Category Archives: Healing Tree Farm at DeYoung

The felted, matted mess

imageLast year, I purchased a beautiful Suri alpaca rose-grey fleece from a local farmer. It was the most beautiful natural colorway I had ever seen in a fleece, with hints of autumn-rose and oatmeals and grey. I handled the fleece with extra care, checking the temperature of the wash and rinse water carefully, handling it gently, quietly contemplating at each phase of the wash-rinse cycle all that might be made from these gorgeous fibers. And then I did something stupid.

I don’t like that word stupid, but it’s the word that really works here. Fiber demands its process. You can’t rush fiber. You can’t tell it to hurry up and dry or get clean. You can’t shear an alpaca and make socks within the next five minutes. If you could, we crazy fiber nuts would find something else to fawn over.

Eager to begin carding, I decided to place the washed fleece in a pillow case and put it on air dry in the dryer for a good 15 minutes. This is something I had done with other fleeces and without issue, but I did not check the air temperature in my eagerness to dry the fleece. Anyone who works with fiber knows the most fundamental of rules:

Heat + agitation = felt.

By the time I realized my error, I lifted a matted piece of felt the size of a corgi out of the dryer. And yes, there were real tears.

I tried in vain to make something useful from the felted monstrosity. I even hung on to the fiber for months, hoping I would come up with something useful to somehow make up for the error. But what I realized was that this felt was destined to compost, as beautiful as it was. And that I had learned a lesson worth 10 times the price of the fleece; that process is important and, in instances like this, vital.

It’s so easy to try to take the short-cut, or to give up when someone tries to throw a wrench in your plans, but when you look at life as a process of growing, of moving from this raw, dirty fleece to a clean, organized useful yarn, it’s easier to see that those little bumps in the road aren’t there to deter you, but to help you broaden your awareness.

There’s a reason Gandhi was so wise; he was a hand-spinner! 🙂


Getting there is half the fun, right?

photo 1 (1)Well, this week we’ve moved out of our rental and in with family, packed our belongings at the farm (still a bit more to do), and rented the first of two large moving  trucks for our trip out next week. This was the first week that I found myself feeling quite emotional driving around the familiar places like the farm, or walking the shores of Lake Michigan, knowing we were soon to be tourists more than residents.

‘Topher and I sat down under the big old Roxbury Russet at the farm, where he reminisced in his adorable four-year-old chatter about sleeping in the camper or playing with the chickens. “Me going to miss the farm, Mama” tore at my heart-strings, but yesterday some of the awesome folks at the LC reminded him that the farm is forever protected and he can visit whenever he wishes.

It feels really special to have been part of the history of this beautiful, incredible place. Wecampbelltree are so appreciative to the Conservancy and to the Campbell and DeYoung families along with those individuals who had memories of working or frequenting the farm, who visited and shared many beautiful stories. What a magical place!

In the spring of 2013, we planted three apple trees, all of which have survived. One was Topher’s first apple tree and the other two were wedding gifts from the year prior (we were married on the farm). They will remain and I’m excited to see how they progress in years to come as they will always carry some very happy memories for us.

For now, we are trying to make time to visit with friends and family and to frequent those places we know and love about Michigan. The girls have been adventuring and discovered a huge toad last night on the front porch. And they’ve already braved Lake Michigan for a swim.

IMG_9537As much as I’ll miss our northern Michigan “home,” I’m equally as excited to finally settle in New York. We’ve been planning this move for well over a year and it feels good to be this near the big move. The plumbing and electric have been completed, so now all the house needs is its people.

“Where we love is home; home that our feet may leave, but not our hearts.”                    

Oliver Wendell Holmes, Sr.


Farm News and Reflections

Received a wonderful donation of a beautifully crafted nesting boxes from Burning Barn Farm for our new coop in New York. I was so excited, I completely spaced on taking a photo!

This week has been dedicated to work on cleaning at the farm in preparation for our departure. Lot’s of reflection, and honestly, loads of relief. It’s simply been too much for us to manage a project like DeYoung at a distance. And as much as I love the farm, I know it will find the right person or organization to make it great again.

We breathed life into the barns with the addition of chickens, ducks, sheep and alpacas, but the farm really breathed new life into us. We are now embarking on the first leg of a journey to open a fiber mill and tree nursery in New York state.

Many people have asked us about the departure date. It’s been tough to answer because we’ve been moving belongings out ahead of the big move, so many trips back and forth right now. Tentatively, we should officially be NYers by June 14th.

In the meantime, please enjoy some of our favorite photos from the past four years.

