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Sharon's Natural Gardens

Welcome!

We offer gifts from our garden to share the bounty of over 40 years of gardening. Sales of our products helps me restore the land and educate others. I am Certified Naturally Grown and a biodynamic gardener. EVERYTHING on the store is grown here. We make our own compost with our horses manure and have never used commercial chicken manures or any chemicals on our farm. We began the garden in 78. Our gardens are worked with a tiller and by hand. We have used organic practices long before there was even a national or local organization as I feel that consumers need to connect to the land as well as the growers of their foods. We feed our animals, organic, GMO free foods. I sell produce, herbs, flowers, seed or plants by appointment. I also offer educational tours and classes.

Buy our products on LocalHarvest and Etsy.

4 Part Feature on The Late Bloomer Organic Gardens Vlog

Kaye Kittrell of the Late Bloomer Urban Organic Gardens Show came by the farm and did a four part feature.

 

 

 

 

Yarrow, Stag, and the Three Kings Ceremony: In Memory of Kent Carson

Thou pretty herb of Venus tree
Thy true name is yarrow
Now who my bosom friend must be
Pray tell thou me tomorrow

                      -Halliwell

When our son, Dylan was four or five years old, he watched Bambi over and over, must have been 100 times. The stag was an incredible symbol of the male protecting his family. Recently, I lost my mate of thirty-eight years. I wanted to share some observations of the connection to the stag and yarrow in the ceremony that came about on our small homestead here on New Year’s Day and on January 6, the Epiphany. About ten years ago, KC (Kent James Carson) and I decided we wanted to start using the Three Kings Preparation on our place (a set of preparations created by Hugo Erbe based on the gifts of the three wise men). We took turns on New Year’s Eve, grinding the gold, frankincense, and myrrh in a marble mortar and pestle an hour before midnight, enjoying the wonderful aroma of the tree resins. KC was not used to staying up late, so it was a special time to do this ceremony together, taking turns every ten minutes with the grinding. Little did we know that he would die ten years later on New Year’s Eve day. Recently, we had discussed where we wanted our ashes spread as well as other end of life issues. He had lost his father a couple of years ago, and we felt we needed to get our affairs in order as we were getting older. KC wanted his ashes spread on the compost pile, and I agreed that it was also what I wanted, instead of a trek up a mountainside in New Mexico where we had met years ago. It seemed right to be part of the land here on our homestead where we had gardened for over thirty-three years and worked so hard. His ashes came back on Jan 6, the Epiphany, which is the day that the Three Kings is stirred and sprayed in a prayer ceremony.

We invited friends who had gardened with us and eaten our foods to participate in the biodynamic stirring, then in mixing his ashes with finished compost and sprinkling it on all of the areas of our five-acre homestead and finally in burying an urn at the head of our old grandmother horse’s grave in a sacred grove we had planted for our animals. There was a celtic cross of stones over her grave. We placed a piece of slate and a special stone from our friends’ farm in the Ozarks that looked like a horse’s skull with crystals all over the top of it The final part of the ceremony was walking the perimeter of the land and sprinkle the water from the Three Kings Preparation, stirring outwardly while saying prayers every fifty feet We ran out of written prayers, as well as daylight, about halfWay around, and then sang songs the rest of the way, till the circle was complete. The songs became more joyous and less solemn as we neared completion. Our son paced the steps and sprinkled the water.

