Sun Dog Becomes Life Arises Farm

We’ve taken a big, deep breath as soft rain drops saturate our tin roof in place of the accumulating snowflakes that had been the norm for several months.  The farm is starting to come to life within the context of the great awakening happening in the forests and river basins of this northern region. From the loft of my tiny house I can look out and see the buds breaking-the neon tinges of greens and reds sparkling from the branches of recently dormant beings.  


The grass has finally returned to a rich and hopeful green itself and we are realizing how imperative it is to invest once again in a lawn mower or maybe some sheep. Our little pond that was actually dry when Elliot arrived on the landscape in the fall has returned to its vernal, abundant glory with frog and salamander eggs tucked into grasses like stacks of galaxies.  The Spring Peepers greet us with their notes as we spend our evenings continuing to transform sod into soft, amended beds destined to hold our crops.

Sun Dog Farm has undergone a metamorphosis and has come out on the other side as Life Arises Farm. Our transition to this new state and property has brought us many gifts and of course many challenges.  Starting over has become a way of life for us in a sense and this newest endeavor calls upon all of the wisdom that has become a part of us through our relationships to landscapes, wildlife, elders, and ourselves.  As the Eastern Bluebirds land on the tiny arms of our newly planted apple trees, I do my best to be here now. The mud season has had an extended stay and there are many things I am eager to change about how our homestead operates, but this very moment in time is so special and will be tucked into the part of my heart that sips on nostalgia, forever.  


Like the calm before the storm, our greenhouse has populated with beautiful, vital diversity and the quiet nature of our winter lives is on the brink of change.  The extended coolness of this Spring has timed out perfectly with later than normal seedlings that got pushed back as we frantically finished our hoophouse. We celebrate the warming weather as it continues to bring life back to the ecologies of the soil who are busy digesting the carbon structures that dominated this former heifer pasture for years.  Our plans for the landscape continue to get spelled out and morphed and slowly a farm is being born from an open field on a dirt road. The first perennial designs are beginning to spiral down from the ledge where we nested through the winter and over an acre of garden space has been opened up.


It was our thought, being in this brand new place, to start small and engage with the local community as much as we can.  Our produce and other offerings will be available for sale at two local markets this season and we are eager to meet the amazing community of people who support small, ecological agriculture in this region.  We will be at the Hardwick Farmers Market on Fridays from 3-6:00 PM starting on May 17th. Our other farmers market will be the Craftsbury Farmers Market on Saturdays from 10:00 AM to 1:00 PM starting on May 25th.  We will grow our typical mix of produce and flowers, herbs, and eventually some fruit will make its way onto our tables.

We are also very excited about the prospect of opening our farm up to organizations, schools, and universities interested in learning opportunities focused on agroecology, biodynamics, and organic production. It has been one of the great gifts of my life to share our journey working within nature with fellow seekers and we hope to connect to groups here in Vermont who share a deep sense of curiosity and awe surrounding natural rhythms. Other events may be born along the way and we encourage y’all to check in and see what’s growing on as we make our way through our first season on the land.


When I think back to all of the successes and failures that have brought us to this enchanted piece of Earth, I am overwhelmed with gratitude for each lesson and stumbling block that prepared us for the road ahead. All of the ways we’ve been forced to learn and adapt, included in that the ways our hands in the soil have forced us to reconcile disharmony within our hearts and minds, have been necessary to bring this most recent romance with land into being.

Our modern world is so wrought with disconnection born from the systematic separation of humans from nature and we feel so much joy connecting to yet another community dedicated to transforming this linear, material mindset into future regeneration and abundance. So long as compost resurrects nutrients and seeds continue to hold the secrets of our Universe, there is hope to be had in this world.


A loon flew overhead last night, singing her haunting song, and I could feel the roots sprouting from my feet go deeper.

It is Beautiful to be Human in 2018

With every passing moment the time is thinning between the end of 2017 and the beginning of 2018.  When my mind goes idle, flashes of experiences, accomplishments, and trials gather and attach to the rolling tide of my emotions.  I watch as I habitually replace thoughts I feel good about with memories or worries that make me anxious.  I do my best to pivot.


Our collective consciousness has undergone inconceivable growth throughout the 365 days we've spent together on this planet.  The inherent chaos of being human was on full display in every medium and the fear mongering of modern media scarcely let us forget it.  All of the adaptations and strides we've made towards living in harmony with our world were overshadowed by a strong focus on the ways human beings are a threat to nature, our future, and most notably, each other.

To hold the perspective that the Earth would be better off without us is important.  It's the first step into a realm of exploration where we are able to take responsibility for the way we're impacting this planet.  When I was young and first ventured into farming, I certainly held this thought dear and from that angst ridden place I was able to get the motivation necessary to try and change it.  It takes an incredible adversary to spark determination and what more villainous creation do we have to face than our broken food system.


 This diabolical scheme of reducing nutrients from our food and adding poisons and non-digestible material is only one branch of a tree that keeps those with power safe and those without in a constant state of vulnerability.  The easiest way to keep us in this down trodden cycle is to pit us against one another.  Masterfully, the forces that manipulate our resources and manifest war take our first natural instincts that "this is wrong" and "it is wrong because of humans," and transforming it into "this is wrong because of those humans over there," or worse "this is wrong because of this type of human."

If 2017 has taught me anything about living within the bounds of this incredibly complex and layered reality, it is that self love is the source of all change.  It is so easy to walk the landscape totally fixated on the negative traits of our lives; the ways we wish it wouldn't go, the thoughts that keep us tied to destructive behaviors, situations, and people. 


Our waking lives are a minefield of experiences that can swing our flow of energy from one extreme to the next and all of this is afloat within the endless sea of social conditioning.  We are trained to want more and expect less, lose weight while eating junk food, get access to more abundance while hoarding our own resources from others; all while policing each other to follow the rules or risk being placed in an undesirable box outside the social norm.

To accept this treatment of ourselves is to allow this seemingly unstoppable, giant system to do the same to all and even encourage within our own interactions a similar dynamic.  When our personal value is set at such a low bar, it is our natural inclination to hold others to these difficult and limiting standards and always below ourselves.  It is from this place that we can develop a false sense of superiority over a person, race, political party, gender, or other group and it is from this place that we tie ourselves to the destruction of our planet.

To emancipate ourselves from this exploitative model is complex, but the simple solution is to nurture the self.  Instead of tirelessly trying to meet the artificial standards of our modern day, we must ask ourselves, deep within, what it is that we were put here for?  What is it that brings us joy? 


Sometimes activism looks like speaking out against oppression or starting a campaign.  Sometimes it looks like chaining yourself to an oil rig or standing in front of water cannons in North Dakota.  Sometimes activism looks like forgiving your loved ones, neighbors, friends, opposing political parties, and most importantly yourself and growing community from that common experience instead of being divided by it.

As we move into the New Year I hope that we are ever aware and seeking, searching for justice and protecting each other and our planet from the threats born from the enforced stratification of our culture.  I hope that we hold humanity accountable for the offenses committed and I hope we end the suffering experienced in our homes, in our bodies, on our streets, and in our river basins. 


From this space of acknowledgement I hope we are able to transcend the boxes we have been trained to build and we learn to celebrate what it is to be human in 2018.  From my shadow to yours I extend the opportunity to heal, to come together, and share in the beauty that humanity has brought to this world without a pointed finger in sight.

2018 is destined to be the year that we learn to love ourselves and watch as that nourishment sends our culture into full bloom.

The Lens of the Total Eclipse

I woke this morning to a different color light.  Late summer holds a unique space for when the surging of the natural world peaks, the last of the flowers set buds and the chorus of organisms climaxes.  Generally we come by this phenomenon as a sensation.  We may not be totally tuned into the intricate individual pieces of the transformation, but a subtle key change is detected.  The Sun has a different power at this time in the season.  The momentum of silica ejected from our planet begins to slow and the energetic see-saw slowly falls back into the digestive, lime driven nature of the colder season.  The weather may stay hot for the next two months, but the overall picture is changing and we can feel this as our own spirit begins to burrow deeper within.


On Monday, August 21st,  Timpson Creek Farm was fortunate enough to be on the path of totality for the 2017 Solar Eclipse.  The intensity in the air as we prepared for the event was overwhelming.  It felt like the individuals around me were walking the landscape totally exposed.  They carried a rawness in their form that was usually covered up in the tidy dressings of social normativism and emotional barriers constructed to protect insecurities and inner villains. With these typical force fields offline, the community around me was engaged in sometimes difficult, but always remarkable conversations and interactions.  It was as if the coming of the event lifted the need for experts and somewhat forcefully beckoned of us to admit our tiny place in this unfathomably complex reality.


As the actual event began to unfold, the color of the air changed.  A purplish hue saturated the trees and shrubs and tinted the flowers as the sky began to darken.  While it is mostly impossible to explain, the quality of the air changed as the light did.  It was as if you could see it, in between things; as if a seamless web was revealed that was connecting all things to all other things.  The revelation of this connection was so strong, in fact, that it could almost be felt on the skin.  Before the metamorphosis of the landscape could be processed by the mind, the moon overtook the power of the sun at a maddening rate of speed, reaching totality.  The crickets began to chirp, a local pack of coyotes sang, and the morning glories across the meadow began to close.  Our hearts raced, we howled and cried and in just another moment the sun exploded from the other side of the moon.  Morning song birds shared a few notes and we all stood in awe with the halo of the eclipse etched into the walls of our minds forever.

Photo by Matt Johns at Timpson Creek Farm August 21st, 2017

Photo by Matt Johns at Timpson Creek Farm August 21st, 2017

I know for certain that this portal brought different, necessary lessons to each individual viewer of its process.  I have been looking around ever since, struggling to find my footing and yet feeling as though this new sense of disconnection is the wavelength I was meant to align with.  All of the people in my life have suddenly revealed themselves as being a part of myself.  Their experiences and perceptions, insights and problems all budding fractals of my own experience with infinite possibilities and outcomes.  All of the circumstances in my life, both positive and negative have revealed themselves as physical manifestations of my internal battles.  What must be explored in the internal realm is made known in the external realm simultaneously and must be dealt with in both.  This is an empowered step away from the fear driven life I have been leading since the moment I opened my eyes in this world.


That doesn't make the journey much easier, however.  I see the world at odds; everyone choosing a moral compass and invalidating anyone who doesn't see it the same way.  We're caught up in believing that there is one right side to a duality and we aren't acknowledging the swing.  That both light and darkness exist in each of us and the conquering of the evil in this realm is derived from the compassion towards and upliftment of all.

I carry forward from the event once again feeling completely humbled.  Recognizing that the farm, a little piece of land that went into shadow at 2:40 PM on a Monday in August was a part of just one small strip in the revolution that day and but one small blip in the overall cycles of the sun and moon.  I see the divided nature of our world right now as the great divides that crack the foundations of my inner most self.  I witness the need for knowledge and love to mend those wounds and to inspire the creativity that can preserve this paradise we call home for revolutions to come.  

