Thursday, December 30, 2010

Some soup to warm you

It seems to me that soup is fighting some serious misconceptions. Misgivings. Misunderstandings. If we get down to it, soup is certainly the maligned portion of the dinner options.

Just because someone, somewhere, thought that a bunch of water with too much salt and flaccid noodles stuffed into a tin can could be slapped with the label Soup…well, that’s no reason to let soup fall off the charts of edible delights. Neither should drab images and unfounded suppositions of weak broths or watery ladles deter you from the vigor and veracity of gustatory sensations brewing within a proper cup of soup.

Do I have your attention?

Soup is delightful. Also warming. It can be hearty, or subtle, sweet or savory, robust, flavorful, colorful, and succulent. Soup can be meat, or vegetables, or greens, or beans (or last week’s leftovers). Soup can be creamy or chunky, pureed or choc-full. Soup can be many things.

All of which fall into the category of: good eats. Not just that, but here at D Acres Permaculture Farm & Educational Homestead, we think our soup is some of the best around. Ingredients are always from the farm and vary with the seasons, be it red-cored carrots, purple cabbage, or creamy potatoes from the winter root cellar; spicy garlic, tiger-eye beans, or varieties of squash harvested in the fall; hardy greens and numerous herbs from the gardens or the greenhouses; heirloom tomatoes, fiery peppers, or even refreshing cucumbers (yes, that was a particularly delectable dish) as the summer heat peaks. The list goes on and on. Regardless of where it stops, our soups are full of flavor, the product of lifetimes. Rich soil, strong compost, attentive care, and regular tending compose the essence of our recipes. We’re farmers: our workdays are centered on the needs and cycles of edible foods. Sub-par meals would not be worth this sort of dedication, I assure you.

Therefore, with all humility and modesty I would rate our soup du jour as par excellence and beyond. And starting this month, D Acres Third-Saturday-of-every-Month Seasonal Soup Night will be moving to Downtown Plymouth. Join us each month on the common at Mark’s Café, Club, & Eatery (formerly Junkyard Dawgs) for farm-fresh, as-local-as-it-comes, all-natural, organic, permaculture, free-range soup. We take soup seriously, and want you to, too.

Not just that, but we’ll entertain you with live music as well. For our opening event, enjoy the guitar and vocals of Martin Decato. Come early and stay late! Soup is available beginning at 6pm, music begins at 7pm. There will be a $3-10 sliding scale door fee.

Save the date and see you on the common. Farm-fresh soup. Live music. A taste of the farm right in Downtown Plymouth. What are you waiting for?

as published in North Country News

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Hola amigos!

Decimos acá en México, que "más vale tarde que nunca"...finalmente les escribo a punto del equinoccio de invierno. Me he tardado tanto porque han sido meses intensos, desde mi estancia en Dacres y de mi regreso, siempre es una gran experiencia para mi ir a visitarlos a New Hampshire, se crea un "antes y despues de Dacres" cada año que he ido. Este último año fue de grandes enseñanzas, mi verano compartido con todos ustedes, los animales, las plantas y los arboles de la granja. Mi llegada fue casi en el nacimiento de una camada de cerditos y mi ida fue otro nuevo nacimiento de otra camada y la entrada del equinoccio de otoño, entonces fue todo un periodo importante en mi vida, estar allá siempre abre mis oidos, mi vista y todos mis sentidos un poco más cada vez, cada hierva arrancada es un ruido menos arrancado para que crezca lo nutritivo, y eso lo aprendo allá como proceso interno y externo que se puede ver en los jardines y en mi corazón. El trabajo y mis manos en la tierra me conectan con lo más sagrado y es asi como puedo empezar a escuchar de nuevo cada vez. Esta vez también fue confrontante, me pregunté tantas cosas, sobre mi, sobre mi entorno, mi país y que puedo yo hacer para contribuir en algo a su sanación, Dacres me enseña que siempre se parte de la tierra, de nuestra relación con ella, y en definitiva compruebo cada vez más que definitivamente "Food is Revolution". Hay muchas cosas por hacer, pero también es importante partir de uno mismo y de mi relación con el que está frente a mí trabajando, no se puede construir una revolución si no hay primero una revolución interna en cada uno, que me haga respetar y reconocer al que está frente a mí en el aquí y en el ahora, porque te puedes dar cuenta que finalmente el que esta enfrente esta reflejando algo de ti mismo, algo que hay que aprender, de nada vale una revolución estando solo, porque estamos en este mundo y estamos conectados entre nosotros y con la tierra, en la medida en que empecemos a entender cada vez más eso, entonces crearemos cambio, crearemos mundos nuevos, juntos. Nadie es más, o ménos que nadie. Todos estamos en esto, estamos en lo mismo, en la búsqueda.
Solo puedo agradecer, agradecer mucho a Dacres y a todos los que lo han conformado a lo largo de los años y a los que lo conforman cada vez, en esta utopía de crear un nuevo mundo, nueva vida, cada vez, cada equiniccio, cada estación, en cada hierva, en cada semilla. GRACIAS.
Nos veremos de nuevo, esta vez espero tener el coraje de vivir el frío. Pero nos veremos las caras otra vez.

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Alliteration, anyone?

I spent much of my young life detesting the study of grammer. Similar sentiments pervaded my lessons in linguistic finesse as well as rules of literary tools. I had always like to read, figured I knew how to talk, and shouldn’t that be enough?

The same stands today. Except that I did go through all those classes and courses, and couldn’t forcibly shake such information out the other side. Which brings me to alliteration, and almost…almost…an appreciation of it. I mean, it does sound fluid. It does lend a certain rhythm to written word. And I am about to use it – all year long.

Renewal & Renewables. Here at D Acres Permaculture Farm & Educational Homestead, it’s not just about reduce, reuse, recycle: we’re adding renew to the list as well. As we prepare to welcome 2011 and embark on our fourteenth year, we’ve chosen ‘The Year of Renewal & Renewables’ to be our guiding theme.

These words connote some alliterative companions - rebirth, rejuvenate, renovate. Indeed, Renewal and Renewables connotes many things for us here at D Acres. For one, renewal alludes to the commitment, inspiration, and dedication of the current staff to D Acres’ ongoing, multifaceted efforts for SustainAbility, as well as the strength and stability in the organization’s core.

More tangibly, Renewables suggest our 2011 focus on energy generation and consumption. As the coming year unfolds, we will be installing additional solar panels on our community building, as well as additional tube collectors for solar hot water. Both of these installations will significantly increase our ability to draw power from the sun, decrease our use of fossil fuels, and enhance our ability to educate, demonstrate, and inform our many visitors, members, and friends regarding the potential of renewable energy sources. We will also comprehensively replace wasteful lighting fixtures in the community building, as well as construct an icehouse. The former is a simple endeavor to improve efficiency, while the latter is a considerable reconfiguration of our refrigeration methodology. An icehouse built off the northeast corner of our main building will further reduce our need for power-driven refrigeration while further diversifying the models of sustainable energy solutions that we can offer here at D Acres.

Now, granted, there are plenty of new projects in the works for the new year, and that is a source of excitement and a focus for our gumption. But much will remain the same. Steady. Reliable. We’re counting on the camaraderie and friendship of our many neighbors and friends, just as you expect to see the same core of folks upon entering our door. Our monthly Pizza Nights, Farm Feast Breakfasts, potlucks, volunteer days, and open mic events will continue. Our Seasonal Soup Nites will be just as scrumptious in a whole new venue: Mark’s Café, Club, & Eatery in Plymouth, NH (currently Junkyard Dogs), complete with musical entertainment. Our full calendar of workshops, classes, gatherings, and special events will continue as always – we’ll have an official calendar available shortly after 2011 arrives.

All these talks of plans and projects-to-be, though, has me thinking of the importance of people more than ever. Whether we’re talking about the work of farming, or of cooking for events, or of planning presentations, workshops, and community celebrations… it’s the participation, enthusiasm, attendance, and engagement of each you – yes, YOU – who make it worthwhile. Join us. Come to a potluck, listen to some music, tell us what you know, ask us what we do. Bring a friend, or a child, or an elder - we are engaged in the collaboration of the generations and the creation of a resilient community culture. However that speaks to you, find a place here. We all have much to share.

as published in North Country News

Friday, December 3, 2010

And for each his own pail

If you have a bucket, you have a place to put things. If you have a place to put things, you have a means of carrying, moving, storing, consolidating, growing, containing, hoisting, and dumping things.

Buckets are terribly useful contraptions.

That said, here at D Acres Permaculture Farm & Educational Homestead, we just may have a few too many of a good thing.

Buckets for water, buckets for weeds, buckets for dirt and for compost and for sand; buckets for woodchips, buckets for veggie oil, buckets for coal, for construction scraps, and for gravel; buckets for maple sap, buckets for carrots, buckets for cabbage heads, chard stems, and chicken feed; buckets for basketballs, buckets for drums, buckets for stools and tools and fuels …oh my.

Our storage of buckets bespeaks a natural triage. There are the buckets that we wash each day and return to area restaurants, the barrels that satiate our piglets’ lust for leftovers. Then there are the buckets around the house, barn, and outbuildings that wear the stains of use, some carried about frequently while most are simply accumulating, waiting, biding time. And finally, there’s the pile not quite out of sight, but which we try to keep out of mind: the buckets bearing such quantities of gunk, smeg, and dirtiness that they are no longer pleasant or possible to use.

This third pile was where I found myself one recent morning. Out of mind no longer. Snow was coming, ice was already accounted for, and plans for winter logging meant the stash was to be ignored no more. So I sorted through the wet leaves, the algae-funk, and the blocks of ice. A trip to the dump was soon to depart.

D Acres, I can announce, is now free of well-aged gloppity-glop and schloppity-schlop, at least as stored in forgotten, five-gallon vessels.

The second part of the project, naturally, was storing all the useable, but over-abundant, buckets in an accessible spot. Check. So now the grand announcement: we’d like to spread the wealth of the bucket brigade. Yes, that comes with a lid.

