News and blog
I will be introducing participants to key concepts of world-class gardener Alan Chadwick at The Spirit of Sustainable Agriculture conference held at the Harvard Divinity School this week and co-sponsored by that school and the Biodynamic Association.
The work of Alan Chadwick has deeply inspired me, through two books, Performance in the Garden and Reverence and Obedience and the Invisible in the Garden. They also created a set of 7 CD's featuring Chadwick's lectures, all edited by Stephen Crimi. They are available at www.logosophiabooks.com. .
As a taste of his work, I offer these snippets from Chadwick:
...the whole world is governed by a pulsation...this pulsation is like breathing; it is in and out, relaxation and tension, the Sun rises and the Sun sets, the moon rises and the moon sets and the cycles come and go but none of them are ever a repetition. And of course, it's not only the year, it's not only a month, it's not only a day, it's not only an hour; it is every moment There is no time. And there is throughout life and creation, balance. The balance that comes from day and night, hot and cold, love and hate, this and that, yes and no. And therefore, the whole vision of biodynamic growing is that you enter the garden because you love creation.
And so it is that in this madness of taking about the garden or the farm we have consistently to think of food, and then you think of the emporium that sells it all, in bags at the government shop.
And this food is what? Is it exactly the same as breathing in and out. It is change. It isn't what feed you at all. In a certain sense not at all. It's the metamorphosis. ...and this is exactly what the whole procedure of food is: that it is turning it from one live turning it from one live spiritual thing into another that is energy. The hands of God. What an immaculate thing is food! How can your turn food into a utility? You can feed by breathing pure aroma. You can feed by breathing while listening to music. You can feed by observing color. All of this is a form of food because it is a form of metamorphosis....
May we enter the garden this spring dancing with Creation!
Now is a great time to visit the farm for a quiet retreat! January is the quietest month of the year, a great time to enjoy the stillness and peace of the countryside. The Retreat House is available for overnight visits. Here is the link to the farm's airbnb site: https://www.airbnb.com/
We also have programs planned for January:
January 16, Chakra Balancing with Yoga and Essential Oils led by Laurel Brennan
January 23, Introduction to Yoga with Shawn Essed for our full moon gathering
January 30, Sacred Women's Circle
Here is a link to the flyer for the Chakra Balancing program with Laurel Brennan.
Hope to see you soon and Happy New Year!
Sally Voris, White Rose Farm
Thank you to the 25 people who sent donations to support our new non-profit organization, White Rose Farm Circle, Inc. We appreciate every gift and the heart-full connection that accompanied it. We now have seed money in the bank to support our Circle and its next steps! What a great gift you have given us to start the new year!
The Circle has scheduled a winter visioning on January 24 and 25 at the Retreat House at the farm to develop its capacities: facilities, finance, membership, board development and programs.If you have an interest in being part of the process, please let me know.
Thanks again and Happy New year!
Sally Voris, White Rose Farm
In 2003, a small group of friends celebrated Winter Solstice with me at the farm. We danced and drummed around a bonfire. We shared a simple meal in a farmhouse that had no running water and no appliances. The event honored the beginning of a new chapter in my life: a chapter in which I have learned to cultivate the art of living.
As this winter solstice approaches, a new chapter is beginning at the farm. A group of my friends, two of whom were at the original bonfire, have helped me form a non-profit organization: White Rose Farm Circle, Inc. (The Circle). We have just received our 501(c)(3) tax-exempt status. We hope you will excuse this impersonal letter; however, we wanted to share this news with everyone on our e-list.
We invite you to join a community of supporters who are donating money to enable The Circle to develop its capacity to create programs and host more adults and children. Recently, one friend gave remembering how much her mother had loved her visit to the farm; another gave remembering how her uncles milked cows by hand on a neighboring farm. Our goal is to raise $7,500 by the end of the year. Please support our new non-profit Board with a gift today!
