Photo by Adam Wilson
Greetings Friends and Neighbors,
North Wind howled and nipped at exposed skin as the Farm Team worked to clear Snow from the parking lot and walkways. Would anyone show up for Gift Distribution on a day like this? Would we be able to keep the Bread and Soup – and our toes – from freezing in the hoophouse? Why are we expending so much energy to give food away through the winter when we could be doing something else, something easier – anything else? There are moments of doubt that creep in and nibble at your toes – like a school of curious, hungry Minnows. But people did arrive, bringing with them their soup containers, their many joys and heartbreaks, and their tremendously moving spoken gratitude. In fact, they brought one of the liveliest Gift Distributions since late summer. We are thrilled to invite you back to the Farm this Saturday for another lively Soup and Bread Gift Distribution, 11am – 1pm. We will have two homemade soups and hundreds of loaves of fresh bread, all offered as a gift to anyone who is hungry for any reason.
There is a lot in this Letter. Here is a preview:
- Budget Update: $1777 to go with 4 days left in Jan.
- An Intro to Hide Tanning – Sunday 1:30-3:30pm
- STORY: The Man in Ski Pants, The Gift as Trickster
Budget Update: With just 4 days left in the month, we are still $1777 short of our January Budget Request – the money that goes to keep the lights on, fuel in the tanks of the Farm Team and hay in the bellies of the Sheep and Cows. Would you consider making a financial gift to help us sustain our work? You can make a gift HERE.
Instead of a Work Day this Sunday, we will host An Introduction to Hide Tanning, 1:30-3:30pm. Collin, our most impassioned Farm Team Shepherd, has taken it upon himself to learn to honor his beloved sheep by tending to the hides and fleeces of their lambs. Here’s a bit of the fire he brings to the work, in his own words:
This is a truly wonderful process, based in indigenous knowledge gleaned from uncounted years of trial and error. With homemade buckskin, not only can you clothe yourself, but the process offers a deep appreciation for the way sheep can build a truly incredible hide from grass, water, woody shrubs, sunlight, rain, snow, mystery and love – and the work offers the promise of sovereignty and freedom from extractive, oppressive capitalism.
This Sunday’s introduction will offer interested community members the opportunity to imagine taking responsibility for one of the Farm’s hides, shuttling it towards sheepskin, leather, a piece of clothing, etc. We look forward to seeing you this weekend!
STORY: The Man in Ski Pants, The Gift as Trickster
A man in ski pants stops by the Gift Stand for the first time. He is on his way back from a morning on the hill and the cars in the lot catch his eye. The thought of warm soup and bread pushes the brake and turns the wheel. He hasn’t brought a container for soup, but “That’s alright,” I say, “we have plenty that others have dropped off at the Farm. One Brush Brook soup and two loaves of bread? Sure thing.” Then comes the inevitable question, “How much does it cost?” The exchange goes like this:
Me: “The food is all offered as a gift to anyone who is hungry for any reason. There is no price.”
The Man: “Well, I would really like to pay something. Could you tell me about how much it would cost normally?”
Me: “I’m sorry, we won’t do that. Normal didn’t seem to be working out so well for our fellow soils, plants and animals, not to mention many of our fellow humans. In our weekly Newsletter we offer requests for the labor, materials and monies that sustain our efforts to grow and give food away. We update our budget weekly and invite people to consider making a financial gift.”
The Man, visibly uncomfortable now, strains to employ the local dialect: “Well can I give a gift before I leave?”
Me: “You are welcome to leave a gift, as long as you know that it is not required.”
The Man begins pulling cash from his wallet, clearly relieved. I stop him, saying, “There is a sculptural mailbox just below the Brush Brook Sign in the parking lot. If you would like to leave a gift, you can do it there.”
The Man, shifting slightly at the thought of not being able to show me how much money he leaves, says: “I will definitely put money in the box on my way out.”
Lewis Hyde describes these dynamics in his remarkable book, The Gift:
It is the cardinal difference between gift and commodity exchange that a gift establishes a feeling-bond between two people, while the sale of a commodity leaves no necessary connection. I go into a hardware store, pay the man for a hacksaw blade and walk out. I may never see him again. The disconnectedness is, in fact, [seen as] a virtue of the commodity mode. We don’t want to be bothered. If the clerk always wants to chat about the family, I’ll shop elsewhere. I just want a hacksaw blade.
The man in the ski pants wanted to know how he could balance the account between us – how he could get himself off the hook – as quickly as possible. Far from a personal, moral failing, he was raised within a market system whereby, as long as you procure enough money, you can imagine yourself to be self-sufficient, not in debt to any specific person or landscape – self-made. We call it freedom, and its pursuit is enshrined in our most central stories of ourselves and our relationship to the world. And its pursuit has a tremendous consequence for the living world, a world that seems, after all, to include humans.
Here is the whisper that can be heard emanating from the woods and fields: “It hasn’t always been this way.”
What if the world wasn’t for sale? Couldn’t be owned? What if the life of each plant and animal was seen as a gift – unearned, undeserved, miraculous, and utterly temporary? How might this change the way we wield the harvest knife or the gun or the chainsaw? How might this change the way we wield the stack of $20s – standing proxy for knife, gun and chainsaw – at the checkout of any of the stores that we rely on to sustain our lives? What if human lives were understood in the same way – unearned, undeserved, miraculous, and utterly temporary? How might this change the way we live alongside our neighbors? How we go about sharing what has been entrusted to us by an outrageously generous world?
If you read any of these Newsletters over the past year, you probably noticed that it takes me many words to try to describe what it is we are doing here at Brush Brook. It requires many fewer words to say what we are not doing. Our work began with one simple boundary:
Nothing would be sold. Nothing.
Well then, what would we do instead? So many uniquely nuanced, beautifully complex, and carefully maintained relationships have emerged in response to this question. That is why it takes so many words to try to tell the story.
Wendell Berry writes, “We seem to have forgotten that there might be, or that there ever were, mutually sustaining relationships between resident humans and their home places in the world of Nature.”(The Art of Loading Brush, 2017) If Wendell is correct – that our social/ecological predicament is the consequence of a massive forgetting of our human capacity for relationship – then we might find ourselves staring at the question that is at the heart of our work here: How might we begin to remember?
Perhaps as we turn ‘our lives’ back into gifts – our time, our labors, our carefully honed skills, the unique capacities that we were born with – we might begin to stumble towards remembering. I can hear that whisper again from the woods at the edge of the field: “It hasn’t always been this way.” Unearned, undeserved, miraculous, and utterly temporary. It begins to sound like a gift. And it begins to feel that way as well. We are humbled by – and grateful for – your companionship. Thank you for helping us begin to remember.
Here is what you will find in this Letter:
- GIFT DISTRIBUTION DETAILS and FULL MENU
- FINANCIAL GIFT REQUEST – January 2021 Budget
With Great Care,
Ava, Erik, Collin, Evan and Adam – The Brush Brook Community Farm Team
SOUP and BREAD GIFT DISTRIBUTION: Saturday 1/30, 11am - 1 pm
- Brush Brook Soup – Cabbage Noodles, Sweet Potato and Potato, Tomato, Beef, Herbs, Bone Broth.
- Vegetarian Soup – Pureed Turnip and Sweet Potato, 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 January 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 – Jan. 2021 Budget
|As of 1/27|
|Gifts Received in Jan – Thank you!||$ 3693.00|
|Estimated Expenses for January|
|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|
|Estimated Federal/State Taxes||$ 351.22|
|Paypal Fees||$ 150.00|
|Total Remaining for January||$ 1777.66|
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.