Rattlers, Fires and Swarms, Oh My – Rising Moon Farm – June

Piglets (Hollyhock and Petunia) and girls (Madeleine and Juniper).

Summer is here and the return of many things that shout, “It’s summer!” We saw temperatures this week nearing 100 degrees, which caused us to spend a lovely afternoon/evening at a nearby lake. When we returned home, we found our first rattlesnake of the year waiting for us approximately 10 feet from the front door. And then the next day a friend called to let me know that there was a column of smoke nearby. The first wildfire of the year (caused by a vehicle parked in dry grass), two-miles northwest of our house, with winds forecast to increase…yes, northwest winds, which would have pushed that fire right to our doorstep. We set up irrigation sprinklers on that side of our property, got some things ready to go and happily watched as the smoke column disappeared thanks to fire fighting efforts. Out before the winds increased. And our new incursion into beekeeping has been interesting and both of our colonies have now swarmed (which you can prevent if you are paying better attention than we are). They landed nearby, awaiting scouts to tell them where to go next, and we were able to easily capture each one into a new box so we now have four colonies where we once had two.

We have new goats, three Nigerian Dwarfs, which we are either inheriting or simply care-taking for some friends who are having trouble keeping goats out of the jaws of a mountain lion. The two females are pregnant and due, next week.

And we’ve added two more adult female rabbits to our breeders, Loup Loup (formerly Lupe) and Cinnamon. Some other friends needed to rehome them so we of course said, yes.

And our latest and (I hope) last additions for the year for the year: two piglets, who will turn into hogs, who will turn into bacon, shoulder roast and me.

Never a dull moment here on Rising Moon Farm!

New goats – Nigerian Dwarfs. Two females, Lily and Sweet Pea, who are pregnant and due in early June, and Freddie a castrated male. Cinnamon and Nutmeg, our other goats, look on at their new neighbors.
A recently captured swarm (yesterday). Rabbit tractor in the background. The bees swarmed into the nectarine tree to the left and we shook them off and onto the awaiting box.

Our new rabbit does, Loup Loup and Cinnamon.


by David LaFever

Mother Day, Milking Day

Three lovely Mamas.

First time milking our new dairy goat, Cinnamon, was this morning. Distracted by apples and grains, Cinnamon did great. So too did Kristin and Emily, who milked while I tried to keep Cinnamon from stepping into the milk pail or moving on to something more enticing than being milked. We separated (they were able to lay down next to each other but no nursing) her from Nutmeg, her kid, overnight so that we could milk first thing this morning. Nutmeg and Cinnamon did great but definitely wanted to be reunited. It is so cool for the first time to have our own milk. Raw, fresh, healthy and delicious. A very exciting new part of Rising Moon Farm!

A beautiful way to honor all the mother’s of the world who take such good care of us all. Thank you to all the mamas!


written by David LaFever

Rising Moon Farm

Bees, sheep, and goats, oh my!

Well, I guess its finally time to admit that we have a farm. There are now over 100 animals and we have a name: Rising Moon Farm. Once there is a name, I guess that makes it “official” even though we are not official or legally a farm yet. The name comes from two sources: the huge full-moon rises that seem to happen right in our living room each month, coming up over Strawberry Mountain and the ridge east of us; and because we feel a shift in consciousness and approach to life that is more feminine and (hopefully) much less patriarchal. Long overdue, long overdue. So the rising moon and the rising feminine, hence “Rising Moon Farm.”

In the last few weeks we have added one new kune kune pig (her name is Kiwi), two bee hives, six sheep and two goats to our farm. The goats, named Cinnamon (the doe) and Nutmeg (a female kid), will be our milking crew, along with our cow if we ever get around to milking her. I knew that goats were supposed to be very personable but I wasn’t prepared for how darn personable they are. We all love them so much already and you can’t help but have your spirits lifted by some time spent with Nutmeg, who just comes up to you and basically crawls into your lap or jumps on your back (that hurts a bit). She is so sweet, rambunctious, lively and lovely. The perfect antidote to a difficult day or the strawberry on top of a great day.

