Holy Heat Wave!
July News from the Farm...
Ah, friends...sizzling new opportunities for growth each and every day! Perhaps you can find a cool moment to rest and take in some hopeful news. It feels wonder-full to be in such a community of support, which has led us to a fresh newsletter format, weaving in more wisdom via more member voices. Let us know what you think, Dear Ones...
Farm members will continue to also receive a weekly What’s Up email with more detail on crops and weekly happenings. We are excited to welcome 39 Farm Members! Details on Farm Memberships can be found Here.
Farm Memberships are the next step toward growing Intentional Community here at Shimmering Light. We are deep in research mode, having visited other farm-based communities, we are now delving into learning about truly shared governance models, restorative practices and inclusion, diversity, equity, and access. It’s a lot to take on in the midst of growing more food and medicine than we have in years.
There is the urge to fast forward and overdo. We are grateful for this land, which call us to share grounding, nourishment, support and love. More than ever, we still believe that our mission of connecting people with our beloved Earth is at the core of healing our personal, societal and environmental wounds of racial injustice, chronic illness, mass extinction, climate crisis and more.
We hope you enjoy the newsletter and pray that this hot spell finds you safely connecting with Loved Ones and The Land and learning new things in unexpectedly expansive ways.
BLACK LIVES MATTER (as well as Indigenous, Latinx, Asian and other lives of color too)
We have become painfully aware how many people don’t own land or even have access to safe places to connect with our natural world. Lack of access to land and nature radically compounds racial injustice as land is the basis of wealth and health in our society.
If you had to guess, how much of the land in the Northeastern US do you think is owned by people of color?
We were staggered to learn that it is less than 1%. Lands stolen from the Indigenous communities who previously meticulously stewarded all of it. Land that has often been worked with the stolen labor of Black, Latinx and Asian people. Land that is still out of reach to most people of color due to long standing white ownership and immense institutional and financial barriers to equity for all.
Last fall as we listened and learned more about diversity, equity inclusion and access at the Biodynamic Conference, we knew we had so much more to learn. While each of us are personally taking actions now, as an organization we are researching reparations, cultural respect easements, cooperative land tenure, organizations working to increase access to land for people of color, and many other forms of reciprocity as we determine our next steps. In the meantime, if you’d like to learn more, check out this Mother Earth News article and/or The Northeast Farmers of Color Land Trust.
As many organizations are announcing their openings or closings for the season, we are traveling a middle road where we listen each week for guidance. For the time being on-farm events will be open to Farm Members Only to keep our numbers limited while following all safety precautions. On-line offerings will commence soon (see below).
Herb Circle has resumed meeting most Fridays from 10am-2pm for Farm Members.
NEW! Herb Thursdays will be a new on-line Zoom class offered on some Thursday evenings to cover the same plants that are calling for our attention and healing at Herb Circle each week. You will learn how to identify, harvest and develop reciprocal relationships with our wild green allies and the history of their traditional and current uses. STAY TUNED for the first Herb Thursday coming soon!
HERBAL ALLY: YARROW
Yarrow, or Achillea Millefolium, is native to Europe and widely naturalized in our area including our farm. You may see Yarrow's umbrella-like white (and sometimes pink) flowery tops bobbing in the breeze above abundant, finely toothed “mille-folium” (thousand leaved) foliage. Yarrow is astringent, analgesic, antiseptic, anti-inflammatory and more. Legend has it that Achilles' armies used is it for wounds incurred in battle to staunch bleeding, alleviate pain, hasten tissue healing and reduce fevers. We carry it powdered in our backpacks to address wounds we might encounter on the trail, as well as daily for nosebleeds, toothaches, upset stomach, stings, and even excessive menstrual bleeding. Yarrow is one of our favorite salve ingredients where it calms pain and inflammation and clears bruising. Now, while Yarrow is flowering is the best time to harvest and dry for your home herbal medicine kit.
Here are Asha’s thoughts about yarrow:
Yarrow’s feathery leaves are incredibly distinct. When I was first learning about herbs, I was immediately drawn to Yarrow. I tried in vain to germinate my own seeds in my budding herb circle. Upon a walk of the land, however, I spotted the feathery leaves and tall stalk crowned by a white cluster of flowers that is distinct to Yarrow in the Northeast. In attempting to use my fingers to harvest the regal flower head, I met an inspiring amount of resistance. Yarrow reminds me of how strong our spine can be when we are firmly rooted in the soil yet stretched upward towards the heavens. The feathery leaves are, however, much easier to pluck from stalk. Known for ki's analgesic properties, yarrow is the first ally I turn to when I am stung by a bee in the garden. The pain of the sting is numbed, and the antiseptic properties in yarrow also help keep the bites and strings free from infection.
