Tag Archives: plants

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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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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New Moon Summer Solstice

I told you I wouldn’t be able to stay away from farming. Even at the yoga center, I spend most days outside digging in the dirt, picking flowers, planting gardens, weeding, mowing, and working on my farmer’s tan.

The Kripalu Grounds Team has put my skills to good use by providing the means to put in a vegetable garden. The corn is already 10 inches tall. The tomatoes need a second line of trellis to support their lush green growth. The zucchini are growing ½ an inch per day. The cucumbers out lived the beetles.

Everything has been going really well, except that the broccoli, cabbage, and kale have been bait for the rabbits and groundhogs. Finally, the yogi in me surrendered by taking off the small cages that were protecting the plants while announcing, “Have at it!” to the critters. We can’t win all the battles. But, it’s not over yet. The fence will be installed tomorrow to discourage any further feasting.

One day a week I make my way over to the beloved goat farm to muck the barn and hoe in between the rows of a garden without critter problems. Susan’s bok choi and lettuce heads are already enormous. She’s harvesting from her second succession of salad greens. And, the raspberries promise to be in abundance by late summer.

I feel it is such an honor to spend time at the goat farm. Looking back I can see how much I’ve grown since my first ever blog post in the spring of 2009, “First Training at Rawson Brook Farm.” It is heart warming to know I am always welcome there.

The combination of karma yoga practice, earth based service, healthy fresh meals, and a loving community brings me so much happiness and contentment. This summer promises to be bountiful. Living life from my heart and letting go of fear has only brought me to more and more beautiful places.

Happy Summer!!!

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For our Mothers

Happy Mother’s Day!

I love this time of year. We get a chance to start over, cleanse, make wishes, and plant seeds or intentions for the rest of the year. It is time to break out of our cocoon that kept us safe and warm all winter. It is time to mimic the leaves that burst forth reaching out and say yes to the light.

Today I am grateful to my Mother(s). Mother Earth, Grandmothers, Step Mothers, Adoptive Mothers, and Biological Mothers. They are the women who believe in us and love us unconditionally. I send my love to all the women and mothers who keep me rooted in the Earth.

As expected, I could not stay away from working with the land too long. Our first project for my “seva” or service at Kripalu was planting two fields of wild flowers. We broadcast seeded from buckets with our hands. The motion of spreading seeds felt ancient. The rhythm brought me to a deep mediation. Everyone agreed the action of planting seeds was exactly in line with the natural cycle. It is moments like these that cause me to step back and whisper, “This is exactly where I belong.”

I am only half and hour from Rawson Brook Farm so I visited last weekend. As I held a baby goat, I felt her heart beat thump against my belly. Her small body sunk into my arms. She modeled how to completely surrender and trust, something I remember doing with my Mother.

“You are not separate from your hopes and dreams, you are only separate from knowing that they are real and the only truth your soul knows. You can’t buy into fear and fully realize your highest potential, it only comes from Love and Service.”

-Jackson Kiddard

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The Spring Equinox brings a Fresh Start

Spring is here in full force! Even though it was a mild winter, I am proud to say I made it through a full one and actually found much pleasure in slowing down. The transition from winter to spring has been so fast! My last blog post had photos of snow covered landscapes and this post is already in full bloom flower mode. Gotta love greenhouses.

The 70 degree days feel more like summer. My clothes are drying on the line outside, I went for a bike ride in a t-shirt, and now I’m lying in the sun with a bathing suit.

This is unlike any March I have ever experienced in the Northeast. No complaints here. I’ll save the worries of increased tick and mosquito pressure for another day. We have to enjoy the positive sides of global warming, right?

The bulb show at Smith College greenhouses is one of the best ways to welcome spring.

Outside my door the crocuses and snowdrops are flowering. The daffodils and hyacinth are not far behind.

Sadly, I will be leaving the Northeast spring beauty behind for a month to travel. Fortunately, it will be spring everywhere I go along the Pacific coast from Southern California all the way up to Seattle, Washington. I leave this week to be a bridesmaid in a childhood friend’s wedding.

As my journey unfolds, farming will not be my main focus this season. Growing and eating good food will always be a top priority in my life. But, I am entering a new phase that involves self care, spiritual awakening, and building solid human relationships based in love.

Of course integrating all of this with farming is something I look forward to doing in the future. Taking this next season off from working full time on a farm is exciting, but I know I will miss having such a close connection with food. You’ll see…I won’t be able to keep myself away from plants and animals too long. I already found myself bottle-feeding a baby goat last weekend at Rawson Brook Farm, then caring for my hens that I gave to some friends in Greenfield.

Farming is in my blood for good. Now, I will allow myself to explore other avenues.


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