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The Power of Multiplication (A Farm Meditation)

Farm Meditations are series based on events that happen on Whippoorwill Creek Farm in South Central Iowa and which also appear in my other blog. We raise grass fed and finished beef, goats, and veggies and forage mushrooms. You can order by contacting us at


Here’s about the funnest (yes, I know that is not a real word) thing you can do in the garden—plant garlic.

Garlic drying after being picked
Garlic drying after being picked

It works like this: You take a clove of garlic (you can use any ol’ clove, but buying ones as “seed” works best), stick it in the ground in the fall, and dig it up the following summer. That is it, easy peasy.

The fun part, of course, is seeing what’s grown. Miraculously, that single clove has turned into an entire head of garlic, multiplying itself in an act of pure magic that boggles my mind.

Some call this Mother Nature, or God, or the Power of the Universe or even simply just the way the Earth works. But I find it a revelation to dig into the soil and see a whole head of garlic staring back at me, a thing that has come from almost nothing, a multiplication of life in the most visually striking way. It is awe inspiring (which to me is the definition of “happiness”), “an eff of the ineffable” as Salman Rushdie wrote (but somehow left growing garlic off his list).

“Five mysteries hold the keys to the unseen: the act of love, and the birth of a baby, and the contemplation of great art, and being in the presence of death or disaster, and hearing the human voice lifted in song. These are the occasions when the bolts of the universe fly open and we are given a glimpse of what is hidden; an eff of the ineffable.” Salman Rushdie

It feels dramatic to say that I look at a head of garlic and feel connected to the universe. But why not be dramatic about a process so tiny, yet profound? A process that takes place right there in the garden and yet is invisible for most of the year? Besides, being dramatic about positive things like a head of garlic is much preferable to so many other styles of drama. And if you can’t appreciate the astounding, yet admittedly small, miracles in life….well, you are missing out.

I can see a similar phenomenon beginning to happen around our “barn-house,” a 140+ year old barn we had taken down, moved and put up near our home. We built it to house some of you in the near future when you come to visit the farm (Airbnb details soon to come!), to hold cooking and butchery classes, and to have space for our very own hootenanny.

But it has also resulted in its own kind of social and cultural multiplicity here on the farm. It has taken a dozen or so people to work on the building, using their own skills and creativity to recreate a structure other humans built over a century ago. This is no Morton building thrown up in a few weeks—the barn-house is a work of art; artisans have crafted a building we hope to last at least another 100 years.

This has resulted in time spent together talking about each other’s lives and caring for the well being of this baby, the barn-house. During these months the team welcomed a new life into the world and almost lost one due to a motorcycle accident. We have increased our friendships, the reach of the farm and our team by several-fold, creating a building out of a pile of beams.

A barn house without siding
The new barn-house is nearing completion

We started this project as a way to form community with those who would come to visit and work with us in the future. But we have also had the great fortune of building a community with those who are already here.

It is good to meditate on this, our ability to multiply, to produce, to create. We can duplicate and triplicate our positive mojo again and again, producing something out of mostly nothing.

How have you seen life’s multiplicity? I would love to hear from you.


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