Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Time goes on

Today I was thinking about how being away from home for so long on this adventure has kind of left me with a messed up sense of time. Can it really be the last week of October? For some reason I feel like when I go back home it will still be early fall and give me plenty of time to complete the work to be done outside. However, I forget that as I'm away time is still going on, everywhere, and as I watch the trees become barren it is quickly coming upon the end of autumn season. It seems like it was frigid the entire time I was in Michigan. My final day spent in the state was the warmest day of my three week stay. Since being in Ohio, the weather has been awesome. Yesterday I got hot and sweaty in my t-shirt as I stood in the sun and painted garage doors. The weather for this week is 60-70's. Amazing!

I have made my way via Indianoplis to this current state of Ohio. Butternut Farms Retreat and Educational Center is where I am making my current residence for the next week or two. It has been a good first couple of days and a definite time of retreat. Time has been ample for spending quiet time reading and relaxing. They do not have internet and this has given me time to simply be. I've found that although I do not spend much time watching television on a normal basis, I do spend quite a bit of time on the internet. So without internet I have been trying to take advantage of the blessing of time without technology. It's great, however, I do appreciate this opportunity to visit the local library and use some internet access.

With that being said, my blogging this next couple of weeks will be limited. As much as I feel the need to check my email everyday, I have learned that it is definitely not necessary. The past 5 days without checking my email left me with 15 emails and only about two of them being worth anything. So no big loss there.

A few highlights of Butternut Farms and my activities thus far:
  • There is basically a full service petting zoo going on here. The animals include: goats, llamas, horses, chickens, ducks, rabbits, dogs, and cats. Kind of amusing to watch llamas. I think I have always been under the impression that llamas spit and are gross, but they haven't spit on me yet, although they have definitely invaded my personal space numerous times. Imaine a large llama breathing in your ear, kind of creepy. Bunnies are super cute and remind me of the bunny I had when I was eight. I won't be getting them again anytime soon, they smell just a little more than they seem worth.
  • I've been getting on my construction skills. There are several projects we've been working on including constructing rabbit bench pens, boarding up a some doorways, creating a shelter roof on the goat barn.
  • I've met a super hard working dude that dug out a 40 inch trench to lay a water line. I took a look at the trench and my only thought was, "This is what back hoes are for." He doesn't talk much, but I have learned a lot from his quiet work and dedication.
  • Hopefully we will start construction on a lean-to greenhouse using recycled windows. I'm thinking this could be a great learning experience so I could go use those windows my parents have stored at home in a useful manner.
  • Mom, last night we ate cabbage rolls and I was definitely reminded of you. My host mom eats them with ketchup, I declined not only the ketchup but the Kraft Mac & cheese we ate as well. You'd be so proud, look how I've grown!

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Time to move on...

It's hard to believe that exactly one month ago I left home for an adventure of a lifetime. Little did I know that the majority of that time, three weeks, would be spent in Columbiaville, Michigan on Three Roods Farm. When I left home I thought that I would spend time on two different farms and actually my initial thoughts were two different farms not even including 3RF. But once again God had another plan and his plans are perfect so when I did not hear back from the other farms in a timely manner I made alternative arrangements. These included my first WWOOF stop at 3RF and it has been an amazing experience. As great as it has been though, it is time to move on, to experience another leg of my discovering creation journey. Tomorrow I shall pack up my belongings and carefully stash my farm goods for takeaway: honey, delicata squash seeds, garlic, sunroots, and fresh apple cider. I shall take a few more pictures of the beautiful fall colors in the trees and give my new friends a farewell hug.