About a year before, there was an old stag that was dying of old age who came into the back field. KC went to the game warden, who lived a couple of houses down, and asked him to come over. Our nine year-old grandson cried when the old stag was shot, but it was explained that it was his time and it was humane to put his suffering to an end. I moved the bones out of the field to the side. In that same spot, I was thrown by my young horse when she stepped on a stick and it snapped. It was not her fault, but I have not ridden since. It was several months before my bruises healed and my sixty three-year-old body had lost its confidence on a horse. Right before Christmas, we had hung the old stag’s skull near the entrance to our door. I remember KC saying, “You know most people hang deer skulls as a symbol of their hunting prowess. This is a geriatric stag.” It now seems symbolic of him to me. It faces east toward the sunrise. My eldest daughter was with me as we walked the grounds before people arrived for the ceremony. In the sacred grove, I had planted a tulip poplar at the foot of old Fancy Nancy’s grave. There were deer droppings all over the grove, and the tree had been completely girdled by a stag rubbing the velvet off its antlers. We also had an old bench there, rotting away, as well as a cedar tree, several black locusts, and autumn olives, which perfume the air in May. I had planted alfalfa and wild violets there on Nancy’s grave, but only yarrow was growing there, which I had not planted. It only grows in one other place on the farm. Yarrow is one of the biodynamic compost herbs related to the stag’s bladder and helps bring trace elements to plants for their best nutrition. A few days after the ceremony, I was leading the horses (Rosy and Sage) past the sacred grove. They are the daughter and granddaughter of Fancy Nancy, who is buried there in the grove. As they passed the grove, they both reared at the same time, waving their hooves in the air as if in response to the energy there. In all the years that I have been leading them together, they had never done that.

According to Flower Power: Flower Remedies for Healing Body and Soul Through Herbalism, Homeopathy, Aromatherapy, and Flower Essences by Anne McIntyre: The name yarrow is apparently derived from heiros which means sacred, because of the plants association with ceremonial magic. Yarrow was thought to be richly endowed with spiritual properties, so it is preserved in temples and treated with special reverence. Its healing effects on the blood was seen as an ability to influence the’ life-blood’, the essence or ego that is carried in the blood. It was used as an amulet or charm to protect against negative energy and evil, capable of overcoming the forces of darkness and being a conductor of benevolent powers. It is also believed to be a love charm and to be ruled by the planet Venus. In folklore, a maiden who places yarrow under her pillow and repeats the rhyme above will dream of her future husband. In China yarrow stalks were used to awaken the spiritual forces of the super conscious mind during ritual divination using the I Ching. When KC and I first met, before the kids, we used the yarrow stalks in that I Ching meditation ritual. It seems to me that there are symbols and memories everywhere I look on this small farm, and he is all around me … wrapped in every leaf and breeze. I do not need to go anywhere to visit his grave. He is all around me here, and I am grateful for all his love! My son Dylan and I found a sandstone slab called “Teal” that looks like wood and had it engraved with his name and dates and a heart and rose with the simple words “We Love You” on it. We will put in the sacred grove on concrete piers to honor all the beautiful stone and other masonry work he did over the years. It will be a place to meditate, talk, sing to him, and play my flutes.

Hugh Courtney of the Josephine Porter Institute (JPI) sent me a verse by Rudolf Steiner, which is a great comfort as I daily make my way into working alone here in the gardens:

I was united with you.
Stay now stay united in me.
So shall we speak together
In the language of eternal Being.
So shall we work together
Where deeds find their fulfillment
So shall we weave in the Spirit
Where human thoughts are woven
In the Word of eternal Thought.

Freeda the Farm Dog

I never have been a dog person… always preferred horses then cats in that order, BUT I do love all critters. We always had a family dog, but mostly labs. I think it is important for children to learn to be with animals and to get used to dogs when they are young. It is sad when they are afraid of them. There are a lot of dogs in the world and mans relationship with dogs as well as farm animals and pets goes back to the beginning.

Our yellow lab passed away and we did not get another dog for a while. After my husband passed, my daughter said I should get a dog to keep me company. I looked in the shelters and only found little dogs and pit bulls, neither of which were right for me. I looked at the price tag of pedigree dogs and wondered.

