I found a special blessing this week in the corn. The Six Nations Blue corn has been drying down. This is the time for me to sit in the corn and sing the seed songs so that the color comes in with the proper saturations. The kernels form as pearly white beads, then the color of the seeds seeps into each one. I know intuitively if I take the time to sing the seed songs to the seeds at this crossroads for the corn, that special medicine will infuse the seeds, so that they will continue to heal us and all those we share these seeds with.
As I crouched in among the drying stalks, the wind was rattling the dried corn tassels. I looked down, and a cluster of bright leaves caught my eye. Oionkwaonwe. Mohawk tobacco.
Each year as we prep the fields for planting corn, we take the time to sing to the soil. We make a mixture of cornmeal from our last good crop and mix it with native tobacco. We sing and spread this blessing upon the soil as an offering to the ancient ones. To bring us back into balance with the original instructions of our roles as Seed Keepers. Maizie and I did that this year, and it brought great joy to pass these teachings on to my beautiful daughter, who is so dedicated and passionate about connecting in to Great Spirit.
If you have ever grown tobacco, you know it always makes an abundance of the tiniest seeds. When we harvest and cure the tobacco leaves, sometimes these seeds make their way into the medicine. Sometimes if the conditions are just right, these prayer offerings of corn meal and tobacco take new life of their own, in the form of tiny new sprout and tobacco plants. I love that they choose when and where they want to be rooted.
Seeing the corn and tobacco grow intimately together makes my heart sing. It reminds me of this excerpt from my favorite poem “White Corn Sister,” by Peter Blue Cloud:
“And I saw before me
a small plant in flower,
a green and gentle seeming plant,
and I knew
the leaves of that plant,
and had lived in its roots,
and knew the essence,
And living many lifetimes
with the plant,
I was given to know many others,
each carrying me to the next,
an the first song I was given
was a personal law and warning,
and only to cure
and never, ever
to use these powers for gain.
each and every one of us,
we are a voice,
no person more or less than another.
All is sacred,
we are sacred,
for we are children of the Creation.
And the song
we are given must always
echo into tomorrow.
And the drum
we have fashioned is the heartbeat
of all things living.
And the rattle
is the wind and storm
and the tall dry corn
We watch the children growing, another season of seeds turning the cycle again, and new babes being born and other beings crossing over towards rebirth. The natural thread between all of this is the ancestors. Gordon and I have been talking a lot about ancestors. As we have watched friends and family merge into becoming ancestors within the measure of one last breath, it becomes clear how precious life is. And that we too one day will join the sacred chain of ancestors. As we felt the heavy reverberations of watching a friend become an ancestor much too young, I was recently reminded of this quote:
“Our greatest responsibility is to be good ancestors“
– Jonas Salk
What does it mean to be a good ancestor? What are we doing in our life’s work that will have long standing positive ripples generations from now? How do we walk in this life with our work truly being an offering in service of Seven generations ahead, and honoring the Seven generations that came before us?
As Gordon and I celebrate 13 years of being together, we are taking good reflection to see what forces will shape the time ahead of us. We have been talking about this with our children, and have been using these questions and dialogue to frame our vision for what is to come next. What projects are we going to undertake?…what is truly serving this goal to “becoming good ancestors,” and which behaviors, thought patterns, and other aspects of our life need to be let go of?
We should hope that future generations should look back upon the legacy of the work we did here with our time on this sacred earth, and find it worthy of emulation. And it really all is a big work-in-progress! And that as we do the good work on the planet for those who came before and those yet to come, we laugh and have a good time doing it!
I love this video, put together by the Seventh Generation Fund, on their ideas of “Being a Good Ancestor”.
Speaking of service to the ancestors, we also had some inspirational visitors to the farm this past week. We had the blessing to host some of the Canoe delegation from the “Paddle to Quinault.” Indigenous people from many nations join together to paddle and revitalize that ancient tradition of song, story, and journey via the water. ”The Canoe Journey creates opportunities for tribal members to re-learn, strengthen and reinforce their canoe traditions. There are many cultural values that are learned from the canoeing some include: pride, cultural knowledge, learning how to paddle, respect, and sense of achievement.”