The past week or so has been a busy one and I must let you in on the secrets I have uncovered:
  • My father has spoiled me with his ample use of chainsaws. Last week Julie and I spent some time removing invasive Autumn Olive trees using a hand saw and hand clippers. Needless to say it was a bit difficult and definitely gave me a workout I was not used to.
  • Fresh apple cider is so amazing! Another workout was encountered as we hand cranked a 150 year old apple press using 4.5 bushels of apples and making 9 gallons of cider. Add a little rum or butterscotch schnaps and even more yumminess is created. Don't drink too much in one day or the bathroom will be your best friend.
  • I learned much, contemplated the earth much, and had some great conversations with others at the Great Lakes Bioneers Detroit Conference this past weekend. I had the opportunity to attend as an intern with the Strawbale Studio and Natural Buildings Project, http://www.strawbalestudio.org/, as Julie and I have been spending some time there doing some work. We got to serve as information givers and directed youth and adults in creating sustainable ecovillages out of cob and natural landscape materials. Our earth oven was a huge hit and attracted many people with the fire we created in it and the chocolate muffins that were baked in it.
  • Only 1% of consumer products purchased today will still be in use 6 months from now. Isn't that ridiculous? We are a society addicted to stuff. Too many people find their identity in possessions and think that having more things will bring happiness. Wrong. Check out the story of stuff on youtube, http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gLBE5QAYXp8
I'm off to Indianapolis tomorrow to meet Tara at the National FFA Convention. I'm excited to see my sister and hang out with some FFA members for a day or two. Maybe I'll try having some conversations about where agriculture can possibly go in the future in a sustainable manner. Should be interesting!

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

How different are we living?

This is something I've been pondering lately. Just how different does my life look as I live with Jesus than others around me, living without Jesus? I've been reading "The Jesus I Never Knew" by Philip Yancey and I love the words that are challenging and the passages I have to read several times to understand. A few paragraphs are currently standing out to me and I thought I would.

In chapter 13 Kingdom: Wheat Among the Weeds the last two paragraphs are especially thought provoking:

"The Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse give a preview of how the world will end: in war, famine, sickness, and death. But Jesus gave a personal preview of how the world will be restored, by reversing the deeds of the Four Horsement: he made peace, fed the hungry,healed the sick, and brought the dead to life. He made the message of God's kingdom powerful by living it, by bringing it to reality amoung the people around him. The prophets' fairy-tale predictions of a world free of pain and tears and death referred to no mythical world, but rather to this world.

We in the church, Jesus' successors, are left with the task of displaying the signs of the kingdom of God, and the watching world will judge the merits of the kingdom by us. We live in a transition time-- a transition from death to life, from human injustice to divine justice, from the old to the new-- tragically incomplete yet marked here and there, now and then, with clues of what God will someday achieve in perfection. The reign of God is breaking into the world, and we can be its heralds."

We can be the heralds to the reign of God breaking into the world. We should be the beautiful display of the kingdom of God and as members of the body of Christ, the church, so many people look at our lives and judge the kingdom by them. What a scary thing! But it's so true; as I claim to be a follower of Christ people look at my life everyday and make judgements on the kingdom of God based on my life. Just how different from the rest of the world are we living? Are we doing our part as heralds?


Although I've never been much of a writing type of person I always appreciate the moments of my life when I get really excited about dedicated journaling. I've always been more of a concrete thinker than an abstract contemplative thinker. However, I love the stages I've gone through when thinking, questioning, and recording thoughts have been a priority. Honestly, the past year of my life, I did not spend much time recording such thoughts. As I look back in my journal I am still in the same journal that I started 4/27/08. It's not even very big but it's taken me quite some time to finish it up. But over the past couple of weeks I have finally made the time to journal, to record praise moments of life, to list joys, to contemplate scripture, to pray. All I can say is God continues to bless my life. Although much of life doesn't always make sense and I am still quite uncertain just where he is taking me, I feel his presence and I feel his blessings.

