Fields Without Fences

plant medicine for people & planet

Fields Without Fences follows a philosophy of deep ecology rooted in the functionality and balance of natural systems. On our 10 acre certified organic medicinal forest garden farm in Frenchtown, New Jersey we cultivate herbs, fruit, and wild edibles within an innovative, naturalized design framework. Beyond our site we provide permaculture consulting services on projects across the region.  Our cultivation style and ecological approach is aimed at restoring health and integrity to our shared landscape.

Fields Without Fences 2017 Herbal Farm Membership!

Big News!! Herbal Farm Shares are OPEN for SIGN UP! Featuring a selection of handcrafted botanicals including herbal teas, tonics, elixirs, tinctures, balms, butters, and infused oils, made with organic ingredients and herbs, flowers, roots, and fruits grown on our small farm in Frenchtown, NJ.

We've got FULL Share & HALF Share options this season, plus new products, plus a new format, plus new packaging... Check it out!!! fieldswithoutfences.org/csa

Deadline for sign up: June 19th, 2017.

Reflection: Designing Perennial Polycultures Weekend With Dave Jacke & Fields Without Fences

In the spring of 2011 Johann convinced me that a 10 day forest gardening intensive with Dave Jacke could potentially provide answers for how to approach the water logged plot of degraded farm land we found ourselves on.  The ideas and concepts presented during that course laid the groundwork, and provided a foundation for what would become our 10 acre forest garden farm.

In the years that followed ideas were tested, theories put into practice, and new observations generated.  Dave Jacke became a friend and mentor to us, always willing to ask the tough questions, and provide encouragement and love.  The ideas and exchanges reverberated and multiplied into the future.  And when Dave visited our small farm last spring to co-teach a weekend workshop called "Designing Perennial Polycultures," the garden we had created was a humble reflection, propelled by curiosity, and rooted in love.

Finally sharing some photos from that weekend.  Sincere gratitude and thanks to our dear friend Dave.  Many thanks to all the course participants that shared their spirit, focus, and energy with us.  And a big thank you to our apprentice Jamil Nazy for helping to capture many of these moments.

The course kicked off with an incredible talk given by Dave at Duke Farms that provided a rousing framework for the rest of the weekend at Fields Without Fences.  On Saturday morning we gathered in a circle to reflect on the ideas set forth Friday evening, get to know one another, and dive into our exploration of perennial polycultures.

Our first exercise was to observe the edges present within each transition across the landscape.  The edges are complex, multitudinous, and largely based on perspective.  This exploration set the framework to understand observation and interpretation.  There are many angles through which we can examine nature.

Standing in a woodland transition area on the farm, I told a story about the polyculture design of a forest.  Every action and decision generates a particular design.  When a squirrel preferences a particular fruit, its seed is spread to grow elsewhere.  When forests are clear cut, the action opens up environments for new emergent species to proliferate.  All of the polycultures that surround us are the outcome of a confluence of decisions and actions that ultimately culminates in the composition of the landscape at any given moment.

And yet, there seems to be a reliable rhythm to the sequences of events that unfold in natural succession.  Course participants self organized into a model of succession based on emergent ecosystems detailed on cards.  Some cards appeared to be very linear in their unfolding, yet others were more nuanced, or not entirely clear.  A lively debate emerged, guided by Dave, as we tried to understand the mechanisms of natural succession and disturbance.

Succession is at work across the farm.  There is a cumulative succession that unfolds across years as bare soil becomes a forest.  Then there is the seasonal succession that unfolds as plants come into establishment, replacing one another, across the spectrum of every season.  Here we explored one of the less-mature areas of the farm currently under establishment.

Course participants began to derive observations and assessments in a more mature area of the farm.

There is a complex set of interactions unfolding between polyculture plantings.  A zoomed in approach to each area presents a new opportunity to assess the perceived successes and failures of any given combination of plants.

Groups split off to make formalized assessments by determining the role and function of each plant within a polyculture community.

Some examples of emerging human polycultures...

Each individual element contributes to the totality of the whole.

Johann led us on a walk across the farm where we explored polyculture design and practical application on the ground.

Thought provoking questions from Dave and the group enabled us to explore the complexities and emergent properties within the system.

