This year marks the nineteenth year that a group of eclectic, interesting, earthy people has gathered at Long Hungry Creek Farm to share their knowledge, inspire one another, and celebrate the passage of another season. If my math is correct, I was about twenty-one years old the first time this event happened. As I remember it, I was just finishing college, full of fun, in love with the freedom of the farm and just a fledgling in the ways of growing good food, biodynamically.
I still consider myself a fledgling in the ways of biodynamics, but the muscles I use to help make the annual Biodynamic conference (we call it a Celebration, but the educational component is still strong) at Long Hungry happen have gotten stronger as the years have passed. Even though there’s still a long list of things to do here at home, I’ve been spending more and more time getting ready for that wonderful weekend event. There’s a lot of preparation that goes into it.
The herb and animal based formulas used in biodynamic agriculture are commonly called the “preparations”, or “preps” for short. I don’t remember reading any particular source for WHY that word is used to describe them, but it makes sense to me. Each individual preparation has its own special rhythm and recipe to follow for its creation. Most involve long periods of time either hanging in the sun and air, or buried in the earth. There is a preciousness to the process of making each one, and the personal ritual is valuable to the grower seeking to grow her intimacy with the land. But the preparations in and of themselves, are just what we call them: preparatory.
They set the stage for the real work to take place. They invite the soil microbiology, the forces, near and far, invisible to the human eye, that enliven and enrich our compost piles, our garden soils, the atmosphere of our homesteads. When all those forces come to play on and in the land, they impart a goodness and a greater vitality to the plants and animals that live and work in that place. The preparations set the stage for this synergy, an alchemy of sorts, to take place. When the harvest is brought to the table, that vitality is evident on the plate, and it also goes to work in our own bodies and minds.
Even though the job of preparing for the Biodynamic Celebration can be hectic at times, I love the work of it. The conference is special to me, and I’m willing to work to keep that specialness alive and spread it around.
There have been a few times in the past nineteen years when I couldn’t make it home for the weekend. Sometimes I was out of the country, sometimes just too far afield to get back, but I always heard about it when I stopped back in for a visit. Who was the keynote this time and what crazy thing happened in the kitchen. In those early years, I spent most of my time in the kitchen. It’s a great place to learn.
These more recent years, I spend most of my weekends somewhere between a meander and a mad dash from one place to the other, gathering helpers for the kitchen, re-stocking TP to the outhouse, giving each speaker a gentle gesture that will hopefully indicate to them that they should wrap up the talk in five minutes or so. I ring the bell when the speakers change sessions and watch people move around and mingle on their way to whatever is next. I love this event so much. Even when it gets crazy busy, it’s hard not to smile in the thick of it.
I love the speakers. Many return, year after year, bringing whatever they have to share from another season of work, study, and life. They are quirky folks, some serious, some shy, some funny. This year, there are farmers, gardeners, university professors and employees, esotericists, anthroposophists, permaculturalists, graziers, homeopaths, and osteopaths. We will cross paths on a farm, share meals, stories, knowledge and understanding, and our worlds will become brighter for our efforts.
I love the helpers. The beautiful kitchen crew who hustle up amazing abundant meals for the crowds of hungry people who stand in line, relishing the thought of the butternut pies waiting at the journey’s end. There are the main chefs who return to us year after year, working in this unconventional farm kitchen, cooking to their own tunes while the attendees flutter around the rest of the grounds, applying their minds to the food while the chefs apply their hands. Then there are the volunteers, of all ages and walks of life, asking what they can do, and then doing it with so much grace and joy. I love them as I have been them, in that lovely service.
I love the friends who come, year after year, and bring their children. I love that these children have grown into these peculiar friendships, where they look forward to seeing each other for one weekend of each year. They love each other, too. I relish these times of comparing notes, catching up, sharing joys and commiserating losses. Many of us see each other in the flesh only this one time each year, but I would miss them sorely if they did not show up.
I love the newcomers. Some are visibly excited, some maybe a little hesitant, or cautiously curious. I love pointing out the basic quarters – facilities around that side of the house (outhouses – yes – really) with a hand-washing station beside, line up for meals on this side of the house. Park in the middle of the field, camp on the edges. Speakers meet in the house, in the open shed, or down in the barn. Vendors are out in the big tent. Take a schedule please, and don’t hesitate to ask questions. I love watching them warm up and make connections with the folks around them. I love seeing them enjoy the meals that come pouring out of the kitchen. They delight in the good air, the good food, the natural light, and the basic human sharing that we do over the weekend.
All the preparations we’re doing now are for that end result. That we may all share in a common experience of whole life, quality time, and full goodness, together. We’re making the house and land ready to welcome them (you). We’re contemplating the schedule, planning the meals, trying to account for each detail, so that when we have all arrived, the stage will be set for our combined synergy, the alchemy of this regional community, together again. It is always worth preparing. It is always special.
Please, feel welcomed to join us.