I grew up on a large 1700 acre cattle farm nestled in the Virginia piedmont of the Blue Ridge mountains. As the saying goes, you can take the girl out of the country, but you cannot take the country out of the girl. After raising two sons, a life as an artist, extensive global travels, sixteen years in the high desert of New Mexico and four years living in a jungle setting close to the Atlantic ocean, I bought a 5 acre farm about nine miles inland and made my return as a sixties girl back to the garden in late 2018.

Growing up on a farm is a wonderful life, enriched with many gifts that reveal themselves later as one grows older. I was surrounded by so much beauty: from the crystal landscapes of a winter wonderland to the pure magic of songbirds and new growth emerging with the Appalachian spring, and to the lush beauty of summer fields and gardens that slowly transformed into a colorful painting of autumn splendor. This infusion of beauty not only sealed my fate to become an artist, as well as a gardener, but also planted the seed for my inevitable spiritual walk with the Earth and the planetary Mother.

artist

Nature became my greatest teacher. I learned the names of trees, plants and birds, and came to know the animals with whom I shared the land. I rode horses, milked cows, gathered eggs, planted seeds, canned food and ate sweet cherries and green apples from the trees. I came to understand how nature and the land worked together to provide all of our sustainable needs, and how work on our part was necessary in order to reap the benefits. I watched my father work the land he so loved, and he also made his children work on the farm. I did not understand then the gift of a strong work ethic that he imparted to us, but I am most grateful for that gift now.

I managed to grow a garden almost everywhere I lived, and became a health food advocate at the age of nineteen. It was not until I was almost fifty that I discovered Rudolf Steiner’s work on biodynamic gardening, and went on to read everything he had ever written on the topic. In 2011, I jumped at the opportunity to work with a man whom had been a student of the late Alan Chadwick, a biodynamic gardener renowned for his French Intensive gardening. We built a huge compost pile, built planter boxes and transformed a thousand square foot space into a thriving biodynamic garden. This was only possible to achieve in the hard, dry soil of New Mexico by using the biodynamic double-dig technique by which to build raised beds. I was thrilled to obtain a Biodynamic Gardening Certificate upon completion of this course.

In 2014, I moved to a beach house in Florida with a large jungle yard. I was faced with a whole new world of tropical gardening that was so different from the gardens in Virginia and New Mexico. I was humbled by the endless varieties of tropical plants and fruits that I could now grow. Before I could begin, I had to heal my jungle yard that had been endlessly sprayed with malathion by the previous owner. My yard was a ghost town devoid of birds, squirrels, bees, insects, worms, snakes or lizards. I promptly ordered several Biodynamic Preps from the Josephine Porter Institute back in Virginia, sprayed them in succession for several weeks and waited for life and the soil to returnwhich it did beautifully while smelling like deep, rich earth. And then I planted every inch of my jungle yard with tropical flowers and fruit trees, and built a small octagonal greenhouse in which to grow some food.

By 2017, I could feel the land calling me. I wanted more land so I could grow more food. I stumbled across a video one evening on permaculture, and a few days later, I signed up for a lengthy course to obtain my Permaculture Design Certificate with Morag Gamble from Australia. Before the end of 2018, and before I had completed the course, I sold the beach house and moved inland to my new 5 acre farm.

I took a pause from the course, and dove in to building beds as growing season in Florida had arrived. By Christmas I was eating fresh peas, radishes and greens from my new kitchen garden, and in March 2019, I obtained my Permaculture Design Certificate. Despite all my previous farm experience and gardening knowledge, it was permaculture that gave me the confidence to buy the farm and the foundation for knowing how and where to begin. It has taken me five years to complete the first three zones, while the two outer fields await a mango orchard and a bamboo forest that will provide farm income, and the woods along the ditch await invasive tree removal in order to create healthy wild spaces with native plants.

Permaculture gave me a vision for my dream that is slowly coming true, for all good things in life take time. Nature is always changing, and the land teaches us to stay open to new ways of doing things. I recently completed a fabulous course on making seasonal broths along with healing tonics and elixirs, and I was amazed at how many of the ingredients I already had growing in my garden. Now I am inspired to redesign my kitchen garden to include more adaptogenic herbs, foods and flowers, and to teach others how to make these broths and lovely tonics and elixirs.

Fresh food and healing herbs are a recipe for good health and peace of mind, at a time when the world seems to be steering away from all that is good, true and natural. When our hearts are close to nature and beauty, we receive the gift of a calm, grounding wisdom with which to envision and create a sustainable future. The farm and garden give us far more than we can imagine.

I look forward to sharing all of this wonder, healing and beauty with you that the farm and garden give to me,

Annie