At closer examination, you never know what you'll discover in the garden...

After a long and enjoyable weekend of theory, explanation, design, and observation, the group coalesced for a photo.  Each individual contributed to what everyone determined to be a consciousness shifting weekend.  The complexities of the garden reflected within us our own desires to live, grow, and share in the experience with one another.

We were in the midst of an atypically prolonged spring drought at the time of the workshop.  We hadn't irrigated the farm since August the previous year, and the plants were showing signs of stress.  It had been threatening rain all weekend, and we were torn between welcoming the reprieve from drought, and hoping that weather would not disrupt our programming.  As the last course participant parted, thunder cracked and the rains came.  It rained nearly all night, and in the morning Johann, Dave, and I walked the gardens taking photos in the lingering midst.

The plants came alive again, and the resiliency within the system became evident.  We try to trust the garden, our interactions are pulsations of exchange rather than dictations.  Each relationship is full of revelations and reverberations.

Lindsay, Johann, and Dave, Fields Without Fences, May 2015.

Fields Without Fences 2016 Apprenticeship Program Announcement

We are now accepting applications for our 2016 season Apprenticeship Program!  We are super excited about the changes we've made to the program to enable even more learning and deep ecology exploration.  Read more about the program below and see if it is a fit for you or someone you know!

CLICK HERE TO APPLY!

 

FIELDS WITHOUT FENCES 2016 APPRENTICESHIP PROGRAM

Priority will be given to applications received by February 5th, 2016

Farm Description: Certified Organic, Permaculture, Forest Garden, 10 Acre Small Farm. Our certified organic farm is nestled in the quiet cliff sides of the Delaware River Watershed.  Here we cultivate native and medicinal varieties of herbs, fruit, mushrooms, and wild edibles in a regenerative design system that mimics the natural ecology. Our approach to cultivation is motivated by a philosophical position that recognizes the inherent worth of all living creatures and is concerned with improving the overall well being of an interconnected ecology.

Program Description:  Fields Without Fences 2016 Seasonal Apprenticeship invites participants to explore organic growing, perennial polyculture cultivation, ecological restoration, and permaculture systems through the lens of commercial agricultural production on our small farm outside of Frenchtown, NJ.  This program combines lecture, hands-on education, group participation, and independent study for a holistic learning experience that spans the 7 month arc of a typical growing season.  Working directly with the farmers, participants can expect to grow their knowledge in the following areas:

Organic Agriculture

Ecological Land Management

Perennial Production

Polyculture Planting

Water Systems

Site Assessment & Analysis

Medicinal Herbs

Orchard Cultivation

Mushroom Production

Ethical Harvesting

Plant Identification

Applied Permaculture Theory & Systems Designs

Plus much more!

The program will run every Thursday, April 14th - November 3rd 2016 8am-12pm Morning Sessions & 1pm-5pm Afternoon Sessions.  Morning Sessions will consist of volunteer hours harvesting, processing, weeding, or other farm tasks in a group or independent setting.  Afternoon Sessions will consist of learning, educational projects, and field trips exploring themes, techniques, and topics listed above.

This is an opportunity to work with and learn from in-the-ground systems in a unique agricultural setting with an emphasis on hands on education and personal development.

Participation Requirements:  Apprentices are expected to participate in both Morning & Afternoon Sessions throughout the duration of the program.  Excessive absence and/or lateness (more than 4 times) may result in dismissal from the program.  Participants are required to supply their own pruning shears, gloves, notepads, food, and drink.  In addition to weekly on-site sessions, Apprentices will be required to develop one independent study project throughout the course of the season based on their individual interests.  Projects will receive guidance and mentorship and may require independent research.  Select quality projects may be implemented on site by the group, documented, and function as a portfolio piece for the designer/project developer.

Ideal Applicants: Enthusiastic, flexible, communicative, open-minded individuals with a solid learning and work ethic.  An interest in permaculture design principles is preferred.  Beginners are welcome, as are more experienced practitioners and growers.

Application Deadline: Applications submitted by February 5th, 2015 will be given priority.

Additional Educational Opportunities: Apprentices will have access to free admission to onsite workshops and weekend intensives hosted by Fields Without Fences through work/trade opportunities.

