Tag Archives: nature

Swimming Ashore to Catch my Breath

sunny fieldAugust is the true test for any gardener. Everything happens at once- the fruits ripen, the basil begins to flower, and the weeds loyally pop up everywhere. It is the time when the dehydrator is backed up with herbs, flowers, and fruit. It is a time when the kitchen smells of pickling spices and vinegar. It is a time when we compete with the fruit flies for our over ripe peaches on the counter begging to be put up for the winter.

tableThe past two weeks my plate has been full of preparation for farm to table dinners: Starseed’s Annual Fundraiser and NOFA’s Summer Conference. Starseed hosted its first farm to table benefit dinner outside under the tent. To start we served a garden salad topped with nasturtiums, pickled dilly beans, a bread and cheese platter, pesto, cabbage rolls stuffed with quinoa and gouda, and zucchini ribbons. For dessert we served raw vanilla ice cream and blueberry pies.

piepies!Thanks to Bread Euphoria, Monterey Chévre, and Sidehill Farm for the local products! I am grateful for all the cooks and harvesters, especially of those wild low bush blueberries. Both events were great successes because they brought people together to share farm fresh ingredients prepared with love.

cheese platter

Finally after weeks of running my engine on full throttle, the full moon in Aquarius pulled on my body to go outside and lay on the Earth. “Slow down!” she said. All of those food projects and social commitments can wait. Take a break, rest a while, and get grounded. Focus on the abundance surrounding you and replace it with any beliefs coming from lack or scarcity.

With every action I take throughout the day whether making salves and tinctures, or clipping people into the zip line at Zoar, I ask myself: “What is the driving force behind this action? Is it love or fear? Am I present or am I focusing on the future? How can I slow down and see the beauty in each moment?”

river flowI like to think of the river metaphor. Are we navigating the river skillfully by surrendering to the current or are we paddling upstream? I admit I’ve been resisting surrender and paddling upstream recently, hence no blog post for over a month. I remembered last night during the Full Moon to swim ashore and rest for a while until I am ready to plunge back in and go with the flow.


Calendula Flower for Salve


Today the flow has taken me to the (flow)ers. It is a flower day on the Biodynamic Seed Calendar: http://www.steinerbooks.org/Books/BookDetail.aspx?productID=322504


Pollen-loaded Bumble Bee in Tulsi Holy Basil

I harvested calendula, which is wonderful for making healing salves for cuts, scrapes and dry skin. I also made an oil infusion of St. Johnswort flowers, which is anti-anxiety and anti-depression. Chamomile flowers are drying for a relaxing tea. Nasturtiums brighten up the salad bowl, and sunflowers are blooming with all their glory. The bees like flower days, too!

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Busy as the Bees

home sweet homeAnother rainy day forces me to stay inside, make soup, bake cookies, and slow down. The month of June is flying by as we are busy as the bees out here at Starseed. Change is happening so fast these days. Old structures and habits are breaking down making room for new positive change in the world. Starseed is one of many places all across the globe that is transforming. I am really hopeful to be part of such a special project underway.

swarm10,000 new beings have made Starseed their home- Honeybees! We welcomed them last weekend and they are already making their rounds to the flower gardens. Their hive is nestled into the tree line beside our newly planted high-bush blueberries.

bee sugar

First, we added sugar water (or  you can use honey) to the hive to give the bees something to start with and draw them into their new home.

queen beeThen we took out the queen who was in her own compartment. The worker bees will eventually chew their way into her compartment and hopefully accept her as their queen.

welcome beesAll the other bees joined her in the hive by swarming and within a few hours, they all settled down. Home sweet home! I can hardly wait for honey this fall.

bees and bluesHoneybees  travel up to a few miles pollinating our flowers and food sources as they go. About 40% of our food supply relies on bees for pollination such as fruits, nuts, and some vegetables. Non-organic pesticides are killing off our bees causing “colony collapse.” Watch the film, “Queen of the Sun” for more information about the importance of honeybees for our survival. Not to mention, the divinely sweet, nutritious, medicinal, anti-microbial substance they create- Honey!

Well, now that the rain has stopped, it’s time to head back outside being busy as the bees…

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A Dandy Time!

dandy plantDandelions are the most versatile spring plant that grows everywhere you don’t want them- lawns and gardens. We have an expansive crop this year at Starseed, so why not put them in our bellies? Dandelions arrive in full force just in time for spring cleansing and detoxing after a long winter of hearty foods. I know I’m not the only one who has indulged in rich creamy soups, thick cuts of bacon, and sweet treats.

