Next Generation Farm Dreams

At lunch yesterday I heard music coming from the gardens and went out to find Laura giving an impromptu concert on her mandolin. Laura was playing right where she and Alli spend all their lunches, on the lawn overlooking their creation, the Hummingbird Garden. Just a few days earlier they had been having their lunch on this spot when a deer poked its head out of one of their Scarlet Runner Bean teepees. He gave them a nod before trotting off down through the hayfield. Laura and Alli guessed he had been taking a nap in the garden before awaking to their lunchtime festivities.

Alli, Laura and their peers are a generation that give me much hope and joy. The Babies of Light of twenty years ago are all grown up and ready to take the mantle of what was begun and run with it. Here at the farm, this young group took to garden design with Angels and Elementals like they were born for it, bringing us a garden that sings with beauty and vibrant energy. I can’t wait to give them more gardens to design next year. Along with Lizzy and Lauren Lenz, Alli and Laura are also planning all kinds of projects including a collective farm complete with a yurt village. They are thirsty for the kind of spiritual conversations, books and gatherings so popular twenty or thirty years ago, homesick for an era in which Angel workshops were a dime a dozen. They absorb everything they hear then dig in to the work of manifestating a new dream.

And I am confident there is no need for them to be homesick for old times. They come into their time with just the talents most needed for community building right now. I am amazed and happy to see how they manage to keep the thread of community so vibrant in a technological age. In fact, they seem quite at ease in using the technology to serve community, somehow using its best connective gifts and dumping the rest. It is not exactly Laura Ingalls Wilder with a cellphone because they are not luddites. Instead, they are intent on the work of the era to move towards unity consciousness with whatever tools available- hoe, cellphone, mandolin.

At the opening to Elizabeth and Ben’s Camino show last week, many former Green Hope staff came to see the show and catch up with all of us. It felt like old home week to visit with all these beloveds again. It was particularly fun to introduce one generation of staffers to another as they have all heard about each other over the years.

I loved introducing everyone to original staffer Catherine Barritt. She worked here in the 1990’s when we invoiced orders, bottled, labeled and shipped our Flower Essences all from one tiny room. I met Catherine during the infamous summer of 1993 when the farm was open to visitors. Catherine came on board when the bustle of that summer blossomed into a mail order business. During the years she worked here she made over an hour and a half commute to be at the farm. Her love for the Flowers was immense and her knowledge of the expanding world of alternative healing gave the rest of us a frame of reference. Her wonderful laugh filled the office for many years, and we missed it and her when she left.

My visit with Catherine was precious for so many reasons. At one point she remarked how so much of the community of that earlier time seemed to have evaporated. I knew what she meant. The sort of zesty alternative gatherings that were the meat and potatoes of that time have been in short supply. But I was so very happy to be able to tell her that I thought all this and more was being reborn right now in the generation of twenty somethings. And better yet, some of the gatherings were begin to happen right here at the farm.

This generation of young people are game for the unusual, open minded and committed to making a difference in a similar but more evolved way. I can’t wait to see it all unfold and feel so lucky to be able to be a support for all the young beloveds here who are planning their farm dreams one text message, shovelful of dirt and note of the mandolin at a time.

Here’s Laura and her mandolin at Rock Riley, a farm celebration earlier this summer.

The Agony and Ecstasy of Plums

If there is a plum tree in your life, you probably know the agony and ecstasy of plums. Very early in spring, radiant white blossoms cover every inch of their branches. Bees of all varieties find this state of affairs to be bee heaven, and plum trees literally hum with bee traffic. Plums are beautiful trees all year long, but at this moment, they are a wonder.

The agony comes next. With all the vagaries of our unsettled climate, incipent plums are often lost due to late frosts. Some years there will be nary a plum that survives these frosts. When the baby plums do survive the frosts, it usually means a bumper crop. Plums will hang off every branch, glowing in shades of purple red and gold, each one a sweet mouthful of such deliciousness. The off years feel like a small price to pay for this glory.

