A Lot of M Words

For the men in my family, March is all about March Madness and the NCAA basketball tournament. Tonight, for example, the Sheehan men will stay up late to watch the UConn Huskies play the Washington Huskies. Tip off is ten pm. I will not be attending. This is not to be confused with being out of the loop. During the UConn-Duke final game for the championship in 1999, there was so much screaming downstairs that I knew the score, moment to moment, from upstairs in my bedroom. Also knew the moment when UConn won, Ben tackled Jim, and both of them fell over the back of the couch. Tonight may have a bit of that same flavor.

For me, March is all about Maple sugaring and mud. I mention mud because our dirt road has been mud all month. Frankly, it has been mud all winter, what with all our freak thaws. As the town manager noted at town meeting, we are on our fifth mud season this year.

Yes, town meeting. For the town I live in, March is all about town meeting. Each town in New Hampshire still holds annual town meetings. In our town of Plainfield, a couple hundred of the registered voters come to town meeting each year to hash out their differences, some years with more civility than other years. It’s a good time to visit with a lot of people I don’t otherwise see and do some serious knitting. Due to a bit of contentiousness at the first part of the town meeting in which the school budget was discussed, that part of the meeting was adjourned without resolving some budget disagreements, so an extra third day of town meeting was called for tomorrow. I think it is technically all the same meeting. It sure feels like more than one meeting though.

At last week’s second part of the town meeting, this one about town expense budget items such as tires for the road grader, the meeting broke for lunch so that the eighth grade could sell us all some food to pay for their eighth grade graduation trip to Montreal. This was an opportunity for Jim to buy girl scout cookies and other snacks. It’s a noble sacrifice on his part, all done in the name of supporting his sixth grade students past, present, and future.

Our town meeting happens in the Plainfield School gym. During the lunch break, people who aren’t eating, stand around and unkink from hours in metal folding chairs. I found a cluster of sugarers stretching their legs right outside the seventh and eighth grade locker rooms. Of course, they were talking about their sugaring seasons. As far as I know, I am the only woman sugaring in town. I am not quite sure why it is traditional to have men sugar, not women. I slid silently into the group and listened as people weighed in with their news.

One sugarer with 800 taps in had made 4 gallons of dark syrup. One person with 70 gallons had made 5 quarts. The bigger operation with its 6,000 taps had made 250 gallons, a ration of 2.5 gallons for every 60 taps. Everyone was worried it was going to be another year like last year, when we didn’t really have much of a season. Everyone had started out with the same darker grade syrup that I had.

I wish I knew how to tell them to hug their trees. I really cannot explain my almost 4 gallons with 40 taps any other way, but I have never quite found the nerve to serve that tip up.

One elderly sugarer, who is not syruping this season, told me how the initial Q on his bucket lids had been painted by his grandfather. I have one of these bucket lids with the big Q for Quimby on them. Don’t know how it ended up with my equipment. I offered it back to him, but he seemed quite tickled to think it was in action. I like seeing this Q each time I check my buckets too, because I sugared with the Quimbys several years and learned a lot from them.

Since last Saturday, the sap has run only a tiny bit. We are a month into the season and its only run a couple of times. Yesterday it ran some and two weeks ago it ran off and on for two or three days. Yesterday was not a big run. William and I collected a modest 40 gallons. I am boiling that down today. Temperatures went below freezing last night and went above freezing today. This should bring on a run. Boiling today means I won’t get backlogged with more sap than my holding tank can handle if it runs well today. Probably wishful thinking this season.

Most of the seeds I started last Friday have germinated. I moved these seed flats into the greenhouse from where I germinated the seeds in the kitchen. Its warmer in the kitchen and everything germinates faster when its warmer. Crocuses have joined the snowdrops out in the garden. A skunk has taken to visiting under the bird feeder each day for a sunset snack. I really should stock up on tomato juice since Riley is bound to have a moment with this fearless visitor one of these evenings. He is only just stopped smelling of skunk from last summer’s moments.

Well, just reporting in on Friday. At least this weeks the dogs are pleased that we are outside boiling. They are getting their quote of freedom and fresh air today. Me too for that matter.