The greens are best steamed before the flowers bud out because they are less bitter. Chewing on the stems of the flowers like gum cleanses the digestive tract. The roots are liver and gall bladder tonics. The whole plant is a natural diuretic but unlike pharmaceutical diuretics, it does not force your body to lose potassium. Dandelions are the best spring additives to meals and they are very plentiful.

dandy doneOur cook here has found a special way to mask the bitter flowers. Despite the contradictory ingredients, dandelion flower fritters are outstanding!

dandy dip

dandy timeShe uses:

Pamela’s gluten free pancake mix


Fresh Thyme


dandy fry

My motto as of late: “You got to retox if you want to detox!”

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Landing at Starseed Sanctuary

DSCN3477“Fixed Earth Taurus encourages us to plant our crops, fertilize new shoots, and make it real. Our plans take form and grow roots. We’re gifted and challenged to honor Spirit imbued in the material world.” — Heather Roan Robbins

DSCN3468I’ve finally landed after what feels like a lifetime of traveling. The power of manifestation has brought my current coordinates to Starseed Sanctuary in the Northern Berkshires where I am living and working as the farm manager/groundskeeper/land steward. I live in a newly built tiny house on wheels also known as a Tumbleweed. There is a small wood stove, composting toilet, shower, electricity, propane cook stove, and a ladder leading to the loft where I sleep. What more could a young woman want?

blog IMG_7922blog IMG_7925My dear friend and co-land steward, Blake and I spend our days starting seedlings by the biodynamic calendar, chopping kindling, researching yurts, writing grants, ordering supplies, preparing mushroom logs, looking at tractors, spring cleaning, and discussing our dream of building a spiritual farming community together.

It’s all happening so fast, I often say to myself, “This is too good to be true.” Instead, I fill my heart with gratitude, take a deep breadth, and bask in how I feel deeply in alignment with why I’m here on Earth.

DSCN3479blog DSCN3489

I am especially grateful to the Ananda family for inviting us to join their Sanctuary and home in hope of co-creating community and sustainable farming systems.


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Goodbye Winter Blues, Hello Baby Goats!

DSCN3444I’m back out here in Monterey for the busy time of kidding season at the goat farm. I feel grateful to have the time and space to set up my life so I can spend it where my heart desires. What better way to welcome in this spring than watching goats use their innate intelligence and natural instincts while giving birth?

The excitement and excessive exertion of energy during kidding season creates an abrupt transition from winter to spring because I am forced out of my head and into the rhythms of nature. It has been a long and reflective winter. Like the baby goat inside its mother’s womb, I’m not quit sure if I’m ready to leave the warmth and comfort, but I have no choice. Soon enough, I will have to the leave the chair next to the wood stove and venture out into the cold damp air of late March.

DSCN3382The ground is soggy beneath my muck boots. Mud season is inevitable as the snow melts away. The air tastes sweet like the sap running through the trees. I fill my lungs to capacity while tromping through the woods following the tracks of turkey, deer, and coyote. Rivers and streams swell. Robins and red wing blackbirds make their first appearances back from the South.  Seventy baby goats to feed three times a day. Warm slow cooked meaty soups to look forward to after mucking the barn.

DSCN3408Baby goats offer endless entertainment and pure delight as we transition to Spring- the season of renewal, cleansing, and hope.

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Begin Again

As the month of February draws to a close, I look back and feel extremely grateful for a full year devoted to spiritual growth. I practiced yoga and mindfulness, traveled to the West Coast, explored my next steps for starting a small farm, volunteered at Kripalu Yoga Center, and cultivated a strong sense of self-love. Thank you to the many teachers, mentors, and soul mates I met along the way.

DSCN3197The quiet and stillness of winter is comforting. Spending the days reading, writing, cooking, practicing yoga, processing with friends, and entering deep solitude is how I recharge before another season begins. On daily hikes in the woods to fill my lungs with fresh crisp air, I observe how nature emanates the same peace I seek this time of year.

DSCN3163DSCN3200A new chapter is beginning even though the foggy grey days make it hard to believe spring is on the way. In two more weeks, the goats will begin kidding and the ground will begin thawing. Although my designated “year of spiritual growth” is wrapping up, I intend to incorporate all I have learned into farming.

