Greetings Friends and Neighbors,
Lambing season has come in like a Lion this year here at the Farm. You don’t realize how much you’re not learning when things proceed smoothly, as they did for us and the flock for our first three years of lambing. But you learn a lot when things start to go wrong. And especially when everything goes wrong all at once. You learn in a hurry, and you get properly humbled. At least this is how it seemed to us this past week. The story of Gabrielle’s Labors was quite a tender one to write, and we share it here with that still-raw feeling hanging in the cool early-Spring air.
We are excited to invite you to our Work Day this coming Sunday from 1-4pm. We will be making Soup and working outside in the sunshine tending to the pastures and hayfields as well as one of our new garden plots. Please take a look at the SIGNUP page for an updated list of projects and information on what to bring with you. We have heard from many people that they have gotten so much out of their time at these Work Day. In an effort to ensure that the Farm’s resident plants, animals and farmers also receive care on these days, it is very helpful for us to know how many of you plan to arrive for the 1pm opening circle and to prepare accordingly. If you’d like to join us for our Work Days please click HERE to sign up.
Please join us for Soup and Bread Gift Distribution on Saturday from 11am – 1pm where all food is offered as a gift to anyone who is hungry for any reason. We celebrate lambing season once again this week with a special lamb soup. We will also have a larger batch of vegetarian soup on offer, as well as hundreds of loaves of fresh bread.
On the last day of March, we are still about $363 short of our March Budget request. This money pays for rent and electric and grain and the simple living expenses for members of the Farm Team. Would you consider making a gift to support our work? You can do so HERE.
STORY: Gabrielle’s Labors – Birth and Death in the Moon-Lit Lambing Yard
Our dear friend Gabrielle lay dying Monday morning with her healthy two-day old lamb by her side. Through our tears, we sang her this song – a praise song for Life written from the vantage point of endings:
We raise you up. We raise you up.
We raise you in a song, song, song.
Your life will surely shift in shape.
But you’ll live on in a song.
Oh, thank you. Oh, thank thank you.
The greatest gift is to be alive.
To breathe the world for one more day.
And if this breath should be my last,
I’ll blow it out as a song.
Oh, thank you. Oh, thank thank you.
The sibling relationship between beginnings and endings – between Life and Death – came rumbling into view this week just as Brook roiled and raged alongside the low-lying lambing yard. Days of near-summer temperatures rapidly melted the considerable snowpack on the Western-facing mountain slopes that form the Brush Brook watershed. Brook makes a steep and tumbling descent, gathering considerable momentum by the time she reaches the gravel flats here at the Farm. Last Friday, heavy rain was expected and so flood watches were issued. We readied a pen for the ewes and lambs on higher ground should Brook begin to spill over the bank that forces her to make a sharp left turn just upstream from the Farm. By nightfall, Brook lapped the lip of that bank, sending small breaking waves onto the leaf-covered ground. Her song – now a fearsome roar – filled the air. As forecasted, North Wind arrived and began to howl in the treetops, adding a chill to the rain-soaked air. We had been watching Gabrielle through the day, expecting her to lamb at any moment. A beautiful, gentle, white Ewe, 2-year-old Gabrielle was part of a proud lineage, a daughter of the flock matriarch, Glenys. Just after dark Gabrielle finally dropped her first lamb, a boy, in the dry hay of the shelter. But by the time I got out there Gabrielle had run to the far end of the yard, in evident distress. I gathered her back and closed her in with her lamb and soon the second was coming and then on the ground. She began to lick the second lamb – a girl – but seemed uninterested in the first. She didn’t seem to know that he was her son. But he was already on his feet and finding his way to the teat and so I finally climbed into bed, exhausted and chilled. At two in the morning, I awoke to the rumbles of Wind and Water and the sounds of Ewe and Lamb calls. Back out I hurried and found Gabrielle tossing the boy-lamb into the metal side of the shelter when he came near her. Sheep have a strong instinct to ensure that only their babies get their milk, which serves to ensure that each lamb survives in the chaos of the large flock. They imprint this bond during the moments immediately following birth. But something had spooked Gabrielle away from her first lamb at that essential moment – perhaps an exceptionally hard and painful birth. To see these instincts turned against a helpless newborn lamb for the first time will twist your stomach into knots. I pulled the boy-lamb from the pen to keep him from getting hurt and then noticed that another Ewe, Bonita was beginning to give birth. I got Bonita into a pen, and as the young boy-lamb wailed for a mother, I unsuccessfully attempted to graft him onto Bonita by covering him with the afterbirth that flowed out between her first and second lambs. And so there he was, motherless and scared and calling out to the night with all of the air in his hours-old lungs. By six in the morning our dear friend Polly Allen – already the official Farm Grandma – had agreed to take the rejected lamb up to her place, to pick up a bag of milk replacer, and to get him warm and fed. This was Saturday morning, and soon the time arrived to set up for Soup and Bread Distribution. The rain stopped and the day dawned clear. Brook had stayed within her banks through the wild and stormy night. The Ewes seemed settled for the moment and so I changed out of my mud- and blood-covered pants and jacket and prepared to greet the public.
