Greetings Friends and Neighbors,

I’ve been up for hours and still no sign of dawn on the Eastern horizon. I’m in the broad lake valley, on the Western side of the pond, where one of the old names for the place and its peoples is still used today—Adirondack. Apparently, the word means ‘bark eaters,’ a reference to the meagerness of the rations in the area. I’ve been well-fed the night before as a guest of Steven and Ashlee at the North Country Creamery, old friends who will host my tiny house and my two oxen-to-be and my imagined sabbatical year. I rode the ferry over yesterday afternoon to look for spots to park the house. We found one suitable, and now I will rush back to finish jacking up the house up in order to inflate the tires of the trailer it is fastened to, and to begin packing the glasses and plates. The contents of the house must find their way to boxes on the floor for safe travel on the road. The forecast promises very warm weather and Rain by Saturday, threatening to render the ground too muddy to pull the house out. The urgent timeline has meant asking for a lot of help. Who do we call on in moments like this? I made a list and sent out a plea. It was a big ask, and humbling. They all said yes, and friends will be arriving through the day to help.

Here’s what you’ll find in this Letter:

  1. STORY: It is humbling asking for help.
  2. Collin’s Hide Tanning Invitation: Gathering with winter in our midst and the brain tanners’ invitation
  3. December Budget Request: With $1092 received so far, there is still $1525 remaining for December. Thank you for your consideration. You can make a gift HERE.

As I scrape ice from the car windshield, I realize that I haven’t made any food to feed the house jacking and packing crews. “Do you have any leftovers that I could take with me?” I ask Ashlee in the pre-dawn dark as she prepares the creamery to make yogurt and bring the cows in for milking. “Let’s go look in the freezer,” she says. “I think we have some quarts of soup that Steven made.” Potato Leek, three quarts. And one more with a familiar pink-orange label on the top. A quart of Brush Brook Soup from back in July that I’d brought over on a previous visit. Roasted Zucchini and Garlic Scape. And in the next box we find an arm-load of frozen Brush Brook Bread—sprouted grain, three-seed and mountain bread. This food is offered as a gift to anyone who is hungry for any reason, I read on the label. And so the car is loaded down with gifts returning home. Humbled, again. 

By mid-day we’ve successfully jacked the house and inflated the tires. The packing crew arrives, and so we have to get creative with seating as the lunch table swells to seven. It is a very small house, after all. Emily made Pumpkin muffins to send with Larry, which I warm in the oven. The bright yellow butter on the table was a gift from Kristin and Mark at Essex Farm. Matthew arrives with a thermos of Sherry’s Maple-sweetened hot chocolate. Steven’s Potato Leek soup is velvety and thick, rich with their fresh milk and cream. Near-Solstice Sun pours through the window and across the crowded lunch table. I look around at the sunlit faces of those who have dropped their other plans to help me sort through the embarrassing messes that have accumulated in the dusty corners of a life packed over-full. I have invited them to witness and even to touch the mess, and they’ve said yes, willingly. In this moment it seems not only humbling, but a miraculous thing. To share life with others. To allow the messiness to show. Even to accept the designation of being ‘in need.’ The work of the Farm is not to help poor people get rich, but rather to invite rich people to consider voluntary impoverishment as a moral, even a joyful choice in a time of cascading ecological and social troubles. It’s not always easy to practice what you preach, I guess.

Collin’s Hide Tanning Invitation: Gathering with winter in our midst and the brain tanners’ invitation

Shadows lengthen earlier every time they try. Valley living has many splendors, the evening light being one of the chief. These playful shadows will dance to the rhythm of Winter draped over the herd of 13 cows. Nearing the end of their grazing season the cows seem to relish every bite of still lush pasture. Or perhaps their ability to take each day as it comes acts as an ointment to the sting of a closing chapter. The day the first plastic wrapped round bale is fed out will be another marker of this shift but one with added grief. We have purchased, with the funds provided by generous community members, 40 bales of high-quality fermented forage, carefully wrapped in the ever-useful horror of single-use plastic.

Grief centers many of our actions at this farm. An intense desire to mitigate our own harm on this planet while learning and teaching alongside our neighbors and friends, which in turn drives us towards meeting our material needs with consequences out front, lives honored and hearts open.

Our beautiful herd has many ways of meeting our material needs beyond meat, milk, and quirky companionship. One of their most glorious gifts are their durable and storied hides. The process of creating pliable fabric is called brain tanning and has a long history on this continent but was also practiced elsewhere. This ancient, worthy and still undying, though greatly diminished, craft of brain tanning hides continues. Clothing, footwear, shelter, glue and even food are just some gifts from our ruminating friends. This astounding gift adds an additional aspect of essential relationship between person and cow. The willing participation in the act of clothing oneself in a mindful manner is a step closer to observing this World's deep mystery, multi-faceted blessings and life-sustaining sorrows.

I have attempted several times to share the little I know of brain tanning with my relations via this Farm. I am interested in sharing a small demonstration with a larger audience about this process. Beginning with a humble ceremony, we will then go through slaughter, skinning, evisceration, and flowing onward into a hair-on brain tanning process of a Sheep's skin. The exact date, location and time to be determined (my best guess is late January. Reach out to this email address with the words "Brain Tan" in the subject line to be added to the list to hear about exact date, time and location. My best guess is late January). As we attempt to do with all aspects of our work, this 2-hour class is offered as a gift, to anyone who would like to be clothed for any reason.

I will close with a blessing from brain tanner Markus Klek: "I would like to honor the Buffalo Nation and all our non-human relatives, whose lives we take to sustain ourselves, and maybe help to reevaluate the way we use our resources, especially when a life has been spent for them." 

Thanks for reading.

—Collin McCarthy

Here is what you will find in this Letter:

  1. FINANCIAL GIFT REQUEST – Detailed December 2021 Budget

With Great Care, 

Adam and the Brush Brook Community Farm Team

BUDGET UPDATE: Thank you for considering the December 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 - December 2021 Budget
As of December 16
Gifts Received in December – Thank you! $1,091.78
Overage from November $131.22
Estimated Expenses
    Bakery Rent $300.00
    Electric for Slaughter and Tractor $120.00
Farm Expenses
   Livestock (animals/feed/services) $800.00
   Fencing $150.00
   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 December $1,525.08

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.

Thank you!