About Me

My photo
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.

Tuesday, December 24, 2013

First Seasons:Harverst Feast

The table is set:
Tonight - wild elk sausage, smoked wild goose, and first harvests of wild pheasant. Hoping you have a belly full of good food and a soul stirred with the knowledge that you have a place in your blessed center of this Good Earth.

Merry Christmas

Saturday, December 21, 2013

Solstice 2013

Light - Love - Joy - Peace - to all of you and to our Good Earth and all the creatures that share this blue-green gem of a home. 

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

First Seasons: Mark's First Elk Hunt

Seems like a long time ago when Beau, Mark and I set-off on what would be Mark's first elk hunt. I didn't pull a tag, so was relegated to guide and pack animal - a role I readily take-to.

Mark grew up, with Beau, hunting in Minnesota - close shots, thick woods. When we left camp, I failed to inspect Mark's clothing situation. 45 minutes later and into a steep climb, I became aware that not only was he too hot, but his pants were "swooshing" like starched corduroys. I think Beau noticed at about the same time because he ditched me and his little brother to take another route. I cherish these moments of the hunt: predawn, anticipation - kicking ass up the hill while the out-of-staters struggle for breath.

We had a fortunate wind - blowing hard, loud and straight from the West  - the direction we were approaching. When we crested the saddle, I spotted elk right away - in the open and feeding where they always seem to be. Mark couldn't spot them. For what felt like many minutes, I tried to get him to see the elk - 325 yards off. It wasn't helped by me constantly spotting more elk and one of them a huge bull. When it was all said and done there were 7 elk - all bulls, strung out across 100 yards of hillside, feeding unaware. We got to 250 yards and I asked Mark if he wanted to take a shot, fearing wind, Beau, other hunters would spook the herd.

He declined, asking to get a little closer. We had a good approach so I said sure, but be ready to shoot. We advanced to 200 yards and I asked again, then we heard Beau shoot. Now was the time. The huge bull ran then paused - Mark shot and missed. I told Mark to get to the edge of the cliff we were approaching to intercept other elk coming up the draw. Two bulls, both legal, hung up at 75 yards from the cliff edge. Mark got into position. I'll spare the details. Beau had shot a very nice 5x5 bull, not 20 yards from where he and I both got our bulls the year before. Mark didn't get an elk.

The three of us made "big into little" over the next couple of hours and hiked the first load of meat out of the wilds and back to camp - a grueling endeavor - making me happy for the missed shots of Mark. Though I wouldn't let him off easy. Many jokes were made at his expense.

Over the next few days they hunted and saw two more herds of elk - all cows. Mark relaxed and began the forgiveness process that is always hardest with ourselves. The hunt made me think of all the things that there are to learn when it comes to hunting - creating a search pattern (what do elk look like in low light at 300 yards) what to wear (layers of soft, noiseless, de-scented clothing) how to cut up the elk and respect the life that joins ours, what to bring and not bring in your day pack. Details - best learned while trying and failing.

It's all a part of first seasons. Learning, again and again, how to do what we've done many times before or never in our life. Writer Rick Bass poses that hunting make us a more creative and imaginative animal. We're forced to think of another being in a way we rarely think about ourselves - where are they, what are they doing, how to do I find them and so much more. I engage in all sorts of outdoor and wildlife related pursuits - but none grounds me stronger, roots me deeper than hunting. In sharing so many firsts this past Fall, I am overcome with how much I have learned. In the end, my greatest harvest of the year is the beginner's mind. I look forward to next seasons and putting that mind to work.

Friday, December 13, 2013

St. Lucia

Happy St. Luci's Day! This is one of the three "high" holidays between Thanksgiving and Christmas we celebrate in our home (St. Nicholas Day on December 6th and Winter Solstice on the 21st). A candlelit breakfast of sweet rolls and sausage and our Luci lighting the dark morning with her crown of lights and greenery.

Here's hoping you all fight a little light in your day!

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Surviving the Freeze

Cold? This past week, for much of the US,  Siberian air has swept in and settled deep. Today we saw the wild Chinook winds blow and the streets do a little melting. But over the past five days, frigid temps have been the norm.

For most of that time I still had stuff to do outside - supervise pre-teens playing hide-and-go-seek at -5, sledding, Christmas Tree sales, Winter Festival Set-up and Take-down, and visiting friends picking out their holiday greenery. I used to get so cold - a problem for more than me. My dad spent his ice fishing, snowmobiling and winter escapades rubbing frozen toes and numb fingers. So, I've become a student of staying warm.

Much of this started in reading and studying The Winter Wilderness  by the Companion by the Connovers (Maine winter trekking guides). They spoke my language and I worked their ideas into a Master's degree. I've studied polar explorers and Scandinavian woodsman, trying to get the best idea for how to stay warm. Turns out, that the old German grandmas and grandpas that surrounded me growing up might have had the best ideas.

Every grandmother had a silk scarf (adopted by our local Cowboys) and all the old Germans from Russia grandpas wore outrageous fur caps. Heavy mittens were standard. I inherited my dad's old pair of "choppers" a few years back. Last Christmas I was gifted my Grandfather-in-law, Al's, fur hat. And the scarf was a new purchase - to replace the paisley thrift store find I'd worn elk hunting for years.

