The long awaited spring semester is here! As we launch into new things, there will be so much noise around us, the noises of things creaking and popping and being set into motion. In the tumult, don’t forget to listen to the silence. It is what most strikes wilderness revelers when they get away from it all, the absence of noise, the eerie quiet of the natural world. It’s what makes us whip our heads around if we hear rustling in the bushes or leaves crunching nearby. Somewhere along the way we filled the world with so much noise that we forgot the silence. But we don’t have to lose ourselves in a forest to hear it. It is there, beneath the sound of clicking keyboards and beeping phones and rushing cars. It lies quietly behind the rustling of leaves and the crunch of footsteps on mulch. It is the default state of it all, and it’s always there, dormant, everywhere, unheard and unknown. It’s even there in your own mind, underlying your every thought, and what peace we can find by indulging it. This week at the farm we’ll be busy making noise, and making things, as beginnings take form once again:
Post Holiday Wreath-Making: Wednesday 4:30pm at the West Farm
DO YOU ALREADY MISS THE HOLIDAYS? This is your chance to be in the spirit and take some celebration home with you. Come on down to the farm and make a wreath for yourself so it can be a holiday all semester. It is very, very easy to do! We’ll be using home grown fragrant herb branches so your wreath will perfume your room with aromas of sage, rosemary, lavender, or whatever your heart desires. No previous crafting afflictions necessary. Bring a wire clothes hanger and RSVP here.
Volunteer Hours: Saturday 10-12pm at the Farm
And what a beautiful day it will be! Come on out and get your hands dirty.
Growing Home Water-themed Potluck: Saturday starting at 3pm in Hahn 101
This week featuring a potluck! Water is the foundation of life, yet each year Los Angeles pours millions and millions of gallon of pure rainwater down the drain. How can that water be captured, stored and used? How can we recycle used water? Melanie Winters, director of the non-profit coalition WATER LA will show us how she uses Urban Acupuncture to restore ecosystems and grow food with the right water moves. Sign up here. For Pomona College students, enter the promotional code “pomegranate” to access your free ticket.
It has rained once again! In the next couple of days you will see little mushrooms heads and weed seeds sprouting, trees sighing and dripping down onto hard concrete. Look closely! It is easy to be awash with the magnificence of the natural world at the foot of a majestic mountain range or at the edge of the Grand Canyon. It is easy to be in awe of this planet’s creations watching a rainbow fish in an aquarium tank or swaying in the hammock at the farm looking up at rustling treetops. But there are more ways this magic is manifested, and most don’t catch our attention every day. Perhaps the greatest miracle of all is not a sublime waterfall or a preening peacock but that one blade of grass that peeps in between concrete, cell by cell fighting the heavy metals and hard surfaces to give itself life, asserting its presence in a world that was not made for plants. Perhaps the most awe inspiring beings aren’t massive sequoias but the weeds that call poor soil their home and give forgotten bare ground a blanket of green to dress it on cold nights, tenacious weeds that brighten the world with blooms never intended by human hands, stubborn weeds that somehow draw nutrients from urban hard-pack and poisoned sand. Rebel plants that decide to live anyway. So next time you walk past a rogue shrub squeezed into that tiny triangle of soil in between sidewalk and road, make sure to pay your respects.
This week at the farm we’ll be paying our respects by pulling up said weeds, and getting ready for the spring semester. There are many things to look forward to so be ready! Come on out for volunteer hours and breathe deeply for these emails are about to get a whole lot busier.
Volunteer Hours: Saturday 10-12pm at the Farm
Help pull weeds! Prune banana trees! Plant seeds! Eat things!
With droplets of life on bare ground,
At last, the farm is back from a brief hiatus, rolling onward into 2015. You might have noticed that a winter-like chill has descended upon us in the past couple of weeks. At night, we even reached freezing temperatures, which does not bode well for our tropicals. Plants hold water in their cells at night, and if it becomes cold enough to freeze that water, the cell explodes and is destroyed by the slow crystallization of liquid into solid. The crippled banana grove is almost all brown, ice cream bean trees shriveled at the edges, the rose apple bush wilted. It is hard times now for these guys. On the other hand, our kale and cabbage and collard greens could not be doing better, they sit on the earth happily springing out, leaves taut and verdant, greeting the cold with open stems. This is the moment of truth! What plants developed frost resistance and what plants never had the need to. Each one adapted to a different environment, and while most of the time we see them in harmony, these are the times at which their individual lineage is revealed. But beauty is in the combination, and things will always grow back, so fear not. This week is as chilled as our nights, we’ll have opportunities for produce boxes and volunteer hours on Saturday:
Holiday Harvest-your-own Produce Boxes: Available Jan 6-14th
Since we’re not doing farm stand over the break, we’ll be selling produce boxes. Set up a time to come down to the farm and walk around with me harvesting whatever you want from what we have. Boxes will be $15 (in cash) mostly, with flexibility with large variations in produce amount. A unique opportunity to participate in your own food system from a local, organic, affordable grower and see where your food comes from! Please try to bring your own boxes/bags. Book times on weekdays 9am-5pm. Sign up here and I’ll be in touch.
