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Greentree Naturals Newsletter - Spring 2004

When I think about our endeavors as small acreage farmers, the more I know, the more I need to know. There’s always something coming up to bring new challenges to life as we know it. If you were here, you would often hear Diane saying “it’s always something!”

I have this philosophy as a farmer; every thing that happens in our lives that helps us grow, and requires a certain amount of compost to make it come about. On the farm, our compost is made out of decomposed materials, grass clippings, straw, leaves and, of course, assorted types of manure. In our lives, that compost is made out of tears, fears, and the many trials and tribulations that come with living a full life.

It has occurred to me that each time I have extreme challenges in my life that I grow in peace with myself. I always heard a saying of “that which does not kill you will make you stronger”, and this is true.

I know that this is a curious introduction to this newsletter; however, this is life on our farm and what the winter of 2003 transitioning into spring of 2004 has been like at Greentree Naturals!

As the colors on the birch trees started to change last fall, I left the farm to spend time with my father and family in Oklahoma, where I grew up. My Dad was diagnosed with a debilitating cancer that will shorten his time on this earth. I really don’t know of anyone that has not been touched by cancer in some way; either a parent, or sister or husband, or friend of a friend that each of us know has faced this reality. My mother died 27 years ago of stomach cancer. Facing the death of anyone close to you is a personal challenge to be strong, to cry, and to face our own mortality.

My Dad was given a life sentence of three months and he is still living with the disease, and for this we are all thankful. I spent eight weeks in Oklahoma with the family, and the first Christmas holiday without my husband in 16 years. We survived it, and were all the more appreciative of one another for having the time apart.

I left during the biggest harvests and farmers markets of the season, which pushed Thom out of his 14 year hiatus from selling at the market. It was a great experience for him, and now that he is somewhat trained, I can have some Saturday’s to do something different now and then. Change is something that most of us make efforts to defy. As we get older, we have come to realize that change is inevitable and nature’s way of helping us grow.

Most of the small acreage farms that I know of, if there are partners working on the land together, the set daily chores are very well defined. And unless one of the partners is ill, those chores and routine stay pretty much the same forever. After this encounter with my Dad and my having to be away from the farm, it pushed us into change and being more adaptable. I firmly believe that adaptability is the key to the survival of most of the small farms across the country. We have to be willing to change when change is needed. We cannot stay the same simply because it is the way it has always been! Sometimes things can become so familiar that you forget that it could be done a different way. Nature shows us the way if we are willing to keep our eyes open enough to take it in. In nature, species either adapt or they die.

This is some of that ‘compost for the spirit’ I was talking about. You just take what life gives you and do the best that you can with it. I figure that as long as we accept that it will always be something, we will be all right!

With all of my flying back and forth to Oklahoma, we endured debts that have had us scrambling to adapt. I would come home; Thom would leave for a contract planting trees. He would return when I needed to leave again. In between our journeys, we would have a few weeks together, and then one of us was off again. And this seems to be the state of affairs these days. Thom just returned from a month in Oregon planting trees. He will be leaving for Michigan for over the Easter holiday to spend with his 93-year-old mother who is coming closer to her final days as well. This is our year for saying goodbye to some dear ones in our lives.

Rather than be depressed about these many challenges, we have found ourselves looking toward the future with excitement and open arms. We have many plans to implement the year as Greentree Naturals has incorporated and is making plans for some wonderful changes. We are working towards developing a farm school. The interest is forever growing as time passes. We know that teaching other people to do what we are doing is important. It is truly the only way we can achieve any kind of immortality since we do not have our own children. We want to leave a legacy and share what we know. We believe in the concept of a local community food system and want to help this become a reality.

For the up and coming season, we have accepted four young women into our on-farm apprenticeship program. We have so many projects to work on this year, and as always, need all the help we can get.

We bought a 1962 mobile home last year to put on the lower part of our property for future apprentices, as well as the goal of turning the mobile home into an area for processing our produce. Right now, we do everything in the kitchen of our home, and I think getting it out of the house would be a good thing! So, now that the mobile home is set in its place, we have to get the electricity in, septic, tie into the other well and put in a water line; build a cover over the trailer for shade and add a room for our big three door refrigerator. And as always, it comes back to never enough time, never enough money…and the old story that money can’t buy you time and time can’t buy you money.

The last weekend of February, Diane was invited to give a presentation at the first Sustainable Agriculture Conference in British Columbia. I was the only American invited to present, which made me feel very special. I talked about ‘Growers Collectives’ and my “all for one and one for all” concept. We are now trying to work out the details for being able to have students from the College of the Rockies in Creston, B.C. to come across the border to Greentree Naturals and do their horticulture practicum for completing their degree program. We are hopeful that we can make this happen. We are so close to Canada that developing a relationship with the agricultural community there seems like a win/win situation for all involved.

We have seedlings growing in the attached greenhouse. We started seeding a week ago. With the first seeds planted, the season has officially begun. There is still plenty of snow in the gardens and fields, but the weather is changing. I heard some Canada geese honking this morning, so they are thinking about their return to the North Country. We look towards the future with open arms and know that whatever comes, we will always do the best and the most that we can.

You never know where you will find something thought provoking. I found this on the back of a Celestial Seasons tea box….

“Think not on yesterday, nor trouble borrow
On what may be in store for you tomorrow;
But let today be your incessant care—
The past is past, tomorrow’s in the air.
Who gives today the best that in him lies
Will find the road that leads to clearer skies.”

~John Kendrick Bangs


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