Name? My dad has called me Carrie Lou since I was a little girl.
Astrological Circumstance? Sun in Aries, Scorpio Ascendant, Leo Moon
Who are your closest plant ally’s? The namesake of the farm, the Elder tree, is growing naturally all over the property. New trees emerge each spring. Elder medicine is potent, demanding and effects us on a cellular level. Elder helps us maintain strong boundaries making us less susceptible to viral infections, strengthening and reinforcingour immune system. Elder trees often choose to grow at the edges of woods and meadows. They thrive on the fringes. Elder represents all I hope to teach at the Farm- the wisdom of the ancestors, clear boundaries, embracing our wildness and the strength of community.
What is the most influential Goddesses in your life and why/ how do they show up for you? Inanna brought me home to the Goddess, and remains one of my dearest teachers. Self reliant, a Queen in Her own right, but not without challenges and opportunities to evolve. There's a wonderful collectionof poems to Her called Inanna, Lady of Largest Heart written by Enheduanna, High Priestess to the moon god Nanna in 2300 BCE, edited by Betty De Shong Meador. Inanna inspired Enheduanna to record these hymns in ancient Sumeria, making the High Priestess the earliest known author of written language. Inanna shows up for me in the countless ways I must be independent and self sufficient, leaning on my sisters for strength and support rather than a husband. She also guides me to explore the deep dark layers of myself, spelunking through my caverns to uncover the jewels I've yet to find. Inanna inspires me to stand in the role of Priestess as a different kind of guide and leader for my community.
What is Elder Farm? Elder Farm is a community center for farming and education, a place dedicated to the cultivation of sustainable living, native plants, conscious people and spiritual gatherings. Elder Farm began as a dream to share the forest land I inhabit in San Diego with my community. I simply wanted to have women's circles in nature with my dearest friends. I evolved as a homesteader and the farm expanded and I came to see that many of my friends were interested in more than the spiritual work we were doing. They were asking me about the trees, both native and cultivated, the compost, the herbs. I started a community farm day, a gathering to merge hanging out with my girlfriends with yard work, and it has been a great success. And as we know, farming and prayer is the same thing. I continue to expand every aspect of Elder Farm. Earlier this year I began selling the remedies I've made for years online. I am really focused on native plants and medicinal herbs as well as the plant identification skills, so I'm cultivating seeds and courses to grow more plants and teach more people. This winter will bring a greenhouse to the farm, a space to grow veggies year round (and hopefully the indoor avocado tree of my dreams). All of this is driven by my dream to be self sufficient and solely employed by the Farm, allowing me the freedom to hold more ceremonies and classes, engage in more collaborations with guest instructors and serve my community as a healer and Priestess.
What do you know about your matrilineal ancestry, and how do you feel that knowledge effects your choice of lifestyle? I do often think of my Grandmothers, and all the Grandmothers, while spending time in the garden. We all have an ancestral connection to agriculture and farming that can easily accessed by digging ones bare hands into the soil. Both of my great Grandmothers were women of the earth, farmers and goat keepers. Their stories, whispered from the past, inspire and guide me always. One of the basic intentions for Elder Farm is to honor the ancestors through traditional farming techniques.
What does a typical day on the farm look like for you? I've embraced the adage, "early to bed, early to rise". It's a connected way of managing the daily schedule that I resonate with deeply. It is certainly true that it takes all of the hours of light to complete the chores on the farm each day, and truth be told, most days the to-do list only gets longer. By 7am I am milking the goat and making the rounds on the farm. Every day there is watering and weeding to be done. Fences and pens must be inspected for damage or weakness constantly. The spring and summer brings many long hours of tending the fruit tree orchard, pruning, fertilizing, weeding, insect control, harvesting. My son and my father both have daily chores, indispensable assistance that frees me up for other projects like crafting herbal remedies, compost building, irrigation maintenance and livestock breeding and management. But what all of that really is, what it all means to me, is that I spend most of my days worshiping this Good Earth, honoring my ancestors and the guardians of the land I steward, feet filthy, hair unkempt and absolutely thrilled to be there. The night comes, with the milky way splashed across the sky or the luminous Moon pouring her light over the farm, coyote song all around, and a sense of peace and safety lulls me into dream time.