Finally, I placed my order with “God”–the Higher Power–whatever you want to call it. I asked for a female dog, a larger dog. It must be free and come to me without any effort. 6 months passed. One day, I was getting a load of bamboo from a house that was being sold. I stopped by Greenbranch Farm on my way home to tell them about the free bamboo grove down the road for farm projects . There was a mother dog in the yard and Ted asked me if I wanted to see the pups. I said yes and he took me in to see them in the heated barn. I asked if he was selling them and he said he was giving them to good homes. I asked to be put on the list of people wanting one. When they were ready, I went with a friend who knew dogs, to pick a pup. She and I both agreed on the pup and it was the pup that came to me. I took her home and began the training process, even though I need nothing about training dogs.

Freeda the dog on our long biodynamic field

Freeda the dog on our long biodynamic field

I have never had a dog so smart. She is a cross between a border collie and shepherd–a Belgian Malinois. I really think I got the best dog of the litter. She learned to stay on the grass and not go in the garden. She also learned to stay out of the road and on our property and come when I called, as well as proper behavior in the house. She never goes on furniture or eats anything unless I give it to her. She even takes it to her special rug to eat it. She is an excellent watch dog. Strangers would think twice about getting out of a car but once introduced she wants all the love she can get.

She is not perfect. She is obsessed with herding. She loves chasing and circling the horses they put their ears back and threaten to kick but never do. She gets in front of them when they are thundering in to get their evening grain and spins in circles in front of them to try to stop them. I managed to break a finger holding on to her collar to try to stop this behavior. She is getting better at listening to me. She loves being with all the animals and wears circles around chicken tractors and the stable. She loves to run and runs around the house as her exercise track.

I hope to catch her on video with a game she plays with the Delaware rooster. she gets too close to him and his flock of hens and he chases her. Boy that rooster can run fast. Freeda is faster and she circles around and gets him again till he is too worn out to chase her. She plays the same game with the cats. She is however very gentle. She would not even kill a mouse and I do not have to worry about her killing–even a baby chick.

I took her to the farmers market when she was a pup and taught her to lead, to sit, heel and stay . She even went of a week long trip to Wisconsin in November with me and we slept together to stay warm in my cold camper.

I truly feel loved and blessed to have her in my life. Thank you God and Greenbranch Farm.

Carsons going back to the land on family farm

Story and photography by Monica Scott, originally published on GoingGreenDelmarva.com

In today’s world, there is quite a disconnect between people and the food they eat. On the Delmarva Peninsula, though, there seems to be a surging interest in the “buy local” movement, and even more organic and free-range opportunities than one might think, as well as a re-birth of farmers’ markets and community-supported agriculture. But, for the majority, food is still seen as something you buy, take home and then eat.

However, for people like Sharon Carson and her family – who run Sharon’s Natural Gardens just west of Delmar, Del., using biodynamic principles – this represents the opposite of how it should be.

“We are so far disconnected from our food now, it’s scary,” said Carson. “Small is beautiful, and you should feed your family first and sell what’s left over.”

While that outlook is the opposite of what many farmers in the culture are doing, it is what the Carsons live by. Since 1978, they have been farming their family farm without chemicals or commercial manures and without using GMOs or hybrid seeds, and they began practicing biodynamics in 1990.

Sharon grew up nearby and has been gardening for the past 50 years, and is eager to share her knowledge with others.

“I’m 62, and I don’t want to do it all myself. And I’ve been gardening for 50 years without chemicals. I’d like to share it before I die!”

According to the Biodynamics Farming and Gardening Association, the term “biodynamics” was coined after “a group of practicing farmers, concerned with the decline of the soil, sought the advice of Dr. Rudolf Steiner, founder of anthroposophy, who had spent all his life researching and investigating the forces that regulate life and growth.”

The idea was brought to the United States in the 1930s by Dr. Ehrenfried Pfeiffer, who had worked with Steiner.

The association describes biodynamic farming and gardening and says the practice “looks upon the soil and the farm as living organisms. It regards maintenance and furtherance of soil life as a basic necessity if the soil is to be preserved for generations, and it regards the farm as being true to its essential nature if it can be conceived of as a kind of individual entity in itself — a self-contained individuality.”