By early afternoon I began to notice that Gabrielle looked downcast even as she diligently tended to her daughter, nudging her to nurse at regular intervals and laying alongside her in the warm Sun. She was probably just exhausted from a hard labor, I thought. By early evening, however, it was clear that something was wrong, and the drugstore thermometer showed that she had a high fever. We were set into full motion once again, tracking down the right medicines for her as her condition rapidly deteriorated. It was past nine pm when we found our dairy farming neighbors, the Taft family, working in their sugarhouse. Yes, they had the pain medicine we needed and we drew a syringe from their bottle. Erik, Collin and I – the three Shepherds – gathered in the lambing yard as Full Moon rose over the high Eastern ridge and cast the valley in her silver light. Two more ewes gave birth in the Moon-lit yard that night, and so by morning four more healthy lambs wobbled and waggled their tails as they nursed on their attentive mothers. But Gabrielle was not doing well. A phone call with the Vet confirmed that we had done what we could for her. All through the day Sunday she didn’t eat or drink. She grew weaker, but still she stood up every hour or two so that her lamb could nurse. Her lamb never left her side, often sleeping nose to nose – mingling breath. We went up to Polly’s to get some of the milk replacer, as it was clear that sick Gabrielle didn’t have much milk in her udder. The next morning, I fed the lamb from a bottle as her mother lay unable to stand. Gabrielle was actively dying now, clearly agitated even as she encouraged the lamb to nurse from her where she lay. She was laboring again. The devastating heartbreak of the scene washed over me and I wept as I said to her, “We will take good care of your daughter. You have given her a strong start. You can go now.” I called Erik and Collin and soon the three of us gathered around Gabrielle, holding the tiny lamb to keep her calm. We spoke our thanks and our goodbyes to our friend. And then Gabrielle stopped straining, and took her last breath. I began to sing, “We raise you up.” Unable to continue through the choking tears, Collin finished out the verse. “Oh, thank you. Oh, thank thank you.” We gave the ewe lamb her mother’s name – Gabrielle – and she has barely left our arms since her mother died. She cries out with grief any moment she is alone. She misses her mother as much as we do. Last evening I couldn’t bear to leave her by herself and so, with that promise I had made to her dying mother ringing in my ears, I brought her to our weekly Farm Team meeting. Young Gabrielle spent the whole three hours napping and nuzzling as we took turns holding her. Today she will head up to Grandma Polly’s to join her brother, George.
There are moments – ravishing moments – when the roil and the rumble of Life threaten to make your heart explode. Perhaps you decide to avert your gaze, to walk away. Or perhaps you find the courage to stay – or have no other option – and your heart breaks wide open. Perhaps you weep and wail until your sinuses are closed up tight. Perhaps you notice for a moment that being alive is so stunningly beautiful and temporary – a package deal. Perhaps you realize that love and grief and unbearable sorrow and the sparkling beauty of the world are impossibly intertwined and entangled with one another. And that it was death that taught you this. And perhaps you wonder why you have attended so few deaths in your years and what the consequence of that absence might be. And then you look around and see a society staggering under the numbing weight of an anesthetized and sanitized version of what it means to be alive, so many deaths kept comfortably behind closed doors. Dear Gabrielle, great teacher and friend, we are so grateful to you for allowing us to love you and to bear witness to your birthing and to your dying time. You risked everything for the sake of life continuing. Your daughter is healthy and we will care for her as best we know how. We have given her your name, for she sparkles just as you did.
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 4/3, 11am - 1 pm
- Brush Brook Soup – Cabbage Noodles, Kale, Squash, Sweet Potato, Potato, Tomato, Lamb, 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 3/30|
|Gifts Received in Mar – Thank you!||$ 4586.00|
|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||$801.34|
|Total Remaining for March||$ 363.32|
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.