Hallow’een Whimsy!

Pirates in East Cornfield, a pumpkin witch at Metamora, IN, and a toasty All Hallows’ Evening bon fire.

Hallow’een has always been one of my favorite seasonal celebrations. It marks the very end of the harvest for us here on the farm and it provides me an excuse to be creatively ghoulish. I have as much fun carving Jack O’ Lanterns and decorating the yard as my daughter Kayla.

As we light our bon fire and get ready to barbecue some weinies and burgers, we can feel a definite closure to the summer season as we pull our jackets tighter and warm our hands around the fire. We know that Winter will be knocking on our door soon, along with snow and freezing temperatures. But right now, we enjoy the riotous golden colors, the crisp fresh air, and spicy pumpkin cheesecake with tart apple cider. Oh yes!

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 Our little farmhouse in all its Autumn glory.

It seems like the maple trees turned orange and yellow overnight and we find ourselves shuffling as we walk outside, kicking up crisp leaves and giggling like the ‘mature’ adults that we are. Most of the major preparations for the Winter have been completed and I for one look forward to the quieter, calmer season of introspection.

My daughter Kayla reminds me (often) that her favorite celebration is only 53 shopping days away. But I feel confident that she will stay busy as she prepares for the holidays. She enjoys the process of creating gifts and special seasonal cards for her family. Her special needs require that we begin early, so that each card and gift has been crafted just the way she likes. Hallow’een is our special reminder that it is time to get creating.

This is Kayla patiently waiting to roast her hot dog, our old maple tree showing off its colors, and a passel of lazy farm cats.

One of the biggest enjoyments for me living on this farm is actually experiencing the seasons both in work and play. My daily life is intertwined with the changing seasons as everything ebbs and flows, withers and then blossoms again, resting and preparing for the next season of growth.

Whimsical Moon Farm has moved into its season of cozy retreat.

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Captain Jack wishes you an abundant All Hallows’ Evening!

Just One of Those Days!

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Our changing landscape: the harvested corn fields and fall trees look bare against the Autumn morning sky.

I woke up early this morning and knew it was going to be one of those days. A fabulous day! The sun is shining, the air is fresh and crisp, and I feel like I can conquer the world. Well, at least my tiny, tiny corner of the world.

I practically skipped as I did my chores, my steps light-footed, and my off-key singing barely bothered the chickens. What is it about some days that allow you to feel like everything is exactly the way it is supposed to be?

My schedule is full with necessary activities that I have to get done, but I felt optimistically confident that creativity and calm will reign supreme. My daily writing practice has been swept aside lately with the accumulated tasks that have piled up, but today is the perfect day to make my writing a priority again. I fired up my lap-top as I sat on the front porch, listened to the ‘girls’ softly cluck, and spent pleasant moments as I revisited my story in progress. I even got to share the calm with a deer as she crossed the barn lot. Thank goodness we always keep the camera handy and ready to roll for moments just like this.

A deer wandered into our barn lot, the chickens keep me company while I write on my porch, and the day-lilies always make me smile.

Monday is always clean house day, and usually I drag my vacuum cleaner around like it is a torture device. I grumble and sneer. Today I decided to open up the house one last time before the weather turned cold and give the place a thorough once over. Cobweb patrol, chasing dust rhino’s from under the furniture, and even washing windows gave me a sense of satisfaction and accomplishment. A good spit-shine can lift the spirits of an old farmhouse and it just feels good to sit back and ’embrace the clean’. This is a fabulous day!

 Kayla standing in front of our ‘Gandalf’ scarecrow, newly canned applesauce, and dinner: big ol’ chopped salad.

Maybe it’s just the Autumn season that provides this feeling of exuberance. The cooler temperatures and the shorter days give me many reasons to spend time ‘nesting’ and slowing down. Life doesn’t feel nearly as frantic and things get done as they get done. I have crossed many chores off my to-do list, like canning applesauce and dilly beans and freezing summer corn. Most of the outbuildings are secured and ready for the harsh Winter weather ahead. The chicken coop is almost ready for Winter and we’ve stocked up on bales of straw and feed. Being prepared does provide much impetus for a fabulous day!

My daughter Kayla has decided she would have a fabulous day today, too. Her special needs and her battle with schizophrenia can often cause her anxiety and stress, but how can anybody be ‘down-in-the-dumps’ when you have a friend like ‘Gandalf the Scarecrow’ to protect your pumpkins and make you smile? She decided to help me make our main meal and cheerfully began chopping vegetables and tossing in handfuls of walnuts and dried cranberries. Soon our salads will change over to thick, hearty vegetable soups but since today is so fabulous, chopped salad it is.