It may seem silly, but surely you could use a bucket. Give a call, drop on by. Take one, take two, take a whole stack or even more! For the avant garde among you, we can even offer square buckets, short buckets, and one- & two-gallon buckets. That’s right.

Grow a tomato, potato, or maybe some kale. Pot up a flower. Keep that leak from soaking the carpet. Collect your kitchen scraps or store some sand in the bed of your truck. You can continue the list from there.

What do you need today?

as published in NorthCountry News

Sunday, November 28, 2010

A Moment to Pause....

It's been a whirlwind three months. In late August, I arrived at D Acres Organic Farm to begin an internship program. As I started out, I knew that my anticipatory excitement had been dead on, that I would be able to remain excited throughout my time here. With so much to learn and so many things going on as the Autumn harvest season approached, my head swam with new information and new methods and responsibilities to attend to. Each day brought a new interest, each day brought a new challenge.

And as I pack up my things this late November night, preparing to head southward for at least the duration of the winter, I reflect upon all the things I've gained from this experience. A few more notable aspects come to mind...

Firstly, I have a newfound appreciation for the virtues of silence, of solitary time. Miles out from real civilization, tucked in the woods on a hillside with a babbling stream below, I have the lack of interference necessary to really be with my thoughts. It sounds silly, but this very act has stirred a new appreciation in me of the act itself.

Working on a diversified farm was most certainly a novel experience for me. Learning to perform all my new duties while taking in still more information presented an initial challenge greater than expected. I expected to encounter challenges in adapting to daily life, and surely I did. Undoubtedly, this new type of multitasking has helped make me into a more focused and harder worker.

Living in community was also a novel experience. I've had all kinds of living situations: dorms, rented houses, apartments...and room/housemates every stripe. Certainly, responsibilities exist for each of those arrangements...but rarely are you sharing more than a roof and the occasional incidental meal. Here at D Acres, my "roommates" are also my co-workers. We eat almost every meal together. This extreme level of immersion and one-on-one contact was wonderful, and unlike any other experience. Your "roommates" see things in you which you cannot, and vice versa. This is unavoidable, spending most of every day working in close contact. Quickly, whether involved in farm-work or daily chores, I found myself thinking ahead to make positive my efforts wouldn't counteract or hinder the work of another. Living in community has forced me to learn new things about myself, in addition to becoming more objective and considerate of the feelings and needs of others, as well as the larger community.

Already I know that the things I got from this experience far outweigh the things I was required to give: I have a new set of skills, insights, and appreciations. And most importantly, I know surely that these things will continue to spiral out into my life and the larger world. As I prepare to hit the books for the winter, I doubt very seriously that my involvement with D Acres is "finished".


Friday, November 19, 2010

Tea Time

“Is that soup?”

“No…it’s tea, real tea.”

This particular exchange occurred with a hot mug full of foliage in my hand and a bombilla straw poised on my lips: the former being my tea of choice, the latter my means for consuming liquid, not greens. I also had a flummoxed visitor scratching his head over the scene.

See, here at D Acres Permaculture Farm & Educational Homestead, when we talk tea, we’re talking home-grown herbs that we’ve tended, harvested, dried, and blended by hand. During the warmer months, we simply walk out the back door and select our share of lemon balm, mint, nettle, calendula…the possibilities are numerous. We also spend hours each week through the summer and early fall drying and storing all manner of herbs. Although the gardens are less than lush this time of year, our shelves and cabinets are over-stocked with a plethora of aromatic bunches.

The next step, then, is to put ‘em in a pot, steep ‘em in water, and voilá – you’ve got the best tea going. Say I’m biased if you must, but think on it. These herbs are tended with care and perspicacity, from the soil in which each plant is grown to the conditions in which each leaf is dried. Tea, for us, is akin to our daily medicine, a means of promoting health and wellbeing in our day-to-day routines.

And we want to share that with you! Granted, a cup of tea is offered to most anyone who passes through the farm and that’s still the case, but we’re going one step further. After a decade of taste-testing our favorite concoctions, we’ve developed Summer 2010, D Acres’ original organic tea blend. It contains nettle, raspberry leaf, mint, lemon balm, holy basil, echinacea, calendula, rose petal, and lavender. Just two teaspoons in your favorite mug makes for a delicious brew.

New this month, Summer 2010 is available at a variety of Main Street establishments in Plymouth, as well as the Common Café in Rumney. Stop by and ask for a cup; we appreciate your support of our local economy. We’re also selling the blend here at the farm and online ( if you’d prefer brewing it yourself.

Drinking a glass of tea calls many thoughts to mind: bucolic images, satiated sensations, well-tended garden plots, perfumed pantries, and invigorating warmth. For us here at D Acres, Summer 2010 is quite literally the story of a season, produced with the work of many hands. It is a reflection of our soil’s vigor, the health of our birds and bees, the result of attention and conscientiousness, a means of health and comfort throughout the passing months.

What would you add to that list? Give our tea a try; let us know what you think. We want you, too, to be part of this season’s unfolding chapter. Tea-time, anyone?

as published in North Country News

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

I Can See Saturn From Here

Evenings (and days) are getting much colder, much quicker here at D Acres Organic Farm.
Day lengths are minutes shorter by morning and night, each and every day. I've been noticing this for weeks now, but with the turning back of the clocks this weekend, and the realization that I can now estimate my 7am rising time both by the instantaneous cold as my fire dies and by the absence of sunlight in my graying part of the woods, it seems final. This winter thing is irreversible at this point.

Soon, we will no longer be able to work the gardens, orchards, and fields. The very last of our tomatoes ripen under newspapers, out of reach of the light, in our basement. They are a welcome addition to our diet and a warm reminder of summer, but they pale in comparison to the fruits of July, with all their sunny juiciness. Kale is running short, and Swiss Chard even shorter. Each day brings us closer to the mountain of multicolored potatoes that will make up a very large part of our winter eats. As the seasons change, our diets change with our habits as well.

I enjoy my privacy and solitude in my treehouse, Sanctu. A nice rushing mountain stream about 200ft. below me, the swaying birches overhead, and chirps of the ever-fewer birds about remind me almost constantly of what I don't miss about the "real" world. I have no electricity and no amenities back there in the woods, but also I have almost nothing to bother my thoughts. As the last of the major leaves drop around me, I am half tempted to thoroughly lament the passing of the summer and autumn...I am a bona fide sun-lover...but I resist and find meditation and solace in the beautiful transience displayed all around me.

And in the last part of my evening, as I open my door for a bracing breath of fresh nighttime air, I can notice a spot in the arching trees overhead that was most certainly clothed in green a month ago. Now bare, it shines a thin but true stream of what seems to be starlight almost right on my toes. Being not even an amateur astronomer, I do my research and find out that it is indeed Saturn. Whatever interesting is happening in the "real" world on this Friday night, I can afford to miss it. I can see Saturn from here.


Friday, November 5, 2010

A mascot for home-grown carrots

“Why do you keep your carrots in the dirt?”

Shoulders back, quizzical look on their faces, my little cousins demanded answers on a recent trip to my parents’ gardens down home. They were aghast at the hairy roots, and the preposterous nature of vegetable storage. Who would take carrots out of a bag and stick them in the ground? Clearly everyone must know that’s what a refrigerator is for. Their superior chuckles hinted at their dubious interior monologues.

It took some explaining, but the concept of seeds, and sprouts, then big vegetables growing in the ground was conveyed. The words at least were understood, even if the sanity of such a process was still in question.

I was reminded of this exchange this past week. Three of our regular visitors to D Acres Permaculture Farm & Educational Homestead, all under the height of three feet and the age of five, found me planting out nursery stock. They had the same perplexed look, the same authoritarian stance upon demanding:

“Why are your hands dirty?”

“Well, why are your hands clean?” I responded. Yup, that stumped ‘em.

Their escort kindly explained that I was helping the plants to grow, taking grapes, groundnut, rose rogosa, lilac, and willow out of pots and planting them into the soil. I nodded in agreement. Did they want to help me finish? It’s like making mudpies for adults, I prodded.

Nope, no, definitely not.

Ok, fair enough. They had a date with apple juice and coloring books; I simply had shovels and mud to offer. I certainly don’t begrudge them their fine affairs – but how will they know from whence their fruit drinks came?

It seems that in the stereotypical struggle to make children like carrot sticks or think apples slices are fun, we’ve forgotten the rest of the story all together. Maybe we wouldn’t have to wrap fruit roll-ups with jokes, or fruit loops with comic characters if kids could share in their own story with their own food. If they could taste a carrot they planted, weeded, and pulled themselves, a carrot that was juicy in its tender freshness and sweetened with cold temperatures…a carrot that was slightly wacky in size and not quite reproducible in shape. Surely these things, too, would produce a gloating giggle.

So I for one would rally for carrots being their own mascot, and apples their very own cheerleaders. Perhaps the query to consider is then, if I may kindly paraphrase and parody the tykes:

Why aren't your carrots in the dirt?

as published in North Country News

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Talking it out

“How do you know what to do each day?” (That one is fairly common.)

“Ok, but who’s in charge?” (Give me a dollar every time that’s asked and I’d be the richest farmer around)

Folks seem to be pleading with me to hear that there is one boss, or to-do list handed down from powers above, or that specialized duties fit a single category easily defined and quickly learned. But, like so much else about D Acres Farm & Educational Homestead…reality just isn’t that predictable nor that narrow, nor that simply explained.

At least at first. My wager, though, is that our system of consensus decision-making, sharing responsibility, maintaining accountability, and developing skills…well, it asks the individual to flourish while also strengthening community.

The process of consensus and collaboration can present its challenges, yes. There are always varying levels of experience, knowledge, and age to balance, and personality strengths & weakness must be considered. While the “buck stops here” is applied to everyone, each individual is given the skills and the support to fulfill that responsibility. As opposed to a more hierarchical power structure, consensus cultivates teamwork, clear communication, cooperative processes, mutual respect, tolerance, and diversity.

