Harvest Sessions

Hall Family Harvest Session

   

"Home not is merely a dwelling. It's not merely a state of existence. It's a story, a narrative spun out day by day, a story moulded by the walls and hours and tasks and feasts with which we fill our time, reflecting the reality of the God whose love animates every aspect of our being."

-Sally Clarkson

 

 

 

 

I spent sunrise til sunset with the Hall family in Minneapolis. Their home is life-giving. Their home is a place for rest and warmth and forgiveness and compassion and healing. And it's not because it's pretty or well kept or organized or clean (even though, yes, it is all of those things).

It is because even in all it's grandness, it is humble.

 

 

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Their home embodied gentleness. Gentle words spoken in instruction and affirmation. Gentle hands offered to embrace and to create. Gentleness so evidently sowed into every inch of their home. And the harvest of their labor seen in the dear, rich, softhearted friendships held between the girls.

Home is the place where spirits are filled as well as bellies.

Home is where traditions are made and trust is planted.

Home is where courage is learned, grace is given and lovingkindness is cultivated.

This is their home.

 

 

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Five Marys Farm - Harvest Session

I recently spent a day in the breathtaking Siskiyou County in Northern California with the Heffernan family on their 1800 acre ranch, aptly named, Five Marys Farms (with Papa Brian, Mama Mary and their four little Marys in tow). I rose with the sun, roamed through their grassy prairies, ran through thick woods and admired the snow capped mountains surrounding the homestead that was first established in 1858. The day was filled with caring for the animals as a family; Black Angus cattle, Navajo-Churro sheep, Glouchester Old Spot pigs, Red Bourbon turkeys and their 40+ varieties of laying hens as well as the heart filling laughter that poured through every wooden wall of that original grain barn-turned-tiny farmhouse.

 

 

This video. Well, the images too.

Can I humbly say that it is my favorite work I've done yet? I love it.

I hope you do too. And mamas, make the video full screen & call in the kiddos because I'm sure they would love to watch as well!

 

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Mary, the mama of Five Marys Farms, so kindly wrote the story of how they recently came to be a farming family and it is pieced throughout the photographs below. This is surely a long, rich post so give yourself time so you can make it all the way to the bottom...

 

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Mary:  "Two and a half years ago we were living a busy life in the Bay Area, Brian was a lawyer and I owned a few family based small businesses, and together we owned and operated two restaurants. Brian was raised on a farm in California where his dad farmed trees and row crops and I am a sixth generation Californian with farming roots - so we both always were drawn to the idea of buying a farm to split time between the bustle of Silicon Valley and the wide open California spaces. It was a "someday" dream since we met.

 

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We looked for rural property several times after we were married but nothing ever worked out at the time. The restaurants pushed us to look for really premium meat raised with idyllic small farm husbandry but we could never find the right volume, quality and consistency we needed year round - and so we decided to try and do it ourselves.

 

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We found our ranch by chance - looking primarily for land and water to raise cattle, not really for a place to live (at least at this point in our lives). It all happened quickly and soon we were the owners of a beautiful ranch that needed lots of work, cows and infrastructure. We naively thought we could do both - live a busy life in the city and be weekend warrior ranchers.

 

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We drove up and back to the ranch every weekend for 8 out of 9 weekends - a 6 hour trip each way with four carseated kids in tow. We had lots of "windshield time" together to consider and discuss what we really wanted for ourselves and for our kids. The 8th trip we decided we decided to pick up our life and plant our roots right here on our ranch for good.

 

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We fell in love with this land, with our small town here, with the incredible community of people willing to help us new folks learn the ropes, the local schools, and with everything about working hard together as a family raising animals everyday - with the lifestyle of ranching. We knew this was where we wanted to raise our children and grow old together.

 

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So we sold our businesses, sold our house and have never really looked back.Ranching is no joke - it's work 24 hours a day 7 days a week with no time for vacations or days off. We are up with the sun and, since every animal gets fed before we do, usually eat dinner after dark.