Here they are - appropriately ugly in this new streamlined - go-lite/patagonia world.

I've gone back to more natural fibers. Gore-tex is the partially hydrogenated fat of the clothing world (at least to me). Wool breaths - so does cotton! I spent a little too much on a cotton jacket from Fjallraven last year and waterproof it with their special beeswax. And fur and leather do on our bodies what they did on the creatures we harvested them from: keep us warm and allow our perspiration to get away. I put that cotton jacket through 4 days of down pours during the flooding, and only on the fourth day did a seam leak - quickly remedied with more wax. 

I find myself looking to the old ways and learning how to survive in our new, ever-changing world. Laying in bed last night, Jen said, "How did people survive in the winter?" I can't imagine it was always pleasant, but in my ugly hand-me-downs I get a little glimpse into how they did it. 

Friday, December 6, 2013

First Seasons: Home

For our kids, North Dakota looms like some mythical valhalla....a land of story, legend, fable. The setting of their parent's childhood escapades, falling in love and getting married. Their grandparents and great aunts and uncles, second cousins and more still live on the prairie. Going to North Dakota ranks higher than any other destination on their list. (I know many of you are cringing as I write this, feeling sorry for these poor, weak minded children!)

When we landed it was -3, 9:30pm at night and the forecast was for double-digit below zero temps by morning. At 7:45am we were standing outside my cousin Ron's farm office and the thermometer read -12.  Time to go pheasant hunting. 

For three days we walked tree rows, blocks of grass, sloughs filled with cattails, cut corn and creek bottoms. We saw hundreds of pheasants - most launching just ahead of us, some flying into the winter-low sun and confusing us as to whether they were roosters (legal) or hens (illegal). We hit SOME and we missed lots. Enough made it into our game bags to keep us hunting and not to lose heart. 

Makabe was a trooper - he made all the walks - shot as poorly as the next. He fought through bundles of clothes, wind-chill delayed response, thick gloves that wouldn't work the safety and covered miles of his North Dakota rootland. And he did it with his Grandpa. They've hunted together before, but never with Makabe carrying his shotgun. For me, to have these two together in the field, was the highlight of the trip (rivaled only by the single sharp-tailed grouse I was able to harvest - my favorite prairie bird).

At 71 and 10 they make quite the pair. Kids connect with grandparents in all sorts of ways. I am thankful that they connect this way - on the land - in the elements - making a meal out of memories.

When it was all said and done, I was the best of the shots. Not something to brag on and not an indication of a full larder, but enough birds to hold and feed us trough the Winter. Shared communion between me and my homeland, between Makabe and his roots, between all of us, across the miles.

Wednesday, December 4, 2013

First Seasons: Little Juniper

Growing up my family had horses. I ended up doing some feeding and lots of "scooping", but never really got into horses with the same passion as my sister (this passion continues to this day - and is passing to her girls as well). My parents, being kind and thoughtful, asked what animal(s) I would like to raise. I chose dogs. Chesapeake Bay Retrievers to be exact.

What I didn't know (nor they) is that getting a Lab would have been so easier. We looked for months. Litters of Lab puppies came and went. We finally had to order a puppy from Nebraska. My first hunting dog. The years make memories sweeter, but one thing has become clear. She was a hell of a dog. Few dogs and boys got to hunt as much as we did and after I left for college, she and my Dad continued the Fall hunts for fowl and Spring and Summer hunts for moles and voles.

Since then there have been Labs. Chesapeake's are wonderful dogs and someday, maybe, I'll have another. But they are a little stinky (they produce a natural oil for waterproofing), a little aloof and territorial. Labs seemed safer as we moved from state to state and townhouses to the country.

Little Juniper joined us in May. Named for a stellar Lab we met a few years back and after a favored family tree. June. Juneberry. Junebug. She's been a handful - as lab pups are wont to be. But slowly, now in her seventh month, she's coming into her own.

Last week she went on her first real hunt. Along with two boys, I knew I'd have my hands full. The boys piled into the duck blind (after I broke ice and set decoys!) and the little dog and I went for a walk. Ducks flew, shots were fired, birds missed. We had a splendid, action filled Thanksgiving Eve.

Her first bird came in the last hour of the hunt. Low flying Canada Geese passed unscathed over the boys and kept their low flight towards me and the pup. Leaning back I pulled the trigger and 16 lbs of bird soared 75 yards into deep grass. We gave chase. When the pup spotted the running bird (geese can run - ask a golf player) she gave chase, pounced and held the bird there. She gave an attempt at a retrieve - but that wasn't going to happen. She stood there - over the bird. Waiting for me to come and retrieve what she had caught.

My first goose in almost 20 years. Her first bird ever. Walking back to the boys and then back to the car with a new dog outfront, having had her first true hunt, it became another - of a long line of shinning moments spent chasing wild creatures, learning with and from them. Connecting more deeply to place and each other - both two and four-legged.