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Local Farmers Bare All

It has been many years of dreaming. Many years of asking fellow farmers to strip on sultry summer afternoons, hoping that the light was right, the veggies weren’t shy, and my photography skills were up to the task. And now it is here, the 2016 Soil Sisters Farm Luscious Calendar. Photographed by Maisie Ganz with the help and sexy bod of many a friend.

hot.

hot.

I have printed a few copies in order to make the final tweaks before printing en masse. And I am writing this post to ask you, my dear readers, to pre-order your 2016 calendar. I will be printing at the end of this month once I have heard back from those so inspired to have our gorgeous and tastefully seductive creation on their walls this coming year. And if you are wondering just what locally-made, farm-themed gift to give your relatives, friends, and lover(s) – then this is your lucky day. Printed on professional cardstock with vibrant inks and a simple layout, these puppies cost a pretty penny to print and ship – hence the need to pre-order so I don’t break the bank. My bank that is. Calendars are only $20 per or $15 if you buy 3 or more. Local pick-up will be available at the Nevada City Farmer’s Market and shipping an option for those out-of-towners ($5 added for shipping per order).
Email me at soilsistersfarm@gmail.com with the Title: Luscious Farm Calendar to order. Please write how many you’d like and if you are local or out-of-town (leave address if out-of-town).

And I don’t want to give it all away, but here’s a glimpse into this year’s Luscious calendar….Order Today!

oh yeah.

oh yeah.

hubba hubba.

hubba hubba.

ooh la la.

ooh la la.

 

the two-headed fire-breathing farmer

ah!

willow and i are, for the most part, rational, calm people. we know how to take responsibility, to communicate clearly and peacefully, and to negotiate well with others. but once in a while someone comes along that really gets under both of our skins. i am sorry to say that this is happening now. not just one someone, but a bunch of someones. it’s a terrible thing, these uninvited guests that show up each spring, not paying a lick of rent, just lolly-gaging about the farm. purslane. amaranth. bindweed. bremuda grass. thistle. sorrel. that one branching thing with spiky balls. we plant our tiny seeds, or transplant our tender seedlings from the greenhouse, and around the base of the plant, these weeds flourish. they grow twice as fast as our cut flowers and lettuce greens. they return within days of hoeing and hand-weeding. and in the case of purslane, they literally COME BACK FROM THE DEAD, more profuse and more vigorous than ever before.

i am not sure what percentage of the time we spend any given season weeding, but its a lot. which leads us to our latest discovery – landscape fabric. i’ve never previously been a fan, assuming that most options are sickeningly short-lived. here at soil sisters we are almost laughably dedicated to not throwing things away. we’ve been using some of the same drip-tape to irrigate for the last 6 years. we duct tape our harvest bins just to get another few deliveries in before we let them go. we can’t even compost extra flower starts, potting even the puniest ones up into 6-packs to save as back-up or to give to friends. so the idea of buying rolls upon rolls of plastic that will disintegrate and go to the dump in one, maybe two, seasons, was not appealing to either of us.

enter erin benzakein of floret farm. she’s a kick-ass flower farmer up in the skagit valley in washington state. she too writes a blog, except hers is a lot more informative then certain other flower farmer blogs that i know. for example, her blog does not champion a certain dog in almost every single post. she describes how to grow great sweet peas, or how she preps her fields in the spring, or how to get tall zinnia blooms. she has this post (which became an article) about landscape fabric that turned both our heads this spring. i’m going to point you to it here: http://www.floretflowers.com/resources/the-low-down-on-landscape-fabic/ and also chronicle a bit of our own experience.IMG_5040

we bought the fabric she suggests, which is Sunbelt brand, after feeling assured of it’s longevity upon hearing that she has used the same pieces for six seasons, and even some pieces since the early 90’s. we borrowed a propane torch, which didn’t work (needs to be the type that can be inverted), then bought a burlier one, which mostly worked. we made a couple templates out of cardboard, tinfoil, and duct tape (the three jankiest starting materials i can thing of – perfect for soil sisters farm!) and used these to pre-torch the holes into the fabric at the spacing we wanted for our flowers we had ready to transplant (note – we found that making a decent sized hole was crucial, about 3 inches wide, in order to be able to get one’s hand in there to plant). we lay the now-holy fabric over the already-prepped and drip-taped beds, pinned it down using metal staples, and got down to transplanting.IMG_5045 IMG_5048

