Thursday, February 26, 2009

More than Farm to Table

My friends have an organic farm and CSA in Greenville, NH. They came up for a quick overnight visit--they arrived the afternoon of the big storm on Sunday. I was late to greet them, having spent the morning at Cardigan Mountain Art Gallery making Ukranian decorated and dyed eggs. When I arrived at the house, I saw that the counter was covered with gifts of vegetables from their farm--potatoes, turnips, rutabaga, a couple of gallons of cider, and apples that had been stored since the Fall. The abundance of the hard Summer and Fall work was such a pleasure in these waning Winter months. They had never visited D Acres before, and it was another pleasure for me to show them around, talk about our work here and the daily life of living in community with others.

The night before their visit, we hosted a special Soup Night. We invited area farmers for a potluck and a time to share about their plans for the coming season as well as brainstorm ideas about how D Acres can help facilitate a further movement toward food localization. This year will mark the 3rd Edition of the Pemi-Baker Local Food Guide. So again, we are connecting farmers and local businesses with the wider community by creating and distributing a readeable and helpful takeaway guide. It will tell you where to find the farmer, who to call, what kind of produce, meat, dairy, fiber or other goods they may specialize in. It was a small, but faithful turnout of folks at the potluck. I was excited to be facilitating such a gathered group. It was hard to hear of the struggles some small farms are having, and it only made me want to push this work even further. These farms and individuals may offer us such abundance--knowledge alongside a product. It is the most sensible and sustaining economic decision any one can make to purchase from, visit, and get to know your local farms and farmers.

Though this was a small gathering, I gained the sense that something amazing and revolutionary could take place in the White Mountains of New Hampshire. What an opportunity it was to talk with such hard working and dedicated individuals. Whether it was Beefalo, eggs, or a small plot of a cultivar of winter wheat that is hardy to New England climate, our talk went beyond each farm's specialization. I felt encouraged when everyone voiced a hope to meet more regularly. But even more, there was a longing for more organized connections between farmers, local services, and the wider community. People want to be able to support the knowledge of their neighbor, but oftentimes have not a clue that their neighbor could help or provide food for their family.

I feel my words are not strong enough to emphasize the welling feeling of the need for dramatic change and action on the part of small communities like Dorchester, Rumney, and Wentworth. There are leaders among us, and we simply must continue to stand up. To rise up against a monoculture that oppresses imaginations, creativity, and common sense.

I can become overwhelmed by the global and even national economic and societal unease and instability, or I can remember my friends who are working just as hard to create food localization and cultural revitalization in their own town. And then I can be firm in my hope that another small farm across the country is doing the same.

Create, Make, and Make it Happen. Call it Revolution or call it Radical--the simple acts of meeting your neighbor, telling a story, and working hard.

with warmth,

Monday, February 9, 2009

Sugar Time, almost.

Today, finally a day over 40 degrees. The previous week had been a typical 0-15 degree average, which by now I've felt really accustomed to. Well, this morning was a different story. Beginning with reoccuring gusts of 20 mph it sounded cold, but when I walked outside to feed the pigs I experienced a pleasant reminder that it will warm up, spring will come again.
On a snowshoeing adventure up the Loop Trail, me and my companions were faced with a marooning blizzard as we trudged through soft, melting snow. Coyote tracks and poop were scattered along the trail, which might have instilled some fear in our not to local visitor.
Along the trail the pink markers wrapped around Sugar Maple's just waiting to be tapped filled my heart with the warmth of a lumberjack and the smell of the sap's vapor rising in the air. We finally find our way to the end of the trailhead and there is the sugar shack and a beam of sunlight breaking free of the clouds overhead. This tiny little shack transformed the air of D Acres into Willy Wonka's Chocolate Factory. Cords of wood stacked up all around like soldiers ready to do their part when called upon. My hope for this years boil down is for us to be at least 25% more productive. We will have more trees tapped this season compared to last, especially since we didn't even get to use every one that was marked.

I feel good about these next coming months. Not only is there sugaring coming up, but I will be volunteering at the Vipassana Meditation Center in Shelburne, Mass. A great time for me to get refocused and clear my mind before venturing off to new and unexplored territories.
This day felt refreshing. The moonglow echoing off the menagerie of ice as the temperature drops to freezing. Even more now the wind is howling at 35 mph. A midnight stroll to the Creeker and I witness as it inhales and exhales with every sway of the trees supporting it's remarkable structure. You feel every movement of air as if it's alive. Weather like this reenergizes me and reminds me of how powerful and influencing mother nature really is.

Be sure to attend our Maple Sugaring Workshop here at D Acres

March 21 from 1-3 pm ($4-12 sliding scale)

learn how we boil down, tap trees the old fashion way and enjoy a taste of delicious NH sap

See ya there!


Wednesday, February 4, 2009

Internal Consensus

My "list of work to accomplish" is getting longer as the season starts to change for us at the farm. New workshops, hostel guests, monthly food events, and on-going planning for the vision of this multi-faceted project are only a few of the pieces occupying our work time.

I made yogurt yesterday from milk we purchased from Robie Farm--leftover from our Farm Feast Breakfast. Later I'll work on a yogurt cheese with herbs. Sometimes I think it might be nice to have our own milking cow here, but I wonder if the land is best suited for a grazing animal. It takes a while for this forest land to become successful pasture. There is an unlimited amount of forethought that goes into farming. We double or even triple that forethought by being an educational organization--an experiment that models sustainability. An experiment that anyone is welcome to watch along with us.

And so, what is this work toward sustainability? Reducing fossil fuel consumption; growing vegetables, herbs, flowers? Flowers! For medicine and to attract insects and bees, birds too. Growing fuel, making cloth, living with others in community? But not just as neighbors, as folks to eat with, cook with, work and play with, struggle with through philosophical dilemmas like why maple syrup isn't on the table in February (even though one can purchase it in the store). Folks who will sit around a table for four hours in order to make key decisions about living together now, so that others will have a "piece of our pie" in the future. Folks who are willing to compromise. This action of compromising stems from the care we have for our selves and for the other, and is deeply embedded with two great virtues: patience and humbleness.

Imagine what could happen if we all agreed that patience and humbleness were a means to the radical subversion of corruption, oppression, misdirection, and miscommunication. Could a demeanor of compromise be an answer to power struggles? And how do we get there?

Lately I've been feeling like I haven't been doing enough work--I could be doing more. I could be working my mind and my body harder: read more books, carry more logs, split more kindling, knead the dough one more minute longer, spend more time with the chickens, the pigs, the oxen.

Today I worked with Neil to clean out all the chicken poop that has been accumulating these couple of months. It was a chore. It was lower back work--hauling and forking, scraping and shoveling. The moment we threw down those freshly chipped pine branches, I was glad I had done this work. For the feathery folks that live in this community--the chickens. Though some of them may be eaten in a couple of months, today, I shoveled their frozen mountains of shit.

I'd like to think we've made some kind of cosmic agreement with each other, some kind of compromise that allows us to cohabitate together.

Tomorrow, I will likely do some more work. I'm putting work first, because it's not a so called busy schedule that I'm looking forward to, it's the breakdown of all things conventional.

Because maybe some early morning, I will wake up to milk the cow out in the pasture.

just thinking,