 

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There are livestock in my living room and kitchen half the time, my girls are always covered in dirt and my wardrobe consists of blue jeans and torn flannel shirts and boots every day.

 

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The daily ranch to-do list is truly never-ending and there are obstacles and hardships at every turn - back breaking work, broken pipes, drought, flooding and animals that die no matter how hard you work to take care of them. It's unpredictable and raw, with intense emotions in the highs and in the lows.

 

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But when you ask either of us where we'd go if we had the chance for a vacation both of us would honestly answer there is no place we'd rather be than right here experiencing this life together as a family.

 

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If we weren't here everyday - we might miss the wonder of a new baby calf being born, or a newborn lamb learning to walk for the first time, or a squealing little litter of 9 piglets learning to nurse, climbing all over each other. We feel pretty lucky we get to call this life together our own and are very proud of the meat we get to put on other families' tables."

 

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I was so impressed while visiting Five Marys Farms at how the children were never viewed as an imposition. It was the most beautiful thing to watch as parent and child just worked and played alongside one another joyfully.

I was so intrigued and asked Mary to share a bit about how they've instilled such a thoughtful nature and work ethic into their children and she wrote her heart out in the most beautiful post on her Five Marys Farms blog… mamas, I promise her words will encourage your weary hearts and inspire you to reach your children right where they are at rather than fitting into another family's mold.

Find her most recent blogpost as well as info on how to order their farm raised products (to ship nationwide!) on their website here.

 

 

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Harvest Session: The Solis Family

i received an email earlier this year from a mother asking if she could fly me to her home in hawaii for a harvest session…

"Hi Joy,

I sought you out to capture this time for us because I know that this time may not last forever. This is perhaps the last year I will be able to stay at home full time with my girls. The most important thing to both my husband and I is to try and give our children our unconditional love and presence. We aren’t winning any awards on the financial front, but seeing the confidence that my girls have and how happy and sweet they are makes my heart burst. It makes all of the hard work feel so worth it, though sometimes it feels like we’re trying to bail a sinking ship. It’s such a precious time together and I’m so grateful for it. I see this session as an investment in remembering this incredible gift of having this time with my girls. I don’t need new clothes, but I do need to remember this. Plus, I have a crazy fear that if something should ever happen to me and I wasn’t able to raise my girls, that they perhaps wouldn't know how much I loved them and how hard we worked to give them our best. We really don’t have many family photos and I almost don’t exist in any of them. The girls are still so young. They don’t know how many nights I’ve gone without sleep when they’re feverish or how my sole motivation for every single decision first revolves around them. They wouldn’t know this love either if I was gone tomorrow, because what tangible piece of evidence is there to show them in my home? So, it was my hope with this harvest session is that you would be able to capture a little piece of our enormous love in cinema and photograph. I truly think you’re the only person that could see the beauty in our humble struggle.

Aloha, Stormy"

 

i went last month. and although we were in a tropical paradise, the only beauty i could see was the intense bond of this family. stormy may have been fearful that her love had a chance of not being remembered, but i know without an inkling of doubt that even one tiny seed of this kind of love could reap endless fields of assured unending harvest. there may have only been one plumeria tree in their yard but when i closed my eyes the aroma was as strong an as entire orchard.

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Katie Daisy - at home & in her studio.

  "It is the sweet, simple things of life which are the real ones after all."

- Laura Ingalls Wilder

 

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i first met katie daisy years ago, purely as the artist that i had admired from afar and whose soulful paintings i looked upon in my home as inspiration to breathe deeply throughout my days. from that time, our connection grew and i had the honor of documenting her with her fiancé eli among the aspens and wildflowers in bend, oregon, the town they met and fell in love. within katie i saw a passion grow, a depth and sensitivity towards this man and a freedom in sharing life alongside another. her heart had begun to swell and it was undeniably reflected not only in her art but in her spirit. and now, in my my recent trip to bend, their two hearts, now sewn together, had grown tenfold as they had welcomed a new bloom to their garden… sweet little finn. and in katie i saw a raw beautiful vulnerability unravel. where once there may have been a pondering and a quiet, i now saw an open spilling out of overwhelming pure selfless ever-expanding love. it was motherhood. she was now the sheltering tree that had grown to shade the tiny being before her while still swaying ever so gently in the breeze, allowing nature and her beloved to lead her spirit forward.

