Community and Creativity: Farms You Admire?

Community and Creativity: Farms to Admire
Etta On Watch

I am a farm junky. I get this tendency true, straight from my dad who has been known to drive the back roads of Lancaster County, PA just so he can sit and watch the mule teams work and talk to all the Amish farmers.

I’m interested in the lifestyle and community of farms. I admire the places that treasure beauty and slowness, where people come to rest and find goodness in food and flowers. I’m looking for places to emulate, spaces where farmers have found creative ways to make their living and invite their neighbors into that living, breathing energy.

I love CSAs and flower farms. I love pick-your-own berry/peach/apple/kumquat establishments. I love farm tours and hay rides and stages set against corn fields. If a farm has a way that it invites people in – and still maintains the quiet and solitude of the farm life – I’m on board to watch and learn.

So today, I’d love to hear about farms you love and why. I’d love to know what inspires or feeds or rests you in those places.  Post a link in the comments below or let me know if we can find them on Facebook.  We’re continuing to dream big for our this little piece of land that we steward, and we’d love to know about the places that shine a little extra light into your world.  Thanks.

Over on Facebook this weekend, I asked folks to weigh in with some thoughts about a potential lavender farm here. I’d love to hear what you think, too. You can find that post here.

Perfect Imperfection, a Lesson from the Garden

 

Perfect Imperfection, a Lesson from the Garden
Photo by Chad Stembridge on Unsplash

I can sense a resting place
With every lesson learned a line upon your beautiful face.

–from “Get Out The Map” by the Indigo Girls

Something has gotten into the swiss chard a bit. It’s eating tiny holes in a lot of the leaves.  This is not swiss chard they would sell in the grocery store or steam for a fine restaurant. But it’s still delicious, still nutritious, still delightful.  Plus, those bugs are there because we don’t use pesticides.  In some essential way, it’s the epitome of swiss chard.

This time of year in the garden is always a reminder to me that there is so much goodness in imperfection, despite what our culture says. Our grocery stores teach us that a tomato has to be perfectly round, perfectly red, and perfectly blemish-free. Our movies and television shows tell us that people, particularly women, have to be a certain shape and size with flawless skin and sleek hair.  Even our educational system implies that perfection is achievable by testing us all to death.  So much search for perfection when nothing – at least that I’ve ever seen – is perfect on this earth.

So today, when Dad harvests tomatoes, picks cucumbers, and cuts fresh swiss chard, I will relish in those tiny holes, in the way the flesh of that red fruit curves wide on one side slim on the other, because I know that goodness lies in even the most wonky things.

Now, if I could just convince myself of the same beauty when I see a weed. Or myself in the mirror.

This week in the farm stand, we have potatoes, onions, garlic, cucumbers, tomatoes, yellow squash, swiss chard, and kale.  Okra will be coming on soon, too, and some of our sweet corn didn’t get flood in the rain. Plus, this fall, we’ll have lots of ornamental corn, pumpkins, and winter squashes.  Oh, the goodness. 

Daylilies, or The Time It Takes to See

Daylilies, or the Time It Takes to See
Photo by michael podger on Unsplash

This year, for the first time, the orange daylilies around the farm are putting on their full show.  We have a patch over in the memory garden overlooking the pasture that is on fire with their full glory, and by the garden, in the nearly-wild bank, a few others have taken purchase of the hill.  They make me smile.

Yet, it’s only this year that they’ve gotten vibrant. It took nearly four years of tending and weeding, destalking and watch for these beauties to come alive.  Such is, at the risk of sounding cliche, life.

People have inhabited both of the farms we’ve lived on for generations before we got them. This house was built around 1804, so the landscape here has over 200 years of history (not to mention the centuries of nomadic habitation by the Monacans before European settlers took over.)  So the folks who lived here planted and tended, propagated and harvested for a great deal of time before me and my ideas about the yard arrived.

For that reason, Dad has always reminded me that I needed to live in a place for a while to see what comes up without my intervention and to know just how we will abide in this landscape.  His wisdom has served me well as I’ve watched Ms. Tucker’s peonies emerge and marveled at the two parrot tulips that come brilliant by the house-mounting stone.  Now, the daylilies are inspiring a vision of vibrant yellows, oranges, and reds all along the pasture fence.  It’s just taken me that long to see this was possible.