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Ninja toady. Can you see him?

As I brew a pot of coffee on the stove-top and look out the kitchen window, I notice the drain spouts full of dried leaves, old clay pots that need to be stored in the shed, and fallen limbs that need to be stacked on the burn pile. I will save those chores for my next fabulous day. Right now, I need to go take a peek at the big toad Kayla found next to the smoke house and have a mug of hot, fresh coffee.

It’s just been one of those days! I hope you have a whimsically fabulous day, too!

Walking the Path of Herbal Lore

Raised bed of Echinacea angustifolia (purple coneflower), Salvia (sage), Echinacea with a butterfly, apothecary counter, and raised bed of herbs and vegetables. 

                                 Featuring Echinacea (purple coneflower)

“True health comes from loving relationships, good food, time spent in nature, daily hugs, inner peace, meaningful work, and breathing thankfully of the richness of this life.”  Nancy Phillips, Herbalist.

It is time to do my early morning chores, so I bundle up in my thick sweater, fuzzy socks, and warm hat to ward off the chilly air of Autumn. As I toss the chickens their favorite scratch and apple slices, I find myself turning over in my head the contents of my herbal medicine cabinet. This is the time of year I need to make sure I am stocked up on all my favorite teas, tinctures, and salves. The one herb I turn to over and over again is always Echinacea. Whether in a tea, tincture, or even a throat spray, Echinacea angustifolia is the foundation of my herbal remedies and I want to make sure I am prepared for cold and flu season.

I have grown Echinacea for many years as I have found it to be a lovely perennial that is not fussy to grow. It can get to be three to four feet high and loves the full sun and warm weather.  Purple coneflower, as it is commonly known, blooms beautiful cone-shaped flowers and is well-loved by bees, butterflies, and many wild birds that enjoy their seeds in the fall.

Many herbalists and natural medicine practitioners believe Echinacea to be an important immune-enhancing herb with very few known side-effects. It helps protect cells against the many viruses and bacteria we are often exposed to, plus it has antifungal and antibacterial properties. This makes it an important remedy for many of our common infections and illnesses.

It is particularly useful against bronchial and respiratory infections, sore throat, and the common cold. I use it anytime my immune system needs a boost or I have been exposed to somebody sniffling and sneezing. Echinacea can be taken as a tea, tincture, or capsules and should be used at the first sign of a cold or flu.

 

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This is my herbal apprentice, Winter the farm Chihuahua

As a cottage herbalist, I usually practice with simple formulas rather than mixing several herbs together, so I take Echinacea either as a tea, a tincture, or in capsules. I prefer tinctures as it tends to be more potent when I begin to feel crummy, but it isn’t the most palatable going down. I often mix it with orange juice for that extra push of vitamin C, but it can still be gag-worthy until you get accustomed to it.

You can purchase the teas already made (just follow directions on the carton) as they are usually considerably tastier, especially with a dribble of honey in your cup, or you can make your own tea by placing 4-6 tablespoons of dried herbs into a clean quart jar and pouring boiling water over them, filling the jar. Let this steep a good 30-45 minutes, strain it well, and drink about a quarter of a cup every half hour for a total of 4 cups a day.

As I prefer the tincture, I usually try to get a batch started towards the end of summer so it will be ready for flu season. To create your own, you will need fresh or dried Echinacea root, a pint of 80 proof or stronger vodka or brandy, and a clean glass jar. Place these roots in the jar and pour enough alcohol over them to completely cover by a good 2 or 3 inches. Seal the jar with a tight-fitting lid and place in a warm spot and allow to soak (macerate) for 4 to 6 weeks. Try to shake the tincture regularly. Once a day is fine, but don’t worry if you forget a day or two. Strain the herbs well and store in clean, dark bottles. Your tincture will last for two, even three years.  You should take 1/4-1/2 teaspoon of tincture every hour up to 6 teaspoons daily.

You can also purchase already made Echinacea tincture and tincture blends at most drugstores and many grocery stores.

I do keep Echinacea capsules on hand, but I usually purchase them from the drugstore as I have found I usually make a huge mess when I encapsulate my own pills. You can take 1-2 capsules every two hours up to 8 pills daily.

A wonderfully soothing sore throat spray I have discovered is to mix together one-quarter cup of your prepared tincture, one eighth cup of vegetable glycerin or honey, one eighth cup of fresh water, and 1-2 drops of peppermint essential oil. Mix that all together and place in a spritzer bottle. Spray directly into the back of your throat as needed, about every half hour or so.