While biodynamic agriculture pre-dates the term “organic” in agriculture, it uses many of the same principles of organic agriculture, such as farming without synthetic chemicals, composting, etc., but goes further into the “interconnectedness” of the soil, with “cosmic rhythms” and lunar cycles with special plant preparations.

Carson says she views biodynamics as pioneering work in a world that only looks at production.

“It views agriculture as working in harmony with nature, healing and renewing it so that our future will be better, as opposed to agribusiness, which has a more extractive point of view. An acre of diversified agriculture is always far more productive than an acre of one crop – especially when you grow organically and take environmental factors as part of the picture,” she emphasized.

The Carsons live on their homestead and grow everything from berries to corn to cantaloupe to peppers. The farm also has horses that they are starting to use for farmwork, and they save their own seeds. They have seedlings and other plants available for purchase, as well as fresh produce, jellies, seeds and medicinal herbs. Everything is recycled or used in a sustainable way to live “lightly in the land.”

The homestead is like going back in time to the farms of yesteryear, from the treehouse – which is located in a plum tree and is secured with no nails and sided with free slab wood from a sawmill near Greenwood – to the old horse stables that are built with recycled barn materials from an old barn on the property and the new stalls, which use tin from a recycled commercial chicken house. There is no use for a dishwasher here, no dryer. And they generate their heat by wood alone.

After leaving college, Carson said she moved to New Mexico, joined a commune and met her husband before finally settling back in the area just about a mile from where she grew up. Growing up, she lived with her grandparents, who were farmers, on a farm she explained as being “much different than it is today.”

“My grandparent’s farm was a very diversified farm – like many farms that have all but disappeared from our rural landscape, that have been replaced by factory farms. We had cows, goats, sheep, pigs, ducks, as well as a commercial hatching egg production houses. We did our own butchering, smoked meats and canning and freezing, and raised most of our foods.”

“We cannot continue this type of industrial agriculture,” she said of most modern farms, adding that it doesn’t help the soil or create diversity.

Carson offers classes in gardening (including seed starting, saving, composting, water systems, tillage raised beds, succession and companion planting, and cover crops), as well as classes in preserving foods, home butchering, hatching poultry, propagating plants, willow basketweaving, home winemaking and herbs, and she offers tours by appointment . The farm’s Web site is located at www.localharvest.org/farms/M6681.

“The cost of the industrial model is reflected in the loss of our health and the planet’s health,” said Carson. “We need people employed and engaged in growing healthy foods again, even if just for themselves,” she said.

For more information or to join an online group to learn more, visit http://www.facebook.com/SharonsNaturalGardens

Homestead Economics

I have mostly been a stay at home mom and the one in charge of the gardens, cooking, childcare and the animals. My husband KC used to tell me “don’t worry about selling stuff–just grow for us” That worked as long as he had a job. He was pretty much the one that paid the bills and did all the mechanical and construction work on the place. This rather traditional set up brought on by our realization that we each were best suited for these tasks. Our philosophy has always been to feed the family first and sell or trade anything extra for what we needed.

At one point things got very tight and it looked like I would have to sell the horses as they would seem to be a liability to feed rather than using a machine which we already had and did not have to feed . In reality there is economic truth to this. Our place is too small to use horses and the gardens near the house were set up for using a tiller and working by hand.

There is a whole other dimension to this however. I sell eggs to cover the cost of chicken feed, sell a few rabbits to cover the cost of rabbit feed. I sell produce and garden art to cover the costs of amendments and tools for the gardens. How do my horses pay for themselves when I do not ride or work them ? I buy in hay for them as well as sawdust for bedding. I even haul leaves for bedding from the surrounding community which all becomes compost. This compost is the heart of the gardens and without it we could not produce such wonderful foods.

