We were so excited to be a part of “Free Range Saturday” a few weekends ago at Polyface Farm in the beautiful Shenandoah Valley outside of Staunton, Virginia. The day started with an Artisan Market during which we were able to share our Lady Farmer story and goods with people who had traveled far and wide, followed by a two-hour “Lunatic Tour” (yes, that’s what it’s called) of the farm, guided by the legendary, visionary, prophetic voice of regenerative agriculture, the highly esteemed Joel Salatin himself! What a thrill to see him standing in the midst of a cow pasture or chicken field explaining his unorthodox views and methods for common sense, productive and sustainable farming. This man is a mighty force in the food revolution. If you aren’t familiar with him and his work, check out the Polyface Farm website for information and resources.
Next up was a talk by the amazing Doniga Markegard, a cattle rancher from the west coast who along with her husband owns and runs Markegard Family Grass- Fed. They raise and process certified grass-fed beef, lamb and pork to be distributed around the San Francisco Bay area. She spoke on holistic land management, desertification and wildlife tracking, a skill she learned in her youth as part of her unique education in a wilderness school. Doniga tells the story of her unconventional training in her newly released book, Dawn Again: Tracking the Wisdom of the Wild. Her knowledge and experience in untamed landscapes and her passion for protecting the balance of the natural world make are both fascinating and inspiring.
Last but certainly not least–the meal! Absolutely locally sourced from within twenty-five miles of the farm, beautiful greens and vegetables, salads and soup along with grilled chicken, beef and pork from Polyface made for a delicious feast. Have you ever tasted a young turnip? You wouldn’t believe how sweet and refreshing it tastes. Dessert was a flan made from pasteured Polyface chicken eggs and milk from a local dairy.
The mission at Polyface Farm is to show an alternative to factory farming, demonstrating other options that are productive and profitable and that work! At Lady Farmer we feel a kinship with them in their endeavor as we strive to do the same thing in clothing production. The industries that separate us from the source of our basic human needs are designed for profit, not for human health and well being. It’s time for us to be informed and to embrace a better way.
Polyface Farm offers a variety of tours throughout the season, including another Free Range Saturday on October 6th. If you’re in the vicinity and interested in regenerative farming it is well worth the trip.
Meet Lauren Rudersdorf, one half of Raleigh’s Hillside Farm. She farms on seven acres of leased family land outside of Evansville, Wisconsin with her husband Kyle. They are in their sixth season of production growing high quality, organic vegetables for their growing CSA and area restaurants. In 2016, they added their first part-time employee to their operation and in 2017 scaled up to having two part-time folks. This year, they are adding two kickass female powerhouses (with many years of experience) to their farm team!
I do what I do because I know there is a better future out there. Our food system is beyond broken and farmers around the world are working tirelessly for too little money and next to no respect. Those tides are changing and I know my voice is an important one in this movement.
I grew up on a diversified, conventional family farm my whole life, but I don’t think my farm story can really begin there because I didn’t really understand or appreciate any of it at that moment in time. Don’t get me wrong, I loved my childhood and I loved where I was raised in beautiful southern Wisconsin, but I never really grasped the complexity of the way my parents earned a living. I never comprehended the love and the passion that fueled them. I often saw their farming way of life as inconvenient: far from everyone, dependent on elements outside their control and too much work for not enough money.
In 2007, I graduated high school and moved away, sure that there were “much bigger” things in store for me than life on the farm. I started college at a private school in Ohio and traveled a ton. I met amazing people and learned so much about our broader world, but after two full years away I realized how totally and completely in love with the Wisconsin rural way of life I really was. I loved all the places I visited and all the inspiring people I met in those two years, but nothing felt quite as right as home.
I moved back to Wisconsin, fell in love with a hard-working, soil-loving, passionate-as-hell Wisconsin man, transferred to the College of Agriculture & Life Science at the University of Wisconsin (the same school my mom had graduated from twenty years prior) and began to study public health, food systems and community sociology.