 

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Porch Herb Garden

I believe we need to restore a healing tradition in our country that allows us to understand beneficial herbs and nourishment to our bodies and our souls. We need to learn how to rely on the wisdom of our bodies and community with each other for basic healthy living.

If we trust our bodies ability to heal and function in a balanced way, we will be able to make informed and wise decisions about our health and well-being.

Herbalism is about our connection with plants and how they can be used to nourish and heal each of us. As I walk this herbal path, I continue to learn how to listen to the plants and how to listen and trust my self.

Please note: This information is meant only to increase your knowledge about herbs and how they can be used in your own healing path. I am not a licensed medical doctor not do I ever intend to be one.  Always seek the advice of your doctor or health care professional for your individual conditions. 

Thank you to Rosemary Gladstar and Nancy Phillips for their inspiration and guidance along my herbal journey.

 

Turning of the Season on our Farm

The last sunflower of the season; Mosey sniffing newly-harvested cornfield; the garden is winding down; lazy autumn cats; end-of-summer barbeque.

 

Since I’ve moved to our farm, I have found my year is now measured not by the days of the month but by the seasons. My calendar is based on the work and events on Whimsical Moon Farm and the farmers around me.

People who farmed had a different way of understanding time, one based on sunlight and seasons, ebbing and flowing in activity like river water. Their year was alive, growing and dying.”  Jenna Woginrich, sheep farmer.

Living on a farm, you would think that Spring would be my favorite season of the year. You know: renewal, Mother Earth waking up again after a long Winter, newly planted gardens, baby animals….but truth be told, I am all about the Fall. I love the cooler temperatures, the slowing down after a hectic summer, harvesting and ‘putting by’ the last of the garden bounty, and the beautiful fall colors. Orange, russet, yellow and red.

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Autumn glow at a nearby lake. This picture was taken last fall.

Although my summer garden beds have pretty much been laid to rest, there is still plenty of activity all around me.  The agri-farmers have begun frantically harvesting their corn and soybean crops. The weather here in East Cornfield has been spectacular for this time of year but the farmers still race against the perfect timing of dried corn on the stalk and the possibility of a thunder storm stomping across the fields.

The dance of combine, tractor, and over-flowing wagon has begun circling around us, as we are bordered by crops on three sides of our tiny farm. We hear the revving of Farmer Matt’s tractor early in the morning and prepare ourselves for a day of loud engines, blowing chaff and dust, and the abrupt change of our landscape.

Farmer Matt maneuvering his combine across our tiny road into the soybean field on the east side of our farm, cleaning up freshly harvested corn field, hauling the filled wagon to the grain bin, harvesting the soybean, the corn field next to our farm as it is cut down.

The hard-wood trees have begun to change color and the squirrels have been frantically busy burying dried corn on the cob, black walnuts, and dried seed heads they discover in the flower bed and herb garden. Many of my favorite wild birds have already flown south for the Winter, so all I have at the feeder now are nuthatches, a lone red-headed woodpecker, and mourning doves. I’ve kept the hummingbird feeder up as I still have hummers swooping in each morning and evening.

Even though the days are growing shorter, the chickens continue to lay their eggs, keeping us supplied with tasty omelets and frittatas.  They have become fat and sassy chickens, their feathers shiny, and their loud ‘crowing’ when one just laid an egg never fails to make me smile. Sometimes I will sit on the side porch sipping my first cup of coffee of the morning, and listen to their gentle clucks and watch as they scratch the ground, entertained by ‘Farm TV’.

There are plenty of chores around the farm that need to be accomplished before the weather turns cold, including shoveling over the garden one more time, cleaning up the compost pile, closing up the storm windows, and maybe even getting that shed painted. The furnace needs to be serviced and we still need to fill up the propane tank. (I never look forward to that!)

The ‘girls’ rearranging their attic, autumn fire-pit, the tip of a recently buried cob of corn the squirrel placed in a fresh mole hill, falling leaf tangled in a cobweb, I LOVE Halloween!

Yes, I love Autumn. And I love living on Whimsical Moon Farm. As I’ve grown older, my definition of success has changed dramatically. Living a life that makes me happy, surrounding myself with freshly grown food and outdoor activities,  working with the seasons and the rhythm of the farm, and building a sense of place and community, Autumn is that time of year I can take time to reflect and appreciate this simple way of making my way in the world.

I send you Whimsical Moon fall blessings with hot spiced cider and fresh baked pumpkin bread on the side.

 

 

 

This little farm or…How can I save the world?

 

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Earth image from Nasa.gov.