time will tell if the landscape fabric works for us. what we do know is that it significantly cuts down on weeding, it helps retain moisture which we are hoping will be extra useful in this time of drought, and it makes for evenly-spaced plants that use bed-space efficiently. its a step up for soil sisters farm (just to buy anything new for the farm is a victory around here) and i am hoping that in the long run it gives us more time planting, harvesting, and enjoying our flowers, and less time managing our uninvited weedy guests.

julius, helpful as ever

julius, helpful as ever

in gratitude for this late spring rain,
maisie

Stinging Nettle Cordial!

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Maisie and I have both made this delicious cordial from “Preserving Wild Foods” by Matthew Weingarten and Raquel Pelzel.  Such an energizing spring drink.

1 bouquet stinging nettles

Put nettles in a pot with 3 quarts water, 2 cups honey (I used a little less), 1 (1/4 inch) piece of ginger (I used a little more).  Bring to a boil, then add half a lemon, sliced into 1/4 inch rounds.  Remove the pot from heat and cover, let the cordial infuse for 24 hours.  Strain and store in the refrigerator, delicious served with some sparkling water.

a carpenter’s confidence

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i am a farmer, which means that besides an implicit expectation that i know how to make things grow, i am also expected to be able to build shit. fences, sheds, shelves, greenhouses, work-tables, irrigation systems, and of course, the perfectly shaped garden bed. i have never been a confident carpenter. i was not a child who was given a hammer at age three, my own toolbox at age five. i did not work alongside a parent building our home. i did not even put shelves up in my dorm room once i got to college, or in my first apartments later on. i have a memory of my 10-year-old self, attempting to make a treehouse. i hammered three random two by fours up the trunk of tree and climbed up to the third rail. i was maybe 5 feet off the ground. i was high enough to look into the kitchen window, that’s about it. so naturally i emerged into adulthood believing that i was was basically building-impaired.

but that’s because no one ever told me the secret truth: building is not that hard. building is not a man’s work. men are not better equipped to build a shelf in the garage (unless they are using their penis in there when we are not looking). men are not born with a knack for calculating measurements or using a saw. and yet, this is kind of what i thought. this story was even further validated as i began to farm. time and time again my male farming counterparts, mostly my superiors, were making and fixing shit. complicated shit. broken rototiller motors. underground root cellars. outdoor kitchens. whole frickin’ houses. meanwhile i drew pretty market signs that i laminated at staples. woohoo. when a particular project was at hand i was enlisted, when enlisted at all, to pull nails. the power tools littered around me seemed large, unwieldy, and dangerous. i was told not to touch them. i pictured a circular saw coming to life in my hands, slicing through a leg or arm. so yeah, i didn’t touch them.

but then i worked under the tutelage of a manager who wanted to empower his employees – all three of which that particular season happened to be women. there was finally no chance for me to be overlooked and equally no chance for me to hide. so i began to learn. i participated in welding the spade arms on our tractor. i helped build a large greenhouse, standing on the lifted bucket of a tractor to screw in each panel. i helped to dry-wall an old shed that became our farm office. with fear in my heart i cut posts for a compost station with a circular saw. and it began to get easier. i built an outdoor bed and learned the hard way that although it sounds romantic to build bed-posts out of trees, its just not. i did all sorts of small repairs around the farm. i built picture frames. i carved spoons. and when i left that job, my going away present from that same manager was a set of tools i still use to this day.

from there i slowly built up steam. outdoor toilets for all of our farm sites, a counter for my kitchen, bamboo flooring for my trailer. i fell in love with the ease of screws, and the brilliance of pre-drilling. i borrowed an impact driver and suddenly realized that screwing a screw is not about skill as much as the right tool. i invested in my own drill set. i bought a circular saw that was slightly smaller, easier to manage for smaller hands and a lighter build. i learned to measure lumber, account for extra inches, be specific. i realized that hours would pass and i would be so engrossed in the process i’d stop only because it was time to have dinner.