It’s a gift to see what things are, to know them as they exist without us. That’s true for places and for people, too. It’s a truth I’m holding close as I spend my days with Milo.

Sometimes, time is the greatest giver of vision . . . if we simply abide in it.

 

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Mark your calendars. We’re having our annual craft fair on Saturday, December 1 from 9am-4pm.  We’ll have a variety of handmade items for your holiday shopping needs.  If you’d like to have a table at the fair, we welcome you to join us.  The cost is just $10, and we do all the advertising. Email Andi at [email protected] to reserve your space.

Our Son Milo Has Arrived

Almost three weeks ago, we had the sheer joy of welcoming our son Milo into the world.  He was a plump 8 pounds 8 ounces and a long 22.5 inches, and we adored him, of course, on sight.

We’ve begun the process of adjusting to our new normal, which comes – at the moment – 2-3 hours chunks determined by Little Man’s appetite. We’re sleep-deprived but blissful. The farm isn’t as pristine as we would normally like it, but we’re adjusting to that, too.  We are happy and grateful and simply blissed out.

Perhaps the most wonderful thing – next to Milo himself – about this journey has been the way people have come to support us – from gifts of books to meals delivered, from help cleaning the barn for a big event to the willingness to sit with a baby while I run a few errands, from the gift of laundry and dish washing to the gift of texts of encouragement.  We must say a big thank you to our parents, to Kelly, to Heather, and to Shelva and Marin, whose support got us through those wild first two weeks.

Now, friends, meet Milo. He’s mostly limited to virtual meet and greets at the moment, but soon enough, you’ll see him toddling about the farm with glee.

 

By the way, the farm stand is open and bountiful these days.  Eggs, swiss chard, onions, garlic, kale, and cucumbers.  Tomatoes are on their way soon.  Stop by and get what you need. 

 

A Few Images from Around These Parts

We’ve been bustling and working to prepare for our son Milo’s arrival and to tend the farm as spring arrives, so apologies for our absence here.

Life continues with wild abandon on these 15 acres though, and here’s some of the joy we’ve experienced.

Etta is always a little silly.
swiss chard
The first swiss chard. In the farm stand today.
One of the many daffodils planted in memory of Andi’s Mom.
Boone and his CONSTANT sidekick.
Xander, the rooster, loves yogurt.
A little beauty over the hay field.

 

 

Come join us on April 28th from 8-4 for our BIG (and getting bigger every day) yard sale in the barn.  Visit the animals and pick up a few goodies.  Rain or shine.  

7 Things We’d Like You to Know about Rural Life

10 Things We'd Like You to Know about Rural Life
Photo by Alexandre Godreau on Unsplash

Lately, it’s come to my attention that a lot of people have a pretty profound lack of awareness of what life in a rural place is like.  From conversations about how rural spaces are all politically homogeneous to shock that we don’t have a bus or subway system to surprise that it’s 20 minutes to a hotel, I’ve been surprised (which shows my own ignorance, I guess) that people really have no sense of rural life.

So I thought I’d share 7 things that we’d like you to know about living in a rural place.

