The Pursuit of Joy

“People usually consider walking on water or in thin air a miracle. But I think the real miracle is not to walk either on water or in thin air, but to walk on earth. Every day we are engaged in a miracle which we don’t even recognize: a blue sky, white clouds, green leaves, the black, curious eyes of a child—our own two eyes. All is a miracle.”

-Thich Nhat Hanh

“…All is a miracle”. Often I find it easy to notice the hardships, the ugly, and the pain for which is driving around in truck loads and reaching every corner of this beautiful planet. And although it is important to notice this, I would venture to say it is more important to notice the beauty that surrounds us. Despite the harm and the damage this planet is suffering, blue skies, white clouds, green leaves, and many other wondrous and miraculous inventions of our Lord flourish, and that is something to be thankful for.

My name is Kate Krogstad, and I am the newest member to join the Lutheran Retreats, Camps and Conferences team. More than anything in the world I seek beauty; beauty in the form of joy, all forms of joy. This often leads me to new places, new people, and new experiences. Most recently it led me back to camp. When deciding on what my next pursuit of joy would be, I looked back at my past year and found the two most joyful things to bless this Earth to be children and animals. Where best to have both of these joys around me then at Luther Glen Farm?

What ranks children and animals on the top of the joy triangle? They both require a sometimes extravagant amount of our attention, and (at least in the farm animal’s case) insist on sitting in your lap despite the fact that the snow for which you are unaccustomed to has soaked through your jeans. That’s probably just a me problem though… And yet, the love in which they give is filled with innocent joy and is given so purely that when allowed could bring happiness to all.

Every creature, ant to human, has a role on this Earth, and with these jobs, comes personalities. These personalities are formed through lives in which each lives and they tell a story. Take the farm for example. At a quick glance it’s a beautiful classic farm with the safeguard red barn, the chickens, goats, pigs, and horses, but it’s more than that. If one were to take a mindful walk through Luther Glen Farm one would notice:

The baby chickens: (whom look like mini dinosaurs) are curious about the world around them and love to run as fast as they can in any random direction.

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The pigs: love belly rubs and they know that if one walks into the shed around 4:00 P.M. and they make enough noise that they will get fed first.

The alpacas: are curious but just want to stare at you, and the sheep, more than anything want head scratches, and to have their face as close to yours as possible.

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Pepper: our pregnant pony who wants to be loved and is learning that we love her.

Chuck: the pony who should have been named velcro due to his habit of following anyone around so close that one cannot turn around too quickly.

Our loyal dogs: Annie, who hops like a bunny for food, and would sit in one’s lap 24/7 if possible. Ranger, the 90 lb. puppy who likes to make obstacle courses to play in and crawl through. Shasta, the most loyal of the three dogs who is constantly smiling and sacrifices her dinner for the possibility of cuddles.

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The goats: each of them holding extremely unique personalities. Esther and Laura-Beth being the matriarchs of the herd are extremely strong and tough but become love-bugs once head scratches are given. Nugget (the smallest goat) loves piggy back rides. Sarah, loves falling asleep with a person as her pillow. Agnes loves to talk (scream) as loud as she possibly can. Moses, jumps and twirls in the air when food is being served. Grace is a soft soul and just wants to stand by you, but can also balance on any tiny little wall despite being one of our tallest goats. And finally, one would notice little Regina; the smallest of our mama goats, is simply happy if she can be next to her best friend Agnes.

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I am thankful for all of these joyful personalities and am blessed to call Luther Glen Farm my home. These animals, these sentient beings, are my family, and the innocent love they gift gives me joy.

“All is a miracle.”

 

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A Season of Rest

Winter on the farm is slow. It’s almost as if the Earth is resting, recovering and rejuvenating itself before the blossoming of Spring and Summer. This winter has been more intense than the past few years. First, weeks of rain, than a couple feet of snow, leading to a few days of sun and finally more snow. Nightly temperatures have frequently been in the teens. Most mornings there is an inch or two of ice to break on the animals water troughs. The row covers in the garden have collapsed, been reset, blown over and been fixed again.

The apple and stone fruit trees are dormant, leafless, but hardy enough to endure the freezing temperatures. The garden is quite bare with some chard, kale and garlic holding strong. The greenhouse is packed with tiny plants waiting for all the snow to melt to move into their new homes in the raised beds in the garden.

It’s a season of anticipation, practicing patience and embracing the natural rest cycles the land and plants need. Perhaps, encouraging us to rest also before camp’s busy Spring and Summer season as well.

So here we wait and prepare and rest, while also dreaming like crazy about how lush the summer garden fruits and vegetables will be.

 

Life and Learning in the Bowen Barn

This last weekend, during the high school winter retreat, we had the pleasure of utilizing the Bowen Barn for the first time.  With almost two feet of snow on the ground, we needed a sheltered place to host one of the workshops for the students.  The barn, with the addition of a few hay bales and homemade quilts, was the perfect gathering space for our group to come together and talk about food.  The discussion about how we fuel our bodies led us to acknowledge a need for balance between what we eat, drink and do in order to live a healthy life physically, mentally, emotionally and spiritually.  We then taste-tested some varieties of beets right out of the garden, and discussed where the food we eat everyday is coming from.  It was a beautiful time together and a very fitting first gathering in the barn.  A place that would soon be filled with life was utilized  by talking about how to live a healthy one.

