Sow Seeds and Grow

Rice fields at Navdanya Farm in Derha Duhn, India

Rice fields at Navdanya Farm in Derha Duhn, India

I fell in love with seeds in the patchwork fields of 480 varieties of rice. Seeds, in the caring work- leathered hands of humble  women, wise seeds cradled by wise women, their bond authentically and intrinsically connected, woven with sweat, soil, sun, while chanting prayers of generations,  generations. The textile weave of earth’s patterns in rice, in women, in seeds, pulled at a string deep inside of my heart, hands, womb. A tapestry inside me that was braided long ago. A tapestry that lives in all of us.


Three of the many varieties of rice at Navdanya Farm.

Three of the many varieties of rice at Navdanya Farm.











Seeds have continued to make me think and feel deep beyond our connection in weave.  I’ve often found myself pondering their psychology. There’s a sense of personification when thinking of seed psyche; human emotions shed onto the  plant community. However, the more I dissect seed to seed fundamentals,  I find myself truly feeling each plant’s fierce desire to grow strong for the sake of their seeds. They gauge their resources in weather, soil, water, and conductive pollen  with a foundation of how to best live, in order to produce the most successful offspring- to keep their genetics alive, to procreate, to continue and be reborn into this world, generation after generation; every seed containing within its world the potential to replicate exponentially. Is this plan diabolical or the sincere desire to hold on to and nurture what we hold most dear?

Last year’s growing efforts were partly inspired by the cry of a overflowing bag of seeds, ‘plant us!’. Fourteen  months later, a legitimate chorus can be heard, echoing out of two bins of seeds. Next year, I may need earplugs. And so the story goes; if you have seeds and love growing plants out to seed, you gather a band of talented loved ones to help create a packet design and then make these special varieties available to growers everywhere. Yep, that’s the story, and I present you with Homeward Bounty Seeds! Available now on Etsy, search Homeward Bounty! A shout out to dear Ashley Mersereau of Roots and Wings Jewelry who has created the very beautiful graphics. As well as my Aunt Cathy O’Brien who laid out and organized the design.

Sow seeds and grow! Find that tapestry inside and let it pull you.

Cherokee Long Ear Popcorn -Homeward Bounty Seeds

Cherokee Long Ear Popcorn -Homeward Bounty Seeds

Pablo Lettuce - Homeward Bounty Seeds

Pablo Lettuce – Homeward Bounty Seed


Ashley in her magical studio.

Ashley's art, find pen and watercolor pieces features in Homeward Bounty Seed packets.

Ashley’s art, find pen and watercolor pieces features in Homeward Bounty Seed packets.

40 Acres and a Girl

Bob Swanson captures a nice view of Homeward Bounty Farm

Bob Swanson captures a nice view of Homeward Bounty Farm

Welcome to a bright new Homeward Bounty chapter dear readers, fresh Siskiyou grown food eaters, wealth of supportive radiant friends and deeply loving family. This is it; be careful what you wish for, as I officially have a 40 acre piece of property to call my lifetime stewardship project. How speechlessly unidentifiable. How quietly humbling, a calling that rains down from the mountain and up from the fertile Grenada soil. A true commitment to HOME and ROOTS – I’m not going anywhere any time soon folks, you now know where to find me!

I’ve been subliminally taught the O’Brien mantra of Rescue and Hard Work. As you drive up to the property, these are two words that are called out loud and clear. Within that mantra the key is to hear what is chanted next;  trailing behind those words, the farm sings a soft song of Potential, Growth and Love. The O’Brien magic is to set your rhythm to that song, work is a dance, create something beautiful.

When the property closed, we sang the working song of this new farm like mocking birds.  An overwhelming crew of dedicated friends came out to clean, organize, demolish, burn, collect, drink, arrange, create, eat, rip and dance. It was a farm mob frenzy!

Some major highlights:

John Tannaci, saving the day on his tractor.

John Tannaci, saving the day on his tractor.

John Tannaci, my new neighbor and owner/grower at Hunter Orchard, drove his tractor up the driveway with a smile and a mission. “You’ll be needing to get things in the ground soon Kate. Do you have a field you need ripped?”  YES! Through this thoughtful and extremely generous act, John has opened the soil to this season and graced 2013. Potatoes are going in this week! I can not thank the Tannaci’s deep enough for their truly kind spirits and support.