In early September, during a good plum year, we all disappear at one point or another down into the plum trees and often stay there for a very long time. It is impossible to eat just one plum and so we linger, juices dripping down our hands as we eat just one more.IMG_0212
Even with all this snacking, our plum trees give us a lot of extra plums in a good plum year. And this is a good plum year. An epic year. A year in which I lie awake at night trying to think what to do with all the plums. A year in which I am beginning to experience almost as much agony as a bad plum year.

Case in point: Over the weekend I decided to manage some of the plum glut by making plum jam. I found a recipe for Ukrainian Plum Jam that required no pectin and virtually no sugar. It all sounded so innocent.

According to the recipe, after pitting twelve pounds of plums, I would heat the plums with a tiny bit of sugar to a boil then simmer for ten minutes then cool completely for up to a day before repeating this process three more times. It sounded lovely to have an enormous vat of plums gently bubbling on the stove. So luddite. So cosy. So charming.
The reality was a different story. While our plums are abundant, they are also small so getting twelve pounds of pitted plum fruit took awhile. A long while. But hey, what are Saturday nights for?
Boil number one went smoothly. I thanked the babushkas of the Ukrainian plum jam recipe with all my heart.

During the second boil on day two, perhaps I was a bit less attentive. Suddenly the bottom of my pan was a scorched mess. I quickly poured off the plum mixture in hopes of saving the jam. Somehow it did not have a burned taste.

However, I felt a bit burned after an hour scraping the bottom of the jam pan.
Sadly, round three fared no better. I heated the pan at what I thought was a low enough heat only to find myself saddled with yet another scorch job. This is the pan right now- a work in progress with more scrubbing to be done.
Round four, I did not leave the jam boil once, and I used a different pan, stirring constantly. The recipe suggested I do a fifth round if the consistency of the jam was “not to my liking”. I did not care if the jam was the right consistency or even if there was any jam at the end of this project.IMG_0363
Here is the LAST PLUM JAM I will ever make.

Now I am going down to the plum trees to eat my fill, then I am telling the birds to have at them.


September 3rd, 2013. It’s a little bit like after the circus rolled out of town.

Trampled grass where the big top was.

Cricket song replacing the exuberant noise of high wire farm activities and a packed house.

Dozing cats draped on the furniture instead of large bodies checking their iPhones.

Me cooking for a crowd of thousands then trying to convince myself that Jim is going to LOVE leftover meatloaf for dinner eight nights in a row.

Yup, I am suffering from ENS or Empty Nest Syndrome.

Ben has returned to his life in the classroom and in charge of a dormitory of fifty five teenage boys.

Emily has moved into her first apartment in Boston and today begins to teach in a fourth grade classroom.

Will is a freshman in college in Lewiston, Maine, 3 hours and 15 minutes or 3 hours and 23 minutes from here depending on who wins the fight about which route we take.

Will during the packing
Here are some the songs I am singing to comfort myself as I get used to our household census of two.

On Top of Old Smokey the dishes
All covered with snow For the first time in years
On Top of Old Smokey the dishes
‘Cause there’s nobody here.

Where have all the Flowers wooden hangers gone
Long time passing.
Where have all the Flowers wooden hangers gone
Long time ago.
They’ve gone to Boston every one.
When will they ever learn return? When will they ever learn return?

I’m gonna wash that man right out of my hair.
I’m gonna wash that man right out of my hair.
I’m gonna wash that man right out of my hair.
Because I have inherited six zillion half empty bottles of hair product.

Getting to know you, Getting to know all about you
Getting to like you, getting to hope you like me
Getting to know you, putting it my way, but nicely,
You are precisely, my cup of tea.

From this valley they say you are going
We will miss your bright eyes & sweet smile
For they say you are taking the sunshine
Which has brightened our pathway a while.

All I can say is THANK GOD FOR GRACE (who still lives nearby with her mama and papa!)

Grace wearing a cheerio for decoration.