Mischief, Mayhem, and Chaos on the Farm!

The three Furies (although furry, as well) Ichabod, Ozzy, and Piscus.

Yes, it has been a busy Autumn. Beside the usual fall chores around the homestead, we have acquired a few new residents to our farm. When Bella lost her sister, Pookie, a few months ago, she seemed inconsolable. Of course, I figured she needed a buddy. We visited our local animal shelter, and well….found a sweet little kitten. With two other siblings we just couldn’t separate.

A few weeks later, there was a knock at the door and two young ladies stood on my porch with a tiny black kitten. “Is this yours?”

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Ophelia. The little princess that rounds out the bunch.

As soon as she was placed on the floor, she claimed our home as hers. She immediately made her way to the food dish. The boys clamored around her and impatiently waited for her highness to finish eating. She licked her paws, cleaned her face, and promptly fell asleep in the dog’s bed.

The kittens grow daily, it seems, as they create chaos, mayhem, and mischief all throughout the house. Bella is fine, as long as they stay out of her way. She has taken a special liking, though, to the little princess, Ophelia.

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Bella, the matriarch of the bunch, seems nonplussed with the new additions. As long as they stay out of HER chair.

Early in August, we noticed a sign at our local Tractor Supply store. Fall chicks are here! We had already considered adding a few more chickens to our flock as we wanted to continue our small egg business next spring. I already had an idea of what breeds I would like to try, and we were happy with the chicks available. We came home with six new additions.

We purchased 3 Silver Wyandottes (or so we thought!), 1 Black Austrolorp, and 2 Brown Isas. Good future egg layers with sweet temperaments.

As the chickens quickly matured, we realized that our Silver Wyandottes were displaying unusual feather manifestations on the top of their little heads. After considerable research (thank you Google), I discovered our Silver Wyandottes were not what they seemed.

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They are actually, ahem, Silver Polish chickens. The ‘punk rockers’ of the chicken world.

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This is what our chickens will eventually grow up to look like. (Image from mypetchicken.com)

Not exactly what I originally had in mind, but I laugh every time I go out to their chicken coop to attend to them. They are flighty, erratic birds with friendly dispositions when they settle down. They lay white eggs, instead of my favorite brown eggs, and are not known to be as productive of layers as I had hoped, but they certainly do bring a particular ‘Whimsy’ to our farm.

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The young pullets graduating to their new home.

So, Whimsical Moon Farm continues to grow with each season. Signs of Autumn surround us as the raised garden beds slowly get cleaned out and orange and red leaves fall from our maple and locust trees around the property. Mornings are cool and misty and the days grow shorter and less intense.

A fat, pumpkin colored spider, bumblebee on a late Echinacea bloom, and Mosey inspecting newly harvested corn field.

Autumn has always been my favorite season of the year. As always, I look forward to the cooler weather, sitting around the fire pit drinking hot cocoa of an evening, and finding quiet, less frenzied moments to curl up with good books and write in my journal.

Here’s to a Whimsical Moon Farm Autumn season.

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Autumn, ready for Autumn.

Take a peek at our soaps! Whimsical Moon Farm

 

 

 

Kayla on the Farm!

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This is Kayla on the Farm!

Kayla was born 28 years ago. She spent the beginning of her tiny life at Doernbecher Children’s Hospital at OHSU, Portland, Oregon. Many of those weeks were in the Neonatal Intensive Care Center.

The specialists soon determined that her ‘floppy baby syndrome’ would become a diagnosis of Myotonic Dystrophy (a muscle disease) along with several developmental delayments. It was a momentous occasion when they moved her onto the main infant’s floor. Many, many prayers were answered when we were actually allowed to bring her home.

As she grew into toddler-hood, her delayments became more pronounced and Obsessive/Compulsive Disorder, learning disabilities, and several anxiety disorders were treated with medications and specialized therapies. Several years later, as she matured and grew into ‘puberty’, she had a major break-down and was again hospitalized for several weeks. She was diagnosed with psychotic schizophrenia along with her numerous anxieties and her OCD. Add to that a diagnosis of Type ll Diabetes.

