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Back of Beyond Farm is a small, family run operation in Rist Canyon, Colorado. We work closely with natural rhythms to create wellness teas from indigenous and naturalized plants. 2013 marks our 4th year of supporting our community through tasty teas. In the year ahead, we hope to continue our work of not only producing healthful teas, but also exploring the edges of what it means to farm and be a part of a place.

Monday, December 19, 2011

Season of Feasts

Friends, this is a season of feasts and remembrances tied to current moment. The steady march of ritual in our home extends throughout the season, with small days to remind of this powerful time of year. From the feast of Thanksgiving to the Feast days of St. Nicholas and St. Lucia, the birthdays of Makabe and Josephine, the celebration of light and Christ consciousness that comes with Christmas, our Solstice call to connection with a bigger Universe, a New Year's commitment to more fully expressing who we are invited to be in this life, the Epiphany of wisdom, magic, and God-knowledge. A full season rooted in the Earth and Stars, and Sun, and Moon - in each other, the birds of Winter, the stored crops of Fall, the memories of Summer and the promise of Spring.

No matter how far our rituals and holidays seem to stray from the grounded experience of Earth, they are inexplicably tied. We can only fully engage them if we bring this level of awareness to them - the Earth is the source of all life, and renewing our lives happens through the celebration of these sacred days.

The snow is lightly falling today, and as we enter this week of High Holiday, touch the Good Earth and wish Her a deep sleep. Star gaze and pray for an expanded sense of the possibilities of your one life to live.

In the leaf of Sun touched tea, is the darkness of these Winter days. Take a moment to taste it and believe.

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Happy Thanksgiving and a Year's Meat

Some folks might wonder what hunting has to do with farming. An that's a fair question. On this farm, it's not only about growing a plant for profit. It's about so much more - about rooting to place, about finding a better way to incoporate new technologies and old forms of wisdom, about growing life giving plants, while also supporting the lives of the creatures of this place.

On Friday night, at 4:45pm I harvested a cow elk. The gift of the elk is a year's supply of meat for our family, no small offering and one that came with much pressure for me to succeed, and much appreciation to the elk for it's life - now shared with us. A communion of sorts. There are so many reasons I hunt, and they have evolved over the years, but from my youngest years wild game took on a sacramental element - the rituals of making sausage, of processing game, of eating with reverence and at high holidays, made a connective bond with food rivaled only by the harvest of fruits and vegetables.

When I was in college in Minnesota, I drove past the factory poultry and hog farms and swore off conventional meat. Jen joined me in that belief, and though we still find a beef burger or chicken strip on our plates at friend's houses, and out and about, in our home it is wild game, or bison from friend or family.

As the conversation about natural, grass-fed, organic meats continues, it remains that there is not more ethical and natural meat, in my understanding, than that that comes from animals that have evolved over millenia in a place. Elk convert the native plants to lean meat - full of omega fats, minerals, vitamins, and proteins. Elk are of this place and in the exchange of life to support life, they foster a bond to home in my children and in our home. We take what the Good Earth gives.

In the midst of a week when Jen's grandfather passed from this life, on the eve of us leaving to head north to honor his life, good friends made it possible for me to take 24hours to make a year's supply of soul-satisfying meat. For that, the life of the elk, the support of my family, the strong backs of the Basaraba boys who helped carry the meat from wilderness to home, I am thankful.

Happy Thanksgiving to you all. May your holiday be full of abundance and reason to give thanks.

Monday, June 6, 2011

Wildlife - Wild Farm

This past Thursday night explains so much of why we live and farm here.

Around 7pm, Nanook - the Great Pyrenees began barking wildly towards the ridge behind the house - there , walking single file were three Mule Deer, wandering up towards the salt lick the Gamekeeper placed there last Winter.  At 9:30pm, Nanook was at it again - barking like wild from inside the house, Libby burst outside and with me following. In the process a yearly Black Bear scampered off the deck and was 15 feet into a large Ponderosa Pine.

Loading the kids into the car the next morning, two Redtailed Hawks flew in low, over the house and started their back and forth play of soaring and tumbling.

12 hours of Wild Kingdom.
A Wild Farmscape

The Hummingbirds are back in full force, diving the feeders (and us if we're in the way!) and overall the bird life seems to be up - judging by the morning songs. We planted another 75 trees in wildlife planting - Nanking Cherries, Chokecherries, Blue Spruce.

Our Arnica harvesting is done and dried. The fir tips are almost ready and we'll start the slow process of harvesting and drying them this week.

Our first pick-up delivery is next week - in Fort Collins on Fishback Road and at our place in the Canyon. Specific times and locations will be posted later this week directly to you. Nettle and Dandelion Root Tea, Pixie Crowns, and Poultice Packs will be available.

Friday, February 25, 2011

Old Soul Herbalist

Josephine came to us on the wind. We've made up these legends for each of our children and Josephine's story is one of a hot air balloon, City Park in Fort Collins, and an old man that looks a lot like St. Nicholas.

Her name roots back to abundance and truly, she has added so much to our lives. On the farm she is the sampler, the wanderer, who strolls the yard picking berries and tasting leaves. You would think that rosehips are candy the way she stands at a bush, pulling off the red berry and cleaning the seeds.