  1. We are diverse politically, ethnically, socio-economically, culturally, religiously, and in almost every other way you can imagine. One of our neighbors is politically very conservative, another very politically progressive.  Our neighbors are African American, Latino, Native American, and European American. Many of us go to Christian church on Sunday, but not all of us do. Some of us live in tiny houses that have been the homes of our families for years, and some us live on compounds with electronic gates and thousands of acres.  We are not one thing, no matter how the media may portray us.
  2. We don’t always have the kind of access that people in more populated areas have to some things. For one, we don’t have high-speed internet except by satellite, which means our data is limited and, thus, we can’t stream things. We also don’t have public transportation except for people with disabilities and the elderly – and even then it’s very limited. No restaurant here will deliver food, not even pizza.
  3. Because we don’t have public systems that support us as many people in urban or suburban places do, we have learned to rely on one another quite a bit. We bring each other meals when there’s a medical crisis. We check on each other when we haven’t seen one another in a while. We share plants and recipes, child care and transportation. We call each other when our cattle have calves in fields we cannot see, and we bring each other’s dogs home when they run away. We create our own personal systems of care to replace the public ones.
  4. We are as smart and wise and informed as people who live in more populated places. We read or watch the news. Some of us hold degrees from formal educational institutions, and some of us have the education of decades of life. We take part in political endeavors and volunteer at our local organizations. We vote.
  5. We like that things are far away, even our neighbors’ houses. From where I sit now, I can only see one house, and it isn’t occupied anymore. Sometimes at night, we catch the glint of the pole lights in our neighbors’ yards, but only in the winter when the trees have lost their leaves. We appreciate having a view that doesn’t include much human stuff, and we also accept that having this distance around us means we have to travel more for every day errands like groceries. Thus, we make intentional choices about when we go out and try to cover all our needs in one trip. (For the record, it’s 30 minutes to the nearest Target, and that’s nothing for many rural places in America.)
  6. The stereotypes about rural people hurt us, just like those about suburban and urban people hurt others. We get bruised by the assumptions of ignorance or backwardness. We feel unseen by the assumptions about rural America’s whiteness. We feel defensive when someone assumes our politics without asking us. We grow weary of being ignored by statistician or social groups unless we are going to be used as a negative example. We are people – complex people – just like everyone else, and we wish people would get to know us, spend some real time in rural spaces, and change their stereotypes about us.
  7. We love where we live. Most of us – teenagers aside – love where we live and have chosen this way of life intentionally. We find strength and healing in the open spaces around us. We like to see tractors in fields and drive by tiny churches. We enjoy that our neighbors wave at us when we get the mail at the end of our long driveways. While some of us – again teenagers especially – may wish to go to a more populated place, if you ask, I think you’ll find that most of us prefer the solitude and interdependence that rural life gives.

If you live in a rural space, I’d love to here what you love about where you live and what you wish people from more populated places knew about it. 

The Lenten Rose on the First Day of Lent

Lenten Rose on the First Day of LentYesterday, in the warm of the afternoon when the daylight extended past the evening feedings and Philip was finishing his second day prone from a nasty stomach bug, I needed air. I needed to be outside, to do something productive that no one actually needed me to do.  So I grabbed my pruners and spent five minutes cutting last year’s growth out of our hellebore, our Lenten Rose.

When we first moved into this farmhouse, I had never seen – or at least purposely seen – one of these early-blooming beauties. But quickly, my friend Sarah identified it for me, and I’ve loved this girl ever since, especially since she blooms so early.

Yesterday, as I took out the dying spires of leaves, I found them – purple blooms just waiting, hidden in so much of what needed to be pared away, ready to be seen on the first day of Lent.

 

 

Pecking Orders and My Discomfort

Pecking Orders and My DiscomfortEvery morning, when I go out to feed the chickens and break them free from their coop confinement, the roosters burst forth from their captivity with a very strong drive to mate.  If you’ve never seen the forceable nature or heard the disgusting squawking of chicken mating, then, I’d say be grateful.  It’s a brutal act, and when I don’t remember that chickens are not human beings, I can get really disturbed.

The same is true when I watch our goats ram each other with all their force their tubby bodies can exact. They slam each other into fences, down hills, and against the feeders, all without a care for the harm of the others who are, incidentally, rarely harmed at all.  But now that our puppy Etta is in the mix, I’m even more sensitive to their establishment of the hierarchy.  She yelps every time they butt her, even though they are significantly less rough with her than with each other, and it breaks my heart.

But again, I must remember that goats and dogs are not human. These acts are not personal. In fact, they are necessary because they establish an order of authority and, therefore, protection that serves the whole herd, dogs included.  Recently, the Nigerian Dwarf goats, our littlest ones, have become Etta’s playmates after a few weeks of butting because now she is almost their size and, thus, their equal.  The same will be true as the puppy becomes a full-grown dog who equals the size of our cashmere gals.