I am telling her story because Kayla is my daughter. Not only am I her mom, but now I am also her guardian and her full-time caregiver. Moving Kayla to the farm was not a decision I took lightly. This is a young woman with the emotional and mental IQ of a nine or ten year old. Kayla believes in fairies, dragons, Santa Claus, and the Easter Bunny.  I should know. She ‘chats’ with them often. She is obsessed with puppies, kittens, and unicorns. And Captain Jack Sparrow. (OH, wait! That’s me!!)

Kayla holding a brand new chick, two of her farm cats (Bella and Pookie), a tiny toad, fledging robins about to test their wings, and a young Screech owlet.

I chose to move Kayla and myself to this farm for several reasons. The main reason was to allow her the experience of raising animals and growing gardens. I wanted her to experience the changing of the seasons, along with the abundance and the diminishment that goes along with those cycles. Lots of fresh air, exploration, and new adventures have provided her many opportunities to get ‘out of her head’ and experience a more visceral, hands-on daily life. Moment by moment.

The fluffy two day old chicks grew into scrappy chickens!

Kayla helped us pick out our six chicks from the nearby Rural King last March and participated in raising them into the ‘divine ladies’ they are today. She checks for eggs daily and she never ceases to be amazed every time she finds an egg. Or five. She was also actively involved when we lost one of our hens to a deformed crop that suddenly caused the hen to convulse and die. We were sad and we mourned our chicken. It was both an experience of the joy of life and the grief of death.

Farm kittens in a basket, going outside for the first time, stretched out on the comfie chair, smiling, and catching the sunshine on a straw bale.

One of the things Kayla really, really wanted was a cat. We had to leave her cat, Zoe, behind with her grandma and grandpa when we moved. She missed her companion. Zoe was just a little too old and a little too settled to be bothered with being packed in a crate and flown clear across the country. I continued to put Kayla off, promising her when we were more settled on the farm we would begin to look for a cat. She wished and prayed for that cat often. Well, all the time!

Needless to say, she was beyond thrilled when I discovered  four fluffy kittens snuggled behind some old boxes in the shed early last February. It was a bitterly cold morning with several inches of snow on the ground, of course they needed to be ‘rescued’!  Pookie, Bella, Sweetums, and Whimsy soon became active members of our farm family. Mosey, the St. Bernard, was beside himself. The Chihuahuas scoffed and went about their little duties. Kayla was delighted. She reminds me often that prayers are answered!

Kayla’s creative ‘fairy’ garden, her specialty: strawberries, planting seedlings, fresh vegetables for our salad.

Kayla loves to help me plant seedlings in the garden and watch them as they mature into delicious salads on her dinner plate. She is not a big fan of the weeding process, though. Neither am I. But we get it done and then we enjoy the bounty.

Kayla loves to eat and she loves all of her vegetables and her fruits, but her all time favorite thing is munching sun ripened strawberries right off the vine. She volunteered to grow our strawberries. We have several large pots that sit on the front porch and she is eager when the season becomes warm and we can clear the straw mulch and look for the first tiny leaves. Last Winter was harsh and we had to replace many of the plants, but Kayla enjoys choosing the variety she will grow. As the season progresses and tiny flowers blossom into hard green fruits, she checks her ‘crop’ daily looking for that first blush of pink, then red. She also has no problem volunteering to taste the new strawberries and make sure they are yummy. Somehow, they are always yummy!

Kayla pulled the winning name for our Whimsical Moon Farm gift soap give-away, a big chopped salad, handcrafted items for the cottage business, a Blue Jay at the feeder, the first daffodils of spring, baby bunny in the back yard.

Kayla enjoys participating in all aspects of running the farm and growing our hand-crafted soap business. Chopping vegetables for one of our favorite farm salad dinners, testing a new fragrance for a batch of soap, and discovering what just might be outside her kitchen door are many of her daily amusements.