DSCN3237Each morning no matter how early, I intend to practice. Even if its for just five minutes before walking up to the barn, or paying attention to my breadth while bottle feeding a baby goat, or saying a blessing with my fellow farmers at the start of a new project, I commit to working from a place of connection to Source. Great Work is allowing spirit to move through us as we move through the world following our Dharma.

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Spreading my Wings

DSCN3146Snowbird is in my blood. I jump at any opportunity to go south during the cold northern winters. Just as a storm blew in, I boarded a plane to Florida for a five-day vacation.  Like a frozen item put up last summer, I lay on the beach until I was thawed from the outside all the way to my center.

DSCN3153DSCN3156There is nothing more healing than the ocean, a good book, and a close friend. Connection to the Divine Feminine is inescapable when I sit staring out at the turquoise blue water. The tide reminds me how linked my female body is to the Moon. The waves teach me the impermanence of emotions. What builds and builds must be released eventually. Wisdom grows when we let go of what is not serving us any longer.

My power animal is currently the bird. Everywhere I turned there were seagulls, pigeons, osprey, pelicans, vultures, and ibis. Watching them soar above the sea reaffirmed my decision to spread my wings and fly this January. Only a few weeks ago I stood under the Grandmother tree at Kripalu while a storm blew in bringing more snow. I said goodbye to my home for the past eight months. I asked the tree, an elegant Camper Elm, if she would guide me and protect me while I spread my wings again. As I trudged through the snow back to my car, I began to laugh and run wildly like a child. The Grandmother tree was listening, “Spread those strong wings and soar!” she roared.

IMG_5695Could it be a coincidence that just after the Winter Solstice a bald eagle swooped above my head? This powerful bird of prey represents a great spiritual awakening after a period of strife. Shortly after this incredible omen, a red tailed hawk landed on a branch above my head. My winged friends are like angels watching over me, giving me hope to move forward without getting stuck in the past.

Signing off from 30,000 feet above sea level somewhere above the Carolinas. Were the “strong wings” Grandmother Tree referred to part of a fuel guzzling airplane? Doubtful, but it’s the best us humans have figured out so far.

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Mushroom Mania

The months of September to October are primetime for mushroom hunting. Chicken of the woods, hen of the woods, chanterelles, coral, oysters and puffballs are treasures beneath the canopy.

Foraging for these beauties means slowing down to observe the forest. What kind of trees are growing and how big are they? Is it dense, dark, and wet, or open, light, and airy? When was the last rain? How does it smell? Sometimes you can even smell when fungus is growing especially after a good long rain.

Using all of our senses while in the forest is an enlivening experience. It is a chance to practice our primal instincts. My ears perk up to rustles in the leaves as a squirrel buries its acorns. Slight shifts in the wind raise the hair on my body. Soft moist moss cools my internal heat from hiking up hill. I can simply turn my head in any direction to see what is above, below, behind and in front of me. My sharp vision and ability to zoom in and out allows me to change my depth perception.

This is why it is called mushroom hunting. Engaging all five senses in the woods is what humans have done since the beginning of our existence. It is how we found sustenance and escaped from danger. When I find an edible mushroom, my brain fills with chemicals that bring ecstatic bliss. My face transforms from serious focus to smiling joy. I often cannot hold back laughter. I have found treasure!

The grey/brown mushroom above is Hen of the Woods. This is one mushroom of 15 that I harvested. Each weighs between 3 and 8 pounds. That’s a lot of mushroom!

Once I have gathered more than I can eat or share with friends, I deliver the bounty to restaurants that support the local food economy. I am now exchanging a material with value. Nature’s generous gift has become a desirable product with a market price attached. I feel resourceful to be using my primal instincts of foraging and business skills at the same time.

Honoring the earth for providing our sustenance is key. When I forage, I always ask the plant or mushroom’s permission. I only take what feels appropriate and leave the rest for bugs and newts to enjoy. If the treasure is on private property, I ask the owner if I can harvest there.

Last week I passed up 15 pounds of Chicken of the Woods (the golden orange shelf mushroom seen in the these photos) because the property owner felt we ought to leave them for their beauty. It wasn’t easy to leave over $100 worth of bounty. But, I respected his decision and felt better about it in the end. Greed has caused most of the damage in the world today. Rather than betraying my neighbor, I took lots of photos to share with you all.


