It has been a wet year. Lots of rain in spells, and we are having one now. All day yesterday, through the night, and still this morning, and forecasts for at least two more days of rain. Good for crops in the ground that are not in low-lying areas; trouble with grass and weeds trying to take over afterwards. It’s easy to understand why so many farmers have turned to plastic-culture (covering the ground with black plastic and inserting plants in holes poked through), and using drip irrigation to water when needed. It is an effective system for growing food, while saving labor and money.

For us the method is too costly in spite of it’s labor-saving qualities. Too costly to the environment when the massive swaths of used plastic are disposed as waste in the landfills, and too costly to the soil organisms that contribute to the strength and viability of the food we rely on as medicine.

We are ramping up our efforts to work in harmony with the natural forces and agencies – the soil food web, native pollinators, organic fertilizers, cover crops and crop rotations, and proven varieties of heirloom crops – to produce the strongest food possible. We are also making a renewed effort to save more of our own seeds.

When the corona virus epidemic emerged this spring, I was shocked that the seed houses we have used for almost 20 years closed down (it turned out to be temporary and they reopened after a couple of months). It was an important lesson for me, and I received it this time. I’m putting in place the understanding of seed saving, and the facilities to do it well. An added bonus of leaving the plants in the field to bloom and produce seeds has been an increase in native pollinators, and the joy of watching the antics of a flock of red finches eating the seeds. Interesting to note that they preferred the turnip and mustard seeds over those of the various kales. Now that these domestic seeds are gone, they will have to resort back to the seeds of wild grasses and herbs for food.

All the rain has been a boon to the mints this year. Each variety is bountiful – tall, green, fragrant spires after its own kind. Apple, spearmint, chocolate, peppermint, mojito, orange, and pineapple all in abundance. Not to mention the seemingly omnipresent lemon balm – a cousin with powerful brain protective powers. Some of each will be harvested and preserved through drying for teas, and mint syrup for other uses.

Quite a few bunnies around, but nothing like last year when they were almost underfoot. Considering their numbers, they did not do much damage, preferring the tender lettuces and chards to the kales and cabbages. On Saturday I saw a mother rabbit defending her nest and young from a flock of crows – surrounded but holding her ground. The crows flew away as I walked up, but she sat there -still and quiet in plain sight- as I walked past. I have seen crows kill a young baby rabbit, all alone, by pecking it to death.

I worked in the muscadine vineyard on Sunday afternoon, mowing between the rows of vines, pulling the new limbs off the main trunk, and trimming the dogbane, wild rose, and asparagus ferns underneath the canopy. This is the contribution of the wind and the birds, and just part of the work of growing grapes. Unlike 2018, I did a careful job of pruning this year, and the vines look great. Limiting production through pruning benefits the vines and improves the quality of the grapes. Each year as I prune, I see the remnants of the tiny, neatly constructed nests of the tiny Coopers Sparrow, tucked into tight forks near the center of the vines for food and protection.

Life goes on, and I give thanks for the privilege of working in this beautiful place – a steward to care for a legacy that belongs to the future.

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Another Day In Paradise

I awoke, refreshed, to the sound of light rain against the bedroom’s window pane.  The forecast was right this time, and I automatically shifted to ‘plan B’ for the day’s activities.  My lifestyle is luxurious, allowing for self-directed changes that provide balance and promote well-being.  Intentional breathing, qi-gong, focusing meditation, libation to God and Ancestors, nourishing breakfast, care for the animals, and, today, writing a blog post.  I want to share a little of the wonder of Abanitu with the many who labor in the artificial world of ‘work’. Since this is my first post of the year, I’ll go back a little for context.


Last fall and winter were the wettest anyone could remember – even the old-timers said so.  Every week or so we got 1-2 inches of rain, beginning in late October and continuing until early March.  The fall planting of our major crops of garlic and strawberries was just completed when it began. The constant rain made it impossible to weed the crops however, and by spring the weeds had overwhelmed them, affecting their development and production. But when it did stop raining, the temperatures soared (hot for March), and the ground dried out quickly, leaving the clay hard and uncooperative. Even our permanent raised beds, built for the purpose of providing a planting option during wet springs, had become hard.  I shifted, planting our earliest greens in the 3 hoop houses until we could till the designated beds for the greens.


We ordered seed in early January (mostly from Southern Exposure Seed Exchange in Charlottesville, Va., but also a few others), and had first seedlings of kale, chard, spinach, endive, and lettuce by late January.  February is the month we prune our grape vines, fruiting trees / shrubs, and roses.  We also inoculate logs for Shiitake mushrooms at this time (the logs are cut in January).