It was a couple short years later that my now husband and I learned about the concept of CSA farming: a style of farming the worked endlessly to connect people to their food again. We took a leap of faith in 2013, borrowed some land from my parents and dove right in to starting a farm of our own. The rest is history I suppose.
I do what I do because I know there is a better future out there. Our food system is beyond broken and farmers around the world are working tirelessly for too little money and next to no respect. Those tides are changing and I know my voice is an important one in this movement. That’s the altruistic reason I farm. But the reality is, try as I might to fight it from time to time, I cannot NOT farm. I love to build things. I love to work outdoors. I love to watch things grow. I love working alongside my husband and dreaming towards a better world with him. I love eating good food and teaching people how to cook healthy, nourishing meals. I love being part of the good in this complicated, messy world. I love the simplicity of putting something good on the plates of the people in my community. I suppose that means the passion fuels and inspires me, but I’d be lying if I said sometimes I don’t get broken and defeated from time to time. I’m not certain what keeps me going. I think its my husband and the strength of my relationships. I’m surrounded by immense generosity, kindness and support. I couldn’t do what I do without my friends, family, partner, farming friends and amazing customers. They lift me up in the hard times. They keep me going.
For me slow living is all about making time for the things of value: our minds, our bodies, our heart, our relationships. This means eating well and nourishing our bodies, taking time to read and learn, listening to music, taking time for the people that matter to us, working our bodies in ways that are healthy, meditating, loving, experiencing, indulging from time to time, being present.
Essentially I think that to live slowly means leaving space and time for the things that matter; not getting rushed from one thing to the next without thought. Slow living means living intentionally. For someone like me, who thrives in chaos and is inspired by stimulation, it probably doesn’t look slow at all. I don’t think anyone who looks at my life or follows me on social media would ever think I live slowly, but its a daily practice of taking time to slow down and leave time for thought.
Advice for future Lady Farmers
For those thinking of going into farming: Get a tribe and hold them close. Be vulnerable with your community and ask for help. We’re not meant to always be strong or do anything on our own. This thing we’re building is broader than us and we need to learn to lean hard on the folks who support us. I’m so grateful to have friends stronger than me to teach me that lesson.
For those wanting to support this movement without farming themselves: Just know your farmer and learn what it means to truly support local. Don’t fall for the gimmicks. If it doesn’t take a little work, it isn’t building community. Be a fan, be a walking billboard for the farms you support, be a voice in your local community for a better way of doing things. Stand up for a better future and a better world.
Who inspires you?
My mother, my grandmother, my aunts, my best friend and fellow farmer Bethanee Wright, my off-farm boss Kimberlee Wright, my friends and mentors Lisa Kivirist and Kriss Marion, all the lady farmers who came before me.
To live slowly means leaving space and time for the things that matter; not getting rushed from one thing to the next without thought. Slow living means living intentionally.
Thank you for sharing, Lauren!
Be sure to follow Lauren & her team on their journey via Instagram & Facebook
Lauren also keeps a blog filled with incredible recipes and stories – make sure you check it out!
Farming challenges me intellectually, physically and spiritually, every year and every season. I can’t imagine another profession where I could be learning every moment, where every year is another layer of the onion, an invitation to go deeper, do more, learn more.
Amanda is the lead farmer at Plow and Stars Farm located in Seneca, Maryland (next door to Lady Farmer HQ!). It’s a family operation that includes two awesome kids – Jonah (age 14) and Sadie (age 8).
Amanda began her career as a pre-med student working at a clinic for malnourished children and their families. While working to combat the symptoms of the disparities in access to nutritious food, she found her calling at the source: in farming. She worked as a community garden organizer and educator, a farmer at a homeless shelter for pregnant and parenting teens and their children, a farm apprentice at a beautiful educational farm outside of Boston, the urban agriculture manager at The Food Project, a farmer at a farm owned by a Buddhist college in Boulder Colorado, and the manager at Waltham Fields Community Farm for a decade before starting her own farm with her husband Mark in late 2014.