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i spent the day and evening in the place they call home; their cabin in the woods, with a river running just beside it, surrounded by wildflowers, tall ferns and the so very present aroma of contentment flowing through. it was a relaxing family morning in the cabin, followed by adventuring, and then when eli went to work in the afternoon i had the gift of seeing katie at work in her studio, with sweet finn snoozing on her back. melodies poured from their home all day… some from the radio, some created by eli, a few sung sweetly by katie to the babe on her breast, but mostly i heard the humming of nature all around them and the way it almost radiated from within them.

 

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"Yes, I need you, my fairytale. Because you are the only person i can talk with about the shade of a cloud, about the song of a thought - and about how, when i went out to work today and looked a tall sunflower in the face, it smiled at me with all of it's seeds."- Vladimir Nabokov

 

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The Harris Family: A Harvest Session.

a harvest is the ripe bounty of natural gatherings collected throughout a season; a labor of love and the rich result of patience, intention, endurance and hope. that is what i found in this home. the love put in over many years, spilling out within every bit of laughter, every dance party in the living room, family snuggle and light saber battle on the big bed and every bit of beauty as a reflection of a life lived seeking out the good. they requested a video. and i was more than happy to oblige.

i arrived in miami, the land of sunshine and palm trees, on a thursday and i left on a friday. it began to drizzle a hot rain as i drove toward the airport through streets lined with banyan trees and the hustle of city life. but this rain… it had the feeling of intense purpose. for a moment the heat subsided and the sweat on my neck was cooled by a stormy breeze and the welcomed feeling of renewal. it was just as my time with the harris home had been… i had walked into a sanctuary of art, and family, and most importantly, belonging.

this mama, carolyn, is a talented artist. one who values honest self expression and the raw importance of growth through brave photographic pursuits of self discovery. i was more than honored to have been invited into her home/playground/studio/life/bubble of hope and creation. and as i documented her from behind the camera, she also led me with her truth into a deeper understanding of my own.

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Harvest Session: The Wharem Family

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this harvest session is the documentation of a day in with the wharem family: chris, lexi, lucy and iris. the letter above was written by lexi's mother to her own mother on christmas 1981, when lexi was two years old. it was written as a 'thank you for life' gift all those 34 years ago. it resurfaced again when lexi's grandfather found it in his wife's wallet when she died, obviously always kept very close to her heart. an excerpt from nancy's letter...

"So when your time on earth has ended know this: life greater than your spirit alone shall live on, and the world will be still a better place because you have lived. My children are my gift to you for they will carry on the love obtained and shared by your mother and hers before, and so you have given me great purpose in this life."

the full letter is one of the most heartfelt pieces of love i have ever read. when lexi sent me the letter and images she told me this, "it embodies how i feel about my own mother, such a full circle feeling when i read it to know that she has in turn passed down that same love to me, and now it will be a gift given to my own girls."

and she has. that love lives on in every smile she shares with her babes, every twirl in the kitchen in the afternoon sun, every stroke of paint on the kitchen table, the guiding of sewing first stitches for little fingers and kisses in the hallway from her husband with their girls watching on; every moment of joy, struggle, hope and pressing on in the beautiful mundane.

i visited them last month for a full day at their home in lake wales, florida… the town where lexi grew up running beneath the live oak trees with her grandmother, swimming in the lakes beneath the beating sun every summer and where i watched a legacy of intentional gratitude carry on.

"Your light shines on and on and knowing you have allowed yourself to be a vessel of God's love has given immense reverence to me, to have been born of your womb. My gift to God, and consequently to you, mother, is to keep that light shining and flowing in the truth and honor of your love." - Nancy

 

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gardella family - a harvest session.