Her sampling and experimentation reminds me of the old herbalist, wandering the garden or field, listening to the plants speak and then trying the lessons they have shared in hopes of healing or restoring life.

As she grows, I hope to her willingness to experiment with our teas and how they blend and mix offer something of substance to each of you. Our old, new master herbalist at work on our little farm.

Monday, February 21, 2011

Ambassador to Magical Creatures

Magic. What is more magical than the process of seed becoming plant, plant becoming flesh, flesh becoming soil, soil calling forth seed, and seed becoming plant? The rhythms of life and death, and rebirth have captivated the human soul throughout time, history, place, culture and religion.

Every month Acres U.S.A. comes in the mail and I sit down and read through the articles on soil fertility, the scientific research on building soil through biochar, or the nutrient values of sea minerals and their effect on plant health. I marvel at the brains that study and present the information on the complexities of chemical reaction and the science behind eco-farming. Most nights I sit down with my kids and read some book of fantasy - The Chronicles of Narnia, The Legends of King Arthur, Tinkerbell, or The Big Book of Fairies. Both hold truth for the Earth Farmer, one clouded in formula and science, the other in beauty and metaphor.

On our farm, our Ambassador to Magical Creatures reminds us that even what we know remains mystery and that mystery is tied to the Greater Mystery we still haven't figured out - What calls forth life? What happens in death? How does it all, really, work?

Luci moves through our forests signing and dancing, at times almost flying. Her name, rooted in the light, fits her. We have a little fairie village, off to the side of the yard. She visits it in the summer, sometimes laying on her stomach and just looking. She wonders where the fairies are - off in the woods likely. It reminds me of all of the stories that have been told throughout time involving those magical elements that produce fruit and grain. The tomtens of Scandinavia that help with the farm chores when treated well. The flower fairies of England, that paint the flowers in the Spring. The trolls that cause trouble and raise hell with the livestock. For me, these stories point towards the mystery of growing and consuming food and the true healing magic that comes with food well raised. A magic that builds flesh and heals spirit.

On our farm we need an Ambassador towards this mystery. Someone who can sign a song to make plants grow. Someone who can dance to call forth sun, or rain, or joy. On our farm we have Luci. She does the work of making sure magic remains.

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Our Gamekeeper

Being our first child, Makabe, taught me so many things I didn't know, I didn't know. Now, two kids later, I know I don't know anything. I remember a particular hike I was taking with Kabe on my back, he was 6-8 months old. I could feel his weight shift from side to side on my back. Finally, I realized he was moving his whole body with his eyes as he tracked birds flitting in the trees above us.

When he was two we would use him as a party trick to list off animals and their habitats. I learned new animals myself - Gnus and Pygmy Hippos. We rooted him in the Earth in his naming - Maka - the root of his name is Earth in Lakota.

On the farm he works as our Gamekeeper. He's planted dozens of trees, worked on the gaibons in our creek, feeds the birds, replenishes the salt-lick, works on our watering whole, spreads alfalfa pellets on the coldest days, builds bird houses, and calls forth the animals in his imagination we need to make this eco-farm work.

It seems an essential role for any farm. In Europe, England in particular, gamekeepers manage habitat and game for the use of landowner for sport. Here, our gamekeeper works to create fertility, pest control and beauty. I am thankful for all he continues to teach me, and draw into my awareness.

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Appropriate Technology 1.0

Village Earth is a non-profit in Fort Collins Colorado working to assist communities in sustainable development around the world. A few years back they were able to connect me to Ed Iron Cloud who is working to restore Bison to his land in South Dakota, but more about Ed another time.

Village Earth has a term they use in doing sustainable development I absolutely love: Appropriate Technology. What I believe appropriate technology means is looking at a situation and trying to find the right tool or idea or invention to meet the need of that situation through an appropriateness of scale, resource commitment, culture, and place. I have an example.

On our little farm we have very little flat ground, everything is on a slant. Additionally, out of the five acres of land, 60 percent of it is wooded and those woods are overstocked. Because we are on a North-facing slope, we have snow from November to late March most years. Harvesting the surplus trees for timbers and firewood is best accomplished in the Fall and Winter when there isn't much else to do and the Pine and Ips beetles aren't looking for new homes. The situation we're faced with is: "How do we move chunks of wood from point A to point B given the snow, and slope?

Here's the answer:

This sled might be my favorite tool. The multiple uses of it are extraordinary: hauling kids, hauling groceries, hauling garbage, hauling wood, hauling elk, hauling ice fishing gear and more. There is rarely a day that goes by in that five month stretch of Winter when this sled is not used. I want more of that kind of tool around the farm. The one that gets used and gets the job done in the most "Appropriate" manner.

The sled came to us when our good friend Tom moved to Georgia with his family. This gifted sled does what a $4500 four wheeler might do as well, but with a lot less stress, maintenance, and debt. When farmers are looking for a way to change a situation or solve a problem, thinking in terms of Appropriate Technology is a first step. Since discovering this term, I have used it countless times in trying to figure out a way to dry herbs or frame in new planting beds.

Thanks Village Earth and thanks Tom!