After a decade long stint in the Southern United States, I’ve returned to the great Northern terrain of Vermont just in time for winter. My husband and I have purchased 20 acres and a tiny house and are playing the game of starting from scratch all over again. The first snowfall has coated the landscape and our garlic made it into the ground just in time to rest. This season of the year always finds my energy condensing back into my bones, bringing a heat into my core that was at one time stretched all the way to the sun. As I prepare myself for months of introspection and cabin fever, I can’t help but see this mirrored out into the farm organism on every level. In order to experience the immense expansion of Spring, the world must take a deep inhale and set all of our minds to dreaming.
This mostly open landscape is begging of us to introduce new ecology and stratify the environment for productivity and habitat. The land has been a heifer pasture for the last 35 years and boasts a soil to match. The ground was never too compacted by hooves or over foraged and a beautiful diversity of grasses and weeds carpet the pasture entirely. The 4 acres of woods show some signs of being a hang out for cows and some work and some time undisturbed will help bring the breath back into the ground. A small pond that almost went dry during the drought of late summer has filled back up with the relentless rains of October and an occasional duck can be found quietly holding space.
With this blank slate we find ourselves trying to choose a path to follow. We know we will grow vegetables and cut flowers like we have every year for some time now and Elliot has prepared some ground to do so. We know we want to integrate perennials into our farm organism and want plant in such a way that the landscape feels inspired by the design. The farm itself is a hill farm with our own perch resting right on top a massive ledge creating a flat terrace closest to the road. We have a small greenhouse to place before the snow gets deep and the ground freezes for the winter and will have laying hens arriving in February that will need somewhere to roost. Ruminants are sure to follow when the ground thaws as we seem to always have a cow and some sheep rotating through our system.
The tiny house itself brings a new element to the adventure for my small family. How to use space, what to keep and what to donate-we have been spending some time reducing our life down to smaller and smaller pieces. There is something absolutely liberating about removing clutter from your life. It is hard to imagine how many objects have made their way into your possession and how much energy each piece brings into your daily routine. To shed some of these histories, even some of the more nostalgic stories, can refine one’s experienced reality to a more purposeful way of being.
This process of elimination seems to benefit my mental health and spirit as the warmest place on the property is also reduced down to four small walls. I’ve spent the better part of 2018 running around looking for my mind without any success and it seems to have settled here on this land, hopeful for some time to reconnect before a new year and new madness ensues. We endured one of our hardest farming seasons to date and this time off from filling soil with seeds will be used to once again evaluate what brings us to this place of wanting to plant things and grow things and feed the people we love. As we age with this practice our goals are different. One thing that remains the same is the hope that what we bring to the landscape will sustain it and us and this creation will add to the energy of ecological harmony the natural world invites us to replicate.
When I close my eyes I see the farm painted in berries, vines, trees, and tender plants; each archetypal being humming a tune whose notes attract an order and entice the natural world into collaboration. I see animals, those who have trusted us with their care and their wild relatives, all heightening the sentience of our land and transforming our grasses and forages into stabilized fertility. My gratitude for my journey is never ending and being placed on this precious piece of Earth is a beautiful reminder of how far we’ve come. As the quiet cushion of snowfall and darkness slows down my body and fills my mind with thoughts, I remain eager to experience the natural and human community that will be built on this land from the dreams harvested of winter.
Darby Weaver has spent the last decade growing Biodynamic produce in the Southeast and teaching holistic and ecological methods to learners of all ages and backgrounds through articles, agriculture intensives, workshops, and lectures. She has recently moved to the Northeast with her husband to begin a new venture on 20 acres in Wolcott, Vermont.
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