Greetings Friends and Neighbors,
If you set yourself to the task of Giving Thanks this week you might find that all roads lead to Grief. “Is it just this year?” you ask, when Mother and Daughter pull on their masks for fear of the other’s contagion. Consider, for a moment, the story of Pilgrim and Indian, retold by each construction-paper turkey cutout, that serves as our annual reminder to Give Thanks. There are 2nd and 3rd helpings of Grief to be found when you scratch the surface of that story – more Turkey or Pumpkin Pie anyone? And yet, as we here at the Farm continue to scratch the surface of our sorrows, we keep finding Ordinary Beauty Everywhere, as if Grief and Gratitude actually reside in the same house. As if the World is woven from Magic. There is a lot in this Letter, so here is the Short List:
- Budget Request -- $2100 to go in November.
- Ben’s First Farm Movie – take a walk with the cows. Watch HERE.
- Thanksgiving weekend Soup and Bread Gift Distribution is on!
- Obligation and Cow Hooves Hit the Pavement
Unsure of what we mean by Magic? Consider the mystery that we have now been giving away food every week for 9 months. In a time of epic uncertainty and scarcity many hundreds of people have have voted for this Magic with their time and dollars, telling us again and again “Please continue doing this work and telling the story!" With 5 days left in the month, we ask, “Would you consider helping us to cover the remaining $2100 left in our November Budget Request?” You can make a gift HERE.
In the spirit of Giving Thanks, we are thrilled to offer an extra special Gift this week – a 9-minute movie from the Farm. Our dear friend, photographer and artist Ben Sklar has trailed Magic with his video camera and tried to weave a window into the work that goes on here at Brush Brook Community Farm. His labors have been epic in proportion. The Story told in the film – running the Cows home from their summer pasture – is included in written form below. With blessings:
(Click on the image above to watch the film.)
Please join us for this Saturday, 11am – 1pm for Soup and Bread Gift Distribution, where we will have Soup made from carefully grown and gleaned ingredients and hundreds of loaves of fresh bread, all offered as a gift to anyone who is hungry for any reason. Our Work Day will be Sunday from 11am -2pm including Soup Prep in the airy greenhouse. Find details here: bit.ly/brushbrookworkdays
THE STORY: Obligation and Cow Hooves Hit the Pavement
With Oak Leaves thick on the ground and the last of the Cabbages in from the garden, it is time to walk the Cowherd from their late-summer hill pasture back to the home farm on the narrow valley floor. In the Alps and other mountain ranges of Europe, this seasonal work has been undertaken by Humans and Cows for many thousands of years, and the event is cause for great celebration and thanksgiving. Farmers affix ornate flower headdresses and hand embroidered collars with extra-large bells to the cows in the early morning – proper attire for their many-hours-long walk from the alpine pastures to the waiting village where townsfolk line the streets. Nowadays, tourists wait as well, trying to capture a memory of the past on their phones. At Brush Brook Community Farm, our first enactment of this ancient ritual was significantly less ornate, and, as are our days, socially-distanced and reflective-vested. We had some concern about the date – the first weekend of open hunting season – and the likelihood of heavier traffic on the Main Road on Sunday morning. We did encounter many trucks along the road, and yet every one of these hunters pulled over to watch the procession with a huge grin or an approving cheer. One even took a video to show the kids at home.
Do you know the old expression, "Much obliged”? You might imagine a couple of older farmers parting ways after one had stopped by to lend a hand, one saying “Thank you” and the other “Much obliged”. As modern people, we seem luke-warm-at-best about the idea of obligation. For example, have you ever thought to give thanks for your obligations? Or considered the many living things – human and otherwise – who live out their days obliged to you in this way? I have to admit I am quite enamored with this word obligation. With its root ‘-lig’ as in ligament, obligation points less to burden than to connection, and to my ear our deep discomfort with the word begins to illuminate a society drunk on the notion of personal freedom, intolerant of limits, long on loneliness, and desperately short on community.
If obligation grows from indebtedness, perhaps the older farmers – leaning on the rusty pickup to say goodbye – understand mutual indebtedness to be the feeling-tone of their neighborly connection. Today’s favor – say, helping to bring in bales ahead of the coming storm – is one of thousands that make up what they know to be their friendship. You could imagine these farmers to be saying, in parting, “I am indebted to you,” or even, “Now we are bound together,” the closing words of an ancient ritual.
