Horn Farm Happenings – February 1, 2019

There are ghosts in our forest.Wilson explainsThis week we want to share a few thoughts from our Woodland Steward, Wilson Alvarez.

There are ghosts in our forest.

Nowadays when I am in a wild space I easily detect what is not there. Ghosts haunt me.

Many people would enjoy sitting by the creek’s edge listening to the babbling of the water over rocks, I yearn to see what used to be here just over 100 years ago: beavers and their dams at such densities that they turn the creek into a wide flowing marshland filled with clean water and homes for many plant, animal, and insect species.

Many people would revel in the splendor of a meadow watching wildflowers swaying in the wind. I long to see the animals that no longer graze here. The eastern elk used to roam our Pennsylvania forest. I can almost hear the ancient bugle call of the bull elk as the cold weather ignites their instincts to mate. I see ghosts of the bison who roamed our field and forest, their shaggy coats blending with the winter landscape. I see ghosts of the wolves sliding among the dried goldenrod stems, stalking unsuspecting prey.

Many people gaze in wonder at the splendor of the choreographed flight of starlings as they fill the sky with their murmurations. So do I, but it makes my heart yearn for the passenger pigeon, who flew in flocks so big they would block out the sun for hours on end, who would empty the forest of all seeds and buds and worms as they moved from one place to the other in there constant pursuit of food leaving great quantities of super fertile droppings in their wake.

And sometimes I can feel the echo of how the earth would shake with the foot falls of the mastodons as they moved on their daily travels, rearranging the earth as they pleased, digging, scraping, bulldozing a mosaic of niches and diverse habitat across the landscape all while digesting seeds dropping them miles away into a pile of fertilizer perfectly support the growth of young plants.

Sometimes I can ignore what isn’t there and can embrace the world we have instead of the world we have lost, but those times have become less and less frequent.

There is a saying, “seeing is believing,” but for me it’s what I don’t see that spurs my work in the forest, trying to fill those huge gaps in the ecosystem left unfilled by animals no longer here. The methodology of the restoration work being done at the Horn Farm is based in part on a deep understanding of the roles played by the animals who are now missing on the landscape. All of these animals: the beaver, the wolf, the mastodon, the passenger pigeon, the large browsers like elk and bison all create the shifting pattern of disturbance that support a healthy landscape. The herbivores (plant eaters) move nutrients, distribute seeds, and create patches in the forest all of which helps to create more biodiversity and interrelatedness. The predators control the herbivore populations in both numbers and feeding locations which also creates a mosaic landscape of field and forest. Our work reestablishes the complex interplay between animal and landscape. We offer opportunities for people to increase their ecological literacy. We understand the vital importance of reconnecting people to this land that sustains us. We focus on programs which reintegrate the human into a healthy relationship with the land once again. We hope you’ll join us!a fork in the trail through the woods

Join us for 14 full-day sessions over 7 weekends (that’s 98 hours of instruction and practice!) to dive into the world of herbalism from May through November. This course will cover the foundations of herbalism, medicinal herb gardening, processing and preserving, and making plant remedies. Herbal Intensive

Photo by Michelle Johnsen Photography

Students can expect to leave this class with a working knowledge of a variety of plants and trees that can be grown or wild harvested for use as medicine and a solid understanding of how to do so.


Plants and humans have always had a close relationship. Generations upon generations of humans have relied on the plant world for food, medicine, shelter, and much more.

It is only recently that humans have grown separated from the land and from the natural world. We have forgotten what the plant world has to teach and to offer us. Luckily the plants are all around us, just waiting to be discovered again. This Herbal Intensive course is an invitation to do just that. It is an invitation to re-enter the world of plants and their medicinal uses, to regain the knowledge that was once shared by everyone and hopefully one day will be again.clover, plantain, dandelion

During the course of this intensive, participants will spend one weekend each month to learn a hands on approach to herbalism. With a focus on doing and creating, students will participate in all aspects of plant use and medicine making, including gardening and growing the plants we will be using, foraging for wild varieties, understanding the body systems and plant families and how they interact, plant preparation, medicine making and medicine application.herbal concoctions

Find out more and register: Herbal Intensive Class size is limited to 12 participants.

Upcoming events:

2019 Horn Farm Vegetable CSA
Betsy’s Flowers at the Farm Flower CSA
Regenerative Farming Internship
Woodland Steward Training Program

February 9 – Introduction to Lacto-Fermentation (waitlist) This class will be repeated April 27.
February 19 – Bread Baking – Flat Breads
March 19 – Bread Baking – Quick Breads
March 30 – Monthly Foraging Walk
March 23 – Wilderness Skills: The Art of Seeing & Nature Observation
March 30 – Wilderness Skills: Shelter Building & Finding Water
April 13 – Wilderness Skills: Ancient Art of Fire by Friction
April 20 – Wilderness Skills: Foraging, Hunting & Trapping
April 27 – Wilderness Skills: Advanced Primitive Hunting Techniques
April 27 – Introduction to Lacto-Fermentation
May 18 – Herbal Intensive
August 20 – Roasted Vegetables
October 12 – Bread: Rising to the Next Level

See you at the farm!