Howells at the Moon Farm

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February Pruning

Posted on April 18, 2017 at 7:30 PM

Late winter is that time of year that tries people's souls.  The weather holds on, hangs on, and the cold persists.  One chore I look forward to in February, my least favorite month, is pruning.  I get to gather my pruning shears, garden gloves and saw and head out to the garden.  Never mind that I have a few layers on; I'm in the garden and that's what counts.  As I approach each bush or tree, it's like greeting an old friend, albeit a slumbering one.  Not wanting to wake it, I walk around it to eye it's growth from the prior year.  I look at each branch, each bud, the leader, the trunk.  The plant itself seems to tell me what to cut and how much to cut.  It's like a child reaching it's arms up to its mother to be picked up.  I use my intuition with each cut, severing the dead branches, isolating the leader branch, and shaping the tree or bush as I go.  It's not an exact science, but you keep the best intentions of the plant in mind as you go. I end the day with fresh air in my lungs and a new appreciation for pruning out the dead and the excess in our lives.  Concentrating on life, on fruitfulness, on creating beauty. 

When Spring arrives, and the plants awaken, they will assess their new shorn selves.  They will gather strength from what they have shed, and will once again reach for the sun, putting their energy into blooms and fruit.   It's a new year of happy production.

Planting Turnips

Posted on September 10, 2016 at 7:05 PM

By the end of the summer, the garden has provided so much produce that we are overrun. We can as much as we are able, and the sight of those mason jars full of delectable summer goodness gives me such a warm feeling. I can’t put to words the feeling it gives you to put by your own store of food. It means I am not depending on someone else to have food available if it becomes necessary for me to get it. I am able to provide for my own family, without anyone’s help. During WWII, it was fashionable to plant a Victory Garden. It was a way for everyone to play a part in the war, to ensure that their family was not terribly affected by food shortages. During the winter, they would feast on the season’s tomatoes, corn and potatoes, and remember the warm barefoot days, the carefree breezes, and the soil that gave and gave.

 

By the end of the summer, I am ready for the garden to be done. But that is the time that I have to push myself to plant more. There are vegetables that love to be planted in late summer so that they can come to fruition in the late autumn. They love the insistent droning of the cicadas and crickets in the early afternoon; they love the way the power goes out of the sun in the late afternoon and the coolness that envelopes them. This is how I found myself planting turnips in early September. The dark, rich soil was only too happy to invite in the seeds. The insects that normally feasted on my plants had expended their life cycle, and I had hopes that these tiny seeds would come to life without anything to hamper them. It was the last thing I wanted to do, as I had spent several weeks pulling out the expended plants that had provided us with buckets and buckets of summer squash, corn, tomatoes, zucchini and cucumbers. I wanted nothing more than to wait for the leaves of autumn to fall and add them to my soil for next year’s bounty. But no, it was time for round two of my victory garden. As I ran my fingers in the soil, I could tell it was still rich and had much more to give. It begged for the chance to produce turnips, or even Swiss chard, carrots or snap peas. It was ready for its second act, and I needed to be ready also. I had only to turn over the soil and plant those pretty seeds and wait and hope.

 

There is something to be said for a second act in life. We use our first act, giving what was asked of us. But then we are attacked by insects, the heat of the sun, drought, or what have you, and we begin to falter. We think we are spent…we have nothing else to give. But then something interesting happens. Life begins to change by degrees. We begin to hear the cicadas, the crickets, the birds. We start to focus back in on what is important. The breeze changes, and we turn our faces towards the coolness of it, the smell of earth and the falling leaves. We start to dream again and the seeds are planted for a second act. We all have one inside of us, we just need someone to nudge us with a little turning of the soil, with cultivation of our strengths. Then we come alive again with green goodness and light.

 

 

 

Springheads

Posted on March 31, 2016 at 9:00 AM

This property is slowly revealing its' secrets to us as we get to know it better.  Every year, something new will come to light that we hadn't seen before.  The year 2016 is upon us, and Spring has arrived in the mountains.  Leaves and buds are slowly emerging and everything is coming alive. 

