Category Archives: Green Poetry

Take Me Down to Broadfork Farm

Broadfork-farm-barn-color-Darrell-Salk

One of the gorgeous views at Broadfork Farm. Photo by Darrell Salk.

I’ve been looking forward to reading a copy of Tricia Knoll’s Broadfork Farm: Trout Lake, Washington for months. I first learned about the farm over a year ago when Tricia, a regular contributor here at Flora’s Forum, sent in her poem “Backyard Chickens”. The poem was one of my favorites, and I loved the chicken photo. Tricia explained that the hens were residents of Broadfork Farm, where she farmsat once or twice a year. She also said that a book was in the works.

Now I know farmsitting is not easyall those animals to feed and worry about, not to mention all the green and growing things to take care ofbut, oh, in return, you get to live, for a while, on a real farm!  (One of my dreams.) As a side note, believe me when I say I do not romanticize farm life. Much. I’ve had a dose of it here in town raising a menagerie of animals through the years, including rabbits, chickens and ducks, and growing food and flowers in almost every available nook and cranny. It’s not easy taking care of animals and plants. In fact, it’s a 24/7 job.

Getting to read Tricia’s book is the next best thing to a visit to Broadfork. The first passage I read is one of the few offerings not in poem form and it hooked me immediately.

“Gloucestershire Old Spots”

Two steps out of the van, the boldest little girl asks if she can hold a baby pig. I’m not a real farmer, just a stand in for these neighbor kids, friends. I choose not to answer. (The Old Spots are darn big even if they are a fifth the size they could grow to be. In this high-nineties heat they have started wallowing in mud instead of dust.)

The chaperones and kids follow me to the barn. The toddler delays at the John Deere toy tractor. I whip out my conversation starter: what do you like about your favorite friends? They say friends should be kind, gentle and fun. I say that’s exactly what Gloucestershire Old Spots pigs were bred to be . . . kind, gentle, friendly to people. Good citizen pigs. 

I rattle off that Old Spots are Princess Anne’s favorite pigs. Pigs with royal patronage, orchard pigs that can thrive on pasture grass and windfall apples in all kinds of weather. They need shade because they sunburn and can’t sweat. I do not mention how factory farms dock pig tails to keep crammed-in neighbors from biting them off. These pigs live the life pigs are meant to live. Nosing for greens, roots and bugs. Loving organic grains. Wallowing. One will live to be a very good mother. The male will be eaten at a neighbor’s Christmas Eve.

       hundreds of years
       heritage and breeding
       the perfect small farm pig

Two of these girls visited Broadfork weeks ago when the piglets arrived as timid beings with soft fur. Since then, the farmers and students have nurtured these pigs with chances for petting, clean water, sweet feed and foraging. Gone was soft fur. Added was bulk. No one asked again to pick one up. Everyone petted. We did not talk bacon. This time.

After cursory looks at the meat chicks, lambs, the big white guard dog, and the laying ducks, the adults herded six sweaty and thirsty children back to the van. I wished I’d had time to talk about duck eggs. Next stop inflatable swimming pool, the kid wallow.

That’s that. Kids mimicking pig noises. Touching. Barn Smells. Hands on. All good.

Then evening. Back to the barn to close the door to the chicken’s henitentiary. The lambs had left the barn for pasture to graze in the cool evening wind off the mountain.

I glance into the part of the barn the pigs choose for sleeping. Spooned together in straw against a wall, the two Old Spots snore. I flashback to my tiptoe nights to a crib to check on my infant daughter. Our visitors saw how fast babies grow, how we care for them. How long-time-forever we are wired to love babies, safe and vulnerable in sleep.

Broadfork-farm-piggies-darrell-salk

“Gloucestershire Old Spots” by Darrell Salk

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This little story is a microcosm of life on Broadfork Farm, which has the humble goal to “feed a few and teach caring.” That caring, along with the sharing, the interconnectedness, and the realities of the bitter and the sweet are examined and celebrated in Knoll’s book. In it, you’ll  find a world that is mostly breathtakingly beautiful, but where the ugly isn’t sugarcoated; murderous animals, for example, exist on the farm and in the wilderness surrounding it, as do reminders of the problems of the world outside, where atrocities like terrorism, hate crime, and exploitation of humans and land sometime take center stage. Tricia shows us how all relate, all are interconnected.

One of the things I relish in Knoll’s work is that she paints with all the emotions. The delightful intermingles with the dark, and even the banal is important enough (because it, too, is part of life) to be noted. One poem, “Motha of the Bride” brought tears to my eyes, and I laughed out loud at a stanza in “Farmku”, a poem that shares over a dozen unique moments of farm-life,  haiku style.

the scarecrow
drops her bra
in the forget-me-nots

(Gosh, I love that.)