Fears, Doubts, Worries, Shopping Lists

No sooner had I pushed the publish button on yesterday’s blog than I received an e-mail from a Green Hope friend named Gina who wanted to know if the Flower Essences she had received from us could have made her feel nauseous.

She had taken her Flower Essences in the evening, had felt a great calm, and then woke up feeling nauseous. She e-mailed me wondering if this was a physical reaction or if some part of herself felt nauseated by the energy of the Essences.

I woke up this morning feeling Gina’s question needed to be addressed more deeply than I addressed it yesterday in the blog.

In yesterday’s blog, I explained how Flower Essences cannot cause a chemical shift in our bodies because they are not chemical agents. In this instance, no matter what Flower Essence Gina took, the Essence could not cause her nausea.

But Gina’s question goes deeper than that.

Can we react with nausea to a Flower Essence? Gina suggested perhaps the nausea she felt was part of her resisting the information in the Flowers.

Before answering this and at the risk of overkill, I really want to be sure that everyone understands that Flower Essences cannot cause nausea.

Flowers evolve only towards greater health and well being. Their vibrational patterns only hold positive information because a Flower that makes counter productive evolutionary choices does not survive.

The electrical patterns of Flowers and their Flower Essences are going to be healing, positive, life giving, and supportive of integrating greater light, love, and goodness. That is the bottom line. They are not going to promote nausea.

When you work with Flower Essences, your electrical system has the same innate desire to make choices that will heal, offer life giving support, or move you in positive directions. In this way you are just like the Flowers Your electrical system will not copy any vibration that moves you in a counter productive direction. Your electrical system wants to evolve only in a harmonious, life affirming direction. This is true for everybody’s electrical system.

But it is not just your electrical system that avails itself to the healing information of the Flower Essences. Everyone has a divine and essential self. Your essential self is in alignment with your electrical system’s desire to heal, problem solve, and move only towards an expanding sense of self. Your essential self wants the best for you. Your essential self joins your electrical system in welcoming the input of Flower Essences. Your essential self is ready, willing, and able to make sense of their divine wisdom in a seamless and happy manner.

I am not talking about outcomes here. I am talking more about a willingness to accommodate information that helps us feel better. Flowers do this. Our electrical systems do this. Our essential selves do this.

A monkey wrench in this flow can be any unhealed part within each of us that does not want helpful information about health, well being, inner peace, or more light and love. This is often a wounded part that may not think we deserve positive change. It might also be a part of us that wants to believe in some sort of illusion that it can control our destinies by trying to stop the healing flow of our lives. When this aspect engages in the process, it may slow down the healing integration of Flower Essences’ wisdom or other healing processes in general. Fortunately, it can never stop it!

As mentioned yesterday, children and animals usually integrate Flower Essences more swiftly than most adults. One reason for this is that any unhealed aspect is usually, but not always, less developed in children and animals than in adults. Our wounds come from exposure to those who carry the same wounds and consciously or unconsciously pass them on to us.

But child, animal, or adult, in all cases, the wounds are built on illusions that will pass away. Only the divinity of our essential selves is real. It is just a question of time before we all know this.

I don’t really know what happened for Gina, but this is my guess. Her electrical system and essential self welcomed the Flower Essences with a palpable sense of peace and calm. They recognized the Flowers gifts as helpful and healing. Some other part of her was nauseated by the idea of the healing information the Flower Essences offered. This was probably the very part of herself that she was trying to heal, but it was a scared part that could only experience this healing energy as threatening. Consequently, it drummed up some nausea to scare Gina into stopping her healing process. Fortunately, Gina was not deterred.

I have certainly had this kind of response too many times to count. My unhealed inner voice can sometimes put up a cacophony of dissonance when I head into a healing experience. Consider, for example, my experience with meditation. For years, I battled with my mind’s voice yammering all through my meditation. Fears, doubts, worries, shopping lists. I tried to shut my mind up by engaging with it directly. I tried to wrestle control of my meditation from my mind. WE WILL NOT THINK ABOUT THE LAUNDRY! This, of course, worked well for my mind, because this focus kept my mind in the spotlight, controlling the whole experience.