The realization that many families in my own city lacked the resources and/or knowledge to provide healthy food for themselves, combined with my growing awareness that I didn’t want to spend my days in a hospital or office, put me on the path to farming.
Reflections on farming, sustainability, and her role as a Lady Farmer
Farming challenges me intellectually, physically and spiritually, every year and every season. I can’t imagine another profession where I could be learning every moment, where every year is another layer of the onion, an invitation to go deeper, do more, learn more. The goal of being part of the creation of a healthy food system that provides nutritious, thoughtfully-raised food to people of all income levels and backgrounds is what continues to inspire and drive me as a farmer. I love feeding my community. I love the return on that investment in soil and sweat and tears, whether it’s goodwill, a box of canned tomatoes, a thank-you card from a 4-year-old, or the satisfaction of seeing a child take a big bite out of a turnip. I love growing food that people recognize, appreciate, cook up like their grandmothers did. I love raising animals that do what animals are supposed to do — graze, root, breathe fresh air, play and rest.
Ecological, economic, and personal sustainability are things that we are always striving for on our farm and in our lives. I feel like we are still working out what that means for us on our farm — particularly the personal part. What is the scale that will enable us to make a little income, contribute in a meaningful way to our community, and get a little break every once in a while? What are the products that are most fun for us to create? How do we bring joy into the world along with the food that we raise? And how do we do that in a way that does the least harm, and in fact maybe in a way that creates a little healing in the world? That’s sustainability to me.
I think that as I get a little older I’m re-thinking my role — I’m not the mother of tiny kids anymore, so that means I have a little more time and should have more to offer — but I definitely still feel like a learner. The term “Lady Farmer” doesn’t really connect with me because I have never felt much like a “lady” — I’m a hardworking woman with lots of experience to share and lots of things still to learn. I long for community though — we had a beautiful community of farmers in Massachusetts that I feel like I have yet to recreate here in Maryland. But it’s coming, slowly, and it’s easy to get stuck in your own day-to-day, especially if that’s farming, and not make those connections a priority — but they’re so critical especially as we get older!
Advice for Aspiring Lady Farmers
GO FOR IT. You can do it. Find a mentor and learn as much as you can from her. Become a farmer. Do it your way. Don’t be afraid to start your own business, or to work for someone else — both are totally fine and have their own joys and pitfalls. Support farms and woman farmers by buying local. Make a personal connection with the people that produce your food, flowers, as many products as you can. Take pride in doing more with less, enjoying the incredible bounty that you can find close to home. Give up labels — “organic” isn’t as important as we’d like it to be, especially if we can have a conversation with someone whose practices we might learn go beyond that label. Raise your children (if you have them) to be fierce advocates for justice and peace and restoration, whether ecological or social. Make your own beauty.
Who inspires you?
Lee Langstaff. She’s incredible. Kevin Bowie. Harriet Tubman. Lin-Manuel Miranda. I’m searching for role models who are middle-aged women to help me take the next step in my own life too.
Thank you Amanda!
For more of her farming journey, follow Amanda on Instagram & Facebook!
Take pride in doing more with less, enjoying the incredible bounty that you can find close to home.
Being a lady farmer in my community has opened up opportunity for me to share my story, put food on many tables, and be a listener and provider.
Lauren holds a bachelor’s in social work and a master’s in management. She couples her background in social work with a life-long desire to cultivate and provide the highest-quality organic produce while educating her community about the land and the importance of the food we eat. She also has a baby girl named Palmer, pictured below.
Lauren built Bloomsbury Farm in Smyrna, Tennessee from the ground up, and started by selling her organic vegetables and sprouts at area farmers markets. Since those early days in 2009, the farm has expanded, producing a wide array of fresh vegetables, fruits, sprouts, and herbs for the markets, local businesses, and wholesalers in and around Nashville and the greater region.
