Is it really Winter?

A dark rainy winter is upon us in Southwest Michigan.  Snow has been sparse and weather patterns are quite strange.  Overall, my sense is that our hardiness zone is shifting from 5 to 6, meaning possibly less fruit diversity and more things like Okra and crops that grown in Tennessee.  2012 was a pretty bad year for all kinds of fruit around here.  Paying attention to these shifting weather patterns is not easy or ever truly predictable.  

We finally made a new sign for Earthen Heart by laminating this lovely painting by Ms. Palma Jane Burdick.

Amaranth has been a new crop for us the last few years.  Getting down to clean seeds proved to be very labor intensive – though the end result is very valuable.  Both leaves and seeds are super tasty and tremendously nutrient rich.  We have been experimenting with frying and boiling the seed with the chaff and leaves all at once into a stew.  Also drying and making into a powder in breads.  This crop is so nutrient rich but is generally considered as a mere pest.  In fact it is one of the only plants that is not killed by the deadly Monsanto chemical Round Up.  Thus it is a greatly despised plant by most farmers.  But in case you were not aware, we are not most farmers.  We have at least four varieties growing and are planting more varieties.  This plant is considered a super food and sustained people for many centuries.  Another example of a neglected plant to pay attention to when we need something hyperlocal and nutrient rich.

We have begun planting rye as a cover crop and as a grass to compete in the fields.  We are trying to establish it in areas that soil is extremely sandy, pushing the seed to its limits.

Fully processed a 5 gallon bucket of rye berries that are being used in baking and for making sprouts this winter.

We are happy to have completed a south facing solar collection room.  It is a good place to grow potted plants, get seedlings going, set up a table, let the dogs hang out and collect heat in the spring and fall to filter into the house.  In summer it will need more ventilation.  Hopefully the wasps don’t like it quite as much as we do.  Also connected is a water collection gutter system that goes into a couple 50 gallon buckets for the animals and watering plants.

The barn is set to become a multi-purpose building with a wood burning stove, sleeping loft, kitchenette and an outdoor shower. 

As you can see we built a little stage on the south side of the barn for musicians and performers to share some songs and creations.  The old foundations around the barn are slated to become a greenhouse and hang out environment.  We hope to have more hands on deck to make this space become a cornerstone of the Earthen Heart experience. 
We are looking forward to the upcoming season and the bounty that is forthcoming and we are thankful for the goods that currently stock our shelves and freezer…. such as this tomato blueberry fruit leather with curry, sumac and yogurt.

Thanks to Lorena and Jocelyn and the many other visitors from Chicago to Siberia who have helped us slowly build this dream into a reality.  It is happening all around us on this lovely planet Earth that we share.  I trust we can focus on the positive act of building and nurturing something beautiful and protecting that which is sacred.  Again, I thank you all for your support, smiles and hard working hands!

Summer Cornucopia and Family Re-Convergence

Earthen Heart, Bangor, Michigan, USA.   Summer is full throttle.  My beloved and I have found our way back to each other and three of her children have moved into the renovated upstairs of the farmhouse.  Along with our two children that makes seven of us in the main farmhouse!  The little house, a new pop-up trailer and camping are available to visitors, interns, WWOOFers which will start coming in next week!  We are excited to host and share with others!  Here is Palma helping clean garlic a few days ago.


We do what we can to harvest and process from the bounties before us; both on-site and with neighboring Organic farms.  Having recently secured a commercial kitchen, we will be selling blueberry and other fruit leathers on a commercial scale very soon while we continue to sell a diverse product line of cottage foods!  Most importantly we are eating more from what is here on site and minimizing the need for food that travels long distances and is heavily processed.  Building the community that supports this lifestyle is the primary challenge.  How do we create the village we wish to live in?  Mostly there are questions and experiments not direct answers but certainly quality is a focus over quantity.  How to support this lifestyle in a capitalist world with so many bills to pay?  Perhaps we can minimize our “needs” and maximize local community infrastructure.  The questions exist whether you are in a city, in the burbs or in the country.  How do we maximize our communities to become thriving resilient places in the face of global social and environmental unrest?