Finally, I gave up. I decided to just let my mind talk, but pay it no attention. I imagined that my mind was on a stage with me during meditation. I suggested that it go over to the other side of the stage and talk all it wanted to whatever audience it could conjure up, but I personally would no longer listen. Nowadays, during my meditations, my mind may or may not be yammering away. I really do not know. I am not engaged with it, so I am not noticing it either. I meditate. My mind does whatever. The power to define my meditation is no longer in my mind’s control.

So if I were in Gina’s shoes, I would try to see my unhealed aspect’s response with gentleness and humor. I would let it throw around its reaction of nausea to stir up my fear and then I would mix up more Essences or do whatever else my essential self wanted to do to keep on with my life work of unconditionally loving myself and everything else. I would also take some of our combination remedy “All Ego Contracts Null and Void”. It was created to help with this very situation and is a wonderful friend.

Thanks Gina! Your question was so important! I thank your essential self for writing. I have no doubt that your essential self will prevail! It is the only thing that is real. Someday we will all know this, no matter what is being said by my mind back there on that stage.

The Generous and Safe Gift of Flower Essences

During this era when so many of us are bombarded by chemicals that affect our environment and our body chemistry, Flower Essences stand apart.

They are not chemical.

They do not react with our systems in a chemical manner.

You can’t take too many, because they are not things. They are information.

Their model for supporting our health and well being is not chemical but electrical.

When I began my Flower Essence inservice with the Angels many years ago, I didn’t even know what questions to ask. I had no idea what Flower Essences were. As my learning continued, I experienced the gifts of Flower Essences, but I did not know how to explain anything about Flower Essences in a way that made sense to me or anyone else.

My love for Flowers and my trust in my Angel friends helped me happily go with the Angels’ curriculum. I didn’t worry about diving into Flower Essences, because I had been out in the garden nibbling the Flowers since I learned to crawl. At first, making Flower Essences seemed part of the same journey as the rest of my life with Flowers. But it wasn’t.

Flower Essences were a departure in a new direction. One that I am still learning how to explain.

Over the years, my descriptions of Flower Essences have gotten clearer. I hope, in years to come, these descriptions will improve further.

Right now, I like to described Flower Essences as problem solving information.

As Flowers evolve, they solve certain problems.

If a Flowering plant’s micro climate is a desert, this plant will learn to grow without much precipitation or it will die away.

If a Flowering plant’s micro climate is the edge of the sea, at the receiving end of constant wind, salt water, salt spray, and extremely changeable conditions, this plant will learn resilience, a certain kind of cheerful toughness, and adaptability or it will not survive.

Flowering plants that have solved their environmental problems will flourish by their own adaptive ideas for living. These adaptive ideas exist as an electrical pattern in each plant, one that can be read by other species as well as other plants.

Reading a plant. That sounds sort of odd. But really, it is a variation on what we do all day, every day. We read each other, feeling good from some encounters and burdened by others. We do this with plants, animals, and eco systems as well.

I bet if I asked a million people if they had to pick between a sunny day at the Grand Canyon or a trip through a smelting plant, there would be nary a one to pick the smelter. We all know what we want to soak up. We all know what electrical vibes we want to take in and those we would rather do without. We all know what we need.

Sometimes, it’s neither practical nor possible for us to visit a Flower or its eco system to read its problem solving information. Flower Essences make it possible for us to read the problem solving information of Flowering plants that we might not be able to visit in person.

For all the folks who have been rebuilding their lives post Katrina with the support of Flower Essences, they are getting the Irish Flower Essences information on resilience, adaptability, hope, faith, and good cheer amidst flood times without visiting the Flowers in Ireland. They are getting the consoling information of Green Hope Farm Flower Essence mixes like Grief & Loss or Anxiety without having to shop around and visit a lot of Flowers that might or might not hold helpful information for supporting them through this traumatic situation of loss.

The Flower Essences travel to them with healing supportive information. The red shiso stabilizer is nothing but a vehicle to transport the information. The information is everything. And this information offers invaluable inservices from the wise and generous Flower companions of our shared planet.