“Each of us feels some aspect of the world’s suffering acutely. And we must pay attention. We must act. This little corner of the world is ours to transform. This little corner of the world is ours to save.” –Stephen Cope, from The Great Work of Your Life.

I recently read this quote in one of my favorite yoga magazines, and I was like….WHOA! Pulled me up and shot me down. Listen: you have received a small plot of land with vast possibilities…whatcha gonna do with this?

My first response was: Hell if I know. Give me a clue.

I am an herbalist. Practically from birth. So, I’m gonna grow me some herbs. And maybe a few vegetables. I landed on this little farm through default. My room-mate grew up here, in East Cornfield, Indiana. We came home to help her dad die. We knew when we sold our home in Virginia we were coming ‘back to the farm’ to assist in a most important mission to let her dad go ‘home.’ Once I got here, I knew I had a purpose.

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The last good-bye

As I make my way here on the farm, I consider all of my  dreams and expectations. I believe all of us, individually and as a society, are affected by the Earth’s welfare. And we do have the power to make changes, even little tiny ones, that can impact it. We pulled up to this farm on a whim and a dream. And I realized, I could make a tiny impact. I can grow an herb farm. AND, I can save the world, one little mindful step at a time.

Each of us, individually, are affected by the Earths’s welfare, and we do have the power to make changes, even little ones, that can impact it. This is my plan to change my world!

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Sunset on our farm

Listen up:

  1. Recycle your sh*t. All of it. I live out here in the middle of a cornfield and we recycle every little thing. We have a row of bins lined up just outside our kitchen door and we toss plastic, glass, and cardboard and we haul all of it to the recycle center in town. Unless we can reuse some of it…we recycle it. I know that most cities and many towns have a recycle center or pick-up service, so there is no excuse. Recycle your sh*t!
  2. Let’s talk about food. Grow your own, buy local, eat simply. What? It’s simple. Actually, just simplify. If you have room for a garden, grow some vegetables. If you have a balcony or porch, grow a few potted herbs, tomatoes, even peppers. Not interested in growing your own, check out your local farmer’s market, CSA (Community Supported Agriculture), or neighbor community garden plot. Many neighborhoods have community gardens…get involved.
  3. Begin eating with the seasons. Lettuce, peas,  and spinach in the early spring, zucchini, corn, tomatoes mid summer, and squash, pumpkins, and my favorite apples in the fall. And maybe consider reducing meat consumption. Yes, it seems we have deemed ourselves carnivores, but we can reduce our meat consumption by a meal or two. I am not gonna go into the cost of growing that perfect T-bone, but letting go of our ‘meat and potatoes’ diet can actually make a difference toward our impact on our health and the environment. Specifically water consumption and methane production. What is that? Big huge cow farts and poop. It is just fine to replace all that beef  with responsibly harvested fish/seafood, organic chicken, or ‘shut your mouth’ TOFU. (I have tasty recipes, give me a hollah if interested.)
  4. Let’s talk about energy. And gasoline. Can we get by with one vehicle in a family? Maybe walk or bicycle to work? Share a ride. And turn off lights in the house. Turn down the thermostat. Toss the TV. ( I know, sacrilege.) I am fighting tooth and nail on this with my room-mate, so I get it. Even though all we have is local broadcast, she insists on watching Mystery Science Theater 3000. (Can you feel my pain?!?)
  5. How about we all just spend some time with nature? Get your ass outside. Go play! Seriously. Take a hike, sit next to a river, hug a frickin’ tree (okay, yes, I do commune with trees), ride your bike, swim in the river, listen to the ocean lapping against the shore, spend some time outside!
  6. Okay! This is a big one for many people. How about just simplifying? Give away all that stuff you don’t use any longer. I’m pretty certain all of your unused ‘stuff’ will be happily adopted by somebody else that needs it.And if we are simplifying…how about living in smaller homes? Less stuff, less space to heat or cool, less furnishings, just less! Unload what you don’t NEED and give it to somebody that will appreciate it.

Yes! I am a Mother Earth hugging, Lola Granola, Birkenstock wearing, unapologetic passionate creative and I believe we can change the world. One tiny corner at a time. We need to consider our environmental stewardship, our thoughtful consumption (I hope), our involvement with our community, (neighbors and our world), and our responsibility as fiscal earth dwellers. Consider your impact each day, and let it inform your actions in this world.

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Suburban garden

This is my ‘take over the world’ manifesto. It is simple and direct. This is how I intend on occupying my tiny corner of the world and growing my farm and my cottage business.

