Excellent Company

This past Saturday was one of those rare and miraculous NW winter days where the weather and light join forces to show off their most enchanting stuff.  The morning was crisp and white frosty but unfolded into a short-sleeve, shoes off affair that everyone in Seattle is still talking about days later.  It was a perfect day to be at the farm.

m i m i & e g g

I had the additional pleasure of having artist Mimi Allin along with me this time.  I met Mimi in Fremont, we grabbed coffee from my favorite place then started south around 7:15 AM.  For the hour + ride to Orting I luxuriated in hearing about Mimi’s thoughts/actions about her current/next work. Her musings are poetry and listening to her is a magic carpet ride.  I answered many questions about my own processes and thoughts around this farm work. Being deeply considered and listened to by a discerning and compassionate artist had a galvanizing effect on previously loose ideas.  I felt renewed and celebratory in the fact I get to do this work at all.  Being with Mimi is like that.

Once we got to the farm we visited with Ken (Carrie was at an organic farming event in CA) then took off to meet the animals.  I gave Mimi a fairly quick tour then we separated.  Ken left for Tacoma then it was just us and all the animals.  I built myself a nest in the sun and dove in.

The morning was filled with photographing a sold piece, finishing a new piece and gathering rocks.  Lots and lots and lots of

s t o n e s

rocks.  Ellie the dog kept me company while I gathered and sorted the piles that I will ultimately felt and use to “draw” in the field.  I did a quick sketch with a few rocks on this trip and, well, more on that later.

I experienced death on the farm for the first time this trip.  A sheep and a turkey died recently (couple days ago?  last week?) and they tied the animals’ feet together and strung them up individually in a tree by the brook.  I first saw and photographed them from across the brook then walked the plank footbridge to where they hung.  I will not spell out the details here, but will say it was a truly haunting experience to get close to these animals as they hung there in silence.  I felt like running away.  I felt like crying.  I felt like the animals were infected and that I might get sick if I got too close.  I was surprised by how big and overwhelming these feelings were.

Ken told us the animals were out there almost first thing.  I guess he knew that it could be troubling for the uninitiated.  He explained that the animals were now bait for coyotes.  There is a real coyote problem – for all the farmers.  There is a $50 bounty on coyotes.  Ken said that some friends of his were going to come out that night, in the bright moonlight, and try to shoot a coyote – not for the bounty, but as a measure of balance.

From where I am today, I do not believe I could dress and string up the sheep (its mid-section was wrapped in burlap and it was bleeding).  I could possibly tie and hang the turkey.  I could not shoot a coyote.  I don’t have the gun skills nor the stomach for it.  Or maybe I do.  I did wish that I was staying overnight so that I could sit in the blind with the men.  I had a lot of questions and wanted to see a coyote.  Maybe it will come up again and I’ll see where I am then.

Mid-afternoon Mimi called her old friend (and new friend to me), artist Stephen Roxborough, to come join us at the farm.  He had mentioned some time ago that he would like to visit the farm and possibly take some photos.  He drove down and did just that.  It was wonderful to share the farm and the rest of the glorious day with people who appreciated the farm and the work I was doing there.  Thank you, Stephen and Mimi.

Once the sun started down and our work space fell into shadows, we packed it in and called it a day.  We said our good-byes to the animals (Mimi is head over heels in love with the pigs) and to Ken and his friend, Bill.

Can’t wait to do it again.

Thanks for visiting.

Artist in Residence – Little Eorthe Farm

White House South Lawn

I learned about farmer Carrie Little back when Obama first took office. There was a thought that the new White House residents might turn a section of the lawn into an organic food garden and so the project needed a farmer to lead it. There was a call and farmers from all over the States were nominated for the role. Carrie Little was my farmer of choice.

I advocated for the project enthusiastically.  I chose Carrie Little as my candidate because I felt she was especially qualified to turn that particular piece of ground into a fertile and nurturing place of good.  I believed this based on an earlier project Carrie spearheaded.  While at Mother Earth Farm, Carrie developed a model program for the Washington State Department of Corrections where Purdy inmates were trained to organically plant, weed and harvest crops at the farm on a regular basis.  This program was so successful that another program emerged wherein successful crew members were granted a Certificate in Organic Farming from the University of Santa Cruz Organic Farming program.

I felt so excited to learn that inmates (Purdy inmates are all women, by the way) had an opportunity to get their hands in the dirt and both metaphorically and physically raise up new life!  They were able to coax new beginnings and every sort of health out of dirt. I was incredibly moved by this marriage of practicality and spirit infusing work. And there was more:

“It was also Carrie who was responsible for developing a flower garden at Mother Earth Farm that was tended by a Girl Scout Troop in which every girl had her mother incarcerated at Purdy.  While the mothers and daughters were not allowed to be at the farm at the same time, each could watch in the development of the labors of the other.” (Taken from here.)

I hardly know how to talk about this without sliding into weepy drivel.  I’ll just say that Carrie’s long career is made up of similar stories of feeding people in every way there is to be nurtured.  Suffice to say that  I am incredibly honored and thrilled to get to work along side her as an Artist in Residence at her new farm, Little Eorthe Farm, in Orting, Washington, this next year.


Little Eorthe Farm

During my residency I aim to establish a pattern of tending where I work, record, experience and begin to know intimately soil, sowing, rest, quiet, emergence, green, water, time and reaping.  And because I will be working with Carrie, I suspect I am to learn a great deal about love as well.

Ultimately, a work will emerge.  I am not altogether sure what it will look like, of course, but I will take what I have gleaned and harvest what grows in me during my time at the farm, specifically my time with Carrie Little.

Thank you for visiting.