Thursday, April 26, 2012

Death comes for the Rototiller............. a read-aloud ballad

While the rabbit built a nest
of fuzzy downy fur
to birth her babies there, hay-hidden from the world...we plunged into the bowels of the heavy heated greenhouse to pull 300 Bok Choi from the nursery to the field.
The rototiller sputtered, it hacked and spit and nuttered while the horses stood a-munching
sweet grass long and tall
Yes the rototiller sputtered and eventually it muttered midst the onions with their arms a-raised jumping up in green alarm
"I'm done for and I'm dying, the doctor you must
The walking plow watched on while we dragged the dying body cross the rows and rows of onions with their flags a-waving strong. And with quiet concentration it sat beaming useful goodness and a silent steady readiness in a motor-world gone wrong.

The oil of Saudi Arabia spilled full bleeding to the earth, as the plop of dropping droppings smooshed beneath the fjord horse hoof. The farmers wrestled wrenches, swore at screws, and mis-directions....till the gentle breeze and kitten sneeze spoke volumes in their sweetness and the slow and steady rythmn of the horse and plow and farmer
cross the broadbacked field of Springtime came a-springing to the mind.
So we harnassed and we hitched, snap of leather, clattering brass
and the horses bound for glory left behind their snack of grass...
And the discovery of the SINGLE horse
pulling straight and on her own
was a balm and boon
that Bok Choi day when 300
(& more) found home.

Monday, April 23, 2012

A Day in the Life

With John Lennon’s voice ringing in my ears “I read the news today. Oh boy.” I picked up Thursday's paper, curious to see what the rest of the world was up to while we wiled away the hours in our fields. Somewhere in the midst of “Norway’s mass-killer” demanding the death penalty, the upcoming release from prison of the Minnesota man who counciled two people to their death via online chats, the secret service’s dalliance with prostitutes in Columbia, and photos of GIs posing with corpses in Afghanistan, there was a photograph of a young girl, arms outstretched, head erect, gaze unencumbered, yet earnest, as she created one of the many graceful lines of ballet’s porte bras. Accompanying this alarmingly innocent and beautiful picture* was her small little story. Small because it contained within it little more than her family’s love for her, and her adoption from the Ukraine. And because the core of the story was one single sentence: “When I dance my heart rejoices, I am floating; I am a bird in song, and there is a feeling I cannot describe.” No International policy or probation hearing or presidential statement will be affected by Svitlana’s story. But I have little doubt that it is this same dogged pursuit of Art that will be the saving of ourselves, as we wade daily through the mire that is politics, posturing, pandering, and all the countless other soft villainies that so often make up adult life.
I think about the image our farming makes on the canvas of our corner of Marine on St. Croix. As May approaches you can start to see the scratchings of our bold plans and imaginings...The rippled back of the land created by hilling potatoes, the swaths of green pasture eaten down from waste-high brush by the ruminants. On our little corner it often times feels like performance art as the after-work crowd slows to glance over at us in the field. Bashful, we’re caught with the tools of trade in hand: and they are just garden rakes which we grip as we watch the neighbor and his huge tractor roll by with a giant multi-disc/harrow combination implement attached. At times I wonder what kind of play we appear to be performing…the tragedy? The comedy? Our neighbors, by now, know as well as we do that the answer will change given the new circumstances, weather, and tasks of each new day. The newspaper reminds me that I would rather spend hours in that field, over those potatoes, than have a moment to spare out their in world-at-large. Not because I hate that world. But because I love it too much to let the best things about it die.
Art is in the constant process of cajoling the best and the worst out of man. The best to remind him of what’s higher, what’s beyond, so that he will reach and stretch to his full capacity and find himself keeping company with the angels…the worst to purge him of the emotional strain of being a human being. Farming’s like that too. It pulls the best and worst work out of a man…and leaves him with the slap-happy realization that after all, he ISN’t God. But the best farming is seeing the poem in manure pile, and the song in the hay-field. The best farming makes us float, a bird in song, giving us a feeling we cannot describe”. The best farming isn’t old news. It isn’t news at all. It’s art.

*photo credit of Svitlan Poole: Pioneer Press, Jean Pieri

Sign up for Farm to Table Cooking Class in Stillwater!

