Sunday, January 25, 2009

Chicken House News

January 16:

My camera takes its best pics in natural light. Inside shots are iffy, especially those shots of a swirling mass of excited Chickens welcoming their Human Companions during a very cold day when they are stuck inside. This pic was the best of a couple of dozen.

Today, the Sun was brighter and stronger, but the weather was bitterly cold. The low was -7 and the high was expected to be 7 above. We were pretty lucky considering the weather folks are experiencing in other parts of the country, especially our friends on the Upper Plains.

Dorreen, a kindred spirit from the Upper Plains, sent a link to a song today that made us laugh. You need to have lived in that area to get the best belly laugh out of this one.I can just imagine that music could be (and perhaps has been) written about living on each place of this wonderful Earth. I wonder if such music has been written about these parts which are our new home?

Back to the Chickens: The Chickens on Butterfly Hill Farm did not get out of their House today. They could have been inside composing their own music and their own story on such a fine day. Melanie reports they were a little bored, but they were fine.

On such days, Melanie keeps them inside because it is just too cold. Since they do not wear little hats, they get frost bite on their combs. That would not be pleasant. Did you know that a Rooster with a frozen comb is likely to be infertile for a period of time? We have another plan for Freddie.

I can imagine that the Hennies and their Roo are dreaming of a time soon when they will be out and clamoring for attention like they are in the photo above. Whenever one or more of us is outside, those Charming Chickens run as fast as they can to mill around us as they anticipate a treat. We just smile.

Saturday, January 17, 2009

Sensing Soil

Have I sensed Soil,
in me, under me, through me, around me?
Have I sensed its loving Energy
that gives Life
to me and my Companions?
Have I hugged Soil today?
Have I expressed my profoundest gratitude?
Are my Footsteps upon this Soil
as nourishing as that Soil is to Me?
Glinda Crawford, 2009


A cloak of loose, soft material,
held to the earth's hard surface by gravity,
is all that lies between life and lifelessness.
Wallace H. Fuller, Soils of the Desert Southwest, 1975

Friday, January 16, 2009


A nation
that destroys its soils
destroys itself.
Franklin D. Roosevelt

Thursday, January 15, 2009

It Starts with Soil

We moved to this little Farm in May 2007 which is almost 2 years ago. In our exuberance to begin our work on the Farm, we had ambitious Garden Plans for each of the last 2 growing seasons. This year is no exception. However, one factor is different.

We 3 C's are increasingly aware that the Soil in these parts is tired and worn after what surely must be 160 years of cultivation. I think I would be tired too. We Settlers to this Continent have been continuously taking from the Soil and giving little in return. We have forgotten that: Soil is the source of Life, Soil is a limited resource, taking necessitates giving, we Humans are Stewards of Soil. That Soil we hold in our hands belongs to Future Generations.

When we take and take, we erode the Life Giving Potential of this Precious Soil. When the vitality of Soil is diminished, the Plants we raise from that Soil are diminished in their living potential. Such diminished potential gives rise to Insects, Diseases, Weeds with which we Growers will increasingly struggle. We could talk at length about some of our struggles in the Garden these past 2 years. Plus, the diminished Nutrients in the Soil result in Foods which are not optimal for the Health our Bodies need. What we give is also what we get.

In the late 1990s, we found a holistic Veterinarian for our Pets Wicket, Scamp and Max. We were thrilled. In that 1st session, the Vet went right to the point. He said that the Food we feed our Pets comes from impoverished Soils. Feeding Pets Food from impoverished Soils results in Pets whose health is increasingly compromised.

As the years passed, I became aware of a kind of Agriculture which "mines" the Soil. This kind of Agriculture does not consider Soil as the basis for Life, but rather a medium which holds Plants in place. Man made chemical inputs feed the Plants. In my own mind, this approach is a recipe for a Desert of our own making.

