Slowdown Farmstead
Slowdown Farmstead
nourished in place

nourished in place

an act of devotion to life
Wildflower brunch for Magda. She’s a wonderful mother and the oldest of our meat rabbits.

Last year we decided to eat foods solely from our farm. That includes the meat and milk products of our domesticated animals, the wild game we can hunt on our land, the vegetables and fruits we grow and preserve, and all of the wild plants that we use for food and medicines. We were already pretty close to eating all of our food from the animals we raised and then butchered right here, but we wanted to see how we felt and the things we would learn when we took the ‘off-farm’ foods, even if they were just 10% or so of our diets, away. 

What I expected to happen is that we would have a heightened awareness of the seasonality of our food. We were already doing a pretty good job of eating seasonally. Before we had our first farm, I worked as a nutritionist and we purchased all of our food from local farmers. We bought all of our meat and poultry in bulk, at fall harvest, because we understood that the “harvest” of food included animals. It’s not just the grain and potatoes. We want to harvest animals in the fall, after they have had a season of nourishment on quick growing, sweet grasses of abundance. Just as most of us harvest our cool weather storage crops in fall. So we expected to have even more of a connection to that seasonality. Feast and famine. No more organic lemons. No more coffee. No more dairy in winter. A lot less eggs with no farmer friend to save my hide when I needed more. In other words, my mind was anticipating scarcity. But scarcity is not what I got.

Farming has been one of my greatest teachers. I have learned more farming than I have learned anywhere else in my life. One of those enduring lessons is that every day a compromise must be made or, if that compromise is too expensive compared to the value you hold, something must be surrendered. For example, I understand that having a dairy cow in our cold winter climate necessitates feeding said cow some grain throughout the winter if I want fresh milk all year long. If I don’t supplement her usual grass only diet, the cow, who I have made the decision to raise with her calf, not separated from it, will quickly lose condition while her body struggles to keep up with feeding a calf and our household while using its fat stores to keep her warm. There is nothing more heartbreaking than an emaciated milk cow, giving all she has, skeletal in her generosity. 

So then, with my dairy cows, I have the choice to remove the calf and use the milk solely for us. I’m not willing to do that. I want that calf to be as vibrant and healthy as possible. We will eat or milk that animal one day. I can also continue milking with the addition of grain. I’m not willing to do that either. So, there’s no milking in winter. By removing the recent innovations in farming, we can see the seasonality of even our animal foods. Does it make sense that we have endless eggs, as abundant in winter as in spring and summer? Of course not, but with lights burning through those poor commercial bird’s eyes 24/7, we can take all those eggs all year long and she’ll be dead in a year. Probably a grace given her life. I could touch on every animal and explain how our recent turn to grocery stores over farmers for nourishment has cost us, the animals, and the planet exponentially. We want everything throughout the year and the cost of that style of production is enormous.

Ursula slurping up her favourite forest treats. The minerals & diversity of silvopasturing our animals is evidenced in their good health and phenomenal tasting meat and milk.

Of course, I knew all this before we decided to rid ourselves of those extras in our diets. I expected that I might find a few differences and have to make adjustments in my cooking repertoire. What I didn’t think about beforehand was how much deeper I was going to be pulled into the natural world around me, how that would feel, and how I would come to understand myself and my home. I live in a box on my home. That box is a house. My home this land. Strange, these houses of our ours, filled with all the things that make us ill and separate us from what makes us well. Don’t get me wrong, I’m grateful for their lovely, warm shelter. Still, it behooves us to remember that they are a wedge between us and our real homes in nature and that we need to work every single day to be a part of where we belong, even if it is just sitting under a tree or watching some birds with our feet in the grass. We are beings of light. We need the infrared sun to anoint us. We need the water in our bodies to be clear and structured. We need to dig our toes into the earth to remind us, to feed the ghosts of our ancestors who live within us, starving for real nourishment.

What has really impressed itself upon me over the last many months, has been the difference in how my body feels eating foods of order and light that resonate with where I live. That sounds “woo”, I know. I will attempt to make it less so with little enthusiasm (mostly because I don’t really care about the “woo” entering my conversations, I quite like it actually). In everything we bring into our bodies - the food, the water, the air, our lovers - a message. Everything is information. Everything comes with a tale to tell. 

In my twenties I thought that all of the necessary energy we needed was found in food and water. Eat healthy food and drink lots of water. Stay hydrated. Exercise like a beast and you will look and feel great. And, truth be told, in my twenties, that’s about what it took. 