So here at D Acres, that means we sit together each Monday afternoon, and work through our plans…for all the details we need to cover. From who’s feeding the pigs, to who’s doing the laundry, from who’s weeding the kale to who’s splitting the wood, we talk it out until we’re all on the same page. This is how I know what to do each day, and why it’s not a simple answer to ‘who’s in charge.’ We work together, plan together, learn from each other, and hold each other accountable. It’s a proverbial two-way street, for sure.

But this is just scratching the surface. Far more explicative tomes have been penned on consensus and group processes. If you’re interested, however - be it for personal use or for a specific organization you are part of – here’s what I recommend:

Check out Cultivating Collaborative Processes: Tools for Cooperative Decision Making, a training session we are hosting Saturday, November 13. This day-long workshop will be led by professional facilitator and certified mediator Irene Garvey. Attendees will spend the day cultivating skills for productive and effective meetings that are fun, fair, and value diversity. The workshop, running 9am-4:30pm, is looking to educate participants in ways to transcend the typical meeting structure (i.e. Robert’s Rule of Order). Whether you are a part of a service group, an organization’s board of directors, a community volunteer, or a project committee, there are skills and tools pertinent to your circumstances.

Productive communication and effective decision-making takes practice, I’ll vouch for that. And it takes time. So begin the process now. Contact D Acres with further inquiries or for registration information: 603-786-2366 or

as published in North Country News

From a friend, member, and frequenter of D Acres

Thank you so very, VERY much for the wonderful dinner last Sunday. And thanks for all the work you do to make our world a better place to live. And last but not least, thanks for the soup you gave us to take home. We had it for lunch on Monday and it was sooooo good...

P.S. I’m so happy you are using real napkins and not paper ones, just like I do in our house.

Monday, October 18, 2010

Dispatches from Raking the Crapper

"There's water in there?"
"It's okay, you can go."
"I think I'll just go number one."
------------------------------------------------------------------------------------- A few months ago a friend of mine that lives at O.U.R. Ecovillage in British Columbia went with her three-year-old daughter to the city. After a while her daughter had to "go number two" and my friend took her into a restaurant bathroom. At the Ecovillage, as at D-Acres, drinking glasses hold drinking water and toilets do not. The little girl was perplexed by the water in the restaurant toilet because she did not understand where her poop would go: understandably, few of us do. She ultimately compromised and was willing to pee, just to test the waters.
Some guests of mine here at D-Acres were similarly perplexed by the Clivus Multrum composting toilet. We request that guests refrain from peeing in this toilet as much as possible. It disrupts the composting process and can make the humanure putrid smelling and soupier than anyone wants to deal with. Aside from memories from the farms of aunts and uncles long ago, they were experienced exclusively with the municipal sewage system and the flushing toilets that creep up like more mouths to feed at the ends of pipes in each home. A similar dialogue ensued beween my guests and me as the one between my friend and her three-year-old daughter:
"Try not to pee in the toilets because..."
"Well then where do we pee?"
"The land is yours."
"I'm not sure I can do that..." One replied.
A flushing toilet or the land that is the toilet of every living creature can be a source of discomfort and confusion or of comfort and pleasure. Age is not so much a matter as experience. Everyone is forced to see their true reflection, not in a mirror, but in the glop that was yesterday's dinner; and no Narcissus will emerge from that vision. There is instead, humbleness to be found in assuming responsibility for one's fecal matter. Gradually, approximately at the rate the poo piles, a recognition of oneself, a life history from meal to meal and those meals' return to the earth is ingested, digested, and nourishes an understanding that the self does not begin or end in the body, but interfaces continously with the world and can nourish it as much as it nourishes us.
What I have found is that phenomena that are unfamiliar seem unhygenic and threatening. The impulse is as valuable as it can be pervasive. For most of my life, the toilet bowl was my only relationship to a daily product of my body. My idea of feces was pervaded with that threat of the unfamiliar. My friend's little daughter was not naive to be fearful of defecating into a vortex of potable water. She has the wisdom intact to be threatened not by unfamiliarity from inexperience, but with something she could never become familiar with - the endless network of pipes and mechanisms that daily carry parts of us away to some remote accountability.
The litte lever mechanism connected to a chain in the back of a porcelain bowl that I have struggled with in exasperated efforts to keep toilets flushing is symptomatic of a struggle much deeper within myself and in all who share this experience. The struggle is the story of the work for money to afford a porcelain bowl, a septic system, taxes for municipal sewage... It is the rupture with reality that occurs with when we flush. Like the distrustful hilarity that ensues at a magician's sleight of hand, it is hard to trust that that poop went to a better place for us or anyone else, that it was not some sort of trick.
Soil makes all. Poop makes soil...not just cow poop and horse poop, but human poop as well. And when I rake the fecal mountain in the "digester" chamber in the basement here, it is clear that we make a lot of soil. The world we encounter - friends, neighbors, food, wine, laughter - are all articulations of poop. Enjoyment of life throughout a lifetime is also an articulation of poop so long as it is allowed to nourish the earth where it began its journey. So, don't shit where you eat. This is true. But, don't shit too far from where you eat.

- Robby Mellinger: Intern

Thursday, October 7, 2010

Stardust to Garden-Dust

As the tasks of the day are completed and nighttime settles around D Acres Farm & Educational Homestead, I usually find myself with a satiated stomach, dirt-stained calluses, and not-quite-clean jeans, climbing my way to the silo loft I call home. Sometimes I pause to feel the wind or to hear the peepers, the birds, or the sleepy snores of piglets as the season dictates. Often I take a glance at the stars, or note the clouds that hide them.

The other night, though, was no casual glance at the Big Dipper, no perfunctory nod to Cassiopeia. No, not quite.

Instead, I lucked upon a proper tour of the night sky. Which is to say I saw ring nebulas and other galaxies, double stars and the moons of Jupiter, southbound geese and maidens chained to rocks. Okay, that last duo took some advanced skills at connect the dots…nevertheless, the whole affair was impressive and fascinating. Talk about long distance vision.

It made me think of a quote by farmer and activist Wendell Berry that goes as follows:
“Here as well as any place I can look out my window and see the world. There are lights that arrive here from deep in the universe. A man can be provincial only by being blind and deaf to his province.”

Berry has eloquence on his side, for sure. But in my simple walk through the North Orchard, past the pond, under the rose, and up-up-up to the windows of the silo…the stardust in the sky and the garden-dust in my pockets don’t seem so disparate.

There is, of course, the science of elements and minerals and galactic dust, the right ratios of which allow us to be as we are, alive, in this galaxy on this Earth that houses us. And there is, too, a philosopher’s wonder, the juxtaposition of life’s small details unfolding under stars so very many light years away.

I suppose I lean more to the latter simply because the awe of metaphysics comes more naturally to me than the equations of physics.

But whether you consider yourself a scientist or a romantic, or are stuck somewhere in between, there are still innumerable dusty stars, and countless grains of dusty soil. We each have to make our own sense of that, I suppose. It strikes me as a reminder of our human humility and smallness, but also of the vastness of Life. There is grandeur in a night sky that seems to diminish the details of our worries, and a patience in galactic timescales that suggests our hurriedness inconsequential.

Mere musings, yes. There still remains the challenge of relating farming to stellar mythologies. Yet as the constellations visible in the sky transform while the seasons come and go, so, too, changes the dirt, or the leaves, or the snow, or the mud I must brush off myself while glancing up past the rose, and ascending to the silo. While Orion wields his sword across the sky by night, I wield my garden fork, or rake, or shovel, or pruners by day. And together, these acts tell a story intimately tied to place. This place.

as published in North Country News

Friday, September 24, 2010

Rafters of garlic and puppets

Another summer has quickly passed at D Acres Organic Farm & Educational Homestead in a blur of expanded gardens, prolific vegetables, pond construction, twelve new piglets, nine young ducklings, a community river clean-up event, a host of camp groups and community volunteers, a Local Food Guide Launch, Beehive Collective presentation, and continuation of our Permaculture through the Seasons course.

With autmun upon us, we are quickly bringing our colorful harvest – a bounty of potatoes, squash, carrots, beets, turnips, and cabbage – into our root cellar. The last treats of summer – tomatoes, cucumbers, beans, apples, grapes – are preserved on shelves, while our array of brassicas are testing themselves against the dropping temperatures. The tasks of weeding, mulching, and sheet mulching are filling our days as we race against ourselves to finish before the snow flies.

The top floor of our barn, used to dry herbs during the hottest months, is emptying out as the cool weather and short days descend. It is a unique place, filled with antique farming tools, larger-than-life papier mache puppets, second-hand skis, dishware, & old clothes. And, for much of August and September, garlic.

Yes, garlic. Tied in bunches with baling twine, strands upon strands of garlic heads were hung in three tiers across the top-floor room. The highest strands required an 8’ladder, the bottom willing knees and lots of crawling. Warm days and the passage of time dried it well, and the dedication of many hands over many hours have accounted for the roots being trimmed, the stalks cut off, and the heads sorted by size and quality.

This season’s cloves passed through the hands of a summer leadership camp group, a high school service class, international travelers, local volunteers, and of course, your usual D Acres folks. Our garlic heads have heard talk of the next school dance, plans for dinner, hopes for a nap, demands for lunch, Guatemalan massacres, Angolan politics, city trends, art museums, post-colonial religiosity, and plenty more to fill in the spectrum. World peace has yet to be achieved, and the meaning of everything is not quite answered once and for all…but then again, we do have next year’s garlic to figure out the big questions.

In the meantime, we have scores upon scores of pounds of garlic on our hands: some for planting, some for eatin’, some for selling. By Columbus Day we’ll have planted clove after clove into the ground in preparation for early spring growth. Through the winter, though, it will be our task to eat, share, and sell the rest of this year’s bounty. Which is significant. To buy ourselves some time, we’ll store it in sacks hidden in the dark corners of bedroom closets – warding off vampires is an accidental attribute to our indoor accommodations. Garlic is a natural flavoring, aeoli is a favorite spread; mashed cloves serve as a poultice and garlic tea as a remedy for whatever ails us. Garlic with your eggs, garlic with your greens, garlic with your squash, garlic with your potatoes, garlic with your soup, garlic with your pizza, garlic with your meat, garlic with your bread, garlic garlic garlic.

