Photo by Ben Sklar
Greetings Friends and Neighbors,
Here at the Farm, we are awed once again by the tenacity and the jubilance of Spring Grass. We walk the glowing green fields daily, trying to determine just the right moment to set the Sheep and Cows onto their grazing rotations. As we walk the fields we are dreaming – even scheming – about the good work that lies ahead for them and for us this season. And one of those dreams involves deepening our efforts to divorce the Farm from purchased inputs by mowing hay by hand – to fill the new Cow Barn up to the rafters. Upon our arrival in the valley five years ago we were deeply inspired to find a resident group of passionate hand mowers – people who work with scythes. Under the generous tutelage of three of these neighbors – Michaela, Marc, and Paul – we have slowly built our fluency with this remarkable and humbling tool. We are excited to announce the first session of the Brush Brook Scythe School – People of the Grass – and invite you to consider whether you might want to join us in this old-fashioned and heartbreakingly beautiful work.
Here’s the list of news items to be found in this Letter:
- Distribution switches back to Friday 4-6pm.
- Work Day this Sunday 1-4pm.
- Budget Request Update
- STORY: Mucking the Cow Barn by Hand.
- Brush Brook Scythe School – Accepting Applications for the First Class
Soup and Bread Gift Distribution switches back to Friday 4-6pm this week, and we would love to have you join us. We will have hundreds of loaves of fresh Bread and two delicious Soups, made from carefully grown and gleaned ingredients, all offered as a gift to anyone who is hungry for any reason. Any food that is left-over after we close will be out for self-service on Saturday and Sunday, 9am – 5pm.
Our weekly Work Days (Sunday 1-4pm) are close to the heart of what we aspire to do here at the Farm – build relationships by working alongside our neighbors. We would love to have you join us! This week we will be making Soup, tending to Bakery firewood and Gardens and more. For more information and to Sign Up click here: bit.ly/brushbrookworkdays
With nine days left in the month, we have about $2000 left to go to cover our April Budget Request. Would you consider making a gift to support our work? You can do so HERE.
STORY: Mucking the Cow Barn by Hand
Sunday morning, we collected a small fleet of wheelbarrows and pitchforks in front of the new Cow Barn – raised last fall by many neighborly hands – in hopes that some might answer our call to help us with the work of mucking out a winter’s worth of bedding and manure, compressed by our small herd of cows into a dense, ammonia-rich, layer-cake more than a foot and a half deep. During the winter, we apply dry hay and/or woodchips daily to make a dry bed for the cows – and then they do their darndest to soil the sheets. And thank goodness they do, because this nitrogen-soaked bedding will make the compost that will renew the Soil and the Grass that sustain them. They give their poop and pee back to feed the specific ground that feeds them. If you’ve ever used a flush toilet, you may not have considered that the act of withholding our browns and our yellows from the topsoil might be a form of outright stinginess.
When the hour arrived for the Barn Mucking Party, a small group of neighbors arrived to lean their backs and shoulders into the towering bedded pack. Looking at the job and the gathered crew, I can admit that success seemed unlikely. Now it may be obvious to you, but an excavator makes quick work of a job like this. So why on earth would modern people engage work that well-engineered machines can do in their stead? Is there a consequence to our abandonment of the stoop and the bend and the lift of physical labor? What have the fleets of machines freed us up to do instead? Netflix habits, regular talks with our therapists, ballet lessons, hours attending Zoom meetings, learning foreign languages, gym memberships – the list makes up the expansive palate of possibilities with which modernity invites us to paint our lives. Livestock are very effective at limiting possibilities by exchanging them for responsibilities. They tether us to the ground – to specific ground – lest we begin to float away.
Three hours after we began the mucking work, there was some magic in the air. The conversations deepened and slowed considerably as we neared the bottom of the pack, drawing heavily on our final reserves of strength. And then, all of the sudden, we’d reached ground. Cookies – made by neighbors to sustain the effort – were passed around in celebration. We sat in the late afternoon Sun and admired the small mountain of compost we’d built in one afternoon – glorious, laborious and silhouetted stunningly by the glowing green Grass that it would feed. Now that we’d built a bit of confidence by mucking out the Cow Barn by hand, we thought : Why don’t we try to fill it back up by hand?
Brush Brook Scythe School: First Session – People of the Grass
What: 6-Week Traditional Hand-Mowing Intensive: Laboring toward Learning
When: Sunday Mornings 6-9am, May 16 – June 20th
Tuition: Tuition is offered as a Gift. As a graduate, you will be invited to join us for an historic haymaking effort in June – to mow the eight acres of meadow that surround the new Cow Barn.
Who: We have ordered a small fleet of traditional scythes – hand-forged Austrian blades attached to steam-bent Ash handles. We have 18 spots available. Would you like to have one of these exquisite tools placed in your hands this Spring? Do you long to move in a common rhythm with the Life that unfolds and unfurls around you? Have you ever wondered what might happen if we stopped hurtling forward long enough to turn around and inquire as to how things came to be as they are?
Instructors: We’ve gathered a remarkable group of Teachers from the local community for this first class of the Scythe School. Teaching Topics will range from Songs to Steel to Snaths to Sore Shoulders.
Why: Why on earth would any modern person mow grass by hand – swinging a steel blade back and forth for hours – when they could use a Weed Wacker, Lawnmowers, or a Tractor instead? A couple of years ago I was lucky enough to travel by foot through remote mountain villages in the Austrian and Italian Alps where – as a result of sheer endurance and extreme physical isolation – some of the Old Ways survive to this day. The life there still revolves around Grass and Cows. In early summer, they walk their cows up to graze the herbal alpine pastures – many miles from the village – where their milk is preserved as large wheels of alpine cheese that will sustain the villagers through the winter. Come fall, adorned with flower headdresses, the Cows make the long walk down to the village where their return elicits great celebration. It was the first week of September when I arrived, and the weather was to be sunny and warm all week. In the villages everyone joined in the haymaking effort – ages four to ninety four. While some of the younger generation now mow with machines, their parents and grandparents mow by hand alongside them, their scythes moving as extensions of their bodies. They labor together to fill their barns with hay over the course of the summer in order to sustain their beloved, hardworking cows upon their return. Labor in return for labor.
We’ve wondered if it might not be that different for us moderns after all – if our willingness to learn to labor together will ultimately determine whether or not Life will be sustained. Learning to work with a scythe is hard, humbling and heartbreakingly beautiful work.
If you would like to apply to join the first class of the Scythe School – People of the Grass – please reply to this email address with your name and the following message: “Please send me an application for the Scythe School.”
Here is what you will find in this Letter:
FINANCIAL GIFT REQUEST – April 2021 Budget
With Great Care,
Ava, Erika, Kristen, Erik, Collin, Evan and Adam – The Brush Brook Community Farm Team
BUDGET UPDATE: Thank you for considering the April 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 – Apr. 2021 Budget|
|As of 4/21|
|Gifts Received in Apr. – Thank you!||$ 3577.00|
|Estimated Expenses for April|
|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 March||$107.00|
|Total Remaining for April||$ 2066.00|
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.