In my thirties, I saw the need for some refinement. Yes, healthy food, but the water was even more important than I thought. I gave up the water filters and distiller and we started going to springs to collect our water in glass carboys. Movement wasn’t all about grinding myself at every workout, some recovery was needed. Nature was the walks and hikes we took in the forests and trails. We sat in parks and had picnics. Nature was beautiful, but separate from my experience of life. Food, as I saw it, needed to be healthy so our family could be healthy. That’s why I purchased our food from farmers. That’s why I started working and volunteering on farms. I wanted to know, intimately, what went into raising and growing good food.

But in my mind back then, food was still about measurable nutrients and macros. It was still “good” if it was organic and “bad” if it was processed. I was still agreeing to the measures and values put on “nutrition” by the powers that be even when I knew there was more. Why was the carrot from one farmer so much sweeter and deeper in that carrot smell and flavour than the carrot of another? Why did the meat from one farm taste bland and feel dull in my body, but we ate with relish the fatty, deeply flavoured meat raised by another farmer? Those were the things I started to question and understand. 

By the time I reached my forties, and we had a farm of our own, I started to slowly understand how our modern farming practices came with dictates. Whether it be organic or free range or pasture raised, it doesn’t matter. In farming, if you want to actually make a living, a compromise of your value set comes. We sold grass fed and finished beef. That meant bringing our animals to the abattoir. That meant that no matter how we raised them, the last few hours of their lives were ones high in stress. That meant stress hormones were pulsing through their flesh when they were killed. We’re supposed to pretend that doesn’t mean anything to us when we eat them. We always killed and butchered our own meat, but anything sold had to be killed and butchered in an abattoir to be legal. 

A marvel of Creation. The beautiful heart of an animal that was born and died on our farm. How can we not be humbled by such an exquisite design?

This is just one example of many that had us make the decision to move from farming to homesteading. Since making that decision, there have been a myriad of other new decisions that get hidden in the farming model. In farming we could justify our decisions, even when they weren’t aligned with our principles, as being necessary for the bottom line. We needed to produce a certain volume of food because feeding people is what allowed us to stay afloat. Now, we have to be very calculated and smart with what we do because every penny we spend will bring back to us a return, yes, but not in money. Never in money. We spend our money to do what we do. In that way, some people would say it’s a losing investment. We have never measured investment in that way. Seems foolish to try.

And so it is, in my fifties now, that I am coming to more deeply understand food, our place in nature, these beautiful animals, and the abundance we receive from this land. But it’s only been through sacrifice and scarcity that I’ve really come to understand that abundance. And that’s why over this last year of eating solely from our farm, I’ve come to an even richer, more intimate understanding of what it is to nourish ourselves. What it is to live in union and communion with the holy lands that hold us. 

Sunlight captured and returned. Bea’s beautiful, truly and solely grass fed butter compared to commercial “grass fed” butter made from many, many different cows. How does one quantify the difference? You don’t. It’s beyond quantifying.

I am writing this on my porch right now. The sun is beaming through the ancient apple tree whose buds are just starting to open. There are two brown thrashers that like that tree. I’m certain they’re the same ones that have been here the last couple of years to lay their eggs in the protective limbs of such a magnificent home. One of my cows just mooed her morning moo. The same sun that is lighting up my fingers is warming her back. That same sun, telling my skin and eyes where we are in place and time, fills her body with the same information. The plants around me, growing wild and re-emerging from perennial plantings, are getting the same message. All of us, every living thing, beings of light.

This is what I have come to know, am learning with great humility, now that I am in my fifth decade of life. It’s not about macros and labels and certifications. It’s about the information the food and the water, the sun and the earth, carry into your body. We are great, electric beings and our batteries are charged with coherent information or we are drained with chaos and incoherence.

It’s been by eating solely from our farm over this last while that the static of misaligned information has been cleared and I’ve been better able to listen and connect to a feeling of resonance within myself. We wake up in the morning and stand on the earth to welcome the sun. We spend as much time outdoors as naked as possible. We walk outside every evening as the sun sets. We drink water that has been structured by the sun and the earth. We move outdoors. And now, all of the food we eat is from here, carries with it the familiar messages already stored in our bodies. The animal flesh is coherent and structured, honest in its delivery. All of the immeasurable is in place as it was intended to be. 