Please, come on over and lend us a hand…or more appropriately, your appetite.

as published in North Country News

Thursday, September 23, 2010

The Humbling Hum

It has been roughly three and a half weeks since my arrival here at D Acres Organic Farm and Educational Homestead... and it's been quite a ride. The duties of farm life are nonstop and never-ending; predictable and at once unpredictable. The amount of learning that takes place every minute of every day in every mind is staggering. The whiz of thirty different simultaneous projects- water, harvest, preserve, can, prune, mulch, clean, dehydrate, plant - is enough to make one's head spin; yet as you begin to settle into life here at D Acres, it begins to form a cohesive hum in your mind.

Which, considering the necessary amount of work to feed and sustain ourselves here, is also a humbling element. Your connection from your work to your plate to your body and soul and then back again is palpable; so much so that at times it seems hard to fathom that elsewhere in the world, people are lunching on Big Mac's and whatever else I don't miss about the "real" world. Every time we share a meal here, I appreciate more about just what it takes to feed us human creatures. The REAL amount of work: not finding time on a weeknight to grocery-shop...then going home and preparing a meal. Feed/Water/Clean (daily, early) of pigs/chickens/ducks...quickly exposes one to the harsh realities of our foodstuffs, and the care and cognizance necessary to maintain such as a viable system for now and for future.

How many people can say that they went to bed last night tired, sweaty, and sore from exactly the labors that would feed them in the morning? As I emptied my pockets last night, I found a baby potato and a couple of mashed grapes. Sure, there is money to be had, glitz to be glimmered, and fast life to be lived out there in the "real" world. But if going to bed dirty and sore is wrong, I'm not sure I want to be right. The tangible connection between hands and contented belly is too valuable.

Saturday, September 11, 2010

Woods to Waterfowl

It’s been a quick transition, really. A few weeks with the sights and sounds of heavy equipment gracing the D Acres grounds in early summer and voilá, what was once a wooded swamp has given way to some oversized puddles. On which shall I comment first – the sudden presence of bodies of water here at D Acres Organic Farm & Educational Homestead, or the unique experience of pulling weeds by hand while an excavator overhauled our landscape with the flick of a joystick?

It’s fair to say that the excavator is already a footnote in the summer’s stock of memories, while the ponds and aquatic niches we are creating are just beginning to take root. With our brand-new watering holes we are beginning to capture available water to a much greater extent. We are also cultivating a sweet cannonball spot.

It’s been a process of seeding in rye, alfalfa, and clover, watching the water level gradually rise, welcoming the increased sunshine on that zone of the property, and growing accustomed to the changed path of sound. (Though we will pretend not to hear it, the ring of the telephone can now reach us in the lower garden.) The homestead’s acoustics have also been revamped, with the bullfrogs, peepers, and crickets blasting their cacophonous symphony from their all-natural amphitheater. We have VIP seating whether we want it our not.

Nine ducks arrived in July: their house was built in an evening, their fence cobbled together from bedsprings and scraps of fencing the following afternoon. They took well to the water, their inaugural swim filled with full-on dives, head bobs, and wing flaps. (They have this back-scratching maneuver that is particularly entertaining.) Nine piglets – the numbers being mere coincidence – are the most recent addition, again with a fixed-up suite and re-used fencing. Next year’s bacon is growing fast while rooting and fertilizing oh so effectively. They are the consummate garden bed preparers.

So these are the most visible signs of the area’s transition. But there’s more. We hold the next steps in our heads, ready to bring each to fruition as the seasons allow. Irrigation (and fire suppression), graywater filtration, cultivated aquaculture, terraced gardens & orchards, hydropower, wind power, swimming spots & backyard skating….

For now, though, these earthen swimming pools have seen their first summer come and go. We’re watching the clover grow, wondering when we’ll share our first duck-egg breakfast, and hoping the pigs don’t best our fencing system. It’s a cool autumn wind that ripples across the young vegetation, and there are already fall colors reflecting on the water’s surface…proof, at least, that the ponds are not too murky. And aesthetics, I should mention, still count for something. All seems right, when, farm-fresh tea in hand, you can stand on the bank, witness the enthusiastic antics of the ducks, nod in agreement with the bull-frog, and watch the clouds blow over your own reflection.

as published in North Country News

Sunday, August 29, 2010

A Day of Repose

As I write this it is Sunday, in fact a rainy Sunday afternoon here at D Acres Organic Farm & Educational Homestead, and we are quietly tidying the house and recovering ourselves after a weekend of cob building, food events, and meals with hostel guests.

In this case the weather is forcing a rest day, but our arms don’t have to be twisted too hard. There are indoor tasks to attend to, letters to write, and books to read. I won’t hide that the latter two can reliably lead to a rare nap.

Thinking ahead to the work with which we’ll occupy ourselves for the next week or two, my mind flits over the standard list of weeding, harvesting, and preserving. Animal care, construction, and forestry are also near the top; community events, workshops, and hostel management are part and parcel of our chief endeavors as well.

While the former consume our weekdays, the latter three fill our weekends. Pleasant weather ensures a crowd and holidays rapidly inflate attendance. And in no time at all the next holiday weekend will be upon us, the one which signals so many things: the end of summer and the beginning of autumn, a return to school, apple season, fall foliage, the approaching cold, the coming frost…I am thinking, of course, of Labor Day.

There is a none-too-short history behind this national day-off, one told in the annals of struggle & striving and worker agitation. It is a history worth knowing, even if textbooks don’t give it more than a cordial sentence. My interest herein, however, lies more with labor today. My labor, your labor, our labor. Think of it. So very many hundreds of millions of us across fifty states know with barely a second thought that Labor Day is synonymous with vacation, or at least with overtime pay…that the banks are closed and the postman not making his rounds. But what of our labor? How are we engaged each day, and from what exactly are we briefly released?

It’s sort of funny, isn’t it, that one day-off is supposed to satiate us for a year of labor in a system that, well, may not have our best interest at its core? Do you know what I mean? It’s a matter of perspective surely, but it would seem that it is all too easy to end up working for money’s sake, in order to maintain the basics of a comfortable living. Yet we the people are – at times – left with so little control over the factors determining the terms of said comfort.

Okay, so this is getting into some themes that far outstrip the 500-word quota…lucky for you. So I’ll head back to the more comfortable topic of, what else, farming at D Acres.

I’ve found myself saying in different instances, that one of the beauties of working the land is how energy cycles through the process. Plants grow with the energy of the sun and the energy we each put into them. Come harvest time, we reap that energy back, the vigor and nutrients contained within the plant restoring our bodies and fueling our health and well-being. From one to the other, and back again. A sustainable cycle is predicated on self-maintenance.

Which means my personal labor day is to be found more reliably in wintertime, or as a welcome surprise when chores are quickly finished after a busy weekend, or as an occasional adventure through the woods and into the mountains. Ultimately, though, it is my labor that sustains and nourishes me to an extent far greater than that of a labor holiday. What are the terms of your labor day?

as published in North Country News

Monday, August 23, 2010

Scenes from an Intern

5:30 a.m., the alarm clock in my tree house starts to beep, faster and faster until the snooze is hit, something I’ll do every 10 minutes for the next hour. I roll over and pier out the screen to the right, the sun is just rising over the eastern forest across the oxen field, spraying the horizon above the tree line with a deep earth-toned orange. My mind begins to fill with thoughts of animal chores and blueberry pancakes. During the next hour the early morning sun rises into the sky spreading its warmth over the gardens and fields that surround the age-old farm. I crawl out of bed and begin my daily walk to the outhouse; my feet and lower legs begin to soak with that good old mountain dew, reminding me of the times spent on my grandfather’s farm in West Virginia. The day continues to unravel as weeds are pulled, plants are harvested, and seeds are covered with earth, and I, gazing at the White Mountains to the North, begin to sweat under the sun.

It’s a fairly unconventional lifestyle, sleeping in a tree house by night and working on a wood-fired hot tub by day, all things I find inspiring and well worth the effort. Yet, it’s the forest that really settles the mind, with its large quantities of Hemlock, Spruce, and Maple that appear amongst the nearly 200 acres of forest. They are a remarkable feature of this land, the Hemlock by far giving the most to the wooded hills’ calming and tranquil notes with its dark green shade and lofty branches. The stream that flows from the hills on the Western side of Streeter Mountain provides and ideal ground for these trees. Yet the Hemlock grows in abundance everywhere, as well as Maples, Pines, and White Birches, as there are many a beaver damn and small pools of spring water that feed and nourish these beautiful trees. A day will come though, that we may call upon the dark grains of a Black Cherry or the abstract boards of a wavy Birch to help expand and maintain the land of which has become so crucial to the livelihood of us, the stewards of the land of Dorchester.

Saturday, August 14, 2010

What does a fruit tree mean to you?

This afternoon sweat had my shirt sticking uncomfortably to my back, dirt staining my legs as I shook it free from the roots of weeds. Myself and a visiting resident from Mexico were working closely in our upper pasture, pulling sorrel, quack grass, and clover from amongst a row of collards, kale, and kohlrabi. We were exchanging perspectives and experiences on food, farming, and class inequality…naturally. She mentioned some time spent amongst a community with a great diversity of fruit trees, yet they subsisted on beans and tortillas. Only the children, she said, bothered to climb the trees to nab some fruit. No one else bothered, they didn’t think it worthwhile to eat and were no longer accustomed to picking their own food.

From there, she went on to describe food conglomerates, and their total control. There were no possibilities aside from international corporations – and they dominated throughout the country. If you want milk, there’s only one option; if you want water, there’s only one option. Water is un-potable from the sink, wells are no good; you have to buy it, and “local” water is a rare commodity.

