Saturday, May 24, 2008
On Views New and Old
It's Memorial Day weekend and a chill still hangs in the air. At times the sun shines strong and summer seems just around the corner...and yet when clouds dot the sky, or a wind dashes through the trees, a hat and jacket are more than justified. June 1st is the official frost-free date - and it's easy to believe. Off the back porch, Mt. Moosilauke can be seen along the horizon. It is steady and immense even from a distance, and snow still lingers on the slopes up to the summit. A reminder of the winter we have put behind us, and the tenuousness of faith in favorable farming weather.
A friendly climate is what we recently have been enjoying, though. The past week or two has been witness to a variety of workshops, both inside and out - bird identification, traditional dance, herbal medicine, tree identification; farmer's markets have begun, community dinners are drawing crowds to D Acres, and mid-week bonfires have been the result of an increasing number of hostel visitors.
Throughout all these events, though, D Acres is first a farm, and farm work is what rapidly fills each day. And it is black flies, now, that further define our work. Giving new meaning to the adage 'small but mighty,' these minute flesh-eaters are not affronted by the cold whimsy of spring, and indeed, it is only the nippy breeze that keeps them from eating us New Hampshire-ite farmers alive. The past ten days we have provided the pesky critters plenty of opportunities as hopes of rain have kept us outside on a planting frenzy. Last week saw us in the garden 'til 8:30pm one evening, hostel guests included, frantically rushing peas, carrots, beets, and greens into the upper garden beds in anticipation of gathering storm clouds. This week saw us planting 70lbs of potatoes, and weeding more than sleeping...and yet we have yet to see significant amounts of rain. The soil is dry, the pigs without mud, and our "ponds" diminishing.
Dry weather, however, has allowed for a variety of projects to be tackled, beginning with a new outhouse. The outdoor privy of D Acres' first decade had become a rickety excuse for a structure. The "enter-at-your-own risk" disclaimer was routinely uttered with just enough sincerity to prevent both staff and guests from tempting fate in pursuit of bathroom scenery. With the hub-bub of a summer season approaching, a new building was put up with remarkable alacrity. Some standard features remain - celestial sillouette on the door, wood-chip flush system; but this updated outhouse has the added benefit of a mere three walls. A meandering creek and burgeoning woodland fill the void of a fourth wall, providing a pleasant vista for the completion biological necessities. An idyllic perk for the mundane repetitiveness of bathroom duties.
Picturesque is not quite the word to describe a second noteworthy project of the week. Thursday morning saw 13 staff, residents, interns, and a friend convened next to the Skinny Shack, furrowing our brows over a 1,000-gallon water tank. The monstrosity was on the back of a trailer; we needed to up-end it on a platform of cinder blocks and gravel. With a few metal bars, some rope, a winch, and a come-along, the task was completed - and with relative ease. Really? There was grunting, yes, and straining; some nervous questioning and forceful reassurance; giving of orders and calling for help. Now that the tank stands tall and rusty on the edge of the meadow, it is a testament to group work and the strength of many hands. But the view that sticks with me is of the tank, maybe 65 degrees up from the ground: a couple of residents poised to be pancaked if a metal pole or two gave way, a handful of us to be left-hooked out of consciousness if physics overpowered our stance against gravity, and a few more in a direct line with the metal winch should our fulcrum of simple technology give way under the weight. It was dangerous, perhaps foolish; but water is a necessity and our egos formidable.
So. The past week has seen a lot of work that tells a tale of the unspoken trust necessary between us, and the confidence that each of us must maintain in the work ethic and genuine effort of all those we live with here. But that sounds quite grave and solemn, and the reality is one of laughter, affection, goofiness, spontaneity, and the winning karma of goodwill and good intentions. While that may not be enough to bring the rain, it is only those sentiments that can keep our spirits up and our community strong. May we never lose sight of the fun, alongside the honesty and the effort, that let us flourish.
And to close, a clarifier of the opening picture: our very own blacksmith, Dirty (Debonair?) Joe, with some newfound style.