Thursday, August 30, 2018

Delicious raspberries from Mad Tom Orchard

I took these pictures a few weeks ago, but didn't post them here.  This morning I used the last of them out of the freezer and made a delicious shake.  I wish I had picked more.  There's another farm close by that freezes them and sells them all year, so I won't have to do without, thankfully, but picking them myself in this heavenly spot is the best way.  Next year I am going to make some kind of preserves.  Yum....

Wednesday, April 25, 2018

Paint that one again...

I remember a quote from Joni Mitchell, "A painter does a painting, and he paints it, and that's it, you know. He has the joy of creating it, it hangs on a wall, and somebody buys it, and maybe somebody buys it again, or maybe nobody buys it and it sits up in a loft somewhere until he dies. But he never, you know, nobody ever, nobody ever said to Van Gogh, 'Paint a Starry Night again, man!' You know? He painted it and that was it."  She was saying how paintings are different than songs in this way, because songs are sung again, and again, and again.

Well the above photos are an example of a painting being painted again, and again, and again.  People did ask me to paint this over and over after the first one sold and I showed a photo of it in various places.  These paintings are inspired by the William Butler Yeats' poem, "The Lake Isle of Innisfree" :

I will arise and go now, and go to Innisfree,
And a small cabin build there, of clay and wattles made;
Nine bean-rows will I have there, a hive for the honey-bee,
And live alone in the bee-loud glade.

And I shall have some peace there, for peace comes dropping slow,
Dropping from the veils of the morning to where the cricket sings;
There midnight’s all a glimmer, and noon a purple glow,
And evening full of the linnet’s wings.

I will arise and go now, for always night and day
I hear lake water lapping with low sounds by the shore;
While I stand on the roadway, or on the pavements grey,
I hear it in the deep heart’s core.

This poem resonates with me so much, and I believe the sentiments of it are felt by so many people more and more strongly.  It is the universal longing for nature, a kind of primal or spiritual longing to return to the connection with the earth that is hardwired in our DNA somewhere.  Perhaps that's why this painting has been a kind of self-portrait for me, one I return to often, and that others are drawn to.

Full Circle Farm is my version of Innisfree, with all the connotations.

Wednesday, April 18, 2018

I love to grow food!

There are few things more satisfying to me than growing my own food.  I love to tend the plants and nurture them along until there are fruits to eat and cook.  Nothing so delightful as fresh food with herbs, and lovely places in the beauteous landscape to sit and enjoy a good meal.

We are a long way from fruition this season, so I am just dreaming of gardens from times past.  It is still cold and gray here, but the bulbs have pushed through, and it won't be long before everything is growing like crazy.  I can't wait!

Monday, April 2, 2018

on being a Jane of all trades

I am a "Jane of all trades" or better still, a "Renaissance woman."  I have never been able to fully specialize, as my interests are vast, and I become bored with the same thing ad infinitum.  It occurs to me that this quality of diverse interests and skills is part of being an artist and a farmer.  The global, corporate world seems to pressure us all into specialization, but I reject the merits of that.  To me, having diverse interests and abilities in many fields is a more natural and healthful path than specialization.

In Vermont, I am right at home with these ideas.  Vermonters, as a general rule, have several jobs that fade in and out depending on the seasons and the cash flow.  It is rare to meet a true Vermonter who has only one job.  Perhaps it is simple survival skills adapted to a harsh climate that have created this situation, but it is also reflective of country life in  general.  Not only does the money come in spurts from varying avenues, work needs to get done at certain times and often there are only so many people to accomplish everything, so everyone ends up wearing a lot of hats.  To me this is completely natural and as life ought to be.  Specialization is what seems peculiar.

So, with Full Circle Farm, I offer the goods and services that I have learned to provide for myself.  Of course there is still some specialization.  My skill set includes art making, growing things, sewing, cooking, design, teaching, problem-solving, and maybe a few other things, but of course not everything.  I am interested in an economy of "the butcher, the baker, the candlestick maker..." but not in the limited sense of each person doing only one thing, but of each doing an assortment suited to individual taste, and communal need.  I am interested in a local exchange because exchange at a local level creates strong and healthy communities.  When exchange is centralized as in a corporate system, local communities lose their power and vibrancy.

Being a Jane of all trades is a holistic way to work.  The patterns of my work and production become tuned to my own daily needs.  I grow food for myself at the same time I do it for others, likewise with cooking, making winter wares, or preserving the harvest.  There is a natural rhythm to work that coincides with the needs of my family.  I make provision for myself by providing for others.  This feels right to me so much more than giving all my time to a job that is not connected to my own daily needs other than through money.

I know these ways are not for everyone.  This is why I said in my last post that both art and farming are vocations rather than jobs.  They are a way of life.  I wholeheartedly and enthusiastically embrace this way of life, despite it's inherent uncertainty and spontaneity.   I really can't live any other way, or certainly don't want to.  I embrace the "Full Circle."