Praise God for:
  • Continuing to share life at Three Roods Farm
  • Learning opportunties in organic gardening, planting garlic, harvesting potatoes
  • Day trip to Frankenmuth, MI on a day off including German food delight, fudge samples, bread samples, wool yarn shops
  • Pumpkin Raisin cookie with cream frosting in Frankenmuth
  • Columbiaville Chili Cookoff - so fun to sample and judge the town's best chili makers
  • Sunrise on a Frosty morning
  • Wildlife on a morning walk
  • Earth Prayers
  • Sabbath Day
  • Chicken soup straight from the farm
  • French Toast with apples crisp and black current sauce on top
  • Spiritual sharing time
  • Roasted root vegetable medley
  • Hour long conversations with old friends
  • Answered prayers
  • Hanging out with youth after school, playing some really great board games
  • Quiet time on a regular basis
  • Changing of seasons evident in beautiful landscapes

Sunday, October 11, 2009

Bakerwoman God

Bakerwoman God, I am your living bread, Strong, brown Bakerwoman God.
I am your low, soft, and being-shaped loaf I am your rising bread, well kneaded
by some divine and knotty pair of knuckles,by your warm earth hands, I am bread well-kneaded.
Put me in fire, Bakerwoman God, put my in your own bright fire.
I am warm, warm as you from fire.
I am white and gold, soft and hard, brown and round.
I am so warm from fire.
Break me, Bakerwoman God.
I am broken under your caring Word.
Drop me in your special juice in pieces.
Drop me in your blood.
Drunken me in the great red flood.
Self-giving chalice swallow me.
My skin shines in the divine wine.
My face is cup-covered and I drown.
I fall up in a red pool in a gold world where your warm sunskin hand is there to catch and hold me.
Bakerwoman God, remake.

Alla Renee Bozarth wrote this poem and I was drawn to it today in a lovely book of Earth Prayers. I especially like the words spoken as if I were a loaf of bread being formed and baked by our God. He forms us, puts us in fire, breaks us, and ultimately sustains us. I love the imagery this creates of truth. I think that it especially resonates with me now because at this time in my life of exporation, experiencing new things and different ideas of life I feel like I am being shaped and formed. I am being put into fire. As much as we all want to avoid the fire, avoid the pain of being challenged, we need this to find our true self. I really do believe I am in the place I am right now as a divine appointment, as an opportunity to be fired and broken so that I can fall up in the hands of the Almighty God that wish to catch and hold me.

Hebrews 12:28 Therefore, since we are receiving a kingdom that cannot be shaken, let us be thankful, and so worship God acceptably with reverence and awe, for our "God is a consuming fire."

Thursday, October 8, 2009

Sheep Shearing Day

I've been a part of the sheep shearing operation before. Growing up raising a few sheep for 4-H projects the day of shearing sheep was always a nervous one for me. I remember my first year of having an "overconditioned" lamb at the county fair made me paranoid every year after that my lamb would be fat. This led me to the point of being quite nervous for the final viewing right before fair when I would view whether or not my lamb without its wool was overconditioned or actually quite scrawny looking. Let's just say that year one was overconditioned and the majority of the years there after resulted in scrawny lambs. That wool can be so deceiving.

Todays activities of shearing were much different. These lambs are not going to be shown in the fair arena. The majority of these are going to market and the rest are getting ready for breeding action. Nobody cares how pretty they look, they just need a real good haircut. Shetland sheep are sheared twice a year for their excellent spinning wool. It was really a fun day seeing the wooly animals with a cream colored coat being shorn down to reveal a gray/brown coat. Pretty cool. Shetland sheep are also much smaller and have horns unlike the Suffolk and crossbred sheep I'm used to dealing with. It was great to remember the day so fmy youth and the crazy activity that used to go on with my father yelling at Tara and I to always be in some other spot than we were. Dramatic to say the least. Today was not so much dramatic, fairly easy I must say and these Shetlands are much easier to handle. I was quite amazed with the 60ish year old woman that came to shear the 18 sheep. With her sneakers and acrylic fake fingernails, she was far from what I was expecting as a lifetime sheep shearer. But then again, that's the grand part about this whole experience.....bashing all my expectations and giving me real life learning opportunities.

