Regenerative Agriculture

I am attending a free online summit called Eat4Earth. The interviews are sent to my email. I play a couple from my phone each day.

After just a couple days, Jason and I are inspired! We are learning so much about food, farming, and healing the planet. Here is a quick synopsis:

Regenerative Agriculture focuses on a healthy soil food web. By adding biology, the dirt has life and becomes soil.

Fungi and bacteria grow around the roots of plants. Those fungi and bacteria get carbohydrate carbon cakes from the plant. In return, the bacteria and fungi reach out into the ground collecting and storing nutrients for the plant. It’s a plant pantry!

Predators (worms, protozoa, nematodes, microarthropods and macroarthropods) eat from the pantry making it bioavailable to the plant.

This results in plants with more nutrient content, that are healthier and more resistant to pests and disease, while sequestering carbon from our atmosphere and retaining more water in the ground and atmosphere. Everybody wins when you work with the bounty that nature provides!

Different plants like different ratios of bacteria to fungi. Weeds grow in bacteria dominated ground. On grasslands, the ratio of bacteria to fungi should be around 50/50. In the forest, there’s even more fungi! A couple kinds of plants do not like fungi at all- brassicas like broccoli and cabbage.

We are so excited by all we are learning. We are also excited that the universe has already put some of these solutions on our path. The Mycorrhizal fungi that many speakers talked about is on its way here from High Country Gardens; when I ordered it, I didn’t even know what it was! We plan to inoculate some pollinator friendly ground cover plants with the fungi.

We paid the local worm farm a visit and brought home compost and worm castings for the lawn we are going to grow. We ordered a native grass seed called blue Gramma. Compost is full of nutrients but we still need biology to make them plant available. Luckily I saw some volunteer worms in the yard.

Register and listen to the Eat4Earth summit here and let’s discuss mycorrhizal fungi!

Worm box in a square foot garden

The documentary Kiss the Ground focuses on industrial agriculture. Livestock are separate from crops. Crops are not biodiverse. The dirt is torn up every year, releasing carbon into the atmosphere and leaving the ground suceptible to erosion and runoff. Have we learned anything since the dust bowl days?

Then fertilizers and pesticides are added. Chemicals mask depleted soils. We are building a tolerance to these chemicals and using more and more on our food each year.

Kiss the Ground does a great job of illustrating how rejoining hooves animals and their pasture are a key to maintaining balance and biodiversity. Cows and goats are walking microbe factories!

It also shows the importance of sequestering carbon from the atmosphere, through plants, into the earth. A byproduct of which is oxygen. This system not only takes carbon from the atmosphere, but also holds water- literally! You never till the ground thus preserving the magnificent structure of the soil. How nice for the biology (and my back.)

Worm pooping

We also watched the documentary Seaspiracy. It shows how the fishing industry is ignoring it’s negative impact on ocean life while playing up the consumer plastics issue. The majority of ocean trash is not straws– it’s fishing equipment and the majority of destruction is caused by industry practices like bycatch, trawling or overfishing. Solution? Maybe eat less fish.

CHAPTER 3: Goodbye Farm

Dear Nan Nan,
It HAS been a long time, but not 6 months! I’ve only been gone since June 22nd and arrived on the farm July 16th. Anyhow, it was good hear my grandmother’s voice over the phone, especially because I am so very sick! I had to laugh that you did not understand my initial blog entries. I went back to read them myself, and they were abstract indeed! My prose tend to wards word association a lot, breaking into little phrases that I string along, in the dialect and grammatical language of Case E. I hope there is something universal to be deciphered in my speech. I wish luck for all who try to decipher meaning from my scatterbrain notations!