FullSizeRender (12).jpg

I will continue on my path in this life trying to nurture living systems that carry a natural sentience; ecosystems that do the incredibly important job of holding in place the holistic web of our individual and group consciousness,.  I may never understand it all, or exist in a constant state of peace, but the striving for such things prevents my mind, body, and soul from stagnating.  Tempering logic with heart, and emotions with facts, avoiding all dogma and shedding the need to know it all.  My post eclipse self is potentially more confused than ever, but infinitely more willing to continue living and changing on this incredibly beautiful planet Earth.

Earth's Deep Breathing

With every new growing season, I find myself having to relearn the delicate dance between force and balance.  My first few heavy armfuls of soil, tools, and other items are met with a deep breath that I initially hold.  Holding my breath in the Spring ties my spirit to the quiet death that unfolds every time a seed releases its incredible energy into its initial root.  The reluctance the seed faces as it must evolve is the same cycle that besets my soul as I emerge from the dreamy winter state.  

I am beckoned to expand from my warm hearth and comfortable chair into a world of chaos and disorder.  The Spring season envelopes all that surrounds me in a quaking and seemingly unstoppable force.  I hold my breath because I am nervous to hit the ground, to experience this life through the abundant lense of creation that is so entangled in pain and growth and regeneration.  I hold fast to my old thoughts, afraid that the adaptation will be too much for my wavering spirit to take.  The thawing of my bones into this new warmth and light feels vulnerable, breaking ground a ritual that holds in its very essence the sense of possibilities equally weighed out: will I succeed this year?  Will the obstacles in my path lead me to failure? 

It isn’t until the second breath that I remember what it is to grow.  Remembering to breathe while I work, a muscle memory that unleashes my flexibility and mobility.  I move once again with the forces of this natural world and our synchronized waltz paints the landscape in gardens and harmony of my own design.  I flow from one obstacle to the next; like a root avoiding rocks in the mineral ridden soil.  I evade this pressure and that and I breathe through the trauma of loss and grow from the friction of the change in direction.  My path along this plane is full of opportunities for cooperation, organisms and rhythms laying themselves open for me to observe, to follow, to collaborate.  The Planet’s diaphragm is swelling with life and I dance along this fine and eccentric line between Earth and Air.  

This thin layer, this tiny boundary, holds the key to all as it transcends what we know as up and down.  I watch the atmosphere incorporate into the soil.  I breathe deeply, just as the earth breathes through the mouths and homes of all of the creatures that reside within her.  I watch as the rain makes tea from the life that has eroded into organic material and I see this treasure tapped by the newly growing roots.  My fingernails are constantly full of Earth and I wipe it across my brow; marking my ties to the horizontal forces that build the framework of plant and animal life in this world.  

My first tan in Spring is made of soil.  The humic compounds stick to my skin as I push through them, pull weeds and sow seeds; moving slugs and snails from their paths and crumbling up the palaces constructed from the creatures who do not seek the sun.  They cannot take her assaulting rays; their eyes and ears more suited for the hollow, quilted sounds of inner worlds and cushioned vacuums.  They move about their lives with little regard for the flight of birds or the exploration of the crown of the apex trees in the old growth forests.  

Their purpose on Earth is clearly marked by their bodies; made only for the life of dampness and darkness.  While they do not yearn to kiss the sun, they are however irreversibly tied to her life giving forces.  As the Sun grows in hours, so too do the plants; their leaves and roots expanding out from their lengthening stems.  As the roots dig into the soil, they begin to create a metropolis.  A grounds for socializing and feeding, root exudation and mineral exchange creating a frenzy of bacteria and fungi reaping the rewards of the plant’s photosynthetic harmony to the Universal heartbeat; Sun as power source generating food and the nighttime rhythm of growth.

The heartbeat penetrates the soil and dictates the circulation potential of the ecosystem.  Last week’s ant colony that collapsed after the heavy rain enters the bloodstream; small carcases floating within the deep and interwoven veins of dead roots and insect mines; protein being released into the feeding trough of the underworld.  These nutrients make their way from root systems to humic storage containers, being used up or put away like a prepper preparing for the apocalypse; you don’t know when the rain is going to end, you can’t be sure that life will always be around as sacrifice to the altar of biodiversity.  This constant circulation of rain water, nutrients, and organisms a mirror of the growth seen above the soil as the layers of life build on themselves and reach for the sky in the atmosphere.  As above, so below.

The mycelium like tree branches amid a fawn colored sky.  Expanding the capacity of the plant’s roots to reach out and make contact with the soil dwellers and harvesters of the fountain of minerals deep below the terrace of light and warmth.  Birds do not land on these branches, songs are not shed from the lungs of this world; only the constant surging and receding; devour and release, the assimilation of material from one open causeway to another.  This forest is dark and full and yet shares with this Earth a similar capacity for breath as found in the quaking leaves and summertime breeze.

I’ve bore witness to the fragile breathing of this Earth.  As a mature Earthworm, nine years in the making, made reentry into the tubular halls of his realm; I’ve seen the soil suck the oxygen in behind him.  The oxygen following the path of the Earthworm to his home, through his neighborhood and the out breath quietly releasing as he emerges for a taste of rotting oats. I’ve listened to the shallow breath of a completely compacted pasture.  The stagnant, lifeless soil aggressively parted by the growing thistles, docks, and pigweeds.  Each tap root, as it descends and parts and opens, releasing the soil from its suffocation.  Each night time growth resulting in an inhale and exhale; amplifying in force as the plants grow together, bringing moisture back to the terrain, and protecting the land from unwanted footsteps and unwelcomed guests.  Soon the soil dwellers return; soon the soil reclaims the ability to respire and the momentum of life overwhelms.

I’ve participated in the destruction of homes and passageways in the soil, carefully constructed by the inhabitants.  My husband spends each Spring atop his tractor, dragging his metal teeth through the soil to open it up, to imitate the processes inherent in its intelligent design.  Like a sculptor, he pushes his way through a field just as the moisture is such that the soil is lifted and suspended in the air, perfectly elevated to house seeds to be sown and plants to nest in the fluffy medium.  

I’ve taken a digging fork and crumbled the walls of these microscopic temples.  Devastating one colony of plants and organisms to encourage another and this dismantling is an inevitable forfeit that we must carry out season after season and yet must be constantly balanced with reclamation.  If we take it too far, ignore the signs the soil sends us that it must rest, we begin to lose the vitality that our crops themselves rely on to feed and reproduce.  There is no concentrated product on the shelf that can bring ecology back into the soil, only time and the steady accumulation of community; biodiverse microcosms where interaction and collaboration are the most sought after currency and quickest method for the development of whole system awareness.

Soils that are allowed to develop, allowed to diversify and integrate organisms and niches, are soils that are able to breathe.  It is through this breath that our world is nourished, replenished, and made sentient.  The more I have nurtured the breath in environments on my journey, the more this practice has been cultivated within my own awakening.  I now know fully how my own lungs are but one part of the deep, synchronized breathing of this Earth.

The Fertility of Darkness

Sometimes my journey across this planet, this abundant and incredible Earth, is wrought with the darkness we find at the root of all things.  Being willfully aware of the incredible complexity and connectedness of this system at times moves my mind into a chaotic state that feels compulsive, directionless, and hopeless.  It is incredible to be a tracker of your own thoughts.  Following the footprints and trails left by your brain, guided by the erratic nature of your emotional self from one extreme to the next. 

Before this awareness of my ability to create my own reality, I maintained a very material and idealistic vision of myself.  I paid closest attention to the aspects of myself that were in full bloom, and didn’t spend too much time evaluating the whole picture.  I wanted others to see my blooms and celebrate them.  To deem them the most important part of my being and harvest them to be held on their coffee tables and brought up in conversations.  I wanted people to look into my flowers and not see my rotting roots or hollow stem.  I didn’t want to see these things myself.

Working with the natural forces is nothing if not an eye opening revelation that brings into your heart the most holistic picture of things.  You can’t look at a flower without seeing the bee, the minerals rising inside the plant, the sun and moon, or hearing the breathtaking craning of the movements of the cosmic bodies.  Everything in view has a tiny, expanding field that ricochets off of fields being expressed by other beings.  The world becomes a minefield of inclusion where every independent happening gets tied into the whole, woven into the pulsating fabric of this existence. 

This new vantage point is incredibly thrilling.  Nights are spent dreaming of the geometric patterns, the communications within the system.  The intelligent design becomes mapped out in a blue print that grows more vivid and evident each day.  The beauty of this world and the pain entwine and it feels like the most moving symphony you’ve ever experienced with your eyes, ears, and heart.  You get lost in this place and it is blissful and overwhelming and then one day you’re looking in the mirror and you realize that this also applies to you.

There are no words I have to describe how shattering this is.  I spent my whole life cultivating an image of myself.  Caring about the “right” things, throwing my throbbing heart into this cause and that.  The intoxicating mixture of empathy and self righteousness sending me down paths for selfish reasons my ego would not allow me to recognize.  So long as I received praise, I kept going.  I martyred.  I aggressively loved people who did not deserve it; my home in their hollowed out self feeling comfortable and unshakeable but adding weight to their already heavy journey.  My presence a sickness, cementing the inability of the individual to have their own reckoning of self.  In fact, the selfish hoarding of their pain made me just as undeserving or more so. 

I entered situations and felt bad for myself.  I watched as my life dimmed and darkened and became more of a chore and I blamed this on others.  I judged others.  As I began to notice the synchronicities, read the right scripts and texts and I became more attuned to the vibrational connectivity of consciousness and soul, I felt superior to others.  I would use my hatred of racism to hate racists, or sexists, or any ist that perpetrated crimes that my heart shallowly stood behind.  I judged from a higher chair, a more refined chair, and this developed within me an insidious shadow.

My mind called this into my awareness from time to time.  The wheel of karma would deal me a card and I would have an “Oh snap!” moment of clarity where I saw the cause and effect diagram clearly.  As a spiritual student, I was brightened and emboldened further by these slaps on the wrist; it really seemed that I was getting it and on the path.  These awakenings made me feel even smarter and I delighted in practicing to be humble in the presence of others.  I felt special and inspired and it lead me to truly study the esoteric teachings; learning how to separate the will, the emotions, and the brain and start to use them independently. 

The exercises I practiced were just little tricks that felt harmless and stimulated my curiosity and thirst for further development.  I wanted to develop because I wanted to be better.  I sought out this ascension to get ahead and I did not know at the time, but this is much different than seeking for the purpose of unity.

Carrying on unknowingly, expanding and contracting with the rhythms of this new found connection I had made, the energetic I was riding changed.  Where there is an ebb, there is a flow.  The painful illumination of my shadow was so stark and sudden; my mirrored reflection almost too much for me to take.  My life played backwards and the distorted soundtrack expanded just as much as its positive mirror had in the light.  I could see all of it.  All of my selfish choices, my snide remarks and my insecurities made into actions.  I watched as my decisions shaped my circumstances and bore witness to every negative thought and it felt like hot coals in my hands. 

