony Blake’s words.  He could have elaborated on many points, but didn’t.  There was space, quietness, in the music that accompanied the event.  Spaces for the words that aren’t being said.  Spaces for thoughts.  Spaces for experiences that might not express themselves in thought or word.  And more than just the space itself is the invitation to explore it.

Inner space is a constant.  We may not know it, or feel it.  We may ignore it all together.  But even in the thick of the things of life, there is space inside of us, and we have an choice about how to use it.  We have the choice to be conscious.family canada pumpkin 2

Being aware of our inner space opens us up to amazing opportunity.  It may not be an easy opportunity.  It may sometimes, or often, be very difficult.  Staying awake to the fact of our inner space may lead us to see uncomfortable things about ourselves and the world around us.  But it also opens us to experience the miracles of everyday existence.swirl

Life is fast.  It flies by, and it is sometimes easier to not pay attention to the details, not to connect to ourselves and our fellow people as it goes.  Engaging our sense of inner spaciousness gives us more tools for engaging with our world – outer space, if you will, which certainly includes everything from the dust bunnies in our closets to the far reaches of the Universe.  It looks to me like the people who have lived well and pass out of this life in peace and without regrets are people who have integrated their inner and outer spaces.  They live fully, love fully, share freely and enjoy the fleeting waking moments of this precious opportunity to be alive.

All paths of esoteric spiritual thought are concerned with this inner space.  The word esoteric itself is from the Greek eso, meaning within.  But that doesn’t mean you have to join a secret metaphysical society to be aware of your inner space.  So many “secrets” are right out in the open.  A deep slow breath in the open air, under a warm sun.  What does it do to your senses, your mine, your heart?  How secret is that?

NGC 4639 is a beautiful example of a type of galaxy known as a barred spiral. It lies over 70 million light-years away in the constellation of Virgo and is one of about 1500 galaxies that make up the Virgo Cluster. In this image, taken by the NASA/ESA Hubble Space Telescope, one can clearly see the bar running through the bright, round core of the galaxy. Bars are found in around two thirds of spiral galaxies, and are thought to be a natural phase in their evolution. The galaxy’s spiral arms are sprinkled with bright regions of active star formation. Each of these tiny jewels is actually several hundred light-years across and contains hundreds or thousands of newly formed stars. But NGC 4639 also conceals a dark secret in its core — a massive black hole that is consuming the surrounding gas. This is known as an active galactic nucleus (AGN), and is revealed by characteristic features in the spectrum of light from the galaxy and by X-rays produced close to the black hole as the hot gas plunges towards it. Most galaxies are thought to contain a black hole at the centre. NGC 4639 is in fact a very weak example of an AGN, demonstrating that AGNs exist over a large range of activity, from galaxies like NGC 4639 to distant quasars, where the parent galaxy is almost completely dominated by the emissions from the AGN.

NGC 4639 is a beautiful example of a type of galaxy known as a barred spiral. Thanks Hubble!

There are worlds within you, within each of us.  Galaxies.  Ecosystems.  Fertile garden beds, pastures, and deep forests.   Lightness, and darkness too.  It only takes a moment to turn your attention there.  You may not even have to stop what you are doing.  But turning your attention that way will probably change the way you are doing whatever that is.  Letting yourself live and work in this world, with a living connection to the inner world….

I think we were born to do that.moth to the flame