This year our plan was to plant the more cold sensitive chard and lettuce in the hoop houses by mid – February, and the more cold hardy kale, cabbage, broccoli, cauliflower, and endive outside in the raised beds by mid–March. This is also the time to plant the sugar-snap peas along the trellis in the hoop houses, and two weeks later we plant them outside in the trellised raised beds on the north-side by the greenhouse nursery. In the same outside timeframe we would plant onions and ‘white’ potatoes down in the paddock field near the garlic.

The warm season crops – beans, squash, cantaloupes and watermelons would be direct seeded in the paddock field the first of May, while the tomatoes, flowers, and golden berries are started in the greenhouse in early March, and transplanted outside in the raised beds in early May. So it is a busy time of year, and weeding, tilling, mowing, and irrigating are also part of the duties. For the most part, making adjustments for weather and frosts, we achieved our early planting goals. Going forward we will plant more rotations of the warm- season crops, and include some late May plantings of ginger, turmeric and galangal (Thai ginger).

This has been a cool wet spring, and our greens have flourished.  Since we focus on the kales, chard, cabbage, and spinach as healing foods, I’ve been pleased with our offerings at market. Our customers also seem pleased, often commenting that our greens are the best at market.

Markets Open in April

Our most important market, the Durham Farmers Market in downtown Durham, opened April 2, and the Person County Farmers Market in Roxboro opened April 23. I’m serving as President of the DFM this year, and it’s both an honor and real responsibility that requires time and focus. To maintain an assigned space in the market vendors must attend a minimum of 23 weeks out of a total of 34 for the market’s main season (April – November).  Getting an early growing start to be at market is important. We met our goal of being at the opening market, and have not missed one so far.  We also made a large CSA order in early May to our Charlotte AASI customers, with very good feedback from them.

Last Saturday we took our first offerings of sugar-snap peas from the hoop houses to market.  Only one other farmer was offering them.  We priced ours a little below theirs, because it seemed to us to be the fair price.  Customers loved them, some biting into them right away in spite of our instructions to wash them first.  They know we don’t use chemical sprays and other dangerous practices, so they were comfortable. Some even exclaimed loudly how good they tasted.  There were smiles all around.


Helping people to understand the direct connections between their food choices and health outcomes is a major reason I chose to farm at this point in my life.  I thank God for the privilege of my life and the opportunity to serve others in this important way.  It is so critical for the children, especially.

Recently, at a local store, I witnessed a Mother buying ‘breakfast’ for her two small children –  apparently before taking them off to school.  Sweet cakes and sweet drinks and chips – the children were excited and happy.  Both were already overweight.  I smiled at them, silently thanking them for reminding me of my duties and why I do them.

My responsibility is to pass on the knowledge and understanding that has been shared with me during my life, so that the lives of others will be better.  My work is not easy – sometimes it’s quite difficult – but I recognize that because of the diligence and sacrifice of others I live a privileged life filled with beauty and wonder.

I’m so grateful for another day in paradise…

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The Soil – Its Life and Fertility

– Five to ten tons of animal life can live in an acre of soil. (National Wildlife Federation)

– Worm casts contain five times as much nitrogen, seven times as much available phosphate, eleven times as much available potash, three times as much available magnesium, and one and a third times as much available calcium as the soil of the top six inches. (H.G.M. Jacobson and H.A. Lunt, “Soil Science”)

– All these extreme types (of soil) have one thing in common. They are all improved, cumulatively, by decaying organic matter. They are improved in two ways. By an improvement in structure and an improvement in water-holding capacity. This is brought about by the presence of large numbers of bacteria and fungi and their remains, which are of a mucilaginous or gummy nature. (P.H. Hainsworth, “Secrets of an Expert Organic Gardener”)

– Soil, particularly a fertile soil, is much more alive than a casual glance would show. We can see the larger insects and worms but the greater bulk of living things is invisible – consisting of bacteria, fungal mycelium, and a variety of less well known organisms. …The population varies according to moisture and warmth of the soil. For bacteria…about 3,000,000,000 per gram of soil, weighing a ton to the acre, in the top 6 inches. (P.H. Hainsworth, “Secrets of an Expert Organic Gardener”)

– Organisms in the soil in addition to bacteria and earthworms include fungi, actinomycetes, algae, protozoa, centipedes, millipedes, springtails, spiders, mites, eelworms, insects and their larvae. (P.H. Hainsworth, “Secrets of an Expert Organic Gardener”)

– It may come as something of a surprise to the farmer to know that he has 30 times as much stock underground as on the field. There have been estimates of 40 tons per acre…. (P.H. Hainsworth, “Secrets of an Expert Organic Gardener”)

– The amount of earth moved annually (by earthworms) is prodigious. Recent estimates of the amount of soil cast annually per acre in pastures by worms are between 1 and 25 tons on the surface and 4 to 36 tons underground. This results in a pore space in the soil of between 40 and 67 percent, according to the proportion of surface-casting species. (A.C. Evans, “Annual of Applied Biology”)