Each of us gets to decide what to do with the information of the Flower Essences. Everyone’s free will is respected. Nobody’s body chemistry is messed with against his or her will. Each of our electrical systems reads the Flower Essence and then, from the wisest place within us all, each of us decides what to do with the information. Is this the right information for me and my healing? Each of us decides. There is no imposition, just a gift offered that we can learn from if it is right for us.

I have mentioned before how swiftly animals and children soak up the vibration of Flower Essences and make healing changes in their lives as a consequence of what they have learned. They recognize the spirit of friendship with which Flowers offer their wisdom. They know it is their choice to learn from this wisdom or not. They know they deserve this support and embrace it wholeheartedly.

How I hope that this blog today has helped each of you join the animals and children in feeling a little bit more certain that Flower Essences are safe and that Flower Essences don’t do anything but offer healing information for you to read or not, with you ever in a place of choice. Most of all, I hope that no matter how you go about your healing journey, you will sink down even more deeply into the truth that you are loved and deserve every bouquet of Flowers this beautiful Earth wants to give you.

Eight Lone Rangers

This weekend I pruned our fruit trees.

There were three ancient apple trees in the yard of my childhood home. These trees consistently gave great apples without much maintenance. What I didn’t understand at the time was that the pruning for such productivity had been done decades before we moved to the house. All we did was give the trees a haircut each spring, pruning off the new shoots. These shoots are the branches that go straight up from the main branches. They were easy for us to recognize and prune out because they were straight and had darker bark than other branches. We rarely had to think about the structure of the tree or correct any problems. A wise pruner had done that for us a long time before.

Our bountiful apples and easy pruning led me to greatly underestimate the complexities, as well as the joys, of starting my own orchard.

But that is exactly what I did. Soon after we broke ground to build our house in 1987, I went out and got myself a gaggle of apple and pear trees.

When I taught English to high school students in the 1980’s, I would give them an unidentified list of apple varieties. If they could tell me what the list described, I would give them an extra 100 quiz score to boost their grade point average. They could research this list any way they wanted, but few figured it out. In this age of Google, probably everyone would solve the puzzle, but back then it was an obscure, mysterious list.

I loved giving this list to my students, It was poetry. It was history. It was the realm of nature and human imagination meeting. I was just as in love with the names of the apples as the apples themselves.

Winter Banana, Baldwin, Northern Spy, Yellow Transparent, Spartan, D’Arcy Spice, Chiver’s Delight, Howgate Wonder, Gravenstein, Westfield Seek no Further, Ashmead’s Kernel, Cox’s Orange Pippin, Grimes Golden, Chenango Strawberry, Sheepnose, Black Twig, Spitzenburg, Wolf River, Summer Rambo, Duchess of Oldenburg, Red Astrachan, Peasgood Nonsuch.

My love for the names caused a beautiful mistake. There were so many apple trees with magic names to love and embrace, I didn’t ask the Angels for advice about what varieties of trees to plant. Instead, I went ahead and ordered eight different apple trees bearing marvelous names and three different pears.

This worked fine with the Pear trees. The three I planted happened to happily cross pollinate. Most years, we have a good crop of pears. The apples have been a different story.

Apple trees are like pears in their need for cross pollination. They will not set a good crop with their own pollen. This means an apple tree should not be planted singly but needs a partner as pollinator. Different kinds of apple trees may seem to bloom at the same time, but they actually bloom across a three week period with blooms being available for pollination only a short number of days in this period. The cross pollinator one chooses must bloom at the exact same time. I chose apple trees that don’t bloom at the same time. Eight lone rangers.

Another issue in pollination is proximity. One would think that all the wild apples in our hedgerow and in the cultivated apples next door at Teddy’s would provide a cross pollinator or two for our eight, but even if there is a match, it doesn’t help. There is a limit to how far a bee will travel on its pollen and nectar seeking forays before it returns to the hive. Therefore the cross pollinators need to be close together. Trees at Teddy’s don’t solve our cross pollination problems as they are well outside the rough guide of no more than sixty feet between cross pollinators.