My pretension lay naked at the tabernacle of humiliation and I couldn’t sleep for weeks.  The inside of my brain compulsively replayed and attracted negativity and I did everything I could to shake it with no success.  I cried and moved through the work days as best I could, constantly haunted by these demons of my own making.  Fear reigned over me and I could no longer stand in the dark; could barely even close my own eyes.  My inflated ego created a type of blindness that had me walking into this new realm totally unprepared.  I hated myself and entered a depression that I felt I could share with no one.  I didn’t see why I needed to exist, how anyone could endure such pain, and as though my entire life had been some terrible prank.

Here in the Earthly realm, in this vast and incredible place of darkness, this is where we plant our seeds.  

I wallowed and remained tormented for days upon days.  I begged of my higher self and guiding forces to fix me; to make me the kind of spiritual being worthy of their love and nothing came of it.  Walking the tight rope of mental health I often times felt like I had lost it; my mind, my sense of reasoning, my purpose on this Earth.  The chaos of my existence peaked and the thunderstorms of Spring highlighted my inner turmoil.  Questions of self worth, motivations, and integrity spun in my mind and I felt sick in my heart, my legs, and womb.  The images flashing through my psyche became so corrosive that I would utter “Shhhhh,” outloud to slow them down.  Over and over I repeated “Shhhhh,” but never took the advice. 

One afternoon during an intense display of lightening I was meditating and the overwhelming message was, “Be Quiet.  Shhhhh.”  The entire rest of that day I received message after message from random places; thoughts, conversations, the whining television.  I am not the self I built, but the observer of that self.  I cannot hope to love and forgive others until I learn to do so for myself.  I had spent all of this time crying out for answers and never once thought to stop and listen for them.

 I buried my seed deep that day; the chaotic and disordered complexity of the proteins within the seed reaching a maddening state before the root was forced to exit and spur organization.  My shadow, my darkness had to brew and breathe and have its own existence in the sphere of my consciousness just as much as the more obvious beneficial habits of my soul.  I had to go deep within this dark forest to begin my growth upward; to shed from myself the illusions that would not allow me the proper inclination towards the forces of this Universe. 

The humbling of my ego the first process towards living in unity with the source of all creation.  To see myself without judgement, just as I would hope to view every circumstance I encounter on my path, and every person who comes and goes from my life.  I was just as delusional believing I could climb the stairs of spiritual ascension while sitting in judgement of others as I was believing I could do so without seeing and addressing the ways that I had secretly sat in judgement of myself.

The seeds that we choose to sow in this darkness are the plants we choose to grow.  Often times we push these aspects of ourselves into the unexamined corners thinking that they have gone away.  We feel that if we take away these negative traits from our awareness and stick them safely below the soil, no one will ever catch glimpse of them and see our insecurities, judgements, and mistakes.  What we don’t realize is that all of these seeds that we so desperately want to hide are actually planted in the extremely well developed and fertile soil of the shadow self. 

FullSizeRender (1).jpg

Slowly but surely, we feed them, water them, do things and make choices that allow them to be nourished and fill the garden of our mind.  They hide from us in plain sight, and yet those outside of us that view our gardens not only see them clearly, but also view us as we continually make decisions that nurture them.  Those who we choose to interact with may not be able to identify the plants in our garden, their scientific names or country of origin, but they are visible nonetheless.  The garden that we choose to see; in perpetual bloom, is but the emerald spire behind which the Wizard of Oz rests.  It is not until harvest that we reap what we sow, and a pitiful harvest can still be blamed in the mind by the unpredictability of the weather.



The Universal Medicine of Growing Food

2016 Sucked

If the internet taught us anything in 2016, about the year 2016, it was that everyone in the U.S. hated it.  There was this incredible fog of anxiety that the country was steeping in.  The loss of this creative person or that seemed to unravel the fabric of our realities in ways that losing celebrities and artists had never done before.

We felt powerless and preoccupied; our ever quickening society bringing some of us incredible comforts and some of us undeniable pain and suffering.  Even those of us who have had the privilege of first world products spent 2016 feeling as though the world was slowly rolling out of range. As if on some deeper level guilt had begun to develop as our day to day lives never seemed to intersect with the consequences of our modern day needs.  

In 2016 we reached a crossroads in our consciousness.  We could no longer ignore the warfare, habitat loss and bottlenose extinction of species, the manipulation in our media outlets, Gender and Racial bias, and the shameless union of Economics and Politics.  It is an incredible burden to recognize all of this imbalance, and this grief has been carried by all people on Earth, with guilt, anxiety and helplessness lying heavily on those in the United States.

A long and hard fought battle to continue to be socially liberal, to celebrate our differences and create a government that was compassionate and tolerant seemed to be stolen from us; our blame for this was directed at the President Elect and all of those who supported him. We leaned heavily on our heroes in cinema; those who reliably conquered obstacles, made us laugh and cry, and most importantly gave us the wins we felt we were losing in our everyday lives. 

It is always in the darkest places where we find the first ember of light.  The acknowledgement of this heaviness for many people seemed to manifest it.  Bringing these feelings into the light and sharing them with others seemed to breath life into them and this felt wrong.  The facade of ever forward progressive movement was broken and losing this mirage was actually our first and very important step towards change.

Our feelings of helplessness are born from outsourcing our personal powers.  We've given many of our rights and much of our privacy up for material stability.  We tirelessly work jobs to purchase objects that we feel are necessary for ourselves and family, things we've gotten accustomed to having.  We put a number into a computer and something arrives at our door from who knows where made of who knows what.

This is not to say that all industry is bad or that all modern day tools and toys are evil; it is simply the thoughtless level at which we've begun to consume.  The world's resources are derived from nature's tendency towards exponential growth.  Unlike our industries, nature has within its own system all the necessary means for continual production.  So long as nature has something living and something digesting; nature has the ability to create and externalities or waste aren't a consequence.

 Nature carries incredible momentum and can work with us to restore balance to our ecosystems and bring fertility back to our land, and nourishment back to our psyches and spirit.  The world we've created, however, has us spiralling towards the opposite momentum; undermining that exponential growth at its source.  We as a collective have found ourselves taking too much from here, putting too many waste materials over here, and ignoring the global, social and environmental consequences.

President Trump, a seeming dark shadow on the horizon, is simply the embodiment of the disparities caused by our lifestyles in the richest nations of the world.  He’s not the enemy, and no place to find solutions.  Trump is just the messenger.  A living, breathing reminder that the answers to the world’s problems don't come from the top down.  It is always a grassroots unity that brings about lasting change and as we move into 2017, a renewed unity between humans and nature will bring about the most prosperity and restore within us the most personal power.

Agriculture: Our Actual Only Hope

While so much feels out of our control; the modern world appearing so expansive and complex; one thing we can take personal control over is the production of our food.  Working land, even in a backyard garden throws our physical and psychological selves back into rhythm with the balanced and creative potential of our living world.  It allows us expression without waste and it guarantees that our foodstuffs are packed with nutrients in ways that Agriculture fails us on a larger scale.

Viewing science through the lense of Materialism has given the human species incredible advancements in technology and the production and distribution of goods in an increasingly globalized economy.  While this has provided abundantly in some regards, it has also severed important ties that the modern day human being has to natural communities and to a balanced cultivation of Spirit.  

An industry and livelihood that has suffered at the hands of an exponential, Capitalist-Material perspective, is Agriculture.  The tools derived from this system of thought have aided in the momentary production of profit at the expense of system longevity, fertility, and foods that aid in the holistic growth of the mind, body, and soul.

Monoculture and Chemical Agriculture have sterilized environments in an attempt to treat soil as a medium for roots to be housed, and not as a means for building the biological scaffolding that transforms nutrients into life.  It is essential when developing a farm or garden to patiently and diligently observe the landscape to determine what cultivars and livestock would suit the environment best; what systems would generate the most production given the ecological systems that are already thriving in that bioregion without using anything up or generating excess.  

Utilizing the principles of Biomimicry, the intelligent design of nature allows the farmer or gardener to incorporate annual and perennial crops and living organisms within a system that favors biodiversity, and will generate and maintain fertility without the need for shipped in, outside inputs and purchased, concentrated products.

This intersection between cultivated life and the wildlands and habitat that house the farm or garden organism serves as the vehicle for Spiritual development in human beings.  Exposure to the greater rhythms of the Universe that govern the growth patterns and relationships of all natural communities and co-creating with these forces allows the human being to experience challenging lessons in a spiritually nurturing and replenishing environment.  

Using the Biodynamic Preparations allows the individual to incorporate their own consciousness into the sentient nature of the system and the foods grown within provide nourishment for the physical and energetic aspects of the human form.

The Earth Makes All of Our Medicine

As the farm or garden becomes more cohesive, the opportunity for the steward to find true independence and sustainability is heightened.  The more boundaries nested into the layout of the ecosystem, the more potential for life.  As we move into a time of Climate instability and the increased desertification of Earth, it will be imperative that we design systems that are not only productive and sustainable, but also encourage the restoration of ecological communities native to these degraded regions in both rural and urban settings.

The most powerful aspect of this holistic method of Agriculture is the healing quality designing and implementing these systems has on the human body and Spirit; potentized medicine for the Earth and ourselves.



May Black Lives Thrive

I have struggled for the last two weeks to find the words I felt could heal or help this incredibly charged time.  I have been sitting here, in fact, quietly for about an hour staring at this blank screen not totally sure where to go.  As a white woman, I have benefited from countless privileges that have made the difficult journey of life less shocking and have made my goals and aspirations more attainable.  I was taught history from a white perspective and I moved through the world with this conditioning.  The American-Capitalist-Economic framework granted me access to certain luxuries and experiences and closed doors on me at other times, depending on my wavering social status.  The most offensive attributes I seemed to carry with me through my adventures in this white dominated, patriarchal society were my unusual and unshakable love for people and nature and, of course, my vagina.

Unfortunately, there are no places to put a bleeding heart in a society built on exploitation.  This country and several others around the globe were not only built upon stolen land, but with the enforced labor and murder of human beings.  While time has taught our overall awareness a thing or two and the word “slavery” has been removed from our everyday vocabulary, our society still functions off of a very similar principle.  In order to obtain the absurd profits that the most affluent members of our world have come accustomed to, our entire social order must be based on the domination and manipulation of the poor and disenfranchised.  Black and brown people, indigenous cultures and immigrants have been used; their integrity and ownership over this life and their own well being have been challenged in an attempt to keep the mechanism of economy and power stabilized for those who sit on top.  Our political structures, law enforcement, and military have been conditioned to fear and control; to keep the “peace” by committing violence against individuals who struggle to get through their day to day.

Terrence Mckenna said it best, “The ideas of Capitalism and Democracy are at complete odds.  Democracy tells us that everyone has value; Capitalism tells us that some people are worth more than others.”  This contradiction is as evident now as it has always been.  I can only express how destructive this culture of exploitation is in the only real language I know; land.  We have been lead to believe that even in the world of nature, the rule is “Survival of the Fittest.”  That those who are destined to succeed must do so at the expense of whatever may exist around them.  If you truly pay attention to natural communities, you see a different picture.  The most successful organisms in an ecosystem are those that are able to adapt in harmony with the most living communities.  Balance is brought about through biodiversity; through countless communities of organisms seeking out nourishing relationships with other beings in conditions that not only encourage beings to live, but to thrive.

