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The Accidental Farmer

“He was glad that he liked the country undecorated, hard, and stripped of its finery. He had got down to the bare bones of it, and they were fine and strong and simple.”

– Kenneth Grahame, The Wind in the Willows

Now that a few frosts have left Stonegate “stripped of its finery”–its green, biomolecular skin turned to mush–the farm has begun a swift and certain journey towards oblivion.

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Anise Hyssop, along with other herbs and flowers, have been transformed into delicious organic teas and spices.

The lurking cold has crept into beds of greens, transforming tender leaves and stalks into slack ribbons of decay. Once-vibrant rows of cut flowers that persisted all season have been hung up and dried; Jezebels of seductive color forced to put on their veils.

SGF Nov. 13-6865The stable has been hung high with drying flowers.

It’s reassuring to see that the bees, despite their wildness, have done some good cognitive mapping of the property and beyond, know where the food and shelter is, and are now huddled in the walled domestic darkness of the hive, forming a winter clusters around their queens.

The chickens are spending more time cooped up, heading out occasionally to peck at fallen fruit and frozen bugs. On cold days–besides the wood smoke curling into the sky, or clouds of brittle leaves scattering about–they’re the only thing moving.

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Chickens, drumstick-deep in warm straw, are beginning to prep for winter.

November is post-mortem time. Time to sort through the pathology of what did or didn’t work, what grew well, what failed to deliver.  Seed packets are always as full of promise as they are seeds.

Flower and vegetable annuals live out a lifetime in a few months–birth, growth, decline, death. A nicely-framed physiological snapshot compared to us.

SGF Nov. 13-6909Celosia spicata ‘Flamingo Feather’ makes for beautiful dried bouquets.

Plants may not have consciousness as we know it, but they can tell us something deep about living; free from the existential burden of defining themselves, they just are.

We, on the other hand, are obsessed with self-definition–more than ever in a social-media world, where fretting about on-line likes, tweets and posts are a form of virtual existence and affirmation, and seem to give distorted meaning to it all (he says, writing a blog)

SGF Nov. 13-6955Hot peppers are being dried for their flaky seeds.

Just being used to be enough, to “tramp a perpetual journey,” as Whitman said. But sit in an airport, a bar or a café, or even walk down the street these days and you’ll see that everyone is somewhere else, no one is present.

Wherever we go, it seems, there we aren’t.

One thing farming asks of you, besides considerable patience and humility, is to be present, to be empirically engaged in the world around you. There’s no other way to do it. For me, this little farm keeps it real.  – Mb

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