Photo by John Hadden
Greetings Friends and Neighbors,
Have you noticed the patterns of light and shadow cast this week as Sun pours through leaf-bare Maple and Birch and presses late-winter warmth onto undulating snow-covered ground? Have you noticed how this warmth presses on your skin as you move through your daily routines? Or had a surprise encounter with the cold air that pools and eddies in the shadow cast by anything that holds physical form in the landscape? Have you wondered how Sun’s warmth feels to Maple as it presses onto ridged silvery-gray skin? Or to Woodpecker who fills the air with a percussive song made by drumming a hardened bill on that silver-gray skin? Or what conversation unfolds between Woodpecker and Maple before this drumming commences? Or is the drumming song itself the sound of these two neighbors inviting you to join them in an unfolding springtime conversation?
Here’s the short list:
- Gift Distribution Invitation and Requests
- STORY: Shearing the Gift Flock – Three Years In
- Invitation: Shearing Friday 3/12 and Fleece Gift Distribution Saturday 3/13
We are thrilled to invite you, Neighbors and Friends, to join us for our weekly Soup and Bread Gift Distribution, Saturdays from 11am – 1pm. The winter Gift Stand has continued to be a lively scene, and the food has been going fast. We will increase our bread numbers and our soup batch size again this week. Last Saturday, one of our neighbors – whose family just recently started coming to the Stand – asked if they could take two quarts of soup home. “That’s why we make it,” we replied, and after some further negotiation we convinced them to take a third quart. Think, for a moment, of the staggering amount of food that is driven into this valley every day in order to keep us alive. We could make and distribute twenty gallons of soup every day of the week and we would barely begin to scratch the surface. There are some still alive here in town who remember when it was otherwise. We are grateful for their memories, and for your willingness to take up this conversation with us. There are some root questions that animate our work: Could we remember how to be at home by learning to draw our sustenance from this place? How will we ensure that this sustenance is shared amongst our neighbors? How might we join together to sustain the many labors of grazing, growing, gardening, gathering, gleaning, preserving, cooking and baking? We have asked these questions every week for eleven months now. We have invited you to join us in conversation by coming to pick up food at the Gift Stand. Thank you for showing up. We wouldn’t rather be doing anything else.
With about $900 coming in this week, our Budget Request balance stands at $4000 for March. If you are willing to make a gift, you can do so HERE.
The work here is sustained by your gifts of monies, yes, but also by your gifts of labor, building materials, wood shavings, a jar of honey, a batch of cookies or a dozen eggs. We use Maple Syrup each week at the bakery and would gratefully receive gifts of syrup toward that end. If you are looking for ways to help out at the Farm, we send out occasional emails requesting help with outdoor projects to a smaller list of folks. If you’d like to be one of those folks, please reply to this letter by email. Our larger public Work Days will resume very soon – as the snow recedes!
STORY: Shearing the Gift Flock – Three Years In
On a clear, cold day in early March we borrowed our neighbor’s pickup truck and drove West to meet Sam Dixon at Shelburne Farms. That day was exactly three-years ago. Sam had offered to sell us two of his promising one-year old ewes. They were heavy with lambs and ready to give birth any day. Sam, who manages the dairy, beef and lamb operations there, had served as an important mentor for me as I learned to care for cows. Before we loaded the ewes, I asked him, only half in jest, “What do we need to know about sheep?” He said, wisely, “Look for all of the same signs you would in cows, but imagine that everything is more subtle in sheep. Pay attention the slightest change in the hips the day before she gives birth. Look for way she drags a hoof on the ground to show you that she is in pain.” We selected two ewes and struggled mightily to lift them into the bed of the truck. We named them Glenys and Beatrice. They would be the two founding ewes of the Gift Flock. We didn’t quite know what we meant by Gift Flock back then, but figured that something might just come to pass if we spoke the words aloud enough times.
