Greetings Friends and Neighbors,
A week ago, Monday. The cut Grass from two days of hand-mowing – well over a hundred person-hours of labor – lays spread out to dry in the field. The day dawns cloudy, the air heavy and already warm. And then a rain shower arrives. This is not good. The drops fall in sufficient number to turn the pavement black, meeting one another where they land on the ground – and on the previously-drying-hay. The forecasters predict thunderstorms by 5pm. And so now the situation is precarious to say the least. Cloud cover slowly gives way to breaks of Sun as South Wind builds to a steady gale. The day’s heat comes on, and by early afternoon, as I begin to rake the Hay into rows, it seems that it will indeed be dry enough to bale. By the time the baler starts chugging down the rows, the sky to the West has grown dark and ominous. The storms are not far away now. With two pickups in the field and a strong crew, we shuttle the finished bales quickly to cover. And then a loud bang fills the air. The shear pin snaps, and the baler comes to a halt. An investigation soon reveals that we will not be doing any more baling with that machine on this day. Two raindrops land on my cheek as I clear hay from the broken baler. South Wind blows even stronger as dark clouds wrap the field now on three sides. The situation grows more precarious still.
We are excited to let you know that Erik has crafted another delicious pureed soup – this one is Green with fresh Spinach, Garlic Scapes and Mint from the Garden. Serve it cold with an addition of milk, cream, yogurt or sour cream. Or warm it up if that strikes your fancy. There are two versions of the soup – with or without our homemade mineral-rich and smoky Beef Bone Broth – labeled Brush Brook or Vegetarian.
We will have frozen quarts of Soup out this weekend for Self-Service and invite you to stop by Friday, Saturday or Sunday 9am – 5pm. We have so much food to give away right now, and would love your help getting these Soups out to anyone you think would appreciate the gift. We will make another ninety quarts of Soup on Sunday at our Work Day – Sunday 7/4 from 1-4pm. We would love your help washing and chopping vegetables for Soup, tending to Gardens, Sheep and Cows. The Farm is sustained by these many neighborly hands.
Our next Soup and Bread Gift Distribution will be on Friday July 9th. Mark ‘Fresh Bread’ on your calendars and please join us if you are able!
With a bit of mysterious grace, some combination of you have chipped in to cover our June Budget Request plus $70 extra, which will roll over as a starting balance for July. That means that our work heads into month 16. We couldn’t be more grateful for your generous support. If you would like to make a gift to sustain our work, you can do so HERE.
STORY: When Things Break Down – Learning How to be a Neighbor
With a broken-down baler, three-quarters of the Hay still on the ground, and storm clouds circling the field like hungry Vultures, a plan B must emerge quickly. Our neighbors, the Tafts, are baling a field nearby. With some trepidation, I head there to ask Tim if he might be willing to help us get the rest of our Hay in. Tim is a little bit older than me, and runs the Farm along with his wife Margaret and his parents, Mary and Bruce. Asking favors of a dairy farmer on the Summer Solstice might seem a bold move. And perhaps it is. But this project lives or dies on our willingness to make bold requests. By the time I get there, they have finished their baling for the day and the baler is already back to the home farm. Without skipping a beat, Tim says he’ll head there shortly to see if he can convince his Dad. “No promises, by I’ll try.” I’m back in our hay field now, walking the rows of perfectly-dry Grass and Alfalfa. And I’m asking for every favor I feel worthy of asking for. “Big Mountain, South Wind, Dark Storm Clouds, might you be willing to hold back the rain for just one more hour so that we can collect the hay for our hardworking Sheep and Cows?” I’ve brought some cornmeal – grown in the home Garden and ground by hand for this moment – to signal our gratitude to all who generously grant us life here in this Valley. I sprinkle some between the rows. South Wind whisks most away before it reaches the ground. Perhaps the gift has been received. A tear runs down my cheek. And then another. I am pleading now. “Please, just one more hour.”
