Growing a Farm

 

Jonathan captures the sweet Killdeer nest.

Killdeer nest – Photo by Jonathan Mann

How does one grow a farm? What’s the adequate amount of sunlight, nurture, preparation, vision, IPA, planning, replanning, selection, drive, dive, hands? This farm has been a true manifestation of place and community and vision. But, it’s been a humbling process to realize where to jump into the circle, already in turn. This farm needs to grow from deeper than the soil up, it needs to start in the soil itself. To grow soil is to grow plants, to then grow a farm, to grow nutrient dense food for the community, to be able to sit back and enjoy an IPA, to stretch and get up and dive into the circle again.

I think about the emergence of this season and it has not unfolded as planned. Successions of brassicas (cabbage, broccoli and kale) have gone into the field in little waves, in hopes to determine best planting time for our alpine-mediterranean-high desert climate. And each have been taken out by incoming tides of cut worms, chickens on the loose, ants and what I’m finding out is a micronutrient deficiency of Boron. Lessons have come in on these tides too; fennel and cilantro have been too potent for most of these pests, where there is a bite, there’s always a bug and mental note to grow more lettuce, with their hardy rippling leaves of joy.

Split stems - A sign of Boron deficiency in Brassica crops.

Split stems – A sign of Boron deficiency in Brassica crops.

There are many things in active  growth, besides farmer and farm. These not planned unfoldings are blessings and keep me grounded in process and true wealth, like of being  always conscious of the Killdeer nest in the middle of the field. This knowledge which kept the constant rattle of my brain anchored in the present when navigating from point to point, as to not place unwanted steps. The same with the vernal appearance of the farm resident Gopher Snake, who’s grown since last spring, and alerts me in a fashion that raises my heart rate higher than the bird’s nest. A toad! I remember as a child a large toad that lived by our yard hose. It was one of those moments that didn’t carry on into the years, as it moved on and wasn’t seen in subsequent springs. Seeing this large toad in the field makes me happy to the core. It has dug a hole right at the end of the lettuce bed and can be found under a Red Coss leaf umbrella from time to time. I hope it’s adapting its diet to one of plump cutworms, please!

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Killdeer chicks and Mama

Killdeer chicks and Mama

Climbing peas with fennel in the background.

Climbing peas with fennel in the background.

Things don’t always work out as planned. I’m not immune this feeling, but I’m starting to know it well. The stomach nausea after a killing freeze, a plant taken out by a hula hoe, the mass munching of grubbing grubs, a flat of dropped tomatoes. So it goes. I’ve transitioned beyond ‘young grasshopper’ phase with these lessons of life, of letting anger pass,  of honoring cycles, the gift of the moment and the reset button in one’s heart. The stomach ache is always the last to shake however, the sour sorrow of the core. Sweet Mama I’m sure is housing this same ache, one of her speckled investments of instinct and care, unable to unfold its origami wings from their constellation shell – suspended as the farm circle turns.

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Oh Deere!

Native flowers blooming on the hillside.

Native flowers blooming on the hillside.

Spring is here. The emergence. Buds and blooms, seeds and dreams, the stretching of green and opening of color. The swirling in and out of random weather. This is spring, the cusp debut, the quick bursts, the excelleration. To be present in this moment is to be a part of something very special! The farm has been present with it all. It has been present with the glowing greenhouse and the 40mph winds, the native flowers opening up to feed the bees and visions materializing- and boy are they ever!!

The greenhouse mid March.

The greenhouse mid March.