My unpracticed eyes missed Glenys’ subtle signs two days later. She dropped her lambs on near-zero night – just like the nights this past weekend. This first-time mother – carrying memory in her bones – got those lambs to their feet during the night with some combination of licking, calling, nudging and then standing stock-still while two tiny babes drew on their bone-memory and wobbled their way to the waiting teat. Come morning, I found the twin lambs – one boy and one girl – dried off, full on their mother’s rich milk and fairly settled into their new life. Sun rose clear and strong that morning and quickly warmed the greenhouse – the same place we now host Gift Distribution and where the Soup Team works on Sundays. The boy lamb generously provisioned the first Gratitude Feast that November. We named Glenys’ daughter Gwynn, who has now raised two ewe lambs of her own. The next spring Glenys gave birth to twin daughters, Gina and Gabrielle. Can you make out the pattern here – the lineage marked by names beginning with the same letter? Beatrice, the other flock matriarch, has given rise to a shorter-legged lineage that includes hardworking Bonnie, twins Billie and Bonita, black-fleeced Basel and the highly-rotund Betty-Lou.
Last winter, Collin started to come around the Farm, offering to be helpful. Collin had first fallen for livestock milking beautiful, big-eyed Jersey Cows. But the Gift Flock swept Collin off their feet, and before long sweet-nothings could be heard slipping from Collin’s mouth as they joined in the daily care of these remarkably gentle wool-covered creatures. A couple of weeks ahead of lambing, we invite the shearer to the Farm to enact an ancient springtime ritual. The evening beforehand, we fast the ewes to reduce pressure on the lambs growing inside of them. With steady, practiced hands and legs, the shearer rolls the patient, pregnant ewes on their backs and, keeping their skin taught to avoid nicks, peels the wool off in one piece. Shearing seems to be one of a precious few farming tasks that cannot be done by a machine. The work is too intimate, too careful, too relational. A practiced human must do the work by hand. And there are precious few humans left who practice this craft. Last March, inspired by the beauty of the wool, Collin learned to clean and wash the fleeces – in their bathtub – and offered them to community members as a Gift. Local hand-spinners and felters eagerly received the gifts of thirteen cleaned fleeces. This year we have twenty ewes to shear, and twenty fleeces to give away. Here is Collin’s invitation:
Shearing the Gift Flock: Friday 3/12 from Noon – 2pm
Are you interested in seeing this ancient work in action? Shearing will take place at the new Barn on the South side of the Brush Brook bridge, just a few hundred yards from the Gift Stand parking area. The parking lot will likely be temporarily closed due to mud. As such, parking will be along the side of the road or at the Town Rec Field one block away.
Fleece Gift Distribution: Saturday 3/13 from 11am – 1pm
Would you be interested in cleaning and tending to one of these beautiful fleeces and spinning or felting it into gifts to share with your friends/family/neighbors? Please stop by Gift Distribution this Saturday between 11-1 to receive the gift of a fleece. Collin will be there to offer tips on skirting and washing.
Here is what you will find in this Letter:
- GIFT DISTRIBUTION DETAILS and FULL MENU
- FINANCIAL GIFT REQUEST – March 2021 Budget
With Great Care,
Ava, Erika, Kristen, Erik, Collin, Evan and Adam – The Brush Brook Community Farm Team
SOUP and BREAD GIFT DISTRIBUTION: Saturday 3/13, 11am - 1 pm
- Brush Brook Soup – Cabbage Noodles, Kale, Squash, Sweet Potato, Beets, Tomato, Beef, Herbs, Bone Broth.
- Vegetarian Soup – Pureed Butternut, Carrot and Turnip, Tomato, Garlic, Herbs.
Mountain, Polenta, 3 Seed, Sprouted Grain, German Rye and Backcountry Loaf (made w/o gluten)
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 March 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 – Mar. 2021 Budget
|As of 3/9|
|Gifts Received in Mar – Thank you!||$ 893.00|
|Estimated Expenses for March|
|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||$ 448.08|
|Adam Wilson Rent||$ 200.00|
|Erik Weil Stipend Request||$ 500.00|
|Collin McCarthy Stipend Request||$ 580.00|
|Estimated Federal/State Taxes||$ 351.22|
|Paypal Fees||$ 150.00|
|Overage from February||$801.34|
|Total Remaining for March||$ 4,056.32|
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.