I will dole out the obligatory happy holidays in this message and inform you that we will also be taking the time off, and thus will not be up to much at the farm. As we all retreat back into what most resembles home and family, I’d encourage you to expand your familial circle to encompass what at first glance may appear completely unrelated to you. But let me remind you of our origins as organisms. When life first began it branched into two forks, bacteria and everything else. These two forms of life are different on a fundamental, molecular level. We exist in the “everything else” category, which branches off into archaea and eukaryota. In the eukaryota group, it was not that long ago (geologically) that we shared a common ancestor with all plants and photosynthesizing beings. We were once one, that then peeled off and took two different paths. The path that eventually leads to us includes fungi, and we only recently branched off from them, so we are more related to fungi than fungi are to plants. In the vast tree of life, you can see that all multicellular beings (you, me, that mushroom over there, all the plants, that bird, bugs, fish, etc) are actually quite closely related, and cluster together on an edge of the tree. Thus you may not relate to having bark for skin or wings for arms, to having gills for lungs or spores for babies, but these are all mere physical details to the molecular foundation that unites us all. Perhaps that tree could also use the gift of a song, and that bee could use the gift of a flower to drink from, and that mushroom over there could use your admiration, because it shares much of what makes you breathe (67% of your DNA, that is). So I invite you to embrace your family, in the broad sense of the world, and remember where you came from.
Most things we see happening around us we can explain scientifically. Biologists have exhaustively observed and cataloged nature’s behaviors, writing up lifetimes worth of work in peer-reviewed journals. We have a reason for everything. That red hue to falling leaves is because of senescence and green chlorophyll cells flushing out. Birds singing are a part of a reproductive strategy. Flowers bloom in time with seasonal cues and colors on the petals develop to attract pollinating insects. Evolution isn’t extravagant, and what beauty we find us always for a specific purpose. But evolution shaped our own brains and we are capable of frivolity, of joy, of celebration and of love. It seems diminishing to not recognize the possibility of these sentiments in all life forms. While they may have been programmed to, birds may belt out their tunes with utter abandon because singing is fun and their songs sound beautiful to their little bird ears. Trees may reach a little farther than they have to, make just one extra twig because they can, because it’s such a joy to grow and reach into empty space, because it’s just fun to build something. It’s possible that squirrels play games on tree trunks and take naps in the branches and have genuine affection for each other. And that stunning flower that was supposed to look like a bee, may make its red a little more vivid, and give a little more nectar than it strictly has to survive because what is life’s gifts if we don’t get to share them and because it likes the company of the beetles and the bees that drink from its womb. Maybe life’s drive to survive is inherently joyful and our own existence is just one more part of the celebration.
The farm, in the throes of recent rains, is also building because it can. We’re working on a couple of big projects that will hopefully be awaiting you all, fully completed, when school resumes. We’ll be putting most of the weekly activities on hold until then, but will still be doing volunteer hours and introducing our produce box system.
Holiday Harvest-your-own Produce Boxes: Available Dec 15-29th
Since we’re not doing farm stand over the break, we’ll be selling produce boxes. Set up a time to come down to the farm and walk around with me harvesting whatever you want from what we have. Boxes will be $15 (in cash) mostly, with flexibility with large variations in produce amount. A unique opportunity to participate in your own food system from a local, organic, affordable grower and see where your food comes from! Please try to bring your own boxes/bags. Book times on weekdays 9am-5pm. We’ll keep you updated on January availability. Sign up here and I’ll be in touch. Sign up for your first one and if you like it you can sign up for another.
These winter days are getting shorter and shorter. Unlike the vast abundance of sunlight in the summer, plants slow down their growth when there’s less sun. Each day brings a burst of energy but it ends far too soon and they sit waiting through the night for the morning. Everything takes longer in the winter. Perhaps we can take a tip from them and Slow Down. In this grand flurry of finals week and last day of classes and holidays and all the rest of that stuff, we can be caught up in a whirlwind of activity. But the sun only has so much energy to give on these short days, and so do we. Sometimes it’s worth it to grow slowly because every cell will be placed with more intention, every spark of light more precious. We may not see the growth but below ground the plants are slowly and painstakingly growing a root base, establishing themselves in the soil, rooting. It’s the kind of internal work that cold facilitates- the nutrient-finding, stretching, grounding work that will allow us to shoot towards the sky come spring. If you feel stressed this week, please come on down to the farm and treat yourself to a good walk through fruit trees, a juicy orange from the tree, a lazy break in a hammock. Things are naturally attuned to slow down in the winter, so don’t be afraid to let your body tune in. This week we’re also slowing down, taking time to regroup and recoup and do all those things we didn’t get the chance to in the past few months.
