I am Director for the non-profit A Farm for All! which grants land to my partner farm White Pine Community Farm. I travel up to Webatuck (Wingdale) which is an hour northeast of Beacon once a month. Ben, the head farmer was busy in the attic mid-March cleaning when I got there. The attic is his drying space. White Pine is an herb farm which is one of the reasons that drew me there.
I had reluctantly become an activist working for Pete Seeger for four years from 2006 -2010. Pete Seeger created Clearwater, an environmental organization that has raised awareness about the pollution in the Hudson especially the PCB's (polychlorinated biphenyl) dumped into the Upper River (Hudson Falls and Fort Edward) by General Electric. Pete lived in Beacon and when he built a tiny sailboat when he first moved here, he was pressed into action when he saw feces floating in the river. The city also had a garbage dump on the river where they would burn their trash. Pete turned that area into now what is Riverfront Park.
Clearwater was created in 1966. The boat came later in 1969. The boat is a 100' sloop which provides environmental education for school groups. A sloop is a one masted sailboat with a fore and aft mainsail and a jib. They shipped supplies down to Manhattan in early America. Beacon is named Beacon because soldiers would light fires on Mt. Beacon (1500') during the Revolutionary War to alert the troops that the British were coming. George Washington's headquarters is across the river in Newburgh. Firm energy of beginnings in our town.
Pete's dream was to have sail clubs in rivertowns along the Hudson with a smaller version of the Clearwater to raise money for the Clearwater. Beacon has a Sloop Club (www.beaconsloopclub.org) offering free sails Monday - Friday 6 -9pm from May - October. I joined the club in 2007 and trained to sail on a crew. I sailed for two years. In 2010, I became Treasurer, a position I held for seven years. Pete was at the end of his life and unfortunately his clubs had lost their way being infiltrated by corporate types who diluted the original vision barely following his advice anymore. Online the Beacon Sloop Club is described as a Yacht Club.
I left the Beacon Sloop Club in 2016. Pete had passed on in 2014 and the corporate element swooped in to crush his vision. Dare I say the Beacon Sloop club is misogynistic and racist like any good corporation. I was looking for an organization to work with that was aligned with the vision I had been taught (civil rights for all) when I came across A Farm for All!
I have known Ben for ten years and he had a Dismantling Patriarchy event in 2014 and I knew I had to get up to his farm and volunteer. Ben also has a women's cooperative project in Honduras which returns the displaced indigenous to their original land. Work near and dear to my heart, so I contacted him and there I am.
My work as an herbalist is with women, people of color and the indigenous. I am an herbalist in the Wise Woman Tradition (www.susunweed.com) which works for women. As I said I am a reluctant activist, but I have been engaged with some of the most amazing projects on the journey.
I leave the dead stalks in my gardens through Winter. I took a class with Karyn Sanders a Choctaw woman of the Blue Otter School of Medicine (www.blueotterschool.com) and she mentioned that one leaves the dead stalks through Winter to allow places for birds to land when it snows. I love to gather Native Turtle Island (America) wisdom and use it in my life. Like "we belong to the Earth, the Earth does not belong to us." I haven't had to personally own property yet.
I clean the dead stalks in Spring. I have Sunroot (Jerusulam Artichoke or Sunchoke, Helianthus tuberosus, Asteraceae, Perennial, Turtle Island) a forerunner to Sunflower, neither from Jerusalem nor an Artichoke, Mugwort (Artemisia vulgaris, Asteraceae, Perennial, Africa, West Asia, Europe) and Bull Thistle (Cirsium vulgare, Asteraceae, Perennial, Northwestern Africa, Western Asia and Europe). I collect the stalks and this season I am making a pile that I believe will break down and I can use it for mulch. I have compost windrows in all my gardens. Europeans began writing down the names of plants so we will encounter some cultural bias inherent in their names. Some botanists go as far as to name the plants after themselves (Forsythia, Forsythia x intermedia, Oleaceae, Shrub, Eastern Asia named after William Forsyth). I have learned that the indigenous here on Turtle Island called Jerusalem Artichoke, Sunroot which for me is more affectionate than Sunchoke, which was no doubt named for the plethora of flowers that appear on the plant in September. Being of Caribbean descent and in love with color, I've often found the European finds color offensive hence the derogatory Sunchoke.
I spend April cleaning and I realized last season (which was 49 degree mornings until June), I can direct seed plants like Kale (Brassica oleracea, Brassicaceae, Biennial, Europe) when the nights are 45 degrees so I may get in Kale by the end of the month.
I start seeds in the greenhouse at White Pine and start planting out in May. So far I've started Sunflower (Helianthus annuus, Asteraceae, Annual, Turtle Island), Borage (Borago officinalis, Annual, Europe), Cabbage (Brassica oleracea, Brassicaceae, Biennial, Eastern Mediterranean, Asia Minor), Basil (Ocimum basilicum, Labiatae, Annual, Asia) and Wormwood (Artemisia absinthium, Asteraceae, Perennial, North Africa, Eurasia). The season is afoot!