How EVER, I AM trying the letter as a new format for entries (as you see). This way, my writing is more focused and flows naturally, as if I were speaking to someone in particular. I am curious to see if & how my style changes as I write to different people. The cool thing about this new way of writing is that these letters are not only directed at the person they are addressed to; they seek the consideration of a wide audience. I chose to kick off with a letter to my Nan Nan because (How could I not?) Grandmother is a universal familial relation, so others can identify – we all have one. It represents an ancient archetype of the fertile earth mother, from which we all are borne. Universal truths echo in sound waves through all of space & time (the same) instant. Infinite. The same message (Truth. Love.) is delivered by many messengers. So please dive in and enjoy! This is an open journal to you, an invitation for connection. Come. Reflect with me on this mirror pond. Read my letters as if they were just for you!

I am so sorry I have neglected writing for so long! At times I get preoccupied with my little existence & endeavors, forgetting to keep in touch! I do hope you will enjoy the garlic & onions; they are excellent staples in the kitchen! I expected to hear from you soon since I was on the farm, but since moving on, I will just have to suffice with sending post cards!


So week two at the farm was characterized by bliss, as I easily followed the flow of perpetual pleasure. But of course, things change and the cycle continued on into the “compliment” of being blissed: extreme suffering. First, Russell (the person I really connected with) left the farm. When I went to bed the first night of his absence the nighttime sounds were blaring! I was ultra aware of every crunch in the leaves & had crickets ringing in my ears. They filled the silence of my companion-less night.

I HAD been looking forward to having time to catch up on my writing. But I failed to assert what I wanted and (turns out) needed. Instead, I took all these new opportunities exploring neighboring farms, eat at the Mining Company and driving up Orleans Mountain. I ended up sleeping on the roof of a truck, parked in a dirt road on a canyon slope with no socks! I spent Sunday hot and bothered with a wicked fever.

I noticed that my crew-mates liked to STIR IT UP. Recently, their passive aggressive tendencies were directed at me. There was certainly a take-care-of-yourself approach to life on the farm, which did not emphasize empathy or communication. To dispel the resentment I felt, one morning I tried to clear the air. We were all settling into weeding asparagus and I spoke up, apologizing to everyone for my transgressions and for failing to communicate. At first, there was awkward (or surprised) silence. Then, the tension broke and was happy to receive a gentle ribbing from all around. It verified what I thought was going on and I was glad to dissipate some of the hard feelings.

Still, I fought an uphill battle when it came to one woman in particular. I became sensitive to her curt remarks and attempts to exclude me whenever possible. I told myself that she was begging for compassion, but had great difficulty rising above her distaste. Instead, I took it personal and escalated the negative energy with my own quips. All of these interactions were under the guise of friendly banter, which made me boil even more!

The real talk always took place behind a persons back; this much I knew from a couple weeks of work. When I got sick, it provided the perfect opportunity for the crew to speculate about me all day long, which may be why I felt increased resentment at this time. Shady Brady was my informant – confirming that this woman did not like me. I held onto this knowledge begrudgingly and it put me into a bad mood. I was glad he didn’t go into detail about what was being said, but still, had made myself sick and was going to learn the hard way.

I lie on the deck, sweating out my fever in agony and feeling nothing but resentment from everyone around me for (?) being so uselessly sick. I was avoided except the occasional, “How you feeling sick girl?” and oftentimes felt like a leper. When I ran into Von (owner & crew leader) and told him I was feeling sick, he responded by telling me to stay away from sick people and quickly disappeared!

I did nothing but think about escape routes all day. I missed Russ because he fed me (literally & emotionally). He had empathy. He genuinely cared. He would give the touch & attention & nourishment I desperately needed to heal. As things were, I felt very alone in the whole wide world. It was all up to me to climb out of the pit.

On the phone with you, it was funny to hear myself describe everyone in a nice neutral tone, as if all were well. I even brushed off my illness! I didn’t want to admit the reality of the situation. All these other energies and emotions swirl about between us. I rest in the knowing that the cycle must turn. All will be well at the appropriate time. Pray that I may be the seed of transformation that sparks a positive change within our microcosm in the woods. Envision this community blessed with a sense of wellness & abundance that is inclusive of each individual, so that we may work in joy and harmony with one another, truly grateful of the gifts that surround us daily.