William Wareham’s boat vision: What do you do with endless amounts of junk? Well, you convert some of into art! Who else would have the tasteful and creative eye, but Bill. On the property was an old fiberglass boat (doomed for the dump), until Bill had a vision to clean that baby up. Fueled by the power of an artists ascetic and a Dodge Hemi, he drove it up to the top of the hill and perfectly perched it. It now rests on the hill and has become the ideal destination to sit and watch the last rays of light stretch out across the Shasta Valley. All abroad the Sunset Cruise!

Annie Moore made the kitchen sparkle! The Demo team was a pack of wild hammers, crow bars and will! Ron Presley was one of the first to show up and worked even through lunch. My sister drove three hours north, and brought with her two hard working

Bill on a mission.

Bill on a mission.

farmers.  Jonathan filled his truck up to the brim with debris. Bob and Jack documented. A friend from old soccer days, Shannon, proved what teamwork means (ten years later). Kate Bachman fired up her chain saw and Celtic salt was gifted to bless the new home, thank you Marian. Sweet baby Magnus even made the trip, with his amazing Jenny Mae mommy.

I could have spontaneously burst in joy, leaving behind jewels of love and blessing. My heart ached. My cheeks were sore. My gratitude swelled beyond and beyond. Here,  what we grow is infinite.  In many life endeavors it takes a village. Thank you for being my village, my family, the rich soil to my roots.

The Demo team

The Demo team

So much junk!     
So much junk!

"The beds will be this big."
“The beds will be this big.”

This Valentine’s Day I was a red and pink doily framed heart. It may be a ‘Hallmark’ holiday, but it’s all about love folks! I’ve always embraced it, ooy-gooie with X and O sap on top. I had the day off, thank goodness, could you imagine getting called in to be the substitute teacher for a class on Valentine’s Day? Uncontrollable candy highs, fruit punch died lips, a sea of Justin Bieber  valentine card crush confessions, a student nervously waiting for something special from someone special-ok, maybe it would have been a blast. See, I’m truly a sucker for the spirit of it all, however corporate.

It may surprise you, but I managed to celebrate in fine fashion just fine all by myself. With a sparkling kitchen to undo, I had a party of uncontrollable joy, died lips of chocolate cake batter,  happily baking something special for special someones, in a Bieber free zone.  On the menu, Cholcolate Beet Cake. The girls of Green Fire Farm came across this recipe in Farmer John’s Cookbook. It become a farm favorite for birthdays and potlucks. There is something magically earthy in this blend of rich chocolate and ruby red beet. Sexy, dreamy, aphrodisiacal also seem to be highly appropriate adjectives. Not for the faint of heart, a cake fit for a Saint.

Enjoy and share with LOVE –IMG_0436

Chocolate Beet Cake


4 ounces unsweetened chocolate

1 cup vegetable oil

3 eggs

1 3/4 cups sugar

2 cups or mor pureed cooked beets (about three medium beets)

1 Tbsp vanilla extractIMG_0437

2 cups flour ( I like to use half white, half wheat)

2 tsp baking soda

1/4 tsp salt

powdered sugar for top

** If you’re feeling spicy, the farm girls and I have added hot chili flakes to this recipe with yummy success!!

Directions –

1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Lightly coat pan or 10 cup bunt, with oil and dust with flour.

2. Wash and top beets. Cut into pieces for faster cooking. I like to steam my beets so that color and flavor don’t leach out, you can also boil if you like. Cook beets until they are soft enough to puree in a blender or food processor.

3. Use double boiler to melt chocolate. I simply use a metal bowl over a pot. Fill pot with water and bring to boil, reduce to simmer. Put chocolate and 1/4 cup oil in top metal bowl. Heat until chocolate melts.

4. Combine eggs and sugar in a large bowl and beat until fluffy. Slowly beat in remaining 3/4 cup oil, melted chocolate, pureed beets and vanilla.

5. Mix in a large bowl flour, baking soda and salt. Gently combine with chocolate beet mixture. Pour batter into pan and lick spoon!

6. Bake until toothpick inserted near center comes out clean, about 45-30 minutes. Allow 30 minutes to cool. Dust with powered sugar and enjoy with the ones you love.


