Spending so much time on this land and in this place this year has made us realize it is really perfect for us. We could use a few more acres, but the place, the view, the air, the trees, the animals, the privacy, the dead end road - it has really made this pandemic tolerable even in our lockdown.
We all are grateful that we have this space, and, our original pre-COVID plan was to also use this for Herbalists Without Borders based education and events. Of course this property is still used for Herbalists Without Borders - over 1,000 square feet of this house is a dedicated donation storage and community apothecary space. Throughout the entire pandemic I have been intaking donations here, and then packing up donations and shipping to free clinics and for community outreach throughout the entire US and Puerto Rico. I have shipped something like $85,000 of donation value from my house in the past 3 months. Pretty amazing. But, we have had to do all this alone. The long-term goal is having training days and farm work days, planting days, plant walks, and distill hydrosols and all of that ... with people. The other part of the goal is to create other opportunities for my teens to work with other teens learning about plant conservation, habitats, natives, and how there is food and medicine all around us if you just know where to look.
This is the time of year where the plan means looking to the next growing season. This year we didn't have the ability to expand as much as we hoped due to covid, but we did add the greenhouse and then enforce it all summer and insulate for winter. We expanded the orchard, the fruit canes, the perennial medicinals, and ground fruit. We added more mushroom logs (both blue oyster and turkey tail), woodland bushes, woodland medicinals, and started the native plant nursery for trees and medicinals that will take up to 2 years before they can be planted out.
For 2021, we have a lot of goals, Including expanding on some flat areas, adding a forest permaculture format into the existing greenhouse, expanding around the greenhouse to have integrated plantings, create a seating area with a firepit in the greenhouse area, and then continue to expand the woodland and shade medicinals.
One plan I didn't get to try this year was the bog garden using native Wisconsin tamarack bog plants, so I have seeds and will be growing plants from seed for that fun project. I completed an environmental and garden education program to get some more ideas for bringing kids into the mix, and have an open source plant walk app/wiki/platform in progress, so that is all great.
We are also looking at significantly expanding our seed saving and seed grants. I manage a large seed library and seed grant program with Herbalists Without Borders where we share seeds out to communities to get gardens growing. By growing more seeds to save and sharing them out, we can increase the use of native plants and the use of plant medicine that is from our bioregion, and, that grow in this climate.
So we are working on sketching out, planning, plotting, outlining, expanding and listing. I will be sharing the 2021 plan here soon, but until then, I wanted to share the photos of our beautiful view, the night sky, and this land we call home.
Living in a pandemic is a unique experience for us all, I am sure. And for us, with multiple high risk folks in the house, we are in long-term lockdown, and are still not going into buildings that are not home. This means we have spent the last 8 months living in our rural bubble. It has been interesting, hard, easy, wonderful, panic-inducing, and just something that I know we will look back on some day and tell stories of that year (or years) when the world stopped.
We have always homeschooled (unschooled) and we already worked from home. We had a garden, we had chickens, and we have been a one car family focused on spending these years before our sons are adults as a tight family that enjoys spending time together and focusing on the important things. We already put work away at 5 and eat dinner and spend time together every night. We already take walks together in the evenings, and have conversations as the sun goes down. We already look forward to weekends so we can play board games, spend more time together, and bake together in the kitchen while we listen to music.
We already make sure to take time for the good things. We spend time reading books and talking about them, programming a new chicken coop door, walking the garden at night as the twinkly lights turn on and the cicadas and frogs sing. We already have games we play together and laugh loudly, sing goofily, and lose track of time as we talk sitting in the kitchen at night.
We already spend time planning what to do next summer in the garden, save seeds, harvest food, can tomatoes, make pickles, dry and blend our own teas, and stock up a whole community apothecary to be prepared if we need to be for the unforeseen. We already have a seed library and seed bank in our home, we have an orchard, we wild forage, and we have our favorite stands of nettles, curly dock, cleavers, chickweed, wild grapes, and elderberry.