We plan to engage people's heads, hands and hearts in caring for and connecting with the land. Our vision is to develop and share a model of community that empowers people to work together to restore health to the land, the natural world and each other. We invite you to help us as we celebrate the land, its seasons and its communities and teach all manner of land-based skills including gardening, farming, permaculture, crafts, and healing processes.
Connecting is the heart of this work. When people arrive at the farm, they breathe deeply. They notice the animals: the cows, hogs, geese, chickens, dog and cat. They wander in the garden; they pick their own vegetables. Strangers meet and work together. Some swing in the hammock; some on the porch swing. Some enjoy tea and conversation. Most experience new patterns; some remember farms and family carried as distant memories. Such experiences reweave the fraying threads of community.
You can be part of this living tapestry! In 2016, we invite you to step away from your routines and join us on this beautiful 132-acre farm, located some 60 miles from Baltimore, Washington DC and Harrisburg, PA. It is a pleasant drive into the country—ideal for a day trip—or an extended retreat.
Won't you join us in sowing seeds for the future? Please send a check to White Rose Farm Circle, 5009 Teeter Road, Taneytown, MD 21787 or go to the farm's website,www.whiterosefarm.comand click on the Donate button. We thank you in advance for your generous support! Every gift matters!
Anticipating the fruits of tomorrow from the seeds we are planting today,
Sally Voris, Founder
White Rose Farm Circle, Inc.
P.S. All donations are tax-deductible. Those received or postmarked by December 31, 2015 are deductible for the 2015 tax year.
Sally Voris, White Rose Farm
I woke anxious this morning. Perhaps I listened to too much news yesterday. I wondered what I could do. Then I remembered this image from the Ringing Cedars of Russia series by Vladimir Megre.
The heroine in the series, Anastasia, said that the most spiritual thing a couple could do was to create a space of love for their children. She spoke of a garden, a homestead. Dennis Klocek, in his book, Climate: The Soul of the Earth, writes of atmosphere as the sphere of breath that surrounds our planet.
We each have the power to change the atmosphere in the world when we imagine that we are giving our breath of love to the breath of the world. Each moment that we meet with love affects the world and all around us. What an antidote to violence!
Years ago, I was a member of a group of women. This poem emerged from that group:
Just before dawn, breathe with the incoming light.
As the new day begins, pray for your land,
For the people of other lands, for the heartbeat of the world.
Put your fear into a space of love, a circle of love,
The center of a circle of love.
Adapted by Sally Voris from a ROUG group, 2011
Robin Kissinger set the words to music, which I recorded and posted with the help of friends at www.soundcloud.com/whiterosefarm
May it lift our spirits and strengthen our hearts!
Sally Voris, White Rose Farm
We met by headlights at the end of the farm lane, three young women who came late to the full moon gathering last Wednesday. I had been alone as I lit a fire, beat a drum and sang songs earlier that evening, remembering many who had been present at earlier gatherings
“ I'll get the fire going again,” I offered, so grateful to have women join me. As I reassembled the logs I had scattered in the fire pit, I explained that years ago, a sensitive friend had said that the Earth herself was birthing a new way of being. It was not just global warming due to man's polluting the Earth, the Earth herself was changing. That framed Earth's story differently for me. This was a birthing process.
I remembered how when I had birthed my son, a coach had been present for me. She often said I was doing well, but it was her warm steady presence that spoke most deeply to me. Her body stayed calm as my body contracted in childbirth. I decided to be present for the Earth at each full moon.
The young women had come after work. They loved sitting under the full moon. It is so feminine, I responded. Why was it feminine? they asked earnestly. I struggled to find words. The moon influences all reproduction on the Earth, I answered. The Moon influences all water on the planet, and it is water that helps seeds pop open. Native Americans call menstruation, moon time. The women live in separate housing during that time, I had been told, though I did not know all the reasons for that practice. My answers seemed inadequate, though the women were grateful for what I shared.