What goes around comes around, and the love that I had cultivated boomeranged right on back. For Valentine’s dinner Jonathan took me to the infamous Madeline’s Cafe in Dunsmuir. We shared a beautiful bottle of 2010 Green Fire Farm Cabernet Sauvignon and an exquisite four course meal! It was one of those meals that leaves you completely aglow, a taste bud party, culminating in utter digestion relaxation. And in the aura of our happiness, the waiter informed us that an anonymous couple thought we were ‘so sweet’ and had picked up our tab. WHAT!? What an unbelievably dear act. Ah, the love circle still spins, watch out, maybe you’re next?


Yogic Onions Starts


The season is starting to grow! It seems yet too cold to utilize the lovely greenhouse that my Dad built last year. The saving grace glass house, built from 10 sliding glass doors, has been highly utilized and appreciated. Unfortunately, it is not perfectly air tight and with consistent frosty mornings and days, where pine needles and human bones struggle to thaw, I opted for an indoor kick-start. Here, on an old metal shelf, I’ve towered trays of onions seeds. I have heard no cries of unsatisfaction, as the sun shines in. Mt. Shasta smiles through the frame of the window and the ambient house warmth keeps soil hospitable and encouraging.

After a very positive response towards last year’s fresh and cured onions, I decided to increase the crop this year. Scattered in these trays are future French Onions soups, sweet crunchy rings of the Siskiyou Sweet, elegant purple torpedo shaped Tropea and the patiently cured paper skins of red and yellow varieties, for 2014 storage.  Yes, the yummy year begins.

Green energy starts to fill the house as the first seeds germinate. They’re yogic presence is rejuvenating, energizing, calming, these happy little lights already representing such gratitude. From delicate charcoal-like seeds, the onions seedlings start to emerge. They slowly rise up and stay suspended, stretching themselves out in a new life welcoming: downward dog. As many of us could, they stay there, looped with the soil, relaxed, breathing. Slowly they rise, bring their heads and arms up, welcoming the sunny day. They take a look at the mountain and offer up a gift, their hollow seed pod.



Onions stretched out in a relaxing downward dog.IMG_0396

Food well loved – 2012

The year has turned and I’ve become resolute with resolutions. I know that I don’t need the significance of a New Year to inspire turn-inward reflections and analysis of a year past, in order to approach fresh this next go around the sun. It’s always argued that one can find inspiration for growth and change with every rise of every day, of that I have no doubt. I do however, find something grand and poignant with the beckoning of the New Year. Winter solstice has passed, and with it the daylight stretches out longer and our O’Brien Opas! become later. The cycle of the season has shown true this year. The winter weeks of resting farming bones are numbered, a green house to clean, crop plans to draw out, onions and cool weather crops to sow and hands grown soft begin their introduction to soil once more. Winter’s important role in recovery and rest, transitions into a tone of reinvestment as a new season whispers.

With the closing of 2012, I would like to share photos of loved food and loved friends, the glowing images of the bounty of love, laughter and satiated bellies that grew in abundance during Homeward Bounty’s first year. The support that carried this year will fuel many seasons to come. I greatly thank you, beautiful community, with the entirety of my heart!!

This upcoming year I wish you all vibrant meals of kale, aching smiling cheeks, arms grown strong with work and hugs and many, many adventures!


Namaste New Friends


October has been a beautiful month. It is the most revealing and acute of convergences, the cusp. It’s the Fall of Summer and autumnal transition to Winter. For farm and farmer this shift is grater than that of seasons, colors, smells and sounds. It’s a true closing. The hard morning freezes instantly melts cellulose, fades chlorophyll and buckles plants towards the soil. The time for crops to decompose and become rich strata to sustain future seasons’. In delicate tow of that first hard frost is the perfectly tied bow on the package, the stamp on the letter – the period at the end of the exquisite sentence that details out a growing season overflowing with blessings and abundance. Not The End, but rather the last sentence of the long chapter titled somewhere along the lines of, ‘Season #1: The Bounty of Homeward Bounty’. There is something very delicate about this forced resignation, mother nature’s pink slip. It’s the fine print, “You too have your season, Farmer, relax already. Read a good book or two, seek out the best dehydrated food recipes, put on some weight and get excited for the wealth of new season possibilities!