 

 

It has become glaringly evident that here in Siskiyou County our weather pattern is more of a weather beat. A pulse that moves around creating a song all it’s own, that may or may not have rhythm and has a heavy emphasis on wind section! As I’m learning the hard way, it’s a bit of a harsh climate and investing in season extension tools is nonnegotiable. The farming guru of efficiency and season extension is Elliot Coleman and it has been in his philosophies that I’ve been subscribing. ‘The New Organic Grower’ has long been a favorite publication of mine, now ‘The Winter Harvest Handbook’ has been rocking my world and has me dreaming up various tunnels. I can gladly say that I have Tunnel Vision, low tunnels, high tunnels, caterpillar tunnels – Grow Tunnels! Last week the first wave of brassicas and spring goodies went in and over them a nice little protective hops and some frost cloth. When the nights dip down, there’s a layer of greenhouse plastic that gets pulled over the frost cloth for added insulation. I think that tunnels like these are going to play a big role in the future of this farm, however, these last few days have provided a wealth of education towards this learning curve. The winds came up and of corse, took the frost cloth off. The winds have actually been so aggressive, that I now have the cloth pinned on the ground under the hoops for the time being, protecting the plants more from wind burn and dehydration than from freezes. When this weather ‘beat’ passes, we’ll stake in anchors, put the layers back on the hoops and run a cord over the cloth to hold everything together. We’ll keep fine tuning this concept and will hopefully strike a harmonious melody!

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Low Tunnels!

Low Tunnels!

And more March Manifestation Miracles – Say hello to new farm friend, Patrick Deere! You’re surprised? I’m still in complete shock! There have been many times when I’ve been coy in accepting that over and over again my life has been a overflowing bounty of blessings. But like this spring, I just have to remind myself to be oh so ever present with this very sweet moment. Work hard, play hard, give deeply and appreciate your Blessings with all your heart! Here we have it, beautiful tractor! Welcome to the farm family Patty!

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Oh Patty, you and my Dad are going to be BEST FRIENDS!

Oh Patty, you and my Dad are going to be BEST FRIENDS!

Big Bon-Fire Birthday

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A Year. Homeward Bounty Farm is officially a year old. The farm now can teeter from one season to the next on two strong legs, big dreams are starting to grow in and are able to sink their teeth into the meat of juicy ideas, the soil is building, and the land is recognizing and reidentifying – ‘I’m a farm.’ It’s getting easier to sleep at night as I know everything is going to be alright. I’ve had phases of worry and stress, probably natural for any first years farmer, but I’m realizing more and more that this farm is not wholly dependent on me, that this farm is truly being held up by a family, a community and a vision that is greatly deeper than my sole capacity can create, thank goodness!  I’m eager to be a midwife and support this project, as it develops and grows into something I believe will be sweetly rich and self knowing.

A mantra that surfaced during last year’s farm clean-up party was, ‘the farm provides.’ And it was true. You need a shovel? Look around and soon enough you would find one against the fence, a solitary tool that has stood the test of time, a patiently leaning relic of the last owners, or the ones before. Upon purchase, it was quite apparent that this property represented strata of hobbies from dwellers throughout the years. Anything I may need, and plenty I didn’t need, came with the farm.  The farm has provided, it has provided many trips to the dump and metal recycling, it has provided stray shovels, and loads and loads worth of fuel for bon-fires to keep us warm and in a festive glow.

This first year birthday was appropriately celebrated with one of the best candles yet! We tackled some worthy projects, cleaning out windrows of renegade tumbleweeds, dead trees, derelict fences came down and the mother load rotting wood pile traded its BTU’s with impressive ignition! And the farm provided and the vision shown true, as amazing members of the community came out for an afternoon of splendid productivity. This is how I know that as this farm grows it will not be from my hands alone and that this vision is creating itself. I know because it’s the younger brothers of my high school best friends, now men who came out with excitement. It was Paul’s uncle Danny, determined to tackle it all, the most loyal of CSA members that value the connection with the earth and have with out fail supported Homeward Bounty Farm. Three generations were represented, folks new to the community and neighbors…..and the farm totem, the wind, decided to hold off until the night hours, the rains came and the big birthday candle when out with the prayed for wish of rain. The farm provides! The farm provides! Happy Birthday and Many More!

