Photo by Ben Sklar
Greetings Friends and Neighbors,
The arrival of Winter’s Tooth last Friday afternoon made Gift Distribution a wild and windblown affair. Rain fell sideways as the air took on a biting chill. Clad head to toe in bright yellow rain gear, I spent the two hours as parking attendant, trying to ensure that no one got stuck in the mud or rear-ended upon backing out. Inside the hoophouse, Evan, Erika, and Kristen ladled soup into quarts and handed out bread. Distribution is an incredibly joyful time for us. Thanks to all who braved the weather. By the time Sun returned on Saturday, the Hills sparkled with a fresh coat of whitewash and the Valley Grasses shone in new and shocking shades of green. You may have noticed that North Wind – Winter’s Tooth – and South Wind – Greening Wind – make regular appearances in this Newsletter. The past several weeks, Winter’s Tooth has steadily, steadfastly laid his chilling breath upon this place, slowing the surging onrush of Springtime. One or the other of these Winds offer us near-constant companionship as we walk and wonder what the day will bring here at the Farm, how the Grass will grow, how to adjust our patterns of movement to the rise and fall of temperature, the arrival of Rain, the appearance and disappearance of Sun. To give these Winds names is simply to acknowledge them as two of the central Characters who lend a distinct personality – and distinctive moods – to this place where we live.
And yet the word ‘character’ isn’t quite right. It situates us in the audience by telling the story as a play, a drama unfolding before us that we call ‘the weather.’ We might offer our opinions – our approval or disapproval – but we generally don’t imagine that our words or actions can change the weather. And then the news of human-induced climate change arrives to undermine our ability to see ourselves as passive audience members. We begin to learn that our moment-to-moment decisions – how we move across the landscape – have already changed the plotline in hugely consequential ways. Why, then, does the news of climate change seem mostly to settle amongst us as a paralyzing force – causing impotence more than, well, potency? Shouldn’t the arrival of word that we are change-makers in the unfolding drama of the world and its weathers help us to feel more empowered, more needed, more noticed? What is going on here? Why do we feel so powerless, so inconsequential?
Why do we remain so steadfast in our unwillingness to change course even as we learn of the wretched violence that our current ways of living unleash upon the world?
I have noticed again and again that when I remain silent in the presence of a question such as this I begin to descend into the depths of a loneliness that can barely be described in words. I experience a type of despair that carries the distinctive dull ache of dishonesty. The Scythe School is an invitation born from this loneliness, from a wild love for being alive, from an intense longing to remember – together with others, in community – that it has not always been this way. Included below is a letter, written to those interested in the School, that asks: How does Loneliness contribute to the intractability – the unsolvable-ness – of our current predicament? Thank you very much for reading. We have a few more spots available for this first class of the School, which begins 5/16.
First, some News items:
- Upon deep consideration, we have decided that we will host Gift Distribution EVERY OTHER WEEK during the month of May, so that we can gather ourselves towards the work of garden planting, Scythe School and haymaking preparation, grazing and more. We will be open Friday 5/14 and Friday 5/28. We will offer as much Bread and Soup on these days as we can muster, and encourage you to put food in your freezer for the in-between weeks.
- Would you consider joining us for our Work Day this Sunday 5/9 from 1-4pm? We will be planting in the garden, building fences, processing vegetables and more. Find more information and sign up: bit.ly/brushbrookworkdays
- Your generous gifts last week meant that we met our April budget with some to spare, which rolls over to May as a starting balance. We are immensely grateful for your trust and affirmation. As always, we ask: Would you consider making a financial gift to support our work? You can do so HERE. You will find our May budget below has an updated format – thanks to Evan – which represents our ongoing efforts to express clearly and transparently what it costs to do what we do. If you have any questions about the budget, don’t hesitate to ask. For example, “How do members of the Farm Team work for so little money?” or “Who do you buy the bread ingredients from?” or “How will the Scythe School be paid for if there is no tuition?” We would love to answer any of these questions.
A Letter on Loneliness and Longing: Making Hay as a Search for Home
Thank you for your interest in the Scythe School. There will be much to say about the how’s and where’s and when’s of the School as the date of the first meeting approaches. But I will begin by trying to say something about the Why? question. As is my way, this will make a winding path. Why on earth would we pour our resources into ordering a fleet of scythes and devote considerable time to trying to craft something worthy of the name ‘School’ and not charge a dime to those who choose – despite their better judgement – to subject themselves to this fledgling endeavor? Why would we bother to invite others to join us in laboring to learn how to make hay by hand when we could use a tractor instead? The impetus – the inspiration – for the School emerges from our Grief and our Longing.