Yes, those hard frosts have come and sadly the farm has seen lovelier days. I feel very thankful however, that Homeward Bounty hosted a very special visitor before those killing frosts. On that Autumn morning we were able to pick the last few handfuls of peppers, analyze numerous seed crops and shared inspiring conversations that left me warm and giddy inside!

Me with Sunita Rao of Vanasatree

It was months ago when Flick, a CSA member mentioned that his friend, Sunita Rao, would be visiting from India and he wanted to bring her to the farm. Before I knew it, that week had come. I met Flick, Jennifer and Sunita Rao on the farm for a nice morning tour. Over fresh pumpkin bread, homemade jam and amazing baked pears, we shared our thoughts on plant diversity, open pollinated seed varieties and about the great abundance that is yielded from 1/2 acre of land. Our inspiring conversations left me feeling all warm and giddy inside. Sunita Rao is quite the inspiring individual and I feel so honored to be in contact with her and to call her a friend! She’s the founder of Vanasatree – The Malnad Forest Garden and Seed Keepers’ Collective in Karnataka, India. Vanasatree promotes food security and autonomy through biodiversity and the use and preservation of traditional seeds. Visit to learn more about this inspiring collective.

Jennifer, Sunita and I infront of this year’s colorful squash harvest.

Looking at mangel beets. An experimental winter crop for the Copeland’s goats, horses and cows.

Trying the fresh seeds of ‘Black Cumin’ -Nigella Sativa


On This Harvest Moon

On this Harvest Moon we gathered; we gathered our party gear, our blessings, our open arms for new friends and raise our glasses to the bounty, color, the unyielding wealth and gifts of this year’s growing season, to health, to our community, to strength and support and to the balance.

“The distance between us is holy ground
To be traversed feet bare,
Arms raised in joyous dance
So that it is crossed.
And the tracks of our pilgrimage shine in the darkness
To light our coming together
In a bright and steady light.”

― Raphael Jesus Gonzales

(thank you Isaac)

This season has not come to completion enough to reflect on it as if it were not still in the present. As I write, there are still plants growing in their loamy beds, their green leaves waving to neighbors across the way, moving in conversation like that of my Italian Grandmother’s. There are rows of new crops that love the open star nights of autumn and rows of crops dying, drying to golden hews, dissolved images of plants crisp, yet holding within rattling pods their genetic wealth to be expressed in future generations, future seasons.

It’s hard to resist reflections. This is time of year the harvest moon rises. The sun, persistently warm, supervises the cusp  of summer and fall harvest. Tomatoes still ripen on the vine, peppers marble to mature colors, lemon cucumbers relentlessly populate under dense canopies, all in tandem with crops ready to be cured for winter. Winter squash vines die back with stems becoming hard and corky. The onions have been pulled and set to develop papery skins, booking them for storage success.

It is also during this time of year where I feel I can start coming up for longer breaths of air. Not to my surprise, but always to my deep gratitude I’m welcomed by a song of love and support by the most amazing community of people; who have been the driving force and foundation of my focus and fortitude.


This past Sunday marked a special event, the First Annual Homeward Bounty Harvest Gathering! It was a magical night, luminated under a crystalline Harvest Moon and hosted on the soil that gave and grew so much. A lovely meal was shared with friends of the farm, family and CSA members. The afternoon and night was pure perfection!

Farm Tour

Harvest Moon Rising

OMG WTF BCS! & Other Stories


Well, you might think I have dropped off the face of the Earth, but I’m still holding on, riding on her shoulders as this beautiful summer explodes with bountiful food. It’s amazing that something can be so beautiful and appreciated, yet so demanding and overwhelming at the same time. It has been an idyllic season with corn growing high, tomatoes becoming red and heavy on the vine, peppers blushing in the sun (unfortunatley over-blushing at times and scalding), and cantaloup and watermelon finding their authenticity.

There have been countless lessons learned this season. Somewhere around lesson #408 I realized that this is what plants want to do, just grow! As as much as I may be ‘farming’,  these plants are truly doing all the work. A farming friend in Nova Scotia one posed the question – “Do you own the plants or do the plants own you?” Possession and ownership are pretty weighty concepts and I would rather take a long saluting bow. Dear plants, you definatly own my utmost respect, joy and deep gratitude. Thank you!