People have no control, she emphasized, but also no information. They don’t know, don’t understand what is happening.

But here, here in America, here in New Hampshire, here in the Northcountry, we do have information and so we can understand that our local food economy is under assault. For the moment, we do have water that is still potable. We do have choices in the milk we drink, or the meat we cook. We have apple trees that we can relish. We mustn’t take these options for granted.

Originally, this piece was about our weekly harvests here at D Acres. No English major, I purported to create some idyllic scenes involving dew, morning sun, and lush gardens. I maintain that such an image is, nonetheless, fairly close to accurate, and that the variety of produce we reap is a beauty not to be overlooked. We still trot out with our wooden baskets under our arms; we still celebrate a plentiful harvest. From purple string beans, to pink chard; from the deep green of zucchini to the passionate red of jalenpeños; from the crispness of apples to the run-down-your-chin juiciness of plums, harvest days are a sensory treat.

I’ll still mention our Harvest & Preservation workshop, to be held here at D Acres 10am-12noon on Saturday, August 28…

…but this is urgent, folks! We must once again make these skills mundane, common. It is not enough to think that canning applesauce, or pickling garlic scapes, or making raspberry preserves is hip, or quaint, idyllically domestic, or bucolically self-sufficient.

This is about preserving not just our food. Within our relationship to our food, is housed our relationship to local flavor and local culture. Our ability to eat within our region is synonymous with a robust local economy, and a vibrant community. Knowing where, when, and how your food is grown and arrives on your plate is part and parcel of knowing your neighbors. There is no time to wait.

Not to mention that if you wait too long, raspberry season will have passed by, and the apples will rot. And they’re just too good to pass up.

as published in North Country News

Friday, July 30, 2010

And then there were ten

Last Tuesday began in quite a planned, expected, and orderly fashion. We each woke up in our respective abodes, completed our morning chores, came together promptly at 8am for the weekly garden meeting, then headed to the potato pasture. Potato beetles – and their removal from our potato plants - were the only plans for the next couple of hours.

It was a hot sun shining down on us at D Acres Farm, and the sounds of pigs rooting, hawks calling, flies buzzing, & the local apiaries twittering their own news pulled our minds away from the sweat vigorously rolling off our foreheads. Slowly, though, as the minutes passed, there was one other sound that finally garnered the full attention of our frontal lobes.

“No way!”
“No, it couldn’t be!”
“How is that possible?”
“She’s a miracle momma!”

To the best of my memory, each of these statements was uttered with various exclamations of incredulity over the course of the next thirty seconds. When that ceased, all we were left with was the looming question: “what do we do now?”

One of our sows had piglets. Ten of them. In the field, and sooner than we were expecting. She had herself intelligently positioned in the bottom corner, a little nest dug into the ground. Even while nursing she was on the lookout, surveying, alert, ready to be on defense. Unnecessarily, perhaps, as our boar seemed to know to leave well enough alone, and the other sow found the day’s assortment of mud and roots intriguing enough; danger wasn’t imminent. There was merely one dead one; the other ten piglets were very much alive. Nine were big and strong, with a tenth runt that immediately won us over with an underdog’s charm.

Our new momma’s hardest work was done. Ours was just beginning. Our prior litter – less than two months old at this point - currently occupied our pig-house suite. Where were we to put them? Like all firstborns they were thrust from the spotlight to the sidelines in a matter of moments. For ours, this meant the bottom half of our greenhouse/animal house/chicken coop cob structure. To get them there meant catching them. And winning.

Now, the last time I wrestled a pig I ended up riding it inadvertently as the pernicious oinker did 0-60 out of its cage with an alacrity unexpected of the average porker. Granted, our two-months-old piglets were smaller than the contestants of that virgin pig tussle, but smaller also means a lower center of gravity and a cuteness that inserts hesitation into a forceful grapple. No excuses, though: success was had and we returned to the field for Stage Two.

The big pigs were distracted with, what else, food, while the momma sow was led inside the pig house with, of course, food. The little piglets were then scooped up lickety-split and spirited away in cardboard boxes to re-join their mother inside. Done.

A week later, the older piglets are now settled into Pigland, out of our greenhouse-animal house and into a home of their own with field space to run and root. The new piglets have doubled, tripled, quadrupled in size.

There’s only one problem: the littlest of little guys is hitting the bottle…not too successfully. Which is to say that we’ve begun bottle-feeding the runt of the litter. He gets picked on something awful, and his joints & muscles don’t want to work quite right. At this point we’ve all held him too close, have all pushed his siblings off when they crowd him out or bite his tail…we have to try and help him along, just for a short while.

We’ll see. Life, death, the fermentation of compost, the creation of our next garden space, and the slow growth of winter’s bacon. It’s all right here, a step outside our back door. Remarkable, isn’t it?

as published in North Country News

Friday, July 16, 2010

Berries in the sun

“Wow, this thicket is just bursting with fruit,” she gushed, “do you do anything special?”

Pails hanging by baling twine off my back, I was intentionally tangling myself into our most prolific of raspberry patches along with one of our stalwart volunteers and friends of the farm. Unbeknownst to us, we had three hours of berry-picking ahead of us before we would make it out the other side.

I described our process of pruning and weeding to her. Work, certainly, but less than that required for an annual garden bed. Which is the very idea we’re going for here at D Acres Organic Farm & Educational Homestead: the development of perennial gardens, and an edible forest landscape. This means berries, yes, but also fruits, nuts, herbals, and medicinals. With time, we’ll glean an increasing number of calories from the land (not to mention medicine, wood, micro-climates, and niche ecosystems) with a decreasing quantity of manual input required each year.

Raspberries are just one example of this, but quite the plentiful model for the moment. Raspberries, and now blueberries, currants, and gooseberries as well, are rapidly coloring our various patches, bushes, thickets, corners, beds, and roadsides. Before too long it will be the cherries, chokecherries, and elderberries of the fall.

Deep reds, blushed pinks, dark blues, dusky blacks, and vibrant green leaves; the splendor of sustenance and the colors of abundance are a sort of art in themselves. A farmer’s beauty (perhaps that’s all it is) built right into the sweat and bugs of a day’s work. I take a moment to swat at some rouge flies and tuck a few stray hairs behind my ear. My hands, and now my shoulder and my ear, are stained – not with dirt (for once), but with the juice of overripe raspberries. A few handfuls land so sweet and tart on the tongue, an excellent treat…

…but a couple of hours and four gallons later, there is the decent conundrum of what to do with such surfeit. Even with the farm’s collection of apprentices, visitors, and overnight guests that’s a hefty bunch of raspberries to plow through.

So, we keep some for eating…and freeze the rest to enjoy in less bountiful months. By this point, though, we already have eleven gallons of raspberries stored up, not to mention a few gallons worth of blueberries. There’s only so much freezer-space we can allot for berries (bacon, of course, deserves it’s rightful portion). So the next step is upon us: making preserves. That’ll be another story for another week, surely.

In the meantime, we’re busy filling our pails. It’s an every-other-day-or-so endeavor, and we welcome help! If you want to proffer a hand for some manual labors, please give us a ring. Right now! 603-786-2366.

Yes, you can eat a few as you go along, but no-one will believe that you simply couldn’t find any berries if there’s an empty pail at the end of the day…

as published in North Country News

Friday, July 2, 2010

A Day for the River

It’s summertime, which means fresh air and summer sun beckoning us out of doors. Well, granted, here at D Acres Organic Farm & Educational Homestead we’re outside most of the time anyhow. There’s no growing peas in the office, and weeds haven’t sprouted (yet) inside the garage. But even us farmers want to get outside for something besides quack-grass and potato beetles from time to time. And we’d like you to join us!

Perhaps you haven’t already heard the news: July 10th (I hope you haven’t picked up your newspaper a day too late…) is Baker River Appreciation Day! D Acres, in collaboration with the Calm Post Café, PAREI, and the USFS will be hosting outdoor events 9am-3:30pm, and a community gathering at Rumney’s Calm Post Café 4-9pm.

Those of us from the farm will be coordinating a paddle and clean-up of the Baker River, beginning at 10am. We will depart from the Rumney Rest Area along Rt. 25 and head to the Rumney Main St. Bridge. Paddlers – in their own boats – will collect trash and debris, then enjoy a complimentary lunch prepared by the Calm Post Café and D Acres. Shuttles will be provided for volunteers. For more information, please contact D Acres at 603-786-2366 or

If the water’s not your forte, however, you have other options. 9am-12pm will be a volunteer trail work session at Rumney Rocks with Ryan Harvey of the United States Forest Service (USFS). Volunteers will engage in a variety of trail maintenance tasks, then join the paddlers for lunch by the Main St. Bridge. Space is limited, so please register now! Contact Ryan Harvey at 603-536-6129,, or D Acres as listed above. Meet at the Rumney Rocks parking lot.

For folks interested in other beautification efforts, there will also be a road clean-up within the Rumney Village 10:30am-12:30pm. All participants should meet at the Rumney Library.

And that’s not all. Beginning at 1:30pm, Plymouth Area Renewable Energy Initiative (PAREI) will be leading a bike tour of farms and solar homes 1:30-3:30pm. There will be three different routes that bikers can choose from based on experience and difficulty. The bike ride, which will begin at the Rumney Library, is a fundraiser for Local Foods Plymouth; pre-registration is $20 per person. For more information, please contact Melissa Greenawalt-Yelle at

Now I have to say this, so read carefully. Please be aware that all physical activities contain inherent risk. Participants’ personal safety is their personal responsibility. Please bring proper safety gear such as life preserving vests for aquatic activity and helmets for bike riding. Let care and prudence reign, please.