At Bloomsbury, lots of team members from markets girls to accounting and harvest crew make it all work. It takes a village to grow and move produce…365 days of the year growing and selling. Bloomsbury provides a CSA, wholesale market, restaurants, and farmers market.
Lauren started small putting seeds in the ground with her father who has a botanical background. She would go to a small farmers market with items she couldn’t sell to chefs she already knew. “The relationships started there and I was hooked growing food for creative people! Knowing what they were doing with it at home was so exciting. Growing unique varieties and fun colors really got people talking and one thing led to another with the addition of a CSA program and more food to chefs Bloomsbury was in many homes and restaurants,” she remembers.
Reflections on why she does what she does, living slow, and Lady Farmers –
WHY…I am simply feeding people. In more ways than one it feeds me too and people who eat Bloomsbury are family and it really is a close relationship.Teaching my daughter how to grow good food and take care of the earth is a huge reason why too. Hard work does pay off and farming brings the appreciation of seasons and that the hard times don’t last forever.
Slow living to me is the understanding of time and respecting the day. I am very sun motivated so up with the sun and down with the sun. Do what you can with the day. I imagine a fast living to be work at all hours and not to ever be present. We take long walks on the farm and really listen to nature.
Sustainability is being able to make a smaller circle and giving back to those who work so hard with the farm. The small circle is keeping all needs close and building your own compost and saving your own seeds and not having to go elsewhere for as much as possible.
I hope to teach Palmer and other aspiring lady farmers that it can be done.
Being a lady farmer in my community has opened up opportunity for me to share my story and put food on many tables and be a listener, and provider. The farm has become a place of gathering and sharing and my hope is that it will continue.
Advice for Aspiring Lady Farmers
All the lady farmers out there…start small and find a niche. Support a lady farmer with all the positive words and by purchasing our farm goods. You can farm a community and gather people for good that can be done anywhere.Advice for aspiring Lady Farmers
Who inspires you?
My mother. True inspiration and taught me that I could do anything!
For more of her farming journey, follow Lauren on Instagram & Facebook!
I am Arden (sometimes known as Garden) Jones and I live on a farm owned by my family in Bedford County, Virginia. I am farming 1 acre with my husband Michael and several seasonal employees (all young ladies this year!). We raise mixed vegetables for market and a small CSA and my husband bakes the most delicious wood fired sourdough breads. We are often crossing gender boundaries as he bakes and I take care of most of the construction projects on the farm. In the garden, we work together and our relationship has been strengthened by our learning to cooperate in this way.
I feel like I have always been a Lady Farmer at heart! Maybe it all started when my grandfather gave me a toolbox with real tools for my 7th birthday. Or when I learned about permaculture at Nature Camp when I was 13. After graduating college I was looking for a way to express creativity, make a positive impact on the world, be outside and be my own boss, and farming was the obvious choice. I learned from some amazing mentors and then I got out there and did it.
Reflections on why she does what she does, living slow, and Lady Farmers –
I think farming is so gratifying because it is so challenging. The practice of relinquishing control when mother nature takes hold is humbling. Yes, it can feel overwhelming at times, like when winds tear through our tunnels or rains have us ankle deep in mud, but that is all balanced out by a bounty the next season. The beauty of abundance, in our crops and in the living soil, is a most pleasing sort of wealth. And as we go farther on our farming journey, I am learning to treat the hardest of times as lessons in patience and faith. I am inspired so much by my peers-other farmers in our community and all around the world- by their ingenuity and benevolence. They are the best people!
To me, slow living is making the time to enjoy all the wonderful food we and our farming neighbors produce! Meal times are the best times, and when we are able to rest and recuperate, we go back to work with a more positive outlook, so the emotional sustainability is super important.
We work to build our soil with cover crops, compost, and minimal tillage, and result is that our farm becomes more resilient to pests, disease, and the forces of nature. We hope not just to sustain, but to improve our land with every season.
