Tuesday, September 10, 2013

Coming Full Circle: You Reap What You Sow

We made medicine today. We talked and laughed. We put puzzles together and ate grapes. We garbled.   We are farmers. This is what we do. 

Today I realized that I have no idea what farmers do in the Winter. It is nearing, after all. The Autumnal Equinox is less than two weeks away. 
So I asked Eli, "What do you DO in the winter??" She snickered. "Lots," she said. "Order seeds, plan for next year, build, repair, grow, make more medicine." 

It seems that when most people think about farmers, they can only imagine them working in their fields, sweating in the heat of long summer days; images of tractors and hoes may come to mind. It's like when you were a kid and you thought teachers only existed in the context of the classroom. Well, contrary to popular belief, farmers do much more than bust their butts in the blazing July afternoon. 

Farming is a full time, all year round, nonstop, open 24/7-even on holidays kind of job life. It is packed full with schedules, plans, and deadlines. Mishaps occur, crops fail, and volunteers don't show up. All the while, there is work to be done and fun to be had. In February, seeds get started in the greenhouse. Soon new interns come to the farm, the CSA/CSM orders start, weeds take over. We sow, harvest, and weed, weed, weed. There IS a lot of sweat involved. When September rolls around, there is still plenty going on at the farm. Today's medicine-making session was the second to last of the season and it feels just as busy as it did in the peak of the growing season. 

It also continues to be joyful and fulfilling. Yes, we get a workout pushing tillers and building trellises, but we also get to play with babies, share lunch time every day, and put our love into our products. Oh, and there's nothing like the sense of purpose and fulfillment that comes from sowing seeds in the Spring, harvesting and making medicine from the plants in the Summer, and using their medicine to heal and protect your body throughout the year. 

Asparagus grows berries in the late Summer. Who knew?!

Autumn is just around the corner and soon after that will come the brisk chill of Winter. Seeds will be ordered, plans will be made, and we'll continue to make medicine, laugh, talk, and eat lunch together.  Ahhhhh, such is the sweet circle of life at the Farmacy.


Thursday, June 20, 2013

Lessons from an Elder

Last week at the farm Eli excitedly pointed out to me that our Elder bushes were in full bloom; majestic clusters of tiny white flowers sprang from the branches. We took in their beauty, breathed in their goodness. We spoke about their healing properties and many medicinal benefits. I had heard of people using Elderberry syrup for colds and flu with much success, but was not sure where to find the berries or if they were native to our region. Thankfully, we've got some growing at the farm and plan to start making medicine with them this year.
I left the farm in good spirits: high on a hard day's work and freshly dispensed plant knowledge. Later that evening, I was driving on a country road and spotted what appeared to be another Elder bush. I quickly turned back and collected a sample to identify. My idea was to come back later and collect the entire bush. I was pumped. Well, imagine my excitement when I turned into my driveway and noticed the very same plant growing right along the edge of our property! Confirmation came from several field guides and a quick internet search; I've got my very own Elder bush growing at home. It must have been there all along, but I had not noticed it until then.
I spent the next few days reveling in the joy that comes from knowing that the Earth will provide for you the things that you need and reveal them to you only when you are able to see. More research was done on the many uses of the plant- medicinal, culinary, and other. I pondered over whether to harvest the flowers now and use them in teas or wait until the berries show up later in the year. The decision was made to wait it out and collect as many berries as possible for use in medicine. I could hardly wait. My love affair with the Elder bush had begun.

Now is a good time to point out that the property I call home is not owned nor fully maintained by myself alone. In the hubbub of my daily life I failed to mention my newly formed friendship with the Elder bush to those who share in the responsibilities. Alas, my beloved bush was cut in half by an unknowing weed wacktress: devastation, then mourning. *Cue sad music.

Today I decided to do some more research- a coping mechanism of mine. In my searching I found these sparkling gems:

Death is a symbol of rebirth, transformation, change, and initiation. The sun is rising; a new day is being born. The blooms symbolize the rejuvenation that we will experience by shedding our old skin, our worn-out ways, for the rebirth of self.

Death of the old is necessary for the new to emerge. The old is like the compost heap, full of rich experiences from which new forms emerge. 

