Tune Farm Organic Permaculture

Tune Farm, Alabama

Mark and I went on a research trip to Alabama to explore new ways of living, aesthetics, and projects. Our friend Pete Halupka is a farmer at the Tune Farm (Harvest Roots Farm), which is a fairly new organic project that Pete and the other residents are working to develop.

Tune Farm Organic Permaculture

Jars for fermenting foods such as kombucha

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Pete’s old school work station. He deals with a lot of digital issues in his work, so it’s interesting (and probably most appropriate) for him to use a type writer

Tune Farm Organic Permaculture

The old Tune Farm house was remodeled by the residents to make a living and working space. They have an office, studio/living spaces and a fermentation station (fermenting processes are lead by Lindsay Whiteaker)

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Benford Lepley, “Chicken Wrangler”

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Tune Farm upstairs office, complete with yoga ball

Tune Farm Organic Permaculture

Pete showed us how to plant trees using cuttings. A wild apple tree grew by the lake

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Pete looking very serious

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Pete and Benford gave us a grand tour of the farm, which included taking a platoon of ducks for a walk, frolicking through a prairie, building a rabbit tractor and rabbit hutches, exploring bamboo-filled back-woods, and playing with a whole gaggle of farm dogs.

Tune Farm Organic Permaculture

While we were there, the plants were just beginning to yield their first buds. Unfortunately, frosty nights threatened to destroy the new growth, so we had to put layers of hay down on top of the new plants to protect them. Placing blankets over the beds.

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Chickens are odd little creatures and very light. It was nice holding one, their plumes so soft. But when they decide that they are done with you, they can really show it by kicking and flapping with explosive energy.

Tune Farm Organic Permaculture

The chickens’ wings are not clipped, they stay willingly on the farm and will only occasionally jump the fence to peck at wild apples.

Tune Farm Organic Permaculture

Apparently apples change their genetic structure with each seed, so the only way to maintain a strain of apples is to clone it through making a cutting. Who knew?

Tune Farm Organic Permaculture

There were several farm dogs there, keeping the other animals in check. They had to be trained to curb their hunting instinct and abstain from killing the farm’s chickens. Aside from that, the dogs all seemed very happy, and very loyal, frolicking about the farm. Seeing them made me feel bad for all the dogs back home in the City, stuck on leashes and walking around on hot or cold concrete.

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What’s a southern home without a little music? I forgot to bring my harmonica.

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Portrait of Lee Milby taken by Benford Lepley. Even the insects are more laid back in the south. This one hung out on this window pane for quite a few portraits, before flying away. I caught a number of little critters on this trip

Tune Farm Organic Permaculture

Oak savannah. When fire razes the land multiple times and the only things left are grass and oak.

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There’s nothing like laying in a pasture under silver sky. The sky was as big as an ocean, and we were tiny.alabama dog

Li’l Ma, Pete’s frisky farm dog.

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Tortoise shell Pete found in the woods to give as a present to Lindsay.

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The entire farm was bursting with vibrant, organic life. Everything felt healthy and clean (except the occasional scent from a commercial farm down the road, that used medicine-riddled chicken manure on their soil). On the Tune Farm, there was pure reassurance that whatever you consumed was safe and handled with care. The animals were given space to be a part of nature, and the humans were especially attuned to the needs of the animals and land. I liked knowing that the cow who provided us milk had a name (Jade). There was something endlessly reassuring in that, and I’d never experienced it before.

We picked wild herbs straight from Pete’s back yard to forage salads. Dandylions, wild violets, practically everything was in abundance and up for grabs. It made me think back to my childhood, when my neighbors and I would make pretend “soups” out of whatever plants we could find around our houses. We never actually ate our concoctions for fear that we’d get poisoned… the only “safe” foods back then were the packaged ones. It’s funny and sad to think of how unnatural our lives are in the modern world, when there is a hesitation to eat things grown right out of the ground and the expectation that anonymous government agencies have better judgement than ourselves (ie: the FDA).

I thought it was super cool how knowledgeable Pete and the others were about every plant we encountered. They could identify and list the medical properties of dozens of different plants that just looked like weeds to me.

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Mark climbs a vine amidst a million tiny little bamboo shoots. Bamboo grows wild and happy in Alabama.

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Taking the ducks out for a walk. Pete brings Li’l Ma with him as part of her training to abstain from attacking their flock. The ducks get their exercise and get to graze on new land.

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Jade the cow. In Alabama, we encountered many herds of cows. I read an article that described a study of cow movements throughout herds… they determined that cows, just like people, have best friends that they like to hang out with. Looking into the eyes of these docile creatures, it’s shocking to think that commercial farms treat them so poorly. Animals, just like humans, have friends and personalities all their own. Jade the cow kicks.

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We ate wild violets, dandylions, chick weed and wild garlic (or were they onions?)

Special thanks to Pete, Lindsay, Benford, Will, Ava and the Liz’s for hosting us and feeding us delicious food. And thanks to the Tune Family for enabling this incredible, magical place.