These Here Parts: Ol’ Nessie

The Pond and Ol’ Nessie

Nestled within a thicket of hardwood trees in the middle of the farm is the Old Pond, the nature-claimed remnant of a small gravel pit which was filled and stocked over a generation ago. If you move slowly, crouch down, and stay silent, you might see red-eared sliders sunning on a downed trunk, blue-gills or sunfish splashing out of the water after skimmers, or a great blue heron preening in the afternoon light. Crickets and cicadas chirp and buzz, and wood ducks quack softly on the banks of the nearby creek.

Even though the mosquitos are harassing you and whining in your ear, you stay still, because you see bubbles break the lichen-covered surface of the pond. Two eyes and a nose push up from the water, set on a triangular face no bigger than four inches across. It stays there for a couple of minutes before disappearing. Then you see the bow-wave rippling across the pond and the depression behind it as the water rushes close over a long, curved carapace.

The small face appears again, this time near the shore. The creature hauls itself up the gentle incline one halting inch at a time. The face becomes a stony olive head at least seven inches wide, with a horned beak and bulging jaw muscles. The carapace is so overgrown with moss, you can’t see the three rows of spiked plates arising from its back. The feet and legs bear heavy olive scales and move in measured, deliberate steps that indicate the burden of the massive body.

This is Ol’ Nessie, your alligator snapping turtle friend. Nessie’s gender cannot be ascertained from a distance. Its shell is approximately three feet long, and its mouth is wide enough to accommodate your entire hand, so you’ve learned to live with the gender mystery. Nessie has been in this pond for all of your life, and likely a generation before. Members of her species may live up to 200 years, although nobody really knows for sure. No matter if she’s 120 or 180, you get the feeling that you’re looking at living history. This reptile has managed to survive through at least one and possibly two world wars, years of industrial-age pollution, predation and hunting, and all manner of weather extremes, to peer at you from the edge of the pond. Its motion, and its stillness, give you the impression of stepping back into the Mesozoic Era.

Ol’ Nessie hears a twig snap as you lean to see over the undergrowth. It turns its hulking body around and slips back into the water, leaving a swirl of lichens in its wake. You’ll return again to visit soon.

-Writing and photography contributed by Melinda Hall

 

Whimsical Moon Farm Musings

Bella-boo heading outside, the girls in their attic loft, a tiger lily blooming next to the chicken coop, and another tomato ripening.

 

Even though it is hot and muggy, you can feel the summer season winding down on the farm. Leaves are turning golden on the old maple tree and I can feel a slight chill in the air when I go outside to do chores each morning. The days are increasingly shorter, yet there is still plenty to do as we look forward to the Autumn equinox.

Tomatoes and peppers continue to ripen on the vine and the ‘girls’ greet us almost every morning with an egg or two. The Ameraucana chickens have been laying for a few weeks now and we are patiently waiting for the Buff Orpingtons to begin their laying cycle. There is nothing tastier than  fresh chicken eggs!

Fresh picked peppers, tiny first egg next to regular sized eggs, Sweetums snoozing on the comfy chair, baby toad, and a recent farm sunset.

 

I find myself just as busy in the kitchen as I am outside. Besides freezing bushels of corn last month, I have canned tomato sauce, pickled dilly-garlic green beans, and dried peppermint, sage, and rosemary for tea and crafting soaps. Soon, we will be gleaning fallen apples from the neighboring farm and I will fill my kitchen with the spicy scent of bubbling applesauce and apple-pear butter for the winter.

The gigantic pile of broken tree limbs and cleared scrubby locust trees and encroaching mulberry shrubs is still smoldering ash after Farmer Matt came chugging down the road in his backhoe three days ago and helped us build the pile into a massive bon fire. It is such a relief to get the back yard cleaned up but it looked like a scene from the ‘burning-man festival’ for most of the afternoon into the evening.

Farmer Matt working on the burn pile, glowing bon fire in the evening, the tiny egg sunny side up. (We couldn’t help ourselves. It was one of the first eggs!)

 

I’ve noticed many of the birds in the area gathering into their flocks. Chickadees, finches, and hummingbirds will soon be moving south and the juncos will be moving back in. The fields of corn and soybean are beginning to turn brown and soon we will hear the loud combine and tractor engines crawling through the crops harvesting another years income.

Each season in Central Indiana is distinctive and defined by different types of work and activity. As the urgent summer heat and growing season mellows towards Autumn, I look forward to the cooler temperatures, the slower work load, and the pile of books growing next to my favorite reading chair.

Harvest blessings from Whimsical Moon Herb Farm.

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Pookie Poo peeking out from my bamboo garden cage.