my confidence has strengthened over the years. now i relish a good building project. i feel happy when i am planning, cutting, building, creating something useful. shelves are always nice. you can’t have too many shelves as a farmer. i’d picture them here but they are not exactly the belles of the ball. function, not fashion is the mantra for most farm projects. but my latest construction has been to date my proudest. finished last weekend, the last boards cut, the last screws screwed. i built a bed! and not a janky outdoor bed made out of fallen trees i found in the dry creek-bed. no, a janky INDOOR bed made from pallets i collected from behind our local hardware store! except for this bed, i have to say, is arguably not as janky, because a) it actually holds our mattress and us up and b) it looks like something that sells at crate and barrel for a whole lot o’ money. and total cost for mine? about $60.

so yeah, i feel proud. and not just because i built a bed. but because i believed i could build a bed. i imagined something beautiful then i made what i imagined. there were moments i felt lame, ill-equipped, over my head. but i just gently reminded myself that i could do this. and i realized that any activity a guy could do while drinking multiple beers, a woman could also do. i just read that less than 2% of carpenters in our country are women. this isn’t because we don’t like the sound of power-tools (though sometimes i don’t), or lumber is too heavy for our tiny little lady arms. nope, from my own experience i can say that there’s just a lot of intimidation to overcome. combine that with a lack of female role-models and an educational system that doesn’t exactly steer girls into vocational specialties (farming and building alike) and you get very few women checking the carpenter box on the census.

so i am grateful for all the men and women who have taught me the skills i use in my vocation. the teachers who have taught me to tend to seeds and the teachers who have taught me to quiet the mind. the teachers who have taught me to use power-tools safely and those who have taught me basic grammar and syntax. and today i would like to especially thank the teachers who have encouraged me to build the things of the physical world as well as the things i think up in my dreams.

love, maisie

 

what the possum and the owl already know

IMG_4

we farmers try so hard, we want to be
a thing of virtue, proud and free
we grow our food and make compost
of self-sufficiency we boast
but when the season comes to close
a panic starts, and worry grows
“it’s fall,” we exclaim, “i need to know
just what and why and where to go”
“the winter’s coming, the days grow short,
i feel the urge to sail from port
my friends go south to catch the sun
they climb and surf and just have fun
carefree and young they jet around
i watch with envy from the ground.
no kids, no mortgage is this my chance
to go to baja, thailand, france?”

but then i take a deep breath, and re-remember
vacation is more than bali’s beaches in december
it can be the stoking of the woodstove’s fire
making sculptures out of wire
hunkering under blankets warm,
listening to thunderstorms.
mornings of yoga, drinking tea
scaling mountains, climbing trees
rainy walks along the ditch
mending clothing stitch by stitch
fixing fences, building shelves
tiling the bathroom all by ourselves

the day to day is beautiful, i need to worry not
of adventures not yet taken, or the perfect snorkeling spot
inside myself is where i need to be
to find the truest sense of free
where mind is still as fallen snow
constriction eases, i can let go
be more like the bear that settles down
a fox whose den is close to town
the little frog that croaks and sings
whose happy with the simple things
the truth of living they seem to know
while my discovery was slow
just find a hole, a stump, a pond –
location’s insignificant
cause all the world – inside and out –
is perfectly magnificent.
love, maisie

IMG_4627

the buddha knows too.