All my love, blessed be,
Case

CHAPTER 2: Week 2: Farm Jive

By the end of the first week, many of the difficult physical adjustments are made: I’m starting to hum. I get insights into place: I live in squirrel town (come to find out). Morning & night there\’s this scratchin\’ scramblin\’ scurryin\’ – whoa – the rhythm of the squirrelly. We are just a hole in the hill, he\’s happenin\’ all around me, squirrel-motion mixed with the big, black-hooded jays (blue). I’m throwin\’ glances (gettin’ jumpy) when there’s just a rustle in the leaves!

We crack open a yellow watermelon to see how they are coming along. Munchin\’ on da grind-age! At lunch I walk down to my campsite – whoa – watermelon rinds on my doorstep! Who brought these here?? At first I thought it was a kind-of weird omen. Then I remembered that it was probably squirrelly. Ah ha ha! It\’s where I live. You so squirrelly! It explains why my very first basil bunch was critiqued, \”Little squirrelly. But nice!” Ha! Who knew I was under the squirrel influence the whole time! Make my bouquets on the extra squirrelly side – basil rose, sunflower. I appreciate that. Here\’s some Queen Anne\’s Lace. Yum.

Two squirrels are in a bar. One squirrel turns to the other and says, “I was so drunk last night, I f*#ked your mother.” The other squirrel turns to the first squirrel and says, “Dad! You’re drunk! It’s time to go home!” This happens to be the second question you get asked when you start working on the farm: do you know any jokes? And then they are exchanged. Do you know what to call cheese that isn\’t yours? NACHO CHEESE! (CHALLAH!)

There’s this pumpkin in the patch. This one special pumpkins. Yeah there\’s a lot of great pumpkins out there, but he – this one in particular pumpkin – is called Doctor Chubby. The name came up while we were all standing over the patch one day admiring the up and comers. PRO-duce! He was not just a Mister, no – DOCTOR Chubby is a name that inspires: crowning champ of the patch! Doc Chub & his relations are checked on most everyday: a couple here, some body there – grabbing an extra moment to peel back the foliage and eye him up. Good ol\’ Doc Chub! Pumpkin gets a lot of attention. Especially from Pat, who just so happens to be a pumpkin himself. Pat planted Doctor Chubby and all his relatives. He harvests the Chubbiest of the family to be crowned victors at the county fair. He’s got his eye on several for his birthday party in October too.

I think the whole thing is grand. You see, I’m a snap pea. I\’m snappy, I\’m quick, I\’m down. The first question when you work in the field is, “What kind of a vegetable are you?” Current crew hosts two pumpkins, iceberg, broccoli & brussell sprouts. Other vegetables visit, like last week we welcomed the spice of life, garlic to town! You just never know what kind of vegetable is gonna come down the way to hang out!

For now life is characterized by…
Cutting rosemary for dry,
Monotony bears down: one pops open.
By the black berries, a conversation begins…

I am bobbing in the sea, flowing in the rumble of waves! There is such fluidity to waking-dream life that it all goes effortlessly together in one rich (turbulent) flow. I work hard, feel strong & satisfied, eat A LOT of the freshest food on earth & sleep like a rock. Two naps a day! Great contentment. Great joy. Distractions are almost completely eliminated. I am very present. I share & amplify awareness – mirrors in the eyes of one an other. Libra breathes the bountiful beauty of Venus into shared space. Art has function and pancakes are in the oven! Life is good.

I frequently deja-dream. It is a moment that washes over me in waking life – so familiar. It’s as if you lived this moment once a long time before and it has just revisited you, with blessings, or it is a reminder that you are on your path because it seems so right to feel this sensation in the given situation. It never made sense in the dream, not until now, materialized before you, could you understand the perfection of the moment. Grace. Gratitude. It is a deep sensation of fruition & satisfaction. You are on the path! This is your personal omen. All is well.