The elder is a very adaptable tree, quite able to regenerate itself in many ways. It can be rooted from a branch and re-grows limbs quickly, allowing it to recover from damage of both natural and unnatural assailants with equal ease. 

I honor the energy of Elder, which sees the end from the beginning.

Throughout many lifetimes I have been here.

I have the knowledge that I have changed myself again and again.
I will start from where I am now, and continue to persist in my path.
I will succeed.
So mote it be.

Ah ha! I had believed my lesson to be that of opening myself up to receive and being fulfilled. While that did happen and I do feel provided for, I know now that I (and you) can learn so much more from this. Here's a sample: 
  • Spending time at the farm leads to awesome things.
  • Talking to Eli about what is growing on the farm is invaluable time spent. 
  • The Elder bush is a veritable medicine chest AND makes tasty food. 
  • Opening up to what the Earth provides allows for abundance, healing, and growth.
  • Talk to the people you share responsibilities with about the things that are sacred to you so they do not unwittingly destroy them. 
  • Shit happens; it all works out anyway. Bushes get cut down and they grow back, especially the Elder bush. We recover. 

With Love,

Friday, April 26, 2013

Spring into action!

Alas, spring has sprung! Back to work!
So many things to see and do here at the farm.

It's an incredible sight to see the bees heading in and out of their homes, some with clumps of pollen clinging to their bodies. From far away it seems as though they are scattered and disorganized, but if you sit calmly among them you see that they've clearly got a plan. In and out, busy all day long. 

And so it goes with the humans working the land.

We've welcomed back our trusty intern, Katie as our full time apprentice for the season. Several others have also returned to the hive and we have added more new friends as interns and volunteers. We are all gearing up for a beautiful and bountiful season.

So far, we've prepped beds for planting, sowed seeds, took lots of photos and pulled loads and loads of weeds. Transplanting is in full gear and we're preparing our first round of freshly made herbal medicine products... dried tea blends, ointments, root tonics and more! The asparagus beds have been worked using a no till method and little sprigs are popping up- DE-lish!

We added a shade house, are turning our hoop house into a drying house, and even added a bicycle to our set of tools- Thanks, Shauna!

Seedlings are well on their way now in the big greenhouse.

Drying racks are being built, and supplies have been organized. Wild harvesting has already begun and soon we'll be sending out CSM boxes. If you haven't signed up yet, here's the link.  We've also been working on updating the blog, so stay tuned for some changes coming your way and a lot more posts. 

We're looking forward to this season and hope you are too!

-All the folks here at the Farmacy


Planting work party! May 11 at 10am until May 12 at  3pm.
Every year we wait until the last frost date has passed so we can get our seedlings in the ground. We have 1,000's of sweet babies that would love your help digging them into their new home in our fields. There will be lots of good people and plants, a great way to enjoy being outside in collective planting action!
Dress for the weather - hats, gloves, clothes to get dirty in, water bottle, food etc. We don't have tons of parking so carpool if you can.
1075 Gypsy Hill Rd.
RSVP if coming. Thanks!

Monday, April 22, 2013

"When one tugs at a single thing in nature, he finds it attached to the rest of the world."- John Muir

Shauna, here. I'm new and you'll be hearing from me a lot.

I've just finished my second week at the Farmacy. Whew! What can I say? I am astounded by the work that is being done on this land and how fast the season seems to be going already. It's hard to believe we will soon be packing up boxes for the CSM

In the midst of stories of fracking, factory farming, and polluted waterways, it is easy these days for me and lots of others who care for the Earth to become so caught up in the news and the negativity that seems to abound. It's not always easy being green. 

Our staff orientation came just two days after Obama signed the Monsanto Protection Act. As we sat on a circle of straw bales discussing the plans for the season, Eli mentioned the unfortunate event. I wondered how she stays so positive. What gives her hope? She told me it was places like this and people like us, communities coming together, supporting each other and the land. After just two very fast weeks of working here, I get it. As soon as I come up over the crest of the hill, it's like I've arrived in a different world. A world where we work hard and stand strong for the things we believe in. It's a place where the future generation is safe and we can all eat and breathe and drink in the goodness the Earth has provided for us. And when I leave, I can take it with me into my life. Ah, the sweet taste of hope. 