As we began our adventures here, we knew we needed to beef up the Soil. I can tell you that as a person who has lived 58 years of her life in the City, I have made peace with Poop. That rich Organic Compost is making a difference on this Land.

Those Chickens are doing their part. In the beginning, I wrinkled up my City Person's nose and thought "Oooh, Poop." That changed pretty quickly. Now, the Farmer in me sees Poop and I think Fertilizer. It surely beats the Chemical kind. Our feathered Friends eat and they scratch and they poop. Last year, Organic Farmer Rolf Christen brought a grain truck load of aged Cow Manure. The stuff was filled with vital energy. We used every single particle. Rolf will be bringing more this Spring, when things dry out a bit. We are grateful beyond words.

This year, I am focusing more on information on "Soils" and less so on Seeds. I will have to do battle above the Ground if I do not give consideration to what is happening in the Ground. That makes little sense. I am a slow learner, but I do learn.

We are finding some amazing resources. I am told that when we are ready, the teacher will emerge. Last Friday, we met Brad Whitaker and his family, who are Organic Farmers in the Linneus area. Brad is a great resource who is helping us analyze and restore some of the vitality to our Soils. Our neighbors Ethan and Sarah Hughes are experienced in Permaculture, which is a permanent system of Agriculture giving consideration to Gardens as Ecology. They will be offering a class on Permaculture in the next few months. We are likely to be there on the front row.

It starts with Soil. We are hungry to learn. I can imagine that the Soil is hungry too.

Dear Reader: I would be curious to hear your Journey of Discovery through these things.

Seed Orders Almost Complete

Our seed orders for Gardening 2009 are almost complete. Richard and Melanie have ordered from Gurney's, Shumway's, Seeds of Change, and Seed Savers Exchange. Melanie will call in the order for Baker Creek tomorrow.

The latter 4 catalogs are shaping up to be our favorites. They feature heirlooms, organics, non-hybrids (open pollinated), and non-GMOs (genetically modified organisms). Gurney's and Shumway's were favorite catalogs of earlier generations in our families.

The Gurney's seed order just arrived in the mail today. We will begin planting seeds inside in flats soon. I will be planting Leeks and Pansies in the next 2 weeks. We are moving from mid-winter into the anticipation of another growing season. How sweet is that!


January 7:

Seed Catalogs have been arriving since early December with the big push around the holidays. With the arrival of Baker Creek Heirloom Seeds today, we now have our favorites.

The rituals of receiving Seed Catalogs awaken the 3 C's from our Mid-Winter Slumber. We reflect on teachings from Gardening 2008, dream and formulate plans for Gardening 2009. We wonder what challenges Nature will offer us.

We go through the pages and circle that 1st round of choices. Sometimes we wait in line like Buffalo at a favorite wallow for a seed catalog that has just arrived. Melanie got out Seed Stashes from previous years, so we are also paying attention to those on hand.

We will each have our separate Gardens again this year with our individual favorites which are becoming our specialties. We will likely have more spaces where we garden together. That will be fun.

You should hear the chatter around here. It could be called an early version of putting our hands back into the Soil. Sarah Saltmarsh wanted to be here to observe our discussions. I laugh because sometimes we 3 are so engrossed in our separate catalogs we hardly come up for air. Quiet time and contemplative page turning are all a part of the process.

We will place orders soon.

Monday, January 12, 2009

Local Lore: 17 Snows

After a few days of no Snow on the ground, it's snowing today. So far, it is pretty light, but that counts.

Local lore has it that the date of the 1st Snow gives the number of Snows we will have during the upcoming Winter. Since our 1st Snow was November 29th, that means we could expect to have 29 Snows. I admit, I was a bit depressed when I heard that initially. I have not been keeping track, but Melanie thinks that means we should have 17 Snows left.

We keep listening for all these wonderful bits of Story, Wisdom, and Practice that are a part of living in this County and living in the Country. Our Neighbor shared this tidbit, along with many others. We are very grateful!