 

Oh the Places We Will Swim

here...

here…

right now there is a baby who is very much resisting entering this world. she/he is comfortable where she/he is, being carried around in a floating belly-world, hearing the faint sounds of goats bleating and farmers talking and doggies barking. and yet it’s time, and we here on the farm are all pins and needles to meet this little person. to love it and give it popsicles in the summer and explain why dragonflies swarm. to read it stories by the pond and hold it’s hand and laugh at the funny things it says. to learn it’s special kid-wisdom and to give it the best bites of the pie and to forget what we were so busy doing and join it to look up at the shapes of the clouds.

little one, i am so excited to meet you. you’ve already hooked me and we’ve never really met. so please go easy on your momma today and get your head oriented right and get yourself out here so we can see you and welcome you proper. i will bring you marigolds to admire and eat. i will make my doggie howl so that you can giggle. i will walk you around in the evening and tell you about the trees and all the silly things we did when we were young and all the silly things we are still doing now. and when you are older i will play cards with you way past when i would prefer to stop, just so we can hang out a bit more. blessings on your birthday, this day of your birth. you are so loved already, safe and speedy arrival little one! love, m

...and here!

…and here!

a succulent sunday

a succulent sunday

a succulent sunday

 

the thunderclouds are building today
the madrone trees dropping their
crackling leaves
so that it feels like fall and not summer
rain drops wake my dog
his speckled paws outstretched
he looks up, looks at me, briefly
lays his head back upon the boards.

wind scatters the canopy
falling needles, leaves, droplets
i can hear a tractor but it is sunday,
there is no appeal for me,
and anyways, my aspirations lean more
towards the ambitions of the border collie
than those of the one who wears the carhartts.

wild raspberries,
a green branch that arcs
over the bathtub –
what caused it’s peak, it’s descent back to the earth?
why not climb upwards and always more up?

the madrone is slick and red
with bark that peels from ash to green.
and i am in love, here on this blue earth.

i am in love with a man who holds me like a precious thing.
and kind words, and kind touch, our currency.
i am in love with this afternoon, humid air and nervous birds,
time to write, to draw a little sketch of succulents in their pot.

the tractor strains.
julius flicks his paw. an ant maybe. or leaf falling.
the madrone sends me one too
a gift, yellow with a splatter of blood still left in it’s veins.

now he is running in his sleep
after storm clouds. after sheep.
after fish in the river who glint and dart and nibble,
always out of reach.

i take his cue
and curl up in bed
to sleep and dream
of my love, who comes to me as a deer
who went climbing in the mountains
and returns to these hills at night,
unafraid to lie down in the dry leaves.

– maisie

The Buddha’s Real Sport

me belaying ollie on donner summit - photo by josh horniak

climbing on donner summit – photo by josh horniak

i’ve been climbing a lot lately. rock climbing that is. which is strange, given that the months of april thru october don’t really provide farmers with a lot of disposable time. and with most of my monday thru friday taken up on the farm, my weekend hours have become these precious little morsels of freedom – freedom from worrying, weeding, planning, and planting – that i must protect at all odds. so driving in a car to some windy summit, then donning a funny-looking harness and uber-tight shoes, has got to be pretty darn appealing if it’s going to take up my whole saturday. but i guess it is, because i find myself heading up there most weekends.

a couple of years ago i went on one of those 10-day meditation retreats. ten days of silence. ten days of deliberate walking, slow-motion in front of the meditation hall, and ten days of sitting, for hours, in the attempt to empty the mind. on the outside, everything looked calm. but my mind was racing. i made up elaborate plots to movies. i had mock arguments with my then-boyfriend. i fell asleep sitting up. i thought about how many minutes, and then how many seconds, until lunch. i thought about all manner of superficial and inconsequential topics. sometimes i thought about nothing, which was nice. i had insights into my habitual patterns of thought, and was able to shift some behaviors that were no longer serving me. that was also nice. and sometimes i felt a deep sense of peace and joy from just being alive enough to watch a deer move slowly through the woods, to hear the creek down below the meditation hall, to sleep deeply and soundly all night, even though it seemed as if i’d done nothing all day.

but i am convinced that rock climbing would have been the buddha’s preferred activity.

i’m surprised it’s not mentioned in the ancient texts. because nowhere else, doing nothing else, do i feel that sort of release from suffering that the buddha talked about. on the rock i am alone. just me and the breeze. my mind empties of thoughts, the farm becomes a distant memory, and all that is in front of me is all that matters. the rock. where to place my foot. the next bolt. the rope. the wind. my own breath.

