Farm Blog

Thank you again for braving the blizzard to celebrate, connect with great food, and 'planting an orchard'! Just imagine all those future cherry trees (don't forget to squat:-).
I am so uplifted from all the good vibes, intentions, laughter and seeds shared and planted.

We were able to raise $850.00 in funds! This will go a long way, thank you! Additionally, with all the seeds donated today and from what I've gleaned from others, The women growers in the Sine-Saloum region will be able to plant out a couple hundred row feet/farm. In the past we've planted shared 'demonstration beds' ie since many of the farmers share space/land to grow on we've constructed seeds beds to trial different varieties, plant insectory herbs and flowers and share techniques. From there seeds are harvested and shared forward amongst the individual farmers. So in essence your generosity helped plant teaching/learning/eating/

sharing beds of veggie, herb, and flower goodness!

I will honor my commitment and extend the immense gratitude, generosity that was shared during the workshop with the women farmers in the following ways:

Work with NCBA CLUSA Farmer to Farmer Program to transfer funds and mail seeds.
I'll also email and share highlights, photos forward later this week in celebration of our workshop success.

I am tentatively set to travel there Nov/Dec. or January in 2016.

I also finally remembered the name of third grower group, JUBO (means widespread). If you're interested in learning more about how they got started, here's a link to an interview I did as part of my last Farmer to Farmer adventure in Senegal.

I Will keep you in the loop as the project evolves and thanks again for sharing your generous spirit!

For the chocolate lovers:
Becky Otte, who made the amazing truffles, has more of her chocolate goodness to share and is selling some of her creations just in time for Valentines. if you're interested send her an email:

Also Here is a link to Roots Chocolate website.

For the Fruit Lovers:

I've enclosed a handout of some of the different fruits we grow at our farm as well as a flyer highlighting this season's events at the farm! We'd love to have you venture out and tour the orchard, come visit us (though not nearly as cool as the orchard poses we did during the workshop).

Thank you again for helping me transition from being a butterfly weed seed (ie wind pollinated, not knowing where or how my intentions, projects might stick) to more of an oak or cashew seeds - wherein I can deepen my awareness, provide support in the same place(s) in Senegal for the growers and in my backyard in Wisconsin:-). Here's to planting the seeds of the as yet to be imagined on and off the yoga mat! Wishing you all much abundance.

Happy Mid-winter!

Yours in hardy kiwi,

PS If you are into exploring the planting side as well as enjoying more local fruit creations, we'll be hosting a Local Fruit Tasting May 16, details on our website.


Going with the Mid-Winter Flow - Pause, Capture, Retain, Redirect

We've leaped across the 'cross quarter' point (the 1st 1/8th point) in the solar year, the wood chuck has been roused from his den to see if it's cloudy or clear, we've finished cleaning trays and pots and have started to seed the first rounds of alliums and herbs, we've checked on our bees, pruned the fruit trees and shrubs and continue to take stock of phenology and finances. In February the ground starts to slowly wake up toward spring, the light's intensity get's noticeably stronger, lambs are being born, and we start to plant seeds for the CSA season and seed intentions for the year ahead.

It's hard to believe that I am heading into my 6th season as co-owner and steward of Hilltop Community Farm and each year we've been incrementally growing and building infrastructure establishing perennial systems for our farm, planting, inviting, and meeting new fruit neighbors and farm friends along the way as our orchard settles into its own. With fruit, we're in it for the long haul. So in 2015 I find myself giving pause, and reflecting on what might we capture, retain, and potentially re-direct in terms of where to put the energy and go with the flow. I thought I'd share a few reflections as to what's bubbling above and below the surface of things.

Above ground the orchard got an extra boost of structural support from a successful 'fence-lifting' campaign last fall. We'll be putting the finishing touches on the woven wire and pause to enjoy an exhale with the saskatoons as they are sighing with relief now that they can grow beyond two feet without interruption from deer browse. The new fence has also opened up more space in the orchard and we'll be adding a few more tart cherry forest garden guilds as well as a few clove currants, hazelnuts, and table grapes. Rob and I have also been busy pruning the pears, sculpting the apples and quince, and taking cuttings from the currants. The hardy kiwi vines weaving well into the white pines, always take a little more salon styling prowess (and a really tall ladder - we should just rent a crane) as we contemplate where the best prunes and cuts are warranted. Winter hopefully is a bit more kind to our kiwi and pears and we can enjoy a crop. You just never know until the first flowers appear and keep your fingers crossed for a cross-pollination by the bees. We're also keeping our fingers crossed that our honeybees will survive their first winter residence at our farm. So far so good and we're looking forward to the relaxing meditative learning that happens when working with the hives.

Last year was all about identifying the gaps and this season we're re-directing some of the growth and flow forms and entering into the transplanting phase that comes with perennial management and maintenance. Our herbs and flowers such as silphium, aster, chives, and mountain mint will be moved, shifted around and slowly, steadily encroach upon the cool season grasses, take root. We look forward to fewer passes with the mower as our orchard understory expands. Seaberry is also on the move and by now we've witnessed how reliable the nursery predictions are when they say they send an equal number of male and female plants. We ended up with a disproportionate amount of male plants, though a few hearty female plants have set fruit and are spreading their roots. We'll get to select for more fruit set. Sorry guys, though we need more gender balance in the orchard.

Below ground, we're fine tuning our compost tea recipes and hope to build a more optimal composting system for both our CSA gardens and for our orchard. By nature of design, we've enlisted the help of plants in the orchard, and continuously raid the leaf piles and woodchip heaps, though we are limited by lack of livestock (you can only add so much 'bee and worm poop'). Thank goodness for good neighbors and we just discovered a good source of organic cow poo from down the road. We hope to reach a good balance above and below the surface of things to pause and celebrate along the way.

This season, we're taking a break from Currant Events and pausing to celebrate a Picnic in the Orchard, and to focus in, pay homage to the soil (see soil quilt project sidebar), seeding gratitude along the way. We hope you'll join us! And as ever our soil and our hearts thank you for your support of our farm and small-scale sustainable farmers the world over. We look forward to growing and learning with you in the seasons ahead. - Erin -