A Good Year: 2023 Recap
We are in our last few days of 2023. How was it for you?
My new year’s resolution last January was to find my way out of burnout and reclaim my joy. I consciously crafted a gentle year for myself, with small goals and a stripped-down schedule. Thank the stars. This year came pre-loaded with significant obstacles of its own, and I don’t think I would have made it through a more ambitious year. As things were, I had the space and the presence of mind to navigate each challenge as it came. I processed the lessons from each setback, as they called into question my old assumptions, challenged my default patterns, and shook me out of a predefined path paved with limiting beliefs. Through it all, I healed from my burnout, regained my energy, my zest for my life and my work, and even my joy.
The things I feel most proud of from this year are the things I cut loose: the appearance of constant busy-ness, time scarcity mindset, money scarcity mindset, and the last vestiges of my ingrained idealism of capitalistic success. But there were also some wonderful new additions to my life, the farm, and this business. Part of what I’ve learned this year is to pause and celebrate each reason for joy. That is the way we drive off the scarcity mindsets and the feelings of lack that lead us to make shortsighted decisions that don’t really serve our highest good. So please join me in celebrating 2023!
The orchard field is finally in great shape! I spent several months last winter marking all the orchard trees with sturdy metal stakes, removing all the volunteer (“weed”) trees, and mowing through all the brush overgrowth. This field had become impossibly overgrown while I was trying to run this farm “on the side” of a full-time-plus tech job with a two hour per day commute. That schedule was ludicrous. This farm is not a part time job. All the volunteer trees had to be removed individually by hand so that the pawpaws, persimmons, and other food bearing native trees I had planted could thrive. Now that it is set to rights, the 7 year old pawpaw and persimmon trees are flourishing and I have been able to resume planting that field. It has never looked better!
The Brushwood Fence
Thanks to a friend, I learned about brushwood fences this year. I began constructing two of them along the borders of the farm. They serve so many useful functions. Together with signs, they provide visual cues to neighboring farmers about the border of this organic, specialty crop farm. They help to screen out any herbicide drift that might try to float over to my side. They provide shelter for small animals and birds. They give me a useful, tidy looking place to store the huge quantities of brushwood that I’ve accumulated as a result of the grant-funded honeysuckle removal project, the orchard cleanup project, and general maintenance from the three acres of woods that I manage. I hope that over the years as this wood gradually breaks down it can be harvested and used as mulch, and new brush can be stored within the same structure.
In February, my online shop went live. It’s right here on this web site, and it gives me so much freedom. I can now offer my handmade products and my fresh produce through the web site. If you want something, you can order it any time. It means that I don’t have to spend most of my time sitting in booths and planning events. Instead, I can spend that time working on the land, planting trees, tending the fields, and writing. This is a significant foundational step that helps to light my way forward as I explore new sustainable ways to fund this work.
I have been studying herbal medicine for the past several years. At first I studied independently, by reading books, gathering herbs, making the recipes, and trying out remedies on myself. Eventually I reached a point where I felt like I needed guidance. I needed to ask questions to someone, and to receive answers from a respected, experienced herbalist. In spring of 2021 I enrolled in the Herbal Immersion program at the Chestnut School of Herbal Medicine. It’s an online, self-paced program which meant that I could do it from home, at night when I have time away from farm work. The program covers botany, foraging, medicine making, and therapeutic uses of herbs. It is a 1,000 hour, very in-depth program. I worked diligently through the course and submitted my final homework assignments in September, ultimately resulting in graduating from the program and receiving my certificate! I feel much more confident identifying plants, using them, and sharing that knowledge with you all. I’m now continuing my herbalist studies with an advanced practitioner training through the School of Evolutionary Herbalism, but I do not plan to leave farming to become a clinical herbalist. Through knowing the plants and their uses, I feel that I can become a better steward of them. It is part of the reciprocity journey between humans and plants: two sides of the same coin, helping one another to thrive through our in-breaths, out-breaths, and our many unique gifts.
Another Year of Farming
I truly feel that another year of farming is its own cause for celebration. I grew plants, I harvested and ate plants, I made medicines out of plants, I wrote about plants, I talked to plants, I listened to plants. I savored the bites and the moments. I can’t imagine a better life than this one.