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i have long admired the gardellas. michelle's fierce passion and glorious artistry, thomas' gentle, loving spirit and humble bravery as he leads his family, and their two little beautiful humans, lily and braedon, who themselves are filled to the brim with quirky creativity, tender daydreams and wisdom far beyond their years. i have the honor of calling them friends, although family would perhaps describe the kinship better. and i know that anyone who has met them feels their genuine warmth burning from their hearts right down to their toes and into every soul they encounter. i spent a day with them at their home in austin, texas; arriving just before they woke up to an unkempt house, messy hair and bleary eyes, as requested.

michelle told me, "i want my children to remember this: that they, and we, are enough, even in our most undone and real moments. we are beautiful even when things aren't pretty."

while these images speak for themselves, i did feel that since the gardellas are, themselves, so eloquent with words, that i would share some of their writings that i gathered from their online journals alongside the photographs.  you'll also notice these are all in black & white, as requested by michelle. timeless and not a bit fancy.

these four souls, they just bleed love.

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Thomas about Michelle: "I have learned so much from her. How to love. How to be silly. How to open my heart to the world. But more than anything I have learned how to be a better dad from watching and experiencing her be such an amazing mom to our children."

Michelle about Thomas: "He always knows how to bring my heavy heart back into the light."

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Thomas about Lily: "I am certain I have known this soul for many lifetimes."

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Thomas about Michelle: "The little things about her I love… her side of the bed just after waking up. Her soft white blanket still warm while dreams slowly fade from memory. I cherish every moment with her."

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Michelle about Thomas: "If you were to throw a pebble in a lake it might make a tiny ripple, but if you happened to be super mini and sailing on an ant-sized ship, that tiny ripple would feel like an enormous wave. I am living this life on an ant-sized ship. Most days I see my highly sensitive nature as a huge blessing. Especially when it comes to my art. But somedays, my goodness it just feels like too much. And on those oh-my-goodness-my-heart-is-breaking-every-second-because-this-sunset-is-reminding-me-of-my-third-grade-lunch-lady-who-had-cancer-one-year-and-wore-orange-days, he is my anchor. He keeps my boat from capsizing or swirling out to a sea filled with pirates."

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Michelle about Braedon: " Me: I will always love you with every inch of my soul. Him: Well, I will always love you from here to the ends of the universe, therefor, it is always expanding."

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Thomas about Braedon: "He is more perfect than I could have ever imagined. Every time I look at him I am so grateful. Grateful for the amazing times I have spent with him over the years. He has such a huge heart… just like his incredible mom."

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Michelle about Lily: "Her sweetly spun fairytale, her messy hair, backwards Goodwill dress, arm resting on my leg... I don't want to let this go. I need to hold on to the seemingly simple moments like this, that, on every birthday since I can remember, I blew out the candles, and wished so hard for."

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Thomas about Michelle: "No matter what comes at us I know that she will always be there for me and our family. Never have I met someone so brave and true. She amazes me every single day."

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Michelle about Thomas: "I crept in on his nap so I could smell his neck."

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Thomas about Braedon: "At some point he went from cradled in my arms and rocking him to sleep to building and giving presentations on oscillating water generators."

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Michelle: "I follow their freckles like sailors look to the constellations, when their ships are lost at sea."

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Michelle about Lily & Braedon: "She called out asking for someone to help her button her sweater. He came running over. I don't know much about previous lives, but I do know, without a doubt, their bond is millions of lifetimes strong."

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Thomas about Michelle: "Hearing her blow dry her hair with Lily singing and dancing around her always makes me smile."

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Michelle about Braedon: "He has the kindest, most forgiving heart I have ever witnessed. I have seen him angry twice. The love I have for this human being is otherworldly and swallows me whole. Every freckle on his shoulders. Every sound effect he makes while playing. Every comic he draws in his notebooks. Every dance move. Every huge hug he gives his sister. Every morning snuggle. Every single second that I get to be his Mama."

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Thomas about Lily: "This girl has my heart. Always."

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Michelle: "Me- Lily want to do my daily meditation together? Lily- Sure! (giggles nonstop for ten minutes.)"

