Greetings Friends and Neighbors,
The herd matriarchs – Josie, Tigger, Sweet Pea, Loretta and Topsy – stand with willing resignation as we adorn them. Or is it ‘adore’ them? We’ve made garlands for their necks – Hemlock and Pine boughs, dried Corn tassels, Goldenrod fuzz, silver Willow – and gathered cowbells of various sizes and tones. Imagine a prom pre-party in the early-November sunshine. The twine-tied garlands prove far-too-flimsy for the stampede that ensues once we leave the field and enter the mud-slick woods road. The Cows sense that it is a big day – they are stirred up. Only one garland remains intact by the time we convince them to slow to a walk more than a mile later, on the paved Main Road. Twelve-year-old Sweet Pea proceeds at a dignified pace, well behind the others, her calf Trudy close by her side.
Here is a list of invitations:
- November Budget Request: With only $138 arriving in financial gifts last week, we are wondering what happens if our remaining November budget request of $2598 goes unmet. The work will continue if enough people are willing to keep us in mind. We will be focused on butchering for the next two weeks, imagining how all of this beautiful food will be shared with the community once the dust settles. If you are willing to make a financial gift, you can do so HERE.
- Sheep Shearing Friday 9:30 – 11:30am. At the Cow Barn. Our neighbor Sarah Detweiler has organized a walking field-trip for some of the Elementary-Schoolers on Friday. Thank you, Sarah for your enthusiasm and your efforts. See the story below for more on the Farm’s commitment to the kids.
- Butchering Season: We welcome interested hands to pull up alongside the careful, reverent work of transforming life into other life. There will be many hours of this old-fashioned work between now and Thanksgiving and we invite you to reach out – by responding to this email – if you’d like to join us.
- STORY: An apology to town Elder Ted Sargeant: “I owe you a visit.” A letter from Adam announcing that he will be taking a step back from his role at the Farm invites a reckoning with beauty and with regret. Buckle up – this is a longer piece.
STORY: An apology to town Elder Ted Sargeant: “I owe you a visit.”
The herd matriarchs – Josie, Tigger, Sweet Pea, Loretta and Topsy – stand with willing resignation as we adorn them. Or is it ‘adore’ them? We’ve made garlands for their necks – Hemlock and Pine boughs, dried Corn tassels, Goldenrod fuzz, silver Willow – and gathered cowbells of various sizes and tones. Imagine a prom pre-party in the early-November sunshine. The twine-tied garlands prove far-too-flimsy for the stampede that ensues once we leave the field and enter the mud-slick woods road. The Cows sense that it is a big day – they are stirred up. Only one garland remains intact by the time we convince them to slow to a walk more than a mile later, on the paved Main Road. Twelve-year-old Sweet Pea proceeds at a dignified pace, well behind the others, her calf Trudy close by her side. As we enter the Village – known here as the Center – the cowbells echo from clapboard siding. We turn left onto the Camel's Hump Road and into the crowd of neighbors gathered to welcome the Cows home. What a joyful scene. Sweet Pea bellows as she and Trudy finally turn into the pasture, joining the herd. Her call draws a resounding cheer from the crowd. The musicians begin to play. Town Elder Ted Sargeant sits in a folding chair, beaming. Ted has been involved with farming and gardening his entire life. At ninety-four, he doesn't drive any more so his daughter Kathy's brought him. He calls me over to remind me how much he loves Jersey Cows. "I grew up drinking raw Jersey milk," he says with a grin. Our herd is mostly Jerseys, and Ted approves. Ted requests "Coming ‘Round the Mountain,” and the band obliges. Young children play in the middle of the dirt road as the Cows lower their heads to graze. Lunch is served on the front lawn across the street from the pasture. The spread is heavy on meat – Beef and Lamb from the Farm – and desserts – Becky's chocolate cake with peanut butter frosting and Polly's homegrown raspberry bars. Fitting for a mid-Fall gratitude feast. I know Ted loves Lamb, and so I am thrilled to send him home with a plate of leftover Lamb roast. He looks me in the eyes as he bids me farewell. "Thank you, Adam. Thank you very much," he says. My tears are close now, and I can see it so clearly. This work is for Ted and his ilk – those who have lived through the fraying of the rope, the final turning of the culture away from the land and from the many obligations and limits that reliance upon the local landscape required. The suburbanization of the countryside, in other words. In towns like Huntington, this turn has largely been completed in Ted’s lifetime. But this work is also for the young ones who grow up now in the aftermath of that fraying. For the children who will come of age turned resolutely toward the screens and the better-day that those screens promise. Turned toward the fantasy we call the future. Farmer-poet-elder Wendell Berry writes:
And so we have made of the future, not a coming time, but a limitless vacuity in which we elaborate our fears and fantasies, to which we defer payment of our perhaps unpayable ecological debts, and where we store our most lethal and enduring “wastes”…..The most dangerous attribute of the future, as we have been more and more inclined to need and to use it, is its limitlessness….By withdrawing our false, speculative, wishful, and fearful claims upon the future, we would significantly and properly reduce the circumstance or context within which we live and think. This would place us within our right definition, our right limits, as earthly creatures and human beings. It is only within those limits that we can think practically, usefully, and so with hope, of our history, of what we have been and who we are, or our sustaining connections and relationships. – The Art of Loading Brush, 2017.