(it looks like this)

(it looks like this)

but i’ve got to give the buddha some props. and i don’t mean a rope and a harness, i mean respect. as meditative as it is, i know i can’t be rock climbing all the time, and it’s not realistic to rely exclusively on climbing remote crags in order to get my zen-on. there’s just too much real life that happens off the wall. there are bills to pay, orders to fill, flowers to plant, dinner to make, birthday cards to write, plumbing to fix, pets to pet – all the activities and projects in between those calm, quiet moments where i must remember to breathe. and let go. and relaaaax. i can’t trail around a rope on my waist and expect it to catch me when i fall. i have to have other safety measures. i need to learn to go with the flow as i hoe the never-ending aisles of amaranth. i need to breathe as i plant the salad mix, practice walking deliberately on the farm, and train in the art of trance-like meditative states in order to survive a trip to the local co-op store (the single most socially overwhelming place in our town, second only to the annual county fair).

it’s just that the act of climbing brings a sort of equanimity that feels so rare. but i recognize that it is also one practice among many that makes peace possible. or a little more possible. so does sitting quietly for a few minutes after lunch, watching the western tanagers flashing yellow through the trees. or taking an outdoor bath after work, in the woods, listening to the goats shout and the mosquitos hum and the bumblebees pollinate the wild raspberries. or just drinking a cup of tea in the morning without checking email or watching a youtube video. basically doing anything that inserts a moment of sanity into the insanity of a day.

it is told that the buddha sat under the bodhi tree and attained enlightenment. what the ancient texts must have left out, is that after sitting under this tree, and after his remarkable transformation, the buddha climbed it. he wrapped his hands around those smooth branches and hoisted himself up in the the boughs. he looked at the leaves moving in the breeze, the tigers passing underneath, the ants marching single file up the trunk. he climbed and he meditated and he felt great peace. but he also climbed down. he stepped back into the fray of people and things, and he traveled and taught what he had learned. i’m not sure the buddha had to meditate much after his enlightenment. but i do expect that every few days, or at the very least on his weekends, he’d go for a climb.

rare footage of the buddha climbing

a rare photograph of the buddha climbing

love, maisie

Joie de Vivre

i haven’t been writing lately. i have the regular surplus of seasonal excuses – the greenhouse is full, the irrigation needs to be set up, the salad mix is overdue for a weeding. i come home tired. i wake up groggy. i work all day in between. it’s not as if i am feeling overly stressed, my life feels manageable enough. but i am lacking that creative joie de vivre that only comes for me when i allow myself the space to turn down the static of my life, dip into the depths of my imagination, and write.

this evening i stopped by tim’s barn to hang out with the goats. the late evening sun cut bands of light through the holes in the barn, illuminating swirls of flies and straw-dust, the flick of long ears, the mumble of moms, the constant grinding and chomping of teeth, the little spastic hops of the kids. i’m glad i stopped. to be alone is a beautiful thing, in a barn, the creek running down below, the light filtered just so. to be alone is something i sometimes avoid, for fear of loneliness, for fear of being left out, for fear of suddenly dying, beneath the hooves of seemingly gentle goats, with no one there to hear my last words pronouncing to whom i bequeath julius.

there’s some saying, about how we are never really alone. there are the stars, the bees, spiders spinning webs in the corners of our houses, and bluebirds who throw themselves against our windows. the deer pass by and stare at us with those unblinking eyes. even the wind shares company with us, and the trees too, standing stoic, watching over it all. but it is the lack of human company that can be so upsetting. or depending on the context, very appealing. to not have to talk. to not have to negotiate who’s going to make dinner, who’s going to do the dishes, who’s going to pick up the dog from band practice. to read a book, to write a letter, to make soufflé without worrying that it will sink, because only i am there to watch it rise. there are, in fact, good things that go along with the territory of being alone.