To apply, please fill out the application at www.fieldswithoutfences.org/connect. We will follow up to schedule an interview.  Many thanks and look forward to hearing from you!

Fields Without Fences Presenting at Stone Barns Young Farmers Conference

Our garden takes us so many places... Great time at Stone Barns Young Farmer's Conference where we were invited to present on our work at Fields Without Fences. Humbled to be asked to speak about what we love, and honored by the presence of such gracious listeners!

Presentation Description:

How can we begin to heal damaged and neglected landscapes with regenerative agriculture? Join Lindsay Napolitano and Johann Rinkens of Fields Without Fences to explore the intersection between ecological restoration, commercial production and the utilization of medicinal plants in healing our internal and external ecologies through a process of holistic renewal.  Detailing the establishment of their 10 acre small farm site as a case study, they'll explore the applied modalities of permaculture design, forest gardening, habitat restoration, water management and native plant cultivation in transforming a once depleted landscape into a thriving, productive, multi-acre forest garden in three short years.

Coming to Fruition

It's become a bit of a running joke around here.  Over the past few seasons when people have asked us what we grow, we'll crack a half smile and say, "we mostly cultivate patience."  Our forest garden orchard is an evolving entity with a cast of characters that move where the wind blows, and change shape and size with every season.  In the meantime imagination is essential.  In 2013 looking over a patchwork of nearly empty raised beds we'd tell friends, it's an orchard!  Do you see that tall stake, one day that will be a tall hickory!  Look down there, do you see that baby pawpaw seedling, in just ten years that little one is going to bare pounds and pounds of fruit!  Nearly two years later the shape has started to meet the form.  In the spring a friend who had spent a summer helping us early on returned for visit and glared at us wide eyed, "when did the elders get so big?!"  It felt like he was talking about a baby who had suddenly become a teenager. I gestured into the air, I don't know... they just grew up.  The changing of seasons and the relentless onward march of time are certainties.  All good things take patience, and when they finally come to fruition, it's time to savor the sweetness.

A selection of fruit we harvested this season (some for the first time!); garden strawberries, wild alpine strawberries, pink champagne currants, gooseberries, yellow black raspberries & black raspberries, raspberry, serviceberry, seaberry, lemony quince, elderberry, beach plum, autumn olive ; missing photos of figs, blackberries, aronia, native persimmon, and wineberries.  Most of fruit went to our friends at EAT THIS! who whipped up some incredible preserves for their newly launched organic line.

The Medicine of the Elder

Elders of the Garden

In the days leading up to Summer Solstice the elder makes a showy bloom.  Tiny white flower clusters perch atop a flat upright umbel, and the bright floral orbit holds up a mirror to the high sun.  As the long days of summer begin to shorten the petals fall and are replaced by green swelling berries that turn darker with each longer night.  By August the berries are a deep purple and dark as the midnight sky.  Plump and juicy, and heavy in their clusters, the elder branches that once greeted the sun filled sky now bend their fruiting umbels toward the earth.  The arc of time and space and season manifest in the medicine of the elder.

Over a period of several weeks in August we harvest elderberries in the heat of the last blazing days of summer.  We patiently separate each small berry from its stem until our hands are stained a deep hypnotic purple, a semi permanent tattoo; the mark of the elder.  We stop short of harvesting all the berries, anything above arms reach is for the birds, anything shriveled, overripe, and full of seed is for the earth.  

Tradition & Folklore

Our most prized plant, the slow medicine of the elder has been used throughout the world for thousands of years.  Gentle medicine for children and elders, yet powerful enough to subvert influenza, the elder has been revered for the strong medicine derived from its leaves, flowers, berries, and bark.  The rich and diverse pharmacopoeia gleaned from the elder is rivaled only by the rich and diverse tradition and folklore associated with this plant.   

In North America, the Algonquin used an infusion of the bark as a powerful emetic and laxative.  The Cherokee used an infusion of the berries to treat rheumatism, an infusion of the flowers to “sweat out” a fever, and a poultice of the leaves to dress infected wounds.  The Chippewa, Choctaw, Creek, and Iroquois, all have similar traditional uses for the elder.  In medieval Europe the peasant people would bring offerings to the elder each spring for blessings of healthy crops and healthy medicine.  The offerings were intended for the “Elder Mother” whom is said to dwell at the base of the plant, the tree itself a portal into her underworld dimension; a magical fairy realm.