We heard of their stories of their journey, and shared some food and stories of our own from the farm. Their Canoe Journey is a seed song of inspiration for many, as people of many colors and backgrounds join together to honor the ancestors.
The “Paddle to Quinault” was also happening simultaneously as the first annual “Two Row Wampum Renewal Campaign,” which was an epic canoe paddle down the Hudson River in New York to honor the peace treaty between the Dutch and the indigenous Haudenosaunee people.
We had many of our good friends make the journey with the “Two Row Wampum Renewal,” and it was another great inspiration for us here to uphold these traditions, treaties, stories, and songs for our children. It is so uplifting to see the beautiful people of the Earth coming together to spread the message of Peace and Unity.
We send many blessings to the delegations of Canoe paddlers from both Journeys. Thank you for the work of being good ancestors.
As for the rhythm of life on the farm, we are seeing the seed harvests coming in strongly each day. We have begun much of our wet seed harvest, which goes in tandem with our food processing. As we prep food to make salsa, ketchup and other homemade canned goods, we are able to scoop the seeds from tomatoes and peppers.
We can still use the flesh of these tomatoes to make sauce. These are our favorite paste tomato, the “Roma Rio Grande”. They are amazing in flavor, productivity, and density.
We will take these seeds into a wet seed fermentation process. The wet seeded fruits have “germination inhibiting” gel around each seed to prevent them from sprouting while in the fruit. So we mimic the natural process of composting to gently remove the gel, so that the seeds will sprout for us come springtime.
After a few days of fermentation, the seeds are ready for a quick “water winnow.” The good seeds will sink to the bottom of the slurry, while the skins, pulp, and immature seeds will float. We keep adding water and pouring until all the bits of tomato are gone and all that is left in the bottom of the pail is wet tomato seeds!
This beautiful sieve of seeds is the beginning of our “Sacha’s Altai” tomato seed harvest. Think of all the potential of that pile of seeds!!! Quite literally the potential for infinite abundance.
We lay the seeds out to dry on tea towels or screen, and then they are put away for long term storage.
I am also finding I have a new found love for Okra! This is our Eagle Pass Okra, from Sierra Seeds.
We have been putting it in stir fries, and I love the crunchy texture! It is known as a great tonic vegetable in many cultures, and we are grateful for its health benefits.
Today our intern Rachel, who is from Tennessee, showed us how to make “Fried Okra.” Maizie was particularly curious, and was given a step by step lesson on this staple of Southern cuisine.
It was DELICIOUS!!!!! Ingredients were: Homegrown okra, homegrown eggs, homegrown cornmeal and love. Simple pleasures.
We are grateful for our interns Kate and Rachel, who each bring their own lovely gifts of being to the farm several times a week. What an honor it is to share with these strong women my passion for seed stewardship, and I am looking forward to seeing where they share and spread their own seeds and songs after this season together!
And to close, here is another excerpt from “White Corn Sister,” which embodies the wisdom of the ancestors so well. Do yourself a favor and read it out loud, allow the words and wisdom to seep into all those places inside yourself that need to hear it. It is an honor to walk this path with each one of you. Many blessings.
“….And season merged into season
and we learned the life cycles of all around us,
like the moon, the face of each thing is in constant change
and yet life goes into death a seed awaiting rebirth.
And season into season,
we grew into a nation of many lodges and cornfields,
and ceremonies were given us,
as were beans and squash.
And we sat in council, male and female,
to ponder the future of our children,
of our nation,
and again Creation heard
and answered with the voices of our elders.
And season into season,
like the sapling pine,
grew the thinking of our elders
into a great tree,
and the laws by which our nation was to live,
became known as the Great Good.
And these laws were like seeds of corn,
each separate, yet bound to a single core,
and these laws were spoken often to our people
that none forget.
And the memory of these laws
were woven into beaded belts,
like rows of seed corn,
and the words were said
to the hearts and minds
of the people
as a living part of life
and not merely words
to drift away upon a breeze.
I am old, I dream smiling,
sitting in the sun,
the children pass and greet me:
‘Grandmother, it is truly a beautiful day.’
And truly it is.”
excerpt from “White Corn Sister” by Peter Blue Cloud