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Water Tone

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A New Year has crested and with it the days start to tell a story. A story of the present and tales of themes to come. We are the ones that define the new calender, its tone based on our goals, resolutions and resolve.

In my mind I’ve constructed hats, fashioned caringly and in detail, of which I’m striving to wear in balance this year. However, during these times in crafting what WE want, we are often overlooking the patterns of reality. How do we consult our shiny new goals of balance with the deck that will be dealt to us? What notes will be played, to ring out with realism in the bell of clear January days?

Predictable small talk this winter has comprised of winter farm happenings, holiday gatherings and the weather. Conversations warm up and then dominantly plateau about the sky and how it’s not falling, and because it is not, it feels like it is. We talk about the lack of rain in a cathartic way. Our voices come out strong, in hopes to hide the quiver. Our tones dip into fear, but sustain faith,  as if we’re conversing about a dear friend who is acutely ill. I’m at the point of exhaustion towards these conversations – parched, by the talk about the state of California and our declared drought. It can be felt on the roof of my mouth and it fills my eyes as I look at a fourteen-thousand foot mountain with a dusting more appropriate to August.

The conversations continues in my head, with less postured strength in my inner voice. The shallow depths of the water table a reality for life on this farm. Is this the year to establish perennials, will they get a big enough drink to sink their roots in? I comb through seed catalogues for ‘drought resistant’ and xerophytes and I revisit my hats.  In lieu of my personal goals I create a new hat. This one made of glass.  This is the hat that matters. It is the one that will keep me dry when the sky falls with rain, when the creeks rise and the trees take in their fill. Most importantly, a hat that will magnify the melody of rain in my ears. Each drop ringing loudly and filling me with relief and a true sense of balance for the year to come.

Water

I was born in a drought year. That summer

my mother waited in the house, enclosed

in the sun and the dry ceaseless wind,

for the men to come back in the evenings,

bringing water from a distant spring.

Veins of leaves ran dry, roots shrank.

And all my life I have dreaded the return

of that year, sure that it sill is

somewhere, like a dead enemy’s soul. Fear

of dust in my mouth is always with me,

 and I am the faithful husband of the rain,

 I love the water of wells and springs,

 and the taste of roofs in the water of cisterns.

I am a dry man whose thirst is praise

of clouds, and whose mind is something of a cup.

My sweetness is to wake in the night

after days of dry heat, hearing the rain.

Wendell Berry

A slight snow storm in December, freezing fog and some mild rain has been the only winter moisture.

A slight snow storm in December, freezing fog and some mild rain has been the only winter moisture.IMG_1912 IMG_1915

 

Post Standard One

Many years later, as he faced the firing squad, Colonel Aureliano Buendia was to remember that distant afternoon when his father took him to discover ice. At that time Macondo was a village of twenty adobe houses, built on the bank of a river of clear water that ran along a bed of polished stones, which were white and enormous, like prehis­toric eggs. The world was so recent that many things lacked names, and in order to indicate them it was necessary to point. Every year during the month of March a family of ragged gypsies would set up their tents near the village, and with a great uproar of pipes and kettledrums they would display new inventions.

Post Standard Two

Many years later, as he faced the firing squad, Colonel Aureliano Buendia was to remember that distant afternoon when his father took him to discover ice. At that time Macondo was a village of twenty adobe houses, built on the bank of a river of clear water that ran along a bed of polished stones, which were white and enormous, like prehis­toric eggs. The world was so recent that many things lacked names, and in order to indicate them it was necessary to point. Every year during the month of March a family of ragged gypsies would set up their tents near the village, and with a great uproar of pipes and kettledrums they would display new inventions.

Post Standard Three

Many years later, as he faced the firing squad, Colonel Aureliano Buendia was to remember that distant afternoon when his father took him to discover ice. At that time Macondo was a village of twenty adobe houses, built on the bank of a river of clear water that ran along a bed of polished stones, which were white and enormous, like prehis­toric eggs. The world was so recent that many things lacked names, and in order to indicate them it was necessary to point. Every year during the month of March a family of ragged gypsies would set up their tents near the village, and with a great uproar of pipes and kettledrums they would display new inventions.