Sheep’s Wool and Apple Trees

Last year, we bagged ram’s wool and hung from our remaining apple trees. The thought was that prey animals (namely the ones who love to nibble our tree buds) will avoid areas in which prey scent is strong, and likely attracting predators. We didn’t know whether it would be successful, and it’s still a bit anecdotal with only one year under our belt, but… the apple trees show zero sign of bud damage and are thriving! And no need to milk a coyote for its urine…

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Trying to decide

I’m trying to decide what to do with Healing Tree Farm. It has been a remarkable part of my life and has really helped me come to a genuine place of healing after a difficult health ordeal. And while the move out to New York doesn’t constitute starting over, it does feel like a refreshing next step in the direction of a dream. Do I owe that next step a renaming or re-branding? Part of me yearns to step away from the connection to illness, but another part of me feels I owe that process some ongoing recognition.

At the same time, I feel like we’ve outgrown the name, heading into a direction so well-photo 1 (5)rooted in fiber, despite our continued adoration for apple trees. I have no intention of giving up fruit-growing; I just want to broaden the scope to include a full-scale fiber operation.

When people have asked in the past about Healing Tree, I find myself feeling obligated to share the full story. In NY, there’s a kind of freedom from that, if that makes any sense. I’m no longer the girl who got cancer and started a farm out there. I’m the woman who wants to launch a fiber business.

And it’s purely psychological. Naturally, I don’t have to launch into the full story every time I’m asked about the significance of the Healing Tree, but even if I don’t share the story outwardly, it runs through my mind.

So, as we pack up the fencing and materials at the farm this week, I am engrossed in this ongoing dialogue. Remembering, reflecting, and thinking about which elements to carry on with us, and which to leave behind, both literally and figuratively. And I can genuinely say, it’s a healing process.

Can I still spin?

IMG_9470It’s been six months since we moved out of our house and started down this transition pathway to New York. I haven’t seen my spinning wheel in months, though I’ve continued to use the drop-spindle just so I don’s forget how much I miss the wheel.

We’ve only stayed two nights in the new house, as it is in need of some plumbing and electrical work, but Chris started a fire and we camped out in front of the fireplace in the living room. It was a pleasant way to spend part of our latest trip. The IMG_9565
neighbors brought over firewood and hosted us for dinner that first night. More neighbors joined and we were warmly welcomed, which meant the world to us weary travelers.


Chris said it’s now a waiting game to begin this next leg of our journey. We must wait for the the completion of the plumbing and electrical work before we can move in officially, so our original plan of waiting for the kids to finish up at school works well.

It’s really unreal to finally be creating a home in a whole different state. This dream realized has been months in the making, with setbacks and so many little obstacles along the way. I haven’t felt much like writing about it because there’s so much to say and it’s hard to decide on a topic well-suited for a farm blog. I cannot wait to play in the soil and work with fiber again. I am IMG_9542excited for all the stories, some old, and the many new we will make together.

The neighbor said she felt called to this area of the Schoharie. It was the first time I had heard someone else say that. I’ve been telling people much the same. It’s an old mountain region and there’s an energy to the land that really speaks to us. We feel ‘called’ home. Michigan will always be my childhood home, but this part of New York feels like home on a deeper level. And maybe it never really needs to be put into words the way we writers are always so inclined to do? Perhaps it can just be and we can simply enjoy it for what it is. Home.



Animals off Farm

photo 1The alpacas and kitty have left the farm. A friend took two of our girls down on Sunday, and we hauled the other two down to her yesterday. This is a good move for our alpaca friends, but it was hard to say goodbye after so many kissy and derpy faced moments shared with our four-legged friends. They have gone to live with the Shetlands, which made for a fun experience watching them adjust to life with sheep neighbors.

On the way back through town, we stopped again at the farm and picked up Watson, who appeared confused about the missing alpacas in his domain. He wasn’t terribly happy about the prospect of being in the van, but he quickly snuggled into daddy’s lap and is adjusting well.

photo 4 (1)As for us, as we drove away from the alpacas, whose ears were alert and forward, watching us carefully back down the drive, I felt a pang of anxiety. It was the realization that for the first time in a very long time, we are not farming. Not really, at least. And while I know this is temporary, it was a strange realization.

We leave Sunday for New York to close on the house. And while there, we’ll be visiting a couple of farms and families we’ve met along the way. It’ll help to focus on the next step, but in these quiet few weeks before the big move, it also gives us time to really reflect on these past four years. What a strange and wondrous ride it has been. photo 4

As we walked away from the alpaca enclosure, Chris put his arm around me, leaned in
close and said, “Now, the next leg of this journey really begins.” And I am reminded of the of the following:

“But what if I fail of my purpose here? It is but to keep the nerves at strain, to dry one’s eyes and laugh at a fall, and baffled, get up and begin again.” -Robert Browning

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