Magical Streambanks

We continue restoring our streambanks. We are gradually restoring and transforming a shallow but steep canyon back to a soft valley. About 100 years ago, this stream was straightened, or channelized, and the banks were mechanically carved to present a vertical drop to the water, in order to maximize acreage for crop production. Trees have since grown along this vertical drop, and regularly fall into the stream. Seasonal flood waters then carry bare soil of steep banks downstream, leaving behind eroded conditions.

Despair & Faith

We think we have been struck by cocklebur toxicosis. In the past month, we have lost 5 healthy cows to poisoning from... cocklebur seedhead maybe, we believe. But we don't know. It is very confusing. We have had cocklebur on the farm indefinitely, but never to this extent. Eighty inches of rain last year, followed by a very wet winter, while cattle moved across the landscape, created conditions for explosion of this annual forb this summer. Cattle on wet pastures create mud, and open ground attracts annual weeds, like cocklebur. The seedhead is toxic, but not the leaf. Cattle and sheep like the leaf, but avoid the prickly seed. Perhaps the odd bovine, however, ingests the seedhead by accident, and then suffers fatal consequences. But why only 5% of the herd and why only mature, seasoned cows who should know better? Leaves of wild cherry trees are toxic, when first cut. Stinging Nettle, Milkweed, and nightshades can also be poisonous, all of which proliferate in pastures.

Platforms of Success

What are platforms upon which success is built? What is success anyway? Isn't it the uneven, chaotic process of stumbling around and somehow falling forward? Perhaps the question is better put -- What helps us stumble in the right direction? On this farm, a number of factors seem to keep us upright, heading more or less in the right direction.

Alpha Male

What does it mean to be male? On our farm we have a handful of studs who work about one month a year and lounge in shade othewise. We also have a handful of men who work seven days a week 12 months of the year, despite the elements. Both roles are invaluable and carry their own dignity.

Fences & Neighbors

We all familiar with the poem Mending Wall, which explores the meaning of fences. The opening line in Robert Frost's poem is: Something there is that doesn't love a wall... The closing line, in contrast, uttered by the crusty neighbor is: Good fences make good neighbors.


We are discovering clouds, and marvel at all they witness. Our new house offers a panoramic view of clouds, almost like being near the ocean. We are starting to learn basic formations, such as cumulus, stratus, and cirrus. Cumulus is puffy and soft looking; stratus is thick and dense, like fog; cirrus is wispy, like a horse's tail. The story offered by clouds is always changing, as if gods in heavens are improvising the narrative, like a jazz ensemble. The world of nature offers so much to observe, and clouds are one of its wonders.

Freedom Team

As we celebrate the national day of freedom, this team gives us ours. As tanks stand in the streets of Washington, the meaning of freedom is on the minds of us all. Glaciers melt, sea levels rise, storms intensify, droughts persist, people migrate in desperation, and fears arise throughout the world. What happens to national, local, and personal freedoms, as a result? Freedom is all most of us have ever known, yet we are learning it is susceptible to undue influence and is fragile by nature. These issues are so powerful and complex, they are hard to fathom, but they are upon our heads.

White Lightening

Lightening rods like this on our barns did not stop damage last week. Powerful, prolonged lightening and thunder flashed and boomed twice in our valley Saturday evening the 15th, as part of a front that brought 5 inches of rain in three days. This elegant lightening rod was taken down from the house we renovated, while those on the barns remain in place. It appears they served modest purpose, for damage from lightening in the barns was signficant.


This plant needs no introduction, for it is the persistant Ironweed, whom we met a year ago. But the good news is the sheep are eating the lower leaves. We are concentrating the flock at twice the density as last year, which should induce consumption of less palatable grasses and forbs. And it appears that is happening. But they can't reach the top leaves and they ignore many of the Ironweed plants. We thus will mow this pasture at level of 8 inches or so to prevent these weeds from going to seed. Notice the trampling of grasses, creating a mulch for clovers beneath. It would be interesting to witness the effects of doubling concentration again.


This house stood absolutely empty yesterday for six beautiful hours, for the first time in thirty five years. Having spent the last four months emptying two houses, a few reflections surface from the effort. It is a momuntal task to render a house clean and to clear it of its past. It only happens step by step, box by box, and endless hour after endless hour. It is an exhausting endeavor, especially when done twice in a row. Inflexible timelines force the process forward, which lead to neglected secondary matters like correspondence, bills, and spouses.

Opening Day

As this pear tree blooms between Pin Oaks, we prepare for opening day at the market. We have upgraded equipment and assembled a new team to bring to you frozen meats, eggs, and grilled sliders. Over the past three summers Susan's children have donated dedicated support to us at the summer market, and are now moving to other pastures. Clark, Mike, Beth, Bob, Susan, and I will be in attendance this Sunday, working toward the same efficiency as in the past. It will be good to be back on the square, and we look forward to seeing those of you whom we did not see this winter at Clark Montessori.


To What Do We Devote Ourselves? Dahr Jamail provokes this question, when pondering the crisis of climate that is upon our planet. This crisis is forcing our civilization to articulate and claim its essential values.