Individuals in America and other nations that hold privilege, that do not have to fear from one moment to the next for the safety of their family or friends have unknowingly sacrificed their own freedoms for what feels like security.  As we continue to outsource our own power and responsibility to the continued militarization of our world, we all lose the tools we need in our communities to thrive.  The words continue to morph but the “exponential” reality remains the same.  The culture of exploitation that is responsible for the bottleneck extinction of plants and animals, ecosystems and wild-lands is the same mechanism that brings brutality into our neighborhoods and keeps us separated and powerless.  

At this incredibly dire time in the Earth’s history, it is imperative that we recognize the personal power and responsibility we all have to bring harmony back into this world.  To see and value the beauty in all people, to receive wisdom and nourishment from someone who has walked a different path than our own and to protect their invaluable contribution to our human family is essential in changing the dynamics that are destroying this planet.  As a white and or privileged person, we can no longer wear blinders in hopes that we will be safe from the unfolding of history.  The Earth is our mirror.  The way we continue to lose viability in our landscapes is reflected in the loss of vitality in our human communities.  Plant more trees yes, but also stand in harmony with as many races, genders, sexualities, and life experiences as possible in hopes that we may all thrive.

Building a Fire

My winter mantra: There is no heat in the house unless someone builds a fire. 

The love of the garden, the nourishing way in which she has held my hand all season is starting to fade.  Stems of kale, choi, and collards are burned from the below freezing temperatures.  Frost gives the plants a beautiful glass like appearance as they begin to wilt in the dry, winter air.  My house is warm, the livestock all tucked away with hay blankets and barriers.  The tall summer crops have lost their color and stand like skeletons above the under-sown, bright green cover crop.  The fiery leaves have fallen and ice pelts the tin roof in waves.  After months of outward living, I pull my heart back into my being just before the frost claims it.

Walking the quieted landscape I find glimpses of next year's bounty.  Dried plants dropping seeds, the beautiful architecture of a Praying Mantis nest, and the occasional stir within the beehive.  The insects, for the most part, have finished their display and have either joined the great ceremony of spirit in decay, or have found someplace safe to hide out until the greenery returns.  Within the greenhouse a portrait of what was remains, giving us a small feast of life to hold us through the months of frozen ground.  It is this time of year that melancholy hits my deepest notes and the coyote calls make me feel the most at ease.

In a world so complex, with so many stirring issues to hold captive the mind, it is difficult to lay my soul to rest as the farm goes to sleep.  My eyes are free from the constant attentiveness necessary for the garden to flourish and are suddenly made to see this troubled world around me.  Where good news sprouts, bad news sprouts in smothering, aggressive droves.  A delicate ecosystem, connected by the fibers of our Universe, tormented and destroyed by individuals who desperately seek freedom, peace, and justice.  Mapping out a path for the renewal of our planet involves so much compromise that it seems an impossibility.  How can we find common ground when our societies are so built on separation?  How can we find the love necessary to rebuild our soils and atmosphere when love and compassion are not even shared among our fellow human beings?

These two hands and my weary mind are only capable of so much.  A limitation that is of an intelligent design, the cultivation of my life on Earth a journey without end, evolution through the hardest trials without the possibility of making all things right.  My time on this planet is one tiny piece of a greater painting, the colors of my friends, family, strangers, and antagonists all bringing this beautiful, tragic, and masterful existence a sense of growth.  There is no end, there is no answer.  My only hope in putting my hands into the soil, sowing seeds in land rich with life, is to preserve my piece.  To foster life where it can be boundless, where it can extend into chaos and mimic the very nature of our Universe.

To fall in love with nature is to know pain.  It is to suffer and mourn and yet find hope in the deepest, darkest corners of the forest, in the tiniest casings of seeds.  There is no heat in the house unless someone builds a fire.  This mantra carries me along my journey, giving levity to my heavy heart.  There can be no change without action and I commit myself knowing that my farm will be a sanctuary in a world whose natural spaces are becoming islands among wastelands.  Rare things are often more vivid, sweeter, and carry a spectacular richness that outweighs the poverty of honest work.  I sip from the vanishing cup of wilderness and my spirit is renewed.  I will celebrate her brilliance, this final dance, and I will hold hands with all of those not afraid to go against the grain of society and align themselves with the regenerative forces of creation.  

There is always hope, especially when there is no end.


The Season of High Sun at Sun Dog

The equinox has returned us once again to Summer and the farm continues along her rhythm into the season of high reproduction and biodiversity.  The friction of so many beings in the valley has given all of the plants in need of pollination ample opportunity to make love to the honey bees and butterflies.  Praying Mantis adolescents that were the size of fingernails a month ago have matured to the size of clothespins, and have spread among the different fields in the garden, hunting for easy prey in their territories.  Our cow and sheep are living easy on lush green pasture, and our pigs get the best (and "worst,") of the garden scraps.  During a time when the highest amount of nutrients is transferred from the soil and atmosphere directly into something beautiful and edible, it's hard not to feel invincible.

Though to be invincible would be to remove yourself from the very things that sculpt your creative spirit and willpower, and what a limitation that would be.  I am quickly reminded and humbled by my mortality when I sit out in the garden and watch before my eyes the beautiful gesture of decay and regeneration.  The Earth is in a constant ebb and flow and during this time of year it is almost as if you can hear it.  Some of the first cucumbers and squash have been celebrated in dishes with sweet basil and the beans and tomatoes are sharing their first blooms.  The farm, ever full of grace as she is, is transforming herself once again into hot passion and lush, bountiful harvests.

The flourishing nature of the plants and animals during this time of year begs of us to try and keep up.  Our work days are their longest, and yet the Sun stays out to help make it possible.  This farm invites us to dance with her, to let her lead us and challenge us.  The physicality of this time of year connects us deep within our bones to a time when we relied on the strength of our bodies and the cunning of our minds to survive.  All the while, we are invited to participate in the creation, to paint the landscape in colors and shapes of our choosing and the farm will allow it, so long as we choose nurture over neglect.

I am grateful for the opportunity to share another season of High Sun with the Valley.  It is this very point in the growing season that I long for during the winter months and I couldn't imagine experiencing this time of year in any other setting.  The more my hands dig into this North Georgia soil, the more rooted they become.  The Summer Solstice rests at the very height of the farm's imaginings and I open myself up to the possibilities.

And in Farming We are Free

As we become entangled in the movements of early Spring, I find myself encountering a list of tasks that stir deep within my being a sense of deja vu.  It is true, when the days begin to get longer, the air warms, and the rumblings of life emerge and multiply, I am usually in a clear plastic house with a plan, a sharpie, and tiny, beautiful seeds all storing within them the chaos of the Universe and as much possibility.  Deeper than this muscle memory, this learned repetition, is this sense of being through doing, something this time of year surges into my body like electricity.  The idea that the ultimate freedom within this Earthly existence comes from the great responsibility of using your own two hands to create before you the very thing your heart yearns for most.

 As the daylight draws the eggs from the chickens, so too does it draw from within my spirit the desire to create and regenerate.  All winter season we have trudged through the mud, allowed our minds to become as vacant as the barren landscape and finally, after months of repose, we have risen once again into the creative forces of Spring.  The stinging nettles and ephemeral wild flowers are already returning to their nooks and crannies and the Maple blooms are consumed by the hum of a busy hive.  Our first beds have been prepped and the nuances learned from another season past have been calculated back into the big plans for 2014.  While there remains a chill in the air, night time temperatures in the 20's and below, you can never hold back Spring.

And so it will go, just as it has gone before, the momentum of another Spring will sweep us off our feet and we will be carried away into the hurried shuffle through yet another growing season with it's challenges and defeats.  At one point in June it will feel like the whole world is on our shoulders and the tasks at hand are too numerous to count and too much to handle.  Before I can blink my eyes I will find myself in November, closing up shop, ready and willing to watch the landscape fall once again into dreams so that I may put down my hoe and embody the serene, peaceful pace of Winter.  Only to find myself in March, filled with the anxious sparks of potential, more eager than ever to go through it all again; the joys and the pains.  Knowing that I only truly feel alive when the work of my body and mind nourish the community I love and the ecosystem that I farm.

We applied our first BD Prep 500 to the farm recently and I have to say first of all, what an incredible first moment to share with your farm in the early Spring.  While the mass produced fertilizers and "OMRI approved" amendments may bring their bling and short sighted victories to plants in distress, there is something to be said for practices that are holistic, extremely low impact, low cost, and so completely full of intention.  The simple act of stirring this mixture for an hour before walking every inch of your farm breathes within it the life, the imagination, and the most literal and basic physical expression of intention you have the power to convey.  With every step, seeing each and every piece of your farm just as it begins to open up to new life, you nurture a kinship that exists as much outside of you in the Earthly realm as it does within you.  Your farm, your garden, your life, is a mirror of the effort you put into, the intention and love you share with it, and there is nothing more fruitful on this planet than a piece of land whose biology is as diverse as a forest and whose growth has been guided by the creative forces of love.

As I sit impatiently in the purgatory of the end of Winter and the beginning of Spring, I am at my most receptive to the undeniable yearnings I have for the work we do here at Sun Dog Farm.  I may get tired, I may make mistakes, but I was called to this piece of land and I have had no greater teacher.  The closer I come to nature, the better I become.  The more responsibly I use my days to create, preserve, harvest, and nurture, the more my spirit is set free.

Georgia Organics Conference and Upcoming Classes!

I can feel all around me, under my feet, dancing throughout the air, the tremble of life returning to our little valley here in the mountains.  With heavy snows and ice, we have had a quiet, introspective winter with the Earth's surface receiving most of the energies sent here from distant places, and storing them for the upcoming burst of growth and diversity.  Cabin fever has gotten the better of me on many occasions, though the silent accumulation of snow has been enough to calm my racing mind.  Even though the days are still chilled and the woods sparse, the sunshine has lingered into the evening hours and the sounds of birds, frogs, and bees are adding the first notes to the Springtime chorus.  In my head I obsess over the possibilities and necessities of the upcoming season, while in my heart I know this slow but steady pace is what gives this process balance.


I was lucky enough to attend the Georgia Organics Conference on Jekyll Island this past weekend where I was able to reconnect to so many beautiful people doing incredible things for Agriculture in the state of Georgia, all on sandy beaches with Wood Storks and surf birds to keep us company.  The elaborate networks we have built here in the South are really beginning to become sown together and with every passing year there seems to be more and more approaches to growing, teaching, and eating that are mindful and impactful.  It is quite inspiring to know that in the face of so much destruction and degradation of our natural habitats and social systems, there are numerous people dedicated to change without thought of consequences or roadblocks.  These powerful individuals attract the creative forces of this Earth and harness them, making colorful all grey areas, shining light on injustice, and spreading the good word on health through the revitalization of our places and our people.  I was honored to be among them and equally eager to celebrate the accomplishments of my friends and peers.  To find joy in times like these is to find peace and resiliency.  This experience has resurrected my hibernating spirit and given me the strength to keep up the fight.