Wednesday, March 28, 2018

the beginning

Full Circle Farm begins with this place, a large old house in the tiny town of East Dorset, Vermont.  It is a house with a long history and no doubt many stories contained in its various additions.  It is with great reverence, humility, and excitement that I find myself living here and making a new story around and within this place.

The house deserved a name, and because my being here meant I had come full circle in my longing to live in Vermont and to own my own home, "Full Circle Farm" came to me as an appropriate name.  My daughter said, "But Mom, it's not a farm."  And I thought, well, it could be a farm.

The house is in the village, on Village Street, so perhaps technically it cannot be a farm, and the details of permits, town bylaws, and such are still ahead in my venture.  But because the place is rural, in a farming community, and the house sits on about an acre of land, I can envision a farm here of some sort.

What interests me in beginning a farm here is the creation of a way of life that a farm constitutes.  This is a journey in entrepreneurship and sustainability.  I intend to make my living from this place, and to live a lifestyle that is healthy, self-directed, holistic, and beneficial to the community.  Figuring out exactly what my farm will produce and how it will function is part of the journey I embark on.

This task reminds me of when I was waiting tables in New York City at Union Square Cafe, a restaurant that bought most of its produce from the nearby farmer's market in Union Square.  I had just completed my Master's degree in fine art at Bennington College in Vermont.  I would have loved to have stayed in Vermont because country life always suited me, but the pull and opportunity to live in NYC as a budding artist was great.  The issue of a job was a big factor as well.  There weren't many jobs in Vermont which gave me a push to go to NYC, although once there I was unable to find anything in an art field so I reluctantly returned to restaurant work, which I had done before for many years. I befriended a farmer at the Union Square Greenmarket and we discussed the ups and downs of our respective work, me an artist fresh from graduate school and waiting tables and he the owner of a small, upstate farm.  He gave a slight spurn to the idea of artistic inspiration by saying he wished he could just plant whatever he wanted (presumably as an artist makes whatever art he/she wants) but that a farm had to grow things that people want to buy.  It had to fulfill a need in order to function.

I want Full Circle Farm to fulfill a need in the community while at the same time to fulfill my need to live a healthy, balanced life, and to do work that is pleasing and fulfilling to me.  The way in which I succeed in doing this is something I hope can be useful to others as they navigate a healthful and pleasing way to live in the world.

I think of my experiment in creating a farm here as something akin to Thoreau's famous experiment that he documented in On Walden Pond in the 1850s.  As Thoreau said of his year living sustainably at Walden, "I went to the woods because I wished to live deliberately, to front only the essential facts of life, and see if I could not learn what it had to teach, and not, when I came to die, discover that I had not lived."  As an artist, I might add that I don't want to reach my end and find that I had not created the work I had longed to make.  Full Circle Farm will hopefully be much more than a year's experiment. I want it to grow into a vibrant, living place that I can share with others for many years to come.

In our complex and rapidly changing world, the ways of farming and the ways of art are both undergoing massive change, and even extinction in certain facets.  To me, farming and art share many essential features.  They are both human activities performed to improve the way we live our lives in connection to our world.  They both  change and adapt depending on the conditions in which they take place, and they both require a high degree of flexibility, innovation, and diverse skills.  Both farmers and artists seem to have a role in society that is independent, self-directed, and calls for a high level of commitment on the part of the artist or farmer.  Farming and art-making are more than professions, they are vocations wherein ones entire life is bound up with ones work.

With Full Circle Farm, I am interested in exploring all these facets of both art and farming.  On a practical level, this means I will plant, make, and sell whatever I find works the best in terms of how such goods are produced, their value in the community and the larger world, and their relative sustainability.  Also important, if not primary, is how such goods will offer pleasing and beautiful solutions to life's essential needs.

The list of what I have to offer centers on the basics of food, shelter, and clothing.  Food will include vegetables and herbs I grow and products made from these, as well as baked goods, catering, and meals to go.  Shelter comes in the form of rooms for rent in our lovely and large home, listed through Airbnb here.  We are in a beautiful vacation spot, and offer a perfect place to stay and enjoy the area and its many amenities.  Finally, clothing will be offered here because I love to sew and make clothes.  In addition to my handmade creations, I will have a Farm Store with up-cycled fashions that I have collected and improved upon, because clothes just seem to find their way into my life, and I delight in putting together outfits and comfortable, healthful clothing.  In addition, I plan to make all sorts of farm goods, from soaps, salves, and knitted goods from nearby wool producers,  to every manner of housewares, such as rugs, linens, even some furniture.  And I will grow flowers, lots of flowers. These things will be what the demand of the community requires them to be as I am able to respond to that demand.

Additionally, I want Full Circle Farm to be a place of learning and I intend to offer classes in traditional crafts, gardening, cooking, entrepreneurship, and sustainability.   Also, I want to host retreats for people to reconnect with nature and with creativity.

Please check back often, as I launch more communication about this project.  The Farm Store is online under my name at Kate McPhee Studio, or locally in Vermont call me at 720-628-0726 to visit, or email with questions, comments, and good ideas.  I humbly accept donations for this endeavor, which can be made via Paypal to