Medical Research

Some magic of the elder lives in the esoteric realm of metaphor and lore, while other magic can be revealed through the lense of modern research.  Elderberry has traditionally been used to treat influenza, colds, as well as other viral infections.  In a randomized, double blind, placebo-controlled study in 1999, elderberry extract relieved patients suffering from influenza A and B symptoms on average 4 days earlier than placebo.  In 2007, a similar randomized control study confirmed a proprietary elderberry extract reduced influenza symptomatology in study participants by four days.  Laboratory studies have also shown elderberry’s activity in treating human respiratory bacterial pathogens and viruses.  In an in vitro assay with human influenza A virus particles, the mechanism of elder’s preventative effect on the immune system is demonstrated; the flavonoids in the elderberry extract prevented the entry of virus into the host cell, thereby inhibiting successful viral infection.

Beyond preventing and treating symptoms of cold and flu, elderberry has been employed by herbalists, naturopaths, and homeopaths for treating a variety of conditions including anemia, rheumatism, respiratory conditions, and digestive upset.  Elderberries contain significant amounts of vitamins A and C, calcium, and potassium, which are essential to support healthy eyes and blood vessels.  Flavonoids present in the elderberry help to strengthen capillary integrity to the cardiovascular system and reduce histamine production and allergic response.  Elderberries are a rich source of natural antioxidants called proanthocyanidins.  Proanthocyanidins inhibit pro-inflammatory cytokines and have been shown to be beneficial in the treatment of cardiovascular disorders and age-induced oxidative conditions such as atherosclerosis, osteoarthritis, and degenerative eye diseases.  

Mother's Elder Elixir

After the berries are gently separated from their umbels, we extract their juice in a simple combination of alcohol, honey, and water in a process that involves patience, and the kind of alchemy only time provides.  The resulting product is a concentrated extract we call Mother’s Elder Elixir in honor of the spirit that lives at the base of the tree.  The syrup is sweet, slightly tart, and earthy.  Its color holds the deep purple of the darkest berries.  We enjoy it by the spoonful, over oatmeal and pancakes, blurring the imperceivable line between food and medicine.  The delightful elixir keeps us strong and healthy over the winter and throughout the darkest days of the year.  In the spring we celebrate the return of green to our elder trees, we give thanks in hopes of blessings of healthy crops and healthy medicine.

*To sample our Mother’s Elder Elixir come visit us at Elder Fest on Saturday, October 17th - RSVP: info@fieldswithoutfences.org

 


References & Resources:

1. Randomized study of the efficacy and safety of oral elderberry extract in the treatment of influenza A and B virus infections. Zakay-Rones Z1, Thom E, Wollan T, Wadstein J. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/15080016

2. Complementary medicine for treating or preventing influenza or influenza-like illness R Guo, MH Pittler, and E Ernst. Review published: 2007. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmedhealth/PMH0025336/

3. Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center: https://www.mskcc.org/cancer-care/integrative-medicine/herbs/elderberry-01

4. Determination of the Active Components of Elderberry Extracts on Immune Function and Tumor Cell Growth Sahar Rizvi Indiana University - Purdue University Fort Wayne, 2012.

5. Herbal Therapeutics 10th edition, David Winston, 2014.


Elder Fest at Fields Without Fences! Saturday, October 17th

Friends! 

Come join us at our last event of the season - the first annual, Elder Fest!  Celebrate the end of the season by celebrating our favorite plant, one of the most prized medicinal species we grow, Elderberry! Visit us at the farm for tours, storytelling, delicious treats made with our elderberries, herbal products for sale, and MOST importantly - to celebrate the much anticipated release of our newest product, 'Mother's Elder Elixir'!  We are so excited to share this one with the world, and we hope you love it as much as we do :)  Come out and sample our Elder Elixir, then take a bottle home to keep you and your family healthy all winter long!  Stay tuned, more details to come...

We hope to see you there!

