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 CafĂ© 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.