I put these eleven trees in a ring around one of the vegetable gardens. The reason there are not a symmetrical twelve trees is that the granite ledge beneath our property is so close to the surface where these trees were planted that the place for the twelfth tree was bare ledge. The other trees don’t have much more soil. I would say that the most any tree was planted in was a foot of soil. I improved what soil there was with compost and various other organic soil amendments, but really, these are valiant trees to have grown in this spot.

Not only did these beloveds have a difficult environment in which to flourish, but I didn’t understand how much radical pruning I needed to do during the first years of their lives here. I thought that fruit trees naturally branched out, whereas I was to learn that most branches naturally go up. They need to be pruned to go out. They need to be pruned to have an organized set of branches.

One reason for pruning them outwards into organized layers of branches is because the fruit needs light to ripen. If the branches are all close together going skyward, the fruit doesn’t get much sunlight. By encouraging the tree to branch outward, more fruit can get sunlight. Beyond this technical reason, apple trees also have incredible elegance when they have been well pruned. Pruning brings out their inherent beauty.

I have learned much about gardening from watching other gardeners. I had the great good fortune to watch and learn from a wonderful pruner. After our small orchard had meandered along in my confused care for several years, a master pruner named Lauren Sherman arrived to give me a much needed inservice. She also did some much needed remedial work on all our fruit trees. By the time she arrived, I had added plums, peaches, more pears, and a sour cherry to our small orchard, but I was listening better to the Angels and knew enough to get cross pollinators for the plums. The cherries and peaches are self pollinating so it was okay for me to get a solitary cherry and four of the same peach variety. Lauren worked her way around the whole collection. I followed, watching her every cut.

Lauren in action was a joy to behold. An hour in Lauren’s hands and a scraggly tree would reveal its beautiful bones. Lauren explained an obvious point. A tree’s branches must be within reach either from the ground or from a ladder or no one can harvest its fruit. She taught me how to properly take off the top of the tree so every branch is accessible. I also learned how to cut out crossing branches and branches growing inward, and how to cut a branch right above an outward facing bud to encourage outward growth. Over the years these techniques have transformed our trees. That and a lot of standing around asking the trees’ advice and asking myself WWLD (What Would Lauren Do)?

Before Lauren, I was a timid pruner. Originally the seven acre field where we set our house had no trees in it. Our hedgerow and lower acres had trees, but every other tree is here because we planted it. Given this paucity of trees, it was initially very hard for me to part with a single branch, let alone take off hundreds of branches. I also was afraid any bold action on my part would hurt the trees. I didn’t really understand the necessity of extensive, even radical, pruning until Lauren. I hadn’t really understood until then that the reason why my childhood apple trees did so well was because some human had forced them into a shape that would work for fruit production. It hadn’t just happened all on its own.

A garden isn’t something that plants create alone. A garden is a meeting place where plants cross pollinate with the imagination, purposes, and actions of people. Apple names reflect this. A name like Westfield Seek no Further tells a story of a good cross pollination between nature and humans in an orchard somewhere, maybe Westfield. A fruit tree will be one thing if left to run wild and another thing entirely if hybridized by a knowledgeable arborist, grown with love, and pruned by a wise pruner. This kind of cross pollination results in a situation where one would need to seek no further for a good apple.

But also, a garden has its own identity, separate from the plants and the humans, beyond the hopes and limitations of the humans and the plants. A gardener in alignment with the garden in her care will cut away everything that inhibits the expression of the garden’s essence, but also surrender to the great mystery that a garden has a destiny separate from its people or its plants.

The longer I am here at Green Hope Farm, the more certain I am that this place’s identity and purposes exist well beyond its present form or my work here. This is exhilarating and also humbling.

Good cross pollination between humans and nature is theoretically going to serve the greater identity of the garden. But maybe sometimes a breakdown in communication, problem pollination so to speak, also serves this greater identity. Like my non bearing apple trees. The ones I no longer know the names of so I cannot give them a pollinating partner. They are beautifully pruned now, but most of them still don’t bear fruit in the conventional sense of the phrase.