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Thomas about Michelle: "Everyday she works hard to live her truth and balance family and passion and art and income. We are so honored and blessed to have her as a mom and wife."

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Michelle: "My children know what it is like to be loved right up close, and to have parents who, by ungraceful but passionate example, live to nurture both the wilderness within, and afoot."

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Harvest Session: The Robbins Family

i wrote this post in december titled 'Harvesting Hope: A life worth remembering'.  if you didn't have a chance to read it then, i'd love for you to take a few minutes when things are quiet, with a cup of something good in your palm, and read it.  and if you did read it, thank you deeply.  thank you for your love, i felt it and i do feel it.  vulnerability is a fragile, delicate thing… like taking a great big leap into something unknown, with the hope of beauty below.  a sea of beauty.  i am swimming in it.  sometimes it is isolating but that is when i am just keeping my eyes on myself.  it is in the looking up, being expectant for the warmth from the sun, and the racing after gratitude that reminds me of all the grace. robbinsharvest-717_b&w

thank you for your comments, your support, and for those of you that expressed interest in having me into your homes to document your family for a full 24 hours.  i have begun traveling for these harvest sessions.  i am so very giddy to share this one with you.  i took many MANY photographs.  i ended up with 800 final color images (actually 1600, since there is a duplicate set in black & white).  and in this little slideshow that i made to share with you there are 200 of my favorites.  i just couldn't narrow them down any further.  these sessions are so different than my normal portrait sessions because the goal is not for a smiley happy all together posed photograph.  i am just beside you, doing your normal routine, on a normal day of your life.  i tread lightly, i try to stay back but not too much, and we become friends in the in-between, i talk to you about your heart and share mine and we are forever bonded by this special and sacred shared pursuit of hope through photographs.

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the robbins family invited me into their home to document their current season of life for 24 hours and bethany, the mama, sent this to me about her family to share here,

"These people in my little family are so dear to me-Daniel, my husband, and I both are constantly in awe of our children and each other, but we truly do not deserve such a safe and beautiful life. We've seen death and disease and extreme poverty-not just seen it, but we've held it and tasted it and seen hopelessness. We also truly have felt and witnessed healing and we have a great hope that all will be made new!  For our children, we long to help them understand their faith, to hold onto the promises given to them by God and homeschooling gives me the opportunity to gently show them who they are, who they are meant to worship and how they are meant to do that. Of course, I long for them to be geniuses and to love learning, but most of all, I want them to have a deep knowledge and love of the Lord.  I also don't want their days spent memorizing things and learning to please their peers. We hope to give them a strong foundation so they are confident in God's love and don't feel the need to seek that from anyone else in unhealthy ways. I've been so inspired and encouraged to actually lead my children through their education rather than teach them to be performers. I've always loved DOING things with my children-what better way to learn than by discovering God's own artwork through the eyes of my children.  We live in a beautiful place for such learning and I'm determined not to take it for granted!  Honestly, this photo shoot is so timely for us as we prepare our hearts for foster care-putting ourselves in the midst of someone's mess-opening our hearts and helping to carry the burden of broken families.  But we're being led by our loving father and that's where we get our strength, it's been so sweet enjoying this time with just the five of us and a new chapter is about to begin. Daniel and I should not be alive, let alone happily married with 3 healthy children. It's all such a gift!"

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and below you will find the little movie/slideshow of my favorite 200.  photographing from the wee hours of the morning until late in the evening with the moon big and bright.  it was a normal day for them so dad went to work in the morning as usual and it was a true gift for me to watch bethany homeschool, seeing a full day in her schoolhouse start to finish.  i am surely a better mother, wife and teacher because of my time beside her, seeing her knead bread for dinner, make baby laugh and thoughtfully guide her boys with  intentional learning.  she made the everyday magical.  and when daddy came home at the end of the workday, well, that's my favorite part.  make sure to make it full screen.  enjoy.  :)

HARVEST SESSION - Robbins Family from joy prouty on Vimeo.