We have such a thing for Goddess worshiping goat farmers. What if anything do you feel that keeping goats has taught you about life? Goats, especially my empowered feminist dairy queens, are wonderful teachers of commitment, tenacity and patience. I view my relationship with my milk goat as a form of Goddess worship. I honor and adore this goat (Matilda is my doe in milk right now) and feed and care for her as an offering. Matilda's milk is Medicine, her milk has healed us. Goats are incredibly stubborn and unforgiving and have impeccable boundaries. She allows me to share of her milk- I cannot take it unless she permits me. I must set aside my ego with her, be as patient as I would with my own child. We are blessed to source this amazing food at home, to have an ethical relationship with dairy and receive all the health benefits of drinking raw goat milk daily. The goats also provide 70-80 percent of the materials for the compost heap. They give of their bodies on all levels at the farm, and so I also know them to be exceptionally generous, just like the Mother they represent.
So many women (including myself) fantasize constantly about giving up the conveniences a more urban existence for farm life, but few actually do it. Tell us a little about the fantasy of running away to live on a farm versus the realities of running a homestead? What way of life did you leave behind to embark on this journey and what inspired you to take the leap and really commit to making your vision bloom in this remote environment? I'm a native San Diegan, lived at the beach before I found the balance of country living. I left behind my days of surfing and skateboarding for goats and chickens and a dynamic social circle for mountain isolation. When I was first settling into the land at Elder Farm, it was a fantasy come true. I established my relationship with the goats, built a chicken coop, planted trees. Through ceremony I honored the ancestors of this place and asked permission to use the space for healing work. Life was all loamy romance and organic fertilizers. In reality, the work never ends. Each season brings new projects and enormous growth. I choose livestock over travel. Sometimes crops fail, or predators invade, or the goat sprains her ankle. All of these factors tie me to the land and my responsibilities here. However the blessing is in the challenge! I have been gifted the opportunity to pour my heart into a patch of earth and receive life from the land. I am bonded to this place, deeply rooted, securely committed. It is a vibration of satisfaction, a grounding so complete I am magnetized to Elder Farm and feel the force of attraction working to bring others of similar vibration up for a visit. The ceremonies continue, the people continue to come and though this is the hardest I've physically worked, I am grateful for every morsel. Each and every starry night and every tall glass of nourishing goats milk and the quiet moments of solace when I'm alone in the garden with the bees and the woods around me are ingredients in this great cosmic cauldron of creation and I'm just hanging out, completely merged with it all.
That sounds so dreamy! Speaking of dreams, have you had any good ones lately? My dream world is rich and varied, a blessing of mountain living and years spent cultivating a relationship with my dream self. I attended a wonderful class when I was 19 that gifted skills to seed and guide dream experiences. I often use dream space to explore the issues I'm working on, or to bring resolution to difficult relationships or events. Lately I have been opening myself, my home, my spiritual space to new friends and strangers and I have been asking for clarity on how to relate with so many while remaining autonomous, preventing unwanted energies from infiltrating and clear sight when it comes to facilitating for groups of people. The dream I received was an old version of vampire women who manipulate one another. There were visions of old friends standing at my side fighting the darkness, others who slipped into the black with the vampires. The message I received is to cultivate friendship to the point of sisterhood and to guide others to the Light. I learn from this dream that Sisterhood can defeat the darkness, that we are changing the world now by bringing our brave feminine grace to the front lines.
Since the summer of 2016 Erin of Active Culture Family and Carrie Lou Arnold of Elder Farm have been meeting regularly to explore pooling spiritual and material resources to weave together the greater San Diego Priestess community in the spirit of growth, learning, and the sharing of the path of magic. Click below to register for our upcoming Full Moon Gathering Stay tuned for continuing into collaborative workshops, ceremonies and more into 2017.
Visit www.elderfarm.org to sign up for their mailing list and learn more about goat milk, community farm days, bodywork, and more!