July flew by

July 29th. The end of a full weekend.  All my daughters were here for their cousin’s wedding, and a very happy affair it was.  Intern Rivka Switala left this morning after a 4 month internship. So much gratitude for her excellent help! I’m taking time to catch up and post some recent photos taken by new intern Sarah Boehm, a teacher from Massachusetts. 

 

This week brought rains giving over an 2 inches of needed moisture.  The garden has responded with bright colors and ripening vegetables. These are crookneck squash with a visiting honeybee.

 

 

 

 

Rivka found someone her own size to talk with.

 

 

 

 

 

                                              

                                              Sun Gold tomatoes in all stages.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Close-up of Shah Jahan and Mumtaz on the barn roof this morning.

 

 

 

Sarah and Rivka spent some time visiting the sheep and in the tipi and then Sarah conducted this interview:

Sarah: Since arriving at Three Roods Farm earlier this week, Rivka, who has been here since April, has been my guide. She showed me the secret to collecting eggs without getting pecked and how to know when the cucumbers are ripe for picking.

Sarah: What brought you to Three Roods Farm?
Rivka: I was here for a week in 2011, preparing for an Ag-Forestry program with the Peace Corps. During my stay I received an invitation to go to Ukraine.  I spent several months there. After returning to the States,  Robin found me on facebook and  invited me to come and do an internship this summer.

Sarah: What has been your favorite project at the farm?
Rivka: The act of moving the sheep, known as rotational grazing. Watching them leap after Greg opens the fence has been an entirely new experience. Watching the lambs grow has been really rewarding.


Sarah: Have you eaten any foods here that you had not eaten previously?
Rivka: Greg’s fermented oats for breakfast. Edible weeds like lambs quarters. Different meats such as lamb liver and lamb heart. I never knew how delicious lamb heart was.


Sarah: How has the farm changed since you arrived?
Rivka: The whole place has changed altogether: there were no crops planted when I arrived, and now as you can see the place is full of all different sorts of plants. In the spring we did more forestry because it was too cold to plant.  But after it warmed up our time has been consumed in growing food.

Sarah:Have you changed at all during your time here?
Rivka: I feel more open, more connected with nature and like I have a deeper understanding of the earth. It has created in me a peaceful balance.

Sarah: What lessons have you learned these four months?
Rivka: Maintaining patience and seeing projects through. I’ve learned that if something doesn’t go according to the plan you can start over with something new, which often times works out better.

The Formless Farm

Only two weeks here and time has already faded away. That seems to happen when you fall in love. Before arriving to 3RF, dates and times, schedules and weeks, tomorrow and yesterday, I was thinking all about when the events in my life would happen. Sometimes waiting and remembering kept me from the present experience, right now, in each moment.

Sunrise From Intern Barn

It helps that the landscape here is more beautiful than I could have imagined. Immersed in nature, the birds and fireflies, the plants and trees, the sun and bees, I have found a balance in the perfection of nature‘s handiwork.

Ox-eye Dasiy

While reflecting on the feelings of pure nature I have begun to quiet my mind. More and more I am tuning my inner-being and body together with the rhythms of nature. Meditating in the magnificence of this place I feel balance and become calm like the silent sun. When my total self is in the present, I am able to perceive and learn more. I have only been here a couple of weeks and yet I have gained so much.

 

Greg is incredibly knowledgeable so I try to absorb everything I can. Just like the plants! (It has been so hot and dry here that the plants extend their roots to try and absorb all the water they can.) I have learned so much about organic farming that I can’t wait to one day have a permaculture farm of my own. Planting and harvesting your own food is very rewarding because you and the plants must work together. One of the greatest lessons that I have learned here at 3RF is that you can choose which seeds to plant. And those seeds that you choose to water are the ones that will grow. These seeds can represent any thought, feeling, or behavior.

Tipi

Robin is full of goodness. She always helps to bring a positive atmosphere, especially after working on the farm all day. She is a refreshing brilliant light of peace. She has also given me so much and has been a catalyst to my spiritual growth.

Both Greg and Robin have been generous to take in interns and make us feel at home. They remind me of my own loving parents, and I am so grateful for their gift.