The coming months are some of the busiest and there are many exciting things happening in the greenhouse, in the neighboring mountains, on the farm, and in Atlanta.  We will be returning once again to the Peachtree Road Farmers Market for another full growing season starting April 5th.  We have missed y'all all winter and can't wait to get back into the business of feeding your families and friends.  Be sure to come out and see us on Opening day so we can get this party started right!  Another way to enjoy our bounty is to sign up for our CSA which has just a few shares left for the taking.  We are delivering to Blue Ridge Grocery in Blue Ridge, GA and potentially another location closer to the farm.  Reserve your spot, today!


On March 15th from 1:00 to 4:00 pm I will be teaching a Hands on Applied Biodynamics Course at the Wylde Center in Decatur, GA through The Homestead Atlanta.  We will go over the basics of seed starting with the cosmos in mind and practical methods for maintaining crops and gardens with the ever present and powerful forces of this incredible Earth and Solar System.  There will be a hands on demonstration of a Biodynamic Preparation and lots of opportunities to get your hands dirty, helping the Wylde Center with some of their planting and seeding.  Sign on up and let's share these ancient, inexpensive, and Earth preserving techniques!


For anyone interested in a more in-depth overview of the methods and philosophies of Biodynamics, I will be leading a 5 day intensive course at the John C. Campbell Folk School April 20th through the 26th.  We will be identifying the inter-connectivity of plants, animals, minerals, and the Cosmos and use hands on learning opportunities to cultivate a holistic understanding of the practice.  This course will discuss the homeopathic, herbal, and mineral remedies for repairing the life of soils, plants, livestock, and atmosphere and give any farmer or gardener a solid foundation from which to begin.  Sign up today, space is limited!

If you'd like more information about Biodynamics before you commit, feel free to check out this video where the basic principles are outlined.

Sun Dog Farm will also be hosting a farm to school field trip with the Waldorf School of Atlanta at the end of April.  The kids will camp for three days on the farm and be fully immersed in the processes of growing and harvesting with opportunities for livestock chores, planting, weeding, native species walks, crafting, and exploring the beautiful nature of this little mountain valley.  Our decision to open the farm up to the youngest ambassadors of our planet is one we are very excited and passionate about and we look forward to being a part of their journey.

We couldn't be more grateful for the numerous opportunities we have been afforded to learn about nature, growing, and feeding people around us.  There is nothing more sacred than sharing what we have been given and we look very forward to all of the food we will share and the ideas we will help germinate in our community.  We can hardly wait until the greenhouse is full and our evenings are spent among the fireflies.  See you soon, Spring.  Sun Dog Farm is shaking off its slumber and ready to meet you with abundance.

To You and This Earth We Give Thanks. (Happy Holidays)

Most all of the leaves in the valley below Echo Mountain have let loose of their perch and collected in fiery piles that have quickly decayed into young soil.  Sun Dog Farm has been put mostly to rest as the weather has taken a turn for the frozen, with frosts as hard as 16 degrees.  Our cover crops have had a sudden guerrilla siege by foraging deer whose selection of lush summer edibles have all since gone dormant.  A quick visit to some Farmer friends down South has sent us out with t-posts and fishing line for a quick fix, and the purchase of a rifle and acquisition of a license are high on the horizon.  As we come to the close of our first growing season here in the valley, I feel the Earth's movement towards a slower, more digestive, and introspective time, when we have a moment to reflect and gather from the lessons met throughout the year.  We have poured out our hearts here on this beautiful landscape and have been rewarded handsomely with the abundance germinated from a healthy relationship with the land and community.  To say this year was successful would be true, but it is but the successful beginning of something much larger than ourselves and will take many, many years to fulfill.  Our dedication to this piece of Earth is one out of the interest of our own well being, but in acknowledgement that our own well being relies entirely on the well being of our land. This simple reality, that everything is connected and our responsibility to cherish the natural gifts of this world as if they are (and they are,) extensions of our own body, has begun to elude us as a culture.  The infiltration of virtual realities, technologically induced introversion and apathy, and the uprooting of our values for anything that can be traded for with money (with the acquisition of such never in question,) has laid waste to our watersheds, condemned numerous species to extinction, and ravaged the community centers of our human populations.  With screens in our eyes and "facts" at our fingertips, we feel unstoppable, comfortable, and limiting our imagination has become a  game whose addictive stimulation cages our peace of mind.  Our food, losing life and vitality with every unnecessary laboratory and feedlot, is not nourishing our bodies and spirits in ways that promote healthy personal exchanges and greater social communities.

Our war on the planet has no winners or victories, it can only provide for short sighted economic gains and help determine the outcome of political election.  We've spent the better part of our history convincing ourselves that we are separate, that sciences are separate, that our religious ideals and the creative natural forces within our ecosystems and solar system were separate phenomenon, things that simply occurred because they did.  Our current medical system works diligently to convince the paying customer that the organs in ones body are to be feared, that they are separate entities likely to fail.  We've lost touch with the life force that resides within us and therefore our scope has been shortened and our expectations have been limited.  How are we to connect with nature when we cannot even connect with ourselves?

When people ask me why I farm, I suppose I should say to cope.  Working 7 days a week to grow food and maintain a homestead is an incredibly difficult task that tends to ask too much of us on a regular basis.  The chores are physically demanding and the changing temperaments of the land and climate are very taxing on the mind.  After a long day we are tired and sore and after a long month our spirits are eggs in a frying pan.  And still, here I am, most every day of the year, pouring out more of myself into the land and being met with the richness of life.  My relationship with this piece of land gives me a purpose, gives me the tools I need to cope with a world that seems to be too far along towards an end I fear.  Accepting less plastic and possessions for a healthy, sustaining lifestyle leaves me the opportunity to do good by this world, to make peace with my fears in the fields and turn my doubt and insecurity into seeds sown and nurtured.  It is my greatest treasure to put my fingers into the soil and feel with my own hands that which sustains.  This joy can be found in any moment, even during the harshest conditions or when we have suffered difficult loss.  I carry these gifts of the spirit with me every day when I rise and I hope to return all of them to the farm before I lay down to sleep.

In the words of the great Wendell Berry:

"The change of mind I am talking about involves not just a change of knowledge, but also a change of attitude toward our essential ignorance, a change in our bearing in the face of mystery. The principle of ecology, if we will take it to heart, should keep us aware that our lives depend on other lives and upon processes and energies in an interlocking system that, though we can destroy it, we can neither fully understand nor fully control. And our great dangerousness is that, locked in our selfish and myopic economies, we have been willing to change or destroy far beyond our power to understand."

As we move into winter and the Holiday season of Thanks, I send to your heart of hearts, within this great struggle, this daring of symbiosis and survival, the solace and peace of a season spent in the fields among the honey bees and blooms.  I send you all the love I have collected from my growing calf and harvested from my babbling creek.  I share with you the urgency of a world in turmoil and the hope for that which sustains us all.  I encourage each of you to go outside and become a part of some beautiful and complex natural rhythm.  To nurture something whose roots extend beyond sight and whose territories are not limited by the bars of a cage or the asphalt of a city block.  I present to you my open and ever changing perspective that guides me to make small moves everyday towards the dynamic partnership between this common, shared existence and myself.

Peace be with all of you and Happy Holidays.  Thank you for sharing with us, here at Sun Dog Farm, a beautiful first season in the valley.

Trailblazers of Sustainability: Women Farmers of the Southeast

Growing up a woman in America affords you many benefits not found in other countries. Opportunities abound and the likelihood of success is tightly linked to ambition and courage. If you do well enough in school, head off to college or an apprenticeship, and take achievements seriously enough, you can often get a well paid job that will provide for you and potentially a family. These days a woman can be a Doctor, Professor, Actor, Philosopher, Scientist, Astronaut, and many other jobs that were until somewhat recently reserved for men. This is not to say that the gender barrier has been broken and that there is no room for further improvement, but great strides have been made by brave women and men alike who have defended the feminine spirit for its beauty, power, and importance on this planet at the risk of endangering themselves, their reputations, and what History would one day have to say about them. Even so, History (His-Story) has often been fuddled and repeated and generation after generation is asked to revisit issues when mass stereotypes prevail in the face of social progress. These reoccurring issues and stalemates, sexual abuse in the workplace, inequality in pay, complaints about public breastfeeding and other maternal misunderstandings, the religious subversion of women's rights, and a long list of other seemingly ridiculous trends are enough to get any tough girl down. In a world built by the words and promises of good and bad men, divided and dominated by their whims and understandings, where a woman's only hope of achieving power is to emulate masculinity, what is a good girl to do? Well, I think the answer is farm.


While a Farmer may not be what every little girl in America pines to be when they grow up, a study done by the Organic Farming Research Foundation in 2005 found that 22% of all Organic Farms in the United States were operated by women. A similar study conducted by the Women on U.S. Farms Research Initiative at Pennsylvania State University found that women were generally less likely to employ chemical intense practices. Women were found to be more likely to utilize organic and sustainable methods for producing their crops. And where does this tendency towards more open-minded, nurturing and holistic practices come from, you ask? I'm afraid to say it comes, straight up, from being a woman.


The Southeastern United States and the great State of Georgia in particular houses some of the most innovative and important women Farmers of our time. These champions of the fields may be as pretty as their flowers, but there is nothing frail or fragile about them. Pioneers in an industry that is just barely being recognized by our mainstream society, these women have come to do the dirty work just as well as their male counterparts and in many cases their products and professionalism serve as guiding lights for young women and men alike interested in a different, more holistic path towards success. They have come to face the adversity generated by our bent industrial food system and they've come to do it in what has for centuries in America been considered a man's line of work.


This is certainly not an attempt to downplay the importance of the strong men in our community out every week at the farmers market dishing out the best of their harvests. You go on, be the studs that you are and keep on giving our young men an example of how hard work is still alive and thriving, shaping and guiding us towards healthier bodies and a healthier planet. Many of the great farmer women of our time share their workload with an equally bad ass male partner, but no longer due to some legal or social requirement.


The Women Farmers of the Southeast are trailblazers for a new and enlightened view of what is important in life. Born nurturers, these women are mothers and daughters, their spirits are naturally entangled in the affairs of the wild and they are here to show us not only what it means to be an empowered female, they are here to show us a different system of values. There is no time for a woman farmer to try and be like any man or fit any standard. They openly pour their love where they lay their seeds and the fruits that grow from that effort are the sweet tastes of social change in a world in need of more lovers, dreamers, and healers.


The most important thing a man or woman in Georgia can do today is to support these incredible figures of strength and ingenuity. To go and purchase their food and show their children that being a woman is a gift, not a sentence. By going to the farmers market or joining their CSA programs, you are playing an important role in acknowledging that women can be leaders, that their strength and courage can manifest beautiful, healthful change on this planet in a time of utmost need.


When I see the incredible achievements of these talented women I am left inspired and encouraged. The world we live in today is wrought with challenges, but I see before me all the strength and ferocity necessary to tackle them. We are living in exciting times and it is time to acknowledge and appreciate what each of us can bring to the table. Whether your daughter wants to be a Congresswoman, a Princess, or a Farmer, she needs to know that she is an entity of great importance and value and she is supported in her pursuits. The more positive examples of woman leaders we cultivate in our communities, the better.

