Greetings Friends and Neighbors,
Day 1 on the Hill. It is nearly dark when I arrive at the small clearing where I will sleep and sit for three days, on a high Mountain Ridge above the Farm. My clothes are sweat-soaked and muddied from the steep climb – wading through waist-deep Nettles and Ferns, remembering my way through tangles of Hobblebush to a place I have visited just a few times before. I’ve brought only a sleeping pad, bag and tarp – no headlamp or tent, no food or phone or wristwatch. I fit the sleeping pad into a narrow slot of bare ground between rocks. Clear Sky and no Rain in the forecast. No tarp needed tonight. From this spot I look out at a vast sweep of high ridge to the East and the rocky summit of Camel’s Hump – or Big Mountain. I lay down and pull the sleeping bag up to my neck. I hear the gorgeous songs of White Throated Sparrow and Swainson’s Thrush, the chattering voice of rain-swollen Brook, the whistle of South Wind as she passes through Spruce needles. Colors fade to gray as dusk comes on. And then I hear one very distinct call. A duck? Up this high? Again, I hear this croak, and closer now. Three Herons fly overhead, close enough that I can clearly hear the sound of wing feathers pushing on Air. They call out twice more before crossing over the ridge and out of sight. Sleep comes on. I wake in the night to a Sky ablaze with Shooting Stars, to Brook and Wind night songs. Sleep takes me again.
We seem to have forgotten that there might be, or that there ever were, mutually sustaining relationships between resident humans and their home places in the world of Nature. [In] the absence of such relationships…we have become the willing parasites of any and every place, destroying the source and substance of our lives, as parasites invariably do. (1)
If you’ve read any of these Newsletters you have likely been exposed to this lament from writer, farmer and elder Wendell Berry. His words sting more than a bit, do they not? They surely stung me when I first read them two years ago. If we accept Wendell’s assertion that our current troubles grow from a great forgetting – a wholesale abandonment of a covenant of mutual sustenance – we might then ask: How could we set out to begin remembering? If you’ve read any of these Newsletters, it may already be clear to you that the efforts and longings that we refer to as Brush Brook Community Farm grow in response to this question.
How might we remember how to live in mutually sustaining relationships – with other humans as well as with soils, plants, animals, weathers and waters?
We are thrilled to invite you to join us this Friday 4-6pm for Soup and Bread Gift Distribution. We’ll have hundreds of loaves of Fresh Bread and three delicious pureed vegetable soups – Vegetarian Winter Tomato, Greens and Herbs, and Sweet Potato Carrot. Our homemade mineral-rich Bone Broth gives a lot of depth to these Soups. Serve cold or warm, with or without an addition of milk, cream, yogurt, sour cream, chopped fresh herbs. All food is offered as a gift to anyone who is hungry for any reason.
Your generous gifts of $1226 last week leave us with $2092 to go to meet our July Budget Request. If you would like to make a gift to sustain our work, you can do so HERE.
Please consider joining us this Sunday for our Work Day from 1-4pm to tend to the Soup Pot, the Pantry, the Gardens and Pastures. This Sunday we are putting out a particular call to folks to help us dig Burdock(bring a round-pointed shovel from home) before it matures its grabbing seeds. If you’d like to join the Soup Team, please bring a cutting board and a knife.