Ok, now for the real punch line. This series of July 10th events will culminate with a community gathering at the Calm Post Café in Rumney. The event begins at 4pm and will feature local, farm-fresh dinner, local bands, local artisans & organizations, and aquatic education. Volunteers with the morning river clean-up and trail maintenance will receive complimentary dinner. All other attendees can purchase dinner – provided by the Calm Post Café – for $10/plate. Beginning at 4:30pm, local bands will provide entertainment: Blue Ribbon All-Stars, The Cable Guys, Black Bear Moon, and The Crunchy Western Boys. PSU professor Kerry Yurewicz will lead aquatic educational activities, local blacksmiths Joe Vachon and Steve Ash will demonstrate their art with fire and steel, and Mo the Clown will provide clever entertainment for all ages. All attendees will receive a complimentary ticket to our door prize raffle. Drawing will be at 8pm for a large handmade bowl turned by Rumney’s Ripple Pottery. Got it? You don’t want to miss this.

With much gratitude, I want to thank our sponsors: Baker River Watershed Association, Biederman’s Deli, Calm Post Café, Davis Conservation Foundation, Off the Hanger, PAREI, Peppercorn Natural Food Store, Plain Jane’s Diner, Rand’s Hardware, Rhino Bikes, Ripple Pottery, Samahas, and Shaneware Pottery. Please show your appreciation by supporting these local establishments!

So be sure to join us for a day of summer fun on Saturday, July 10th! Trail work at 9am, river clean-up at 10am, road clean-up at 10:30am, bike tour at 1:30pm, community gathering with dinner and music at 4pm at the Calm Post Café. Don’t miss out! Contact D Acres at 603-786-2366 or with further questions. We look forward to seeing you along the Baker!

as published in North Country News

Friday, June 18, 2010

Burning for Clay

“Look, we got you something - authentic riverbank clay!”

“Oh, authentic, huh?”

“Well, you know…” Because I sure didn’t. Here I was, talking with our new artist-in-residence at D Acres, potter Ethan Hamby, and clearly in way over my head. Terms like bisque and cones, fast-fire and Japanese-style were routinely peppering his sentences. I was doing my best to keep up, but nothing was particularly reminiscent of kale, compost, or oxen.

Though the process may be a tad baffling, it’s plain to see that he has skill. Not just talent, but expertise. A touch of the hand and a turn of the imagination – voilá, he can create some remarkable pieces out of clay. And with those sentences, I’ve nearly expended what I can say regarding ceramics. So let Ethan do himself justice…better yet come on out to the farm and meet him in person. Stop in for a workshop, or swing by his Red Barn Studio to check out his work. You won’t be disappointed.


It has been a dream of mine since my early teens to live with a community active in pursuing work that makes the world a better place. I have created my life as a potter to work directly with the earth and learn skills of self-sufficiency, trying to connect with nature and be conscious of my consumption of its resources. It was challenging, though, to maintain gardens while involved in intense pottery production and weekend craft shows. So I have come to D Acres, a small experiment in living sustainably, where the foundation is laid for eating well, inspiration and authentic expression.

I am here to make art from mud in every shape, size, and function. I will make mugs to use for tea brewed with the dried flowers and herbs that grow in D Acres gardens. I will make musical instruments for entertainment by the campfire. The largest work will be a Japanese-style kiln coated in cob (clay, sand, straw) and sculpted into a dragon. Sculptures will begin emerging as if planted in the farmscape. I hope to work with the land and strive to reflect the beauty of Nature’s majesty.

Clay as a vessel for fire is a driving force in my work. I grew up with a wood-stove in my home and every time my mom would light it she would say ”Burn, baby, burn.” At an early age I caught the bug for building fires. When I started making pottery I searched for a way to fire my work without using electricity or gas. One day I took old electric kilns to my backyard, stacked them up on bricks, and built a fire underneath. This first experiment fired to 2000 degrees in two hours. I was stoked to discover that I could get paid to play with fire. Here at D Acres I will be continuing my fiery endeavors, already having built a wood-fired kiln. I will be building a Japanese-style climbing kiln, and re-sculpting a pizza oven. Pizza ovens are really where D acres and I will collaborate to create the best edible art. Clay is shaped by hands; fire, fed with wood; and pizza topped with all the delectable vegetables my fellow farmers have worked so hard to grow.

My love for my work is so strong that I need to share it with others – teaching techniques I have discovered and honed over the years is what I really enjoy. I want people to make things out of clay because it is so much fun to dig into the earth and sculpt it! Making pottery is a meditative process that releases stress and focuses the spirit. Building with cob is an accessible way to construct ovens, sculptures and structures that almost every age can participate in. I will be offering workshops at D Acres this summer to share my passion for these ways of living and creating art.

Making Art and living sustainably are ways for me to enrich my life and the lives of the community around me. My mission is to make as much organic art and share it with as many people as I can. There are many experiments and techniques to discover this summer. I hope you all can come for a workshop, firing or just to visit and talk art.

Remember that “Every child is an artist, the problem is how to remain an artist once we grow up”-Picasso

-as published in the North Country News

Friday, June 4, 2010

Vegetables aren't just for summer

Our meals these days are reliably accompanied by a salad of sorts – the variety and quantity of its contents continue to increase as these warmer months descend upon us here at D Acres Organic Farm & Educational Homestead. If there is a season that connotes the flavor of fresh produce, it would be summer, no?

And fortunately, our area is rich with local producers. From a plethora of fruits and vegetables, to eggs, dairy, meat, and baked goods, local farmers provide quite an array of goods to our region. But saying it is not enough. We want to celebrate the diversity of local foods and spread the word. Come find our what we’re talking about at the 2010 Pemi-Baker Local Food Guide Launch. It will be held on the Plymouth Common June 12, 11am-1pm. Pick up the 4th edition of the Local Food Guide, meet local farmers, sample their goods, and enjoy the tunes of local musicians.

D Acres began publishing the Local Food Guide in 2007, the beginning steps to cultivating a thriving local food network. Since then, we’ve expanded the guide each year, now totaling 39 farmers and 23 local advertisers. Thanks to the advertisements of local establishments, a listing in the guide is a free service to area producers. New to 2010, we’ve also included a map pinpointing local farms, as well as information on summer and winter farmer’s markets throughout the Pemi-Baker region.

Why such excitement over a local food guide? Well, for one, we at D Acres are remarkably interested in food. Everyone needs to eat, and the better the food, the better the health and the well-being of both people and land. Local food specifically increases individuals’ connection to a region and its landscape, while decreasing dependency on national and international systems of production and distribution. Furthermore, strengthening local food networks is a direct means of providing local income to local people, a means of keeping our money local and investing in our own community. To quote farmer and author Wendell Berry, “without prosperous local economies, the people have no power and the land no voice.”

So knowing your farmer is vitally important, and not just in the summer. Eating is a year-round endeavor, and so is buying food. The 2010 Guide can help you do it locally. In addition to listing regional farmers and the goods they produce, the Local Food Guide also lists the times and locations of a variety of seasonal markets.

Be a part of a greener picture in our region! Join us June 12, 11am-1pm, on the Plymouth Common to meet your local farmers. Pick up your copy of the Local Food Guide – a sustainable community starts with your next meal.

as published in the North Country News

Monday, May 24, 2010

Instigate a Local Food Movement

Our weekends here are getting busier and busier. With the warmer weather, food growing outdoors, the birds singing, and the flowers blooming, the farm is bursting with new life and abundance.

On May 15th, we hosted another Farmer's Gathering. Local farmers were invited to preview the 2010 Pemi-Baker Local Food Guide--check out their listing and all the new additions to this years' Guide. We have added a map for finding farm locations, as well as an information page on Farmer's Markets in the area. It has been exciting to participate in the expansion of this Guide, which in the first edition only four years ago, included only three farms and no advertisements. Today we are bursting at 16 pages and squeezing in 39 farms, and local businesses and services are off-setting the printing costs by purchasing an ad!

The local food movement has reached the Pemi-Baker area! It has been growing steadily, and we at D Acres feel the importance of continuing to instigate this kind of movement. In February, we participated in a screening of the film FRESH at the Flying Monkey Theater in Plymouth. We served fresh chicken soup and a delicious seasonal pumpkin soup, screened the film, and Josh spoke on a panel that included the coordinator for Local Foods Plymouth (an online market), and a county agricultural representative. It was a great turnout, and has inspired many to continue their involvement in making local food more accessible to this area.

And now with the Local Food Guide, anyone can pick up a copy in surrounding towns and find a local source of meat, wool, poultry, veggies, eggs, garlic, baked goods and the list continues. We will be printing over 7,000 copies this year, with 4,700 of those copies being inserted into The Record Enterprise local newspaper.

At D Acres, we are not only interested in eating and feeding good food, we are interested in getting others to see the importance of doing the same. Farmers are not often recognized or supported enough in their efforts to provide. Choosing to have a livlihood that requires one to get her hands in the dirt, or muck out stalls, slaughter animals, harvest, save seeds, run a business, market, and advertise is choosing a hard and rewarding life.

Help to close the economic gap that supports the shipment of nutritionaly deficient food thousands of miles before it reaches your plate. You can support your local farmers by purchasing food directly from the farm or buying at your farmer's market.

Come to the Common in Plymouth on Saturday June 12th and get a taste for local food and community as we launch the 2010 Local Food Guide. We will be celebrating with samples from area farms, music, and speakers (11am-1pm).

We look forward to seeing you there,

Thursday, April 22, 2010

Salad in our Bowls

There were remnants of slushy snow patches on the ground, but I was standing, sweating, with my sleeves rolled up. I was inside the cob-and-recycled-glass greenhouse at D Acres Organic Farm & Educational Homestead lifting sheets of remay from rows of radishes and hardy greens, propping open cold frames, turning flats of transplants to better catch the sun.

And there was water spraying…slightly out of control.

Today was my day to water the greenhouses. It’s a fairly pleasant job, and simple. More than anything it’s a welcome excuse to notice, carefully, how different plants are growing, how quickly various patches of soil are drying out, what needs to be thinned, what is ready for harvesting. Each of our three greenhouses here at D Acres has a slightly different set-up with regard to water. A collection tank off our barn roof gutter offers abundant water and short hauling for our lower hoop house. Buckets and watering cans are our precise distributors. The new kitchen greenhouse requires a hose run from an outdoor spigot though an extra tank, when filled via the hose, accommodates the watering can option as well. Our “g-animal” cob greenhouse is best watered with a hose and watering wand combination.

