As the story goes, the farmers cooled the cans of cows milk in the chilly waters of the Spring Bird creek, back when it was a dairy farm, a century ago.
With the cows long gone, forest has flourished, but you can still get fresh milk from All Grass Farms not far from Spring Bird.
We were able to meet the cows and a couple of their calves during our farm tour. The dairy cows, all with adorable names like “Daisy”, are productive ladies that are herded twice daily to the barn for milking.
In between milkings they are free to munch on fresh grass, since they are moved each day to new pasture.
We were careful to step over cow pies, which I was surprised to see were pie sized - or even larger - as we stroked the backs of these large ladies, occasionally swatting the pesky flies from their faces with the backs of our hands.
They were a highlight of the tour, for me, anyway!
Have you ever tried raw milk? I hear it makes the best cheese!
Oh boy! This was a good story! I don’t want to give any spoilers because the plot was so beautiful and suspenseful, but what I really appreciate about this novel is that it takes the ordinary and shows how it is truly extraordinary.
We all have trials in our lives, but this story shows how there is such beauty and so much love woven throughout them. This story begins when a scientist studying bird populations in the woods encounters a seemingly magical girl.
If you enjoy nature, the cosmos, the scientific method, a love story, a mystery, and a little magic, this book is definitely for you!
Also, this novel is so much like all the food it presents in its pages! There are weary days when you want to curl up with a good read just as the characters enjoy a grilled turkey burger and a toasted marshmallow after a long day of fieldwork.
I encourage you to take a look at Where the Forest Meets the Stars by Glendy Vanderah!
You’ll love it!
The first animals we visited on All Grass Farms were the egg laying chickens. There were 1,000 of them droning like a siren in unison and moving as a flock, too.
There was something otherworldly about the experience. It was louder than you can imagine!!! These dinosaurs lay 1,000 eggs a day, which the humans then have to collect. The humans also feed and water the chickens, and move them onto fresh pasture as needed.
A handful of chickens flew over the fencing, but Mike, our guide, reassured us that they mostly find their way back.
When the chickens were closer to the road, I remember seeing some that had crossed the roadside fence and then tried crossing Rt. 31. Or so the joke goes. Unfortunately, we occasionally see the remnants of chickens brought by owls and foxes to be plucked and eaten in the middle of Old Country School Rd. Their feathers blow about for days!
All Grass Farms sell fresh eggs daily! How do you like your eggs?
All Grass Farms sell fresh eggs daily! How do you like your eggs?
Another skill for your Nature Notebook!!! This one is really fun. Make a sunprint using cyanotype paper and collected plants, leaves, feathers, etc.
These are so beautiful and can be used in your nature notebook, pasted onto a greeting card, or put into a frame!
Celebrate the season with making a cyanoprint or sun print!
Learn more about the Nature Notebooks Workshop at Spring Bird here.
Did you know that Spring Bird’s neighbor is an amazing pasture farm called All Grass Farms? Just across Rt. 31, they raise dairy cows, chicken eggs, meat chickens, beef cattle, pork, and turkeys. All animals get fresh grazing land as needed and live happy, healthy lives until they are processed for our consumption. The dairy cows being the exception, of course.
All Grass Farms also has a farm store attached to an enormous red dairy barn, where you can purchase fresh produce and locally sourced food products in addition to the milk, eggs, and meat that All Grass Farms produces.
The farm has a free tour on Saturdays at 2:00 PM, and this past Saturday, Patrick, Penelope, and I hopped on the flatbed for a tour with Mike driving the tractor and guiding us through fences and over cow patties.
On the tour, we were able to meet and greet all of the animals raised at the farm, learn about how the farm takes care of them, and what life is like for these beautiful, healthy animals. More on that in subsequent posts.
For now, here is a drawing of the exterior of the farm store, which is open Monday through Friday 10:00 - 6:00 & Saturday and Sunday 9:00 - 5:00.
So, if you are coming to Spring Bird for a retreat day in the woods, you may want to stop at the store for some tasty treats. I quite enjoy the kimchi that they sell there, and their pork sausages are truly delicious. No time to stop? At the very least wave to the cows as your turn into Country School Rd.
Last week, we lost another large oak. Its trunk snapped about 15 feet up and fell taking small trees and branches with it. The insides look like pulverized dust.
I was, of course, filled with tremendous sadness. I always take it personally. Was there something that I could have done to help it live a longer life?
Then, I am usually relieved that no one was hurt - other than the plants and trees in its falling wake.
And, I noticed the sunlight pouring through - into the void. It was beautiful.
What has fallen has made space for other things to grow and thrive.
I sat in the sun smelling the oak’s dust, thanking the tree for being here, and wondering what will grow next.
Part of the work we do here at Spring Bird is to maintain trails that were laid out by Torkel Korling years ago.