At Earthen Heart we are focused on food and community building.  Certainly there are plenty of other ways to navigate the waters of being human but these things are truly human and I believe at the core of a global healing that is underway.  Energy, transportation, education, healthcare, etc. are also huge issues but perhaps not as fundamental.  We see countries experiencing economic distress and the people resorting to backyard gardens to survive.  Observing nature, re-learning the uses of plants that grown through the cracks.

Here at Earthen Heart we plant only non-GMO and mostly open pollinated seeds.  They often re-seed, sometimes with a little help from the wind, rain, or a human such as I who moves the seeds deeper down the food trail.  We always let a few garlic go to seed and dig in the many seeds, then transplant the little garlic bulbs which appear to become full size in a two year cycle.  This could allow for exponential growth of the garlic crop.  Still experimenting on that but growing traditionally from saved seed to assure a good crop for the homestead.


Rye is an easy grain to grow and supposedly one of the easier to process.  We shall see.  So far its not necessarily easy but seems worthwhile.  We also harvest amaranth which is generally considered a weed but has amazingly nutritious seed and leaves.  The rye berries are quite dry already and will be ready to process soon.

Drying area for grains keeps it off the ground.
taking seed off the stalk leaves straw for other uses and allows a final drying away from chickens and other birds
getting the rye berries separated is the next challenge
awning under a Norway spruce tree is our drying and cleaning area for herbs, grains, crops
grape cuttings from Maynard Kaufman’s property nearby. Allwood, Buffalo and Concord. ABC. they will be transplanted to their final home this fall
berries just started coming in and will be plentiful soon!  get in touch if you wish to join us in the harvest. we get our family berries during the morning walks – blueberries, blackberries, raspberries (red and black) and the dogs have fun too

In upcoming posts I shall work on sharing information about the plants that are often ignored or seen merely as weeds.  Enjoy the heat and put a little love in the world.

Spring 2016: Re-New, Re-Imagine, Re-Consider, Re-Create…

What I hear at this time is that Mother Earth is asking us to take Spring Time as an opportunity to renew ourselves and reconsider our path.


Like it or not we humans are, collectively, on a journey on this small, perfect Earth we share.  Trumpkins/Clintonians, Socialists/Libertarians, Hippies/Businessmen, Third World/First World, Indigenous/Immigrant, City Folk/Country Folk….we share this home.  Though it may not seem like it, as we divide between nations and battle for resources, we share it all.  What we do to our neighbors we do to ourselves.  We need resources (gifts of the Earth) to survive and we need love and connection (from each other) to thrive.  If “It Takes a Village” to raise a child into a compassionate responsible adult, then Earthen Heart is but one Vision for a reconsideration of how this village can manifest in a rural setting.  I am humbled, overwhelmed and appreciative of all the other efforts simultaneously occurring globally.

Here we observe nature, mimic and expand the existing flows and cycles in order to improve human habitat while also giving back positive inputs to nature.  Rather than simply remove weeds and bring in soil amendments, we first consider these plants in their own right, not as problems.  In fact, the more we learn about the nutritional and medicinal value of “weeds,” as we identify and research one plant at a time, the more we can reconsider the whole paradigm of farming and focusing on single row crops.  For now, some undesirable plants are going into these black barrels to become compost.  The image above shows fresh weeds in the barrel and in the background compost from last falls weeds.  It transforms into rich compost pretty quickly.  Even this pesky “dead nettle,” pictured below, has some notable uses.

Inspired in part by the Nearings classic book “The Good Life” we have chosen to minimize farm animals and animal waste in the equation and to build soil up slowly but surely.  The west side of the property is wet and rich soil and the East side is generally more sandy, so we bring buckets of soil up as needed as we dig out ponds and such.  Domestication of ourselves and animals is a trend that has seemingly made us all less healthy and burdened us with so much work and expenses related to food production, medicine, etc.  Re-wilding is a process that many of us have begun.  How far we choose to go is a personal choice.  A gradual but steady shift is our preference here.  Why are so many drawn to these “Survivor” reality shows one has to ask – is this part of a cultural meme related to re-wilding ourselves?

IMG_1777IMG_1781Blueberry buds broke several days ago after a serious hot weather phase up into the low 80’s.  Hopefully we don’t have another major frost coming.  That can be trouble.