We will be joining Suzanne Schilling for a "Farm to Table: Meet the Farmer" cooking class at the lovely and tempting CHEF's Gallery August 15th 6-9

Suzanne will be using ingredients sourced from Little Flower Farm to prepare:

Swiss Chard Tart;

Mixed Green Salad with Chevre,

Carmelized Pine Nuts, Raspberries and a Blackberry Vinaigrette;

Herb Crusted Roasted Broiler Chicken with Balsamic Glaze and Creamy Polenta; Seasonal Summer Vegetables Saute' and Honey Mint Frozen Goat's Milk Yogurt with Melba Sauce

Class fee: $60

For more info go to

Monday, April 16, 2012

Love and Bees-Ship

Spring is such a state of constant flux. One minute the honeybee and her delicate being and barely noticed herculean efforts render you an awkward giant, clumsily striding about feeding out hay, moving flats, and hilling potatoes. The next, a cold front creeps over the entire farm, like a menacing white arm of destruction, bringing with it charcoaled clouds of rain and snow, and the massiveness of the weather dwarves you in the wind, as you stand powerless to confront it, over the 1600 ft of newly transplanted lettuces, early cabbages, greens, and kale in the field.

But there will be a Bee. She will buzz by you, on a seeming errand of inspiration, or you will find her, strangely, settled on a flat of Red Russian Kale. One arrested glance upon this tiny livestock, that fuzzy thorax, those little legs laden with pollen to bring back to hive...and you will take heart.

The honey bee brings everything sharply into focus. Standing on the spot where you saw one of them, your new and antenaed farming partner, brought here in the hopes of a doubled crop...suddenly your vision of the world telescopes, and the tiny blossoms in the canopy of the ordinary tree over there you never noticed before takes on monumental importance. Even the first dandilions are welcomed, as having within them an almost sacred dignity. The girls, who cannot resist their first hand-picked bouquets toss them, in homage, and homecoming gift, near the hive's entrances.

The heart of the bee must be very small...but who can but marvel at her, as she works tirelessly and selflessly for the common good of the hive, over and above her own individual good.

Hiving the pre-ordered packages of bees was something of an adventure. You have to hurdle all the childhood phobias long fostered, and the nurtured caution. You keep lifting up one pant leg, certain that a bee has gotten under your cuff and is crawling up your leg. When the winged creatures alight all over you, and crawl about exploring your gloves, the tag on your t-shirt, your arm, you instantly react with shouts of suspicion…they’re going to attack you! But no, they are curious, is all. The queen has not been released from her cage, they hav e nothing to protect. No eggs, no larva, no royal jelly, no honey. The lack of a full scale suit early on, has made us slow in our movements, a gentle mutual introduction between our bees and us. Soon fascination overtakes fear and trembling, and gently, you lift the queen bee and her attendents in their Benton cage out of the package. She has been amongst the other bees for 3 days, in order that they accustom themselves to her phereomones, and accept her. The cork is removed from the end of her cage revealing a piece of candy, which the bees will chew through to release her. This is the stuff of all those Douglass Fairbanks movies, in miniature.
Her entire life is a selfless course of serving the hive. She will die working. Bees will change their work according to the manner they are received at the hive. If the bees carrying water are received more quickly than the ones waiting to enter carrying pollen, they do not “throw down their bags” and exasperatedly exclaim “Well, you told me to pick up some food!” But they patiently wait to be received, and then fly off again for the more needed water. Their unity and longevity is a direct result of their loyalty to their queen, who’s pheromones they transfer to eachother as they surround her and lick and groom her.

You take bee's heart as you eye the storm.

It is a small portion of solidity, no bigger than a cabbage seed...but the ember of it is enough to light a small fire of industry within you, and like an ant you crawl about stretching row covers over the land, you are tiny and insignificant in hope, a tiny seedling grows within you, and the snow slowly fades into rain, which receeds into drizzle, which is eaten up in half-sun...

3 years ago we sold my wedding jewelery to help launch our farm. It has been a decision we never regretted, as diamonds have proved viable seeds of rented pastures and a foothold on the land. But in their place, Shane placed a simple Claddagh Ring of white gold. The Claddagh's crowned heart held by two hands symbolizes Love, Loyalty, and Friendship.

The more we learn about our newest and tiniest of livestock, we realize that the symbolism could more simply be put as: "Love and Bees-ship".

It is the tiny and consistent acts of self-lessness that make for sweet reward as a harvest in the field, the hive, and in a life.

Be like the Bee. That's what we mutter to ourselves as we put the garden in 400 ft at a time. Be like the Bee.