In the fields I try to imagine how the fig trees
And basil leaves,
Busy themselves,
Through the night. They are
Constantly immersed,
In the grip of mother earth (ground down).
I want to be with them.

I am baptized by the Salmons cleansing currents:
Russell says this river is color of my eyes: Salmon River green.
Icy blue green translucence dancing over sandy stones.
In the slow swell of a deep channel,
I float free! What a satisfying act:
Bathing & floating with light glit-glit-glittering on the silvery surface.
Water rumbling by beneath…

Syncronicity surfacing…
The great sea god brings many strands,
For to weave.
First, be cleansed, be forgiven, be free!
The river’s melodic movement makes me see
It is IN MY HEART to make peace,
Let it float on, released! Welcome change.

In dream state: I levitate!
It is real enough in dreaming.
Enthusiasm propels me until I am floating on air!
The unbelievable becomes real.
I am lifted, lighter, especially in the morning, still groggy,
Laying hay on the hillside, putting the leeks to bed,
Free-floating in the sea of my own consciousness.

Every night on my way to bed I get side tracked by beauty of the sky.
There are so many stars here (this love has no ceiling).
The heavyweights are always out early.
They hold down the sky; define the time.
Mystique enraptures me.
Mystery has captured man since the start of all things.
As the full moon approaches, energy builds in our remote (stellar) community.

It is with the tides of the earth,
Although we do not always understand our (re)percussions.
Energy blossoms with the moon at its pinnacle;
A balance is struck. You find us hula hooping in joyful commune,
Hooting & hollerin’ in the light!
An animal instinct emerging from deep within?
Cycle wanes; the season’s change.
Happy & Humble on the Hillside

JOY BEAR

After toiling in the fields on any given day, the interns of the farm re-coop at our three-sided kitchen cabin on the hill. On this evening Leonna is cooking dinner while Russell and I are sitting around. He is a hefty gentleman who joins us, with curly grey hair & patchwork shorts, introduced as Lauren. We offer our new visitor a bite to eat, but he declines, instead preferring to pick his dinner in the orchard. As he goes off to gather food, Leonna informs us that Lauren is better known as Joy Bear (of the Rainbow Family). I laugh to myself: so far, Joy Bear’s scavenging is quite in character.


When Joy Bear returns, conversation quickly leads to the evening’s television programming: our ladies, 30 hens & Cluck Cluck the rooster. The box (coop) garnishes a lot of our attention (when we aren’t starring down the soil). Since it is nearing dark, Leonna suggests we start the nightly ritual of gathering all the ladies up and putting them to bed (in the coop). Joy Bear laughs heartily and insists that the hens will put themselves to bed before dark. He suggests we have an experiment to see if the ladies take care of themselves tonight. “The very worst that could happen is that we are chasing chickens around in the dark with our headlamps on,”Russ notes. I am optimistic (surprise). But Leonna is having none of it. She commences on our normal protocol as if there were no debate. Russ and I help in rounding them up (I think it is kind-of fun anyhow!)

Joy Bear follows us down the hill, already chuckling to himself about the show he is about to be treated to. No shortage of delight, Joy Bear stands by the pen, bracing himself on a post & booming the whole time! He bellows a great many jolly laughs at the crazy chicken chasing interns! I am impressed with his immense laughter. Whoa! Ha! Ha! Ha! While working the fields the next day, Joy Bear is a popular topic of conversation. Some scoff that he laughed right at us! How rude! How obnoxious! It is appropriate that we are so miffed, but I suspect a smile creeping across my face. I secretly relish Joy Bear’s irresistible jubilation. In the chicken coop, I had been laughing alongside him – on the inside, of course. And the very next night, after J. Bear departed, the ladies did indeed tuck themselves in.


*BEAR ATE MY SOAP!* STAY POSTED!!