In this small instance, as in everything else, my job is to try and figure out what course of action is in alignment with this consciousness Green Hope Farm. Do I cut these trees down and start over with better information so as to get a good crop of apples? That would seem the logical choice. But maybe, in this instance, I must bow to a superior wisdom that used my lack of knowledge to bring in these particular eight apple trees for energetic reasons. We certainly know Green Hope Farm has purposes beyond the obvious of food production. Perhaps I must accept that my mistakes have been as important to this place as what my personality would call my better decisions. Perhaps these eight lone rangers do bear fruit, but I can’t see it.

As I consider this, it comforts me to think of our shipping mistakes. We make them. This is not the comforting news. The comforting news is that there often seems to be gifts in our mistakes. The wrong Essence we sent often seems to bring something none of us knew was needed when you ordered. We certainly try a) not to make mistakes and b) to fix mistakes when they happen by sending the Essence you originally ordered, but we are comforted by how often you tell us the mistake was the one you needed most. Once again, this is exhilarating and also humbling.

So for some reason Green Hope Farm needs these lovely lone rangers just the way they are. And me? For as long as I can climb a ladder and hold my felco pruners, I am going to happily prune these trees to help them bear fruit, apples or no apples.

Happy St. Patrick’s Day!

Friday I do farm jobs. This Friday, I spent most of the day starting seeds in seed flats and finishing up the syrup that I boiled down earlier in the week but didn’t get canned.

I ended up collecting about forty more gallons of Maple sap on Tuesday, so during the week, I boiled that down as well as the hundred gallons from Sunday. This morning, I canned up almost four gallons of syrup. It is not Frenchman’s Blonde. It is not even medium in color. It is really a dark amber. Usually the syrup is only this dark towards the end of the season.

I sent my husband off to school today to ask various children whose families also sugar if they also are getting such dark syrup from their sap runs. If I get a chance after sowing all the seeds, then I will go to a sugarhouse in town to ask for myself. I am trying to suss out if we are going to have an abbreviated sugaring season. No matter what happens, it’s okay for us. I will be happy even if this is the only sap we get this year, but I worry about people like my neighbors at the Taylor Brothers Sugarhouse. While they also dairy farm, a good sugaring season really makes their year. Liz Taylor used to work here back in the 90’s. Her eldest child, Jeff, is in Will’s fifth grade class. There are about a dozen Taylor Brothers Sugarhouse progeny for Jim to buttonhole at school for information, including Jeff.

I started a lot of seeds today. The Flowers for this year’s Venus Garden are mostly purple and I started two flats of those plants. Other Flowers including Osteospermum, Asters, Nicotiana, Ageratum, and Bells of Ireland were sown today too. Right now, I am doing the plants that like to be started about 8-10 weeks before our last frost. This is usually around June 1st.

I also started lots of herbs for the circular stone courtyard that leads into this building and the farmhouse. I hope to put many varieties of Thyme, Lavender, and other herbs and scented Flowers in this courtyard so everyone’s trek into the office or house is fragrant and sweet. The encircling rock wall is a bit of a heat sink. Well, that’s sort of a relative term here at the Arctic circle, but I do think the heat loving herbs will be happy in this spot. We certainly gravitate there on any even slightly warm spring day to eat our lunches and bask in the sunlight.

For the vegetable garden I started basil, parsley, leeks, tomatoes, peppers, eggplants, cauliflower, broccoli, cabbage, lettuce, and brussel sprouts. Per usual, the Angels have been playful in their selection of vegetable varieties. Among other things, we will be growing white, yellow, pink. purple, black, and red tomatoes and purple and orange cauliflower.

Like everywhere else, its St. Patrick’s Day today. I have covered my green shirt in soil mix. The last potatoes for eating are going into a New England boiled dinner tonight. All the rest of our potatoes we will plant. Our Irish cousins plant their potatoes on St. Patrick’s Day. For us, potato planting is a ways off, but not that far off. Today, up to my elbows in seed mix, I knew that, and so did the dogs, who could hardly believe I was wasting their day out of the office by being inside.

As a community of Flowers, Angels, Nature Spirits, Dogs, Cats and even some People, Green Hope Farm can be a funny place……and I love telling you all about it!