thankful + inspired

it has been a learning week on the farm. one with some complex lessons. by now you know that we are a mentor farm.  for 14 years we have hosted folks from all over the globe, apprentices young and old here to work and learn with our family. i have written about it more than once. i was gearing up to share my thankfulness for the lovely people that find their way into our hollow, onto our farm, into our lives. i had already mentally composed a tribute to all that have moved us to be better communicators for their desire to learn. i awoke this morning ready to tell their stories, actually, my own stories of their immersion in our farm and family life.


and then the call came. well, first it was a facebook message, then a call. our 2004 apprentice is en route to illinois and is taking a side trip to visit us. yes, 10 years have passed since this lovely young woman spent the season working with us, a full decade since she lived in the hollow and met the man who would be her husband. she will return today, with her 2 children, to tour the place we all hold dear. to sit on the breezeway of our cabin where she had those first special talks with her life partner. i can’t wait to see her. i can’t wait to walk the fields with her.

today, i am thankful indeed. it isn’t always easy welcoming people into your daily lives. teaching and learning is tough stuff. alas, i wouldn’t trade it for the world.


why are you doing this again?

we work hard around here. we wake everyday with a list of things we must do and always too few hours to do it. now i am not delving too deeply into those individual tasks of caring for land, livestock ,family and community,  i am thinking more about the perception others have of our reality.  i realize there is a pastoral image out there painting a rosy picture of farm life. while i do not want to dispel this image, i want to ponder it.


if it weren’t for our apprenticeship program, i don’t think i would spend much time defining and redefining our life’s choices. this frequent contemplation emerges partially from our choice to invite a handful of optimistic folks to come and live and learn with us each year. we have a long interview process but year after year i realize that nothing prepares you for the transition from that life to this life. words do not describe, tours can not show you the life we live here.


i have lived this life for 15 years. i have eaten with all of those seasons, transitioned from vegan to carnivore with the meats, eggs and dairy from this farm. i have embraced this life and i want to share it with everyone, but, it ain’t easy! for me the shift was simple: i wanted this life so badly.  i was thankful just to be on my own land raising my food, walking these woods and breathing fresh air.  i was oblivious to the hardships everyone else seemed to see: the cold winters in a unninsulated building, hauling water and heating it over a fire.


today i am thankful for the perspective offered me through the questioning of others. there are wonderful people surrounding me here in this moment that have made different choices in their lives, but they have chosen to be here with us now. i am pleased that they force me to rethink my reasons for doing a certain something or making a perhaps incomprehensible decision.

last night as paul and i spent the twilight in the garden, the children all sound asleep after a long market day. we unravelled our thoughts and discussed the day. i went to bed with this lovely conclusion. we are here because we would not want to be anywhere else. it isn’t clean or easy.  we toil, we have financial stress, we have worries. the satisfaction comes with the tired bodies wrapped in this knowledge that we would not ever want another life.  we are free. we are happy. we are surrounded with the unbelievable satisfying independence that comes with the farming life.


the farmer mentor

our first apprentice of the 2013 season arrived this week. welcoming shannon for her stay at the farm represents the final phase of our family’s shift from winter to spring.  if someone arrives to learn farming with us, it must be time to start farming! i feel like our life is an immersion into so many lost arts: those that have all but disappeared in our fast paced, technologically sophisticated, centralized,commercialized world. mentoring young farmers is something we have been doing here for 12 years. paul and i met each other as apprentices at angelic organics and have held dear the role of mentor, the joy of learning while doing, and the significance of this relationship from the very beginning of our journey.


in eras past you learned your trade alongside someone who had already mastered it. the phases were clear: apprentice, journeyman, tradesman. without delving too deeply into the topic of our current educational system, it is clear to me that the decline of available alternatives to classroom learning is a detriment to our overall societal well being.


farming is best understood by farming. we represent a new generation of farmers. raised urban, we have chosen this lifestyle and learn more each day we live it. there are more like us, urban dwellers longing for the rural life. to truly know whether this longing can be satisfied by embracing the farm life, an on farm apprenticeship is critical, valuable, truly perfect. each year we offer ourselves as mentors to a handful of folks, often young, but not always. they want to try it out. they want to see if this pastoral dream can translate into a realistic livelihood for themselves. they recognize the value of immersing oneself and discovering the unknown. they want to farm. we integrate these people into our family, our life, and our daily doings. we hope we can share with them the joys, the sorrows and the truth of the small scale sustainable agriculture that we practice.


the mentor/apprentice relationship is, as with all human relations, not always easy. the rewards however are so great. we are able to teach and learn, give and receive,  this immersion is thorough, we share all we have with each other.


with that we send a wave of gratitude to all who have shared life in the hollow with us in years past, we welcome shannon, we greet spring, and we charge full speed ahead into the growing season.