Saturday, May 24, 2008

On Views New and Old

It's Memorial Day weekend and a chill still hangs in the air. At times the sun shines strong and summer seems just around the corner...and yet when clouds dot the sky, or a wind dashes through the trees, a hat and jacket are more than justified. June 1st is the official frost-free date - and it's easy to believe. Off the back porch, Mt. Moosilauke can be seen along the horizon. It is steady and immense even from a distance, and snow still lingers on the slopes up to the summit. A reminder of the winter we have put behind us, and the tenuousness of faith in favorable farming weather.

A friendly climate is what we recently have been enjoying, though. The past week or two has been witness to a variety of workshops, both inside and out - bird identification, traditional dance, herbal medicine, tree identification; farmer's markets have begun, community dinners are drawing crowds to D Acres, and mid-week bonfires have been the result of an increasing number of hostel visitors.

Throughout all these events, though, D Acres is first a farm, and farm work is what rapidly fills each day. And it is black flies, now, that further define our work. Giving new meaning to the adage 'small but mighty,' these minute flesh-eaters are not affronted by the cold whimsy of spring, and indeed, it is only the nippy breeze that keeps them from eating us New Hampshire-ite farmers alive. The past ten days we have provided the pesky critters plenty of opportunities as hopes of rain have kept us outside on a planting frenzy. Last week saw us in the garden 'til 8:30pm one evening, hostel guests included, frantically rushing peas, carrots, beets, and greens into the upper garden beds in anticipation of gathering storm clouds. This week saw us planting 70lbs of potatoes, and weeding more than sleeping...and yet we have yet to see significant amounts of rain. The soil is dry, the pigs without mud, and our "ponds" diminishing.

Dry weather, however, has allowed for a variety of projects to be tackled, beginning with a new outhouse. The outdoor privy of D Acres' first decade had become a rickety excuse for a structure. The "enter-at-your-own risk" disclaimer was routinely uttered with just enough sincerity to prevent both staff and guests from tempting fate in pursuit of bathroom scenery. With the hub-bub of a summer season approaching, a new building was put up with remarkable alacrity. Some standard features remain - celestial sillouette on the door, wood-chip flush system; but this updated outhouse has the added benefit of a mere three walls. A meandering creek and burgeoning woodland fill the void of a fourth wall, providing a pleasant vista for the completion biological necessities. An idyllic perk for the mundane repetitiveness of bathroom duties.

Picturesque is not quite the word to describe a second noteworthy project of the week. Thursday morning saw 13 staff, residents, interns, and a friend convened next to the Skinny Shack, furrowing our brows over a 1,000-gallon water tank. The monstrosity was on the back of a trailer; we needed to up-end it on a platform of cinder blocks and gravel. With a few metal bars, some rope, a winch, and a come-along, the task was completed - and with relative ease. Really? There was grunting, yes, and straining; some nervous questioning and forceful reassurance; giving of orders and calling for help. Now that the tank stands tall and rusty on the edge of the meadow, it is a testament to group work and the strength of many hands. But the view that sticks with me is of the tank, maybe 65 degrees up from the ground: a couple of residents poised to be pancaked if a metal pole or two gave way, a handful of us to be left-hooked out of consciousness if physics overpowered our stance against gravity, and a few more in a direct line with the metal winch should our fulcrum of simple technology give way under the weight. It was dangerous, perhaps foolish; but water is a necessity and our egos formidable.

So. The past week has seen a lot of work that tells a tale of the unspoken trust necessary between us, and the confidence that each of us must maintain in the work ethic and genuine effort of all those we live with here. But that sounds quite grave and solemn, and the reality is one of laughter, affection, goofiness, spontaneity, and the winning karma of goodwill and good intentions. While that may not be enough to bring the rain, it is only those sentiments that can keep our spirits up and our community strong. May we never lose sight of the fun, alongside the honesty and the effort, that let us flourish.

And to close, a clarifier of the opening picture: our very own blacksmith, Dirty (Debonair?) Joe, with some newfound style.


Friday, May 9, 2008

The Carbon Pig

P.S.- I meant to include this in the bulk of my post this week, but we have staying in our farm hostel this week the one and only Carbon Pig! Actually, The Carbon Pig refers to a fantastic site you can use to network "all things carbon." What's the best part, you ask? By purchasing a certain amount of carbon offsets (this means you spend a little cash to balance out some of the CO2 emissions that result from your daily life- driving, of course, but also energy use in your home, fuels that went into producing your food, you get the idea) you get a FREE organic Carbon Pig T-Shirt! Rock on! Don't be a Carbon Pig :-) visit today!!! Tell them D Acres sent you!

Bees, Herbs, and Mark Fulford

Last week we welcomed about 60,000 new members to the D Acres community...they are now three wonderful colonies of honeybees living in various locations around the farm! They arrived just before the new moon, which brings good energy to new endeavors (and, since these are my first bees, I'll take all the help from the universe that I can get!). The girls have settled in really well, each hive releasing their queen into the mix and beginning to build comb and bring in the nectar of what flowers are beginning to bloom here in the north country. I'm feeding them honey instead of the standard sugar-syrup that conventional beekeeping practices recommend- and what a difference it seems to make already! Looking at the comb the girls produce with the honey they are now eating compared to what they made with the sugar syrup they were eating when they arrived is so interesting- the "sugar syrup" comb is white, brittle and almost crumbly in places, while the "honey" comb is supple, strong, and beautifully golden. The last weekend in April, I attended a wonderful natural/organic beekeeping class at the Pfeiffer Center in New York- it was a fantastic weekend full of inspiration and information led by Ross Conrad of VT and Chris Harp of NY. It was a perfect start to keeping bees, as both Ross and Chris have eco-bio-logical views similar to mine, and they genuinely care about the bees. The pics above show the bees who now live at Edith's (in the "Florence") hive clustered prior to their hiving and myself (left) and Sue (right) hiving the girls in the lower garden (the "Hanna") hive. Not pictured are bees of the "Isis" hive who live in the upper/forest garden area of the farm.

I spent this past weekend at Sage Mountain herbal center in VT in the first of seven classes of Rosemary Gladstar's advanced herbal training program. We have a great group of about 30+ herbalists who will learn from a different teacher one weekend a month May-October. The classes are focused on becoming a better practicing herbalist, and include skills I hope to bring both to my teaching at D Acres (next herbal workshop- May 24th- hands on herbal medicine making!!!) and to my practice (, clients and formulating herbal preparations. Margi Flint of EarthSong Herbals (Marblehead, MA) was our teacher for the first weekend- Margi is an exemplary herbalist and teacher- as inspiring and charismatic as she is well-versed in herbal knowledge!

Meanwhile, back at the ranch, the D Acres crew served up a HUGE farm feast breakfast on Sunday- our biggest to date perhaps- we served up pretty much all of our sausage, greens, potatoes, and eggs, with barely a pancake left for me when I returned from herb class! The New Moon Reiki share was also well attended- it is wonderful to see the healing energy spread throughout the community here in Dorchester.

This weekend we are super psyched to have Mark Fulford join us to teach a grafting (Saturday) and composting (Sunday) workshop! Mark was here at the farm in the fall and led a great soil nutrition workshop, so we're certainly looking forward to what the weekend will bring...