Post Standard Four

Many years later, as he faced the firing squad, Colonel Aureliano Buendia was to remember that distant afternoon when his father took him to discover ice. At that time Macondo was a village of twenty adobe houses, built on the bank of a river of clear water that ran along a bed of polished stones, which were white and enormous, like prehis­toric eggs. The world was so recent that many things lacked names, and in order to indicate them it was necessary to point. Every year during the month of March a family of ragged gypsies would set up their tents near the village, and with a great uproar of pipes and kettledrums they would display new inventions.

Giving Thanks, Pie

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Giving thanks. This year I have a wealth to give thanks for, so much so that ‘thanks’ seems a mild word. Thanks, blessings, gratitude, gratefulness – ball them all together, and the Pangaea like word that forms might begin to honor how I feel. I  visualize my blessing, a dictionaryesque tome, perched on a podium where it’s always open revealing a letter at random; R, R is for rain, radishes, Red Tailed Hawks, Robin O’Brien, romaine, roses, row cover…. From April to zucchini, the expanse of this year’s blessings, and all chapters of gratitude before, keep me in constant grace towards life. They make even the hard days of labor and loss be ones that hold great depths of thanks.

Somewhere in that tome is T for Thanksgiving and definitely P for PIE!
A pumpkin by any other name would taste as sweet, but the Winter Luxury Pie Pumpkin indeed holds quite a charming and delectable name for which it is well deserving. For me, Winter Luxury Pie Pumpkin has become a staple. It will be one of those varieties that I grow year after year, not even curious of the other pie pumpkin varieties out there. This round netted squash has much in which to give thanks and at the Thanksgiving table represents a quintessential pillar of our feasting favorites: PIE! When Thanksgiving comes around there are many things I’m thankful for, a belly full of festive food, a table at capicity, joy bursting at the buttons and just when you think you’re too full, life’s just too good and you couldn’t possibly have more, there’s pie! Making your own pumpkin pie truly can’t be beat! F is for flaky crust, J is for Just one more piece and E if for ENJOY!

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Most Excellent Squash Pie –                                                                                                                              Recipe adapted from The Dirty Life: A Memoir of Farming, Food and Love , by Kristin Kimball

**Makes two pies** IMG_0327

Ingredients:

Crust

2 1/2 cups flour

1 tsp salt

1 cup cold butter

1/3 very cold water. I put the 1/3 cup cold water in a dish and add ice cubes to cool further.

Filling

2 1/2 pounds Winter Luxury Pumpkin or other winter squash cooked. I use a 6lb pumpkin for two pies.

1 1/2 heavy cream

3 eggs

3/4 sugar

1 tsp cinnamon, powdered ginger and cardamom (optional)

1/2 tsp ground nutmeg and salt

1/8 tsp cloves

Directions

1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees.                                                                                                                                                                               2. Wash outside of pumpkin and cut in half and scoop out seeds. Place on baking sheet cut side down with a little bit of water. Bake for an hour or until very soft. The beauty of this pumpkin is that the skin very easily peals aways from the flesh!                                                                                                                                                                                                                              3. While pumpkin is baking prepare crust. I always make mine in a food processor so it doesn’t get over worked. I add the flour and salt and buzz to combine. I then cut up the cold butter into little pieces and place in the processor with the flour. I just pulse it a few time and slowly pour in some cold water until the ingredients start to bind. I pour it out onto a cutting board and ball it up tight. Don’t over work the dough or make get is warm by handling it too much! If you feel like it’s getting warm you can put it in the fridge for a little bit. Divide into two equal ball and roll then each out and place in a buttered 9-inch pie plate. Chill for 30 minutes.                                                                                                            4. Placed cooked pumpkin in a bowl, add all filling ingredients and mix with a spoon. This filling always comes out beautifully smooth and creamy. You can use a blender if you like, but I have never had to. Jut a wooden spoon does the trick!                                                                                                                                                                                                                                5. Fill pie crusts with fill and bake at 375 degrees until center is set, about 40 minutes.

