Harvest of dreams
PHOTOGRAPHY: Chris Gardner
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Much of the satisfaction of this lifestyle is derived from attempting the new and untried. There is a conscious effort to make all things on the farm contribute to one another and all of these a contributor to the harmony of the whole.
Thus, almost everything has at least a dual function and many have more than that. A good example, is that of the orchard. It produces apples, pears, and plums, but contributes much more to the overall health of the farm. The trees create shade for livestock and shelter for birds, the blossoms attract bees who in turn pollinate other fruits and vegetables and make honey. The pruned limbs provide chips and branches for smoking and barbecue flavoring.
The picked fruits go into jams and jellies, sauces and ciders. The windfall fruit provides feed for the turkeys and chickens or is composted and goes back into the land. All of that aside, to stand in the orchard in May surrounded by the sight and smell of spring blossoms, is alone worth the effort of growing the fruit.
Tona’s true passion, the flower gardens, are also made to do double and triple duty. Many varieties are grown, not only because they are aesthetically pleasing, but also because the blooms are edible or salable, or because their fragrance and color attract beneficial insects, birds, bees, and butterflies. In the vegetable garden, crops are grown for the market but also for the nutrients and minerals they fix in the soil to improve its overall health. On a farm, everything works together. It has to. All of this cycling and recycling is ancient practice for farmers, yet in the “throw-away” society that we live in, it is extremely rewarding to regenerate, reuse, or transform practically everything you lay your hands on.
Farming, even on a small scale, seems to fill an almost primal need in the people who engage in it. And it points out the interrelationship of all things and how those things combine to create a circle of existence—one that is visible and tangible and present.
Modern life can distance us from the daily workings of our existence. Voice-mail, e-mail, and fax are great tools for connecting, but not for communicating with others. Packaging prevents interaction. A cut of meat pre-wrapped, precludes conversation with the butcher. A fast food restaurant, by its very nature, discourages discussion of the menu. Everything seems to exist at a remove.
For us, life on the farm is reversing that process and we have made a pact, if a neighbor or other visitor stops by we will put down our tools and lean on the fence and “shoot the breeze.” It’s funny how a seemingly small decision like that can have such powerful results. And the decision to sell directly whenever we can, to those who consume our products, or those who prepare them for others, has helped us reconnect in a positive way with our fellow man. We have also found that our customers like knowing that the farmer has a “face” and value the exchange as much as we. And the exchange is not just reconnecting to one another, but to that which sustains us all—the land.
Another great and important source of satisfaction here at Fair Mountain Farm is the setting: The farm’s seven acres are on the original site of the “old Wardrup” homestead, and consist of the main house (over 100 years old) and a “mother-in-law” cottage (about half that vintage). Counting the orchard under fence and the fruit trees scattered throughout the grounds alongside the wild plum thickets, there are about 180 producing fruit trees interspersed with wild primroses, cottonwoods, aspens, and willows. Our homestead has several ancient out- buildings, shops, sheds, a chicken coop, etc., some of which only remain standing because of the mature cottonwood trees that surround them, supporting time, which leans heavily on these structures. There are also corrals, pastures, lawns, and flower gardens. Everywhere we gaze, in all seasons, there is beauty. >>>