(For more information about any of the farmers featured, click on their images.)

Calling All Localvores: Why You Should Hug a Farmer.. Today.

This growing season has been an incredible test of the spirits and ambitions of the farmers scattered across the Southeastern United States.  The ample rain turning quickly into saturation and finally, over saturation, has limited our sunshine, brought about ideal conditions for parasites, fungi, and diseases, made certain crops flavorless, and even caused devastating floods which wash away weeks of hard labor, topsoil, and the dollar value of anything planted in the path of the surging water.  When crops sit in soil where their feet (roots) are always wet, they tend to weaken and rot at the level of the soil and below, their cell walls are filled and sometimes burst from the Turgor pressure of the excess water and the plants become overly lush, a condition that makes them easy to chew on if you are a sneaky little beetle  or invade  if you are a disease or fungus.  The consistent rainfall cuts down on the amount of time pollinators are able to do their jobs and can even kill off crucial soil biology necessary for the proper breakdown and dispersal of nutrients from the soil to the plant roots. Excess rain also limits the amount of time a farmer is able to work their soil.  If using a tractor or a draft horse, a roto-tiller or your own brute strength, a farmer has a limited window between showers where the soil is of the proper consistency to till, spade, double dig, or disk.  If soil is worked when it is too wet, the soil structure is compromised and the result is a nasty hardpan that dries and does not allow for the proper percolation of rain during the next storm.  This means that the water washes across the top of the soil, which can perpetuate erosion and leave your plants high and dry during times when rain is less frequent, in soil that is slowly losing its nutrition.  You know what loves lots of rain though?  Weeds.

On top of all of these issues, the rain also presents a problem when the farmer is attempting to market these products they are tirelessly attempting to salvage and sell.  A rainy day at the local Farmers Market not only means hours of standing out in the rain, but it also means a lower turn out of market shoppers who, like the farmers, would rather not go out early in the morning or after a long day of work and get soaked or chilled.  A lower number of market shoppers means an even lower number of sales, which subtracted along with the subtractions of crop failures can begin to deduct quite a large amount of the gross income of the operation.  This loss of income makes it more difficult to cushion the following season, generating a cycle of loss which is difficult to catch up from.

While the pain of this season can be felt every time I look out the window and see those persistent little drops, this is all a part of the beauty and the beast of a local food system.  When you look at the situation from a very broad sense, the increase in rainfall has helped eliminate the threat of drought that has had its claws in the Southeast for a number of years.  As you get closer to the mechanisms of the local farms themselves, it is obvious that our foodway is hurting and it needs your help.  Obviously as a customer, volunteer, or advocate we couldn't ask for you to slow the rains to the perfectly timed storms we all dream about at night (or can we??)  Being realistic, there is never a season without challenge and we wouldn't want it that way.  What we can ask for is for your support during this time of great stress and uncertainty.

Ever had that funny feeling in your belly like you wanted to go out and work on the farm? (It's okay, this is a safe space to admit it and others are doing it.)  July 2013 is the perfect time to act on those passionate feelings.  Get your boots out, get your rain gear on, and get yourself some mud on your brow.  Just go through your facebook feed and find that farm that seems to be feeling it the hardest and make the first move.  If you don't have the time for hands-on aid, then maybe the most important thing you can do for your local foodway right now is to buy local food.  Go to the Farmers Market of your choice and buy what you need.  Buy what you need for the week.  Plan out your meals and bring a list with you.  Go to several farmers and lay your money down for some of the best food available to you.  Buy spontaneously.  Go to the Farmers Market with no idea what you want to cook and make it up as you go.  Tell your friends to go with you.  Guilt them into it.  Take your next hot date to the Farmers Market and spice things up with some locally grown hot peppers or some sexy heirloom tomatoes.

The beauty and the beast of the local foodway is a complex relationship whose integrity we are all responsible for.  It takes every single localvore and farmer to make this magic happen and during times of hardship, we all have to contribute the very best of ourselves to see it through.  The layers of this food community are all connected and we all have a role to play in its success.  While it is my role to push through these storms, meet the challenge and become better as a farmer for my sake, for the sake of the farm ecosystem, and for the sake of my reliable customers, it is the role of the customer to meet me with flexibility and support.  The rainstorms of 2013 have been the beast this year and those who come out every weekend to the market rain or shine to support those that grow their food; there are few things on this planet more beautiful than them.  See y'all at market.

When Food Becomes Medicine

It has been a cold and rainy Spring here at Sun Dog Farm and our leisurely mountain drives around Nottley Lake have been particularly beautiful.  The high water levels mirroring the breathtaking cloudy skies strewn across the horizon have given the lush mountain peaks an extra sense of majesty.  The trees have put on what are most nearly full leaves and the blooms of cultivated and naturalized plants have filled the air with their delicate scents and features.  Life is all a buzz, yet even this morning our neatly tucked little valley faced the damaging chills of a late Spring frost.  Another frost is predicted for tomorrow morning and possibly after that the threat will diminish and the bounty of foods gathering strength from the sun and other energies will safely pursue their purpose.  Even with the unpredictable weather patterns and bouts of heavy rain, life has found its course and navigated the extremes with grace.  We harvested the first of our cultivated crops and brought them to market on Saturday and I suspect that each week will grow in volume and diversity.  After just five months on the property, Sun Dog Farm is finally shaping up to be a productive venture and thriving farm organism. 020

And here I am on a daily basis soaking in the beautiful expressions of this valley.  On a golden morning harvesting radishes, I was amazed to realize how much the farm is an extension of my own consciousness.  The cracks and crevices of my imagination burst forth the blue print for this dynamic landscape and my physical experience went about like a busy bee putting the pieces together.  While part of this process certainly seems to stem from the vision within my own consciousness, the farm is an organism unto itself.  There are moments as a farmer where you look about all of your work and feel a great sense of pride.  There are maybe just as many differing moments where you look about at all of the incredible life forces around you harnessing energies all on their own and you simply feel grateful.  I have come to realize that my role here on the farm varies, but it is certainly never "master" or the "boss."  I have found that I am but one part of the farm organism, an entity just as important as any other, but not one that could work to the exclusion of any other of the farm's necessary functioning systems and organs.


The farm also serves as a perfect mirror of the self.  It always seems that when there are deep rooted, difficult issues within my own being to confront, the farm suffers an ailment that can only be cured through braving these tough emotions.  This process not only strengthens the vitality of the farm organism, but strengthens my own abilities and purposes on the farm and as a person living in a complex and physical realm.  Viewing the farm as a perfect mirror and as an extension of myself, myself an extension to it, is what I believe turns the vegetables from food into medicine.  This is not strictly speaking to how the farm is medicine for me, but how I can take what is grown in this precious ecosystem and share it with the vibrant food community as a nutrient dense edible with highly medicinal properties.


When the farmer acknowledges that the farm is of their own creation, uniquely them, and filled to the brim with the love of those who work the land, the food grown under these conditions of holistic nurturing and care exhibit medicinal qualities.  The addage, "know your farmer," truly expresses the importance of purchasing food from the very people who put the seeds in the ground.  When someone loves their land and crops enough to not only put their name on the label, but to put their face behind the table at the Farmers Market, it can be made quite clear that they are doing what they love and that love is what grew the products they are offering.  That love is what ensures that the crops receive the proper nutrition required to fulfill the needs of the plants and the people who eat them and that love carries over into the farm organism as a whole.  Love is as dynamic a force as a farm is an organism and the relationship between the two is the best source of medicine available today.


The season of abundance is upon us and there is no better time to get out and buy your food, your simple medicine, from the farmers directly through Farmers Markets, CSA programs, and other venues dedicated to the good food movement.  Just as the farmer is but one part of the farm, the customer has as much a role to play in the success of the farm and the fulfillment of its purpose.  Every dollar spent on a farm based product is a dollar that filters back through the farm organism and replenishes the needs of the system.  This process ties us all together, and I would like all of our customers and supporters to know that they too are an integrated part of the Sun Dog Farm organism.  The vitality of the farm is inextricably linked to the vitality of the venture and we are so honored to be a part of such a culturally rich and dedicated food community of families, farmers markets, and chefs alike in the city of Atlanta.  Your support manifests the medicine from our fields and ensures that our love wanders only to those who wish to cherish it.


Hippocrates - "Let food be thy medicine and medicine be thy food"

You Can Never Hold Back Spring

It is surprising how much the climate of the North Georgia Mountains reflects the climate I grew up with in the Northeastern US.  I often have to take a breath and calm my soul when I view all the incredible pictures of the progress of Spring from Atlanta and even further South in the Low Country.  Here we are in March, having battled days of snow, only the maple blossoms having dared to break, with nighttime temperatures in the teens, and yet there is a greenhouse full of beautiful life slowly leafing out with a persistence that is inspiring, but with a gate that lends my heart to anxiety.  We are officially located in growing zone 6 and we certainly feel it today in the valley with a temperature hovering at 37 degrees and a wind chill that encourages hot tea and lingered strolls through the greenhouse. 542718_498857433484713_593848835_n

It has been a whirlwind of activity here on the farm.  I can just barely remember what this abandoned property looked like before my machete cleared the bamboo and Elliot trimmed up the pastures with a chainsaw and bushhog.  We have filled two roll off dumpsters with the remains of what was, moldy memories telling us the story of what this farmhouse, the barns, and pastures used to hold.  The energy of that incredible story echoes through the valley on a daily basis and as we spade up the soil to plant, we can see how the direction of this farm has been fated long before we even stepped foot on the property.  While I sprinkled our first Biodynamic Preparations through the fields prepared for Spring, I felt more connected to the manifestations of energy all around me than ever before.  We have a purpose here.  Farming in this beautiful place has given us the responsibility to make it better, to treat the soil and atmosphere holistically, and to share what we grow with the community we love.


Now that we have removed a lot of trash, reclaimed a lot of useful tools and treasures, and now that my Father and Uncle have restored running water to the farm, we feel that the Winter has finally run its course.  As we move into Spring, our efforts can be more centered on the pursuit of life.  This will include remodeling the interior of the house with fresh coats of paint, continued removal of moldy drywall, and eventually the most important and enjoyable part of the process, adding the touches that will make this farmhouse a home.  Life will carry on in the fields and wetlands, in the growing beds and bamboo jungles; arising wherever there are boundaries to create it and filling this beautiful landscape to the brim with the intertwined relationships of this incredible Universe.  My collection of Praying Mantis cocoons soon will hatch and with them all the other crawling, flying, humming, chirping, and calling creatures in this lonely valley, returning each to the hustle and bustle of yet another fruitful growing season.