This is where things can get slightly out of control. It would seem to be a straight-forward process…ok, yes, I can generally keep myself dry. But I’m short, some shelves are tall, and the hose rarely wants to bend in my preferred direction.

For someone who spends a fair amount of time getting dirty, I don’t particularly like getting wet. But it’s a moot point in the end, because I sure do like eating…and this time of year I’m willing to employ the word ‘ecstatic’ with regards to salad greens. Testing my mettle against a hose a few times a week is an exaggerated comeuppance for sure.

The more worthwhile point to be made is: it’s April and we’re stuffing ourselves with salad! Yes, that definitely deserves an exclamation point. Our freezer continues to burst at the seams with bacon, sausage, and the likes, so no-one can justly accuse us of eating like rabbits. But after a season of potatoes, turnips, and squash every day, greens are a delicacy. Some spicy, some sweet, some bitter, some so potently green, others fresh and light to the palatte…forgive me - throw in the word robust and I’ll start to sound like a wine label.

But you get the point. It feels like a power meal of nutrients, all that photosynthesized energy fueling our own muscles, our own efforts. And we’ve been stuffing these delightful leaves down our hungry gullets for a couple of weeks now. So the real story is season extension.

The warmth of the sun, when captured by simple set-ups of glass or plastic, is remarkable – even before it feels like a trustworthy springtime outside. Sure, we arguably have a bigger set-up than the home gardener may want. But don’t use that as your excuse. We also make use of cold frames, simple boxes built with a glass pane top (i.e. old doors or windows), essentially creating a mini greenhouse. These, too, do the trick, reliably producing greens while Jack Frost is still threatening to come ‘round. So think about it. If we’re going to provide for our own food in this northeast climate, we need to do so beyond the months of June, July, and August. Cold frames, indoor starts, greenhouses: these are all ways to do so. Please, drop on by the farm, ask us some questions (try some salad), we’ll even offer you some salvaged doors to build your own cold frame. Just be sure to make use of it, and spread the good and tasty word. Growing your own food is quite doable…and the reward so delightful. That’s right, nod your head; how ‘bout giving it a try yourself?

as published in the North Country News

Thursday, April 8, 2010

Calluses are our goal

One of the more frequent comments received from friends and strangers alike note the rough quality of my hands. Our hands, really; the statement stands for all of us here at D Acres. It would seem that the trend is for smoother paws.

A fine ideal, but there are simply too many stacks of wood, beds of weeds and dirt, mounds of compost, heavy buckets, and various other odds & ends to thwart the silkiness of our digits. An opposable thumb is, after a few twists and turns, connected to strong arms and a willing back. So there you have it. Calluses.

It seems to me that there are some notable advantages. For one, sharp edges, hot surfaces, and ill-intentioned splinters have a challenge inflicting damages. Too, a hardened handshake can command some attention, especially in the realms of human-powered endeavors and general ingenuity. The badge of hard work, the certificate of consistency. This, at least, is what I tell myself.

And, here at D Acres Organic Farm & Educational Homestead, it’s what we tell others as well. This past week we hosted a group of students from Wisconsin (they gave commendable accolades to NH cheese). They spent the majority of their spring vacation at the farm, and four days engaged in fairly intense work. Without much grumbling they persevered through two days of hard rain and soaked socks. In fact, the sunshine that followed may have elicited more complaints due to the threat of sunburn.

A few eight-hour days accomplished a lot. In terms of farm operations, we were able to complete some major projects that we couldn’t have done half as quickly on our own. And with regards to the students, they rapidly learned how to run a wheelbarrow and use a screw gun. They sheet mulched new garden beds, built rock steps, planted peas, stacked wood, transplanted bulbs, pruned berry bushes, fixed fences…the list goes on.

As the time for goodbye neared, we gathered together with the students and talked a bit about the week. What we hoped to have taught was a sense of the work – its difficulty, its variety, it joy; the opportunity to build some calluses was our goal.

“You certainly did that,” one student laughed, “we’re sore.”

Arguably, the sort of soreness that lets you sleep real deep at night. And the sort of soreness, I’d add, that comes from simple hard work, where contentment is engendered by the process itself, not just in the finishing of a task. Perhaps, then, what we’re really working for is to broaden the confluence of hardened handshakes.

So here’s to a handshake economy in all its connotations, including our ability to proudly carry our stories, our lessons, and our experiences in our hands.

as published in the North Country News

Sunday, March 28, 2010

Keeping Tradition Alive

Music is a funny thing. We categorize it by station and artist, the instruments we like, the beat we prefer. It provides us with our preferred complaints and our choice head bops; it is our welcome distraction, our conversation, and our background filler as the circumstance dictates. But I suppose that what I’m describing is the music fed to us by radio waves and satellites, wired to our ears and pumped through speakers.

Isn’t there something different about music that is created right in front of us? Sure, the same likes and dislikes insist on stating themselves, and good skill is more pleasant than the lack thereof. But to create music, to experience it before us…well, it makes for a pretty good time. There is a purpose to this thought, and here it comes. What I’ve got in mind is a good ole barn dance.

Some call it contra dancing, some call it traditional folk dancing, some call it New England barn dancing. You know what I mean? Fiddle players flying along with their bows and strings, calling out steps and sequences as the muddled groups before them sort themselves into an organized dance. There are lines, and circles, swing-your-partners and do-si-dos.

And the music is remarkable. Lively and up-tempo, with all the history of this northcountry life seemingly stuffed right in to each tune. The notes burst out and guide the dancers; dancers smile, laugh, (attempt coordination), and encourage the musicians.

Of course, this is all being said for a reason. Saturday, April 10 D Acres and the Cardigan Mountain Arts Association are hosting a family barn dance at the Enfield Community Center. And not just any dance…New Hampshire’s renowned folk artists Dudley & Jacqueline Laufman – the “Two Fiddles” – will be calling the steps.

You don’t want to miss this. Dudley has been calling barn dances for over fifty years, while he and Jacqueline have been touring as “Two Fiddles” since 1986. In 2009 Dudley was awarded the National Heritage Fellowship, our nation’s highest honor in the folk and traditional arts, for his tireless efforts to promote and preserve New England barn dancing.

So consider this evening a must. The event will get started at 5pm with a potluck dinner – please bring a dish to share! Dancing will begin at 7pm. The event is free and open to the public, though donations are certainly welcome. Again, it’s at the Enfield Community Center along Rt.4.

That should be all the details, but please give the farm a call or an email if you have more questions. 603-786-2366 or Join us in preserving a piece of traditional New England. You’ll get a delectable meal, exquisite music, and some dance moves that just don’t jive with rock-n-roll. Saturday, April10 at the Enfield Community Center, dinner at 5pm, dancing at 7pm. See you then!

(as published in the North Country News)

Friday, March 19, 2010

The Journey Continues- History of D Acres

In general, annual garden productivity of 1999 was limited by the ongoing construction, the gradual growth of gardening area available through no-tillage methods, and the lack of seasoned personnel to work diligently, efficiently, and independently. We accepted a dozen interns that summer as we intensified the recruitment on the local college campuses of Plymouth State and Dartmouth. Micki and I attempted to offer managerial expertise in the garden, woods and building site. Our limited experience hampered our abilities to assert prioritization of tasks and we were impatient with the authority issues that arose within the hierarchy that was forming. A percentage of interns were not prepared for the actual work of the farm and preferred the time spent socializing without accomplishment. The cultural adjustment that can transition idealist US college students into rural subsistence, agriculturalists can be a difficult birth. This scenario would continue to limit our summer productivity in terms of work accomplished throughout the years. While our farming efficiency was low in the initial years, the monumental growth amongst staff and interns was immeasurable in regards to life skills including agriculture, culinary arts, construction and community living.
During the spring the drywall was installed and the painting began. Throughout the summer siding was put up and by winter the tile and wood floors were in place. As the winter approached we began the finish woodworking. Micki left for a farming experience in South Africa. George and Mike from Rumney supplied cabinets and built in railings to highlight the beauty of wood. Davy, his brother and myself hung doors and trimmed the details of a diminishing punch list of tasks at the community building. Although we continued working on the siding and the deck that summer, by May the building was occupied.
Will, Kim and Sage were a local family who expressed an interest in being the first residents of the community building. Along with Josh N and Katie, who had recently moved to the area, we formed a trifecta couple combination with the addition of Sage who was a newborn. The situation evolved so that Katie and Micki worked the garden, Will cut firewood and Josh N worked a full time carpentry job and helped weekends fulfilling his negotiated 26 hour commitment. The summer stewed as we evaluated our futures as couples. Eventually Kim, Will Josh, Sage and Katie moved back with Kim’s mother and sister in Wentworth. Micki and I were left with novice though enthusiastic interns to close down the gardens. The metal deck was accomplished through the efforts of the Dyer family who at the time were residents of Dorchester on the end of Hearse House Rd. Bill Dyer had been a steady enterprising local welder since he had quit the work at Dartmouth College. He had constructed solar dehydrators, chicken tractors and garden carts to our specifications through the initial years. The back deck was necessary as a second floor fire escape and we constructed the project from steel due to the marginal dollar cost compared to a treated lumber wood assembly construction costs.
Late that summer a local man, Steve, presented us with a unique opportunity. He had raised and trained two Jersey cows as an oxen team. These yoked workers are the traditional beasts of burden in New England. Steve had limited space and energy to continue working the team and offered them to us if we promised not to eat them. Seizing this opportunity Jacob, an intern from Connecticut, and I constructed a building for the oxen shelter. Along this time Joy joined us as the cob crusader. Her interest in cob initiated the earthen construction program at the farm.