While there are many things to admire about Tricia Knoll’s work, perhaps her greatest quality is that she is an eco-poet who doesn’t overwhelm you with that message. The elegant pictures she paints with her poetry, her many astute, and sometimes wry observations of nature simply show you what she loves about this world. And through her art, you love it too.

Broadfork Farm was published by The Poetry Box and you can buy it here.

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Sandra Knauf is the one-woman-show behind Greenwoman Publishing. Her books include the six-volume series Greenwoman (compilations of literary garden writing and art), her young adult fantasy novel, Zera and the Green Man, and an anthology of sexy gardening stories that she says is the feminist gardener answer to Fifty Shades of GreyFifty Shades of Green. She was a 2008-09 featured “Colorado Voices” columnist for The Denver Post and her humorous essays have appeared nationally in GreenPrints and MaryJanesFarm. She has also been a guest commentator on KRCC’s (NPR’s southern Colorado affiliate) “Western Skies” radio show. Sandra lives in Colorado Springs, Colorado with her family, dogs, huge urban garden, and lots of books.
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The December Rose

rose-tricia-knoll-photoshopped

Photo by Tricia Knoll.

The December Rose

From so many, so few,
survivors of first pruning,
waywards scrabbling
sideways for some sun,
as Lenten roses plump
up their buds, those faux
first flowers of late winter.

Where summer gives
full-blown,
lush of reds in silk,
just these, orphans
of short days, of freeze,
they narrow
the number
of months
without roses,
that darkness
of impossible
hope.

—Tricia Knoll

Tricia Knoll (2)
Tricia Knoll is an Oregon poet whose rose garden keeps expanding. In 2018 her new poetry collection How I Learned to Be White is coming out from Antrim House. Her 2017 collection Broadfork Farm (The Poetry Box) focuses on life on a small family-run organic farm in Trout Lake, Washington where Knoll farmsits when the farmers need to go away.

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Crystal Light of Morning

quarry-rock-slide-colorado-springs-gazette

Pikesview Quarry, Colorado Springs, Colorado. Photo from The Gazette Telegraph archives, by Carol Lawrence.

 

Crystal Light of Morning

In the crystal light of morning I look to the mountains.
The earth has been cut open, it is bleeding red.
the snow is like a blanket covering the dread.

In this shimmering, frigid air I can see the veil between us and them.

This ancient earth and the ancient humans abhor the modern world that is now.

The earth is alive. The broken open skin of the earth cries because of these atrocities.

—Ginger Hipszky

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ginger_110509-1

Photo of Ginger and Gretchen by Skee Hipszky.

Virginia (Ginger) A. Hipszky was born in 1960 in Franklin, Indiana. She relocated to Colorado Springs, Colorado in December 1979. She has one daughter and two stepsons. Various interests include reading, collecting modern and ancient coins, amateur radio, book proofreading, and collecting rocks and fossils. Meteorology and astronomy are two of her favorite passions, and she also enjoys writing poems and prose.

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Note from the Editor: I met Ginger a couple of weeks ago at a mutual friend’s art sale. She told us of a poem that had come to her, inspired by that morning’s view of the first significant snow of the season on a mining site nearby. I found the poem captivating and asked her if I could publish it here. Ginger said yes, and then wrote a little about how it came about in an email: “When the sun first comes up, it turns the exposed granite pink. . . [The poem] just came to me. I felt anxious all day till the words got out and on paper.”

Everyone in Colorado Springs, Colorado is familiar with the mining scar of Queens Canyon Quarry, not far from the one in Ginger’s poem. During a little research I found an article that told how that quarry was mined for limestone, to be used in the concrete foundations of buildings at the Air Force Academy, the Colorado Springs Airport and NORAD (and, I’d add, tens of thousands of homes and businesses). The article stated that in 1966 when Stewart Udall, then Secretary of the Interior, visited here he dubbed our city as “the city with a scar”. For many decades people remarked on its ugliness and how it marred a landscape that held, so close by, geologic wonders like our Garden of the Gods and Pikes Peak. Here’s the link to that article if you’d like to read about how 20,000 hours of volunteer labor went into reclamation of that area below. The good news is that now you can actually see trees growing on this area.

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Queens Canyon Quary, Image from ImFromColorado.com. Another discovery I made is that it is very difficult to find images of the scars. Understandably, they are not something people enjoy photographing.

 

As the YA author John Green wrote, “The marks humans leave are too often scars.”

—S.K.K.