Still, it’s hard to wait for these days.

So I focus on the joy that Etta and Boone, her partner in guard duty, play. He has always been kind to her, but now, he’s begun to play with her, responding to her CONSTANT jumping and hopping at his face with bounces and bounds of his own.  Their relationship, too, is evolving, and it is beautiful.

It’s so easy for me to assume that my way – in this case the human way – is the right way, but again, our animals remind me that my way is not the only and nor often the best way.  It’s a good lesson for each day, a gentle nudge to trust, to look for the good, to remember I don’t know it all.  (Dad, don’t be too shocked. 🙂 )

May your days be full of gentle reminders of goodness and a soft trust that all will be well.

On Brawling Bunnies and Ornery Goats

On Brawling Bunnies and Ornery GoatsRecently, animal care has required more energy and time than usual.  The extreme cold was part of that, but now, just as the temperatures warm a bit (of course), we finally have heated waterers for everyone, which makes us ALL happy.  Between keeping everyone in water, our own pipes freezing for a day, and being sure everyone’s shelter was draft-free and relatively cozy, we had a busy week last week.

This week, we are sorting out other issues that arose in the cold temperatures – namely animal grumpiness. First, our female rabbits started fighting. If you haven’t seen two rabbits fight in a 3×3 hutch, then you’ve missed a true dervish of ferocity. We bought a new hutch and moved Marty into her new digs.  Immediately, the tension eased. . . . although Cindy, the instigator, is getting less outdoor time now because she keeps picking on Marty and trying to start something. Last night, I felt like an English teacher in a high school cafeteria – “Stop it.” “Cindy, knock it off.”

Then, yesterday morning, as I was feeding those grumpy girls, I heard Etta yelping loudly and continuously, so I ran – literally, which is a sight when I’m not pregnant – to the goat room and found Wilma’s horn caught under Etta’s collar.  The poor girl was being choked. I freed the pup, disciplined the goat, and escorted our 10-week-old fluff ball to her kennel, where she promptly began to eat.  Scary.

All is well now. Etta is being wise to avoid the goaty gals until she’s a bit bigger, and Boone is watching her carefully, even while she eats his food.  The rabbits are content in their separate apartments with their new climate-controlled water bottles.  And we are enjoying the relative peace and above-freezing temperatures and calmer temperaments are bringing.

Never a dull day around here, of course, but the chaos is limited, which is pretty much perfect for us.

Mark your calendars. Our BIG yard sale will be here on April 28 from 9am-4pm in the barn. Rain or shine.  

The Joy of Seed Catalogs

Seed Catalogs are the Promise of Abundance
Photo by Natalia Fogarty on Unsplash

They started arriving the day after Christmas. Their covers glossy with photos of tomatoes and okra or matte with sketches of stylized gardens surrounded by sunflowers.  As each one arrived, I caressed it and stacked it on the counter to peruse later.  (I don’t dare open the cover until I have time to get lost in carrot options.)

Seed catalogs are the promise of abundance, and I love them for that.

This year, though, I’m handing off much of the planning and planting to my dad because, well, by the time planting time comes, bending over is going to be a challenge for me.  I’ve sent him my list of desired veggies, and he will use his vast horticultural prowess to put together a plan for us.  I love my dad and adore working with him, so I’m really excited.

I can easily get enticed by all the fun stuff – purple carrots and tomatoes that supposed to taste a bit like chocolate, but this year, we’re going traditional – popular varieties that grow well in our space.  We’ll have broccoli and cabbage, lettuces and radishes early, and then, on will come the squashes and tomatoes, eggplants and peppers, melons and beans with the pumpkins and winter squashes bringing up the rear. Oh, and of course we’ll grow lots of cucumbers, but on trellises this year to save space and stop the thieving of two hound dogs.

Today, I’ll drop all the catalogs off with Dad, and he can choose what to order where.  I will miss them, but with the promise of abundance growing inside me, I’m also glad to hand them off to capable hands and concentrate on the little man we are growing.

If there’s something you’d like us to consider growing for the farm stand, please let us know. We’ll do our best to accommodate.