We already live our lives like our home is our vacation. We already have a home that we all love, that makes us feel good, and that we enjoy spending time in. We already have routines in our life, and rituals that make each day something to mark and remember. We already celebrate life fully where we are, rooted deeply, and committed to being under-scheduled and focusing on our relationships with each other. We already don't take the privilege we have to live this life for granted.
We already listen in wonder to the frogs singing each night, look up to the moon and the stars and breathe in the fresh air. We already look at the clouds and the sky, and enjoy the turkey, squirrel, bird, fox, coyote, deer, racoon, opossum, groundhog, and others that pass through this beautiful place. We already watch the amazing sunsets and sit at the window as the sun sets and the bats swoop through the sky and around the house finding their dinner.
While none of this is easy - which is for another post - and we have times where we long for connection that isn't zoom or discord, or we wish things might be different, we are also so grateful that we have this time together, we have this land and this place, and we have this time with each other. One day when I am old and gray (ok, I'm already old and gray), and my children are adults and we are spread across the world, we will remember this time and how lucky we were to have this time at the cusp of adulthood. That we could pause this moment and find happiness, comfort, and connection even in one single place. That this world and this life as it is is enough, and that we can enjoy what we have where we are.
As summer winds to a close and we look to fall and winter under our lockdown in our little world, we are looking forward to the change of seasons, autumn leaves, first snow, early darkness, a cozy fireplace, cold crisp air, and the moonlight reflecting off the snow. And, each month is one month closer to the end of this when we can resume our place in the outside world, even closer as a family, and, most importantly, still healthy and alive and together.
One of the things I have been saying for the past several years (decade?), even before we had land, was that I wanted to have a botanical sanctuary where we grow medicinals, natives, and restore native endangered plants from our region. The past two years have had big changes moving to this property, and working to create beds, gardens, prairie, wooded areas, and encourage the continued growth of natives and planting even more, particularly of the endangered and at-risk plants.
We have planted hundreds of medicinals from seedlings we started here, we have many food and medicinal beds, we have a woodland area with medicinals, mushroom logs, and wild fruit. We have a greenhouse, perennials that are ever expanding. We have done so much work, but we do always have more to do. We got to a place last winter where I felt we had done enough to qualify for a botanical sanctuary, and get our status out into the minds of our neighbors, so we have an awareness of our goals and vision for the future on this land.
I am happy to say that we found out just last week that Lunar Hollow Farm is now officially a United Plant Savers Botanical Sanctuary, and, a Certified Wildlife Habitat. I feel like that classification ties in well with future educational offerings, projects such as the Open Source Plant Walk Project I am working on, the native nursery I have been creating, and the ongoing expansion of this work and sharing of knowledge regarding medicinal plant growing and native cultivation. We are here to steward the land, and support the ongoing healing of this soil and landscape to supporting plants, wildlife, and microbia that would be here naturally. Living with this in harmony with human interaction and the always present monocropped landscape of the Wisconsin rural areas, we are cleaving out only a small but important space.
Our long-term goal here includes not only growing more self-sustaining foods for our own family, expanding the medicinal and native gardens to include more at risk plants, and to use this space to teach others about herbalism, plants, conservation, and more.
While the pandemic has changed our ability to have people here so far this year - we had planned on having people visit to help plant, learn more about medicinal plant growing, and to help with harvesting plants for Herbalists Without Borders clinic donations -but the land keeps growing and changing, no matter if one or 100 people are here. So, some ideas are in the works for more online offerings and the open source plant walk as app and wiki for all to use.
This summer has been a good one so far with so many new plantings and systems setup. I plan to update the master plant list and share more about some of the work we have started to lead into the future of Lunar Hollow. For now though, we celebrate our status as a Botanical Sanctuary, and think of ways to share the abundance and beauty of this space with others!
I am a certified aromatherapist, clinical herbalist, organic gardener, plant conservationist, photographer, writer, designer, artist, nature lover, whole foods maker, and mother of two unschooled boys in south central Wisconsin.