She does have several farm responsibilities besides gathering eggs and growing strawberries in the summer. She keeps her bedroom picked up and her bed made. She helps with laundry and puts her own clothes away. Plus, after a blustery wind, there is always yard pick-up which usually involves gathering broken locust tree limbs and building the burn pile. She is in charge of small fallen limbs.

She shares in the delight of discovering the first daffodils as they bloom and identifying the wild birds as they come to the feeders. As her focus moves from her internal landscape to what is right in her backyard, she is thrilled when she notices a baby bunny poking around near the compost. Or the bright colors of the resident blue jays or male cardinals.

How amazing it is for me to watch my daughter blossom right here on the farm. Beyond all the therapy appointments, psychiatric evaluations, blood glucose maintenance, and morning and evening medications, there is a young woman who is a part of my heart and my soul. If I ever had any qualms (okay, I had many) about bringing Kayla to this farm, they have long ago been diminished. I honestly believe divine inspiration brought us to this place. Kayla thrives!

Kayla, Kellen, Chelsie, and I, Grandma and Grandpa, Mindy and Mosey.

I want to thank my folks, Don and Loberta May (grandma and grandpa), as well as my daughter, Chelsie Johnson, and my son, Kellen New for being the most supportive, loving, and kind family Kayla and I could ever ask for.

Also, a big thank you to my farm partner-in-crime, Mindy Hall.

Please feel free to check out our hand-crafted herbal soaps grown and created right here on Whimsical Moon Farm.

 

Winter on the Farm!

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The snow plow moving Winter out of East Cornfield, Indiana.

Winter has descended upon Whimsical Moon Farm. The skies can change from gray to baby blue then gray again in a slight moment. The snow falls in tiny sparkling ice chips or fat fluffy flakes and I find myself moving through the chilly day determined to get from one farm chore to the next in the most expedient manner. The temperature usually hovers in the teens and muck boots, wool gloves, and thick layers are now the norm. My baseball cap has been replaced with a heavy knitted cap pulled down over my ears. My breath comes in silvery puffs and my glasses fog up as soon as I come back inside. Yes, Old Man Winter has made himself at home once again.

We have the chicken coop fortified with straw bales blocking the wind and holding in some of the heat produced by a warming heat pad hidden under the straw on the main floor. A heated water feeder keeps the chickens’ water flowing, but there have been a couple mornings I have had to scrape a rim of ice off the edge of the container.

Straw bales encircle the chicken coop. The girls peek out at me from their opened attic.

Neither of our Chihuahuas nor the farm cats want anything to do with the snow and frigid temperatures, but one of our beasts is totally in his element. Mosey, the St. Bernard, loves the snow. In fact, he often begs and whines to romp outside so he can plow through the drifts and sniff every little scent. He is certain the snow is here just for him as he claims every pristine area with his snuffling and galloping footprints.

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Mosey loves, loves the snow!

Although the Winter season has never been one of my favorite times of the year, I do appreciate the excuse to bake home-made bread and keep hearty soup warming on the stove for a quick bowl. The days are shorter lending themselves to getting chores done fast and then hunkering down with that good book I’ve been wanting to read. Piping hot chocolate steaming on the table next to me, a warm blanket tucked around my legs, and shivering Chihuahuas burrowed underneath.

Garden seed catalogs come in the mail regularly and I find myself dreaming of that new flower bed next spring and more raised beds closer to the house. I know, I still have a long cold slog ahead of me, but those seed catalogs can be a life-line to somebody that appreciates warmer days and abundantly bursting gardens.

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The Winter sunsets are remarkably beautiful even with the bare trees accenting them.

I try to greet each morning on the farm with gratitude. Winter provides opportunities to count different blessings as I appreciate a toasty warm home, the messy pile of books next to my futon for my reading pleasure, internet when it is actually working (unfortunately we can only get satellite here on the farm. Ugh!), hot coffee percolating on the stove, and rousing board games on the kitchen table with my daughter Kayla. She is a Candy Land maniac beating me 3 out of 4 games regularly.

