Layered messages

It’s funny and endearing and also totally not funny and lame how life can share with you a message in various ways.

For example, you may be learning a new language in preparation for an upcoming trip or move, and you may also have plans that same week to visit a friend and have to learn the route to their place via spoken directions or a piece of paper because you’ve never been there before, AND in addition to all that everything you crave to eat that week is nothing you know how to cook – so there you are learning new cooking techniques from foreign internet sources or cookbooks to sate your desires. The overarching theme in this example is language, communication, literacy – all at once, manifested in different forms. Funny, but also not funny, especially if you’re on the verge of what some call “hangry”… a feeling that I don’t feel to be acquainted with (though, my loved ones may disagree).

This past weekend, Les and I were clearing up the upper pasture, which has been my main production field for the past two seasons. It’s about an acre in field space, and I’ve had 46 one hundred foot beds mostly in production there – some were lost to weeds, but most produced gorgeous yummy produce and pretty flowers that have fed our bodies, eyes, and souls.

Gifts from the field

The “clearing up” process entailed rolling up hundreds of feet of drip tape lines, pulling up old flower netting with all kinds of weeds grown in and out of the petroleum product, and picking up the pieces of an environmental disaster. Yes, you just read that – an environmental disaster.

My first season of Heartstrong Farm was started with $5,000 of savings and a $5,000 Kiva crowd funded loan. Needless to say (for those acquainted with the start up costs of any scale of farm operation), money was tight so purchasing a tractor was not an option without going into significant debt. So, I did as I learned from market farming gurus Eliot Coleman, Jean Martin Fortier, and others, and utilized “occultation” to get my beds ready for planting.

Occulation is a snazzy word for baking the top layer of soil using the sun’s heat with the aid of a sheet of silage tarp or heavy duty plastic.

So, for my first season, I purchased two 100 x 40 foot sheets of black Husky 6 mil tarps and baked the soil in order to clear the weeds to grow beautiful yummy produce – which I did and for which I am thankful.

Occultation in the Upper Pasture; mid-ground is what beds look like after occultation – weed free!

However, shortly after the acquisition of those plastic tarps, things began to deteriorate – on land and in my personal life – for the better, but that didn’t make the process any less painful.

The marriage that had followed me onto the farm property dissolved more rapidly than the sun deteriorated the 6 millimeter thick sheets of plastic – though both were left in pieces on the farm, both of which I have just about cleaned up with the grace and love of my Love and our community.

While Les and I were enjoying the sunshine this past weekend and the peace and comfort of each other’s company, I was on my knees cleaning up the hundreds of pieces of deteriorated plastic that was too thin for the original application in the first place. I was cleaning up the last bits of my first season of farming, my own little environmental and emotional disaster, tediously picking the pieces out of thorny brambles, shoving it into garbage bags, and stacking it up for removal.

While I was piling up the plastic to be shoved into bags, Les asked me “whatcha doing over there?” while efficiently and swiftly rolling up old drip tape. “Healing,” I responded. Healing the land, and myself. A dual message that was poignant and also a pain in the ass – see picture below.

Cleaning up my environmental disaster


Now, preparing for season three and a much smaller more focused farm operation in tandem with Les’ creative endeavors, I now find myself in a place in life where my heart is content, my gratitude is abounding, and my partner and I go forth each day with love, presence, kindness and respect.

I wake up to days filled with delicious healing home cooked food, colorful layered works of inspiring art all around, deep love, and authentic community. I also walk out to fields with plastic tarps that are the right thickness (at least 8 mil, for all you curious ones!) to withstand Mother Nature’s effects – for the interim, anyway, as we’re moving to broadforking and straw/compost mulching going forward.

Les and I going over his original pen and black walnut ink illustrations of the farm for our 2018 RAFI Agricultural Reinvestment Grant; the bottom left is an illustration of the Upper Pasture – seedlings in weed-free soil, drip tape, plastic tarping, bean seedlings, and marigolds dancing tall into the sunshine. Art heals, love grows.

So in cleaning up my little environmental disaster, life shared with me the message that this was the last of the disaster – in the field, in the home, in my heart. Now, life said to me, go forward, freely and renewed.

It’s funny and endearing and also totally not funny and lame how life can share with you a message in various ways. 6 millimeter plastic tarping – never again!


“An art that heals and protects its subject is a geography of scars.” – Damage, Wendell Berry


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