The sun is shining as wildflowers in long rows bow their heads to the east as it rises. It is morning on AOOA farm, and the day is full of possibility. My friend and farm project manager Alix Daguin wakes for the day, and there is much to do. You can hear the hens in their egg song chorus, and sheep in conversation from the barn waiting to be milked.
When I step foot on the farm I feel at home, and deeply inspired. I love visiting my friend Alix, chatting with other farm staff, and seeing what the farm store has to offer. Sheep's milk icicles with flavors like fudge or koginut squash!? YES PLEASE!
Farming is in my soul. It's where my passion for gardening comes from, my desire to be outside planting seeds and moving dirt. My grandparents were dairy farmers and my mom grew up living a farmers daughter life. Though I was never part of it, or even remember it... when I visit AOOA and help with tasks such as harvest and herb collecting, it feeds that something in my DNA that says grow food, plant flowers, be active, and stand under the hot sun dripping sweat in your muck boots.
In AOOA's first year I volunteered there on a regular basis, helping with drying and organizing herbs intended for tea and farm eats, updating/writing the weekly menu board, tidying the farm store, and helping to pick/make bouquets. My sons also shared their time on the farm, drenched in sweat and dirt they tugged at weeds and helped with mulching trees as well as harvest. It was a family affair, and we more than willing to help our friend make her dream become a reality.
Along with volunteering, I have enjoyed several of AOOA's workshops, my favorite being their indigo dying class. But I also enjoyed an embroidery workshop and one on fermenting hot sauce!
This season I will play a different roll on the farm and it's exhilarating when I think about it. I will be the first artist-residence for AOOA's artist-in-residence program. That means I will regularly be at the farm artistically documenting its regenerative landscape as it evolves through the growing season. I will also capture moments in their kitchen, farm store, and of course their animals. This is a different kind of endeavor for me as I am accustomed to working indoors at my studio table, but it has been a long-time desire to create plein air.
You can follow my residency through Instagram (@ashlieblakeart) and here on my blog. Feel free to subscribe here if you haven't already and don't want to skip a beat! In addition to sharing on the web and through social media, I will have designated wall space in AOOA's farm store where I will display and rotate pieces I have created as a way of sharing with farm visitors.
AOOA's grand opening is April 1st, and is open to the public Friday through Sunday 10-5. Maybe you'll spot me there creating, if you do feel free to say hi! If you don't, please do yourself a favor and not only walk the grounds but literally give your taste buds a jump for joy by ordering some eats in the farm store! Buy eggs, fresh produce, sign up for a workshop or two, and meet Bilou the farm goose. Just pretty please, no chasing or stressing Bilou... he is my favorite, and we must always be kind to animals both great and small.