I do look forward to Spring, but right now Winter has us in his grasp and we will continue to snuggle with puppies and stay cozy warm.

Hope you have a toasty warm Winter!

Please check out our handcrafted herbal soaps at Whimsicalmoonfarm.com

OH! You’re One of Those Farmers!

 

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Harriet greeting the morning, “I’m a farmer!”

So, there I was standing in line at the local Tractor Supply store, my cart loaded down with a 50 pound bag of Layer Pellets, a 50 pound bag of Scratch Grains, a small bottle of liquid wormer for the farm cats, and a diet cherry cola.

“Are you a farmer?”

I turned around and there sat a bright-eyed, smiling little girl in the basket of a shopping cart. Her mom was impatiently paging through last months issue of Capper’s magazine. “Don’t bother the lady, Cindy Lou.”

“Well, yes I am,” I told Cindy Lou and winked at her as I turned back into the line.

“Do you grow lots of corn like my pop-pop?” Cindy Lou asked.

I turned again and smiled at this darling girl. “No. I grow vegetables and herbs for the farmer’s market and my family, and I have a small flock of laying hens.”

I heard Cindy Lou’s mom snort from behind her magazine as she mumbled “oh, one of those farmers.”

“Next please,” the cashier said. I really wanted to ask Cindy Lou’s mom what she meant, but it was my turn to check out. I pushed my cart up to the register and moved the heavy bags around so the cashier could scan them. By the time I was finished paying for my items, Cindy Lou and her mom had already moved to a different register and I needed to get out of the way for the next customer.

By the time I got back to the farm, I had worked myself into a dither. What did Cindy Lou’s mom possibly mean with her snorting comment? Did I own or lease 250-300+ acres of land and plant it in agri-corn and soybean subsidized by government programs and supplemented by herbicides and pesticides? No. My tiny farm sits on 4+ acres right smack dab in the middle of those vast corn fields and I grow vegetables and herbs. I prefer not to use chemicals but rely on permaculture techniques, crop rotation, and just plain weeding and observation. Did that make me one of those farmers?

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One of many raised vegetable beds.

I continued to consider my position as a farmer. What are the requirements and standards? Did I have to be raised on a generational farm to call myself a farmer? If so, I was again out of luck. I grew up in a small mill town on the banks of the Columbia river in Washington state. I grew a scrappy little herb garden in my mom’s old iris bed. I did want to grow up to be a farmer, though.

 

SONY DSC              The Columbia River gorge as seen from the Vista House near Corbett, OR.

How did I decide to call myself a farmer?

Well, I roll myself out of bed each morning at the (ass) crack of dawn with several of my chores staring me in the face. Mosey, the St. Bernard licks my hand while the two Chihuahuas, Winter and Autumn dance around my feet, eagerly waiting to be fed. The cats need to be let outside as they chase each other from one end of the house to the other, and I must put a pot of coffee on the stove. Strong (fair-trade) coffee just makes sense on the farm. For me, it’s a necessity, not just a fancy.

The mornings are cold now and I have to make sure the chicken’s water isn’t frozen. I grab a couple scoops of layer pellets and grain scratch to toss in their bowl, and I gabble and cluck at the chickens as I clean their nest box and check for eggs.

During the summer time, I try to get my garden and outdoor chores completed early  in the morning while the temperatures are moderate. Now that Winter is knocking at my door, I still try to get as much done in the morning as I can so I can get back into my toasty kitchen and determine what needs to be done for the rest of the day.

As one of those farmers, I have learned how to tolerate dirt under my nails, random chicken feathers stuck in my hair, and ‘farm fresh’ as my new favorite fragrance. Work gloves are my go-to accessory and muck boots and garden clogs now sit  forefront in my closet while the designer heels and loafers are piled way in the back gathering dust. Heavy duty Carhartt pants and t-shirts or flannel shirts round out the ensemble topped with a baseball cap; my hair pulled in a long pony-tail sticking out the back.

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Dusk on the farm.

