The months since the last newsletter have been our slow time. Winter weather means fewer visitors and less work outdoors, time to clean and sort, to reflect and discern. Since January 2002 we’ve spent a week at the start of the year looking back to evaluate what we’ve done and looking forward to plan what comes next. Some questions recur year after year, such as how we balance our basic life and work at the farm with inviting other people in to share that life and work.
One thing we’ve thought about over and over but never really done is inviting people to come for discussion at specific times, what many Catholic Workers call “clarification of thought”. This year we decided to host simplicity circles during Lent since simplicity is the root of our mission and Lent is still sort of the slow time. We came up with ideas for 6 sessions and sent out invitations to area churches and to the local weekly newspaper. Only one couple signed up but they are enthusiastic about simplifying their lives and we’ll be meeting Saturday mornings through Lent.
While cleaning, sorting and filing (never my favorite job) I realized how many art supplies we’d accumulated during the years various children were coming weekly right through the winter months. We used them then but children come now when they can get outside to enjoy what is unique to a farm. So I kept what I could picture using and boxed up the rest. When Hope, our friend who works at the Refugee Assistance Program in the Syracuse City School District, came to visit we offered them to her. We’re very grateful to have a refugee contact who is willing to tell us what she can use and what she can’t. She was pleased with the paper, paints, markers, colored pencils and crayons and told us she had just begun doing artwork with some of her clients with rather limited materials. This is also our best time of year for making toys so we also had doll sets, nesting rainbows, duck puzzles, and rabbit acrobats to send with her for distribution at the school.
During January I revise the website and brochure, struggling to communicate clearly what it is we do and why--and why someone might want to come be a part of it. This winter I dug out the old brochures, starting with the one in use when we arrived which contains a quote from Fr. Raymond McVey, “This farm began as an absurdity . . .” I wish we’d arrived in time to know him, to ask him some of the questions that have arisen over the years, to find out how he saw the farm as absurd and what questions he’d have for us who carry on what others began. We don’t have as many scheduled events as the farm used to have and we spend more time learning about and doing the work of farming. Partly that’s because we (as well as others we’ve talked to about this) find it hard to get people to attend even those things they have said they want to have offered. And partly it’s because the land is such a wonderful resource and we keep seeing new possibilities.
Those possibilities involve work and thought and we could use help with both. During March we’ll be boiling down syrup, starting seeds in the greenhouse, working on the renovations in the house, and still making toys. Sometimes that is the best month for getting to parts of the farm that are too wet in summer and too deep in snow in winter. In April we’ll start the outside planting, get in firewood for next winter, divide perennials, maintain trails, put out nest boxes, and inoculate a new batch of oak logs with shiitake spawn to continue our supply of mushrooms. April also brings wildflowers, frog choruses, woodcock displays, fiddleheads and wild leeks. May is a flurry of preparing beds, planting, keeping the bedding clean in the goat shed for the kids expected around the 17th. Harvest begins with greens and asparagus. Zach makes sure the haying equipment is ready and this year will be draining and dredging silt out of the pond as soon as the spring surge is down. The wildflower progression of bloom continues in May and the return of migrating birds and nest building reaches its peak.
So that is what will be happening here on the farm and you’re welcome to be a part of it. Come and work, come and learn, come and rest, walk, look and listen. Bring a friend, a child, a grandparent. Bring your ideas and questions, your stories and hopes. Call ahead to find out what is going on the day you plan to come and because, very occasionally, we’re not here. --by Lorraine
We need someone who encourages us when we are tempted to give up, to forget it all, to just walk away in despair. We need someone to discourage us when we move too rashly in unclear directions or hurry proudly to a nebulous goal. -- Reaching Out by Henri Nouwen
Manual labor is physical, repetitive, never finished, always needing more attention. The most suitable work for a contemplative is hidden and necessary. --Humility Matters by M. Funk
The most valuable form of activism in this day and age may be to explore a lifestyle based around simple living and simple joy. It may take toning down our materialistic demands and figuring out how to live on less income, but that process itself will begin to save some of the world’s resources and thereby address many of the world’s pressing problems, as well as give us more time with our families and communities. -- Deep and Simple by Bo Lozoff