I will always remember my time at 3RF, and all of the amazing people that have come into my life. An intern named Rebekah (Rifkah)is a beautiful person who has taught me to see all sides of things. I look to her as big sister. She is a boss.

Marian, who is our lovely Kiwi neighbor intern over at Clark’s place, has been a great person to meet. And most recently Sophia Rose, a friendly herbalist, has joined us on the farm traveling all the way from Texas.  And I can’t forget about Schnitzel, who is recovering from a hurt paw, and cats George and Fuzzy.
       

 

Three Roods Farm has a special spot in my heart where I will always be reminded to be more present in each moment.  I have fallen in love with this place. I want Greg and Robin to know that this land is not what I fell in love with. Rather, it is the formless atmosphere that has been created by two awesome beings, as well as everyone that was here before me.

My spirit has been truly uplifted on this stop of my journey. Excited to see what comes next! Please comment, and keep me updated!

Peace,

Ryan Abboud

 

Intern Reunion

Kameron learns to use the rototiller to grind leaves. He does a great job!

I love the people who come help us with our farm work. Most often young and excited to help, they renew my dedication to stewarding this land.  Here are some photos from the last 10 days. Many thanks to Emily, Nate and Jake Breczinski, Aliya Bajhet, and Juliana Mitchell for returning to help. Rebekah Switala and Kameron Creager are our current interns.  Noah Lipham came as a special friend of Emily’s and fit right in.  Regretfully, I have no photos showing the special visit of Laughing Moon mid-week. Laughing Moon is the director of the SuperHero Training Academy!

 

Noah, Aliyah, and Emily in the reforestation area.

 

 

 

Noah and Emily removing invasive plants.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Greg shows Julianna how to use loppers for plant removal.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Noah helps Greg load the truck with leaves for tree mulching.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Emily and Rebekah help create a new garden.

The inspiration for this garden was a large pile of dirt we had excavated to put sand and then pea stone under the tipi.  Later I saw a lunar calendar garden at Kayam Farm near Baltimore based on Kabbalistic insights into the months .  Since I have been gathering women on the Rosh Chodesh, or New Moon every month, I wanted to create my own version of a calendar wheel.

Rocks gathered for the calendar garden.

 

Several friends brought rocks to contribute, but most of the rocks were brought from the Strawbale Studio, a free gift from my good friend Deanne Bednar.

 

 

 

Robin placing large stones around the garden.

We dug a trench and placed the stones. At times it felt like a jig-saw puzzle, looking for the rock with just the right shape to fit next in the circle.  The garden was covered all winter with a tarp to kill back the weeds.  It did the trick.

 

 

Emily and Julianna considering the correct stones.Emily and Julianna devoted much time and effort into this project.  When all the rocks were placed, we tapped them in with a small sledge hammer. Then they made a mixture of clay, straw and water and used this to fill in the gaps in the stones as well as around the front and back of the stones to hold them in place and create another barrier against weeds. 
Jake, Rebekah and Nate weeding in the main garden.
Dinner together.

Wrapping up the season

Its been a year of contrasts.  Long late rains in the spring which delayed planting up the fields, followed immediately by a hot, dry summer which shriveled the lettuce and cabbage before it could make any growth. The honey harvest was good. We had abundant apples, chestnuts and peaches, but few cucumbers, zucchini and eggplant.

We hosted the 2 oldest interns, Spring Goldeneagle and Anna Li as well as the youngest intern, Lily Wilkie-Jones and many others in between.  Thanks to all who blessed us with their willingness to lend a hand. Greg and I so much enjoy the exchange of energy and ideas.

Emily and Nate Brezinski joined Cameron, Michael Mallon and myself for an apple cider making extravaganza courtesy of my friends at Hilltop Barn.   This year we added crab apples to the mix which made it sweeter and thicker. So delicious!

According to the Jewish calendar, a New Year has begun. It’s 5772! I never did take down the tipi this year. Talked myself out of it. It only has a few wrinkles and there’s always a chance I’ll put it up worse.  Besides, I’m planning a tipi painting party in the spring.  We’ll take an entire week – take down the tipi, clean the canvas, condition the canvas with a mold resistant solution, and then paint it!  Hoping Persephone, Maggie, Monica, Cameron, and Kjartan can coordinate to come. All welcome.

