June 9th, 2013

Not Even the Rain

“Nobody, not even the rain, has such small hands” said ee cummings, not anticipating the wet fists of weather that pounded the farm last week, drenching hapless bees an chickens and turning topsoil into a slurry of unworkable muck.

We need water, of course, but not that much, and not so relentlessly. Sitting on a pretty high aquifer here at Stonegate means that heavy rains tend to percolate up and glaze across the ground like a tide.

SGF MID JUNE 2013-7174Mustard greens, trying to hold on to their delicious heat, despite the drizzle.

We’re perched above the Hudson River, so it’s rhythmic tidal push and pull is familiar; we feel it, and we try to plant according to lunar cycles, a form of biodynamic farming that considers the moon’s pull on moisture and nutrients in the soil and in plant cells.

Developed by scientist and philosopher Rudolf Steiner in the 1920s, The best biodynamic farming looks for harmony between earth and sky, between soil, plant and planet, and tries to score those forces into one harmonic voice. This is no easy task, with all the dissonant pressure from pest and fungi acting against organic growing.  But it feels right here, and we’re doing our lyrical best.

SGF MID JUNE 2013-7294Baby bok choy and frilled mustards, perfect for braising or salad.

The way we interplant diverse vegetables, herbs and flowers at Stonegate in close, careful proximity means we moderate soil temperatures and reduce weed pressure, and we create relationships and dialogue between species that are mutually beneficial.

It’s arcane science, to be sure—the subtle whispering between cells—but the most poetic and meaningful things usually are.

SGF MID JUNE 2013-7522The tender bunching onions loved the rain.

Even some of the nutrients we add to the farm come from deep, other-worldy places. If you ever visit Stonegate midweek, you might feel as though you’re walking  through the salty savor of low tide. We spray with an organic fish and seaweed fertilizer that leaves plants high on ancient minerals unlocked from the bones and bodies of fish, from sea-green ribbons of brine and whatever else the mysterious tide brings up.

This nutrient-rich emulsion is spread across the farm as a foliar feed, where it works its slow, deep, delicious magic.

SGF MID JUNE 2013-7568Sprays of rainbow chard and purple lacinato kale.

“The sea does not reward those who are too anxious, too greedy, or too impatient,” said Anne Morrow Lindbergh in Gift from the Sea. Patience is what the sea teaches. Patience and faith.”

So too with farming.  Patience and faith are persistent mantras.  Patience in bringing seed to leaf and fruit, faith that it will all actually work, and that weather and pests won’t undo you.

I love bringing the tidal sea back to the farm, the same sea that once moved as glaciers and created the very topsoil I’m farming. It quickens the steady biodynamic pulse of the place, and deepens its wonder. —Mb

“…one thirsts for the magnitude and universality of a night full of stars, pouring into one like a fresh tide.” Anne Morrow Lindbergh, Gift from the Sea


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