Farmer John Writes: Portals
Harvest Week 12, September 8th – 14th, 2020
For those of you who have visited Angelic Organics, you probably associate it with a long driveway, or entrance. The driveway is 1/4 mile long (that’s 80 rods in farmer speak). I think the entrance to Angelic Organics Farm and Angelic Organics Learning Center should be special, that it should engage the other meaning of the word entrance, the verb, to fill one with wonder.
I was entranced by a plethora of magnificent entrances in San Miguel de Allende, Guanajuato, Mexico in the winter of 1974. I resolved then to fashion entrances that elevate the transition from outer to inner, perhaps somewhat the way that meditation can serve as a portal, or how an introduction to another human being might serve the transition from stranger to friend.
The room through which one enters a home is often referred to as a foyer, which has its origins in Old French as the word for hearth, or warmth. Over the years, I have strived to enhance entrances so that human beings passing through them will feel special, elevated, wondrous–will feel warmed. (Always, of course, there are compromises; to achieve the ultimate portal can really only be a striving.)
I am including photos of some of the entrances on the farm that I have designed and through which my fellow human beings gain passage.
Let’s continue to some of the portals at the farm.
Back to the farm entrance. In the late 70’s, I lined it with poplar trees. Upon traversing the driveway back then, one experienced a corridor flanked by tall trees spiring towards the heavens. These trees graced the driveway for their normal life span of 15 to 20 years.
I do not have an actual photo of the driveway back then, but I am including a photo of a painting of the farmstead from the perspective of the poplar-lined driveway, to give you a feel for that era of the farm. (The painting is its own portal.)
Now that I have offered this introduction to entrances, I would like to share with you the current plan to entrance farm visitors as they traverse the entrance to the farm.
Angelic Organics Farm and Angelic Organics Learning Center are partnering on this project, as the long driveway serves as both an entrance to the farm and to the Learning Center.
Two swaths of land, each about 40 feet wide flanking the long driveway, will come alive with prairie forbs. Imagine a living entrance to the farm—a pollinator garden—vibrant with swaying grasses, blooming flowers, fluttering butterflies, bees, and birds. (Since there has been a plan at the farm for 25 years to establish a butterfly garden, which has yet to come to fruition, I lean towards the term butterfly garden for this glorious corridor we are fashioning.)
This summer, we have been steadfastly preparing the ground by continually eradicating the weeds that would otherwise hamper our chances to establish prairie along the corridor. We have been achieving this through shallow tillage with our rotavator, also known as stale seed-bedding. (A more contemporary and much more common method of weed eradication in preparation for prairie plantings is to spray with Roundup. Aren’t you glad you are a member of an organic farm?)
This fall, the Angelic Organics Learning Center, with the help of volunteers, will undertake the seeding of the prairie plants. Randy Mermel has been leading this initiative on behalf of the Learning Center, with assistance from Laura Sjoquist, On-Farm Program Director for the Learning Center, Jessie Mermel, and Jackie de Batista, Executive Director of the Learning Center. Details are not finalized as to how and when the seeding will take place. As the details emerge, I will share them with you and I am sure the Learning Center will also share these details. I simply wanted to introduce the concept, the overview, of our plan, since gracious entrances are dear to my heart and have been a preoccupation of mine for many decades.
Portal to the Future
We finished seeding all of our cover crops of clover, alfalfa and forage peas by August 31, a goal that is very challenging to achieve. Then it rained—perfect. We now have completed the most demanding part of our field preparations for 2021. One might consider that we have fashioned a promising portal into the future for our shareholders.
A Final Note on Portals
A childhood friend, Bill Olafsen, helped me design the renovation of the Bamlett Schoolhouse into my home in the 70’s. Bill felt that any window or door that served as a visual portal to the interior of the home should offer an uplifting experience to the viewer. At night, he would sometimes stand in the gravel road that runs by the house and imagine a curious traveler driving slowly by the house, gazing through the glass front doors. He wanted to assure that this traveler would be inspired by the sight of the home’s interior.
Likewise, he walked around the home’s circular driveway, gazing through the windows, for he realized that a traveler might be intrigued by this stone structure built in the 1840’s and might circle it out of curiosity. Bill wanted to ensure that this inquisitive traveler would be uplifted by myriad views of the interior of the home from the outside. I marveled at this most generous concern for the well-being of humanity–to warm the stranger’s mood with a portal to loveliness.