Perhaps you have heard news of the dire changes mounting in the abstract realm commonly referred to as ‘the environment’ – species extinction, climate change, desertification, the loss of topsoil, and so on. Perhaps you have heard that researchers have begun to identify epidemic loneliness as a leading cause of physical disease in the human population. Could there be a connection between these two grievous trajectories – these unintended consequences of modernity – that continue to gather momentum despite all of our sincere efforts to stay hopeful? Should you choose to have a scythe placed in your outstretched hands this Spring, you should know in advance that we do not propose the scythe as a solution to the mayhem that gathers in our midst. We have wondered, instead, whether gathering ourselves towards this endangered craft – and toward one another – might offer an opportunity to practice some long-abandoned skills of homemaking. We have wondered how we might allow ourselves to be gathered towards beauty.
We have this abstract term ‘ecological limits.’ The word haunts our dreams or whispers from our left shoulder while we stand at the grocery store shelf or decide whether or not to bike to work. The root of the word ‘ecological’ is the Greek word oikos, meaning house. Membership in a household necessarily subjects one to participatory limits. What happens to us and to the world when we abandon limits and pursue freedom instead? How could free people – no longer bound to the responsibilities entailed by membership in a household of place – bring themselves into the presence of limits as they search – or long – for something, somewhere that feels like home? Martin Shaw, an English storyteller, writes evocatively in his book Scatterlings:
So what happens if we try and root? Rather ironically, the latest addition to hip-speak is a desire to be indigenous. No work history required....I suggest a re-tuning of intention, a slightly more sober directive: to be ‘of’ a place. To labour under a related indebtedness to a stretch of Earth that you have not claimed, but has claimed you.
To be of is to hunker down as a servant to the ruminations of the specific valley, little gritty vegetable patch, or swampy acre of abandoned field that has laid its breath on the back of your neck….To be of means to listen….It’s participation, not as a conqueror, not in the spirit of devouring, but of relatedness. To have traded endless possibility for something specific. That over the slow recess of time you become that part of the land that temporarily abides in human form.
Another teacher of mine, Stephen Jenkinson, describes our Capacity for Home as a woven thing, like a cloth. The warp threads are understood as the particulars of place – terrain, weather patterns, the plants, animals, soils and waters. The weft thread is spun from our memory, with which we weave the cloth we then wrap around ourselves for shelter.
The School, in my most clear moments of imagining, looks like a six-week practice of courtship. A courtship to a mostly-forgotten tool and the beautiful dance that the tool invites. A courtship to memory and to place – to the very possibility of being at home.
There will be the scythe itself – in all of its physical, tangible and practical beauty – as one of the principal teachers, offering lessons in humility and memory and limits. There will be ideas, offered as readings or listenings, to accompany our hours in the field – as contemplative companions. There will be an invitation to practice listening as one of the foundational skills of homemaking. Introductions will be made to the avian choir, the dawn chorus – hence the 6am start time. There will be songs to learn and sing together as we imagine how we might add our collective voice to the raucous conversation already underway in the fields where we will gather. There will be real work to do together that will contribute to feeding and sustaining the real animals – the Sheep and Cows – whose bodies are built from Grass and die by our hands to sustain the lives of real human people, including all of those who come to pick up Soup from the Gift Stand.
We are grateful for your interest. It is an honor to imagine that some of you might join us in this work. Don’t hesitate to reach out with questions of your own. To request an application, please send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org saying, “Please send me and application for the Scythe School.”
Here is what you will find in this Letter:
- FINANCIAL GIFT REQUEST – May 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 May 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.
|BBCF - May 2021 Budget|
|As of May 5|
|Gifts Received in May – Thank you!||$2,089.00|
|Overage from April||$55.00|
|Tractor, Freezers and Milkroom Rents||$200.00|
|Bakery Overhead (firewood, insur., utilites)||$250.00|
|Website, Tech, and Office Supplies||$20.00|
|Bread Ingredients & Packaging||$937.50|
|Misc Ingredients (spices, etc)||$30.00|
|Hosting and Educational||$200.00|
|Vehicles (gas, maintn., insur. etc)||$150.00|
|Predicted Human Expenses|
|Collin McCarthy Rent & Utilities||$580.00|
|Adam Wilson Rent||$200.00|
|Erik Weil Rent||$500.00|
|Adam Wilson personal stipend||$448.08|
|Infrastructure Maintenance and Project Fund||$300.00|
|Total Estimated Expenses||$5,065.58|
|Total Remaining for May||$2,921.58|
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.