On a hike in our woods on the property recently, we found an old spring head that we had never noticed before.  It was framed in large, beautiful square rocks and sturdily built and shielded by trees and rhododendron bushes.  A pipe from the spring head ran down, assisted by gravity,  to an old abandoned homesite at the bottom of our property, and supplied fresh water.  We were amazed that we had walked by that site many times and never noticed it.  As we dug around it with stout sticks, the water started flowing again.  It only needed a gently nudge to bubble up and continue on it's way south. 



We often go about our daily lives and don't notice the beauty that frames our view of life, or the history of the land and the people that came before us.  The lessons of history have much to teach us about how to live simply, how to be strong, how to provide for our needs without destroying our resources.  The spring head we found was obviously located by a prior homesteader, and they built the structure around it to not only supply them with water, but to create beauty and art.  They used gravity to feed the water to their home, and did not have to disturb the land too much to use this resource.   These are lessons I take to heart as we create our homestead here in the mountains.  It does not take much effort to prick the surface of something, to see its beauty flow forth.

As we do every spring, we've pruned our orchard trees, tilled and created the rows in our garden, and mapped out our garden plan for the year.  Our kitchen provides a warm spot in which to start our vegetables under grow lights, and they are thriving in the sunny windows there.  We are excited to soon get our new chicks next week, which will bring our flock to 17 in number.  The eggs they give us are nutritious and delicious. 

We hope to see you at the farm this year, and to share our bounty here with you.  Have a blessed Spring. 


Howells at the Moon Farm Blog

Posted on October 12, 2014 at 8:20 PM

All my adult life, I've felt an affinity for mountains. They seemed to draw me towards them, and I left their company feeling renewed and refreshed. In particular, the Smoky Mountains, in all their mysterious beauty, seemed to move me most. It was always a dream to find a homeplace there, but during my working years, it was just that; a dream. I would spend my work breaks cutting out real estate listings in magazines, of beautiful mountain lands or cabins or farms. In the midst of all of my life's shakeups, I sought refuge in these mountains. They provided me peace, and hope. Then in 2012, I married the love of my life, and we especially wanted to be married in our beloved mountains. We came back to the area six months later, and were blessed and surprised to find our homeplace. We knew immediately, as we drove up the road to see it, that it was "It". We quickly bought it, and then made plans to move there as soon as possible.

 

What drew me to the property was the fact that it was an old family farm, largely intact. The old farmhouse still stood, there were fields and meadows, streams, an old canning shed, and an old tobacco barn. The owners before us had purchased the property from the original owners, the Grasty's. The Grasty's had built the small farmhouse, raised cows and chickens, canned food from their abundant garden, and raised tobacco.

 

I grew up in the 60's and 70's in a typical suburban existence, knowing nothing of gardening or canning or raising animals. But it was something that always interested me, intrigued me. As I was driving to work to my law enforcement job, I would dream of living in the 1800's, running a large household, putting up food and living largely a home steader's existence. In my mind it seemed a fancy, a folly. Not reality, at least not mine. As I worked in my chosen career, I always, and I mean always, wanted to be home. Doing what, I did not know. I passed it off as being lazy. But now I know. Now I realize...this was the life that I dreamed of. I could never clarify the reality of it, but all of my life has led to this point.

 

Now, retired, I live the life that I dreamed of all those years. I garden, I marvel at the herbs that I grow. I spend my time reading books or blogs, learning the ancient secrets of the herbs. I raise my chickens and learn how to care for them. I stare at the mountains all around me, and try to discern their mysteries. I wish that Becky Grasty could stand by my shoulder, and impart all of the wisdom of her lifetime. I wish she could school me while I do my canning, put up my vegetables, dry my herbs. I think about all of the things she knew, now forgotten. I think of her old-fashioned, wood burning cooking stove, now gone from the kitchen. All the meals it prepared, the kettle it kept warm, the eggs it fried. It pleases me to still use her old apron sink, and to dry my herbs in her stone canning shed. I hope someday to gain her knowledge.

 I welcome the peace of my homeplace, and feel at home at last.


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