Many farms bring in compost from municipal waste streams or commercial chicken farms. This is full of questionable materials that I do not want on the land or in my body. Keeping the horses gives the farm its own inner source of fertility even if we can’t grow the hay. I do buy from a local race horse farm that does not use chicken manures and produces quality grass hay. Our horses eat every bite with no waste. I also need to maintain the pastures for them. When there is a drought. Our gardens are watered with sprinklers and I mow the grass paths with a grass catcher to feed the horses as well as provide grass for the chickens in their summer, movable pens. It saves the pasture and cuts back on the expense of feeding hay. The horses also recycle other garden wastes such as corn stalks, dropped apples and pears and bean vines. I have saddles & harness, they have been minimally trained to ride & harness. I have some equipment so if there ever is a need or the opportunity I can use them to work the soil and haul things. I would need an experienced teamster to help train them however.

Another way the homestead is economical is in saving and selling/bartering seed. When you use open pollinated seed not only can you save $$$ for seed you buy but you can also trade and sell some for income. Seed can be improved to grow better in your location. Some seed is good for several years so you don’t need to grow it every year.

You can also dry and can foods to put up. This does not require electricity to maintain and if there is a crop failure one year you will still have foods from things dried or canned in the years before. You never know when the grid will fail and it saves money by eating your own foods grown in a way that you trust. These foods are portable too and travel well.

I also have learned to make baskets to sell using roots, tree branches and vines that grow wild here. I planted nut trees to provide nuts–rich in protein and omega oils. I also am making a dye/ink/stain and sell the dried hulls. I also make many herbal medicines from the herbs growing here. I believe all this saves me money on medical bills. I have not had even a cold for years and have not had the flu in many years and never have had a flu shot.

When we moved here, the soils were worn and there were only 5 almost dead trees in the yard. Now there are many trees so I could supply my own firewood from the farm. I also heat with wood which is much more economic. It does require labor to haul in wood, haul water to the animals and build compost but I don’t need a gym membership so I save money there too.

I do believe a homestead life is very economical and provides security in these times. It is also a life that is interesting and surrounded with beauty.

A Field as Teacher

Originally published in “Applied Biodynamics”

Sharon Carson gardens biodynamically in Delaware. She and her husband hold numerous educational events on their farm, and have done much to raise the awareness of biodynamics in their area. Recently, they hosted a midsummer camp-out for supporters of the farm — complete with a moonlight tour of the garden, barbecue, a bonfire, music, and homemade pancakes Sunday morning.

Today, I walked to the field across the road to pick some wild larkspur and Canadian thistle for a bouquet. I have a lifetime of interaction with this piece of farmland, now abandoned for the last three years. As a child, I rode past it bareback on my pony, when the blacktop road was only a dirt lane and the house we lived in was the only one on the road.

In the early ‘80s, I took folks across the road so they could see the effects of chemicals on the land and on the soil. For years, only corn and soybeans were grown there, and at times the chemicals used to kill the weeds ended up killing the crops too. Finally, about five years ago, they applied some chicken manure. Then the land was sold for development, since, like much of the farmland around here, it was no longer profitable to farm. It took time for the housing development to get going, so the field was left to nature.

What was fascinating to me was to see the changes that took place on the land. There were spots where nothing grew and other spots with green grass, poke weed, tree seedlings, and patches of wild blackberries. Groundhog tunnels were all over, making it an unsafe place to ride a horse like I used to do when the land wasn’t planted. There were even the ethereal colors of waves of larkspur and black raspberries that had originated from our gardens — brought there by the birds and the wind. The new houses built on the land contrast our organic mini-farm with their landscaped, immaculate lawns and lights installed to show off the investment — such a contrast to our dim solar lights that twinkle like fairies to guide our way at night. Eventually, when the entire field is full of houses with their “insecurity” lights, I doubt we will be able to see the stars anymore.

The field, however, is a teacher of how nature restores herself — if only we would listen.

Handmade Dried Flower Wreath

The Horses: at Work & at Play

clint surfing

DSC01831 (1)

Rosemary and Sage-3-06

plowing maxx riding 020

Ali Baba Emerges from the Garden

Beautiful Blue Balloon Flowers