There can be between 50-200 different animals in one pound of grocery store beef. “So, what?”, some would say, “beef is beef.” Accurate enough when you’re measuring the infinitesimally small measures we have at our disposal. If you think a label of grass fed and the percentage of fat the ground beef has is what’s important, then yes, beef is beef. But what I’ve come to understand is the chaos or harmony that meat is bringing into our bodies. If food is information, consider the information received. Consider the stress hormones of 200 different animals in your body. Where did those animals live? What was their place? Was the sun on their backs at the same time it warmed your head? Did you breath similar air? Know the rain at similar times?

Before we built our own little butcher shop. Packaging our ground beef like a good doobie.

We are only now starting to understand the detrimental effects of living in our boxes with electric wires all around us, filling our environments with EMFs, and artificial light that destroys our circadian rhythm, our connection to place. If we are indeed energetic beings, and we are, we must admit that what we are seeing in our world - our poor health, obesity, and pervasive madness, is a result of the misalignment of ourselves with our true nature. It is not normal to be sick and depressed. It is common, but at its core, a telling symptom of how wrong we are living. We were put here to thrive in a perfectly made environment, but the smarter we get, the worse our species fairs.

Years ago, people were certain our declining health was from animal fats. So, everyone went low fat. That didn’t work out so well, so everyone went to whole grains. That didn’t do anything so everyone took dexatrim and did the grapefruit diet. Then artificial sweeteners and vegan hotdogs. Again and again, this mechanistic model - the body is a machine, had us stuffing down whatever it was that was going to save the day. Meanwhile, we slathered on sunscreen to ward off the sun’s essential rays. We injected our babies with vaccinations, more and more as time went on. We ingested bottles of antibiotics like candy for everything from ear aches to a fever. We cut out tonsils because they were useless. We pasteurized milk and mixed it with the milk of thousands of other cows. We put the animals inside buildings where the sun never told them a thing, blanketed them in the poisonous mercury filled fluorescent bulbs that glowed blue on their skin. We filled our homes and clothing with synthetic fragrances and chemicals. Rubbed chemicals into the skin and hair of our children.

Oh, but it was none of that. None of those things have contributed to the wild, rampant cases of mental illness in our midst. None of those things have anything to do with our withering species. We just keep chugging along, miserable but removed from how feeble we have become. Accepting that it’s normal to have joints cut out of our limbs and replaced with steel just like robots. Looking around us and shrugging at the state of things, all of us dulled by the rampant commonness of our sick society. “It’s aging, that’s what happens.” Ob-la-di, ob-la-da…

We’re as sick as the animals and land that we abuse. Of course we are. The web of life holds us all, for good or bad.

These are the things that I am seeing and feeling more deeply. As I experience what it is to get my nourishment from food that lives within the same ecosystem as I do, I have come to intimately understand how that nourishment feeds me in ways I haven’t truly known before. What I thought was just innocuous little extras in my diet were really static in my body. That static interrupted the messages my body was trying so hard to translate.

Does it really matter if I eat a handful of organic macadamia nuts from Hawaii? Well, yeah, I think it does. Does that mean I can never do that again? No, but I think it’s important that we all know what we are doing when we bring these things into our body. I think we should all know what it feels like to eat resonant foods, foods that hold the same sun and moon and water cycles that we do. What if we stopped being so hyper-focused on this macro and that macro and started putting our focus on the foods that we are in union with before they even enter our bodies? Familiar foods. Foods with messages in a language our bodies can understand. Imagine that, food coming into our bodies to nourish us instead of this chaotic mass that calls on our bodies to decipher and untangle.

Now apply that framework to processed food. Where does that food come from? How many animals are in those chicken nuggets? How many potatoes and canola plants in that bag of chips? From where did they come? Where did they grow and in what? Do they feed your body electrons or do they ask for your own just to make their way through your guts? Yes, of course it’s the seed oils and the glyphosate and the preservatives and all those ghoulish things. But it’s more than that. It’s deeper than that.

This is where the soul of seasonal eating lies. It’s not to reduce food miles or just to eat seasonally because it’s ancestrally appropriate or because it keeps our local food systems alive (although these are all essential and incredibly important). The crux of the matter is that eating seasonally, from food raised and grown around us, gives us what we need to remain rooted, connected, balanced. Our nourishment of food and water builds the body that can feed the spirit. We are not our bodies, no. But we are also not embodied in the fullness of our spiritual connection and understanding of this world when we are continuously pulled back into the limits of the body because it is struggling in whatever way that manifests.

The solution is to mimic, as best we can, what it has meant to be human since the dawn of time. Place. We must live in and from place.

The extraordinary amongst us.