And speaking of ownership – although I hardly desire to lord over plants and commodities, especially items of the machine vein that bellow high pitched noises and burp out gas fumes, I have indeed made quite the lovely purchase lately and am SO excited to have this piece of farming equipment play its farmy role at Homeward Bounty. Every now and again I peruse the Farm + Garden section of Craig’s List. It’s usually filled with posts of folks advertising various pieces of horse tack, the occasional weed eater or lawn mower and always the quintessential Free Rooster plea. What I’ve been hoping to uncover within the folds of these adds was a nice rear tine tiller, somewhat new, with a reliable motor and at a reasonable price. I was hoping that it wouldn’t be the ‘needle in a hay stack’ search. I was merely seeking out a shining magical tiller in the Siskiyou County backyard sea of rusty dilapidated haying equipment, lifeless tractors, countless 68′ Dodges, a corrugated roof doghouse blown over in a wind three years ago, lifeless horse drawn plows, and bags of trash where the local one-eyed tom cat calls home. Can’t you see why I remained optimistic and loyal to my Craig’s List search?

Loyalty paid off, as is often does. The small print in the story being that I started searching outside of the Siskiyou County box and into areas  where I may have more success with small farm equipment… the Rogue Valley! There he, she, IT was;  a beautiful, lightly used, BCS tiller with a 8hp Honda motor and 20” tiller box, listed at a deal of a price!

It all manifested in one busy day. I found the add, called and left a message for the seller stating my interest. I then got on the horn with numerous BCS dealers – the reconnoissance mission: measuring the length and height of a 722 BCS tiller with a 20” tiller box. Being the headstrong individual that I am, I wasn’t about to go out and buy something that would make me dependent on the use of someone else’s car/trailer. As useful as it would be for the farm, the logistics weren’t worth it if it didn’t fit in the Volvo. Otherwise, I would have to let this deal regretfully go. Oddly enough, three different dealers came up with three different dimensions; it was going to be close.

It just felt right, so I cleaned up the car, got on the road and returned home with the prize! It never occurred to me to ponder the excitement and pride my Dad would have for his daughter on that day. I was all grown up and bought a farm toy that made glorious loud noises and was made in Italy, like Ferrari! I kid you not, at one point he said it was as if I brought home a grandchild. Mwa-haha. Now, all I have to do is mention that I might be tilling up a bed and my Dad’s there, willing to lend a hand out on the farm! I regretfully don’t have a picture of ‘Joey’ (as my Dad has named it) sitting snug in the back of the wagon. It is truly a fantastic sight to behold!

Oh my gosh, it’s squash!

Oh my gosh, it’s squash!

It’s the gorilla, gripping innocent female bystanders like pieces of chalk. It’s the monster in the water, circling, lurking, waiting for … that…. moment….                       It’s SQUASH!

Oh, it’s not as horrible, harry knuckled and crazy eyed as I’ve made it out to be, but squash is not the dainty heroine either. If squash were a nutritionally complete meal, we could scatter their white papery seeds out of airplanes and have them sprout throughout every corner of the globe. With the way these plants produce, there’s the potential to put Malthus’ theory slightly at bay. To ensure that you don’t get fruit the size of your entire arm, squash has to be harvested every other day at a minimum. And what do you do with those every other day yields? – As the saying goes, “Don’t leave your car window down at church in the summer, or you’ll find a bag of zucchini on your seat.”

Ok, enough of this villanizing, really. What a gift to have such a fantastic veggie able to produce in abundance. I’m not being facetious here, even if I am slightly exhausted by the constant harvesting of those prickly plants. The wonderful characteristic of summer squash is that it is immensely versatile. I can be a purest with veggies. I love squash simply grilled with salt and pepper. With this wealth of squashy abundance however, thinking outside of the recipe box is a must! Here are some recipes for you, dear CSA members, who every week probably state out loud “Oh my gosh, more squash!”

Hot off the grill!

Summer Squash Ribbons –

This concept hails from the time when my mom was a devotee of Susan Summers. In this recipe you make ribbons of squash by peeling a whole squash down with a potato peeler. You then steam the ribbons and use them instead of pasta in a pasta-like meal.