– The amount of food consumed by these various organisms (in the soil) is considerable. …Given an annual dressing of manure at 14 tons per acre, (they) used the same number of calories daily as 12 men. While this may seem a great waste of food, it contains almost entirely of cellulose, lignin, and humus, which is inedible, as far as people are concerned. (P.H. Hainsworth, “Secrets of an Organic Gardener”)/span>

– Conclusive evidence of the release of minerals by microbiological activity on the organic section (of the farm is that) potash and phosphate are at a similar level during winter, but rise rapidly as the crop grows in May and June to a level representing eight times as much by mid-summer. This is followed by an equally swift decline with the ripening of the crop. …The minerals are rendered available as the crop needs them and cease to be so as the crop ripens – a protection against possible loss. P.H. Hainsworth, “Secrets of an Organic Gardener”)

– Green manuring is popularly believed to be a good method of building soil fertility. It can be, but, as practiced today, it is anything but. The ploughing in of a soft, young, green crop adds a large amount of nitrogen to the soil relative to the amount of carbohydrate or plant fiber. Some farmers even add extra nitrogen to rot it down. …This results in a net decrease in the amount of organic matter in the soil. To be effective, the green crop must be allowed to mature. (P.H. Hainsworth, “Secrets of an Organic Gardener”)

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Why Not Use Chemicals?

It’s all about soil and health…
– Chemical fertilizers cannot restore soil fertility. They do not work on the soil but are enforcedly imbibed by plants, poisoning both plant and soil. They destroy (the soil’s) physical properties, and therefore its life. (Dr. Alexis Carrel – “Man, the Unknown”)

– Toxic farm chemicals are radiomimetric in that they ape the character of radiation. The damage (to humans) resulting from nuclear radiation is the same as the use of toxic genetic chemicals. And the use of fungicides of organic synthesis annually causes the same damage to present and future generations as atomic fallout from 29 H-bombs of 14 megatons – damage equal to the fallout of 14,500 atomic bombs of the Hiroshima type. In America, during the 1970’s, yearly use of toxic genetic chemicals was about 453,000 tons, which caused damage equal to atomic fallout from 145 H-bombs of 14 megatons, or 72,000 atomic bombs of the Hiroshima type. (Amerigo Mosca, Italian Chemist)

– Our attempts to grow crops by a system of ‘hydroponics in soil’ are doomed to failure. By adding easily soluble plant foods to the soil we are not, in fact, helping the plant at all, we merely get the worst of both worlds. A fertilizer, in the full sense of the word, renders the soil more fertile. To call nitrogenous (chemicals) fertilizers is a misnomer, they decrease long-term fertility – they are, in fact, merely a stimulant and need to be recognized as such. (P.H. Hainsworth – “Secrets of an Expert Organic Gardener”)

– No amount of artificial fertilizer can compensate for the loss (of organic matter in the soil). The collapse of (soil) structure, of course, leads to compacting of the soil and loss of that very vital soil function, aeration, without which plants will not grow. Hence the urge for deeper ploughing to create artificial aeration. Unfortunately, this artificial structure either dries into hard clods or slumps into a semi-liquid mass with the first heavy rain, and, as a result, it is difficult or impossible to get a tilth. Microbial and worm activity is lost and no plant foods are released by natural agencies. Such artificial (fertilizers) as are added are rapidly available for a short time but soon become fixed or are attacked by the denitrifying bacteria (which can work without air), so that long before the crop matures the supply is exhausted, however much is put in. (P.H. Hainsworth – “Secrets of an Expert Organic Gardener”)

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Why Organic?

It’s all about soil and health…
– So long as one feeds on foods from unhealthy soil, the spirit will lack the stamina to free itself from the prison of the body. (Rudolf Steiner – “Agriculture”)

– Soil is the basis for all human life. All of life will be either healthy or unhealthy according to the fertility of the soil. (Dr. Alexis Carrel – “Man, The Unknown”)

– Malnutrition begins with the soil. Buoyant human health depends on wholesome food, and this can only come from fertile and productive soils. (Dr. Alexis Carrel – “Man, The Unknown”)

– In soil properly nourished with adequate supplies of humus, crops do not suffer from disease and do not require poisonous sprays to keep off parasites; that animals fed on those plants develop a high degree of disease resistance; and that man, nurtured with such plants and animals, can reach an extraordinary standard of health, able to resist disease and infection from whatever cause it may derive. (Peter Tomkins and Christopher Bird – “Secrets of the Soil’)

– There is now a good deal of evidence from practical results to show that farming methods based on (organic) principles have a value distinctly above normal methods. Such evidence may be found in crop yields, long term fertility, nutritional values of produce, plant and animal health, and cash savings in cultivations. (P. H. Hainsworth – “Secrets of an Expert Organic Gardener”)