More importantly, being one of those farmers isn’t about what I can take from the land, but what I can give back. How can I make this tiny piece of earth a better place than it was before I began calling it my farm?

I have chosen not to use herbicides or pesticides on the land, but choose to restore the earth with compost and manure, cover-crops, and vermiculture (earth worms). I plant only heirloom and traditional (open-pollinated seeds) so I can both save the seeds for next year’s gardens and be assured that I am not eating genetically modified organisms. I consider rebuilding the soil on the farm just as important as feeding my family and my animals.

I grow a variety of different types of vegetables, herbs, and even flowers in my gardens as I follow a permaculture system of maintaining diversity and building miniature eco-systems in each bed. This means I try to create habitats for the birds, beneficial bugs, and butterflies to help me sustain a healthy, co-operative farm. With permaculture I tend to plant my seedlings closer together so that as they grow they create a canopy that will reduce evaporation and block the weeds. (Generally.) I rotate my crops from season to season to maintain healthy soil and hopefully fool the invasive insects into thinking dinner is no longer available here. Plus, I grow many different types of crops in the same place. For instance, I have learned that I can grow sweet corn with pole beans and squash in the same bed. As the corn grows taller, the pole beans grow along the corn stock and the squash with its broad leaves ramble around the base of the plants which again hinder weed growth and reduces water evaporation. This technique is often called planting ‘the three sisters’ and is credited to our Native American elders.

As I focus on what I can do to create a healthier farm, I attempt to maintain mindful consumption and conservation. Waste is such a huge issue for me and I find myself not only recycling every little thing that I can, but trying to figure out other uses for items that would ordinarily be tossed in land-fills. Admittedly, this is not always possible to do, but I limit my purchases of items that I realize will end up being tossed and try to use things to their maximum output. If I must throw it away, I want it to be as small, used up, and compact as it can be.

As I work towards a simpler lifestyle, I have found so much stuff that no longer benefits me. As I decide what needs to go I always try to ask around to see if somebody else could use it. If not, I pass it on to Goodwill or one of the many ministries at the local church.  When contemplating a purchase, I spend time determining if this is an absolute necessity or just a passing whim. I have come to realize that each purchase I make has an impact on the planet. Will my money benefit or diminish resources on this tiny piece of earth I leave for the next generation?

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Wildflowers growing in our barn lot.

I have found that this farm has helped me to reconnect with the land. It has challenged me to learn new skills and to create a more socially responsible lifestyle. Whimsical Moon Farm has pushed me to be more creative and passionate about what I value and how I display those values to my family, friends, and community. I am absolutely doing what I love while I live in alignment with nature and the seasons. If this makes me one of those farmers, than I embrace that calling wholeheartedly.

 

Please feel free to check out our new Whimsical Moon Farm website featuring hand-crafted herbal soaps and products crafted right here on this farm.

Whimsicalmoonfarm.com

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Soul Cozy!

 

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    Cozy! Fluffy socks, flannel pajamas, a good book, and comfy chair.

There are times in our daily lives when we need to remember how to relax and just do cozy. Maybe it was a rough day at the office or the plant or on the farm, or a child woke up with a fever. Maybe your bad dog just piddled on your favorite rug, or the farmer next door loudly rolls into your yard from the cornfield with a combine spewing black smoke and wants to borrow your garden hose (true story). These are moments that require the practice of what I call soul cozy.

Starting a small farm from the dirt up, raising a special needs adult fairy child, and creating a cottage business from scratch has provided me many opportunities to breathe, let go of expectations, and just say, “okay, I surrender”. I have developed several options that I may choose from when I desire to refuel and nourish my soul. I would like to share some of my favorite soul cozies with you.

Fresh baked black raspberry pie, a hot mug of cocoa, a hearty bowl of potato soup.

I have found when I am troubled or frustrated getting in the kitchen and cooking or baking helps me to unwind and focus on simpler things. Whether it is something as elaborate as a home-baked black raspberry pie or as simple as warming up a mug of hot cocoa with whipped cream on top, the act of measuring, stirring, preparing, and then enjoying tasty food is a fulfilling soul cozy.