Perhaps now, I would say that the moon speaks of mystery—the mystery of birth, death, life itself. Women hold that mystery deep within themselves. “The well inside a woman's spirit is so deep,” said a friend, “that we dare not enter it early in our lives.” Another friend, an octogenarian, often quotes from A Circle of Stones by Erynn Rowan Laurie. “What if there had been a circle of women?” What if there had been a circle of women to show us how to mature and blossom as women? Now I was in a position to be an elder--to be a teacher--to explain what my mother had not explained to me. How was I to reweave the threads of feminine knowing that have been forgotten, burned and buried in our psyche?
I remembered what older women had shared with me: women who had become more beautiful as they aged--women who carried a sense of presence and blessing with them. We stood at the four directions, we gave thanks for our time together, we honored our ancestors. We lifted our arms to the heavens and danced simple movements. As we sang simple rounds, our voices nearly danced around a cedar fire. We shared our longing and our commitment to give to the Earth--to do what we could to heal what has been so damaged. We asked for blessings of peace and strength.. I saw the faces of these women only by silvery moonlight and firelight. Geese flew overhead, honking in flight.
“It is the grandmothers who are leading us through this time,” a friend responded as I told stories about our evening together. Earlier in the week, she had said, “Whatever life I have left in me, I want to drop my bucket into the well of life.” Her friend had taught a group of women how to honor the earth as she had aged; she has been teaching me. Now it was becoming my turn to teach others.
So I give thanks for this time, for the women who have been mentors to me, and to the Earth herself who has so much to teach, so much to share, to the women who are coming, coming to learn from a circle of women, and to the well, that is so deep, so present, so mysterious and so inviting….
Full-sized apples are finally falling off the trees my father planted forty years ago. For the last two months, I have collected a bucketful of immature apples from the ground every morning and fed them to my hogs and cows. Now large, tasty, crisp, fully-formed apples have arrived! So have the yellow jackets and their cousins, those I am calling super-jackets, wasps four times the size of regular bees.
Yellow jackets usually arrive midsummer and feast on sugars: outdoor picnic items, soft drinks and fruit. This year, they arrived two months late. Do I know why? No. The super-jackets arrived too. Have I ever seen these wasps before? Maybe one or two. This year, they have arrived in numbers. They burrow almost completely into the apples; the yellow jackets eat the outer layer. On some apples, there are no wasps; they swarm on others. Do I understand why? No.
I could get stung as I wrap my fingers around an apple. I choose to be careful: I pick the good apples for me, the seconds for my hogs and several as treats for the cows. This morning, I brought my camera to get pictures of these wasps. The yellow jackets seemed to sense my presence—or my shadow—and fly away. The super-jackets just kept on eating and buzzing—a buzz so loud that it puts me on edge. They seem to prefer the south side of the tree. I enter that area gingerly, observing the wasps closely.
Is life ever perfect? Maybe. For one moment occasionally. Does fear make sweetness more potent? Maybe. Perhaps tartness and sting serve as its needed contrast, just as darkness serves as contrast to light, and death to life. Does not knowing whether a moment will get more intoxicating, or whether it is finished, help us savor what is before us, what we feel inside us? Sometimes.
So it is with my cow, Buttercup. She had a heifer on April 30. We named her Daisy. In September, friends took Daisy to their farm. I did not have a fence strong enough to keep mother and daughter apart to wean her. I did not want to confine either of them. Daisy had enjoyed her mother's milk for nearly five months. The local veterinarian had said I needed to check the cow's teats: if they got hot and hard, she had mastitis and would need treatment. So every morning, I tied her to a fence, put two handfuls of grain in a bucket and milked her lightly while she ate. The calf sucked the rest of the milk. I had work in the garden.
I planned to let Buttercup go dry so I could move her to other pastures. That first morning though, I remembered how it felt to have breasts so full that they hurt. I decided to milk her to relieve her discomfort. I tied her. I fed her grain. I stooped next to her. Her udders were dripping with milk. Perhaps I milked a quart before she swung her hind leg forward. “Enough!” she conveyed.