 

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Come Little Leaves

marsh-lambert-my-little-nature-book

From My Little Nature Book With My Very Own Pictures by H. G. C. Marsh Lambert, 1930. You can read a little about the artist/writer of this book here

 

 

Come Little Leaves

“Come, little leaves,” said the wind one day,
“Come over the meadows with me, and play;
Put on your dresses of red and gold;
Summer is gone, and the days grow cold.”

Soon as the leaves heard the wind’s loud call,
Down they came fluttering, one and all;
Over the brown fields they danced and flew,
Singing the soft little songs they knew.

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These verses came from our friend Virginia Gambardella this morning. I hadn’t heard from her in a while as she’s been mired these past months in relocating from her home of many years. Her letter joked about digging out of her latest “decoration” of packing boxes and bags. Still, she found the time to connect, to send a few words about Halloweens past,  and this very charming song. “I can remember my mother singing it to me when I was a small child,” wrote Virginia, adding that her mother said she sang the song in school when she was a small girl.

I looked up Come Little Leaves and found a much longer version that connects to our rural past with lines about lambs, vales, and fields. It was written by the American poet George Cooper (1838–1927) with  music by Thomas J. Crawford. Virginia gave it a date of 1903, but through a little research I found it in a educational publication called The Michigan School Monitor in 1889.
—S. K.

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virginia_gambardella

Virginia Gambardella lives in New York. She has one son, three grandchildren, and enjoys the following: people, holidays, antiques, nature, gardening, fishing, decorating, fashion, sharing knowledge, cooking, and baking. She’s a cancer survivor, a pancreatitis survivor, a widow, and the re-inventor of her life, “as necessary.”

 

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Four Days Away

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“Cedar Flags” by Tricia Knoll.

Four Days Away

A small time gone to see the first snow
on the gold hills near the mountain.

A return to tomato plants turning black,
the hosta succumbed to a frost.

The cedar loosed its fall flags
in the west wind and turned the deck

to gold wonder of a forest floor.
Four days under a record rain

and first thing we carried inside,
that heavy temple bell, a gong

too noisy for gusts that attack
our coming winter nights.

—Tricia Knoll

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Tricia Knoll’s most recent book is Broadfork Farm, a series of love poems for the creatures, family, and gardens at a small organic farm in Trout Lake, Washington. In a time of urban disturbance, retreating to the farm brings a measure of peace.

 

Website: triciaknoll.com

 

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Woolly Bears and Rose Hips

Wooly_Bear_(2)

“Wooly Bear” by By Gerry Dincher from Hope Mills, NC (Uploaded by GrapedApe), via Wikimedia Commons

Fall 

You could opine that leaves burnished too early,
too hot this summer, too dry, the drifts
of wildfire smoke cured garden plants
like old tobacco. Then the woolly bears
seek sun-warmed cement, roses force
dwindling charms to make hips on forked canes,
last tomatoes announce they will only get green,
and powdery mildew silvers up the cucumber vines
like a harvest moon. Then it is fall.

—Tricia Knoll

 

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Tricia Knoll’s most recent book is Broadfork Farm, a series of love poems for the creatures, family, and gardens at a small organic farm in Trout Lake, Washington. In a time of urban disturbance, retreating to the farm brings a measure of peace.

 

Website: triciaknoll.com

 

(Note on wooly/woolly bear from the photographer on the Wikimedia Commons page:
“Legend in my part of Pennsylvania states that you can predict the winter weather by looking at the coloring of a wooly bear caterpillar (Pyrrharctia isabella). This guy says that Pennsylvania will have a cold start and finish to winter with a mild period in between. Either way I am glad I live in North Carolina. This critter was photographed at

Cowanesque Lake in Lawrence Township, Tioga County, Pennsylvania.”)—SK

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From the Compost Pile

Compost_2017

Image from a corner of Sandra Knauf’s compost pile, August 2017, featuring a surprise potato plant.

 

From the Compost Pile

Voluptuous vines mix in
with basil stems and potatoes,
sprouting from last winter’s seeds.

We come from something, some egg,
virus, dirt, but in my vegetable bed
this vigorous survivor fittest
tangling-with-everything

does not look like any melon
I ate last summer. Its squashes
are blander orange butternuts.
The what I grew is not what I knew.

—Tricia Knoll

 

Tricia Knoll (2)

Tricia Knoll is a contented gardener come late August. Four harvests of basil mixed up as pesto. The Romas about to explode bright red very soon. Her most recent book is Broadfork Farm, a series of love poems for the creatures, family, and gardens at a small organic farm in Trout Lake, Washington. In a time of urban disturbance, retreating to the farm brings a measure of peace.

 

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