I see Bruce on the road with the baler, driving fast. He is heading our way. The sky to the South grows darker still. Without a word, Bruce jumps out of the tractor to click the machine into baling mode. The reserved, older farmer makes silent eye contact with me as he climbs back into the cab. He runs the machine hard, and the bales are dropping faster than the trucks can collect them. I follow behind and stack them into small piles. And then in a moment the rain is on, large drops wetting our already sweat-soaked shirts and pants. Bruce pulls the baler out of the field and onto the road with a wave as we race to get the bales into the trucks and under cover. The shower comes hard for a few minutes. Another neighbor, Paul, arrives to lend a hand, bringing the group to six. We unload the rain-wetted bales and carefully make sure to stack them with the wet-sides up to increase the odds that they will dry without molding. There is still a little bit of hay in the field, and the rain shower has stopped. “Shall we collect it loose?” I ask. Evan bikes to get more pitchforks and we begin loading the rain-dampened hay into rain-slick pickups, rolling it on our forks like spaghetti and lifting these tumbles overhead to stack the trucks high. The six of us move rapidly, exchanging very few words. The sky is dark and urgent. With just one short windrow left, the rain comes in strong again, this time with lightening and thunder. The final load is in the barn now and we lean back against the fragrant stack of bales as the sky opens up and sheets of water run from the eaves of the barn. The day’s heat is unleashed in a spasm of wind and rain and electricity and sound. Summer’s first proper thunderstorm arrives on the first day of Summer. We make silent eye contact with one another amid the din of rain on metal roof and mowed ground. We are soaked through, exhausted, and overflowing with aliveness. My memory scans back through the mowing parties over the weekend. So many of our friends and neighbors have touched this hay with their sweat, their stories, their laughter and their songs. Including our neighbors, the Tafts.
It is a couple of days later now. With a small box of Soup and Bread, I drive up to see if I can find Tim to offer to pay him for the baling. He replies, “I talked to my Dad, and we don’t want you to pay us.” These are delicate negotiations. Tim and his family run a large, highly-mechanized commercial dairy farm at a time when market forces conspire against family farms. As someone who loves to work, I can attest to the fact that this family works very, very hard. As their neighbor, I wonder what they make of Brush Brook Community Farm as they drive by and see a group of rag-a-muffin radicals mowing hay by hand and giving food away at a ‘Gift Stand.’
“I want to make sure that you know that I didn’t expect you to bale for us without charging,” I reply.
“I know,” Tim says. “And I want you to know that we may not always be able to say yes depending on what we’ve got going that day.”
“Charge or not, I consider it a huge gift for you to take time to help us in a moment of urgency. Thank you, Tim. And I trust you to say no when you can’t do it.”
I head up to the steep road – Taft Road – to the farmhouse, a duplex, where three generations of Tafts live under one roof. Tim’s wife Margaret is home when I knock. She graciously receives the Soup and Bread that I have brought. I let her know what Bruce and Tim have done to help save our hay and offer my thanks before I turn back down the hill, toward home. In a time such as this one, we are incredibly grateful to have landed in such a remarkable neighborhood. People often tell us how novel and progressive Brush Brook’s concept of ‘gift economy’ seems to them. I will always push back on this. Replace ‘gift economy’ with the word ‘neighborhood,’ or even the word ‘village,’ and you get a bit closer to the feel of the thing. And then go talk to someone who remembers the way the agricultural community was held together in this place just a generation ago and you might catch a glimpse of the direction we’re headed. We offer our deep regards and thanks to those who hold onto those threads memory. They offer a lifeline in a troubled time such as ours.
Here is what you will find in this Letter:
- FINANCIAL GIFT REQUEST – Detailed July 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 July 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 - June 2021 Budget|
|As of June 29|
|Gifts Received in June – Thank you!||$3,951.57|
|Overage from May||$1358.00|
|Tractor, Freezers and Milkroom Rents||$200.00|
|Bakery Overhead (firewood, insur., utilites)||$250.00|
|Website, Tech, and Office Supplies||$20.00|
|Bread Ingredients & Packaging||$850.00|
|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 June||-$131.49|
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.