We are looking very forward to April when food will begin to grow and our farmers market will once again return us into the loving arms of the community that housed us back before we moved to the Coastal Marsh.  Sun Dog Farm will be selling at the Peachtree Road Farmers Market once again and we couldn't be more pleased.  This market is unlike any we've seen before, being the largest producer only market in Atlanta, it is filled with all the food you need and crafts and artistry enough to feed your soul.  We will also be particiating in the birth of The Homestead Atlanta, a brave new school offering classes aimed at bringing us back to our roots.  Everything from herbal medicine to mushroom cultivation, blacksmithing to wool spinning; The Homestead will remind us how powerful we are, each of us individually, and that when given the right tools, we are capable of creating beautiful things that will make our lives and the lives of those we love better.  I will be teaching a class at The Homestead on April 27th called the Basics of Biodynamics and I invite you all to join me there.  This journey has already been a test to our spirits with all the ups and downs associated with reclaiming something lost.  We look forward to sharing what we have found and our efforts with all of you for another growing season.


"It has been said that by working the soil it is possible to do in a few years what would take nature thousands of years to accomplish.

Intensive soil cultivation and the addition of proper soil amendments can aggregate sandy soil to give it more crumb or open heavy lime marls to give them more porosity.  In both instances, when the proper soil consistency is maintained, the soil is said to have ‘heart’." -- Dennis Klocek

Hey Georgia, We're Home

The year 2013 has already been the most important for Elliot and I and that is saying a lot being 23 days in.  This year we have accepted the challenge of setting down roots in a place, ending our nomadic wanderings and committing ourselves to a region, a community, and most importantly, 12.5 acres of delicate ecosystem.  Our journey to this decision has been important, at no point during our travels through the state of Georgia would I have changed a detail.  Each new location our tired wings placed us was full to the brim with intelligent, inspiring, and loving people dedicated to their communities, the preservation of the region's heritage, and the adaptability and evolution of their foodways.  While we have often times felt guilty about ducking into a food community only to see the bloom open slightly, and ducking out once again, it has been an honor to be a part of such incredible progress in the Southeast.  Our farmer friends, food advocates, and loyal customers have been our best teachers and we hope to carry all of their lessons with us as we build our homestead and dedicate our labors to the North Georgia Mountains. IMAG1194-1-1 IMAG1201-1

As 2013 begins, we have become proud residents of Blairsville, Georgia, a town nestled into the Southern most tips of the beautiful Appalachian Mountains.  The farm is located in a valley with a single mountain in view in the back growing space.  It has an incredible stream running its length, a pole barn, old homestead, milking barn, several other outbuildings, and rampant patches of bamboo.  The farm itself has been unoccupied  by humans for about 10 years and the wear and tear of life has made its mark on most of the buildings and growing spaces.  We have already dedicated numerous hours to the farms reclamation and this will be a project that lasts for several years.  Overall the farm has very good bones, the house is injured but sturdy, the outbuildings needing only roofs, patches and some tinkering, and the farm totes some of the most incredible soil I have ever seen.

775085_10200237819369371_1465500846_o IMAG1208-1

We have negotiated a lease purchase agreement with the former owners of the property, the Biodynamic growers and educators Hugh Lovel and Shabari Bird.  This farm was formerly known as the Union Agriculture Institute and was operated as a nonprofit.  The land was farmed for 30 years by Hugh Lovel himself and was the very place where his incredible knowledge and understanding of the relationship between the universe and plants bloomed.  Right here on our new land was the muse for the book A Biodynamic Farm and this very soil was sculpted with the most intentional, restorative methods in agriculture today.  The Union Agriculture Institute was the first Biodynamic Farm in Georgia and not only served as an educational farm for interns such as Farmer D of Farmer D Organics, but also a site for conferences, a CSA, early sales to Farmers Markets in Atlanta, and so much more.  Hugh Lovel, having left the daily operations of the farm, now spends most of the year in Australia with his wife Shabari, sharing their wealth of knowledge about what Hugh has termed, Quantum Agriculture, the most holistic and comprehensive view of farming generated from the idea that no form of influence to the growth of the plant, small or large, distant or immediate, can be excluded from its overall evaluation.  That every aspect of the crop's reality creates an impact on its growth and therefore all relationships the plant has with the soil, soil biology, minerals, nutrients, atmosphere, cosmos, energy, etc. must be considered.

IMAG1192-1-1 IMAG1193-1-1

This method of growing, as Biodynamics has always stressed, requires a considerable level of dedication to sustainable growing methods.  It reaches beyond organic growing and views the farm as a living, breathing organism.  Growing in this way imitates the elaborate and complex relationships replicated in any and all ecosystems on the planet.  Elliot and I have always been drawn to this farming mindset and we are beyond excited and honored to carry on the heritage of this incredible piece of land.  From building our own composts using the Biodynamic Preparations to considering the alignment of the cosmic bodies when we start and end life on our property, we can only hope to do our best and learn as we go, just as Hugh Lovel did when he first landed upon this beautiful valley.  This is an oppportunity for us not only to homestead, set roots, and grow, but to revitalize an inspired landmark nestled in the Georgia landscape.

IMAG1206-1-1 IMAG1190-1

And Georgia, sweet Georgia, our love affair with you  has been tender and humid, often times difficult and complex, but always rewarding and it appears that we are in it for the long haul.  As we begin to turn over soil this spring, set seeds and pull weeds, we are reminded of what you have provided us.  The support systems you have unveiled and the communities you have housed.  This year especially will be one of great challenges and difficult decisions.  It will require from us a work ethic unlike any we have set forth to this day and it will break our limits and test our spirits.  We have already tasted some of this challenge and we are anxious and excited to see what we've got.  In the heat of it all, and I mean there will be heat, we know that Georgia, sweet Georgia, you have always been our home.

IMAG1186-1-1 IMAG1182-1

A Not So Delicious Tyson Chicken Christmas Gift

November in the marsh seems to sneak away slowly, like the populations of roseate spoonbills, ibis, and warbles in September.  The trees have barely begun to lose their leaves and the temperatures remind me of a summer day in Vermont.  As we all flip to that last page in the calendar, the holiday season with its tradition and compassion, takes hold of my sleepy winter mind and brings warmth into my being. Though the marsh never truly clears out of creature inhabitants, the numbers of the local flora and fauna go from being so incredibly biodiverse that every moment churned with the quake and hum of life, to a quieter, more tranquil time whose year long inhabitants are more clearly highlighted.  The king fishers and bald eagles have taken over the hunting of the snaking waterways and the otters can be seen submerging in the rising tide or scurrying accross the land bridges.  A 6 foot resident gator has reclaimed a sunning spot on a dock in front of our home where turles spent the long summer days and attended the insect evening parties.  It has been about a month since I have spotted an armadillo, but evidence of their presence in the garden is still an occasional find.  A small group of 9 adolescent wood storks has taken refuge with a roosting group of herons, night herons, egrets, and comorants on the fishing ponds by the farm.  The citrus has been harvested, and enjoyed, the crops and weeds have slowed their pace, and our final market of the season will be this weekend.  As the season's hopes, worries, accomplishments, and disasters seem to fade into my memories, the celebration of a new coming year has filled my spirit once more. IMAG0910

And what an ending to this incredible year.  I have witnessed so many amazing individuals dedicated to small business, local economy, and the local and regional foodways of their communities.  The Forsyth Farmers Market was a season long display of the efforts and inspiration of a collection of artisans and farmers.  The elegant limbs of the live oaks and delicate tufts of spanish moss created a mirage of paradise in the blistering heat and a reason to bundle up and go outside on the coldest days of the year.  My correspondence with farmers from East Coast to West Coast has given me hope when the rain would not come and patience when the rain would not stop.  2012 was a year for all of us to be proud of, a step in the right direction for the empowerment of our food movement.  It takes a little bit of effort from each of us, and so many of the people I met this year have committed their lifestyles and everyday choices to the practices that protect our fellow human beings and the Earth we all share.  More incredible still are the individuals dedicating their free time to educating their friends, family, and communities about the benefits of eating a healthy diet and supporting those who produce the ingredients.


Unfortunately the year did not end on a perfect or easy note for all of us who dwell in the sometimes challenging world of producing organic food.  Jeff Poppen, also known as the Barefoot Farmer, is a biodynamic farming educator and farm owner of Long Hungry Creek Farm in Boiling Springs, Tennessee.  His farm has been an organic, biodynamic farm for over 30 years and provides incredibly nutrient dense, holistically grown foods to over 200 csa members.  His growing methods reflect an elevated understanding of the systems at play within the complex ecosystems of his beautiful farm.  His exploration into Biodynamics has given him the advantage of using the natural world as the most significant tool for nurturing his diversified crops.  Experiences on his farm and knowledge he has shared has incubated the hatching of several farmers who have radiated out of Boiling Springs and set down roots in the surrounding communities.  The Barefoot Farmer has written two books, starred in the very popular and informative television series, Volunteer Gardener, written hundreds of articles about growing food in the Macon County Chronicle, and has made a lasting impact on the Tennessee landscape and Southern growing scene. Unfortunately for this seasoned farmer and educator, 2012 brought about a terrible cross examination of what we as small farmers and local farm supporters are up against.

Mostly complete in September of this year, two industrial chicken houses were built within 450 feet of Jeff Poppen's home and precious acres of biodynamically maintained farmland.  The chicken houses were constructed without regard to the only source of water the farm has available to it and the County Legislature violated their laws prohibiting the building of chicken houses and other industrial food producing buildings within a restricted distance of public areas, residences, and businesses.  The construction of the houses was a bully move made by elected officials who have a limited understanding of the importance of nuturing local, small scale agriculture for the sake of the community.  The decision was one born out of fear for change and the intolerance that we can generally link with ignorance or indifference.  This farm boasted the title of the oldest organic farm in Tenneessee and as we close this year, Jeff Poppen is forced to give up his farm and relocate away from the toxic manufacture of caged livestock.  This devistating move on the part of Tyson Chicken subsidiaries is a haunting living portrait of the real and not so glamorous difference between organic and conventionally produced foods.


This tragic step backwords from the forward moving ideals of agricultural change in Tennessee and the nation as a whole is a keen reminder of what is at stake in this modern world.  Moving into 2013, we should remember the triumphs and the hardships we have all faced and shared with one another, accepting and learning from both victories and defeats.  The holidays give us an excuse to try and reconnect to one another and show compassion for those in our lives and those we may only interact with indirectly, through our own rippling actions and the actions of others.  This time of year reminds us that we are all in this together and the more effort and positivity we put into this place we call home, the more we will be able to care for one another.  An abundant garden is grown where people not only come together to share in the meal,  but also the harvest, and that spirit must continue to spark new life into our foodways everywhere.  The Barefoot Farmer may have lost an iconic, celebration of a farm that served as a daily dose of inspiration and encouragement to all of us who choose to explore a better understanding of the complexities of this planet, but we shall not let him lose the support and appreciation of all of us who know the importance of his work in the Southeastern United States and his role in changing the national perspectives on growing food and living a healthful, mindful life.