Is it too much to say that a Lady Farmer is who will save humanity? She uses her brain and her hands to solve problems and she cares deeply about nature and other people. In our community I am growing good food for people, but along with that I end up doing a lot of education and networking also. I see myself as just one part of the local food movement and I make an effort to encourage and support other farmers. We are really lucky here to have a monthly gathering where we see other farmers in our area and share food and ideas. This communication is essential to making progress and bringing more local food to more people.
Advice for aspiring Lady Farmers
My advice for any woman is to pick a partner that supports your dreams and who shares your vision for your slow lifestyle. Is it natural that farming is hard on relationships, but the first year is the hardest, and if you can survive that together, you will know more about one another than many old married couples do! And if you aren’t one for monogamous relationships, surround yourself with a community of people who love farming too. You can have the perfect farm, but you’ll be awfully lonely without friends to feed! If you can’t farm- JOIN A CSA! Seriously, just try it. It may provide you a way to connect with food and farming that you never imagined. Or if CSA isn’t for you, start shopping at the market the way you do the grocery store and keep your money in your community.
Who inspires you?
My 92 year old, fiercely independent, sharp as a tack grandmother.
Thank you Arden!
For more of her farming journey, follow Arden on Instagram & Facebook!
Kitchen sink cabinets can be scary. You know what I’m talking about, the mess of half empty bottles clattering around– soap, cleaners, scrubs, disinfectants, detergents–all containing numerous unidentifiable ingredients that are conjured and combined in a lab somewhere and bottled up for our convenience. Although the products themselves are consumable in a short period of time, most of their packaging is permanent and indestructible, leaving their legacy of plastic and cellophane for literally thousands of years.
It doesn’t have to be that way.
Make Your Own Cleaning Products
Many of those products with limited uses, wasteful packaging and harmful ingredients can be easily switched with these items, used alone or in combination for dozens of product replacements and a multitude of purposes.
5 (Natural) Common Household Ingredients That Double as Homemade Cleaners
- Baking soda
- Citric Acid
- Essential oils
5 Product Replacement Ideas
1. Homemade surface cleaner
Half vinegar/ half water in a spray bottle. For a fresh fragrance, keep a quart jar ⅔ full of vinegar and add leftover lemon peels when you have them. Refill you spray bottle from the jar as needed.
2. Natural disinfectant
Use a few drops of essential lemon or lime oil around the sink faucet, under the backsplash and other areas where water tends to collect.
3. Homemade pot and pan scrub
Baking soda mixed with water or vinegar to make a light abrasive paste.
4. Natural homemade rinse-aid
½ cup of vinegar added to your dishwasher load (don’t put it in the little compartment, it might corrode the parts) will get rid of those water spots! For extra clean and sparkle, add ¼ cup of citric acid as well.
5. Garbage Disposal/Drain Freshener
Half a lemon peel cut into half again and tossed into your garbage disposal will freshen your drain naturally!
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Eva is a young and beginning farmer growing produce, flowers, and herbs in the Piedmont of North Carolina, along Highway 64 near the town of Staley. She currently owns and operates Heartstrong Farm by herself, marketing mainly through a CSA as well as local farmers markets. The farm is Certified Naturally Grown, and she grows with permaculture and biodynamic methodologies in mind.
Her path in the soil began while volunteering and worshipping at St. Mary’s Convent in Sewanee, TN. After helping to grow lavender there for Thistle Farms, she was inspired to pursue more experiences in the soil, leading her to WWOOF on a permaculture farmstead in New Hampshire, and then on to other gardens and farms in Tennessee, North Carolina, Vermont, and Florida.
Her varied experiences in those climates and communities inspired her to pursue her own farm operation, Heartstrong Farm. We asked her a few questions and here are some highlights from our conversation.