Don’t let these tame showers fool you- the rain is not over yet. We’re scheduled to get two inches of rain on Tuesday! A veritable monsoon! It’s a great time to put seeds in the ground and let the rain do the germinating. Often in farming, and with many things, we are under the illusion that things that happen are our doing, and that we are in control. What a ridiculous concept! All we do is relocate seeds, but the rest is up to the impetus of nature to fulfill. We didn’t pour energy into those seeds, giving them all they need to make a new plant. We didn’t bring them to life. Seeds germinate all on their own, and the microbial community and mineral components of the soil nurture that seed and encourage its growth. We are facilitators, intervening when we deem necessary. We just decide whether a plant will grow here or over there.That plant is doing all the work, turning flecks of sun into sugar, reaching up, up, towards light. If things do well, and if things don’t do well, very rarely is it our doing. Instead of saying, “I grew this!” we should say, “this grew!” because the “I” component, in context with all the other components, is laughably minimal. So go forth, friends, plant your seeds and trim your trees but not for a second dare to think you have control over any of it.
Tis autumn! The plants are channeling energy into their seeds as they clutch onto the last few days of life before dormancy. Us humans, attentive to their cycles, watch them and collect those magical little orbs of life. Seeds, seeds, seeds! We have been saving lots of seeds at the farm lately. Its amazing how many seeds plants produce. A single oregano plant makes enough seeds to grow hundreds and hundreds more plants. But it is the whim of nature that prevents the world from becoming an oregano forest, the random chances of the wind and the water. If we were to plant every seed in a pomegranate, we would have over a thousand trees (have you ever counted the seeds in a pomegranate?) and if those trees all produced a healthy batch of pomegranates, and we were to collect and plant and nurture all of those seeds too, then you can imagine it wouldn’t be long before there would be no more space left on the planet for pomegranate trees, and every household everywhere would be weighed down by the pink, juicy fruit, and every bird would learn to gorge itself on its fruit. But nature doesn’t work like that and almost every single seed that is produced doesn’t grow, save the lucky few. What infinite potential of life there is, untapped! What amazing abundance lies dormant below our very feet! This week we celebrate life, and we honor those that lived on this land before us by hosting two Tongva elders, on Friday and on Saturday for two separate events.
It has rained! The clouds split open and deposited their heavenly load of moisture onto this ground! The trees have been cleansed and their leaves are rinsed free of desert dust and insect debree. Their roots are drinking the sweet rain underground as it works its way deep into the soil. This is the kind of watering we mere humans can only attempt (and inevitably fall short of). The kind of full glorious watering that makes earthworms wriggle in slippery glee and seeds tremble as they come alive. Everything falls open after rain, every pore of every leaf sighing, relieved, every stem angle is a little wider, the soil softer and more giving to the touch. Leaves that were turning and barely hanging on the branch have been released and fall liberated to the ground. The mulch is extra bouncy and it smells so fresh and green. There is something magical about the time after it rains, the world has been soaked clean, renewed and reinvigorated. There are many exciting new things coming up…(Check the calendar!)
This moringa grew so fast and then had a hard time handling the rain- or maybe it’s just bowed in reverence…
The weather seems to be cooling down and the trees are much relieved. It is a time of transition at the farm. Tomato vines that are old enough to claim at least five months of lived experience squeeze out their last few leaves before surrendering, with a classic tomato vine sigh, back to the earth. Watermelon plants that have given all they can give lie exhausted and dried up in a thick layer on the beds. Even after we were convinced there could be no more watermelons, upon removing the vine, a couple small fruits were still hiding in the foliage. The plant’s very last offering, a juicy gift to remind us of this plant at the peak of summer when it was still vivid green and going strong, popping out 17 pound watermelons like they were cherries. Beds are being composted, re-shaped, coaxed back into fertility as they await the next batch of crops. We’ve got lots of eager little seedlings pushing their way into the world in the greenhouse, busy growing roots and crisp new leaves in preparation for life. Ah, yes, the winter growing season is almost upon us! Soon we’ll be bursting with beets, laden with lettuce, saturated with spinach and loving it all. It is a time to celebrate the renewal of the earth’s cycles, from the turning of the season to the waxing of the moon to the daily opening and closing of a flower. Like all cycles we return to the same points, but rather than repeat, we’re moving forward and thus keep spiraling on.