Step 1 – Take 3 large, 5-6 small summer squash and make ribbons by peeling the squash down with a potato peeler. This step takes a bit of time, love and labor. You can see my mom here ‘making ribbons’ and having them land into a large steaming pot. I’m now saying peeling, but when we were in the process of doing this we called it whittling and we whittled away, taking Appalachian accents and conjuring up stories about the good ‘ol days when grandpappy would sit on the porch and make whittled squash. Never a dull moment in this household.

Step 2-  Hunt in the fridge for everything you love to include in a nice bowl of pasta. In our fridge we found beet greens, onions, broccoli, tomatoes and, well, more squash (we’ll save those to make fritters)! I cut all the beautiful Homeward Bounty veggies into small pieces and compiled them all on a plate. I also uncovered some sausage and cooked the links up in a pan. The squash steams up quickly, so it’s nice to have all these steps done first. Steam the squash in a big steaming pot or use a steamer and cook until veggie al dente. Squash holds a lot of water, so I would pour the finished steamed squash into a colander and drizzle with a little olive oil.

Place steamed squash in a large bowl and mix in either pesto or tomato marinara. We used pesto and it was so fantastic that it would be hard to experiment with anything else, but I’m sure a tomato sauce would bring its own pizzaz to the meal. After mixing in your sauce of choice, add in your cut up veggies and meat.                                                                    -Enjoy this one with friends, a bottle of wine and a relaxing summer afternoon out on the porch!

Friends – Wine – Setting Sun – Yum!

Summer Squash Fritters – 

If this recipe was worthless and unpalatable (which it IS not), it would still hold value in the fact that saying the word fritter is down right fun!

Ingredients –

4 medium zucchini or any type of summer squash

1 onion, chopped

1 bunch parsley or cilantro, or both

2 eggs

1/2 flour or cornmeal

1 tsp cumin

1 tbsp lemon zest

oil for high heat –  safflower or grapeseed

Directions –

1. Grate squash with a cheese grater. Place grated squash in a colander and sprinkle a little salt over it to draw some of the water out. Let sit while you cut up vegetables  – chop onions and herbs. Put in a bowl, mix in eggs, spices, and lemon zest. Add squash and flour/cornmeal. The batter should be thick enough to be able to make patties in your hands, but not too dense and they’re not moist.

2. In a skillet heat up a layer of cooking oil. Grab a bit of mixture in your hand and shape into a patty and place into oil. Cook on both sides until golden brown. You can place finished fritters on a paper towel to absorb some of the oil.

– Different chutneys go great with fritters. They’re also quite tasty with sour cream or plain yogurt on top!

The Farmer and the Sea

The heat has found this Northern California corner. The fires and smoke have welcomed themselves to our doorstep too. I guess it wouldn’t be a true passage through summer without a week at high 90’s and a haze dyed, bright red sunset. In this weather I want to sprawl out under the coffee table, like a cat, and sleep it out. When I lived in Germany, I would experience cold nights walking home with my chest cinched tight in all efforts to keep in every single molecule of warmth, so much so that it would be hard to breathe. On those bitter nights it seemed impossible to imagine being too hot, having too much sun on the skin, to be dry and parched and craving a chill. Now, in the stagnant mirage of heat I reremind myself of rain, of socks and breathing into chilled hands. If there was a down pour right now I would arouse my cat self from under the table, with out even stretching a leg or arching back, and drench myself in unfeline fashion!

This poem has always resonated with me and with this heat I can feel the spray of the waves. I’ve always felt this poem was more The Farmer and the Seed – and as I’ve been cleaning spinach, bok choi, dil and watermelon seed lately it feels nice to revisit it’s lines.

The Farmer and the Sea

The sea always arriving,

hissing in pebbles, is breaking

its edge were the landsman

squats on his rock. The dark

of the earth is familiar to him,

close mystery of his source

and end, always flowering

in the light and always

fading. But the dark of the sea

is perfect and strange,

the absence of any place,

immensity on the loose.

Still, he sees it is another

keeper of the land, caretaker,

shaking the earth, breaking it,

clicking the pieces, but somewhere

holding deep fields yet to rise,

shedding its richness on them

silently as snow, keeper and maker

of places wholly dark. And in him

something dark applauds.

– Wendell Berry

A full rainbow arches over the farm.