Reflections on why she does what she does, living slow, and Lady Farmers –
Simply put, I do what I do for love. When I first came to working in the soil, I was dealing with a lot of internal hardship and found that the more I literally grew, the more I inwardly healed. My heart became stronger through working the earth, sowing seeds, and harvesting the resulting abundance. The land is so giving, if we do her justice, we receive delicious produce, beautiful blooms, healing medicine, clean air, fresh water, biodiversity, and so much more. I also grow for and because of community. I really believe in the community supported agriculture model of farming, as food is a way to connect with everyone – across all lines. Everyone has to eat! So, as I prepare the soil and seeds for the 2018 harvest, my inspiration is definitely my CSA membership, my farm family.
Slow living to me means presence in action. It means feeling the soil as my hands are in it, hearing the peepers and hawks as I work outside, tasting the richness of earth through root veggies and brightness of sun through supple greens, and enjoying the process of a hard earned pickle or fermented kraut. I do think generally in this life we move too fast – even in the things that bring us joy. So, in my work and in my play I try to really pay attention, learn, and enjoy through my senses. I forget where this quote comes from, but it’s powerful – there’s no need to rush, all will still be waiting. Go slow.
Lady Farmer to me means a woman in the world cultivating the world she believes in. I believe in an environmentally sound community driven local food system, and that is what I strive to cultivate through my farm. I feel that my role in this community has been to connect others at the table, through a shared love of cooking, good food, old stories, the land, and a growing fondness for each other. My role here ties into my vision for the broader world of a connected and natural food system, and I really do believe in thinking globally but acting locally. There’s so much good work to be done everywhere.
Advice for aspiring Lady Farmers
My advice to aspiring lady farmers comes from a prior mentor of mine Sylvia Davatz – the real work is in doing. Ask the questions! If you have an idea, ask others about it. If you need land, put out an inquiry. If you need some financial support, share your project. I have been absolutely blown away by the resources, land, and communal support that has been made available to me as a result of asking, sharing. People certainly have a desire to bless others, so if you can … pursue apprenticeships on farms, access books on the kinds of operations you’re interested in, and connect with others doing the work, I really think you can make your farm dream happen. That’s how it happened for me!
Who inspires you?
My mother, Alice Waters, the Sisters of St. Mary’s, Rep. Chellie Pingree, all my inspiring lady friends – farmers and otherwise!
Thank you Eva!
For more of her farming journey, follow Eva on Instagram & Facebook!
Folk tradition has it that you should plant potatoes by St. Patrick’s Day. I’m always excited for this early spring task. It’s like opening day for the garden season! It’s easy and fun, too. There’s nothing like sticking a few pieces of potato in the ground and then weeks later, pulling up a big, luscious clump of whole fresh spuds.
Americans love potatoes! According to the USDA, they comprise about a third of all the vegetables we eat, and most of those are in the form of french fries and chips. As far as veggies go, though, these aren’t really the ones we need to be piling on our plates. The most popular varieties are high glycemic and cause a rapid spike in blood sugar when eaten, which has been a huge contributing factor to diabetes and obesity in our country.
Are potatoes bad for you?
Given a few tips about potatoes, however, there are ways we can enjoy them freely as a nutritious and delicious part of a healthy diet. These suggestions come from Eating on the Wild Side by Jo Robinson. (see this blog post for more from this book)
- Select the smaller “new” potatoes for a lower rise in blood sugar or the more colorful varieties for more abundant nutrients. Purple potatoes are especially nutritious. A variety called “Purple Majesty” has been shown to lower blood pressure!
- To lower the glycemic factor, cook your potatoes and chill them in the refrigerator for 24 hours before eating. This converts the starch so that it’s broken down more slowly and moderates the effect on blood glucose.
- Add fat to your potatoes (butter!) or cook them in fat (preferably lard) to slow down the digestion.
- Sprinkle potatoes with vinegar to lower the glycemic effect.
- Always buy organic because potatoes tend to be one of the heavier chemically supported crops in our food supply. If you can’t buy organic then always peel them before eating.