Yarrow is contraindicated for people allergic to any members of the Aster family, during pregnancy and also for epileptic patients.
Yarrow is ready for harvesting at the farm! You can find yarrow wild and co-planted in our gardens and fruit tree guilds to attract beneficial pollinators, repel pests, and the deep roots draw up many minerals to help enrich the soil. Yarrow is also one of the Biodynamic preparations that we apply to our compost piles. A plant of many gifts for sure! :
Getting to know Yarrow
Go for a wander and see if you can identify and harvest a *small amount* of Yarrow to get to know. Some safe and ethical wildcrafting principles include:
- 100% positively identify the plant using at least 3 trusted sources
- make sure the area is not sprayed with chemicals
- ensure permission from the landowner and the plants themselves!
- harvest between 1% and 5% of the patch, or less if you need less...or less if there are no other patches around
Asking the plant permission is part of the Honorable Harvest as taught by Robin Wall Kimmerer as we remember our forgotten ancestral relationships with the plants. It may seem odd at first but start with sharing with the plant why you want to harvest some and ask for permission to do so. Try it out, and listen. The answer may come intuitively, or it may come simply from observing the plant’s conditions. You have to be okay with am empty basket to listen truthfully! If you receive permission, cut the upper third of just a few plants, including the stem, leaves and flowering top. If not, perhaps you have met and honored a new plant ally that you will get to know more in the years to come. Either way, find your own way to give gratitude for the connection. Perhaps chew up a small bit to become familiar with the taste and feel. Perhaps steep a tea to feel the effects in your being. Perhaps dry a little to save for later use. Enjoy!
MEMBER VOICES: Helen Smith
Microaggressions into Microcompassions
"One of the most calming and powerful actions you can do to intervene in a stormy world is to stand up and show your own soul." Dr. Clarissa Pinkola Estés, Women Who Run With the Wolves
I first learned about Shimmering Light, and sensed the powerful seeds of change it can sow, when I met Deb at a women’s leadership conference last year. I attended her session on forest bathing, one of the many presentations from inspirational women that day, and decided that was going to help me find a new path. Shortly afterwards I attended an introductory forest bathing session at the farm, and was reminded of the power of noticing what is all around us at both the macro and micro level.
Then the pandemic arrived, we retreated indoors, hid behind our masks, and many of us were reduced to seeking, but often not achieving, meaningful human connection through sometimes soulless Zoom meetings. I run a technology department in higher education, and over the last few months have observed our community and my team increasingly exhibit some of the anxiety, frustration, anger, disconnection, and all the challenging emotions created while coping with life today.
One day, while weeding thistles in the potato field with Deb, I was musing on how I might help with this, when she started talking about the philosophy that every relationship could be based around healing. That concept then reminded me of the skills I learned a few years ago as part of a coaching certificate program, and we have since been practicing and teaching within my department, of noticing, deep questions, active listening, and reflecting back, in order to see every individual equally and help them change. The technology team are by nature helpers or healers, and it is a practice we have been adding to our customer service skills for some time.
It was also during this program that I became acutely more aware of the need to resolve the social inequality, injustices, unconscious bias, and all the systemic divisions now being highlighted today in our society. I was particularly struck by the nature of microaggressions, microassaults, microinsults, and microinvalidations. Now, with our heightened sensitivities and stress levels, these are so much more noticeable and deeply felt, whether delivered or received, consciously or subconsciously, and regardless of one’s identity. One brief unthinking or harsh communication or encounter can really set a person back for the day or for much longer. That’s the bad news.
The good news is that the opposite, what can be called microcompassions, has an equal amount of potential to make someone’s day, and provide them with much needed hope, courage, inspiration, or joy. We have found that receiving an unexpected expression of gratitude, kindness, awareness, or concern for our wellbeing, and being shown the human side in addition to the business in hand, can make a huge difference, especially if it is unexpected. In return, we have been encouraging each other to demonstrate these microcompassions, and especially in the face of microaggressions, back to our community and those around us, and hope that will continue to ripple out through our community.
There are so many opportunities to do this within any kind of relationship or communication, however brief it may be. Recognizing and appreciating that just about anyone you speak to in customer service these days is struggling to work from home, or making eye contact, smiling, using humor and connecting directly with others while on a Zoom call, or thanking anyone who is providing a service in person, or adding in a thoughtful sentence at the start of an email, or noticing what someone’s expression may be behind their mask and what kindness they may need to lift them up, can all be surprisingly transformational.
Therefore by showing our own souls through unexpected acts of microcompassion, we can help to calm this stormy world around us in remarkably powerful ways.
Great Love and Gratitude from All the Shimmering Lights :)