Monday, October 5, 2009

Glorious Food

If I were completely honest with myself I would have to say that food is definitely an idol in my life. I love food, I love growing, harvesting, cooking, eating, and preserving food. It brings me much joy to experience new foods and to learn from others with similar passions for food. Food brings people together and this is the truth that I hope to grasp for a lifetime. I have once again experienced some amazing food. The past week has been enveloped with great food that I find worthy of sharing.

Robin, my host mother, has the kitchen stockpile similar to my mother, expect maybe better. I have described it as being like walking into a natural foods store. Mostly organic and most things purchased in bulk all kept neatly in assorted jars and plastic containers. It makes me very happy to take part in the cooking and baking here. Because they raise their own sheep the main meat item around here is lamb, which is great because it is grass fed meat making it quite lean and good for you. Tonight we actually ate mutton liver from a 6 year old ram. I wouldn't say it was my favorite, but I think my father might be jealous of the liver and onions on our table tonight. Obviously we eat tons of veggies, straight out of the garden in all their goodness. The milk in our fridge is also goats milk from a local friend; it's quite tasty! We've been picking apples from all over lately, making applesauce, apples muffins, and apple butter. Today we picked crabapples for the first experiment with crabapple wine. The crabapples are so prolific and taste really great just popping them in the mouth. Bite size apples! The weekend concluded with several creations from elderberries. Harvested from the wild, seven people worked to pick and separate seven pounds of them that went into elderberry syrup and an elderberry pie. The pie was a first for several reasons for me. First time using elderberries and a first time making pie crust with coconut oil. It turned out really great.

Sunday I went with Julie over to the Strawbale Studio (http://www.strawbalestudio.org/), another site that hosts wwoofers for a workshop on felt. My image of felt before has been confined to the 9x12 colorful sheets at Hobby Lobby or perhaps the bolt of felt that I once made a poodle skirt out of. My new mental image of felt includes the process of taking wool, we used raw unclean wool basically right off the sheep, and transforming it into an amazing creation of fibers so naturally woven together into a piece of beauty. Basically it gets fluffed up, laid down on a mat, rolled up in a log fashion, and then beaten around so the fibers adhere together. You pretty much have to see it to comprehend the process, but it was amazing to take part in. 

Deanne at the Strawbale Studio hosts once a month full moon potlucks. Last week I thought I encountered the best potluck ever, but I think this one might have outdone it, maybe, it's close. This group of like-minded people came together bringing their food for a glorious feast. As each person described their contribution, most of them were locally grown, produced and organic. Almost half of the table was desserts with two elderberry pies, gingerbread apple pie, peach cobbler, chocolate goodness. There was local venison stew, homemade gnocchi, homemade tamales, vegetable stew galore, sauerkraut with kielbasa, and so much more. One of the best parts was having 50+ people all in the kitchen of this house, trying to move around the table of food and failing miserably with the moving part. There were so many people we were literally all stuck in place going nowhere. Anyway it was super fun to chat with different people all passionate about quality local foods and sharing life together learning from each other. I think maybe I want to be a professional potluck host.....now I just have to find a really great person passionate about doing dishes.

Saturday, October 3, 2009

What day is it anyway?

Another blessing of this traveling and working lifestyle has been my ability to pay little to no attention to the date on the calendar or even the day of the week. One of my jobs here has been to collect eggs, clean and process them, and then label them for sale. We write the date the eggs are collected on the label before placing them in the cooler for people to purchase. Each time I've done this routine the past couple of days I have had to stop and ask, "What is the date today?" I've only been here for a couple of days but it has been very easy to get caught up in the different things going on to completely lose track of time. This, I know, is a huge blessing. I have no deadlines or plans to complete at the moment, simply soaking up the experience as it comes. So great.