It is especially refreshing to see the baby here in the fields. He sits among us as we pull up weeds and prepare the soil, examines dormant hives, and thoroughly enjoys our lunch times. He's a tiny scientist experimenting and observing this world around him, constantly taking in so much information, learning, seeing. Inspiring.

I've been doing my best over the past few years to grow as much of my own food as possible, eat local, and joined a CSA this winter. I've also learned to forage and have been incorporating wild foods into my diet regularly. Still, as I ate my very first sprig of asparagus straight out of the field last week (forget about ever buying it from the store again) and saw folks searching the tree line for nettles, it finally hit me. So THIS is what "farm fresh" tastes like and "wild crafted" looks like! I can't imagine anything better.

I feel lucky to have the opportunity to experience a place like this. To put myself into work that is meaningful and refreshing and that will serve others in ways I can only hope to one day fully grasp.

I'm breathing now and life's a little lighter.
Thanks, Lancaster Farmacy.


Friday, April 19, 2013

Don't kill those "weeds"!

Do a random search for foraging and you will find more and more sites, blogs, and books popping up every day written by folks relearning and sharing the bounty of the wild.
Now I know, when you hear the word "foraging", images come to mind of folks dressed in woodsy gear traipsing deep into the forests searching for rare mushrooms or strange plants. I'm not saying this doesn't happen. Because it does. And it's awesome. But you don't have to go into the woods to find a wealth of food. It is growing right under your nose. The wild is everywhere! Even in the city sidewalks.

After all, Mother Nature knows that just what we need following a long winter is a good cleansing. She provides just that through the first plants that push up through the cool soil.

Here are just a few of the plants seen growing here on the farm and all over the area in the past few weeks.

Eli's favorite, Field Speedwell (Veronica persica).
This lovely early bloomer makes a refreshing tea. Boil and steep 2 c. water, 1 handful of fresh, washed speedwell. Add honey or other herbs/spices to taste. The beautiful tiny blue flowers along with the rest of the plant can be used as an expectorant for coughs, digestive aid, and blood cleanser. Remove those toxins! Freshen that skin!

Dead Nettle (Lamium purpureum), it's everywhere! 
Used in soups, salads, and teas this bad boy can be eaten cooked or raw. The leaves, flowers and stem are all edible. It is high in iron and fiber and is a great detoxifier, astringent, and diuretic. Did I say detox???

Spring Onions, tasty.
You'll find clumps of this stuff growing among your grass. It's usually taller and it has a thin, rounded hollow stalk. Sometimes the ends curl up like the ones in the photo. The best way to identify these fellas is to smell them. If it smells like onions, it's onions! The best way to use them? Any way you would use chives.

And the ever popular, always healthy Dandelion (Taraxacum officinale).
You know these beauties. They are commonly seen being attacked by humans trying to rid them from their lawns, spreading people's wishes all over the land, or having their "heads popped off" by children of all ages. Very easy to identify. These plants are called dynamic accumulators for their ability to pull nutrients through their long, strong tap rots from deep in the soil. These nutrients are what give the plant its healthy punch. The list of health benefits from this crazy little lion plant range from liver support to diabetes, bone health, skin disorders, urinary problems, high blood pressure, anemia, weight loss, and much more! It is packed full of iron, fiber, vitamin C, protein and all sorts of other health words. It's amazing that all of us aren't out there digging it up right now and chowing down!
I dug up a bunch of this at the farm last week, brought it home, got out my biggest soup pot and made a giant batch. I made so much I got to share it with my friends.  It was raving good, we had it all finished by the next day! I loosely followed this recipe and must add that we all liked it better the second day. Be sure to use the whole plant, not just the greens. Remember those dynamic roots! 

We good folks here at the Farmacy have been busy harvesting tons of this glory and prepping it for use for our Community Supported Medicine members. Pretty soon, boxes will be arriving packed with fresh goodies made from our Dandelions and other natural wonders, just for you. 

Don't forget to sign up for your share today! 

Go for it! Step outside and pick some dinner! I dare you.

NOTES: Please be aware of any pesticides or any other chemicals that have been applied to the area before picking and ingesting any wild food. Also, never eat any wild food that you cannot identify with 100% accuracy. Check your field guides. Only eat small amounts of any food you are trying for the first time, in case of allergies.