– In order to produce good corps, plants need a steady and liberal release of nitrogenous compounds, potash and phosphates, and all other necessary adjuncts to the plant’s health. All this is provided, under natural conditions, by one means – through the activity of soil organisms. These in turn require food, mainly as a source of energy. There is a great distinction here – the plant provides its own energy from light and often some to spare for symbiotic organisms. The microorganism has to find its energy from ready-made materials but can often obtain its own mineral requirements direct from the soil particles….This energy supply consists of carbohydrates which are in turn plant remains, plant skeletons. (P.H. Hainsworth – “Secrets of an Expert Organic Gardener”)

– Organic matter may be called the constitution of the soil. Insects and disease are the symptoms of a failing crop, not the cause. The use of poisonous sprays is an act of desperation in a dying agriculture. (Dr. William A. Albrecht, Chairman, Department of Soils, Univ. of Missouri)

– Crop losses in dry weather, or during mild cold snaps, are not so much the result of drought and cold as of nutrient deficiency. NPK formulas, as legislated and enforced by State Departments of Agriculture, mean malnutrition, attack by insects, bacteria, and fungi, weed takeover, crop losses in dry weather, and general loss of mental acuity in the population, leading to degenerative metabolic disease and early death. (Dr. William A. Albrecht, Chairman, Department of Soils, Univ. of Missouri)

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A Spirit-Based Sanctuary For Life

Abanitu is a spiritual place.  A spirit-filled place. It is a temple, devoted to the reconnection of people to the land, it’s fruits, and thereby, to God.  God is everywhere, in everything, in everyone, in me.  It is our connection to God that connects us to all life, at Abanitu and beyond.  I am one with all and the All in all.  Every tree, shrub and blade of grass is an expression of the Divine, making us one.  Each earthworm, cricket, dragonfly, bumblebee and butterfly shares a connection with each other and with me.  The birds, bats, squirrels and deer are all expressions of God, and therefore sacred.  Gnats, mosquitoes, wasps, snakes, and crows are all part of the Divinely inspired food web that is connected to every living thing, including humans, and must be allowed to have their place in the world for the well-being of the world.  Abanitu is just a small eco-system that helps to restore these important relationships, where all life is sacred.  This is the essence of its spirituality – it is a safe haven for life.

But, not just life; balanced, healthy, abundant life, avoiding the perversions and distortions so common today.  This is why Abanitu is an organic farm – a balanced, healthy eco-system that exalts life, for the production of vegetarian food essential to life and abundant health.

The  sacred lives that are sacrificed here on behalf of ourselves and others must be honored and sanctified, acknowledging our interdependence and ultimate oneness.  Each saved seed is beheld in wonder and treated with respect.  Planted in carefully combined soils with reverence and happy expectation, we understand that God is working a miracle – extending a healing, nourishing portion of Itself into the world for the benefit of the world and its inhabitants.
What is nourishment?  What does the human mind, body, spirit require to be healthy, balanced and whole?  Is it even possible today to cultivate food that meets this lofty expectation?  Can we afford to be satisfied with anything other than the supreme effort to achieve it?

The physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual health of a people must be an important barometer of their level of civilization.  Food, and how it is grown  and prepared is central to our well-being. Shall we gain the whole material world and lose our appetites along with our health because we suffered the lazy, the greedy, and the unenlightened to control the production of our food?  Can the loss of our mental clarity and moral discretions be far behind, as we are coerced into choosing war and death over life and peace, in a stupor induced by empty food?  To say nothing of toxic food?

Still-born babies and premies accompany infant mortality as the legacy of under nourished expecant mothers, many of whom have never had a full quotient of nutrients themselves; victims of well-meaning but duped  parents who worshiped microwave convenience as if a new religion.  ‘Happy meals’  inculcate dietary habits that inevitably lead to unhappy lives for over weight children and obese young adults, and obscene profits for a predatory medical – pharmaceutical – industrial complex that, for all their billions, cannot connect the dots of cause and effect.

Not satisfied with chemically toxic and nutritionally empty food, these same giant corporate vampires are now seeking to replace God in the food equation.  Altering complex genetic structures that have nourished mankind for millenia and then patenting the frankenstein-ish outcome, these international corporations strive for greater profits and ultimate control over the world’s food supply.  They rationalize the diabolical practice of altering the fundamentals of plant and animal genetics, and are poisoning all humanity (and the world) in the process.  Damned if you eat, damned if you don’t.

This is why Abanitu must be a spirit-based sanctuary for life, marshalling the forces of God for life, food and all that is decent and wholesome.  To reach beyond the body and mind into that sacred connection that we all share, where miracles are born, and redemption through oneness is the natural way of being.

I give thanks to God, the forces of Nature, and the exalted Ancestors for the miracle we call Life….

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