“The fires burn and the kettles sing, and earth sinks to rest
until next spring.” — Cylde Watson
In Minnesota, we have this lovely thing called MEA weekend. Two days off of school for conferences and teacher education, creating a four day weekend. We utilize it each year to enjoy autumn at her fullest. This year, we spent MEA at the farm.
At our farm the sunlight dances in the autumn. It skips through the clouds, highlighting different areas of the forest, the leaves suddenly sparking to life and just as quickly retreating back into shadow. The beauty can be fleeting, which makes me on edge in a way, to catch every moment. There is an unexpected joy every time you turn around and catch the light. I can write about it and try to capture the feeling in a photograph all day long…but being there, sitting quietly and watching the grass flow in waves, the light constantly changing, feeling the warmth of the fire against the chill breeze, this is something people need to come experience for themselves.
This summer, John and I have been fully consumed with adding a second story to our home and so we haven’t had the time to be up at the farm much. I’ve missed it. This place is a respite for our family, and in the chaos we are living, we very much needed this time.
We were joined by quite a few guests, including lovely folks from New Orleans that soon became friends, a classmate of mine doing a sociology project, another friend who performed a hand fasting in our woods! A wildlife biologist from the Fish and Wildlife program gave us a visit and walked us through the restoration process of our prairie and how to cultivate a dynamic diverse ecosystem on the land. Dani and I drove up to the tree farm for Prairie Restoration to purchase 15 tamaracks which continues our slow but steady forest planting for the front acreage.
Our commitment to this property and to living our values as environmentalists have solidified this year. We entered a 50 year covenant with the state of Minnesota to not develop the land, and to work towards managing it in a healthy way. We have spent so many hours cleaning the land, creating a space where we can comfortably stay, and now our gaze is on how to develop a thriving natural habitat. One of our main priorities is removing invasive shrubs and grasses and building a healthy prairie. It is going to take a long time to do, and if we work in stages, it will be work that does not end, but I feel like we finally have partners through the state who can walk us through the steps and hopefully find us some funding!
Danielle and the kids and I tackled some of the fast growing willow shrubs that have been creeping in on the prairie and we have planted a variety of flowers and grasses in various soils to see what will thrive here. It is a waiting game, hours of physical work, and frustration (especially when you get the tractor stuck in the mud!) but worth the effort. John and Noah installed some remnants of the old farm house to create a wall for the bathroom, and we established the compost toilet and ensured that it is working well. Once we get insulation and interior walls up, plus solar power, it will be a cozy little bunkhouse!
As we contemplate the yearly seasons at the farm, it is also obvious that there are seasons of growth in our family as well. The kids are less about swinging and running and more about sitting around the fire with the adults. They are forming intricate forts in the grass and world building in new ways. They are asking questions about the land, wanting to be more self sufficient, and taking time to themselves. There is more observation now. More community as these relationships solidify.
The kids have more confidence to go farther into the land and have mapped out so many secret hideaways. They are utilizing the trash piles to scavenge for items to put in the forts they carve out of the tall grasses and willow shrubs. This trip, they gave us a tour and we were able to peek into the magical spaces they are creating.
We also had the quintessential farm experience of finding barn kittens! We saw them on a short trip a few weeks ago when they were just 10 days old, and this time were excited to see them again. Unfortunately, the litter lost two babies, and the remaining three were shivering and weak in an old water trough that they couldn’t get out of. We thought long and hard before taking them, but I just couldn’t stand the thought of them not surviving in the cold. After a day of being with us, warm, fed and loved on, these kittens blossomed into purring sweet playful balls of fur. The kids are getting lessons on animal husbandry, and we will get to put at least a dent in the rampant feral cat population, so this feels like a win all around.
Another trip making memories and being together. I can’t wait to see what the next season brings us!