Day 3 on the Hill. Time grinds to an excruciating crawl up here. Almost a halt. I watch the angle between the edge of shade tarp its shadow on the ground, the only marker I have to determine ‘half-way through the daylight hours.’ A rough sundial, I guess. I told the team back at the Farm that I would stay until the morning of the fourth day before walking back down. But this is getting really hard now. Surprisingly, the lack of food is not the hardest part. I am hungry, but not desperately so. The dependable breezes have died down this morning and so Blackflies are onto me. They find their way through small holes in my socks to bite the knuckles of my toes. I pull my boots on to keep them out. I begin to understand what Martin Shaw means when he writes, “wilderness fasting disables our capacity to devour in the way the West seems so fond of: in the most wonderful way I can describe, we get devoured.(2)” Covered up as I am, the occasional breaks of Sun are too hot and my sore butt-bones ask me to shift from one seated position to another, and back again. And then the first plane comes. Obscured from sight by high clouds, I hear the wheezing rumble of jet engines approach and then pass directly overhead. Close enough that I can hear the sound of metal blades pushing on Air. Close enough that I cover my ears with my hands. More than a dozen, maybe even twenty planes pass over the Ridge as they begin their initial descent into the Burlington International Airport. I imagine them in long lines stretching back to Boston, New York, DC. Last summer I sat in this same spot and heard no planes – grounded for the Pandemic. I remember now. People are on the move again after more than a year of restrictions. Restlessness and desire find fuel and ready spark in the chambers of combustion engines. I remember what the woman at the Lake Champlain Ferry ticket booth said to me a couple of weeks ago. “In all of my years I have never seen the ferries this full. Never.” A society untethered from ecological responsibility fans out across the countryside – searching for what? Anger washes over me. I thought I’d come up here to get away from the clatter, the noise, the troubles. A break from humans for a few days. And now they’ve come after me with their terrible machines. Then after another moment – and another thundering plane – anger begins its initial descent into grief. I think about my Aunt Faith in Florida, her terminal Cancer diagnosis, and the plane that offers to take me there to say goodbye. On the return flight I will pass right over this ridge and its birdsong-laced Spruce and Birch woods. I know this now because I am here, listening. In the flight path. And then I catch a glimpse of what begins to look like gratitude. I think about my plan to harvest Nettles on my way down the Hill, to make them into a simple soup with some of the Ramps I picked back in the Spring from this very same place, and some Beef Stock from the Farm. I will puree the greens into the broth and finish it with the last of the Cream that I left in the frig. Cream from Joe and Emily and their beautiful Jersey Cows. Tomorrow morning. In order for that to come to pass I’ll have to haul my fast-weakened bones all the way down to the Farm. Which seems a lot farther away than it did three days ago.
Back down from the Hill. I am alive and back in my house, sitting at my table. And, my goodness this Nettle soup is delicious. Soon I will have to talk to people again. They will surely ask me, “How was your experience up there?” I wonder what I’m supposed to say. What words will be useful, and useful to whom? I am clearly enchanted by the words forgetting and remembering. Maybe I could begin with, ‘Up on the Hill I was reminded…’ but how would I finish that sentence? How do you match words to an experience that involves so few words? Author Martin Shaw has guided wilderness fasts for twenty years. He’s seen a few things in that time. And his writing is largely responsible for getting my butt up to the Hill. Back at my house now, with a bowl of soup in front of me, I open to this page:
Your heart will be exposed. But you can’t hide out in the bush forever. The call to action is now. It is….I promise you, you can live in the tension between the forest and the hum, thrum and clatter-drum of the village. You can. Don’t go numb. Decide to keep remembering. Not the low-grade stuff, but the real thing. The redemptive, the grace. Let’s stop being afraid of words like that.
Bring your hands
Like proud cattle of the field
To the things that culture
Most needs you to till (3)
Sounds like marching orders. After a few more bowls of Nettle soup, I pull on my boots and head out to the field to check on the Sheep and the Cows. After that, I’ll listen to phone messages and then contemplate the week and its thousand urgencies. I hear the dusking call of the night Herons. Please don’t go numb. Please decide to keep remembering.
- Wendell Berry, The Art of Loading Brush, 2017
- Martin Shaw, Scatterlings: Being Claimed in an Age of Amnesia, 2018
- Martin Shaw, Looking for Wolf Milk, 2019
Here is what you will find in this Letter:
- FINANCIAL GIFT REQUEST – Detailed July 2021 Budget
With Great Care,
Adam and 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 - July 2021 Budget|
|As of July 20|
|Gifts Received in July – Thank you!|
|Overage from June||$2,259.18|
|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|
|Adam Wilson personal stipend||$448.08|
|Infrastructure Maintenance and Project Fund||$300.00|
|Total Estimated Expenses||$4,678.08|
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.