"For the first time in the 40 years I’ve lived here, I don’t know what I’m going to do. Agribusiness has been destroying agriculture in many places for many years and I am not alone in this predicament. Actually, we are all in it together.  I look forward to continue working for a just and sane agriculture, where people matter. I’ll probably move back after they’re gone." - Jeff Poppen

Conventional vs. Organic? Oh Come On, We Are Better Than This

It has been a slow trot towards cooler weather here on the farm and we've been wearing the art of the simple life on our brows and mud stained knees.  Our fall transplants have finally made their homes in the mucky, marsh soil and seeds are germinating in sporadic dotted rows.  Many of the summer time crops are coming to an end as the Okra expands and lengthens, shadowing the landscape around it with trunks as much as 4 and 5 inches thick.  In order to harvest from these Okra trees, we must bend the plant and take several steps to the side to reach the pods at the very top before releasing this dangerous catapult back into the air.  Sugar cane swishes this way and that in the sea breezes and our newest batch of noodle beans has begun to set their colorful, spaghetti like fruits.  Cucumbers, Summer Squash, Bush Beans, Flowers, and Field Peas are making a triumphant second go at it as delicious fall crops like Broccoli, Cauliflower, Kale, Radishes, Beets, Carrots, Chois, Lettuce, Turnips, Scallions, Brussels Sprouts, Cabbage, Mustards, Collards, and a list of other delicious items we have been nostalgic for since the summer heat sizzled the Spring time crops away return in abundance.  It is still hot here on the farm, though we've experienced the occasional crisp morning and a few days that appeared to wander together into the lower temperatures as a reminder of what is to come.  We've been savoring the first tastes of Fall greens and our meal times are transforming from the exotic, delicate colors of Summer back once again to the deep, earth tones of cool weather and hardy crops. I believe I was sitting at the kitchen table in my parent's house in Pennsylvania on a short visit the day some news reporter with sculpted hair, a low neckline, and chicklet teeth boasted the claim, "Is Organic Food worth the extra cash?  A new study on Conventional versus Organic products may surprise you...."  She went on, of course, to very shallowly explain that this study conducted by the expert researchers working under the banner of  Annals of Internal Medicine discovered that the nutrient densities of Conventionally grown produce were as substantial as those found in Organically grown foods after doing a two-year study and focusing on a few indicators of health in human beings.  Following that viewing, the news story seemed to pop up everywhere in my life, every mainstream journalist with a soap box to stand on was spreading the controversy wildly, taking aim at Organic Agriculture as if it had tricked everyone,  as if one study completed by a few individuals was enough to overthrow the guilt associated with not giving a damn about anything but the couple bucks we figured we'd save from buying our summer squash from mexico.  The news story became a blanket we could throw over our shoulders, sheltering us once again from having to concern ourselves with the annoying task of stewarding our planet and taking extra measures to care for our bodies.

The worst part of the whole controversy wasn't necessarily the argument itself.  Plenty of passionate, informed rebuttals exploded from the individuals who had educated themselves on the issues associated with the study.  Besides, in all honesty, making the assumption that pouring toxic chemicals over food you are going to consume and replacing the natural soil nutrient cycling, replicated in any ecosystem on planet Earth, with crude, concentrated elixirs of the most necessary nutrients is better than food grown utilizing natural forces with a focus on generating a holistic product born from a living soil is to make an assumption that commerce means more than health, life, and the planet on which we live.  Ever since our ancestors landed on the shores of North America, our nation has had access to an abundance of natural resources.  This gift errupted into a party that we've been having ever since, the richness of this beautiful nation providing for the economic, industrial, and societal growth we now hold so dear today.  We have come to love our comforts, our products, our way of life and to think that any of that has to change brings us remorse.  It isn't necessarily all our fault, industry in America has produced enough money to control what we can and cannot do, what we can and cannot believe and this goes straight to our inability to contradict the motives of the products we now rely on.  We have been labeled unpatriotic when questioning the growth of industry into the last uncontaminated realms of our world and to help us cope with losing our voices, we've been handed computers that fit into our pockets and a constant stream of media to replace the need to use our minds.

So I say to the argument, Conventional versus Organic? Oh come on, we are better than this.  We are better than this and I have seen it.  The State of Georgia has a history of utilizing production methods that haven't always had the land or its people in mind.  Though Georgia has, from time to time, held onto close minded nuances in the agricultural spectrum, life in the South is starting to bloom.  Farmers Markets have exploded and succeeded in all of the major cities from Atlanta to Savannah.  Beautiful, spirited people have dedicated their lives to farming sustainably in the South, preserving the best of the Southern heritage through the incredible foodways this agricultural state has maintained throughout the years.  Chefs, Farmers Market Managers, Farmers, Customers, Creatives, Food Purveyors, and enlightened souls from the Northern Mountains all the way down to the Swampy Deep South have all played a major role in dispelling the concept that Organic food is a luxury saved for the rich.  Organic food is a necessity designed for us all.  The impacts of growing food with thought to the health of the consumer and the health of the environment go far beyond any two-year study conducted by researchers with their own story to tell.  The sustainable food movement is created, supported, and endorsed by so many because it simply makes sense.  It makes sense to feed your children the best quality food available, it makes sense to protect the natural world where everything we need to survive is derived from, it makes sense to localize the economy and support most those whom you consider neighbors and friends.

We are better than this argument, better than this delusion and so many incredible individuals in Georgia are proving this everyday.  Under our uniting banner of Georgia Organics, we can continue to make the difference that is needed.  We can continue to bring healthy foods into the lives of fellow Georgians rich and poor, and through this act of compassion and love for our neighborhoods, families, and friends, we all will move closer towards a better future.  The biggest problem with the study was that it addressed the concerns of Organic versus Conventional products on a person to person basis.  The study did not take into account how Organic, sustainable methods provide for the preservation of our natural spaces, the preservation of our precious foodways, and the preservation of our communities founded on the fundamental morals of truth, beauty, and love.

A Romance with the Seasons

It is difficult for me to string together enough words to describe the epic beauty of this evening in the Marsh.  Rolling thunderstorms made their way from whispers in the breeze to hazy, persistant downpours all over the farm and dense waterways.  Flocks of immature white ibis, egrets, and the occasional spoonbill darted from their daily wading grounds to seek shelter in the trees and grasses.  The Marsh got quiet, quiet in a way that only the rain can command of the usual chorus of insects and amphibians that dominate the airwaves.  A slight breeze, the sound of rain hitting water, and a sky that couldn't emotionally commit to being a storm or a sunset.  As the last rain drops fell, the tiny ripples from the drips were replaced by the tiny ripples of millions of insects, the chorus returned for the crescendo with one buzzing, croaking instrument sounding at a time, and the bruise colored clouds parted to reveal a sky on fire with the hues of an evening in paradise.  Perhaps I think this is paradise because we recently sowed a lot of seeds in the ground that desperately needed water.  Perhaps the alligator lazily swimming away from me thinks it is paradise as his tail cuts through the mirrored blaze. We have enjoyed incredibly timed storms here in the Low Country this Summer.  We haven't had to fire up the irrigation since May and it appears that this most recent set of showers, that which happened last evening and repeated itself this evening, have been enough to spare us once again.  It was only this week that our plants at the farm were showing their stress from lack of water and it was only this week that we discovered that our irrigation system happened to be on the fritz.  Fortunately, the rains came and we have a little more time to stress out about the prospect of The Dustbowl 2012 at Harvest Lake Farm.  During this time of notable stress, it has also been nice to acknowledge that we are finally over the Summer slump!  Every year, from one season to the next, it seems like a farmer's day is spent day dreaming about the productivity of the following season.  This never being in the present moment is certainly a life long journey.

What this can mean for someone who farms in what feels like the Jungle is that you spend your days loving and hating the life giving, sometimes oppressive heat and humidity of the Summer months.  In the Winter and Spring you long for it because with it comes tomatoes, squash, okra, eggplant, peppers, and all the other gifts of the Sun.  Unfortunately this gift doesn't stop there.  The Sun will happily give more and more of this gift until the heat and humidity finally oppress the very plants that were once so eager to reach for it.  The squash disappear, the beans give up, the tomatoes slowly droop and rot in a morbid, depressing display.  Soon all you have left are Eggplants, Okra, Peppers, and Peas and my goodness I love these things, but eating them everyday can be somewhat of a contributor to the whole "slump" feeling.  But wait!  There is light at the end of the tunnel.  There is hope at the end of the 30th eggplant dish you've served up.  At some point you get to start preparing for Fall.

And Fall!  What a time to obsessively look forward to.  Let's face it, down here in the very bottom of the melting pot, (where many of us live everyday, melting,) the Fall is maybe one of the best times of the year to try and grow food.  All of your early summer favorites get a second shot and your Spring season is reborn and then extended into the mild Winter days.  The bugs reduce in seemingly size and numbers and the overall temperature of the farm allows for a much more comfortable, friendly operation.  Now remember, this is all being said by a farmer in the heat of the Summer.  If you ask me about Fall growing this Fall, I will likely tell you about how well that may be going but how much I am looking forward to Spring.

And so it goes.  It could be argued that this almost bipolar fascinationg with the changing of the seasons is just one more hurtle for someone trying to farm in this modern world to jump, but that can't be it.  Everything a person who has commited themselves to the landscape achieves from day to day is some form of spiritual fulfillment I have never properly learned to explain.  Being in tune with the seasons is to be open to the ongoing romance of the planet.  Love is a beautiful, dangerous thing and this world has cycles of life, death, lust, and rebirth to prove it.  The changing of the seasons teaches us how to be constant and also how to change.  Each season contributes to a maddening love and unconsolable loss, everything on Earth being created from the death of something else.  The seasons teach us that there must exist a trade off, you must give to get and sometimes when this equillibrium is disturbed at the farm, we end up giving much more than we get.  Our modern society, that has been severed from seasonality, is currently getting a lot more than it gives within the energy cycles of the planet, but it can't last forever.  At some point no amount of giving on our part will undo all the "getting" we've added up.

As I am aging, slowly and quickly all at once, I am finding that the health of our societies and the condition of our planet are two things that are too difficult for me to process.  From the newest NASA images of the Greenland ice sheet melt to the violent fiction of a man dressed in a bat suit becoming nonfiction violence in our growing world, it all seems like too much to swallow.  Meanwhile real, nonfiction bats in North America are declining in shocking numbers due to white nose syndrome; a potential loss of 6.7 Million individuals and the cause of this devastating illness is still mostly unknown.  The factory farmed humans locked inside all day, fed stimulants and stimulus can barely defend themselves against a governing body whose greed both concentrates and destroys them like logs in a woodburning stove.  We are pushing this world to the very limit for the success of so few that the dream of exponential anything seems like such a crass joke.

But what can you do when all you have is one life, one shot at romance with this unforgiving, beautiful Earth?  You court the seasons one by one, relearn the rhythm in the chaos and set some roots in the ground.  You look forward to kale while you eat your tomatoes and as the trees drop their leaves, you lovingly lay your ambitions in the field and come inside for a hot drink and a creative heart.  Not sure how all that goes down?  Don't worry, neither was I.  I probably still don't quite get it in a lot of ways and I doubt that the entirety of my life will enlighten me to all the great complexities of my relationship with this world.  All I know is that Fall is coming soon, it's time to clean out the greenhouse, throw up the shade cloth and day dream about broccoli and beets.