That milk looked so frothy and rich, that the next day, I went out to milk her—this time for me. I have milked each morning since then. My neighbor looked at where I am milking her. She shook her head, concerned about my safety. She had milked a herd-full of cows. I milk one. I have a stanchion in the barn, but milking her there would change her routine so dramatically that I felt it would spook her.
So every morning, I crouch next to the cow to milk her, prepared to move quickly should she swing her leg. She gets more settled every day. The cream is nearly golden, and almost half of what I get each day. I imagine making sour cream, butter and yogurt. Today, I used the milk in mashed potatoes. I felt so complete!
Will the cow and I become more at ease with each other, or will she kick me tomorrow? I cannot know. So often fear and pleasure, sweetness and sting are bound together. I can choose them both or I can choose to walk away, but oh how I am fed when I enter the dance!
Life is for living.
My first airbnb guests came in January driving a rental car on unfamiliar country roads through a snow storm. I welcomed them with hot tea, toast and jam. We sat and visited. Mother and daughter had come on a college tour from Seattle. The daughter had applied for a scholarship to a college in Maryland. In August, she returned, accompanied by her father, to start her freshman year.
Now six weeks after school started, the mother had returned with a friend for parents weekend.She came with a plan, though I never knew who had concocted the plan, mother or daughter or both. She would visit with her daughter at college; she wanted a tour of the farm and she and her friend, a chef, would prepare a fabulous home-cooked meal for her daughter and her new friends.
She arrived on Wednesday evening exhausted. I called her on Thursday morning and urged her to visit the garden before five days of rain started. I gave them a quick tour and then dug sweet potatoes. They finished picking veggies as the first raindrops fell. That afternoon, they visited her daughter. The next day, they went to a Rummage Sale and bought large pots and pans. They bought fresh meat and cheese at a local dairy and pasta and bread at the local supermarket. They assembled ingredients.
Next day, mother, daughter and friend, visited and cooked for the evening meal—a feast of homemade meatballs and pasta, fresh, dressed salad, green beans with almonds, small succulent squash and a quince and pear crumble with heavy cream. (The mother had brought the quince in her suitcase rather than let the fruit rot on the tree in her back yard.)
When I arrived, the students were seated in a circle conversing. They had come from near and far to attend the honors program. They had known each other six weeks, and had already had various adventures together. I asked them their names and introduced the farm to them. The twelve of us moved to the dining room table. The meal was served; I sang a blessing; the conversation began.
“Do you have any cows,” One young man asked. “I miss my cows.” He was used to milking 65 cows daily I have two Jerseys, I answered, and added, “Cows are such warm, earthy animals.” “I want to see your cows!” he nearly moaned. “Do you have any ducks?” another asked. I do have one duck, I responded, an Indian Runner. His grandfather raised mallard ducks on the Eastern Shore. I told a story about the difference between ducks and chickens.
These two had felt at home as they traveled along country roads to get to the farm. Another student, a young man from Chicago, shared his uneasiness midst fields of corn. The country boys scoffed. “You probably wouldn't be too comfortable on the streets of Chicago,” I admonished. They agreed.
As the women prepared dessert, I opened a bottle of the farm's elder flower champagne and offered a toast to the students. After dinner, I invited them to walk into a corn field. All but one accepted!
We went into the night. Rain had fallen throughout the day; water dripped off the trees. It was so dark and close that I could not see my hand in front of my face,. “Feel the path with your feet!” I counseled. They followed me to the top of the hill and into the rows of corn. We stood silently and listened, moist darkness all around. On the way back, they moved as a cohesive whole.
The mother shared later that she had wanted to get to know her daughter's friends since her daughter was in college all way way across the country. She had succeeded magnificently! Indeed it had been a night of rich sharing all around! There are so many ways to connect on a farm!