There are ten Cows to whom we at the Farm are obliged – Tigger, Topsy, Josie, Winifred, Ted, Ashley, Turvey, Franklin, Johnny, and little Nell. They spend their days attending mostly to work that is specific to Cows – grazing, digesting grass, raising babies and such. As farmers, we spend a lot of time attending to their needs, but we also have many Human-specific tasks and concerns that fill out our days. And always there is that fence, built by us, that defines the boundary within which they live. I have wondered, do the cows understand themselves to be bound to us? Is the gratitude reciprocal? Perhaps this question could only properly be considered outside the fence, where the distinction between Cow work and Human work would be less distinct. It seemed we needed to road-test this idea of mutual obligation.
One cold November morning, first light coming over the high Eastern Ridge, a small group of Humans call and gather ten Cows to the lower corner of the large hill pasture. With remarkable willingness, three of the older cows stand while we affix halters to their heads. Next year, we promise them, we will make them flower headdresses. Trepidation steams from nostrils of Human and Cow alike. There is a lot of faith required to open the gate and let the Cows loose. What if they just run away? Blessings and Thanks spoken, we do indeed open the gate and set off down the steep driveway towards the Hollow Road. Almost immediately, the two youngest calves – Johnny and Nell – make a hard right and head full-speed into the woods. Becky, the calves’ resident grandmother, had predicted this very thing. Ava and Kristen pursue on foot, the rest of us with the herd now heading down the driveway and out of sight. We pause at the bottom of the hill, wondering whether our faith was foolhardy. And then, filling the air with their plaintive calls, the two young ones appear, running toward us at full speed. They had learned their loneliness. Left onto the blacktop we turn, and for the remainder of the 2.5 mile walk back to the Farm the Cows stay nearly shoulder-to-shoulder on one side of the double yellow line. For an hour, they allow us to join the herd. We pass through the gate and into the home pasture and immediately the group divides. Cows put their heads down to graze. Calves sidle up to nurse. The Humans, as Sun breaks through the clouds, laugh and tell stories from their magical hour on the road. After just a few minutes, the sky closes in again and the Humans turn their attention to the plans and priorities that will become their day. But it seems that all in attendance now carry a memory, a reminder of indebtedness and obligation and the ordinary, beautiful burden that is being alive.
Here is what you will find in this letter:
- GIFT DISTRIBUTION DETAILS and FULL MENU
- FINANCIAL GIFT REQUEST – detailed November Budget
With Great Care,
Ava, Erik, Collin, Evan and Adam – The Brush Brook Community Farm Team
SOUP and BREAD GIFT DISTRIBUTION: Saturday 11/28, 11am - 1 pm
- Brush Brook Soup – Roasted Squash and Turnips, Tomato, Greens, Beef, Garlic, Herbs, Bone Broth.
- Vegetarian Soup – Pureed Sweet Potato and Turnip, Tomato, Garlic, Herbs.
Please bring a mask with you and wear warm clothes. We will have Soup and Bread to take home, and encourage you to bring quart containers from home for us to fill for you.
BUDGET UPDATE: Thank you for considering the November Budget
Many heartfelt thanks to all who have responded to these invitations by sending in Financial Gifts. If you would like to support our work, you can mail checks made out to Brush Brook Community Farm to PO Box 202, Huntington, VT, 05462, bring gifts to the Gift Stand, or donate through the website. We are 100% financially supported by these personal financial gifts.
Brush Brook Community Farm and Bakery – Nov. Budget As of 11/24
|Gifts Received in Nov – Thank you!||$ 3773.00|
|Estimated Expenses for November|
|Bread Ingredients & Packaging||$ 1,115.50|
|Bakery Overhead (Insur., Electric, etc.)||$ 555.86|
|Bakery Rent||$ 300.00|
|Farm Expenses||$ 1,550.00|
|Farm/Bakery Team Requested Gifts|
|Adam Wilson Personal Living (full time)||$ 648.08|
|Adam Wilson Rent||$ 200.00|
|Erik Weil (part time) Rent/Housing||$ 500.00|
|Collin McCarthy (part time) Utilities||$ 100.00|
|Cow Barn Purchased Materials||$ 200.00|
|Estimated Federal/State Taxes||$ 351.22|
|Paypal Fees||$ 150.00|
|Negative Balance from October||(250.00)|
|Remaining Balance Requested||$ (2.147.66)|
Support the Farm & Bakery
The operations of Brush Brook Community Farm & Bakery are maintained by neighborly working hands and financial gifts. Your generous monetary support propels the gift of food forward to those open to receiving it.