The jungle like tendencies of the weed trees keep us busy with just their trimming, but every once in awhile a tree or larger branch will cross a path.
This tree has been arched over this path since before we came here. We used to be able to limbo under it. Eventually it sank too low limboing.
So, Pat cut the end off, and we walk around it, creating a bump in our path.
I think it is lovely. It is like a gate, a reminder that it is a gift to be able to walk through this place.
My neighbor Danuta Loane gifted us with the opportunity to care for a dozen monarch caterpillars, fatten them with milkweed, and release them after they emerged from their chrysalises.
We had never cared for monarchs before, and their appetite was astounding to me. At their most voracious we’d make a couple of trips a day to pluck leaves from the milkweed stalk, allowing its sticky milk to ooze out. We’d look underneath the picked leave to brush away any unwanted insect eggs.
Once delivered to the caterpillars, they would make the leaf disappear in hours.
Then, came the waiting time. The caterpillars climbed to the top of the enclosure, made a J shape with their bodies.
Okay, we thought, soon they will be forming a chrysalis. We’d watch and watch, and it seemed like just as we looked away, the caterpillar made a chrysalis in a blink.
Then, waiting for the butterflies was the same. The chrysalis would darken and become transparent. We could see the wings all folded up inside like origami. Surely we’ll see it happen - we’d catch the butterfly coming out, and sure enough we stepped out of the room and return to find a butterfly or two or three delicately moving its wings to dry them.
After each butterfly emerged, we’d keep it inside for a few hours to finish drying before releasing it outside wishing it a good trip to Mexico.
Butterfly is significant to me personally. It’s the symbol my Mom assigned to me - yellow butterfly to be precise, and I feel really lucky to have been able to witness the transformation of 12 monarchs. It was such an unstoppable process to watch, to be around, and I hope that for the four of us in this house, we are able to absorb that energy of transformation into this next season.
I can feel hints of the transformation in how we rearranged our house. I can feel it in the stirrings of my business. I see it in the kids who are growing as fast as those caterpillars and are as hungry. I can see it in Patrick as he is planning and thinking about his gardens. We are full of this butterfly energy and are so lucky to be here.
What if we could fashion a restoration plan that grew from understanding multiple meanings of land? Land as sustainer. Land as identity. Land as grocery store and pharmacy. Land as connection to our ancestors. Land as moral obligation. Land as sacred. Land as self.
This past weekend, I just finished reading Braiding Sweetgrass by Robin Wall Kimmerer, after two years of picking it up and putting it down - not because it wasn’t captivating, but because I was having trouble making room for reading in my day to day.
Anyway, if you have not read this book, I wholeheartedly recommend taking a look. It contains a tremendous amount of wisdom about our relationship to nature, the Earth, and ourselves. It is a book that will help you to mourn what we have lost, come to terms with what we have done, but it also offers a way for us to move forward.
So, if you are feeling overwhelmed and lost in the panic of the climate crisis we are in, Braiding Sweetgrass and Robin Wall Kimmerer offer a guiding light and a mindset of reciprocity that will help to heal and hopefully grow out of this era of destruction.
You Are Nature!
While I just wrote more in depth about this in the Fall Issue of Woolgathering (New Issue coming out soon! It’s a good time to sign- up!), I thought it appropriate to share now since this is the first week of school for us!
Last year, I started waiting with Penelope for the bus each morning, when big brother Abe moved on to middle school and a different schedule, bus, etc. At first, I may have been a tiny bit resentful to spend my precious minutes that I could be working (self important - harrumph) waiting for a grumbling bus to arrive.
But, I soon realized what a gift these 15 minutes or so were to spend not only greeting the morning, noticing the weather, noticing the environment, but most importantly to spend extra time with Penelope.
With the construction on Rt. 31, the bus would often be late. So, we had to make our own fun, and we somehow began to study the Trumpet Vine that snakes around our Spring Bird sign and the honey suckle that lives there.
This Trumpet Vine is quite common in south to the point that it is a nuisance, but here at Spring Bird, the winter keeps it in check.
We notice all of the parts of the plant, the nubby bits that grow before the flowers and then the beautiful orange blossoms that remind me of the color of port wine spreadable cheese. We don’t pay too much attention to the green leaves that get sort of mixed-up with the honeysuckle, but the curious green pods that grow after the blossoms wither are our favorite. We watch the pods all year long. They grow brown and rattly in the winter. We watch what gets eaten and where. In the winter, the deer tracks in the snow give away the culprit.
We keep our eye on the trumpet vine each morning. It announces the beginning of the school year (for us, anyway), and will carry us into Summer vacation.
Have a great school year everyone! And for those not impacted by the school schedule, enjoy your empty local swimming pool, or lake, or park while the weather is warm!
Anna Lentz, artist, writer, and creativity coach who blogs about making a creative life connected with nature at Spring Bird.