V is for Voila!

Y is for YUM!!

H is for a happy and blessed Thanksgiving!!!

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GIVE THANKS!

GIVE THANKS!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

vaoie

Many Muddy Hands

“The mind has exactly the same power as the hands; not merely to grasp the world, but to change it.”
Colin Wilson

Hands have translated, in grasp, many visions on this farm. I’m amazed at how much dreaming and learning the brain can do, and to have it all come out in the palms, the building and sculpting of neuron fire.  To think of all the incarnations this property has had, from pastured cattle, standing fields of alfalfa and rye, a once young orchard, buildings for chickens and racing pigeons, even a certain Sativa Illegalis. You pull the past out of a place, a sun bleached cow’s tooth found on the hill side, a rusty sythe and feathers shed. Fences laid out, working hands once setting boundaries that held importance in someone’s, now historical, present; a vision that has expired, but the fence lines still hold.

And what of this year and all the work done? Adding to the story, the visions, and of hands building a life. Each little seed was a project this year, germinating and growing into tasks that needed to be done, tending to life. But, when I think about the work of hands this year, my mind will be drawn to ones covered in mud and faces wearing white smiles. Work blurred with play, as clay binded with sand, and straw bales met earthen plaster from the same geographic region they had grown in. Insulating this shed with R-Max and store bought materials would have potentially been less money, less time (a weekend’s worth of work), and less joy. It’s not often that we put money, time and joy on a scale against each other. We’re taught that the math is simple and that money and time trumps. But, I’ve learned that on a farm the scale shifts and money and time become nebulous when weighed next to joy, food, family and the cycles of nature.  I didn’t know what I was getting into, ‘Insulating a Shed with Straw Bales and Applying an Earthen Plaster,’ the internet search results came in lean, but the concept felt healthy and strong for the life of this farm.  With a lot of faith and some substantial information gleaned from Dancing Rabbit Ecovillage and “The Straw Bale House” by Steen and Brainbridge, the shed is shining in it’s new insulating layer of local straw, local earthen plaster and layers of work by loving hands.  Thank you deeply, to all those who built, shaped and played with this project! An old shed, built from beautiful Siskiyou County straw, earth and family; Homeward Bounty’s new vegetable cold storage!

Buying a farm, 'as is'! Shed in the back ground.

Buying a farm, ‘as is’! Shed in the back ground.

The shed all cleaned out.

The shed all cleaned out.

Working on extending the roof line and including a vegetable washing station.

Working on extending the roof line and including a vegetable washing station.

Roof complete!

Roof complete!

40 bales of locally grown straw!

40 bales of locally grown straw!

Stuffing straw in the gaps of bales and sewing it in with wire to keep it strong. We also attached wire to the foundation and roof to keep the bales from falling down.

Stuffing straw in the gaps of bales and sewing it in with wire to keep it strong. We also attached wire to the foundation and roof to keep the bales from falling down.

1st coat - A mix of clay and water applied with a texture gun.

1st coat – A mix of clay and water applied with a texture gun.

2nd coat - a mix of 70% sand to 30% clay, fresh cow manure and a gluten paste.

2nd coat – a mix of 70% sand to 30% clay, fresh cow manure and a gluten paste.

Gaps were filled with straw soaked in clay and water.

Gaps were filled with straw soaked in clay and water.

Good thing we had a dry place to set up for the harvest dinner!

Good thing we had a dry place to set up for the harvest dinner!

3rd coat, one month later! What a dedicated crew!

3rd coat, one month later! What a dedicated crew!