Everyone wants the culprit of our time to be the seed oils, or the sugar, or the gluten. In reply, the food industry fries things in avocado oil, bakes things in artificial sweeteners, and fills the shelves with all manner of gluten free breads and cookies. It’s the great, and endless, magical swap. Every villain has a good guy to swoop in and save the day. But while I don’t eat those things, and don’t find any of them helpful in my body, I don’t think those are the main drivers of disease. They’re likely all members of the gang, but I don’t think there’s any one leader. We are in the infancy of our understanding of health, but we could probably all agree that with our modern way of living, our health has faded. The answers aren’t so easy. The answers are in the whole, big, full understanding of health, of feeding our bodies electrons not just through food and water, but through light and movement and love, and grounding our resonance to the earth. That is how we find our wholeness in health. 

In my mechanistic teachings of the body I came to see it as a machine that needed the right fuel to hum along nicely. That’s it, just fuel. Food is fuel, right? And we, the machines? I was recently walking my pups in the forest, thinking about a time, many years ago now, when my husband and I were on a farm tour on a biodynamic farm. The farmer was showing us his compost pile, delighting in scooping up huge handfuls of it and breathing in that composted poop with relish. He talked to us about bacteria and fungi, and the food web under our feet. My husband was in medical school at the time and commented, “It’s the exact same model in the ecosystem of our guts.” 

The same model. That idea stuck with me. God is a Genius Extraordinaire. Again and again we can see the sublime touch of our Creator through all that lives. As I trudged along in the forest, I was thinking about all that I’m coming to learn about our fascia. Some say it’s the biggest organ in our body - our information superhighway connecting every single cell to another. And imagine, we just slice through it like that’s nothing at all! And yet, our fascia interconnects everything in our body. It’s just like the mycelium running along the skin of our earth. Same model. Same critical importance. 

No, we don’t photosynthesize light like plants do, but we do photobiomodulate light. It is essential to every process that occurs in our bodies. From hormone production to fertility to the function of our every mitochondria. There is literally nothing in our bodies that remains excluded from the whole. 

“Old Man of the Woods” mushrooms destined for a sizzling cast iron pan with a good dollop of butter.

I understand that there are many of you that don’t live on a farm. For years I have written about how we ate seasonally from farms on a meagre budget. I’ve even done whole podcasts on this subject to which I will link below. What I’ve known for a long time is that eating seasonally connects us to our local food systems and that it’s our local farmers that will always deliver to us the freshest, most nutritious foods we can get. For that reason, seasonality mattered. What I’m understanding now, is that this is only the tip of the iceberg. The immeasurable, the resonance, the messages of those foods - all these things you don’t even pay for but matter more than anything to your body, your mind, and your spirit, are the true gifts in eating from place.

Duck, chicken, and turkey eggs. Turkey eggs reign supreme - tastiest eggs this side of the Mississippi.

The things I didn’t expect from this little eating experiment are the things that have been the most profound for me. I am a wee babe in my understanding of this place in which I’ve arrived but I’m open and I am learning. I feel grateful for the teachings of scarcity and evermore excited and able to receive the abundance without feelings of shame or guilt. Again and again, the pattern that has emerged in my life is the teachings of scarcity, of hardship, of heartbreak. Through them I have come to know abundance, pleasure, and deep enduring love. I don’t think it’s possible to fully understand these things in isolation. Everything is fleeting. All is to be experienced with acceptance and honour. This is how we participate fully in God’s design.

There are no labels for a cow who brings you milk when her body is fat with the abundance of sweet spring grasses and she is at peace with her calf at her side. A cow who produced milk as the sun rose and fell on her just as it did on you. A cow who ruminated with the earth under her belly, grounding her to the same place your bare feet walk on. Milk that was given and received within a mutual exchange of respect and honour. Milk that was chilled by the deep, cold water of the earth that satiates you both.

How do we quantify such things?  Easy, we talk about them without using the constraints of the models we’ve been taught to use. We acknowledge that we are truly infantile in our understanding of the world. We set as a basis of our thinking that it is not just the measurable that matters. Yes, science has determined that if it isn’t measurable, it isn’t anything at all, but we have the most sensitive, beautiful instruments ever created and we can all come to know these connecting, tender messages from within if we get quiet enough to listen. 

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Slowdown Farmstead
Slowdown Farmstead
Cultivating authenticity in a synthetic world. Ruminations on ancestral food, healthy living, family, connection to the natural world, life, death and this radical little thing called "sovereignty".