Lindsay, Johann, & the FWF Crew

Spring 2015 Photo Series

Take a peak at some photos from spring at Fields Without Fences.  The fields were full of new blossoms this spring as many of our fruit trees and shrubs including pawpaw, american persimmon, beach plum, quince, pear, and plum are producing for the first time!  Early season culinary herbs, edible flowers, and shoots made it onto the plates at some our favorite restaurants.  And medicinal plants were handcrafted into herbal products for our spring and summer CSA shares.  

It continues to be a truly magical experience observing and participating in the ongoing process of transformation taking shape in the field.

April through May we received almost no rain on the farm.  The creeks and streams that run through this cliffside were nearly dry just a few weeks after the winter snow cover thawed.  Prolonged periods with no rainfall have become typical over the last few seasons, and it has become quite common to walk out into the middle of the Delaware River, head above water.  But the rains came in June and flowed steadily into the river valley, swelling the Delaware, and submerging the banks we sunbathed on last year.

Ramps broke soil before we had a chance to cut down last year's wild flowers.  Each spring the standing stalks of winter are mulched in place, breaking down over the course of the year, and contributing to the accumulating biomass.

Violets are some of the first species to emerge out of dormancy within the wet, post-winter landscape.  Velvety and moisture rich, violets are an excellent medicinal herb for the lymphatic system, able to encourage the movement of fluid.

The green color typical of early spring is particularly vibrant and verdant.  It is unlike any other green present throughout the rest of the year.  I recently learned that the Cherokee have a special name specifically for this green; distinct, and filled with new life.

Strawberry flowers hint at the first fruit of the season to come.

We grow three types of strawberries in the understory of our forest garden.  A traditionally cultivated garden strawberry, an ever-bearing garden/wild hybrid, and my favorite, wild alpines.  They don't make for a great crop, they ripen quickly and disappear just as fast.  They don't hold or ship well, and are impossibly small.  But they taste better than any strawberry you've ever had, and one of the truly magical ephemeral delights of spring!

This season we found the first blooms on many fruit cultivars we've been patiently waiting for.  In the foreground a pawpaw flower hangs, its unpleasant scent tempting pollination by the flies.

Lemony quince blossoms in the understory.

Currant flowers.

Before long dormancy is replaced by a flush green landscape.  During April and May we received less than a quarter of an inch of rain.  We didn't irrigate, and we were astounded by the robust growth and resiliency of the system even during a season plagued by irregular drought conditions.  Above, Johann and Travis harvest herbs inside the evolving forest garden.

Self heal is harvested and crafted into an herbal product for our CSA.

Catnip flower bud.

Flowers give way to fruit.  Here our running serviceberry fruits for the first time.

Ninja, on the Piedmont savanna.

Chamomile grows in a cluster among shallots.

Strawberries creep out of our beds and into the pathways as the first elders bloom.

Elderflowers bloom across the landscape.

The landscape buzzes as all creatures crawl out of dormancy to contribute to the functional balance of a healthy ecosystem.  A parasitoid wasp that landed on Johann's hand is pictured above.  

Chive blossoms and gooseberries ripen next to a Great Pyrenees pup.

Our best farm addition this season, Yoni Wolf.

Before long the first seeds come to bear in late spring.  Here french sorrel shoots up stalks to self seed.

This season the we were perplexed by the absent bellows of frogs during the "wet" season.  For a moment we considered that perhaps our ducks had compromised the populations breeding in the ponds.  Of course, this spring was unusually dry, and when the rains eventually came, so did the amphibian symphony!

Valerian in flower.

Yoni is the fastest growing species in this ecosystem.

Centerfield on the edge of summer solstice.  

POP UP MARKET AT Fields Without Fences - AUGUST 2nd

Join us on the farm on Sunday August 2nd, for a POP UP MARKET featuring Fields Without Fences herbal products, dried herbs & tea blends, fresh herbs & flowers!

Enjoy some herbal iced tea with us, and come by for a tour of our small farm at 11am.

Hope to see you then! 

Email info@fieldswithoutfences.org with questions and for address information.

 

Information found on this website is meant for educational purposes only.
It is not meant to diagnose medical conditions, to treat any medical conditions or to prescribe medicine. 

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