Over the next month and a half, I will be stepping back from the day-to-day operations of Brush Brook Community Farm in order to embark on a year-long sabbatical. To reckon with, remember and write-down the many stories, joys and hard learnings from the past three years of this work. And, also, to attempt to train a team of oxen. Can you imagine doing just two things for a whole year? Truth be told, I can't quite imagine it yet myself, but I have imagined that if I say it aloud enough times something will eventually come to pass. I have been offered a quiet spot for my wheeled tiny house and the pair of cows – Tigger and Topsy – who may yet prove willing to work side-by-side in a yoke, at a farm owned by dear friends in the village of Keeseville, NY. The distance from here to there – about 1.5 hours with the ferry – will help to enforce the slow-down. I’ve said this to others many times and might serve to hear it myself: “To do more of one thing means doing less of other things. Learning to obey limits is part of becoming an adult.” Or, as Martin Shaw says, “Modern people are a mile wide and an inch deep.” Truth is I’ve taken on many responsibilities – including this weekly writing practice – over the past three years and haven’t yet subtracted a single one. Do the math on that and you’ll find your way to burnout pretty quickly. Falling in love is an engrossing and an exhausting business.
My beloved companions – Ava, Erika, Collin, Erik and Evan – will re-imagine the work of the Farm for the next year without me by their sides. Vegetables will be grown and gleaned. Cows and sheep will be grazed. Food will be shared. Invitations to gather and give thanks will be extended. The Farm has still not found an appropriate home base, however, which means the work will be more dispersed, making home in many dusty corners around town. Last night at our meeting we imagined a treasure map of all of the garages, sheds and barn lofts where portions of the Farm’s supplies will be stored. This patchwork reality will offer significant logistical challenges, but also the possibility of new and unexpected relationships and perhaps even a distillation of what is most essential in the work. I am terribly sad to step away from so much beauty, and know that it is the right thing for now.
At a moment of reckoning such as this one, questions arise such as, “Was there a high point in the work?” or “Do you have any regrets?” Potent invitations to remember. The Story that answers both of these questions begins at an auspicious moment – four days before the Pandemic’s arrival. This moment – unbeknownst to us at the time – marked the end of the first chapter of the Farm – The Gratitude Feasts – and the beginning of the second chapter – The Gift Stand. Spending time with Ted Sargeant last Sunday helped me to remember this Story, of Florence and Ted at the final Gratitude Feast. The high point and the moment of regret arrived at the end of an evening of overflowing joy. Ted and Florence are both widowed farmers, both in their 90’s. The two oldest residents of the town. They both found their way to the Gratitude Feasts early on and attended every Feast thereafter, always sitting together at the front table. Getting Florence upstairs for the dance after the meal meant navigating the elevator with the sticky doors. We almost trapped her in there more than once. But missing the dance was not an option for Florence. This particular evening the band finished the night with a waltz. And you guessed it – all of the sudden Ted and Florence are in the middle of the dance floor, Florence’s walker parked to the side. Imagine the impact this moment had on those in attendance, the way the young children absorbed the emotional expression on the faces of their parents. The evening had begun several hours earlier with my telling of a story about Florence’s favorite cow, Anna. I had taken to sitting with Florence each month before the Feast to collect stories. I didn’t know Ted as well at that point, but still he took me aside after the waltz and said, “Adam, I’ve got some cow stories for you as well.” I asked, “Would you like to tell me now or should I come over to visit you?” “You should come over for a visit,” Ted replied. Now it would be easy to say that I never made it over to visit Ted – or Florence for that matter – because of their age and my fears of Covid transmission. It would be more honest to say that the next chapter of the Farm grabbed ‘hold of me and I allowed myself to feel too busy to spend a few hours sitting at the feet of surviving Elders who had sought me out. Here’s the promise: “Ted, I still owe you a visit. Over the next year I’m going to make good on that indebtedness.” Now for the Story of Florence’s favorite Cow, Anna, as told that evening:
I’ve been thinking this week about being new to town, as it was exactly four years ago that I arrived here. I realize that people have been arriving here for a long time. Some of those people have stayed, some have decided to move on, some have died. Others have been forced to leave, and there is some significant sorrow there. But all along people have surely sought to earn the respect and acceptance of those who were already here. I have wondered what it was like for the very first people who walked into this valley, maybe some ten thousand years ago, and how they might have ingratiated themselves to the old-timers – maybe a batch of acorn-flour chocolate chip cookies as a gift for the matriarch of the resident wolf pack, or a basket of maple sugar left out as a lick for the local deer? I had this in mind the other day when I took a container of leftover stew as a gift for Florence Miles. At 97, Florence is the oldest resident of the town. She milked cows her whole life, or at least as long as the men-folk would let her. Florence seemed grateful for the stew, and more than willing to share some stories with me about the old days. What she said first surprised me, however. She said, “I am new to town. I didn’t move here until I was 25, when I married Frank.” Keep in mind that this was nearly three-quarters of a century ago, sometime in the late 40’s. There were 20 farms back then, Florence continued, and now only 1, the Tafts. I know she meant no offense to Justin’s significant vegetable operation, but it was clear that ‘a farm’ to her meant that there were cows being milked. I asked her if our small farm could qualify, and she said with a smile, “Well, you’ll need more than one milk cow to be a farm.”
It was hard to leave Florence’s side as the stories kept rolling. Here is one that has some kick to it, and so you might want to buckle your seatbelts. The day before this visit with Florence, I had talked with many incredulous people around the coolers of frozen Beef that we brought to give away at the Town Meeting. We kept hearing, “Well, surely someone else must need it more than I.” I took this to mean, “Someone else is probably hungrier than I am, I assume, even though I don’t really know how to measure that.” At the farm we’ve been trying to figure out how to say that this food is for anyone who is hungry for any reason. Sitting with Florence, I was reminded that the best way to say anything complicated is always a story. I asked her if she had a favorite cow, and she answered, “Yes, her name was Anna. She was nearly perfect. But one day she didn’t come down to the barn for morning milking with the rest of the herd.” This was strange, so after tying the rest of the cows in the barn, Florence pulled on her boots and walked the hill to the upper pasture. To her shock, she found Anna dead. And what’s more, her death had clearly been triggered by human hands, and even more disturbingly, the choice cuts of meat had been removed, the rest of the carcass left there to rot. “Did you ever find out who had done it?” I asked, wide-eyed. “Yes,” she said. “He dropped his knife, and it had his initials carved into it. And I still have that knife to this day.” Well, you can imagine that I was not itching to leave now, and asked what seemed the obvious next question. “Why do you think he did it?” She looked up at me, and without a trace of anger in her eyes, said, “He was probably hungry.” And then, as her sorrow gave way to a faint smile she said, “It was dark out. Maybe he thought it was a deer.” A one-thousand pound, black and white deer.
Here is what you will find in this Letter:
- FINANCIAL GIFT REQUEST – Detailed November 2021 Budget
With Great Care,
Adam and the Brush Brook Community Farm Team
BUDGET UPDATE: Thank you for considering the November 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 - November 2021 Budget|
|As of November 9|
|Gifts Received in November – Thank you!||$138.35|
|Overage from October||$11.48|
|Tractor, Freezers and Milkroom Rents||$120.00|
|Vehicles (gas, maintn., insur. etc)||$50.00|
|Predicted Human Expenses|
|Adam Wilson Rent||$200.00|
|Adam Wilson personal stipend||$448.08|
|Collin McCarthy Rent||$580.00|
|Collin McCarthy personal stipend||$100.00|
|Total Estimated Expenses||$2,748.08|
|Total Remaining for November||$2,598.25|
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.