Meanwhile, had a terrific visit with former intern David Rittenhouse. He stopped here with a friend on their way to Maine. David was here in 2009 and helped me put the tipi up the very first time.

 David and Adam helped me move the firewood to a new location and then brush hogged the old area.  I think Dave amazed himself that he remembered how to use the brush hog.  Big improvement. The Hebrew calendar wheel is now under a tarp til spring.

 

 

I’m celebrating the Sukkot holiday in the Tent of Meeting. Happy for all the occupation of cities going on, including Flint.  May the Almighty One spread the Sukkah of Peace across the nation, rather across the entire world! We should all have that much faith to live outdoors and know that our needs will be met.  To share with one another, to remember our ancestors, to create a simple life. To decrease our dependence on the government and the corporations who do not have our interests at heart.  To expect nothing and to be happy with all that we have been given.

 

The Michigan Mushroom Hunters Club, joined by some  members of our CSA, bravely walked all over the farm in cold, wet, windy weather searching for hidden fungi.  We found several edible varieties, but all were too old to eat.  Now that I know what to look for and where I might find them, I will be more proactive in the future. Everyone learned a lot about mushrooms and the potluck was delicious.

2011 CSA begins Thursday, June 16th!

We’re excited to begin our 16th season as Columbiaville, Michigan’s first and only CSA. When we began our CSA, members drove nearly 2 hours from Harper Woods and St Claire Shores.  Now, with the proliferation of CSAs, most people can find a CSA within a half hour’s drive from their home.  Most of our members come from Columbiaville and surrounding communities.  Here’s a photo essay of what’s been happening.

Jake and George

I wish I had more photos, but the upload mechanism isn’t working on my camera.  Fortunately, Eitan brought his camera.  That’s why this photo is of his good friend Jake. May was a happy reunion of my daughter Persephone’s friends from Kibbutz Lotan.  Jake stopped at 3RF on his way from his family home in NJ to a farm in Minnesota.  He helped out in the garden and the kitchen while he was here.  Eitan arrived from St. Louis, Missouri soon after.  The young men and Persephone visited the Strawbale Studio. 

Eitan, Perseph & Jake

They had learned about Deanne Bednar and seen slides of the Strawbale Studio while studying Natural Building at the kibbutz.   Here they are outside the same building they learned about in Israel.

After Jake left, Eitan had the opportunity to check out the bees.  1 of my hives survived the winter. We didn’t see the queen, but we saw evidence that the colony is ‘queenright’ and growing so we placed another brood chamber atop and closed things up.  

Eitan & Robin

    I’ve decided not to purchase any more bees this year. I will split this hive if they start making queen cells. Or I’ll catch a swarm if need be. But after 2 bad honey years, I don’t want to waste money on bees. Eitan did well.  No one was stung.  But we missed seeing the queen.    She is elusive. We saw drone cells, so I’m sure that next time I check, I’ll see queen cells.  With the recent weather in the 90’s, swarming is likely. 

Worker bees

                An important job in May, is building up raised beds.  Greg always lays out the job clearly with strings to mark the sides of the bed.       

Raised beds.

            Notice the hedge row of comfrey at the end of the rows.  These plants have done a super job keeping weeds out of the garden.  Their root system is thick.  And the bees love to visit the purple-blue comfrey flowers. Garlic planted last fall is coming up strong.

rhubarb

Rhubarb is a perennial which needs little attention once it gets established. We weeded it and cut many tender red shoots which taste delicious cut up and sprinkled with a little salt.  Mildly sour and easy to chew. 

A tidy garden.

Here’s a nice photo taken from the barn staircase.  The redbud is in bloom, the hedge of high bush cranberry encircles the background. The raised beds neatly dug. A row of wild marjoram is visible in the foreground to the right. They are a new perennial bed; a mild herb which is easy to incorporate in salads or as creative cooking dictates.

Spring and Eitan.