Thursday, January 8, 2009

In the Sign

Over the last few years, we have increasingly tried to garden and initiate practical matters "In the Sign". "In the Sign", at least in these parts, means using Cycles of the Moon as a basis for certain actions, including gardening.

Some from Western Culture might consider such doin's out of touch in Modern Times. I would respond that Modern Times can be out of touch too. Such knowledge was routine practice by previous generations. Some remember those details and some still practice in those ways. This is knowledge and practice that I choose not to forget.

I believe there is more to Living and Nature than we know or can know. Such lessons about living within the cycles of Nature are all around us. We have only to pay attention. We have only to go with their flow. Why would we want to go against any of that?

I have always been fascinated by the Moon. I have often called her "Mrs. Moon". Somehow, she has seemed like my Friend in the Sky. I have loved her changing shape from no Moon at all to Full Moon, her new time of rising and setting, her new place in the Sky as I go about the routine of my day. Where is she anyway?

I have also loved being by the Sea. I am mesmerized by Waves and Tides. I know the Moon exerts a pull on the Sea which results in Tides. I know this is a "Water Planet". I know that we Humans are "Water Beings". Surely there is more going on than what I have been taught. Surely the Moon exerts an influence on us too.

I am "listening up" to gleanings of Moon Sign from such resources as the Farmer's Almanac and the talk of Folks around me. Our neighbor has given us a heads-up on a calendar at a local bank which includes the Signs. In 2008 and 2009, we bought Llewellyn's Moon Sign Book: Plan Your Life by the Cycles of the Moon (2008).

We are novices on these matters. We try to garden in the Sign, from the limited that we know. We put in our clothesline poles at times which were best for fences. We want them to stand tall and proud for a long time. We do not follow all the details. We don't even know all the details. But when we think of it, we do.

Melanie and I have haircuts scheduled for Saturday, January 10. Llewellyn's says to make hair grow thicker, cut when the Moon is full in the signs of Taurus, Cancer, or Leo. So on Saturday to the hairstylists we go!

This little entry introduces a series of "In the Sign" where I plan to note our humble initiatives in such matters. My Head doesn't really get all of this, but my Intuition says more is going on here than I can know. So why not?

Wednesday, January 7, 2009


One who plants a garden,
plants happiness.
Chinese Proverb


We found our Baker Creek Heirloom Seeds catalog in the mailbox today. Melanie almost skipped back down the drive. Some question arose as to who would dip into the catalog first.

Baker Creek was started in 1998 by Jere Gettle. At 17, Jere sent out his first seed catalog to 550 gardeners and filled orders from his room. The catalog says that this new venture fulfilled his dream to be a seedsman. And a seedsman he has become.

Eleven years later, the 2009 catalog is now 124 pages, printed in 150,000 copies, offering 1275 varieties. All seeds are non-hybrid, non-GMO, non-treated and non-patented. Baker Creek boycotts all gene-altering companies. The catalog is almost like a magazine. The pictures are "art". The stories of the seeds are amazing. Yes, plants have a story to tell too. Throughout, quotes of inspiration and transformation for our times are included.

Jere comments in the catalog that "I feel thankful to be able to work at my dream job!" We see the many examples of people in our times fulfilling their purpose here. The inspiring ripple effects of their work and joy are extending far into the big pond. How could they not?

Sunday, January 4, 2009

Seeking Patterns

The Path into the South Woods takes me past a large and stately Silver Maple. My eyes are drawn to the activities of a little critter which surely must be home here. A distinct hole in the Tree is worn on either side. Particles of fresh organic matter cascade down below. After a snowfall, little tracks reveal this little critter's busy highway as he/she heads (or they head) into the world beyond the tree and presumably back home again.

As I meander about these 40 acres, I find myself seeking patterns of the land, the plants and the animals who live here. After living 38 years beyond this county, I know so little of this land. I yearn to know its rhythms, intricacies of its seasons. I wish to craft a loving fit between myself and this new place that is home.