but the difference for me, between an evening alone and a lonely evening, lies in how much i am willing to just be with myself, with whatever feelings arise, whatever thoughts come. so mostly i feel lonely when i am scared to do something bold, something vulnerable, or something creative. any sort of action that requires a premeditated presentation of an aspect of myself, in the artistic sense. write a blog post for example? i’d would much rather have someone entertain me. because then i remain safe, emotions tucked up inside, nary a story of inadequacy nor a tick mark added to my sense of self-worth. “make me happy,” a part of me is saying, “show me something interesting, and poignant, and illuminating about me and everyone i know, about the human condition, about life and death and so on and so forth.” i am resisting looking at these things for myself and by myself. i am turning up the static of my life rather then drop into the unknown waters of the present moment.

so guess what? i’m writing a blog post. maybe you noticed. and it has vaguely to do with goats, but it mostly has to do with allowing myself to write something, anything, and how good it feels to stop the mind’s chatter, the body’s constant need to work the farm, and just say something out loud. you may love it, you may, hate it, but i’m not too worried because i have also added pictures of baby goats.

and everyone loves a baby goat.

and everyone loves a baby goat.

love, maisie

A Bluebird in Love

hey there good lookin'

hey there good lookin’

there is a unique bird at the farm. it’s spring, as we all know, and it being spring this is the time for courtship and mating, showing off and chirping, displays of friskiness and feather fluffing, prowess and plumage (i’m still talking about birds here). but this fellow, a brilliant little bluebird, is different than all the rest.

he seems to be in love with himself. his own reflection to be exact. instead of flitting after the females, he hops about in front of the window of the barn, courting himself. he is gorgeous, i’ll give him that, but his antics are a bit bizarre and if he’s not careful, may trigger some unpleasant and unintended evolutionary mechanisms. not that he cares much. because the sun is out and the frogs are singing and life is good. the worms are abundant, there are some foolish farmer chicks who keep planting succulent things for him to eat, and his beloved is always waiting by the window, to dance and mirror back affections for him at all hours of the day.

speaking of love, last night i had a great conversation with a friend on the phone. he’s currently in new york. he’s also currently falling head-over-heels in love. he’s three weeks into it, this love affair, and last night he hit his first snag. and by snag i don’t mean a blackberry thicket, i mean tiny tiny blade of grass. all that had happened, by my estimation, is that in the dreamy-eyed bliss of the honeymoon, he’d momentarily lost track of taking care of himself. even when he sensed that he needed some time alone, he just kept throwing himself back into party. his attachments increased, his neediness soared, and his insecurities trickled in. that’s the moment, i gently told him (as i often have to tell myself), that no matter how much you want to fold yourself into the body of someone else, you’ve got to stop what you are doing and take a frickin’ walk. or write. or call a friend. or do anything but let yourself be sucked back into the love vortex. just take a break. do something for yourself and with yourself. the vortex will be there tomorrow morning when you see your love again.

willow and i made fun of the bluebird today, but upon telling his story i now feel i owe him and apology. i don’t think i had flushed out our feathered friend’s complete narrative. perhaps he’d just got back from an long weekend of being with his love, across the field on the telephone line. slightly worn out and still a little intoxicated from so much flirtation, he just needed a little time to check in with himself. so maybe instead of demonstrating his level of derangement, he was teaching us a lesson in self-love. we spend so much energy, us wing-less beings, on either putting ourselves down when no one’s looking, or pumping ourselves up for the sake of others’ attention, affection, and/or approval. but what if sometimes we brought ourselves the best worms? what if instead of waiting for someone to take us on a date, we took ourselves on a date? what if every time we looked in the mirror, instead of chastising ourselves, comparing, or assessing what we think we lack, we were just like, “damn girl (or guy. or bird), you look awesome today, way to be you, way to rock it.” and then you hopped around in order to get the good view of every angle of your gorgeous body?

i only saw the bluebird today for a few minutes. willow and i were potting up the some seedlings by the greenhouse when he began his dance by the window. but eventually he disappeared. upon deeper reflection, i’m pretty sure that what we witnessed was a very healthy self-love practice. afterwards he probably went off to get himself some breakfast. alone, singing a little tune, and fundamentally happy in his own feathers.

love, maisie