            Eitan was not the only intern to bless us in May.  Spring Goldeneagle spent several weeks pulling weeds and planting flowers.  She did a nice job with the St Francis Garden near the entrance to the farm.  Everyone helps in the kitchen, either preparing food or cleaning up.  Eitan and Spring did both. 

mulching Juneberries.
mulchers take a break.

At the end of May, another friend from Kibbutz Lotan drove from Massachusetts with her girl friend. Here they are mulching the Juneberries with sheep bedding. They spent hours weeding the Juneberry hedge with Japanese hand sickles prior to mulching. Unfortunately we only had 1 day of good weather during their visit.   But we made the most of it.  They weeded thistles out of the strawberry patch, too.

Persephone
Robin & Eitan

Now all have moved on to other summer positions.  I give thanks for all the good help in May and look forward to the next batch of interns.  Don’t forget to bring a camera!

Chani’s Thoughts

A sentence comes to mind:
People come into your life for a reason, a season, or a lifetime.
I don’t know who takes credit for that one, whether it’s a Hallmark original or an ancient Sufi teaching. Be the theoretical origin what it may, there exists a place in which the saying comes to life in a simple and full way. That place is nestled snuggly between the town of Columbiaville and the rest of the world. Three Roods Farm. 

 

There are many beings that make a seasonal appearance here: cucumbers and tomatoes, pumpkins and squashes, eggplants and pole beans, zucchinis and cabbage, strawberries and kale. They each make their colorful debut at their right time. Bees bustle busily, overseeing the parade of flowers importantly, as the seasons roll by. The sheep and chickens too go through the seasonal cycle. The Shetlands are moved from pasture to pasture as the season progresses, while the birds make the ultimate pilgrimage from fed-ex crate, to adolescent chicks, to laying hens, to stew.

But seasons are not the only driving force out here. The sun rises and sets, the moon wanes and then reappears, winds change and with them arrive the reason seekers. The may have been disillusioned with what the rest of the world seems to be up to. The may need to break out of their mold of family and peer expectations. This may be just one short stop on a long pilgrimage/journey, or the final destination until the next bolt of inspiration strikes. They may have arrived with a carload of supplies, bringing their home with them. Or they might be painfully aware that no matter how much they pack, home is exactly the one ingredient they’ve misplaced and are searching for.

They’re here to experience. What land-based life is. What it feels like to be in tune with the earth. They might not be qualified advice dispensers. But working alongside, rubbing shoulders with others who have felt the questions and are now seeking the reason – there’s comfort in that.

Then, of course, there are the lifetimers. Who knows how the opposing and contradicting elements of earth, air, fire and water can work together harmoniously to create this world? Who knows how Robin and Greg have turned this piece of land, these rows of plants, these piles of tools – into a home. There’s no scientific answer to it. Maybe it’s the personal example they set of accepting each other’s differences. Maybe it’s the blessing of a house full of gifts and hand-me-downs. Maybe it’s the different worlds and homes that have preceded this one. God knows. He does. It’s right there on the kitchen wall.

So there we have it. The reason, the season, and the lifetime.

I didn’t know any of this coming in. All I knew was that they had described their farm warmly in the WWOOFer directory, and that it was the right distance from New York (far enough, and not too far). I came here seeking a vacation – vacation from my framework, from the expectations laid at my doorstep, from my worries. Most pointedly, I came here hoping for a break from religion and politics. I found neither. But as it turns out, well, sometimes instead of finding what you set out to look for, you wind up being, yourself, found.

Just some thoughts, as the suns sets, Monday, September 13th, 2010.

-Chani

Intern muses about farm life at 360MainStreet.com

With some of his free time around the farm, computer-nerd-turned-farm-intern Garrison Benson is writing a column called “Agripleasure” at 360MainStreet.com, a Midland/Bay City/Saginaw/Flint area online cultural magazine. Reposted here is his first entry, about Dr. Greg and the importance of observation in agriculture. (Click here to read the column in its original location.)