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Gentle Transition to Fall

Change is a constant in life. If I have any resistance to change, life gets hard. There has been much change since the middle of August when I last wrote.  I decided to extend my commitment to Kripalu for another six months. I changed departments so I will spend the winter working inside with a group of 10 amazing women instead of outside with mostly men. I moved to a new room, which I share with a dear friend. I stopped eating fresh leafy greens and now I load my plate with squash, potatoes, cooked kale and soups. I spend more time alone cultivating a practice that nourishes me to build up my reserves for winter.

On September 22, a friend and I attended an Autumnal Equinox celebration at Starseed Sanctuary, a healing center in Savoy, MA.  After dinner, several of us gathered in a small room called the Chapel.  We smudged ourselves with sage and lit candles. Each candle signified the changes we want to embrace in our lives in order to create a more sustainable future on this planet. A common theme was letting go of fear and doubt in order to welcome more hope and love into our lives.

After we each voiced our intentions to the circle, we walked with rhythmic rattles down to a pile of rocks in a field that were piled on the Spring Equinox last March. They signify the power of love we want to infuse in the birthing of a new world on the Winter Solstice December 21, 2012. A shaman placed a drop of Somali Rose Oil onto each rock that we held before placing it into the pile. The sweet smell of the oil penetrated our sense organs so deeply that a woman next to me shouted out in pleasure, “Ooohhwee! That’s love right there!”

We chanted inside this circle to send our prayers to the higher powers. As we walked back to the Chapel, I felt compelled to open my palms up as if I was to receive a gift. Immediately after taking this receptive position, raindrops delicately landed on my palms. By the time we reached our destination, the heavens opened up. We listened to the rain pummel the tin roof overhead. Our closing circle became silent because nobody could talk over the sound above us. The spirits answered our prayers and applauded us for setting such powerful intentions that evening. “Encore! Encore!” we yelled together.

The fall reaping has been bountiful. From the Kripalu vegetable garden I helped begin this summer, we harvested Asian greens, herbs, tomatoes, and beets for the kitchen. From the old apple orchard on the property, we gathered about 30 gallons of apples to press for cider. Even though I am not working on a farm this season, I still find ways to stay connected to the growing seasons.

May you have a gentle transition into fall.

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Dharma is that which upholds, supports or maintains the regulatory order of the universe. It is a duty rooted in justice, social harmony and human happiness. Many religions believe that beings living in accordance with dharma proceed more quickly toward personal liberation.

I have always felt that growing food to share with my community is part of my dharma. I want to be a leader and educator about the importance of local food systems. Having worked on several farms since college, I came to Kripalu to take a step back from the fields and ask myself what are my next steps regarding my passion for food production? Where am I needed? I know I am on this planet to do more than farm labor.

It is clear since arriving at Kripalu almost four months ago that the path I am on is exactly where I belong. We have grown a very successful garden here and now we are teaching classes for guests about the intersection of yoga and gardening. I am discovering part of my dharma is to teach people about the interconnection between cultivating deep love for ourselves in order to be strong warriors for the planet.

I did not expect to be doing any gardening this season at a yoga center, but my supervisor is very supportive of creating more food gardens and wildflower fields so there is less lawn. My skills and interests are being incorporated into my seva (service), which feels really rewarding. The staff and guests greatly appreciate the fresh produce as well.

When I am not gardening, I am landscaping (not my dharma). As I mow lawns, weed-wack slopes, and mulch flower beds, my thoughts are elsewhere. The blaring hum of the small motors in my possession allow for deep personal inquiry. I block out all outside noise. I begin to dream of the future. What do I want? Where will I create my home?

Yes, Home. Gardens. Blueberries. Hammock. Cat. Dog. Chickens. Goats. Partner. Kitchen. Woodstove.

 Right now, sitting on my bunk in a dorm with 15 other women makes this dream feel awfully distant. Even though I am practicing how to be grateful and content in the present, I yearn for more.

The breeze outside brings cooler air, which, to me, means change. Over the next six months I am going to put every doubt and fear aside. I am going to wake up from the grogginess late summer lays over us with heat and humidity. I am going to prepare for my next steps in making my dreams of a home come true. Hopefully, my work and home life is in alignment with my dharma because when I am leading from my heart, everything else falls into place.

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