MODERN MYTH & ANIMAL ALLIES

By speaking of the forces that dwell within us we bring them to life.

Caroline Casey, Making the Gods Work for You

So I’m down on the river bar in the afternoon taking a break from the farmer’s fields. I sit back on the sand looking over the river, relax and start to doze. I’m asleep for a bit, somewhere between dream state and only mildly awake, when, out of the blue, I feel this big wet sensation on my face: I’m being LICKED! I reflexively push away with my hand, sitting up & turning to see that I have rejected the advances of a cougar cub! The little one instinctively nips my hand in response to my abrupt rebuttal! I scramble up the hill, retrieve others and upon our return, we are graced with the sight of momma mountain lion leading her babe up the hill across the river. Thank goodness we didn’t have to meet her! I am full of gratitude for the mystical gift that youthful creature bestowed! For such an elusive entity, reaching out and touching a person like that must be a rare treat!


When I first came to the farm, Catherine and Russell took me down to the Salmon River for a dip. We all settled into the river bar, I took a quick skinny & was napping with my shade hat pulled down over the face (to protect from Cougar-Face) in an attempt to catch the last rays of warmth before the sun fell over the mountain ridge. All was quiet, until Catherine suddenly blared out, “BEAR.” I popped my hat up and was about to turn & look over my shoulder but there he was – black bear – sitting on the ridge right across the river from us. His nose was in the air. He stayed, sitting there by an evergreen for several minutes, sharing our company. I was charmed. What a magical greeting! Well, I thank you for the welcome! Before long black bear moseyed on, climbing the hill in his slow paced way. It was my first direct encounter with these animals, but I was left with the sense that their presence is deep – drenched – in peace.


Shady Brady (farm intern) was lucky in that he had the opportunity to co-habitate with our local black bear: his tent is pitched down by the river & nestled near a berry patch. Brady would start suddenly in the early morning hours, startled by something, which was then startled by him, taking a few steps with a gruff grunt. It was these steps which again startled Brady, but it seems that everyone stayed startled enough to keep moving on their own way! More often than not, the black bear presence is felt rather than encountered. It’s a brisk brush with a powerful but peaceful steward of this land.

One afternoon Shady enters our outdoor kitchen announcing bluntly, “Bear ate my soap.” I had to laugh! Ha! Ha! Ha! Bear ate my soap? Ha! “Tell me, dear Shady, just how did that happen?” I inquire jokingly. “Yeah, yeah,” he replies, “Everyone’s a skeptic, but seriously!”

It’s really quite simple. Draw your own conclusions. You are on the river bar. There are bear tracks on the beach approaching a cairn, which once marked the location of a bar of soap. And there are bear tracks down the beach, departing the scene. And yet, for some, this is not enough.

I ribbed Mr. Brady, “How do you know he ate it? That nice black bear may have just balanced it on his head & then hopped right into the river to lather up! I bet he\’s full of lavender scent right now and got a nice shiny coat to boot!” But Brady stuck with his story, “Just down the beach in the berry patch there was a little spittle on the ground. Bear spit-up.” Guess that bubbly block didn’t go down so well… But I wouldn’t speak too soon, because later that week I caught sight of black bear swimming over to our river bar. Back for more black bear? Since the “Bear ate my soap” incident, I suppose my imagination has run wild, at least, in dream states… Am I dreaming? I invited black bear into my sanctuary – literally welcoming him into my tent! My companion in the tent was skeptical that this was a good idea. Being wary of a big black bear in such close quarters is understandable – appropriate, even. But I was unyielding: I’m tryin’ a hang out with da bear! I’m down. I’m down! I encourage black bear again & again – come! Welcome! I unzip the tent for him. And he immediately blesses me with a wonderful greeting-hug-romp. We wrestled about playfully feeling each other out! Then, at the appropriate time, he exited and took his bear-pace over the hill and on his way. See? All is well.