Dr. Greg scythingWhen I first rang the doorbell at Three Roods Farm, Dr. Greg Kruszewski (crew-shev-ski) stepped out onto his sunny porch, squinting at me through a pair of thick, almost exaggerated glasses. Like those “nerd glasses”  from the dollar store, they enlarged and distorted his eyes. At the time I dismissed them as a facial feature to go along with his modest wrinkles and goatee, but I have since learned that those glasses—above all his rakes, spades, hoes, pitchforks, trowels, scythes, and shears—are his single most important farm tool.

Some farmers do their work perched atop a high tractor seat, distanced from the earth below, but Dr. Greg owns no tractor. His largest machine is the Bush Hog, a walk-along mower equipped to handle thick overgrowth. But the Bush Hog is small enough—occasionally, Dr. Greg stops mowing at the sight of a young sapling peeking out from among the weeds. These “volunteer” trees, he says, often grow better than those he buys from a nursery or raises from seed, so when he spots one from behind the Bush Hog, he transplants it to his eleven-acre reforestation project.

Australorps in the barnyardA month ago I began an internship here at Three Roods Farm (located in Columbiaville, MI, about 20 miles northeast of Flint) to learn how to produce food from the ground. Four days a week I work alongside Dr. Greg as he cares for an organic garden, eighty chickens, a flock of Shetland sheep, and the reforestation project. Every day I learn some little farming tips—today, for instance, I learned that plucking the flowers from a plant will encourage it to spend its energy on vegetative growth instead of reproduction. Good to know. But aside from these fun facts, I’m also learning the fundamental principles, the keys to good small-scale farming. On an organic farm, nothing is more fundamental than observation.

When Dr. Greg uses the verb “observe” (which is often), he means a willful action, not a passively received effect. Once, for instance, we delivered a cartload of dead leaves to the adolescent chickens, to “stimulate their instincts,” and Dr. Greg suggested that we observe them. We sat in silence for ten minutes (that’s a third of a TV show, for most of us) watching the chickens stand still and nervously eye the leaves. “Well,” he said eventually, “We can come back later.”

After a month and a half of weeding, planting, gathering eggs, and so on, I’m finding that my own glasses are becoming more useful and valued every day. Where I once saw only generic weeds, I now see purslane, thistle, clover, plantain, mallow, catnip, and the delicious lambsquarters. The other day, after weeks of watching chickens crowd around a feeder every morning, I decided to “observe” for a few minutes, and suddenly realized that while the larger rooster comes and eats right away (with all the hens), the smaller rooster eats only when everyone else has had enough. He can’t compete for the role of alpha male, so he has no place in the flock. Had I ever stopped to observe them before, I would have noticed it weeks sooner.

Most of the food in America comes from huge factory farms, with huge machines, huge fields, and huge buildings full of huge, cramped animals. The earth is so distant and abstracted that everything on it becomes insignificantly puny. The small scale of Three Roods Farm, on the other hand, allows Dr. Greg Kruszewski to pause for a little tree seen through his all-important glasses.

Interview: Garrison Benson

Benson picks beautiful black berries behind the barn
Benson picks beautiful black berries behind the barn

Interview with Garrison Benson 

by Christi Carpenter and Garrison Benson 

Garrison and Christi pick peas in the main garden
Garrison and Christi pick peas in the main garden

Intern Garrison (Gary) Benson has been working at Three Roods Farm since mid-May and plans to stay to the end of the season. After his month and a half of farm experience, we managed to talk this dashing but bashful intern into a rare interview. 

Christi: How did you come to be at Three Roods Farm? 

Garrison: I recently graduated from Hope College with a Computer Science degree and wanted to learn something more practical and holistic than what I used to do, which is sit around in front of screens. WWOOFing in general and Three Roods in particular sounded awesome, so here I am! 

Christi: What is a first impression that has changed over your stay? 

Garrison: When I first arrived I thought the chickens were disgusting. (Who wants to stick their hand under a chicken? There could be anything down there!) When I got over that, I thought they were mean, because they’re always pecking at me. Now, after many weeks of egg-collecting, I’m starting to realize that pecking is about the closest thing there is to chicken affection. I know they love me – they just have a weird way of showing it. 

Christi: What is the biggest surprise about farm living that you’ve discovered? 