As the summer petered out I decided to vacate the premises to discover how other ecocommunities were confronting the issues of sustainable community living. That fall of 2001 I enrolled in a two week permaculture immersion class at Gaia Ecovillage in Argentina. My intention was to discover and emulate a system of collaboration that would enable the d Acres project to grow in a positive trajectory. The trip was a realization on many levels. I acknowledge that my expectations to travel to Argentina over 3000 miles for a two week course in SustainAbility were extremely high. My imagination and expectations led me to believe that the ecovillage would be a self sufficient, thriving community.

I have been rewarded in the revelations of this trip as I learned a commonality through this experience. I realized that we were all participants in the journey of discovery geared towards a future of mutualistic sustainability. The movement is a work in progress and internationally we are grasping at the pieces of a complex puzzle.
The ecovillage is an oasis amidst the endless plains of the pampas approximately 100 km from the megalopolis of Buenos Aires. Situated between the culture of gaucho cowboys and millions of acres of GMO soybeans the 60 acre property hosts diversity and sustainability infrastructure in abundance. Silvia and Gustavo are the couple that form the backbone and spearhead the Gaia project. Gustavo is a bearded man similar in appearance to Osama Bin Laden who is the charismatic, dominant authority onsite. Silvia, who is more of the public relations specialist, still exerts leadership and direction for the Gaia voyage. The property was once a dry milk factory and the remaining buildings house dormitories, classrooms, kitchen and garage. Birds of prey swooped between giant eucalyptus trees and the insects sang to the starry skies through the night. The electricity is supplied by windpower and dry toilets process the human waste. There is effective use of cob ovens and solar cookers for food preparation. Local partners raise bees onsite, there is a greywater system and the hot water system is integrated to use solar and wood as the heat source. They host interns from around the world and the two week course in which I was enrolled had participants from seven countries including several from Argentina. The multinational participants joined together for highly anticipated two week course geared towards solving the problems of the world.
By the end of the two weeks mutiny had occurred. Many of the participants were unhappy with the course and the Gaia project. Several had been offended by separate personal interactions with Silvia and Gustavo. The youthful Spanish WWOOFer who was a resident expressed a negative perspective on his time at the farm. The basis of the complaints were complex and multidimensional. I expressed concern about the lack of annual garden production and the limited onsite food production. I also noted the cottage industry presented by the ecovillage was marketing of essential oils such as lavender produced conventionally and repackaged for resale. Ultimately the participants focused on the sanitary kitchen facilities as the qualm that distressed them the most. During a meeting set up to express our gripes, Silvia responded to our hostility about cleanliness by inviting us stay at the farm and maintain the kitchen to our standards. Her resonating response was that if we had a problem with kitchen hygiene we should remain at Gaia and clean. No one chose that option.
Gaia was experiencing what is commonly known in the non-profit and communities movement as founder’s syndrome. The diagnosis of this non medical ailment is found through similar symptoms. The founders are charismatic visionaries with where with all to initiate and lay the groundwork for innovative projects of a personally passionate nature. Founders focus their passion to achieve immense tasks to undertake and persevere the conception of a project. This strength can be the Achilles heel of the organization through unrecognized burnout, personal ownership and attachments, and reluctance to evolve. Founders find it difficult to work with others who have less commitment and passion for the project; Co-workers are unable to devote the time and energy to maintain the pace and intensity of the founders ideal and feel disenfranchised.
While prolonging my stay at Gaia did have appeal to me, I chose another more adventurous option. During the course Alejandra, Silvia’s sister, had arrived to present information about a project to which she was shortly to return. Arcoiris por la Paz (Rainbow Caravan for Peace) is a self described mobile ecovillage that is traveling the Americas since 1996. The project was initiated by members of the Rainbow family who set out from HueHuecoyotyl ecovillage on a mission south to the furthest tip of Tierra del Fuego in an effort to rebuild the bridges between the peoples of the America. The group uses theater, workshops and educational materials to challenge the corporate paradigms and rekindle our relationship to Mother Earth. Alejandra had shown a finely crafted documentary HBO special that sparked my interest in the group. I was intrigued by the how this nomadic group could function with various language and cultures on this intense mission of service.

Alejandra was intent on joining the Caravan by New Years in Ecuador after an Argentina Christmas with her family. I wandered west into the Andes to explore the mountain agricultural scene, do some hiking and seek some solace. Things were brewing in Argentina and I decided to head for the hills. On Dec 22nd as I boarded a bus from several days alone in the mountains I was greeted by an astounding circumstance. The populace of the entire bus was dead quiet listening to the events broadcast via radio from the capital. After weeks financial strife the people had taken to the streets in a vocal and destructive assault on the government and corporate institutions. Frustrations with the International Monetary Funds stipulations and lending practices had driven the people to demand the government overthrow. As a gringo on a bus with concerned, connected citizens we spent the rest of the afternoon dodging the roadblocks of burning tires set in the roadways by enterprising disenfranchised Argentians. When I arrived back in the resort town of El Bariloche, the TV in the hostel portrayed the video footage of the day, including several demonstrators shooting death. The actually footage was compiled in a cutting edge new format reminiscent of MTV News.

I retreated via commercial bus lines to Chile where I met Alejandra on Christmas Day. From that rendezvous we traveled North. Over the next five days we spent over 100 hours in bus. We traveled North through the Atacama dessert the worlds driest region. After a days journey we arrived at the Peruvian border to catch a lowbudget holiday busfull across the border. The busload of peoples carried the tourist lore chickens and goats strapped to the roof and also electric drills and chainsaws. From Arequipa we traveled first class north in bus, as the full moon glowed on the Pacific on my west, boulders tumbled into the road from the Andes on my right. From the lounge on the second floor on the bus I watched the beauty of the ocean and the dismay of a road partially hinged on the edge of mountains still in movement. When we arrived at the border of Ecuador we entered a zone of dispute between the two countries. It is a frontier without decided ownership. The people in the 30 km zone between the countries lived in a surreal Wild West Mad Max Tijuana bizarre.
As we crossed the dunes into Olon I caught my first glimpse of the Rainbow Caravan. A cirus tent and several school buses set ocean side amongst a fishing village resort town along the coast of Ecuador. As we drew closer via foot I encountered the stilt walkers, magicians and clowns of the caravan frolicking. Our first night was the last day of the year and we celebrated the holidays with the fireworks and dancing of the occasion. When I awoke in the sandy tent on the first day of 2002 I anticipated an adventure that I soon received.
The caravanistas were a motley mix of people from the Americas and Europe ranging in age from 8 to over 60. We were rehearsing a theaterical performance with a folkloric theme of peace and love for the mother earth that we were performing in the plazas and schools along the coast. Our numbers swelled to nearly forty as an influx of vagabond street performers joined us from the local surf resort party town Montanita. As we considered our next move, we were approached by an indigenous community called Aguas Blancas, who invited us to reside in their village as a way to exchange ideas and culture.
Aguas Blancas was a village that could be compared to the reservations of indigenous peoples in the US. The land was marginal for agriculture and the people were dealing with weather extremes of flooding and drought produced by the El Nino. Many of the houses had dirt floors and indoor wood cooking arrangements. Alcoholism was prevalent among the adult males. Pigs and goats ranged freely denuding the landscape of vegetation. Equatorial maladies such as worms and skin lesions flourished. The reservation had several archaeological sites that predated Columbus. They had an extremely advanced system of sustainable fruit vegetable production which produced an abundance of fruits such as bananas and papayas. With formal community meetings they were organized to make cooperative decisions and developed sophisticated ventures such as running water for irrigation and household usage as well as a reforestation project.
Our first night we were invited individually to the households and served a fresh chicken soup. It was the first meat I had eaten in over ten years.
In our time at Aguas Blancas we taught informal lessons of English and shared our sustainable skills in dance, yoga, instrument making, gardening and theater. We developed a theaterical performance performed as a procession through the reservation. The procession told the history of the village from the pre Columbus era through the conquest and resettlement of the village. After the culmination of the procession performed by the villagers we moved on to our next destination in the urban environment of Cuenca.
In Cuenca we experienced the urban version of the Caravana. We initially were housed in a refugee for victims of domestic abuse. With thirty plus people sharing a single room and bathroom facilities, the diesel stench and concrete of the environment became a sensory overload. For work, we were primarily focused on repairing the school buses and developing a show for the unveiling of the renovated World Heritage site in the center plaza of the town. After two weeks we shifted the basecamp to an abandoned building besides a school closer to the downtown district. From this camp we were afforded access to the town market where we supplied street performance in exchange for food. After three weeks in Cuenca the caravanistas dissolved through dischord.
The lack of harmony had many factors. Cultural differences between North and South were heightened by the economic differences amongst the many participants. The leadership was split between two partisan factions, one of which was led by Alejandra. Her perspective accentuated the fluidity, art and hippie culture of the caravan and the street people participants. This group were advocates of a decentralized power structure, disassociated from conventional government organizations, accepting of marijuana use and while more frugal also less insistent of individuals contributing financially to the caravana. The other group were stewards from the North with more concern for the benefits of collaboration with local government, more structure and planning of rehearsals and performance, greater emphasis on budgeting and financial sustainability and adherence the zero tolerance of marijuana. These two groups met for a meeting that was explosive and challenging for the bilingual organization. While the meeting served to vent the frustrations the difficulties in agreement remained unresolved and the caravana shrunk by over half its members at this juncture. For me the time had come to return to the North and meet Micki in Seattle for a trip across the country in a 1967 split window Volkswagon van.

As we slowly made our way back east I encountered a culture shock similar to what I experienced upon returning from Spain. The fields of moncultured corn and the corrupt law enforcement officials created an alien atmosphere in my homeland. I was relieved to finally be back at the farm in New Hampshire. Monika is a graphic designer taking a career break and living at the farm with Micki and Joy, who had volunteered to develop a website. We also agreed on a logo design and the utility of branding in this capacity. Both these decisions were crucial components in developing the outreach capacity of the D Acres organization to the general public.

At this point Micki began her studies at Sage Mt Herbal School. Her intuition and experience provided a gateway into the blossoming herbal medicine community of New England. These experiences would provide the opportunities that ultimately freed her from her role at the farm.