Here’s another new take on the good old potato. Because they contain a unique component called “resistant starch,” which is rich in prebiotics (basically food for all the wonderful probiotics you’re eating) potatoes are excellent for restoring the damaged gut health in those who suffer from intestinal disorders. Here’s more about that from one of our favorite integrative health experts, Dr. Mark Hyman. Also, have you heard the buzz about The Potato Hack (by Tim Steele) for losing weight and improving digestion? You have to be willing to eat only potatoes for a few days, however. I can’t really recommend something I haven’t personally tried, but given the information, I can say it sounds interesting.
With so many uses for potatoes, wouldn’t it be great to grow your own? Whether you have a garden plot or a couple of pots on the porch, here’s what you do.
- Get a few seed potatoes (these are merely potatoes or pieces of potatoes with sprouts–or eyes–you know, like when they’ve been in the pantry too long). You can get them at the garden store, or if you want to use potatoes from the grocery, get organic ones. (Non -organic ones are sometimes treated so they won’t propagate). They should already have eyes or keep them in a cool, dark place until they sprout.
- Plant about 4-6’ inches deep in loosened fertile soil with the eyes up. In the garden, leave about 8-12 inches in between the seeds or if you’re planting in pots, use one seed in an 8 or 12-inch planter.
- Watch the plants come up over the next several weeks. As the new potatoes grow up towards the surface, gradually add soil to create a “mound” that keeps them covered. If you want the smaller “new” potatoes you can harvest soon after the flowers start blooming. They’ll continue to get bigger up until the plant dies completely back when you’ll get the fully mature ones. You can leave them in the ground for a little while but not too long after the plant is gone or they could rot.
- To harvest, if possible dig the dirt out from around the plant with your hands until you start to unearth the potatoes. You can use a trowel or garden fork to loosen the clump but proceed carefully because it’s easy to damage the ones you can’t see. You will likely be surprised and delighted with how many there are. Hopefully you’ll have several beautiful potatoes everywhere you put a seed. It’s soooo much fun!
- In case you get get a bumper crop, here’s some information on curing and storing for later use.
We love the four seasons here at the farm and winter is no exception. This year I’ve been hunkered down by the parlor fire working on The Lady Farmer Guide to Slow Living, full of all kinds of ideas, resources, recipes and what have you, due out this spring. (Keep reading for a preview below!) But now with the days getting longer and the promise of outdoor days in the air, I’m feeling a bit of an urge to get up and do some clearing out. Do you? The problem of “stuff” isn’t anything new, as evidenced by these words from The Old Farmer’s Almanac in 1812 (quoted from an article by Jack Savage in the 2018 edition).
“How is ….the door-yard….and the woodhouse filled with broken ploughs, dislocated wheelbarrows, hog’s nests and skunk skins? And your barn cramm’d with old barrels, sleighs, wheels, useless rakes, forks, gate posts, guide boards, and broken grindstones?”
Amusing, yes, especially since you’ll now see the 1812 clutter hanging on the walls of our favorite highway meal stop (you know the one!) or hipster coffee spots in the name of “nostalgia.” Most of us don’t need a junky barn to recognize ourselves in this admonishment, however. If we look around our own living spaces, replacing the items above with words like travel mugs, cords, catalogs, books, vases, junk mail, plastic containers, picture frames, collectibles, pens that don’t work, tape dispensers, candle holders, ceramics and on and on, we can easily see that not much has changed in terms of folks’ tendency to gather clutter.
Our surroundings affect us more than we realize. Not only do we become so accustomed to the things in our midst that we stop noticing them, but we also stop noticing their impact on our energy. Every item not only takes up space and collects dust, but carries associations, good or bad, that can influence us unconsciously. Needless to say, we don’t need things around us that silently rob us of our vitality and strength. The modern analogy would be closing apps and programs on your phone that are draining your battery. Clear your spaces and save your charge!
Now for the promised preview, here’s an activity straight out of our Lady Farmer Guide to Slow Living, that not only helps you identify any troublesome clutter spots in your home but will give you a quick technique for transforming any space.