IMG_1783 IMG_1785Apple, pear, cherry, asian pear and other fruit and nut trees are looking good this year so far after years of pruning and training.

IMG_1786Cilantro is an example of a plant that we encourage to re-seed itself, letting a couple plants grow seed heads then spreading and digging in the seeds in fall, cover with mulch and wait for spring.  Other plants like garlic, wild onion and mustard greens seem to work well in this way.  This is another form of re-wilding the plants.

Though I love to be in the gardens it is perhaps most important to build community and lately I have seen that as involving not only asking people to come help here, but reaching out to nearby farms and friends and seeing what they need a hand with.  This morning I helped my friend Joe at Harvest the Good.

Thanks for reading.  Next post will be about our upcoming summer blueberry gathering at Earthen Heart.

Food Innovations


imageFull Moon, post-Christmas, sipping Dandelion Wine.  Finally an urge to post a blog.  As of late it has been less of an imperative to document than to do.  But, as the weather cools, a new sense of creativity emerges.  Winter is a time to reflect, to dig into the archives, review the channels of the mind.  I am drawn to explore less  of the Netflix and more the Mind itself.  New projects begin and the plan for spring develops.  Time to dream again.

KVCC - Healthy Living Campus
KVCC – Healthy Living Campus

I (Julian) have been meeting occassionally with key players of the Food Innovation Center at the Bronson Healthy Living Campus in Kalamazoo, Michigan (my hometown).

From their website at
“In 2013, a partnership was announced between Kalamazoo Valley Community College (Kalamazoo Valley), Bronson Healthcare (Bronson), and Kalamazoo Community Mental Health and Substance Abuse Services (KCMHSAS). The campus is a catalyst for urban revitalization, community health, and workforce development through sustainable food education, training, production, distribution and preparation.”

The Food Innovation Center (FIC) will be a food hub in Kalamazoo with many functions, including providing regional food to nearby institutions (schools, hospitals, etc).  As a partnership between Kalamazoo Valley Counity College, Bronson Hospital and Kalamazoo Community Mental Health, the FIC is positioned to do some truly important work.  I have been peripherally involved in the Farm to School and Food Hub circles for many years and hope to be involved in this center in the coming years as it is right up my alley and I believe it could be a model for rapid change away from the over-dependency on our current global food system.  I feel I could offer alot of knowledge, energy and skill as I have been processing food at Earthen Heart for the past four years and have almost ten years experience as a professional chef.  One way or another this is the type of work in which I wish to more fully immerse.

On a related note, while enrolled at SIT Graduate Institute in Brattleboro Vermont in 2005-2006, I conducted graduate research for my Capstone by interviewing individuals working within the Farm to School Network and I developed a tool to improve cross sector communication.  As there are so many stakeholders involved in this project from public, nonprofit, business and civil society, I recall this work and hope to rekindle the learnings somehow.

Earthen Heart is in a rural area nearby Kalamazoo and there are many ways I hope to potentially connect with the Healthy Living Campus as an aggregator, processor, chef or video producer.  Either way, I am thankful they have begun the center, and I am supportive of the intention. Next meeting in a few weeks!

Summer Berry Blitz

We are deep in the berries over here!  Freezers are packed, wine is fermenting from the last of prior years’ frozen berries, picking as much as possible (60 lbs a day would be my estimate), then making jams and chutney, soon to be juicing and making fruit leather and vinegars.  We are letting folks come out and pick for free and asking for help with pruning berries in Fall, Winter and Spring.  This patch of earth is grounds for recreating our connection with the food system that weaves the web of our lives.  I have not had better blueberries anywhere.  Others confirm this notion.  The berries have some critters that eat them which might find their way into your bucket but we prefer that to the mystery checmicals that might end up in your foods.  The food forest, food trails and growing gardens here at Earthen Heart are creating and “Agritopian Adventure” that will be defined mostly by our relationships (old and new) and with our collective relationship to the Earth itself.  If we listen to Pachamama we can get instructions; subtle at times like a gentle breeze; abrupt other times like a lightning storm passing straight through your town.  Pictures to be posted once I figure out how to get the refurbished old gadgets to communicate with each other.

Reach out if you wanna pick berries.


(269) 447-1355