Garrison and Christi pause from their daily task of training the tomatoes. ("Good tomato! Sit! Stay!")
Garrison and Christi pause from their daily task of training the tomatoes. ("Good tomato! Sit! Stay!")

Garrison: How little control we have over everything. We don’t control anything, just guide it. A farmer is like an orchestra conductor, coordinating all the plants and animals who make the music themselves. 

Christi: What is your favorite time of day on the farm? 

Garrison: It’s a three-way toss up between breakfast, lunch and dinner. The food here is delicious, especially the food that comes from the garden. 

Christi: What is a skill you’ve acquired from being here? 

Garrison indicates how he feels about thistles
Garrison indicates how he feels about thistles

Garrison: Scything. Actually, I’m still bad at scything, but I feel like I’m improving. 

Christi: And what else have you learned? 

Garrison: Observation is the most important skill on a farm. Without observation of nature, agriculture could never have existed, and only with continued observation can it be sustained indefinitely. 

Christi: What is the most interesting task you’ve done while here? 

Garrison: Depends what you mean by “interesting”. Burying human poop [from the composting toilet], that’s pretty interesting. To be serious, though, the individual tasks are not very exciting – what’s exciting is the way they all come together, the overarching patterns that emerge. For instance, how thoroughly you weed one day might mean whether or not you have to weed the same bed again in a few weeks. On the other hand, if you weed too aggressively you might damage the crops. 

 
Christi presenting some fresh peas
Christi presenting some fresh peas

Christi Carpenter, a two-week intern, declined an interview, possibly due to a desire to hide her troubling past. 

 

  

 

A New Farm Season Begins

Monica and Megan weed the raspberry patchWith the help of  happy young volunteers, 2010 is off to a great start. Monica Taylor from Delaware and Megan Romano from our own  Columbiaville spent many hours building garden beds, pulling weeds and planting seedlings this spring.  Here they are weeding the rapsberry patch. 

It wasn’t always like this.  When we started our CSA back in 1995, we needed our CSA members to weed and plant.  Wish I had a few photos of those early days.  Sweat equity went into making this farm what it is today. Robin and Greg in Aug '05

I do have this photo of Greg and me in the summer of 2005 – our 10 year farm anniversary.  We look relaxed in a way we didn’t at the beginning.

We have been WWOOF hosts before it was online and fashionable. We have enjoyed the help and enthusiasm of young people from Japan, Korea, Sweden, Switzerland, Canada and England as well as the good ol’ USA. Greg and I will never forget the time we spent as volunteers on Israeli kibbutzim in 1971 -1972. That experience continues to inform our actions today. 

Meanwhile, back at Three Roods Farm, we have rows of peas, lettuce, garlic and shallots.  Our potatoes and strawberries are in patches near the orchard. June berries have flowered and set fruit.  Our new members are finding us and we are excited about this year. 2010! It’s a good year!

We are grateful to the interns who have helped us this spring: Sam Wagner, Megan Romano, Steffan Mirsky, Monica Taylor, Kjartan Code, Kylie Baker and Garrison Benson. May their selfless service bring them a shower of blessings.

Monica and Megan.

Winter in the Tipi

November sunset
November sunset

After some discussion, Greg agreed to my request that we leave the tipi up through the winter. I convinced him that it will get sufficient use to offset the ‘wear and tear’.

Sure enough, 2 young interns appeared who want nothing more than to camp outside through a Michigan winter. Staying in our tipi is an answer to their prayers.  Megan and Sam and I winterized the tipi by laying down lots of rugs on top of the ground cover. We wrapped old t-shirts around small logs and placed them all around the base of the tipi to keep out cold winds.

Last week, Sam’s father installed tubing from the outside of the tipi on the west side, directly into the fire pit.  This will keep oxygen coming into the fire pit, assuring a strong fire.  Sam and his friends brought in several cords of wood.

I brought 11 pounds of sheep fleece to the woolen mill in Frankenmuth and asked them to make a full size mattress for me.  I’m determined to sleep outside in the cold, too.  If I can make it nice enough, I might be able to convince my husband to sleep out there with me and keep me warm.  Meanwhile,  Sam and Megan are definitely the hottest couple in Columbiaville!