Alpacas at Luther Glen!

One of our goals on the farm is that everything has a purpose. The chickens give us eggs, the pigs eat our compost, the dogs guard all the livestock, etc. For a while we’ve been looking into fiber, and how to get kids involved in learning here on the farm.  So, Luther Glen has some new additions: Alpacas!  These four beautiful creatures will provide quality fiber for us to wash, spin, dye and create with.

What are Alpacas?

Alpacas are a Camelid, just like llamas and camels. This means they are even-toed. There are two varieties of alpacas Huacaya (wah-KI’-ya) and Suri (“surrey”).   The more common variety and the type we have are Huacaya.  These have a fluffy teddy bear appearance and their fiber is crimped similar to that of sheep wool.  Alpacas are ruminants and can live up to 20 years.  They do not have upper teeth, but instead have a hard upper pallet.  There are twenty-two natural colors that their fiber comes in and we have four of those colors represented at Luther Glen.  It is said when alpacas are content they hum, and our four ladies have been humming quite a bit!  Below are their photos and if you scroll over the picture their name will pop up!

 

Why alpacas?

The purpose of Alpacas at Luther Glen is to produce fiber and to be able to showcase animals many people haven’t seen in person.  We will shear our fluffy friends once a year in the Spring.  Unlike sheep wool, Alpaca fiber does not contain lanolin, making them naturally hypoallergenic.  Their crimped fiber when made into yarn becomes naturally elastic, perfect for knitting.  For the last five years Luther Glen has hosted a finish your project knitting/crocheting retreat.  Making beautiful creations with these lovely people caused us to want to become more involved in the process.  So hopefully by next year’s retreat we will have our own yarn to sell.  The fiber can also be felted into bowls, coasters, earrings, the possibilities are endless!  It will be a slow and exciting process to learn all we need to about processing the fiber, but we can’t wait! To produce yarn or felted pieces from our own animals will be worth it.

 

Eating the Rainbow

Eating the rainbow.  No, this does not mean to just eat skittles, it involves eating a variety of fruits and vegetables so as to receive a variety of minerals and nutrients.  Adding color to our diets allows us to fill up on vitamins, minerals, healthy fats, protein, fiber and antioxidants without excess saturated fat, sodium or any added sugars.  The variety allows our bodies to fill up without being weighed down.  And according to the American Heart Association “A healthy eating plan rich in fruits and vegetables can help lower your risk of many serious and chronic health conditions, including heart disease, stroke, obesity, high blood pressure, high blood cholesterol, diabetes, kidney disease, osteoporosis and some types of cancer.”

In addition, all of that variety adds color and many chefs agree that you eat with your eyes first. So add some color to your plate! Because if nothing else it looks pretty.  Here are some pictures of what our campers and retreat guests are eating at Luther Glen these days.  It is amazing to see all the color this season!

Apple Season

Oak Glen, the city where Luther Glen is located, is in apple country.  The climate here  with the 500 hours of freeze in winter and the warm, but not terribly hot summers allows for flavorful and crisp apples.  Apple season begins in September and continues through November. During most of apple season the little shops and adorable orchards around us are busy with tourists and families making a day of picking apples.  Our normally quiet mountain becomes filled with cars and traffic and people.  We’re not complaining, we are all about people connecting with food even if it is only once a year in an orchard.

Our market is a little different though.  We have guests, churches and retreat groups that come up in fall not for apples necessarily, but to retreat in nature and focus on God and community.  But because we have a farm and orchard we are able to offer our guests seasonal and fresh fruits and veggies.  This unique opportunity at Luther Glen of being able to connect with food, allows people to harvest and eat delicious and incredibly fresh produce.  This is a beautiful enactment of one of our goals here on the farm; to connect good food and good people.

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End of Summer/Fall on the farm.  

The Barn: This summer after meetings with the county, site assessments from civil engineers and lots of checks coming in from faithful donors the Barn is on its way up! We could not be more excited! Its been magical to see the holes be dug, posts be set, concrete poured, framing secured and finally the walls! Our contractors have been working hard and for that we are so grateful! Don’t worry we’ve been fueling them lots of garden veggies!

The Babies: 4 mamas gave birth to 8 babies this summer. Esther: 3, Laura Beth: 2, Regina: 2, Naomi: 1.  These babies have brought so much joy to campers, staff, retreat guests and church members. Don’t forget we can bring animals to your church! Last week after weaning them we were sad to send some of the males to new homes, but happy that they will be well cared for.  It’s easy to keep lots of babies around but babies get bigger and unfortunately we can’t milk the males so they go to other loving farms.  We have kept 3 of the babies though, so come by and visit these kids anytime!

The Garden:  Faithfully productive.  Steady amounts of cucumbers, tomatoes, squash, melons, berries, kale, chard and pumpkins are being harvested daily.  Filling up retreat guests and staff and allowing us a surplus to sell at churches and donate to CCLM.  Transplants and successions of lettuce medleys and spinach have gone into the ground and more have been seeded into the greenhouse. Mid-September also brings apples, but we’ll post more about that soon.

The Blog: The blog will continue, with monthly postings! We love sharing with you all our growth, trials, and joys! We’re trying to find a rhythm of posting that will match the busyness of farming and running a camp. Thanks for sticking with us on this journey!