How to Declutter Your Home
1. Take some time to walk through the different areas of your home and pay attention to how you feel in each one. Are there spaces where you feel calm and relaxed as opposed to others where you might feel more irritated or anxious? Does your breathing change when you see the pile of papers on the table or too many clothes spilling out of a drawer? Do you close the broom closet as quickly as possible before everything falls out? Pay attention to your thoughts and physical reactions in each space.
2. Use the activity above to identify one trouble area (a table top, drawer, shelf, corner, etc.)
- Remove all the items leaving empty space and spread them out on a flat surface. Have three bags right beside you as you begin to go through them–one for trash, another for donation and the other for recycling.
- Take five or ten minutes (time yourself) to look at each item quickly and decide if it can go in one of the bags. If you can’t decide immediately that it can be thrown away, donated or recycled, then set it aside.
- Repeat this process with the reduced pile until you are left with only the things that you absolutely can’t let go of at this time.
- Place them back neatly in the designated space, dusting and arranging as you go.
- Notice how that space feels to you now. Hopefully it’s more pleasing and peaceful, like you don’t mind lingering there.
Congratulations, you have just cleared a space in your life for more slow living! Repeat any time.
Imagine having an established food supply from your garden that comes back every year on its own!
There’s a jumble of seed catalogs and plant guides that I keep fireside and peruse while visions of veggies dance in my head. This year I’m especially excited to be expanding my selection of perennial vegetables.
Why cultivate perennial vegetables in place of the annuals that make up the typical summer garden?
The benefits of growing perennial vegetables are many. For starters, they are a lot less work!
- You plant them once and then you can neglect them.
- Once they have taken hold they will be repeat performers year after year
- They establish mature root systems that enrich the soil.
- Established plants crowd out weeds and have increased resistance to drought and pests.
- Perennials help hold water and nutrients in the soil and create habitat for a wide variety of microorganisms that make a garden fertile and healthy.
- Because the soil around the plant doesn’t have to be disturbed every year, it’s able to capture carbon from the atmosphere and sequester it, an important process in the reversal of global warming.
- And if that isn’t enough, perennial vegetables are often harvested earlier or later in the year, thereby extending the season. They’re also useful in creating a permanent edible landscape.
Image Source: Mother Earth Living
So which vegetables are perennial? The ones we’re most familiar with are rhubarb and asparagus, but there are many others. Here are few perennial veggies that are good to start with, some of which I have already and others that I plan to introduce this year.
Perennial Vegetables List
1. Sunchokes (Jerusalem Artichoke)
Plant these tubers in the ground and enjoy beautiful sunflower-type blooms on top of a dense cluster of 6-8 ft stalks in late summer. At the end of the season, you can dig up the tubers and eat them like potatoes — cooked in soups, mashed, baked or fried.
2. Ramps (Wild Leeks)
Shade-loving,clumping and spreading leafy vegetable used as a green in salads or as a flavoring such as a leek or scallion. The bulbs can be used like garlic and onions. (Also in the old fairy tale, it was Rapunzel’s mother who was craving ramps and sent her husband to steal them from the witch’s garden.)
3. Turkish Rocket
Also called warty cabbage, this leafy green resembles arugula but produces a small broccoli-like flower. It grows in clumps and has a slightly bitter, peppery flavor. It’s a great addition to mixed cooked greens or eaten raw.
4. Sea Kale
This leafy shrub grows to about 3 ft tall and wide. The leaves can be used like collards or mustard greens while the new spring shoots are harvested and prepared in much the same way as asparagus. The flower is similar to broccoli.
Can be used like spinach, cooked or raw, though when eaten fresh, the strong lemony flavor serves well in a mix with other milder leafy greens. It grows easily from seed and catches on quickly in the garden, improving the soil around it season after season.
Perennial vegetables might be harder to find and usually take longer to establish, so it might be a year or even longer before you get food from a plant. Despite these drawbacks, starting your perennial vegetables now will be worth it! You probably won’t find a wide selection of perennial vegetable plants or seeds from the usual sources, but all of the above are available at Forest Farm.