Greetings Friends and Neighbors,

Trying to press pause on the poetics for a moment, here is a short list of New Year’s updates from the Farm:

  1. The Cows and Sheep are settled in for Winter on the fields across from the entrance to the Brewster Pierce Memorial School. There is a walking/skiing path along the outside of the pasture fence, and you are welcome to visit any time. We’re expecting Calves in February and Lambs the first of April.
  2. The group of friends formerly known as the Farm Team are all settled in for Winter as well, tending to the Home Fires and the Deep Dreaming work. Gestating, if you will. Due dates and/or birth announcements will arrive in your inbox as the work comes closer to term. (Translation: Erika, Evan, Collin, Erik, Adam and Ava will send out invitations to gather once those invitations have properly formed.)
  3. To read Collin’s Hide Tanning invitation, click HERE or reply to this email for more information. 
  4. To read Adam’s Hospicing Modernity Study Group invitation, click HERE.
  5. There’s a buffer in the Farm bank account, so there will be no January Budget Request. We have cancelled all of your generous recurring payments. More will come out in a future Letter on the meaning of this financial buffer and how it will be held up to the light of the Farm’s Mission. We can’t say with more sincerity how much it has meant to us to be on the receiving end of your support. 
  6. This is the last week that Adam will be writing a Brush Brook Community Farm Newsletter. Instead, his writing will be shared in a different form. Look for an email next week from a different address. You can UNSUBSCRIBE any time by clicking the link at the very bottom of this email. If you can’t figure out how to do this, let us know by responding to this email.
  7. THANK YOU for walking with us over the past 21 months. The word companionship opened last week’s Letter. Literally, ‘how we are with the bread that is between us.’ How we share that which has been given to us in order to sustain life.

School is back in Session: Walking Home with Tigger and Topsy —an update from Adam in NY 

Chickadees gather seeds in the spent flower garden beside the house. They move constantly. Calling to one another. Finding calories enough to keep warm on this cold, clear morning. Achingly cold Air, riding on a steady North Wind, arrived last evening on the coattails of a proper Sunday Snow Day. We skied the unplowed town roads all through the day, stirring memories—deep bone memories—of a time before cars ruled, well, everything. It seems that the road crews observe a slower schedule on this side of the Lake, and I am grateful for the nudge. Who lives within skiing distance of your doorstep? 

Tigger and Topsy—the pair of 4-year-old Jersey heifers that I’ve asked to humor my longing to learn to work Oxen—have quickly come to associate my afternoon arrival at the barn with a small blue bucket of molasses. They know I’ve brought sweet treats, and they’re ready for their walk. The DVD titled ‘Training Oxen’ proved an interesting technology to implement—most of the laptops here at the Farm aren’t made with CD drawers. I couldn’t help but think about the challenge of reviving mostly-abandoned technologies and how that might relate to learning to work Oxen. Steven searched through his cache of retired computers and finally we got the CD to play. And so, once I was familiar with the visual and voice commands, I started walking them—first one and then the other. Teaching them to start and stop to ‘Get up,’ and ‘Whoa.’ After the Christmas Ice storm, the only non-slippery surface was the paved road that runs through the Farm. It was a holiday week, and the road seemed quiet enough. On the very first training walk with Tigger, I caught the attention of one of the towering town plow trucks, which stopped some fifty yards ahead of me. I assumed the truck was stopped for some other reason, but, as I approached, the friendly driver leaned out the window and said, “I didn’t want to scare it.” The pronoun choice made me smile. “Thank you very much. She’s fairly calm,” I replied. As the truck’s driver cautiously slid the beast into gear, I wondered if human life in these parts generally observes a slower rhythm. It was a few days later that we skied down this section of road.   

If you haven’t already met Tigger and Topsy, they have very distinct personalities. Tigger is calm and affectionate, while Topsy is strong-willed and wild-eyed—a handful to put it mildly. Collin calls them ‘Perfecta,’ and ‘Sass-Pot,’ respectively. Tigger and Topsy were born just a couple of weeks apart. Half-sisters. They have always been together. Here at a new Farm, living with a new herd, their desire to be near one another is exaggerated. The solo training walks worked quite well for the first couple of hundred yards down the road, at which point their willingness to obey me yielded to their distaste for being apart. So, upon the recommendation of a teamster with whom I spoke on the phone last evening, I’ll try tying Topsy’s halter lead-rope to Tigger’s collar with enough slack that they can walk shoulder-to-shoulder. At least until I can fashion a yoke for them. Given Topsy’s personality, I have some doubts that this halter-lead-rope plan will work. She’ll be that much farther from my eye contact and voice commands. At nearly half-a-ton each, convincing two Cows to stay by my side is not a physical proposition. If they decide to go, they will be gone.

Sun descends through the zig-zag silhouettes of Black Locust and lights the Western Sky ablaze in pink and orange. The day’s meager warmth slips quickly from the thin winter Air. I have to pull off my mittens to tie the knots in the slick nylon halter rope. Tigger rubs her head on my side as I work bare-handed. ‘Not helpful, Tigger.’ I’ve got the knot tied now and pull the mitts back over aching fingers. I reach for the stick, raise it, and say ‘Get up, Tig. Get up Tops.’ And we’re off down the now-plowed and sanded road, headed North, Sunset over our left shoulders. The girls walk with an amazing amount of grace, no-doubt glad to be together. Are they glad to be with me, I wonder? The stiff North breeze is cold on my face as we walk. And then I get a jolt of that bone memory thing again. There is something very old and mysterious happening here. These two heifers already know how to do this. And they’ve invited me into their fold. I am the one being trained. The student. I stop the girls with a ‘Whoa’ and a lowered stick to allow a car to pass—slowly, headlights on. The three of us turn to face South—toward the house, the barn and the waiting molasses bucket. And we begin to walk back home. Together. Toward a past not-completely-abandoned. Toward a more-than-human memory not-quite-gone. 

With Great Care, 

Adam and the Brush Brook Community Farm Team