Nutmeg
The girls with Nutmeg and Cinnamon.
Pastures with sheep, goats and sprinklers, looking south.

written by David LaFever

Wandering into Wonder – February 2021

Fire keeper.
a woman can’t survive

by her own breath

                                alone

she must know

the voices of mountains


~ excerpt from the poem "Fire" by Joy Harjo

Towards the end of February, a full moon night, the girls and I headed out for our second monthly backpacking trip of the year. This would be Juniper’s first of 2021, her first of her eighth year (she turned 7 years old in early February) and her first time heading out in winter. With snowshoes on, heavy packs on our backs and me dragging a sled of firewood, we headed out. Up the canyon and then up a steep draw that we call “The Draw” (yes, very inventive). Part-way up The Draw I started post-holing in snowshoes and soon found myself pitching forward and falling on my face. With a 60 pound pack holding me down, I found it rather difficult to extract myself from the situation I found myself in. Somehow I got up but still had more of The Draw to climb up. Soon I found myself at a stand still between gravity pulling me back down and my desire to climb. That damn sled with firewood was just too much! Luckily, my 10 year old had already made it to the top, dropped her pack and came to my rescue. Awesome! She helped by pushing the sled from behind as I lumbered, more easily now, to the top of The Draw. Sweating, out of breath and oh so thankful for my daughter!

Looking back from whence we came

We camped under a lone pine tree that we call the Sheltering Tree. The ground was bare, even though there was snow all around. Lovely to feel bareground after a snowy winter. The girls played and sledded while I set up camp and cooked dinner. Afterwards, we wandered around in the moonlight and enjoyed the dance and play of moon and cloud. Two coyote yipped and bark-yipped (an alert call) from nearby. We saw their tracks the next morning, approximately 200 feet from camp. Sometime in the night, Canada geese woke me up honking as they flew by. Many others in our valley heard them as well. Must be migrating.

The cliffs in winter.

The next morning we awoke to bright, beautiful, warm sunshine on the tent. No fire needed to stay warm. The girls played and sledded more while I cleaned up and broke down camp. A fun and lively time for them, a calm and quiet time for me.

Here is the haiku I wrote on the trip. The feeling of having my daughter come back to help me get up a hill was one of extraordinary love and admiration. This is the first time something like this has happened. I look forward to the increasing ways and times that my daughters help me in this beautiful, weary world!

She drops her pack
helps push me up the hill
reach the top, sweating.

Wandering into Wonderment – January 2021

But the trail got rough
And it faded away—
Out in the open,
Everywhere to go.

-Gary Snyder (excerpt from the poem “The Trail is Not a Trail”)


What does one do when the trail gets rough or even when the trail disappears altogether? For many this past year as been rough, very rough and worse. And for those willing to admit it, this past year has shown that life as we have known it is over, the trail that has we’ve tread has faded away. What now, where do we go?

There is everywhere to go, any direction one chooses. In this spirit, there are many “everywheres” that I hope to go this year, that I am choosing to go. The first one, the one I want to share today, is an “everywhere” that my older daughter and I have chosen for 2021. We have set the intention of backpacking each month of the year, from January to December 2021.

So far we have made two trips, both up the canyon directly behind our house. Here I will share some photos and a haiku or two that I wrote on the trip. It occurred at the end of January, during a deeply snowy year here in the North Cascades, yet it rained during our trip. We went in a mile or two, camped along a tiny creek, in a spot that I shoveled out. There was the drip drip drip of rain falling through the trees, aspen and cottonwood, and the hoot hoot hoot of great horned owls, during their mating season.

Dinner = Mac-n-cheese with broccoli and bacon

Dessert = Pumpkin muffin and chocolate bar

Breakfast = Oatmeal and coffee

Campsite

And here are some haiku I wrote on that trip:

Wet winter woods, wind
their way into my hard mind.
Soft, slushy snow-melt.

Softly falling rain
crackling fire, lightens the mood
of these slushy woods.

A father, daughter
out adventuring tonight
Where else should they be?

Firelight, creek song.
A snowy winter campsite
for a dad and his girl.

Lost and found

Mount Bigelow.
My feet are sloshing in my boots
wet
soaked
soggy

My hands are cut
scratched
blistered
bruised

My brain is a knot
worried
confused
unsure

My lips are chapped
dry
burned
cracked

I slump into a camp chair
cool evening breeze
a robin song
a river song
nighthawks overhead

What is all the anxiety about?
Why all the worry?

I breathe deep and relax
for the first time all day
in a world just a minute ago
I was lost in.