Friday night I got to take part in a very special event here at 3RF. The tipi dedication was a very educational and awesome experience. Although I was not around for the initial construction of the 16' tipi, I got to take part in the last part involving lining, floor vapor barrier, beautification, and such. We had a great group of about a dozen or so people come to the dedication and blessing. It was such a blessing to reflect on the Native American traditions and spend time in meditation while in the tipi. I have definitely never been in a tipi with a fire so it was super neat. Fire is captured energy from the sun and as we all sat in a circle around the fire we were very symbolic of planets that revolve around the sun. Native American traditions are symbolic in so many ways. We each threw tobacco into the fire as we gave a blessing to the tipi. I praise God for another experience of such diverse creation and the opportunity to expand my cultural background with new friends.

Today has been a large continuation of the party at 3RF. Several of the past interns, WWOOFers and family friends came back to take part in the tipi dedication and the farm tour activities today. 3RF was on a county farm tour and made the sole representation of organic farming and CSA (Community Supported Agriculture). The others farms in the county of the tour included a horse farm, an Angus farm, an herb place, and another. It was interesting to see the diverse group of community members that came out for the tour. The reception of Organic produce around here is not largely popular. Many other land owners/farmers of the tradition commodity production agriculture came so it's always interesting to discuss and show them something different in the face of American agriculture. I gave a tour to an older couple that were quite impressed with the portable electric fencing system for the sheep and the permaculture practices with vegetable production and chickens. Permaculture (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Permaculturee) and rotational grazing really make so much sense on a manageable farming production that benefits all systems involved and makes use of all parts. Many people are excited about the work going on here and the different method of farming so new to them.

Thursday, October 1, 2009

Three Roods Farm

Columbiaville, Michigan - It's on the east side of the state, north of Detroit, east of Flint, this is where I am.
I arrived Tuesday afternoon to the lovely Three Roods Farm, http://www.threeroodsfarm.com/, my first official WWOOF visit. If you are unfamiliar with wwoof, worldwide opportunitites on organic farms, you can check out the USA site, http://www.wwoofusa.org/ It's a super great opportunity for unemployed people like me to travel around the country, gain experiences on really diverse farms, and work in exchange for food and lodging. I think it's a grand idea and it has blown my mind the number of people that will open their operations up to random people to come and share life together. So great.

So Three Roods Farm is a small 23 acrea farm made up of gardens, chickens, sheep, bees, small orchard, and a reforestation project. It's been fun to see the diverse amount of activity going on here even as the owners, Greg and Robin, both have outside jobs. They have a 6 person CSA this year and have had to deal with a rather cool summer. Things so far have great.

A few highlights of my time:
  1. Chickens are so fun! Fresh eggs to pick each day. I also think I could watch chickens peck and scratch at the ground for hours.
  2. I get to sleep in a loft of a big huge barn! So neat. I'm thinking too bad my dad burned down our barn at home because I just might be moving out there. It's a bit chilly at night, I sleep with 5 blankets pulled over my nose but it definitely puts a whole new meaning to getting dressed in the cold. Last night was the first frost, definitely a bit north of home.
  3. Greg reminds me of my father and his passion for trees. My tour of the reforestation project was complete with a few tree identification questions that I definitely failed. I need to pay more attention.
  4. Robin is super sweet and has a great life story to tell at all times. We've had much time together in the kitchen these couple of days and she is so helpful and willing to share her wisdom.
  5. The house is so stocked full of awesome food. It kind of reminds me of a bulk foods store complete with everything my heart desires for baking, cooking, and eating an intense bowl of oatmeal. I might have to sneak out the flour mill with me when I leave.
  6. We have completed the process of building a tipi. Tomorrow there will be a tipi dedication ceremony to make it official. So fun to be a part of the new experience for everyone.
  7. Saturday the farm will be on a county farm tour. We will each hang out at stations and get to tell visitors about the diverse farm and opportunities to take part in community supported agriculture.
  8. There is also another intern here named Julie, she is from New York and has been such a blessing to getting into the swing of things. We laugh together a lot also.
  9. We share all meals together.
  10. The Shetland Sheep are a smaller breed that are quite adorable. They are on a rotational grazing system and eat grass all their happy lives. There are two sheep wool hides in the tipi presently that make really great costumes......