I believe a thick, hearty soup contains more than just vegetables, stock, meat/and or bacon, and cream. (Yes, I did say bacon!) For me, soup is the perfect accompaniment to warming the soul and rebooting my attitude. It possesses nourishment, many good memories, and can be easily shared with family and friends who also may be in need of a good soul cozy.  Throw in freshly baked yeast rolls and you have the perfect soul food.

Autumn snuggled in her blankie, Winter looks for loves, Mosey cozy on his couch, Sweetums and Bella Boo are relaxed and comfy.

Animals fully understand the concept of cozy and comfy. I have found I can learn a lot from my dogs and cats in both the easy attitude and the many forms that soul cozy can take. It seems my pets have a built-in soul radar that knows when I need a rub on the leg and a loud purr, or a big head in my lap to pet, or a puppy who will wiggle under the blanket and snuggle while I read. Animals are soul cozy in action.

Simple rituals like lighting a fragrant candle, picking up a favorite book of inspiration, or just sitting on the porch for a moment and taking a deep breath, often help me soften my attitude and count my blessings. Gratitude is my favorite soul cozy. I try to practice it often.

What do you do when you are in need of a good soul cozy? I would love to hear about them. I hope you are enjoying many whimsical blessings and moments of soul cozy.

Potato soup picture courtesy of http://www.happybellyfoodie.com

 

 

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.

 

 

 

The Pulse of our Farm

 

“Those who dwell among the beauties and mysteries of the earth are never alone or weary of life.”  –Rachel Carson

I recently realized that we have been living and working on our farm for just over a year now. Fourteen months, thereabouts. And as I look back on this past year, I find that I have learned how to accept and work with the rhythm of the seasons and this land.

I have learned how to watch the clouds move across the vast sky, how to feel the differences in the wind, and how to smell the air for moisture or electricity.  Yes, you can smell a thunderstorm as it marches its way across the fields, with low rumbles and crackles of lightning. Our chickens know even before I do that a storm is coming as they make their way to the coop attic, they cluck softly and move closer together.

I have learned how to watch the methodical movements of tractors and plows as the farmers begin preparing the fields for corn and soybean in early spring. I wait and watch for the first bursts of grass-like shoots as the corn pokes through the dirt in their gently curving rows and often check their height as the corn grows quickly in the hot sun. When I notice the first combine (reaper/thresher) tediously make its way down our narrow country road, I know that summer is coming to an end and it is time to harvest.

It won’t be long before the air takes on a crispness like that first taste of fresh-pressed apple cider and the sun light mellows and softens. Pumpkins, nuts, and pears replace the berries, greens, and zucchini at the farmer’s market and I find myself wearing socks and sweaters again. (Barefoot or clogs is my normal footwear during the summer.) The frantic buzz of summer on the farm slows and outside chores reflect the quiet of the gardens and the calm preparations for winter.

The first few snowflakes trigger excitement and childlike glee (yes, I admit to crazy giggling when it first snows) as we scurry around the farm tightening doors and latches, turning over the last of the dried vegetable stalks, and covering the compost pile. We check the seals on the windows of this old farmhouse and make sure the propane tank is full for what I now know will be a long winter season. My pile of books next to my favorite reading chair grows almost as tall as my favorite lavender bush and I check my supply of herbal teas and soup stock. Time to hunker down for the season and nest.

Even though it is now a warm, muggy evening in July, I reflect on the cycles of this farm and find myself feeling a sense of gratitude and comfort in fitting in with the natural rhythm here. I watch Sweetums, one of our farm cats, stalking a lightning bug and savor the creamy, tartly sweet black raspberry ice-cream we churned from berries Mindy picked around the edge of our property. Mosey, our St. Bernard proudly guards his newly found tree limb he has been dragging around the yard, and I prop my garden feet on a stool as I relax and savor the calm.

“The ultimate goal of farming is not the growing of crops, but the cultivation and perfection of the human being.”  –Masanabu Fukuoka