Daydream Believer

Juniper feeding our Dexter cow, Babe.

Sometimes I am so far into a dream that I can’t tell that I am dreaming. Does that ever happen to you? Lately I realized that Kristin and I are deep into a dream, so deep that we have to stop ourselves and force lucid dreaming, otherwise we can’t recognize where we are.

The boys, “Ham” and “Bacon.” Seriously, this is what the girls named them.

Sometimes I can’t tell where dreams end and where “reality”, whatever that is, begins. Am I dream walking through the waking world or wake-walking through a dream world? And what difference is there really?

And sometimes, most times perhaps, it is impossible to tell where a dream really begins. Now I am talking about our so-called waking dreams, the intentions or foci of our lives, because our life these days is one such dream. We now have chickens, turkeys, rabbits, sheep, pigs, and cows.

What are we doing and where did this come from? When did each of us first want to be a farmer?

Our sheep, “Cookie”, “And” “Cream”, and their mobile A-frame.

I posed this question to Kristin recently and she said that she has wanted to be a farmer or a rancher since she was a child, living at that time in either New Mexico or eastern Montana. Makes sense. For me, I can’t really remember but it probably goes back several generations to when my Great-Grandfather, Benson LaFever, farmed the rocky hillsides of Delaware County, New York. Someone in our family has to farm and carry on, right?

What I do remember is being in graduate school with Kristin (studying Wildlife Science) and a seed being planted by a local organic farmer (Farmer Brad) and his young family that inspired me greatly, as well as Michael Pollan’s book “The Omnivore’s Dilemma.”

We were in graduate school 15 years ago or so and here we are realizing the dream of “The Old Home Place,” which is what we called our farmstead back then. It doesn’t have a new name yet and that one doesn’t seem to fit anymore, but the dream certainly does.

One of our “bunny tractors” (a mobile bunny hutch) with Juniper looking on.

I hope to provide regular updates and more descriptions of what we are doing. For now, I apologize for not getting the word out sooner about our incursion into farming but then again, we may be too busy these days living the dream (too exhausted more like) to spend time on the computer!


David and Kristin LaFever

Relax Completely

Sitting still
in a forest meadow
surrounded by fir and pine

Blowing wind
heard in the tree tops, first
then felt on the skin of my neck and face

Where does it come from?
Where is it going?

My dog lifts her nose sniffing intently
I do the same with a small, feeble nose
Catching nothing, understanding very little

A thousand yellow heads
Arnica nodding in rhythm 
with the wind as it passes through

Passing through what?
Passing through where?

The wind suddenly stops
bird song can be heard again
I lift my ear to the sound, listening

Intent on identification
looking for subtleties in 
rhythm, tone, inflection, pitch

Was that a vireo? 
Oh, a nuthatch but which one?

As sudden as it stopped
the wind returns, noisily
obscuring bird song and discernment

A thousand yellow heads nod
in unison, in rhythm with the wind
seeming to agree with what the wind says

Let go and relax completely.
You don't need to know everything.

by David LaFever

No Path to Here


There is no path that goes all the way.
Ancient words coming forth from Cold Mountain,
from so very long ago, like echoes in a canyon.
 
As I sit beneath an oddly bright gray sky
a breeze softly lifts the pages of this journal
while white-throated sparrows sing all around.
Clear notes and buzzy trills.
 
Meanwhile, high overhead a kestrel circles
announcing its place in the world with a voice its own.
Lik lik lik likliklik!
Leaving no trace across the sky.
 
What did Han Shan mean by no path goes all the way?
And what is this kestrel’s no-trace?
Is it possible for humans to leave no trace
and to travel the no-path path?
 
What about my desire to, in fact, leave a trace,
to have a positive impact on the world
and to leave my mark, something to be remembered by?
Can I leave no trace and still be remembered?
No-trace may be right for falcons but what about humans?
 
These questions and others bounce around
the canyons of my mind and heart
echoes from the past, returning to the present.
And suddenly, as if on the wind, Han Shan’s words come back.
 
There is no path that goes all the way.
 
Immediately I think, “ahh, yes, right.”
We leave the trail behind and continue on a pathless journey
creating no path as we go, leaving no trace.
We make our way, alone and sometimes forlorn
 
connected too and remembering that
the reflections we see
in cold clear lakes and in clouds
are the true shape of our own face.

by David LaFever